The Dance Contest of Building One

GO TO PART I 

By Johnny Apocalypse

            The break dancing contest was being held at a local club.  The beginner's ranks were just finishing.  Chris had signed up for the intermediate group, and the experts were competing at sundown.

            I had been to this club once before in a vain attempt to bust a move to some techno music.  Sadly, I can only do a damn good swing dance, so people thought I was having a seizure.

            Unlike the night when I showed off my insane lack of dancing prowess, the club was well lit.  I had no doubt that half of the litter on the floor was discarded rolling papers and crushed ecstasy pills.  Strobes and multi-colored lights were flashing, but the fluorescent lights dimmed them considerably.

            A large circle had been set into the floor, marked off with red tape.  It was surrounded by various contestants, mostly men, but a few ladies scattered here and there.  A few feet away from each dancer, his friends were there to cheer them on.

            Chris sauntered off to the judge's table so he could sign in and get a number taped to his chest.  Beth and I found an empty space, holding hands while we waited for the contest to start.

            Chris came back over.  "Dude, check it out," he pointed to the number on his shirt.  "Sixty-nine!  I think it's an omen."

            Beth gave me a teasing look.

            "Maybe it is," I said.  "Best of luck to you."

            My friend grinned and handed me two crumpled twenties.  "I need you to earn me some extra cash.  Right before I go on, find someone who's willing to make a bet.  I'll give you a thumbs up or a thumbs down, depending on whether I think I can beat the guy I'm dancing against.  If I think I can beat him, bet on me to win, and vice versa for thumbs down."

            I nodded, thinking that Chris was going to lose his forty bucks pretty quick.  I had never seen him dance, but in my mind, he was a little too high to be competing.

            Chris resumed his space on the circle.  He wasn't waiting more then five minutes when the music started, a deep, steady bass beat.  Everyone in the club started moving their feet.  One of the dancers was selected by a judge to begin the contest.

            The first contestant, a short, thin kid wearing dirty jeans and a basketball jersey, bounced into the center of attention.  He was kicking his legs and swinging his arms about, before falling to the ground, spinning on his back.  Once his whirl began to slow, he pushed himself into a headstand, his legs akimbo.

            Chris was watching everyone carefully.  Once the dancer had been in the center for a minute, the judge pushed the next contestant into the circle.  The first kid dutifully took a place near the outside of the stage, enjoying his opposition's moves.

            After each contestant had done a few moves in the circle together, the judge came in.  He gripped each kid's wrist like a boxing match, watched his fellow judges, and raised the first dancer's arm over his head.  The two performers shook hands.  While the third contestant entered the ring, the first took his place back on the outside of the circle.  The second one joined the rest of the crowd.

            Chris was slotted to go forth.  As the judge approached him, my friend turned to me and gave me a quick thumbs up.

            I turned away from Beth, trying to find someone who looked like a gambler.  I approached a thin, ugly girl, wearing clothes that a lingerie shop wouldn't sell.

            "I've got forty on the funny looking guy with the long hair," I said.  "You up for it?"

            "You're on!" she screamed.

            Chris entered the ring, already kicking his legs out in the time-honored fashion of break dancers.  He did a small back hand-spring before swinging his legs around him in a wide arc, balancing himself on his hands.  The man he was dancing against started spinning and bouncing again, before the judge entered the ring.

            Chris' arm went up, and the ugly chick shoved forty dollars into my hand.

***

            And so the contest went for nearly two hours.  Every time Chris was up, he gave me the winning sign.  I couldn't find anyone willing to take an eighty dollar bet, but found two guys willing to gamble thirty bucks away.  After three rounds, Chris was dancing against one final contestant, and I was holding two hundred and ten dollars for him.

            The judges announced a quick break in the contest, giving the final two dancers a five minute recess to grab something to drink.  Chris came up to me, holding a water bottle in his hand, sweat dripping from every inch of his grinning face.

            "I can't believe I'm doing this good," he said.  "Next year I'm going for the expert round."

            I congratulated my friend, and showed him how much money I had won for him.

            "Fuckin' A!" he said.  "But you'd better bet against me this next time.  This chick is pretty good."

            I had been watching his antagonist as well, and agreed that she would give him a run for the title.  She looked thirty, but had the moves of a teenager and the body of a supermodel.  If I didn't have Beth, I would have used Chris' money to buy my way into her pants.

