Dance of the Specters
Lyndon opened the invitation and rolled his eyes. He despised dancing. Fiona snatched the letter from his hand and read it. “It will be magical,” she gushed, “a once in a lifetime event.” Fiona loved to dance. She had been trying to get him to dance with her since they were married twenty-one years ago.
To secure a carriage, hire an overseer for the farm, and to pay for food while they were away for three weeks was an exorbitant cost. But he loved her. And he could see it in her eyes — this meant everything to her. At least the cost of attending the ball was free.
“Castle Mortughast? All the way to the coast?” He was hoping the thought of traveling that far might help Fiona come to her senses, but she was already smiling and twirling circles in the parlor. “How many will be attending?” he asked.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and let her heart-shaped waist rest against him. “Does it matter, my love?”
Their accommodations were nothing short of immaculate. Tapestries of the ages donned their chamber walls, every chair and lounge cushioned and ornately carved. Every piece in the room held untold stories of the past inscribed in wood, thread, and stone.
Though the down bed was far more comfortable than their straw mattress at the farm, sleep evaded Lyndon. Unheard whispers rolled him side to side each night. Fiona, however, seemed to feel at home here. Never turning, always excitable, even performing her wifely duties with more exuberance than in the past two decades.
Finally, the evening of the banquet arrived — the crowning jewel to a week-long fantasy. The grand hall held luscious wonders. Feasts of splayed swine stuffed with apples and adorned with bundles of grapes decorated the hall-length table, which must have held a hundred chairs on each side. Various cheeses, goblets of wine, pastries and delectables Lyndon had never tasted greeted him at every station.
This was the type of evening from which memories were born, making him feel like a king. Music swelled, and the dancing began. Lyndon’s stomach dropped, but dancing was a small price to pay for such an elaborate feast.
He twirled with Fiona, only stepping on her toes twice. She was graceful and natural. “How was this free?” he asked. “How did you ever acquire an invitation?”
“Come with me, love,” Fiona said. “I have something to show you.” The music abruptly stopped and the gong of the clock echoed in the suddenly empty dance hall.
“Wha — ” Fiona held a finger to his lips and led him down the spiral staircase to the underkeep.
Lyndon’s knees trembled. Outlines of dancing couples filled the hold; each twirling breathlessly, never pausing— a hall of spectres.
Fiona’s face faded to a wisp.
“You’re a… ghost?”
“I’m sorry, my love. It was the price of admission.”
Unbeknownst to Lyndon, he’d spend the rest of eternity dancing the dance of the specters.
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