Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Totentanz (Death-Dance) -FridayFlash

The hooded figure was whistling up a storm with his four skinless gone-gone dancers. His skeletal show-all girls. What with the metro-nomic clicktrack of his arthritic hips; the kerching of the metal scythe cutting through the air; and the susurration of his cloak wafting out in his wide berthed wake. The Reaper was a veritable beatbox, his four uber-gaunt companions gyrating along to his stroke.

For all the wear and tear of his chronic osteoporosis, there was most definitely a spring in his wintry step these days. For not only was death still in fashion, possibly even more elevated by various doomsday cults and apocalyptic religions, but dance too was undergoing something of a renaissance (abominable word, but you get the drift). Indeed, if he'd had anything but writhing maggots for a face, as sure as eggs is eggs, he himself would have employed a smidgeon of eye liner to match the billowing cape. For in this day and age, even the mentor has to catch the judges' gaze. It was no longer just down to the charms of the corpses de ballet.

Besides, they say the cameras put 10lbs on you.

There was no shortage of willing dance partners. The pert tenacity of tripping the light fantastic in life, now elided into imagining they were auditioning for the great dance-off in the sky. Movement in time, two manifestations the Reaper actually brought the curtain down on in point of fact. He was just relieved that after centuries of being met with horrified disbelief, once again sufficient numbers of the perishers were actually content to follow him. Even though this time they knew there was no prolonged fluffy cloud dancefloor. More the misconception that for as long as they kept on with the rhythm, they could postpone that final bow.

But it's not quite like it was back in St Vitus' choreomanic heyday. There selection was limited to a couple of courtly dances like the galliard and the cinq-pas, with the odd folk dance like the gavotte thrown in for good measure. Even the tarantella wasn't so contentious back then. Not like now, when some opportunists have got the hairy spiders all up in arms, or legs anyway, over their branding and image rights being infringed. Hells bells, as if those furry fiends weren't toxic enough already, now they've got litigation lawyers in their corner? Death for one was treading very carefully in that particular minefield.

The troupe strutting their stuff in his slipstream always numbered four. But the exact compliment of which four could change at the drop of a hat. Or an ulna or femur for that matter. Take the body popper who occupied one of the slots only yesterday for example. Body popping sans body is quite a tough ask and the strain imposed on the skeleton is just too grievous. As for the bump and grinders, well the impact and friction of bone upon bone certainly sends up excitation sparks but inevitably brings both parties to collapse in an unholy mess. Flamenco always seemingly offers itself up as a good choice, with ready-made phalange castanets. But all that foot stamping soon irrevocably loosens the metatarsals and they begin to snap off.

You'd imagine gentle square dances or quadrilles to have the advantage in this respect, but with self-respect to maintain, the Reaper has to draw the dance line somewhere. So who were the ideal coryphee to accompany his non-stop world tour? Indonesian bedhaya was no good, they insisted on coming as a job lot of nine. Besides the dancers were so refined and elegant, they barely seemed to be moving at all and he needed life and energy, or the illusion of both at the very least. The Indian temple dancers more fit the bill, but like horses that slipped their shoes, the unfleshed bones of the Kathakali were too slender to support their bells and the dancers toppled by the wayside, feet severed by the jangling anklets serving as a mantrap. The Brazilian martial art dances were impressive enough, but they tended to frighten his potential clientele to death. The whole thing was so damned tricky.

The current crop were a bit thrown together at the last minute, but that was the fault of the body popper going to pieces the previous day. Rehearsal on the hoof had been minimal, but that was the nature of the beast. Here goes everything and nothing thought Reaper, as his name was announced and the audience's pantomime screams filled the air.

"Ah, Reaper, didn't think we'd be seeing you back here this week" intoned the Panel Chair, "but appears you have your supporters out there trying to keep on your good side".

"Friends in low places" quipped a lady judge with an ugly relish and an anorexic body that made Reaper look plump by comparison.

"Which is his good side?" smirked the male judge, with a rictus more foreboding than Death's own permanently distended jaw.

Reaper merely pulled his hood tighter around the squirm of his face.

"Well we know what you're all about, so why don't we just crack on and let you take it away?" And with that Simon Cowell beckoned for the music to strike up and rolled his eyes at his fellow judges beside him. Reaper caught the gesture and apprehended that tonight his card had been marked. The jig was up, for the phone vote would not matter a jot. Dance was about to pass from favour once again. Cowell, the Lord of The Dance topside, had wearied of the unending diet of streetdance posses with gold teeth and pitted skin. Perpetual motion was no longer sufficient to sway people towards specious notions of eternity. Reaper and his skeleton crew were being cut loose. They would have to find some other method of drumming up support.

His slumped bony shoulders tensed as the first note ascended. Cowell hit his reject button immediately and turned to ham a stagey whisper into the ear of his fellow judge.

"Tod, er hat einfach keinen Rhythmus" ("Death, he ain't got no rhythm")

32 comments:

alisonwells said...

Ha ha ha! You have really surpassed yourself here! How I laughed out loud, how I swooned with delight, how I spun with jealousy. So many great moments. Really impressive. Corpses de ballet!

Eric J. Krause said...

