The black disk spun as the music enthralled its listeners. It spoke a language more beautiful than any human tongue. It sang in sweet tones of joy and cried in wails of sorrow as the symphony progressed. Like a puppet master deftly maneuvering strings, it directed bodies as they danced with grace, ever mindful of the next movement, the next step.
Only when the needle was lifted did they stop. The Victrola was the instrument, Mr. Harold Snyde, the conductor.
His guests had been invited to his home under false pretense of a dinner party; one which could be described as nothing short of an unmitigated success.
After dessert, he invited those gathered into the parlor for a musical interlude. When he placed the recording onto the spinning table and set the needle into the disc’s carved groove, they all began to dance. He knew they would. He’d tested it on his late wife prior to her passing of heart failure. An unfortunate occurrence, for her. But not for Mr. Snyde. He inherited her vast fortune, and the aforementioned record player.
When Mrs. Snyde had still been among the living, he’d found it buried deep in the attic behind old crates and piles of books no one would ever read again. He pulled it out, dusted it off, and brought it downstairs.
“What are you doing with that old thing?” she’d questioned with disdain.
“What do you mean, dear? I’m setting it up so I can listen to my records.”
“Why don’t you just buy a new one? We hardly need to reuse junk from the attic,” she’d clucked, barely disguising her distaste.
He didn’t reply. Instead, he placed a record on the player and turned it on. She began to dance, and dance, and dance; a strange expression painted on her face, as if fear struck her ill.
“I thought you hated my choice of music?” he asked her prancing form.
She didn’t reply.
“Lynn, what has gotten into you?”
Still her mouth uttered no words.
He crossed his arms and watched her sway and whirl around the room without stopping. He let it go on for some time before raising the arm off the record.
She stopped dancing and blinked a few times. “What… What just happened?”
“You were dancing! It was wonderful!”
“I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to dance. I don’t understand.”
“Let’s try it again, shall we?” Harold said, and turned the music back on.
She’d begun to raise a palm, to tell him to wait, but the music took over and sent her twirling about like a ballerina. He sat and watched in fascination from his favorite reading chair, smiling at her frame as it seemed to glide about the room as if weightless.
As she went on and on without end, he wondered how long the player would have an effect. He soon had his answer; she danced until she died several hours later.
Before the police and ambulance arrived, he dredged up old memories to proffer genuine tears. He didn’t want to appear apathetic or distracted. Tissue in hand, he wiped his eyes while the paramedics took her body away and the officers questioned him. It worked perfectly. There was no need for them to know those tears weren’t for his deceased wife, but for his beloved dog, Ralph, who’d passed when he was a boy.
Now, no one suspected a thing; not the police, nor his current guests. He presumed they all believed him in need of company. He was, after all, alone in such a large house, with a wife so recently in the ground and no children to share his grief. It had only been a week since the death of Mrs. Snyde, yet the vultures gathered had jumped at the opportunity to console the wealthy widower; the same gaggle who wouldn’t have bothered to utter his name prior to his wife’s passing.
He reveled in watching the contorted faces of his guests as they moved around the room with more grace than they ever would on their own. He wondered how long they’d last. Would they drop one by one? Would they all die around the same time? He wished he could bet on who would be the first to go, but there wasn’t anyone to take up the offer. It mattered little; he was having the time of his life. Watching those rich bitch-hogs dance uncontrollably gave him pleasure, and watching their lives give out would give him even more. They’d done him wrong and in return, he was going to do them right.
He watched Gerald, his legs bending and swaying, hips moving in sync with Barbara. The two socialite bastards had always talked behind his back. He’d seen them laughing with eyes pointed in his direction at the company Christmas party the previous year. Lynn had stood with them, probably telling them how he’d pissed his money away with a bladder full of drink.
There will be fewer attendees at the party this year, he thought with maniacal glee.
Henna and Charles, the investment dynamic-duo, or so they claimed. They looked to be the first to go. He saw their eyes droop, watched as their mouths hung open, a stream of unbecoming drool leaked freely onto each of their chins. Their arms swung loosely at their sides, propelled only by the movement of their hips, which no longer held any rhythm.
When he looked at their unsteady feet he laughed; the carpet had worn flat from the constant shuffling of their shoes. It had been Lynn’s favorite rug, worth quite a bit of money. I’d trade that floor rag for a bucket of dirt any day, he groused in his mind.
The soon to be deceased couple had lost him money time and again in fruitless endeavors. No more. That rug will be the last of your expenses.
Max still moved at a steady, upbeat pace. Mr. Snyde figured he’d be the last to drop. Max hadn’t done anything in particular to deserve such a merciless fate, he just didn’t like the mook bastard.
He poured himself a glass of whiskey and raised it to his guests. “Thank you all for coming! I’m having a wonderful time!” He laughed and sipped his drink.
By the time he’d gone through five or six pours—he couldn’t remember how many—Max was the only one left standing. The clock read quarter of five. “Damn sun will be rising soon. We’d better call this party quits. Show yourselves out. Oh, wait… That’s right, you can’t!” He chuckled and spilled whiskey with a wavering hand. “Hurry up and die, won’t you, Max. I need rid myself of the lot of you. Can’t have you stinking up the place.”
Max’s eyes pleaded with him. Their sorrowful look begged to be released, ached to be set free.
“Can’t go back now, buddy. Sorry.”
He reached for an iron rod from the fireplace, swung it hard. Max went down like the market crash of ’29.
He lifted the needle from the record for some peace and quiet while he piled the bodies together on the rug. When he attempted to pick Max up, he heard soft grumbles emanating from the man’s throat. The blow to the back of his head hadn’t killed him. “What’s that you say? Speak up, boy!”
Mr. Snyde thought he heard a profane remark as he hoisted Max up by putting his arms under his shoulders, but the young man’s speech was still unintelligible. “What’s that now?”
Max’s hand reached out just far enough to push the needle back onto the vinyl disc and the music started to play.
Releasing his hold on Max, Mr. Harold Snyde began to dance…
~ Lee A. Forman
© Copyright 2016 Lee A. Forman. All Rights Reserved