Well it's a marvellous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
'Neath the cover of October skies
Shadowy twilight had just set in and there was a half-moon peeking over the horizon when Mitchell punched the key in the lock of the front door and shoved it open, then failed in his attempted not to slam it shut behind him. A day of cleaning up piss, vomit and other bodily secretions, topped off with an evening embroiled in vampire politics, tended to make him want to slam things. At least tonight it was a door and not someone’s head.
He could hear Annie and George in the kitchen, arguing back and forth, and the familiar, comforting rattle of crockery. He headed that way, more than ready to leave the insecurities and vagaries of the human and non-human world behind him on the doorstep.
He’d barely taken two steps before the conversation stopped, halted by the sudden crash of something fragile breaking on a hard floor and a yelp of surprise that was followed by a low growl. A second later George was rushing towards him with a cry that was turning into a howl, his eyes frantic. Annie followed close on his heels reaching out with one hand in a futile attempt to stop her fleeing friend, a useless mug of tea clasped in the other
Mitchell backed up, confused by the commotion, expecting George to stop when he saw him. Instead he kept coming, brushing straight past Mitchell and knocking him aside in his mad dash.
“Hey,” Mitchell yelled, struggling to maintain his balance. But George ignored him, hesitating only long enough to tear open the door and run outside.
“Mitchell, help him! He’s not ready for it!” Annie shouted, switching her gaze from the now closed door to Mitchell. Understanding dawned as he took in her white face and the liquid that was sloshing out of the mug she seemed to have forgotten she was still holding in a shaking hand. He didn’t hesitate, although what he was going to do if he caught up with George and he’d changed into his wolf form he wasn’t sure, probably run like hell in the other direction if he were wise.
There was no sign of his friend by the time Mitchell reached the street but logic told him he would head for the nearby woodlands. His suspicion was confirmed when he followed George’s trail of discarded clothing; the jacket beside the rubbish bin, the t-shirt ripped apart and floating in a murky puddle, a pair of trainers not far away, and finally the glasses he retrieved miraculously undamaged from a bush. Mitchell shoved them into the inner pocket of his own jacket before he moved deeper into the wooded area, that traitorous overhead half-moon lighting the way. Not that he really needed it.
He moved silently, quickly, hands brushing bushes and trailing branches aside, wary but unable to turn back now that he’d committed himself to finding George, wherever the hell his friend had run to. It was the stench of death that led him to a blackberry thicket and he pushed through, regardless of prickles and scratches only to find an old kill, a badger that could have been savaged by a dog or something else but too far decomposed to tell if it had been killed for predator hunger or pleasure. Whatever the cause, it wasn’t recent so of no interest to him.
He retreated from the thicket and looked around, startled to find himself confused and disoriented, his sense of direction well and truly distorted. He had thought he knew these woodlands well but they now seemed darker somehow, unfamiliar. He glanced up at the moon. Black billowing clouds had moved across the sky, their heavy thickness shutting out its brightness before releasing it again.
He whirled around in dizzying circles, looking for a sign, any sign of what path George may have taken but found nothing, only trees and untamed vegetation. Then finally he spotted the small grove set beyond flattened and disarrayed gorse and a scattering of more blackberries, and the pale foot poking shyly out from a gathering of sedge grass. He edged towards it.
“George, is that you?” His question was softly spoken and the foot unmoving so he wasn’t surprised when there was no answer. Cautiously he crouched by the bushes pushing at leaves and sticks until he’d uncovered a leg, then a sharp hip, then all of George, lying on his stomach, head cradled on his arm, one leg bent at the knee. He was naked and scratched but seemingly alive. Mitchell breathed out a sigh of relief and reached down to shake his friend awake, hesitating at the swell of buttock before settling for an innocuous push on his shoulder.
“George, wake up.” There was no response so Mitchell pushed a little harder, getting impatient. “Come on, George. Can’t stay here all night.”
