! The dancers
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July 2001
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The dancers

The dancers aren't human; they aren't even nearly human.

Bud and I used to sneak down to the dancer's heath in the evening and watch the dancers dance in the twilight. They only dance while the sun is setting, their figures rosy in the dying light. They weave in and out, at one instant glittering rhombs of crystal, at the next aristocrats wearing powder and patch, their movements both swift and fluid and yet whispering teasingly of a geometric order not quite perceived.

We weren't supposed to be there, of course. Our parents had strictly forbidden us to watch the dancers. Every one's parents did that. Thinking about it long afterwards, I am sure that they knew we were there. They forbade us to go but they knew we would not obey so they made nothing of our absence at sundown.

Everyone went to see the dancers at least once - watching them was a ritual that we all went through, a way of proving our selves. Bud and I went frequently. We were drawn to the beauty. We were called to it. It was something we shared.

One evening as we watched Bud rose from our hiding place and stepped towards them. I tried to grab him and stop him. The dancers were dangerous; everybody knew that. He shook me off and walked into the dancer's heath, into the midst of the dancers. At first they ignored him, weaving around him as though he were a block of stone, moving ever so much faster than humans could move.

His face was blank as he tried to move with them but his movements were clumsy, ugly, and slow compared to theirs. Finally one of the dancers reached out and touched him. Sparks flew out all around him, he stumbled and fell, and the dancers vanished.

When I was sure they were gone I ran out to him. He lay there, cold as though he were in shock, and unconscious. Somehow I knew that he would never wake as long as he lay on that heath. Scared, sweating, I grabbed his arms and pulled him to the safety of the woods. I sat beside him, rubbing his face and hands, crying over him, and begging him to wake. At length he stirred. As he opened his eyes he spoke in a voice both thick and muddy, "Beth, they're beautiful. You just don't know how beautiful they are."

We didn't say anything as we went home. I knew that I would never go back there, not ever. I hoped that he wouldn't either but I didn't dare ask him; I was afraid to hear what he would say.

A week went by and he didn't go back; I made sure of that. Then one evening my aunt came visiting and I had to stay home to entertain her. I couldn't be with Bud to make sure that he stayed away from the dancer's heath.

I never saw him again. Nobody ever saw him again. Some say that he ran away to the North woods and became a hermit. Old Weezel swears that he saw Bud in the distance one day. He swears that he saw him wearing a bear skin coat. I don't believe it. Old Weezel's eyesight is failing and he drinks a lot; old Weezel probably saw a bear.

I think Bud is a dancer now. I wish I could join him but I know that I never will.


This page was last updated July 1, 2001.
Copyright © 2000 by Richard Harter

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July 2001
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