Last Dance

This story was originally written for the Story-In-A-Bag contest at ConQuest 45, where it won the Professional Horror category. Unfortunately, being a science fiction and fantasy convention, I was the only entry in that division, but hey, I’ll take the win.

tumblr_mfpm9irOo51qa6xg1o1_500Cold air blew in the open window, and time stood still as Becky, Janet, David, and I sat circling a Ouija board on the rough, industrial carpet floor of the Clarke County Community Center business office. The metronomic ticking of the Roman-numeraled wall clock ground to a halt. A tie-dye lava lamp sitting half-buried in sloppy stacks of receipts and accounting ledgers froze, its bulbous contents suspended in a glowing blue state of stasis.

“What the Hell just happened?” I said, glaring at my lifelong best friend Becky.

“I don’t know.” Her pale hands trembled upon the planchette. Her small body shook up through the tips of her platinum-died bangs.

Janet, her dark-skinned, dark-haired polar opposite looked at her through tear-glazed eyes. “What do you mean you don’t know?”

“You’re supposed to be a fucking witch, Becky,” David said, his voice as rough as his farm-kid skin.

“I don’t know.”

“Great. Just great. Just fucking spectacular.”

“Give her a break,” I said.

“I thought we were going to talk to ghosts,” Becky said, her voice barely a whisper.

“You told me this would work, you jackass,” Janet spat at me. Her snot and tear-covered face wrinkled in disgust.

“I thought we would scare each other a bit and maybe I would get laid,” I said.

“Fuck you, asshole.”

The window blinds had frozen mid-flutter. Becky’s iPod toned an endless note that frankly wasn’t that different than the industrial electronica noise crap that it had been playing anyway. No movement. No sound. I felt an eerie loneliness, in spite of the others around me.

“Can we take our hands off this Goddam thing?” David asked.

The planchette slid to “yes.”

“That’s not funny, Bobby,” Janet said, glowering.

“It wasn’t me.”

“Maybe it was Satan,” David said, questioning Becky, who wouldn’t stop shaking.

“The board is made by Parker Brothers, for fuck’s sake,” I said. “It’s glow-in-the-dark plastic. We might as well be playing Connect Four. Just take your hands off. One…two…three.”

We all drew our hands back from the planchette as if we expected it to jump up and eat us. Janet wiped her snotty nose on the smooth skin of her hand. We all stood up. My legs ached, half-asleep from sitting cross-legged on the hard floor.

“Well,” Becky said. She blew out a lungful of air. “That was intense.”

David and Janet jabbered at Becky. I didn’t comprehend anything they said. I heard singing, coming from the dance hall on the other side of the business office door.

“Shut up, all of you,” I said, stepping in between them.

“Who do you think–” Janet started. I covered her mouth with my palm.

“Shh,” I said, index finger to my lips. “Just listen.”

“Where oh where can my baby be?”  a voice sang, tone-deaf and gravelly. “The Lord took her away from me.”

I edged towards the door. The others followed closely behind me. I cautiously opened the door and we stepped out into the dance hall. All around, couples held each other in eternally-locked embraces. The Clarke County Consolidated High School dance contest stuck on pause, as still as the lava lamp. Formal dresses suspended in mid sway. Plastic Solo cups of punch froze to wallflower lips. Mr. Miller, our balding pervert of an Algebra teacher leaned statuesque against the brick wall, his hungry eyes locked on Heather Montgomery’s ass.

The singing had changed to humming, accented by the jangle of keys and the swabbing sound of a mop upon the laminated wood floor. The janitor moved through slowly through the paralyzed crowd, his keys hanging from a belt cinched tight beneath a swollen gut, eyes down on his work.

“Excuse me, sir,” David said. He stepped forward. I snatched his arm, pulling him back.

The mop bucket was filled with red, thick visceral fluid. Blood clotted to the mop head as the janitor moved it back and forth upon the floor, painting the dance floor red. He dunked the mop into the bucket, wrung it, and then continued his horrible work.

“Oh my God,” Janet mumbled, grabbing onto me. Her body shook. My pulse thumped in my ears. I took shallow breaths, my chest constrained.

The janitor stopped in front of Mr. Miller, still humming. He pulled a utility knife out of a ragged coveralls pocket, and then thrust it into Mr. Miller’s gut, just above his tented erection. The janitor carved an upside-down smiley face. Gore poured from the gaping hole as Mr. Miller’s abdomen flapped down. Intestines uncoiled and splattered into the mop bucket, splashing blood onto the floor.

Becky screamed. The janitor stopped humming and looked up at us through two milky-white cataracts. He flashed a yellow, crooked grin and began humming again. We ran back into the business office. I slammed the door shut and locked the deadbolt.

“What are we going to do?” I asked no one in particular.

The humming, jangling, and swabbing grew louder as the janitor approached the door.

David grabbed a hold of Becky by the shoulders. “How do we fix this?” She didn’t answer. He shook her. “How do we fix this, you dumb bitch?”

“Let her go,” Janet said, shoving David away.

Becky crumpled into my arms, crying. “It’s all my fault,” she said.

“Hey, it’s not your fault. But I need you to help me–help us,” I said. “You can cry later. I’ll even cry with you. Help me.”

Becky sniffled. “Okay. Everyone sit down.”

We sat around the Ouija board and once again placed our hands upon the planchette.

“Now what?” Janet asked. Becky shook her head and shrugged.

“Now what?” David asked the Ouja board. The planchette did not move.

“How do we get rid of the psychotic janitor?” I asked. The planchette stayed still.

“Any other bright ideas?” Janet smirked at me.

The humming was just outside the door. The swabbing stopped. The keys jangled. The gravelly voice sang, “She’s gone to Heaven so I got to be Good…” A key slid into the lock. “So I can see my baby when I leave this world.”

I stood and stomped down upon the planchette, crushing it beneath the black heel of my polished leather dress shoes. The lava lamp moved. The clock ticked. The door opened and Mr. Miller poked his head in.

“What are you doing in here?” he said. “No one is allowed in here. Get out. It’s the last dance.”

Janet and David scurried out of the room.

Becky looked up at me from the floor. “How did you know that would work?”

“I didn’t. Seemed like a good idea at the time.”

She smiled.

“Last dance,” I said, holding my hand out to her. I helped her up from the floor. She grabbed her iPod and straightened her black dress. We walked out onto the dance floor together.

We began to sway to the latest nameless pop ballad, Becky’s head resting on my chest. Mr. Miller shut off the business office light. The Parker Brother’s Ouija board glowed vaguely in the dark as he closed the door.

Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at

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