This time he was rewarded with stir and a rumble as George opened his eyes and gazed at him owl-like and disoriented. Then he was on his feet, the sudden movement pushing Mitchell onto his backside into the brambles.
“Hey, watch it!” Mitchell complained, rolling himself out of the bush, pulling prickles out of the seat of his jeans as he stood. But George ignored him, peering around the grove, his mouth slightly opened and an anxious look on his face.
“What … what happened?”
“You tell me,” Mitchell answered him. “I was minding my own business when the next thing I know Annie’s yelling and you’re off out the door like the hounds of hell were after you.”
“But … but it’s not a full moon.” George’s bewilderment seemed to increase as memory returned and he was still looking around the grove as if an answer was going to pop out from behind the trees at any moment. He also seemed to have forgotten he was stark naked, or maybe the knowledge simply hadn’t caught up with him yet.
“Something’s not right,” Mitchell said, trying to keep his gaze only on George’s face. But that seemed to be proving more difficult than it should for some reason. Then he remembered the glasses he’d retrieved.
“Here, you left these in a bush back there.” He pulled the glasses out of his pocket and carefully placed them on George’s face.
George ignored that too, apart from pushing the lenses up his nose a bit.
“Too true something’s not right,” he said. “I shouldn’t have changed, not now and I shouldn’t have changed back again so soon. What’s going on Mitchell?”
“I have no idea,” Mitchell told him, sternly shifting his gaze back from wandering its way over George’s body. “And put some bloody clothes on, can’t you.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, Mitchell,” George was all patient sarcasm, seemingly oblivious to Mitchell’s predicament. “I haven’t got any bloody clothes.”
“Well stick a fig leaf there or something.”
Mitchell now had George’s full attention focussed on him rather than the surrounding vegetation and he wished he hadn’t opened his big mouth.
“What’s the matter with you? It’s not as if you haven’t seen me like this before.”
Mitchell turned away with an unaccountable feeling of discomfort, as if he’d been caught out in something. Which was just stupid really, especially around George. But at least the turning away allowed him to spot the tattered pair of jeans hanging off the low tree branch a couple of yards away. He’d retrieved them in seconds and looked back at George
“Here, found your jeans,” he said, holding them out with what he knew was probably an inanely beaming smile.
George snatched at them with the same slightly vexed expression he always wore when something unexpected occurred. But he pulled them on without comment, ignoring the rents and tears, the general disrepair that probably revealed more than it hid as he zipped them up. He kept looking at Mitchell, giving him sideways glances as if wondering about the vampire’s current sanity.
“I don’t suppose, seeing we have no idea what the hell went on here anyway, there’s any point sticking around,” he said, finally shifting his gaze away and peering around the grove as if seeking an explanation for the strangeness of this alien night in the trees and bushes. But there seemed to be no explanation there, just woodland and drifting shadows.
Mitchell nodded and started to speak, but what he was about to say never made it to his lips as he caught the expression on George’s face, the one that turned from curiosity to open mouthed disbelief as he peered at some point over Mitchell’s shoulder.
A shiver ran up Mitchell’s back, the kind of sensation you get when a ghost walks across your grave, only Mitchell had never had a grave and he wasn’t sure any self-respecting ghost would walk across it even if he had – except for maybe Annie, who never gave into any ghostly convention.
George still hadn’t moved, but he had managed to close his mouth over a strangled gasp that sounded like Mitchell’s name. His eyes were wide behind the glasses, a strange silvery light reflecting from the lenses making the colour of his green eyes change to a deeper hue and the pupils look dilated, as if his wolf alter ego was coming to the surface again, or maybe had never left. Then it was gone and it was only George, with the slight frown and deceptively dreamy look back in place. But the effect lingered in Mitchell’s mind and the shiver turned to a full blown shudder as he started to turn, his need to discover whatever it was that George was seeing over his shoulder overwhelming his imperative to grab his friend’s hand and just run, dragging the werewolf with him.
