Dancing With The Pumpkin King
It was the night before All Hallows Eve and the pumpkin sun had just set. Halloween Town, which, for several hours had seemed entirely deserted came to life as the last rays of the orange light fled into the dark shaped monstrosities which made up the settlement's horrific structures.
Several of the towns colorful residents exited the Town Hall and poured into the fountain area beyond. An excited chatter had begun amongst the crowd as they talked of the celebration to come.
"This year," The youngest vampire brother said to the oldest. "Vill most certainly be the most frightening Halloween to date." His brother agreed as they walked like shadows towards the fountain.
"Jack is positively HORRIFYING this year…" A witch said to a nearby banshee.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we scared them all to DEATH. What a show this shall be!"
As the last of the residents entered the Square, conversation like this turned to a repetitious flow. Many of the residents could hardly recall saying the exact same thing the year before. Those who did thought nothing of it. Being their only true concern in death, it was their goal to make every Halloween more terrifying then the last. A goal they felt that they had achieved since Jack had been in charge.
When the Pumpkin King came through the doors, followed by the mayor, who was looking rather pleased, their was a cheer from the crowd. This was soon joined by the regular compliments and praises that Jack had grown quite accustomed to. He grinned as he descended the three crooked stairs to the town hall and said his thanks with all of the grace he could muster.
The mayor attempted to gather the attention of the crowd (With some difficulty.) as he began to speak.
"Well done, people, well done! I think we're ready to make this the best Halloween ever!" He said, his grinning face in place. The crowd cheered. "And now, since our last rehearsal and town meeting before sunset tomorrow has come to an end, you may all have the rest of the night to celebrate!" At this, the people gave an even greater cheer.
It was tradition to celebrate on the last evening before Halloween…if celebrate was indeed the correct word. The whole thing was more to prepare the residents of town for the performance to come in the next 24 hours. If anyone outside of town were to see this celebration it would certainly give them nightmares for weeks…but to the residents themselves, it was all quite enjoyable.
It took them no time at all to fall into the mood of the thing.
Jack, who, in normal circumstances would have stayed at least for a little while, tried to sneak off, hoping that as the people began to enjoy themselves, they would hardly acknowledge his absence. This of course proved to be a futile attempt as he was cornered by a few enthusiastic ghouls within seconds after the thought came to him.
"Jack," A sort of reptilian female addressed him from his right. "I do hope you will grace us with your dance again this year." Her voice sounded garbled, as though she had something gelatinous stuck in her throat.
"Oh yes, Jack. We are looking most forward to it." The witch on his left said, while giving him a horrific smile.
"Actually, I am quite tired and I thought that perhaps…" Jack started. He was interrupted as a child tugged at his pant leg.
"Your dance is the highlight of the night Jack." The boy with the slit eyes and striped shirt said with an edge of pleading in his voice. "You will dance won't you?"
Jack sighed, as all hope of slipping away left with a breath of cold October air.
"Of course…" He said, without any real feeling.
Sally had never been to a pre-Halloween celebration, but she had heard the doctor speak of it many times before. And despite the faint description he gave her of how dreadful it was, she found the whole concept almost too exciting to overlook. The doctor himself tended to stay in his lab on such occasions, for he was not the sort of person who attended any sort of function that encouraged merriment. (Wretched merriment…but merriment none the less.)
In any case, he couldn't have attended this year if he wanted to…for he was currently sleeping off a dose of Deadly Nightshade, which had been carefully applied to his stew.
Sally crept towards the square, careful to be as quiet as she could so as not to draw attention to herself. (She needn't have tried, for people were far too wrapped up in their own affairs to pay the rag doll any mind.) She stopped at what appeared to be the edge of the happenings and took an obscure seat under a dead oak. She was perfectly content to just watch the mysterious people and was far too shy to venture on to do anything further.
She took the whole scene in with awe. Even though she had not been out of the house on more then a very few occasions, and did not really understand what drove these ghouls to act and be the way they were, she still found them all fascinating…even longed to be included.
Sally leaned against the tree with a sigh and enjoyed the autumn wind against her face and the sounds of life beyond the dark home of her creator. It was so pleasant to be outside the house it seemed, that even the crooked buildings and wicked structures around her appeared beautiful in the moonlight.
Her eyes traced the crowd, taking in the various shapes of residents, many of whom she'd never laid eyes on before. Then, finally they landed on a particular figure in the center of a small group of ghouls. She smiled softly and proceeded to watch the Pumpkin King as he broke away from the group, only to be bombarded by another after taking but a few steps. For the next hour or so she would focus mainly on him, ready to dodge behind the oak in case he happened to look her way.
As the night grew darker and the moon grew higher, Jack was beginning to grow impatient. He had hoped to get the dancing over with soon so that he might be able to finally steal away to his tower where he could find peace for the rest of the evening before he had to awaken the next day and prepare for Halloween night. The town had their own idea of getting ready, and he had his, and that was having the time to get away from the whole thing for a while.
