The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief Part 6
by Shane Miglivacca
The Strange Shape Of Anne's Grief chapter 6 The Party
Bauhaus assaulted Anne’s ears as she entered the barn. Bela Lugosi's Dead blasting from the large speakers. The place was packed. Anne scanned the bobbing heads of the crowd. Sam wasn’t anywhere in sight. She felt a sinking feeling in her stomach. What if Sam didn’t make it? She’d be here all alone. The thought filled her with dread. All that crap with her mom, all those things she couldn’t take back. If all of that was for nothing.
The middle of the barn was filled with a large mass of dancing collage kids. Their dancing looked more like gladiatorial combat as the slammed into one another. She could see a bar at the other end of the barn close to the stage with the speakers and DJ. Going through the raging crowd appeared to be the only way across.
Anne found an opening in the dancers. She felt elbows and knees push against her. Someone grabbed her ass, making her let out a yelp. Costumed party goers bounced around the dance floor. Ricocheting around like balls in a pinball machine. A young man dressed as Huck Finn bumped into a girl dressed as Snow White. Without missing a step, she rammed another guy dressed like the devil. A Frogman tried to pull Anne into a large crowd of dancers.
“Come here sweets!” He rasped through the mask. His eyes beady behind the goggles.
“Don’t think so.” Anne gave him a little jab with her elbow. And slipped away from him. Pushing her way through the mass of people.
Making her way to the bar, Anne felt relieved to see it was relatively free of anybody. Except for a man with curly brown hair, in camouflage pants and leather jacket. Standing in the corner, his back to Anne, talking to a couple hidden under white sheets. A shorter one and a taller one, wearing glasses over the eye-holes.
Anne leaned on the makeshift bar. Her legs felt a little weak after her trek across the dance floor. The bar was made out of a couple long wood crates stacked one atop the other.
The bartender dressed as Frankenstein’s Monster eyed Anne. “Want something toots?”
“Got a Coke?” She really wasn’t a drinker of alcohol.
He reached into a cooler on the floor and pulled out a cold can of Coke. Unceremoniously handing it to her. “That will be a buck.”
Anne fished around in the pocket of her hoodie. She hadn’t thought about needing any money tonight. Luckily there was a crumpled one. She tried smoothing it out, the bartender snatching it from her hand before she could finish.
“Thanks” She popped open the can. The cold soda felt soothing to her dry throat. She watched the crowd. They seemed to be driven by the music as the thrashed around. They looked like machines. In mathematical precision as they moved in step to the beat. Sweat dripping off them like oil. The barn was blazing hot.
“Whoa momma!” A voice said over the music.
Anne turned to see the brown-haired man staring at her. One eye covered by a black eye patch. Except it wasn’t a man under that brown hair. It was an all too familiar face. Smiling at her with that knowing grin.
“One and only.” She lifted the eye patch. Sizing up Anne. “Looking good.”
Anne blushed under the mask. She never did well with complements. “Thanks.”
“You came. Was starting to have doubts you’d show.”
Of course she did. But Anne was here for good or bad. “Sure as shit I did. Just got delayed a little.”
By Sam’s expression, Anne could tell she knew what had delayed her without saying it. Mother.
Sam nodded in approval. “And you’re wearing a dress, wow. Who’d you mug for that number?”
Anne looked at Sam’s Halloween costume. It wasn’t what she’d expected. “I could say the same of you. Where did you dig that up?”
“Something I threw together. Didn’t like the shit they had on sale.” Sam smiles.
“Who the heck are you supposed to be?” Anne says. Cocking her head to the side. She bites her lip. “Looks familiar.”
“I’m the dude, from that Escape New York movie we watched on HBO.”
“Yeah!” Anne exclaims. “Right!”
“Kurt Russell.” The two say in unison.
One of the ghosts coughs behind Sam. “Remember us?”
“Damn!” Sam whirls around. “Sorry. What a douche I am.”
The shorter ghost waves at Anne.
“Guys, this is my best bud Anne.”
Anne smiles. Waving back at them. She hated meeting new people. “Hey.”
“Anne, this is my roommate Lucy Murphy and her boyfriend Paul Talbot.”
“Hey.” The short ghost replied. Must be Lucy. “We’re a suicide pact.”
The taller ghost, Paul looks down at her. Adjusting his glasses. “Thought we were supposed to be a double homicide.”
As Lucy and Paul start to argue, Sam takes Anne by the arm. “This is typical for them. C’mon.”
“Where we going?” Anne hesitated.
“That dress looks good on you.” Sam gave her arm a gentle tug. Pulling her toward the dancing mass.
Anne felt her heart beat faster. “A big turn out.” She stalled.
“Nothing else going on in Deadville tonight.” Sam tugged on her more forcefully. A new song started. A gentle beat grew louder and louder. “Good tune! Let’s dance!”