The glow that had reflected off George’s glasses came from the edge of the grove where a thin square sheet of pure white light edged in darkness bisected the night, looking almost like an open doorway minus the door.
“What is it?” George’s voice was full of curiosity. Mitchell didn’t know, not really, so he couldn’t come up with a response that would make sense. But whatever it was it frightened him.
George took a step nearer to the strange light, brushing past Mitchell in the process, almost pushing him out of the way.
“George!” Mitchell warned, but George ignored him, moving forward towards the light seemingly mesmerised by the glow. Mitchell had no choice but to go with him, trailing slightly behind. his own senses screaming at him to stop and turn away. But where George went Mitchell invariably followed, even if it was into some forbidding light anyone with any sense would steer well clear of. That was the trouble with George, he was too dreamy by half at times, attracted like a moth to a flame when something new, shiny and unknown turned up, always searching – looking for explanations, a cure for the incurable, in everything that happened.
This particular flame was drawing George ever nearer and, by default, Mitchell as well. The light shimmered as they approached then split open as a figure emerged. It was tall and black garbed, blending into the background perfectly so that the only real clue to its presence was the flash of red eyes and an outline darker than the darkness around it.
George stopped and Mitchell avoided running into him only by virtue of the fact that he too had come to an abrupt halt at the new development. They both watched as the new arrival looked around the clearing, hesitating when its gaze rested on the vampire and the werewolf. Mitchell could see the sharpness of its features in the half-moonlight and the paleness of a face that didn’t look at all human. Then the gaze left them and Mitchell released the breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding.
Apparently satisfied with its survey the creature turned back to the doorway and extended its hand. The light billowed again and another figure emerged from the depths of the glowing light and took the offered hand. The pair stepped lightly forward making room for another couple, already holding hands, to emerge. After that the figures just kept coming until there were a dozen or more crowded into the grove, all standing still, all holding hands with a partner and all of them staring with studied concentration at George and Mitchell. They were an odd lot, dressed as they were in strange motley of auld world gentility and modern extravagance. And while they appeared outwardly human there was something not quite so about them, something that Mitchell found difficult to put his finger on at first. Then it was obvious in the flash of red eyes and shimmer of teeth and scale and claw that would be visible for a second only before coalescing back to a human aspect and that cold, impersonal stare.
The hair on the back of Mitchell’s head prickled and his hackles rose. He could feel his instincts surging to break free, to challenge these beings and prove his superiority by force and he took a step forward, intending to do just what the vampire in him wanted to do but the murmured “Mitchell” and hand on his arm stopped him. George was looking from the creatures to Mitchell then back at the creatures again, worry and fear replacing the curiosity that had shone in his eyes before. He opened his mouth again but Mitchell never had a chance to find out it was George wanted to say because that’s when the music started.
At first it was the high eerie notes of a lone piper floating down around them in a gentle cloud, sad and mournful. Then the flutes and fiddles started in and the beat changed, the tempo taking on a slow but melodious refrain. The creatures gave them one last inscrutable look before they turned in to their partners and began to circle the grove in a stately waltz in time to the music.
George blinked and his mouth fell open again but only a strangled sound came out. He coughed and tried again.
“Wha …what, the fuck, is this?” he finally managed.
Mitchell didn’t answer at first, intent as he was on finding the elusive memory that was skittering through his brain and that somehow he knew was something to do with what was happening to them.
“It’s a monster’s ball,” he said finally, dredging up long forgotten vampiric lore sprouted by a long forgotten old one and ignored at the time because he’d been too full of himself and his new immortality to pay attention to what, at the time, had seemed nothing more than a legend.
George was dismissive. “No, no that’s a film. Quentin Tarantino or someone. How can a film be here, in the woods?”
Another memory dodged through Mitchell’s brain, irrelevant but something to do with what George had just said. “That film had nothing to do with monsters, George. Well, monster monsters that is. And anyway it wasn’t Tarantino, it was Marc Forster.”
