A Dance of Flesh and Bone

by R.T. Allenson

“I’ll take you for a ride, but you’ve got to pay.” the man in red smiled at him, slyly with a glint in his eye that Lucas thought was malice, but also sincerity.

It was a chance meeting and an even rarer agreement but Lucas knew there was no other way, he had to know and understand.

“Five-hundred.” the man in red whispered.

Five hundred broken pieces of memories, he picks each one despite the pain and each time he bleeds, he recalls it vividly. He remembers the song of old, of an older time and age when the sky could still be seen. He remembers his mother always telling him it was about a man who takes away people in the night, but it wasn’t anything fanciful like that at all. It was simply what it was – death, disease and time, the grave. Dreadful change, is what it was.

And how did the song go again? He thought to himself, it wasn’t a proper song at all. Just something that you can think up when you want to rhyme, but it was true despite its little flaws. Maybe he thought it didn’t mean anything, but so do a lot of things when you’re young. It’s only when you’re a little older – and wiser, when you begin to look at things in a different way.

Run, run, a kiss in the night. Fly to the skies where the moon shines bright. And when the grim caller comes knocking on the door, we all drop dead – dead on the floor.

“I-I’m sorry, what?” Lucas stammered, lost himself in a rush of memories. He was always like that, especially when he was unsure. Or afraid. The man in red smirked, wiping his hair off his eyes.

“Look, kid,  if you don’t have the money then we’re both just wasting our time.” He paused, looking over his shoulder where the darkness of the long alley seemed to scream at them. “You want to do it or not?”

Lucas fumbled about in his pocket, finally placing a crumpled bunch of paper bills on the man’s hand. He smiled, and Lucas, nervously shrank back in his dark little corner.

“Let’s go.” the man in red smiled. Lucas followed hesitantly, looking over his shoulder as they ventured deeper into the alley. Somewhere in the darkness, he thought were a million wandering souls – but he lived for this. The thrill of the night and the clandestine, blood pumping and rushing in his veins as he let himself fall deep in the deepest dark where the eyes could see but their whispers could not be heard. And the night carried on, the rush of blood and fear subsiding until the murmurs turned into cries of pain and lust. Deeper and deeper, he called, a kiss in the night and a scream into the dark. He belonged in this world of shadow and there was something else he could not place, a queer feeling of wrongness but he knew it simply as love.

And when they finished, the man in red kissed him tenderly on the lips and vanished into the fading shadows as the first of the sun’s rays began painting the sky. Lucas opened his mouth, air escaping but the words not forming. Maybe he longed for this too, the hurting feeling that came afterwards. It was a dance of flesh and bone, and the bone-crushing pain always came after. It always did.

And he picked himself up and went on his way, it was enough for him to love everyone but for once he thought otherwise and cried, knowing full well that he’ll never see him again.

I didn’t even get his name.