“I told you never to play that song again, Sam.”
They looked up from their books and looked at each other. There was no one else in the room as far as they knew. Sam was almost afraid to look over his shoulder. James, his younger brother, wasn’t but wished he was.
Behind them, across the room, a cloaked figure ran bony fingers over the keys of the piano. Bony? They were the same color as the ivories.
It was a scene straight out of The Phantom of the Opera, just without Lon Chaney or intertitles. Overacting was still to be determined.
Sam had fainted and slumped to the floor. Maybe James would convince him it was all a dream later, if James could convince himself first.
He got up and timorously crossed the room a step at a time. His fingers reached for the back of the cloaked figure’s head. In another moment the Phantom would stop playing and point an accusatory finger at James, if James didn’t faint first.
Suddenly the Phantom spun around and smiled as well as a fleshless face could smile. James gasped and stumbled back. The Phantom blushed as well as a skeleton can blush, which is more—much more—a matter of body language than a color of the cheeks.“Well! I didn’t expect to see someone so handsome here tonight.” The she-Phantom batted her eyelashes as well as a skeleton can. James noticed she was pretty, for a dead, fleshless woman.
James just stared. He tried to speak, but it was only a weak groan in his throat. The she-Phantom giggled.
“Living people are so cute when they’re shy! You don’t have to ask—of course I’d like to dance with you!”
Before James could answer, the she-Phantom lowered her hood and put James’s arms around her.
“Does he play? Can he play for us?” she asked, pointing at Sam and then looking up pleadingly into James’s eyes.
James groaned in his throat.
She-Phantom giggled. “Do you speak English?” She pointed at Sam. “He—play? Il – jouer?”
James shook his head.
“Oh well! I can fix that.”
The she-Phantom pointed at the piano, waggled a finger, and it began playing on its own. She dragged James out into the middle of the floor and started twirling with him; he wasn’t a very good dancer, it seemed, but she hoped he would get the hang of it.
“You seem dead on your feet, don’t you?” And the she-Phantom giggled wildly. “Oh! But isn’t this fun? It’s our own little dance macabre!” She giggled wildly again, then leaned her head on James. She stared coyly up at him with big, round, hollow eye-sockets. “Isn’t it romantic?”