“I suppose you’ll tell me you know all that because you were in it? And why are we talking about some bloody film right now, Mitchell?”
“You started it.” Mitchell told him, a bit indignant at the apparent blame throwing.
George just glared at him and Mitchell suddenly remembered why he was standing in the middle of the woods with a half-naked George. He glanced back at the dancers but they appeared oblivious to the argument being carried out in their midst.
“Don’t you get it George?” he asked turning his attention back to where it belonged. “It’s All Hallows', Samhain, when the dead walk, or dance I suppose. Someone a long time ago told me it’s the one night the dead undead can come out of wherever it is the dead undead go after they’re …” he hesitated, searching for the right word, but there was only one he could use. “Dead.”
George was still glaring. “That makes no sense whatsoever. How can they be the undead if they’re dead.”
“Obviously.” George didn’t even bother to try hiding his sarcasm and Mitchell didn’t blame him this time. It did all sound a little bizarre. So he went for the short explanation.
“Okay, well. Let’s just say it’s the night for monsters to inhabit the world of the living, for a few hours.”
“But we’re monsters.”
Mitchell hesitated, searching for the right reply to that one. Then, as the music suddenly turned from mellow to brisk in one quick note, it came to him why the dancers were so interested in them. Why they had now suddenly broken from their tight embraces and turned as one to advance towards them.
“Yes, we are,” Mitchell managed before he was grabbed by the arm and hauled bodily into the midst of the now twirling dancers. “Maybe that’s why they want us to join them!” he shouted as he turned and twisted in the monstrous embraces, unable to break free.
He looked over his shoulder, searching for George and found him, as immersed in the dancers as he was, his struggles for freedom just as ineffectual. Then he was swirled around and away into the depths of a danse macabre.
The music went on and on and with it, the dance. Mitchell tried to keep up. Tried to remember steps from too long ago childhood memories and to keep from tripping as he was passed from undead partner to undead partner, each one appearing more obscenely grotesque than the next as the vale lifted from their monstrous features before settling back to obscure again. He tried to keep track of George too, but only managed fleeting glimpses of flailing arms and a stricken face.
They did find each other more than once though, Mitchell honing in on the scent of the wolf, George doing the same with him, his keen senses tuned to the blood smell of the vampire. They manoeuvred their steps towards each other, only to be quickly separated again, swept away by grasping hands and inpatient arms.
Finally they came together again and this time Mitchell held on, his arms tight around George’s waist. George reciprocated with the same tenacity, his arms circling Mitchell’s neck so the determined hands were defeated. Then they were left alone, isolated on a small patch of grass in the moonlight as the dancers continued to swirl around them.
“What do we do now?” George asked, the harshness of his breathing and the edge of fear making his voice ragged.
“Keep dancing,” was the only thing Mitchell could suggest, his senses numb with the incessant beat of the music and the exhaustion of the reels they had been forced to be a part of. “I don’t think they’ll hurt us so long as we stay a part of their crazy dance.”
They were chest to chest, hip to hip, determined not to let any distance come between them lest they were pulled apart again. Mitchell could feel the frantic beat of George’s heart where he had none at all and the puff of warm breath on his neck. The heat of their bodies pressed so close, the feel of every curve of muscle moving against him, almost made him regret his too-tight jeans and he hoped George didn’t mind the intimate rub. But then George was clinging just as tenaciously and hadn’t seemed bothered by his own partly exposed state.
“I hope you’re right,” George whispered in his ear, sending a shiver down Mitchell’s spine. He hoped so too, hoped they’d get out of this without losing their heads.
On they danced, a mad waltz in the middle of the reeling throng, tripping over each other’s feet and buffeted from side to side as the mad creatures whirled past in a flash of gaudy colours, peering at them with a strange curiosity before sweeping away.