Anne couldn’t resist her friend any longer. Letting herself be pulled onto the dance floor.
A tall figure in a robe wearing an old hag mask passes by them. Anne felt their gaze piercing her. The tiny eye slits hid the hag’s eyes from her. Something about them felt unnatural. Animal like. The hag kept their stare locked on her as they disappeared the dancing multitude.
She felt unrestrained. Anne had lost herself in the moment. Letting go, she gave herself over to the music. They danced for some time before both of them needed a break. Anne felt hot. She was sweating bad under the mask. The two headed back towards the bar. Both needed a drink fast.
“See. You know how to have fun.” Sam took her wig off. Her short black hair matted with sweat.
Anne didn’t say anything. She’d surprised herself again tonight. First at home with her mother and now here. Who was she? Anne wasn’t sure she knew anymore.
Sam leaned on the bar. “I’m parched.”
Frankenstein bartender came over. Looking just as uninterested as before. “Yeah?”
“I’ll take a Schlitz if you got one.” Sam turned to Anne. “And my friend will have?”
Anne eyes flickered over to somebody standing in the corner. It was that person in the old hag mask. They stood in the same corner Sam had. Anne could feel them watching her. It felt like a lead weight around her neck. Pulling down to a watery grave.
Anne saw Sam’s hand waving in her face. Her focus snapped back to Her friend. “Wha?”
“I wanted to know what you were drinking. The bartender is waiting.”
“Oh, sorry. I’ll have another Coke.” Anne felt embarrassed. Sam and the bartender were both giving her annoyed looks. “I’ve got to drive home later.” She added with a nervous laugh.
“Cool.” Sam slapped some cash down on the bar. “It’s on me.”
The bartender took it without comment. Bringing their drinks. Sam opened her can with a loud click. Making Anne flinch.
Anne opened her coke, taking a gulp of soda. From the corner of her eye she could see the hag. Still standing there. She could tell Sam about it. But Anne knew what the outcome would be. Sam would go over there. Get in the creep’s face. Cause a scene. What if the hag was dangerous? Sam could get hurt or worse. And what if Anne was wrong? What if she was imagining it? She felt like her and Sam’s friendship was already tenuous at times. If Sam found out what she was really like? A crazy person. It would snap like a rubber band. Flinging them apart.
“What’s up?” Sam asked before downing a shot of beer.
Anne shook her head. “Just wondering what time it is.”
Sam shrugged. “Don’t know. Don’t care.”
“I do.” Anne sighs. “I have work tomorrow.” Despite what she’d told her mother, Anne really didn’t want to miss work tomorrow. They simply couldn’t afford it.
“Oh.” Sam looked around. “I’ll ask someone.” She turns to the bartender.
Anne’s slowly lets her eyes wander over to the corner again. Please be gone she thought. Please be gone. Yet there they were, still standing in the corner. Still staring at her. She felt a panic rising in her. From the bottom of her soul. The headache was coming back. Threatening to crack her skull open.
Anne’s head was swimming. She barely heard Sam tell her it was close to eleven. Stumbling away from the bar, away from Sam. Who was this person? Anne had to know.
With some reluctance Anne walked towards the hag. Who stood statue like in the corner. She could hear Sam calling after her as the thunderous beat of a new song started.
“Who are you?” Anne stammered. The music drowning her out. “What do you want!”
As Anne closed the gap between them, just within arm’s length. The hag raised their left arm up. Stretching out the palm of their hand. With one finger, they silenced Anne.
She stood like a deer in headlights. Unable to move. Her eyes locked on the old hag’s face. Anne was close enough now. Close enough to see past the eye slits of the mask. To see their eyes. Eyes that had never left Anne. They were black. Black as the endless void. A nothingness that stretchered across time.
Anne felt the desperate need to get away. If she didn’t. If she didn’t turn away, she’d be forever lost in their void.
“What the fuck Anne?” Sam’s voice cut through her soul. “Aren’t you listening to me?”
The hags hand shot out like a serpent. Striking the side of Sam’s face like lighting. So fast, Sam didn’t have time to react.
Yet as Anne’s brain caught up to what had just happened, she realized the hag hadn’t hit Sam. They pulled their hand from the side of her head. Pulling their hand away from Sam’s ear. Holding a shiny silver coin.
The hag bowed. Presenting the silver coin to Anne.
The girls looked at the coin. Mouths agape.
“Neat trick.” Sam’s voice was unsteady. Nothing ever fazed her. Till now.
“Um, cool trick.” Anne managed.
The hag held out the coin insistently.
Anne looked at Sam who shrugged. “You better take it.”
Anne reached out, taking the coin. She felt slivers shoot through her hand as the coin touched her palm.
Then the world exploded around her.
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