Le Danse (ne) Macabre (pas)

There’s a ghost, you won’t have seen him, but he’s there. All the time, he dances; every where he goes – always dancing. Dancing as if he didn’t have a care in this world, or the next. Who knows? Maybe he doesn’t.

What I do know is that he never stops dancing – sometimes he dances slowly. Sometimes he dances fast. Sometimes it’s the most most beautiful thing you ever saw (but you won’t) – as if he were dancing what a thousand hearts breaking for the love of the same woman all at once felt like – sad, and lonesome, and somehow right at the same time. Sometimes, it’s bad tap routines from hideous old black and white films, and you’d hope his ghostly tongue would be poked firmly into his ghostly cheek – it’s hard to tell. But he’s always dancing. Always.

Some simple folks say that he’s got dancin’ feet, that it’s the night fever, the light of the silvery moon, that he’ll always be dancing and the always has. But he might not, and he hasn’t.
Some slightly more together and knowledgeable types have been heard to say that it’s true – the rhythm DID get him, but that’s a joke that worked better when Chandler said it, and, besides, it’s not even the half of it.
The truth of the matter is, pure and simple, the music took him. It took him and it never let him go.

All of his life, he had loved music. He would sit staring, transfixed, into the speaker of the radio his mother had playing in the back-ground when he was learning to move about – as soon as the music started he would sit where he was and stare at where the music was coming from, when the music stopped and the talking began, he would turn away and his mind would move to other things, but once the music started again he was back round like a whip and staring deep into the speaker.

Of course, his mother fed his fascination. It kept him out of the way, and seemed to be stimulating his little brain, she quickly learned that it didn’t matter what type of music was playing, so long as it played.

As he grew, he started trying to learn about music, but had no aptitude for it whatsoever, which rather than frustrating him, fascinated him all the more – how could something so foreign to his understanding affect him so deeply? All his spare time was spent reading about music, all his pocket money spent on tapes and then later CDs and vinyl. He made friends with people who liked music, hung around with musicians, but soon stopped when he started to feel inferior – it was one thing, not being able to make music or understand it himself, but to listen to conversations about the thing he loved most and not be able to take part at all, the first feelings of jealousy – that these people had a deeper relationship with the thing he loved than he ever could.

So, he retreated behind the music he bought from his meagre earnings at the record store, and all the time they wouldn’t let him work – “You need some time off, we’ve got enough staff to cover the weekend, we’re closed on Sundays.” – he wandered around listening to his music, getting more and more taken up in it as time went by. He quit his job, resenting the interruptions that people made on his listening schedule, moved back in with his mother who fed him and didn’t talk any more, and walked around the town, listening to one of his two i-pods, carrying the other in case the first ran out of power half way through the day.

Every day he would listen, and every day he would become a little more frustrated – he knew he loved the music, but he couldn’t understand any of it! He knew as much of the theory as anybody had any right to, and his head was full of crotchets and key and scales, arpeggios, harmonies and dodgy middle eights, but he still didn’t get it. It was driving him mad and he knew it, but he didn’t know what he could do.

Some days he tried not listening at all, but after an hour or so, he couldn’t cope any longer and back on went the headphones. He tried talking to people, with music on in the back ground, of course, but after the first, “Hello,”s he’d drift away into the music and only notice that the other person had left when the CD needed changing. He couldn’t make any progress, nor could he get away from the need to try.
It was driving him mad.

One day he was walking along the street, down by the old monument in town, when something distracted him. Some say it was a beautiful woman walking past and turning her head for a second glance. Some say it was the bleakness of the newspaper headline blowing around his feet. Some say it was the sheer joy and pleasure on the faces of two children chasing each other around about. Some say it was the pain as he stubbed his toe on a wonky paving stone. Some say it was a minor stroke, causing his brain to stop just for one moment. Others say this is all largely dependent on what people think music is.

It doesn’t matter. That moment’s distraction was all he needed. When his brain started again, everything fell into place, and for the first time in his life he found himself dancing, not just caught up in his head, but all of his being. And he couldn’t stop. Crowds gathered, some cheered, some danced with him, all went away tired as he carried on dancing. At some point he was mugged, and his i-pods with their precious music stolen, but the dance went on.

There’s not much more to tell: how, to get away from the crowds and the jeers, he danced his way to the quiet places; how, one day, some kids, out for kicks, murdered him – their blows and stabs falling as his dance became ever more fluid and graceful as if, with the blood and conciousness leaving him the music took an even greater hold, and how his killers ran screaming away as he kept on dancing long after they’d spent their energies; how, after that, it was all a matter of time running its course and as the dance went on, his body drying out and shrinking until a skeleton in rags danced over the fields, scaring birds. Every so often, there would be a report of some drunken farmer being scared half to death by a dancing scarecrow.

Then, nothing. No trace was found of any remains. The music took him, utterly and completely. He danced until there was nothing left but the ghost of a dance.

And the dance goes on.