Finally the music slowed and the glowing doorway’s light flared brightly again. As though summoned, the demon dancers swept past them in a graceful swirl and waltzed towards and through its embrace, each pair swallowed whole in turn until eventually only the lone black-clad creature that had been first out of the portal and its mate were left. As it had before, the creature surveyed the grove, looking for stragglers perhaps. Apparently satisfied it turned towards Mitchell and George, red eyes still glowing but an almost benevolent expression on its face. It regarded them for a long moment, as if unsure whether to speak or not. Finally it smiled and bowed graciously in their direction.
Startled Mitchell let his head bow in automatic response and noticed that George was doing the same. The creature straightened as its mate pulled on its arm while pointing towards the portal and with a final red-eyed wink they both stepped through.
Mitchell kept hold of George as the portal vanished in a flash of brilliant light. Not sure whether it was safe to stop or whether the strange night would spring any more surprises, they swayed on to the faint, ghostly strains of the music that still lingered in the grove, executing their own slow dance.
Eventually George planted his feet and brought them both to a halt, looking cautiously around before staring fixedly at the spot where the glowing doorway was now nothing more than a memory.
“The … they’ve gone,” he stuttered. “We can stop now, can’t we?”
“Suppose,” Mitchell said, fighting the urge to keep their bodies together because it felt so comfortable, so right and so safe. And he didn’t want to let go. George was gazing at him now, his look uncertain and Mitchell gave up the fight. Lifting his hand to cup the back of George’s head he bent forward and kissed him on the mouth.
He almost regretted it in the next few seconds, but then his impulses were always too close to the surface where George was concerned and the feel of those soft lips under his made the chance worth the risk.
As it turned out it wasn’t quite such a risk after all and the chance was there as well because George didn’t respond, but he didn’t exactly pull away either. It was more of a drawing back and a shallow frown between raised eyebrows.
“What’d you do that for?”
Mitchell fought for an answer that would make some sense to George’s sometimes over-analytical brain and not show him up for the idiot George now probably thought he was. And come up with not much.
“Don’t know, seemed like a good idea, that’s all. An’ Annie always says we should snog.”
“Annie believes a cup of tea is the answer to everything,” George said, staring at him as if a puzzle he’d almost given up on was slowly falling into place. “That’s no reason to drink the endless cups of the stuff she shoves under our noses.”
“Does there have to be a reason?” Mitchell asked
“No. No, I suppose not. But it helps if there is.” The half-smile was overtaking the frown but not by much.
“Then I can’t give you one. Other than I wanted to,” Mitchell told him. “Can you just go with that?”
George stared at him for a long, long time. Finally the last piece of that elusive puzzle must have settled neatly into its right niche because the frown was banished by a full-on smile.
“Yeah, I can do that,” George said. Then he was kissing Mitchell back. Happy kisses that made Mitchell’s head spin and his legs wobble until finally they drew apart, gasping for breath.
They stood there in the now deserted glade, foreheads resting together while they drew in each other’s scent, their breaths mingling. And the world suddenly seemed right and ordered again. Well, as ordered as it could ever be for a werewolf and a vampire.
Finally, when their breathing had returned to normal George pulled back a little and looked into Mitchell’s face. “What about,” he nodded his head to where the shining portal had stood, “all this.”
“It’s finished,” Mitchell said. “Everything is back to the way it was.”
George nodded. “For now. Tonight. But what about next All Hallows' night? What if I start to change again and they come back?”
“Then we’ll tackle it when it happens, together,” Mitchell told him. “C’mon. Let’s go home to Annie.”
“And cups of tea,” George supplied with a huff of laughter in his voice.
“And snogging on the couch,” Mitchell added as George pulled him back in for another sloppy kiss before they turned their backs on portals and the strangeness of the night.
Mitchell looked back once as they walked away, to where a faint shimmer of phosphorescent light could still be seen, and a shudder travelled down his back. A feeling of foreboding followed but Mitchell ignored it. Snagging George’s hand, he pulled him in the direction of their home and hearth and their resident ghost who apparently had always known more about them than they had themselves.
Can I just have one a' more moondance with you, my love?
Can I just make some more romance with a' you, my love?