Light glittered through the crystal chandeliers, diffusing the golden light, spreading it through the room. They hung gracefully from the ceiling, each tier linked with graceful strings of crystal. Around the room candles flickered upon their stands as wax dripped down their sides creating new and unusual shapes.
Bodies swirled about the room to the rhythm of the music, twirling and spinning in perfect time, colours flashing and exploding before receding and being replaced by new and fantastic costumes. As the orchestra played the final cord and the music died away the dancing stopped and the crowd clapped before the violins began their humming and the music began again. A few people broke away from the crowd, going to a table filled with foods. One of them plucked a grape from its vine and popped it into his mouth, the others looked at the food for a moment before choosing their own delicacies.
The room was large and open, with large mirrors which reflected one another, giving the illusion of infinity. The walls were painted a soft peach, which complimented the glowing lights. It was getting warm in the room, despite the large doors being opened, the heat of the candles and the dancing people was starting to build, many found beads of sweat forming and sliding down their skin. As the night went on the alcohol flowed more freely and the dancing became more erratic, less skilled. The laughter became louder and the speech slurred. It was simply the best party they had been to all year and it was generally agreed that the grand finale would be one of the greatest things they would ever see. What it was they did not know, only that it would start at midnight. Hair which was once carefully styled and shaped now hung limp around faces as the heat continued to build, trying to cool off people drank more, the ice clinking in their glasses. Large windows, concealed by large red curtains were opened, the curtains draw aside, allowing a cooling breeze to enter.
The music stopped as a large ornate clock started to chime, it was midnight, the moment they were all waiting for. The clocks mechanisms turned as each chime sounded, the crowd stood in silence as the final gong faded away to nothing. There was a moments pause before the windows and doors slammed shut, the glass rattling in its pains. The crowd tittered nervously while waiting to see what it was. The invitations promised something great and, if the previous few hours were anything to go by, it would be delivered. The doors exploded open, banging against the wall, the crowd jumped as one, then craned their necks to see who opened them.
A man stood in the entrance, silently watching them all. Then, he walked through, his long coat flowing behind him. From either side of the door people started to enter, following the man in lines. Once the twelve people had entered they paused in their formation, allowing the crowd to look at them. The man was wearing a mask, its smooth surface was completely white with highlights of colour, he shrugged off his long coat, revealing his costume underneath. The fabric was brightly coloured and contoured, fitting his body well. The twelve women surrounding him were wearing similar clothes, their faces carefully coloured white, their lips painted a bright red, a slight blush on their cheeks. Their eyes were covered in thick black make-up, making the whites startlingly bright. The women at the front of the lines bowed, as did the others, slowly, one after another, their arms raising. They rose again, then bowed, rippling back and forth, the man raised his arms then bowed slightly, standing, he moved his arms to the left, the women swayed, following his arms, he dropped them suddenly and the women followed, bowing again. Large swatches of cloth rolled from the ceiling, creating long chains. The man raised his arms again and the women scrambled up the cloth, climbing to the top before wrapping it around their bodies. As the crowd watched in awe the women turned and twirled in the air, their faces expressionless. A single black strand of cloth unrolled itself from the ceiling, slowly the man climbed it, before stopping at the top, he waited for a moment before launching himself into the air. He tumbled as he fell, spinning faster and faster before an arm shot out and grabbed the cloth, stopping him inches from the ground, the crowd gasped and clapped appreciatively, ignoring them, he started to climb once more.
As he climbed to the top again, he glanced over at the corner of the room, few people noticed the glance, distracted by the twelve other dancers, but those that did, followed his gaze, it seemed slightly fearful, but resigned. The corner was empty and, dismissing it, they went back to enjoying the show.
The troupe was well known, but discreet. They only did a few select performances a year but the performances were renounced, no two were alike and this was their final appearance, though the crowd didn’t know it. It would be their last and greatest show. Soon they would move on to the next part, each one building until their finale, however, they wouldn’t reach it this night. The man knew it well, as did the other dancers, but still they continued their act which was almost second nature to them now.
The flames started slowly at first, climbing the walls as the audience was distracted. The dancers were absorbed in what they were doing, trying to perfect their movements. The flames grew faster, spreading until finally, someone noticed, a man, dressed in a dark suit pointed and shouted and others turned to stare momentarily before they realised they danger they were in. The crowd surged as one towards the door, falling over one another to escape. As the first revellers reached the doors they slammed shut, locking themselves. Those at the door were crushed by those behind them, as they tried to push forward, to escape. A woman, wearing a large, ornate dress fell, and, trying to struggle to her feet was trampled, her dress was too large and heavy for her to quickly stand.
The fire now completely covered the four walls, paintings, once exquisitely rendered burned and turned to ash as their gilded frames twisted and buckled. Smoke filled the room, thick billowing clouds covering the ceiling, and still the dancers danced.
Someone seized one of the large candle holders and threw it at the window, hoping the glass would smash, instead it bounced ineffectually off the pane and hit a man in the crowd, the force of the heavy metal breaking his nose. They crowd swarmed at the windows and doors, trying to escape. Screams filled the air as the costumes, so beautiful earlier, began to catch fire, women burning where they stood as they tried in vain to rip the burning material from their bodies. Men tried to save their wives, trying to help pull the fabric away, ripping skin with it, setting themselves alight. As the air became thick and suffocating the dancers danced, bright flashes of colour moving through the smoke.
The chandeliers, great and heavy, fell from the ceiling, the supports, weakened by the flames, cracked and broke. The noise of them landing was lost in the roar of the fire and the screams of the crowds, several people were crushed beneath their great weight, others were injured by the glass which exploded outwards, creating deadly missiles.
As the fabric caught fire, the dancers continued to twirl before the flaming fabrics unravelled beneath their weight and they fell to the ground, their broken bodies would soon be consumed by the flames. The fires cracked and grew, turning everything to blackened ash. As the fire began to die, the night was silent, the people, long dead, no longer screamed, smoke billowed from the room through the cracks it found, escaping into the night. As the last flame finally died silence fell over the room, heat hung in the air, thick and heavy, the silence held dominion for a few moments before the thin strains of a violin could be heard through the silence, slowly swelling.
The crowds danced, unaware of the fate that would meet them soon. It was the same every night. The dance troupe stood outside the door. Waiting to enter. They knew what was to come and there was nothing they could to stop it. Every time they tried they were stopped. All they could do was dance and hope tonight would be the night they could finally finish their performance.