I really like what I got out of this story. I feel like I could expand upon this, given time. I hope you all enjoy it too.
Bolero. Prompts used: man with a guitar, a fantastic creature.
The apparition appeared a few minutes after midnight, when the sky was void of stars and the moon had taken cover behind a thick mass of clouds. In its path, grass grew wild and vines crept across the sidewalk to sink deep into the earth’s foundation.
Dylan was perched at the window, thick dreads hanging long over his Spanish guitar, which he’d spent the past five minutes tuning. Most of the time, Dylan did not appreciate the solitude of his summer residence, a row house thirty minutes from the nearest city, isolated by forest and looping dirt roads and a lack of public transit. The other rooms in the row house had been abandoned as soon as the summer heat hit, and the landowner lived in an air-conditioned apartment in the city. But now, when his guitar was ready to sing, Dylan enjoyed being the only human to hear its song within a ten-mile radius.
Finally satisfied with the sound of his instrument, Dylan’s fingers drifted from the tuning knobs to the strings. The short series of chords that emerged brought a smile to his face, a faint impression illuminated by the dim glow of a streetlight on the other side of the sidewalk.
He started to really play, random chords and keys turning into off-tempo melodies that transformed into a Latin serenade, a soulful bolero. In the world that existed behind his eyelids, figures in red and gold moved across the smoke-filled ballroom. Men swept women off their feet and into the air, their heels clacking smartly against the linoleum flooring, voluminous skirts billowing like spring flowers in bloom.
Dylan hit the up tempo, his foot tapping out the percussion against the window frame. His foot paused, but the tapping continued. It sounded like heavy wood slapping against hard earth. As someone who was used to living alone in more rundown settings, squatting in hostels and abandoned warehouses, identifying step by sound was a skill earned the hard way, but one which proved useful.
“I like your song.”
He looked down and saw the apparition standing a few feet away from the base of the row house, looking up at the window with big eyes. From Dylan’s vantage point, it was an androgynous figure, all of five feet and ten years, with short dark hair drawn across its brow like a curtain and blank skin – not white, not the warm brown of Dylan’s own, but wholly absent of pigmentation. They were also wearing a knee-length T-shirt and shorts that drooped to ankle-length, showing off bare feet.
The apparition blinked. “I like your song,” they said again. Their voice sounded like two similar child-like voices laid on top of each other, not quite seamlessly.
Dylan rested his guitar on his lap, neck leaning against his shoulder. “Thanks, kid. Are you from around here? The road to town is east.” He didn’t really want to go downstairs and call child services, but there was no way this kid was old enough to be out alone at night.
“I’m from here. I am here.” The apparition tipped their head farther up, catching the light of the streetlight in their eyes. Dylan saw flickering flames in a pair of glass lanterns, then the kid blinked again and those disappeared.
“I’m Adan,” they offered. “I like music. I like people.”
“Uh. You want to come upstairs while I call your parents?”
Adan shook their head. “I’m okay. I just came out to hear your song.”
“Aren’t your parents around? Do you have any family?”
“I live here.”
“Is the landowner your mom then? Do you know Mrs. Asano?” If this kid was one of Asano’s, it would be a long night to get downtown and back before sunrise. Dylan’s car was out of gas, and he didn’t want to walk onto the main road just to get Adan (was that even a Japanese name?) to the city.
“I live here,” Adan repeated, his voice taking on the tone of a child who stomped their feet to get their way, except that this child stood still in the chill that blew down from the hills. “Will you play your song again?”
Dylan sighed. “Will you go home if I do?” He hadn’t planned on being anyone’s babysitter, especially for an apparition with lanterns for eyes and bargain bin hand-me-downs.
Adan stared. “I will return to my home once you play the song.”
The request had become an order, but at least then the apparition would leave him alone. Dylan cracked his fingers and started into the slower part of the bolero. He could see the dancers finish stretching and take to the floor. His foot resumed its percussive beat, keeping time as the build-up led to the upbeat.
Part of Dylan was still in the ballroom when Adan moved. The clouds shifted and, in the moonlight, Adan seemed taller, their limbs longer, as they started to dance. At first, Adan danced alone, arms swinging in an arc as they turned on their heel in a circular motion. Then Adan stepped out of their shadow, and the silhouette on the ground mirrored Adan’s dance, less like a shadow and more like a partner. Dylan couldn’t keep his eyes off the kid.
The earth shifted under Adan’s feet. They spun and the dirt rose up in a cloud of shining particles. In that moment, Dylan could smell honeysuckle in the breeze. In his periphery, a vine climbing up the wall sprouted leaves.
Adan was still moving when the song slowed down. The dancers locked eyes as they began to leave the floor, pair by pair. Dylan kept his fingers creeping over the strings as Adan stepped back into his shadow. The clouds returned to pass over the moon. By the time the moonlight returned, the apparition was gone. In its place was a stump, sprouting little green leaves.
The ballroom was empty. Dylan shrugged and put his guitar away. He could still smell flowers.
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