Sunday, January 16, 2011

Danse Macabre

"DANSE MACABRE" - Dorothy Davies

The silent figure on the gurney twitched, moved, sat up and looked around. The tag on her toe said JANE DOE which annoyed her very much.  I’m not a Jane Doe, she thought, I’m Lydia ... Lydia ... the rest of her name had escaped her, much as her memory seemed to have done.  Why am I on a gurney with a tag on my toe? Why am I cold and my veins look blue and stark and my flesh look like marble? I am NOT dead!
But – one chilled hand at her throat said otherwise. There was no pulse, no heartbeat, no warm blood rushing around a body that was beginning to sag. That annoyed her too. My boobs never sagged! Now look...
Look. She looked around, this dead Lydia, and saw she was in a morgue. A cold lonely desolate morgue that held no comforts for anyone, least of all those who were delivered there on a gurney and left overnight because the staff had gone home and not bothered with yet another stiff.
She swung her legs over the side and stood up. Well, I can still do that. Now, can I walk?
She could. Dead Lydia staggered across the room, round the dissecting table and got to the cabinets.

I need company! She pulled and tugged and reluctantly the first drawer slid open. The man inside, elderly, lined, haggard and half starved, blinked and looked up at her.
Is it time to get up?
If you want.
I do. It’s boring lying here like that. Nothing to look at.
I need the company.
The man sat up and pushed himself off the tray which had been holding him. 
That’s a good idea. Let’s find some more people.
With two of them tugging at the handles, the drawers came open a good deal easier. The young girl, anorexic and pathetic, clawed at their arms as they lifted her up. Look at me, look at me, aren’t I elegant and slim and beautiful?
The truthful answer was no, but they did not say it. You are, you are! She beamed and spun round, her flimsy hospital gown billowing around her. I can dance!
We all can but right now we want company!
Lydia pulled at another drawer with the help of the old man and the anorexic. A dark handsome youth smiled shockingly white teeth as he sat up. Thank you! I thought I would be stuck in there forever! One easy movement and he got up too, swaying to an unheard rhythm. Is it time to dance?
Let’s get everyone out first. Lydia was in charge and didn’t know how she had become in charge, it had just – happened. She liked it though, she had never been in charge of anything.  Always the underdog, always the low paid worker following orders. Now she was issuing orders and these people were obeying her. It was a miracle and she was not about to let go of the good feelings it was generating.
I’m naked! The shock ran through her but no one had said anything, no one had ogled her, no one had touched her. Maybe, but it isn’t right! She went back to the gurney and took up the sheet lying there, wrapped it around her body and tucked the end in securely under one arm.  That felt better.
Oh, elegant, the old man observed, without a trace of sarcasm. You wear it well, dear lady. Swan-like, I would say. What’s your name?
Now if I remember my Greek mythology, there was a swan who went to Leda, which is close enough to your name, dear lady. I want to change that, you are a swan, wrapped in white as you are, as elegant as you are and as thoughtful as you are. Let us call you Leda instead of Lydia. It sounds so much more romantic.
Leda. Lydia. She turned the names over in her mind. Leda will do fine, she said eventually, with a big smile. Thank you. No one has ever said anything that nice to me in my whole life.
Well, they should have done. I mean, there you are, you had every chance to walk right out the door and leave, instead you opened drawers and let us out.
Well, it was because I wanted company, she confessed, rather than take credit for something that was not right.
He shook his head. Maybe, maybe, but you had your chance and you chose to stay. Now, let’s get everyone else out, shall we?
Combined effort, they all worked at it, opening the drawers, releasing a white cheeked old lady with sharply knowing eyes and a loving smile, a middle aged man still looking for his pens and papers, the reason for his existence, the little girl who had collided with a bus or a bus had collided with her, either way she was not pretty any more but no one said a word, they took her hands and they all danced round the dissecting table and laughed a great hollow laugh that no one else could hear but them.
The dark man told them jokes at which they all roared with laughter, the old lady told them of her children which brought tears to their eyes, the old man spoke of sunny days on a river bank fishing with grandchildren and some of them grew nostalgic. Then they danced again to refresh their senses and their spirits and their energies and told one another this was the best night they had ever had in their entire existence.
Dawn touched the sky with pink fingers. One by one, without saying a word why they were doing it, they climbed back into their drawers and one by one Leda, still in her white robe which made her look like a swan, closed the drawers with a supreme effort.
When they were all sleeping again, she gracefully danced a solitary dance around the room, remembering the feel of rhythm making the feet move, the thrill of a tune running through the head, the sway of arms and hands.  Then she grew tired, it had been a long night and an exhausting one, but oh what fun she had experienced!
She climbed back onto the gurney, laid the sheet out and stared up at the ceiling, remembering how it felt to dance.
Just before she fell asleep, she wondered what the mortuary attendant would think when he found her tag on the floor.
BIO: Dorothy Davies lives and works on the Isle of Wight.  It is reputed to be the most haunted place in the UK, which could account for the strange stories she writes and the fact she became a medium after she moved there ...


  1. I love the idea of this. A dance of the dead, celebrating their lives even after their lives are gone.

    Clever use of the name Leda too, to show elegance and leadership,a new role for the dead woman who found life at last.

    Uplifting and macabre at the same time. No mean feat.

  2. Really great story, Dorothy. It's a spooky thought that the mortuary could come 'alive' in such a way. Well done.

  3. thank you for the good words! I loved this story when I wrote it, (for an anthology called The Morge, he turned it down because I had no "" and he didn't like the title, said it was the title of a Stephen King book (it is but it is also a very old expression!) so ... it came straight to Spook City and right pleased I am to see it here!