John fell asleep at the Halloween Ball. When he woke up he felt strange, and he decided to step outside the ballroom to get some fresh air. John had danced with many girls that night and had drunk quite a bit of wine, and to these things he attributed his strange feeling. As he stepped outside he thought about the girls he had danced with, and the one girl with whom he no longer could dance.
Sarah had died on this very night exactly one year before in a carriage accident on the way to the Halloween Ball. Sarah and John had been close, and had been looking forward to the Ball and their eventual marriage. The Ball that year would have been the first time they had ever danced, but it was not to be. John had waited all night for Sarah to arrive and finally received the terrible news of her untimely death.
John still thought about Sarah often, and his missing her had been the primary reason for his excessive drinking on one-year anniversary of her death. He was now feeling the effects of his carelessness, but the fresh night air had a calming influence on his mind. Still, there was no denying that he felt rather unwell. As he stepped outside a chill ran down his spine.
“I should not have drunk so much wine,” he said aloud.
John thought about Sarah as he wandered down the road to clear his head. He had every intention of returning to the party after he did so. A sense of unease gradually grew in his mind, causing him to stop abruptly at a cross roads. He realized with a jolt that it was the very crossroads where his beloved Sarah had passed away the year before.
He had made up his mind to turn around when he saw a dark figure standing on the side of the road. He squinted at it, wondering if he was seeing things. Then heard, as if carried on the wind, the soft word “John.”
“Yes?” He replied to the woman, for it was a woman’s voice that had spoken. It sounded familiar, though he could not quite place it. “What do you need, madam?”
The woman turned around. In a mix of elation and horror, John stared into the shadowed face of his beloved – and departed – fiance.
“Sarah?” he replied excitedly.
The figure stepped forward into the moonlight and looked at him with eyeless sockets staring out from a gaunt and sunken face.
“John,” she said. “Would you like to dance?”
John’s blood ran chill, and he stumbled backward. Fear overcame him completely as the corpse took another step and repeated the question with an emaciated and bony hand outstretched toward him. He heard bones creaking and creaking as the apparition moved, and the voice was horse and airy.
“John, would you like to dance?”
He turned and ran, his heart racing and his mind reeling. He shot a panicked look behind him and saw that he had not removed himself from the terrible creature’s presence, though she was not running to peruse him. She walked slowly and with difficulty but somehow was able to keep up with John’s frantic stumbling.
“John!” She said playfully, placing a flesh-less hand on her hip and tossing her head to the side with a crack from her neck. Her lips curled up in a hideous and skeletal smile. “Quit teasing me! Let’s dance!”
John neared the ballroom and began to cry for help. He burst in through the door of the building and saw a large crowd of people gathered in the middle of the room. He screamed and pushed his way through to the center of the crowd. He broke through the wall of people and stumbled over something.When he regained his balance, he stood and looked at what had tripped him and saw – to his inexpressible terror – his own body sprawled out on the floor, lifeless.
Perceiving that he was now a spirit, John turned and looked into the eyes of his fellow townsmen and women and pleaded for them to revive his body, but they neither saw not heard him. He realized all at once why he had felt so strange when he left the house, for in doing so he had also left his body!
In horror John saw Sarah appear and stand in the crowd smiling at him. He felt sick to his stomach, but as he stared into the rotting flesh of her face a change began to come over her. Her eyes materialized in their sockets and were filled with a shining light. Her flesh regained its color and shape and crept down the bones on her fingers. Her joints jerked into place, and her grin lost all semblance of malice. Sarah was once again the same lovely girl he had known in life, and there she was, smiling at him. John felt the uneasy feeling that had oppressed him fade completely and, with a mix of relief and trepidation, accepted without a doubt that he was dead.
He stepped toward his beloved Sarah, whole now that he had committed himself to the world of the dead and held out his hand to her. He smiled, and said:
“Would you like to dance?”