You had me right at the beginning with "gone-gone dancers," and you didn't let up. Excellent! So many great lines and phrases throughout. Loved it!

squidinkinc.com said...

'Gone gone dancers'... Fantastic, actually this is peppered with cool lines. I thought Cowell was the grim reaper, he's certainly grim.

shannon said...

Oh wow, you're so clever. Why do I suddenly have the urge to belly dance??? Even the grim reaper can't get passed Cowell, eh? Nice one!

Michael Solender said...

love the concept of gone-gone dancers - supremely clever. well done marc.

melissalwebb said...

That's good. I love it. We all knew Simon was tough, but come on!
Great story.

John Wiswell said...

We both wrote about the reaper recently. Wonder if it's going around. My favorite part was the gone-gone dancers - too funny!

Remittance Girl said...

Oh, JUST WONDERFUL. Bravo!

Bukowski's Basement said...

Huge fan of this, Mark... Great piece of flash... Gone Gone dancers {chuckle} ...

Diandra said...

A really intelligent and creative story.

I would suggest, however, correcting that final German sentence to, "Tod, er hat einfach keinen Rhythmus."

Sulci Collective said...

fantastic Diandra, thanks for coming to the party - I knew there'd be a German speaker who could sort out my cod German. Many thanks. Marc

triplecherry said...

Fantastic! What a display.

Jen Brubacher said...

Love the idea. Love the idea of the camera adding 10lbs, too. What an image you've created.

Cathy Olliffe said...

Loved your story so much I couldn't think of what to say, so I asked Simon:

“You are a saucy little thing aren’t you?”
“If you’ve got a big mouth and you’re controversial, you’re going to get attention.”
"What is a Free Willy?! What’s the film about? I’m confused because I can’t connect a whale called Willy and what you just did.”
“You sounded like Dolly Parton on helium.”

Sulci Collective said...

That's Sir Simon the Antichrist to us mere mortals..

Thanks for stopping by and entering spirit of it!

Deanna Schrayer said...

Marc, this is freaking HILARIOUS! That first line is such a gem, as are so many throughout. But the one that had me laughing hardest is actually the simplest: "The whole thing was so damned tricky."

Thanks so much for the laughs!

Jane Travers said...

Fantastic! I laughed out loud at that. The camera puts on ten pounds, indeed! Very clever, very witty and very enjoyable - would love there to have been more. :)

Wulfie said...

Hahaha Good One!

Louise Broadbent said...

Cannot shoo the image of a skanking skeleton out of my mind but I'm more than OK with that. Envious of your talent, though - you make me feel rather inadequate.

Heather Lloyd said...

Great imagery, I really didn't see the Simon Cowell cameo coming but thought it worked brilliantly!

Mari said...

Hi! Sorry it took me this long to pay you a visit. The zombie luv contest is much fun but it's very time consuming!

I loved the image *and* the story below it! Was the image the inspiration or the other way around?

I like your writing, but I have to confess that sometimes I have a hard time reading your pieces. Maybe it's the fact that English isn't my first language? Although, I suspect that not all readers can reach you easily, hhe. (this is meant as a compliment ;)

Hope you'll make it to the contest. I'd love to see what you'd come up with. :)

Tony Noland said...

This was great! I especially loved the nostalgia for St. Vitus - brilliant!

Laura Eno said...

This was AWESOME! From the moment you said "gone-gone dancers" I was hooked.

Sulci Collective said...

Hi Mari - the inpspiration for this was threefold:

1) Spotted the use of the word "Totentanz" in the introduction to an arts newspaper I got a small piece in. It reminded me of the whole St Vitus/Dance Macabre thing I'd read about years ago
2) Simon Cowell's world domination being underscored by him being able to get an old mate of his who is utterly loathed here in the UK a TV series in the US.
3) The Song "Der Tod ist ein Dandy" (Death is a Dandy) by Einsturzende Neubauten

The image was just the result of a google search on Totentanz and incidently is used by Barry Northern on his Cast macabre website.

Mari said...

Ahh. Thanks for sharing your sources of inspiration. :) So many alien references... lol

Now I can state with no fear that I understood almost nothing! heh Although I could grasp the humor in it and appreciate your writing. ;)

Sulci Collective said...

Mari - I'm thinking of doing a piece about writing prompts - I'll let you know when it's up

Tomara Armstrong said...

Haha! Too clever. You gave me the giggles.

Loved it!
~2

Gracie said...

Too funny, Marc. Great use of language as always.

Karen from Mentor said...

The gone gone dancers, the camera adding ten pounds, his squirming face, the pop and lock dancing -[which I JUST EXPERIENCED with a straight face ON THE DANCEFLOOR] ran me breathless and giggling right into the word "gavotte" where Carly Simon started singing You're so Vain and provided the backdrop for the rest of the piece.

-whew!- this one was a ride. And the last line was a [hee hee] killer.

G.P. Ching said...

Hilarious! Gone-Gone dancers! So many great lines in this one, it was to die for! he he

Laurita said...

Brilliantly written, as always. I love the idea of literally dancing with death. The phalange castanets were a very nice touch. :)

Matt Merritt said...

Wonderful images! Too many to list, but I love how you ticked off the effects of various dances on the ailments of the recently dead.

Simon making Death squirm is classic.