Every woman in Evanston over the age of twelve owned a red dress. Every man who’d seen twelve harvests a red kerchief or neck tie. And on the new moon, under the wane light of stars, there was the dance.
The mayor with crimson lace spilling from his throat, offered his arm to his wife in her satin skirts. Their scullery maid, a round-eyed girl of fourteen, swished her newly hemmed scarlet cotton at the poor cobbler’s apprentice, who’d simply tied a rag about his throat. And they all walked down the street main, past the commons and the fountain, across the pitted dirt road behind the butchers, into the dark swaying fields.
Music from the shepherds flutes and the blacksmith’s drum marched the night along, the thrum fading the sky to the deepest violet. And at the woods edge the town danced. The young bounced on eager feet and twirled each other, forearms clasped and hands brushing waists. Their parents drew each other round in graceful oft practiced steps. Even the old clapped and nodded, murmuring forgotten words to the melody.
It was never noted, when the Others’ came. They slipped among the townsfolk, drawing the young into new dances until they were breathless and grinning. They bowed to the parents, and whispered old words to the elders. But mostly, they danced.
Sweet smelling drink was passed around, and small berries covered set with golden veins were offered. Even the youngest maid demurred, earning a small nervous nod from her mother. The Others took no offense, such was the way of the strange townsfolk, who set a lovely dance but would never slake the thirst brought from the steps.
No boy loosed his kerchief at a sly smile, and no girl let clever fingers undo the red buttons down her back. They danced, and smiled, and accepted no drink. And their elders watched until pastels began to creep in the eastern sky.