"Drink, Jack?" Jack was brought out of his contemplation as a demon held a pumpkin shaped tray toward him with a set of goblets on top, filled to the rim with a shimmering black liquid.
"Oh…thank you." Jack took a goblet and nodded politely to him.
"No problem, tell my if you want a refill." He said before hurrying off. (Ignoring the mayor's outstretched hand as the ghastly politician made his way towards Jack.)
"Jack." The mayor said pleasantly as he beamed at him. (Really having no other choice.) "Enjoying yourself, I hope?" He questioned. Jack watched as the mayor's head rotated slightly.
"Yes, mayor, the festivities are as awful as ever." He said quickly, relieved as the mayor's happy face suddenly snapped back into place.
"Good, good. I suppose you'll be dancing soon then?" The mayor asked hopefully. "You've done it for the last ten years…and we all really enjoy it."
"If it's that important then I wouldn't dream of doing anything else." Jack said, while giving the mayor a smile, that, although seemed to reassure the man, was not, in truth, all that genuine.
"Excellent!…um…when…because…people are beginning to ask…and…" The mayor asked, sounding, as he usually did, like a lost child who seemed to find that every question was wrapped around an important answer, and should not be ignored for long, lest that answer be lost forever.
"How about now." Jack said helpfully. The mayor seemed relieved at this.
"Alright. I'll announce you." He said quickly before hurrying off towards the front of the crowd. Jack set his drink down and began his way through the crowd.
"Listen, everyone!" The mayor said as loudly as he could. "Hello! Can you hear me?" He took a moment to look distressed before a small mummy with only one eye visible handed him a megaphone. "Thank you. May I have your attention please!" He addressed the crowd again. This time, many of the specters quieted and turned towards him.
Sally was among them, tearing her eyes away from Jack out of her curiosity in this new and unknown development.
"I give you, one of the most horrible events of the year; The Skeleton Dance!" The mayor announced excitedly. Many of the people at this point cheered. Sally, who was too far away to hear exactly what the mayor had said, watched bemusedly as the crowd grew excited and watched Jack's walk to the small platform where the mayor was standing with something like mystified awe.
He mounted the few steps, getting various pats on the shoulder (Or in many cases on his back, because few residents could reach his shoulder.) and an overwhelming amount of encouragement from the large group now watching him with pleasured expectance.
Jack held up his skeletal hands to get them to calm down, and then, as the sound tapered off, he motioned towards the band standing in the corner of the procession.
Sally watched him with interest. Her first thought was that he was going to give some sort of speech.
She dismissed this, when he tossed an object that shimmered, the moonlight bouncing off of it's surface as it went neatly into one of the player's instruments.
"You got it, bone daddy." The corpse said as he began to play. The others joined in, emitting a tragic and beautiful melody that covered the crowd like a great mysterious shadow.
Then, to the crowds immense pleasure and Sally's wide eyed awe, Jack began to dance.
To him it was nothing, like fright itself. Every step seemed to come to him without even passing through his skull. But the crowd seemed to enjoy it, for whatever reason. Occasionally he would throw in a trick, and he believed they enjoyed this the most, because with it he gave them what they wanted…he would extract flames from a jack o' lantern and toss it over the wide eyes of the onlookers, or step lightly into the shadows before inexplicably ending up behind someone, and shocking them, but mostly he danced, every step filling his audience with almost spellbinding marvel.
Sally herself didn't care too much for the tricks. She was perfectly happy just to watch him move. He was beautiful. Looking at him she suspected that he wasn't even trying, as though dancing came as easily to Jack as walking did.
Each step sent fresh chills down her arms as she watched him side step and twirl and flourish. Deep within her, in the secret regions of her fabricated heart, Sally dared to imagine what it would be like to dance with the Pumpkin King. What it would be to touch his skeleton fingers as he led her into a dance that could make the heart almost start beating again.
As she looked about the crowd, managing to tear her eyes away from Jack for a moment, she came to the conclusion that she was not the only one to wish for this. Other ghoulish women watched Jack with something like longing written across their faces as he moved charmingly before them.
And then after what seemed like quite a while, though still not long enough, Jack twirled and came to a stop, under the moonlight which for a long and breathtaking moment had made him some sort of dark angel. He bowed and the crowd cheered and the spell was broken.
Sally sighed and rested her head against the tree. As the cheering died down, she closed her eyes, finding a place within the darkness where Jack was still dancing and where perhaps, she was dancing with him. Finding a place where the unthinkable could happen.
After a while, the celebration had resumed it's usual tone. Sally might've fallen asleep, which might have been a terrible mistake depending when she woke up, if it wasn't for the astonished voice which brought her out of her half sleep. She was almost sorry, for on the other side a pleasant dream almost certainly awaited her.
"Sally?" The voice came again and Sally opened her eyes. Jack was standing in front of her. For a moment, she thought she had in fact fallen asleep, then, reality washed over her, and in her surprise she stood up perhaps a little too quickly and nearly stumbled over her own feet.
"I didn't expect to see you here." He said in a voice that was genuinely surprised. Sally herself was speechless, and feeling slightly guilty for the thoughts that had been running through her head but a moment before.
"Well…actually…I was…just about to head back." She stammered shyly. Jack nodded warmly, then, much to her immense embarrassment, he motioned for her to accompany him.
"Well I was just about to escape, perhaps we can walk together." Sally could feel herself blushing (If a rag doll could indeed blush.), still, she followed after him silently.
The night seemed to grow darker as they headed away from the group in Town Square. Occasionally, Sally would steal a quick look at the Pumpkin King as they walked in silence. He appeared to be thinking thoughtfully about something. She was aware that they were nearing his house and began searching desperately for something to say before they parted for the evening.
"You dance beautifully." She said finally, without even realizing that that was what she was going to say. After she spoke, she blushed a little. Her words seemed to bring Jack out of his thoughts. He looked at her and smiled.
"Thank you." He said. It occurred to her that he had probably heard it a thousand times. "They seem to enjoy it, though I can hardly understand why."
Sally seemed a little surprised at this.
"It's amazing…it's like you can't tear your eyes away." Now it was Jack's turn to look surprised. Sally looked away quickly when she realized that she had startled him, and silently wished that she hadn't said anything at all. He was after all, the Pumpkin King. After a few moments she risked a look back, and was relieved and a little disappointed to find him back in his thoughts.
They were now about ten steps away from his gates and although she didn't want to say goodbye to him, she couldn't help but feel a little relieved. That was when he spoke again, making her jump.
"Have you ever danced before, Sally?" Jack asked in a conversational tone.
"No." Sally responded softly without looking up at him. He stopped. They were five feet away from his gate. She looked up at him in bewilderment, only to find him smiling at her faintly with his hand outstretched.
"Would you like to learn?"
For a moment she stared at him in disbelief. Surely, he couldn't be asking her to dance. Sally was suddenly torn between two arguments. One, was that after watching him dance earlier that evening she had discovered that daydreaming about dancing with him and actually doing it were two very different things. In a dream, she couldn't make a fool of herself in front of him. She had thought that it looked as though dancing came as easily to him as walking…well…even walking didn't come easily to her.
The second of course was the inner voice screaming to her that the Pumpkin King was asking her to dance…and that ANYONE of the ghouls that had watched him that evening would have told her that refusing him was completely unheard of.
The final thing, which came behind these two, was the simple longing to take his hand and see what happened. That was the one that won out.
Sally touched Jack's bony fingers hesitantly, feeling a tingling sensation as his long fingers curled over hers. He then grasped her other hand and placed it on his shoulder, and then gently rested his other hand on her waist. Sally felt her stomach knot as he began to move and instruct her what to do.
"It's quite easy once you get the hang of it. Just try to match your steps with mine." Though the thought of trying to do so dismayed her, she did her best. After a few moments, the only thing she could be glad of, was that the dance he was trying to teach her was no where near as complicating as those that he did earlier. She still made a fool of herself.
Finally, after Jack had to stop to steady her after she nearly tripped, she decided it was a good time to give up and head home before she completely embarrassed herself.
"I really don't think I'm going to get this…" She said apologetically. She tried to pull back and stumbled. She would have ended up on the ground if Jack hadn't caught her.
"It's alright…it just takes time." He said kindly, as he pulled her back on her feet. "Perhaps you'd like to try once more, then I will let you go." Sally looked up at him, aware that his arms were still around her and that her tiny hands were clasped to the fabric of his pinstripe jacket. She let go, and nodded. Jack smiled.
"This time, do not look at your feet." He said gently. She decided she couldn't have anyways.
He moved his hands to the correct positions and she did the same and this time, she kept her eyes on him. After a few moments she found that she had fallen into his step and had found herself in something close to a dream. Watching him was one thing, when you were watching it was like watching some beautiful vision that you could never touch…but when one was actually dancing WITH him, when one could actually convinced themselves that the whole thing was real…it was like magic.
It ended as abruptly has it had before.
Jack parted from her after giving her a twirl and grinned.
"See." He said. "Nothing to it."
Sally smiled softly.
"It was something." She said in a tiny voice. She felt Jack's hand on her shoulder and looked up.
"Thank you." He said gently.
"Me? Why?" She questioned.
"Thank you for dancing with me, I can assure you, it was the highlight of my evening…and you danced wonderfully" Sally blushed.
"I should be going." She said. Jack smiled and pushed open his gate.
"Sweet Nightmares, Sally." He said.
"Good night, Jack." She returned in a voice barely above a whisper. She turned and headed down the street, feeling as though on this evening, her nightmares would indeed be sweet.
K, done, I've been working on this since I got home from school, only stopping to get some info for applications and to run down to the library to check out some reading for a trip I have to make tomorrow. (Bleh…college visits.)
Ne ways, I came up with this idea AGES ago and, until last night could not think of an instance in which to use it. Now I have, here it is, I hope you enjoyed it.