            The judges called the two dancers back to the circle.  I turned to the nearest guy and told him about my wager.

            "No way," he said, as stoned as Chris.  "I never bet against number sixty nine, that's bad luck!"

            I kept propositioning the watchers, until I found a massive drunk guy who agreed.

            "How much we bettin'?" he asked.

            "How about forty?" I asked, not wanting to lose all of my friend's hard earned money.

            "Make it one hundred.  No way in hell that girly is gonna beat him."

            I agreed to the terms and we shook hands.  A second later, the music came back up, and both dancers were in the ring together.

            Chris was dancing his heart out, trying to spin and twist faster then he had before.  The woman was moving with an effortless grace, easily faster then my friend.  Everyone in the crowd knew the winner before the judges announced the woman to be champion.

            I turned back to the drunk guy, asking for the money.

            "Fuck no," he grunted.  "That was fixed.  I'm not paying you shit."

            "Come on, man," I said.  "We shook on it.  You're not going to welch out now, are you?"

            Instead of answering, the drunk raised his fist and took a clumsy swing at me.  It's fair to say that if he was sober, I would be sitting in a hospital.  But as it was, I blocked the punch, elbowed him in the jaw and bounced his head off of my knee.

            I'm not sure what happened next.  I remember two mountains of muscle grabbing my arms.  I turned to look at the one on my right, only seeing 'Security' blazoned across his chest.  The next thing I know, I had been shoved out of the club and onto the sidewalk.

***

            I had to miss the final ceremony, but Chris and Beth caught me up on what happened once they got outside.  Chris and the woman had been given cheap medals, as well as some award money.  The woman walked away with two hundred bucks, while Chris had been handed a check for fifty.

            I handed him his gambling money, and he gave me a fifty dollar cut.

            "Thanks, bro," he said.  "This should keep me in weed for a while."

            We turned away, heading for the parking lot where I had stowed my car.  Several people from the club shook my hand and patted me on the back, impressed with my fight.

            Chris called me a ninja-master as we drove back to my house.

***

            Chris' philosophy circle was standing outside of my house when I pulled into the driveway.  I hadn't stopped the car when my friend was jumping out of the back seat to tell his friends about his dancing victory.

            I told Beth why all the stoners had decided to gather at my house.

            "Philosophy?  Oh, I love philosophy!" she said.

            My girlfriend is by no means dumb, but I had never classified her as an intellectual.  I figured that she would fit in pretty well with Chris and his friends saying "whoa." all night, while I turned my bloodstream into a beer keg.

            I led the way into my house, Chris and company already taking over the basement.  No cult films for me tonight.

            The soft, sweet sounds of Mozart filled the house.  Beth kept a seat open for me while I snagged a can of stout beer from my fridge.  Gideon came running up from the basement, scared by the smell of six joints being lit at once.

            "So," Chris said, calling the group to order.  "Who would like to start us off?"

            "I'll go," said Fyodor, a Russian pot-smoker who had lost his accent years ago.  "If you go back in time and kill your own grandfather, would the egg come before the chicken?"

            "Duuuuuude." the group chorused.

            Beth shot me a questioning look.  I smiled a bit, wiggling my eyebrows.

            "Just wait," I whispered.

            "My turn," Chris spoke up.  "If this world is but a dream, controlled by an evil demon, would the demon smoke pot or shoot heroin?"

            "Woooaaaah.."

            Descartes must be spinning in his grave.

            "I've got one," Beth said.  "If this world is in fact a dream, and this becomes widely accepted, does that affect the moral code of the individual, or even the world as a whole?"

            The circle's eyes grew wide.  Fyodor dropped his joint on his shirt.

            "My head hurts!" wailed Nathan, the youngest "philosopher".

            "Man!" Chris said to me.  "You're girlfriend is like Aristotle!"

            I nearly laughed, causing a few drops of Guinness to come out of my nose.  I grabbed a Kleenex from the coffee table to blow the burning brew out of my nostrils.

            "Wow!  We have a philosopher queen in our ranks." said Frankie, the only girl in the group.

            Beth leaned in close to me.  "This isn't at all what I was expecting," she said.  "Can we go upstairs?"

            My eyes were watering from the nasal assault, but I figured that I would be in good enough spirits to rock the bed.  I took my lady's hand and led her up to my bedroom.

            "Christ," she said, "I thought that they would actually discuss philosophy, not that stoner nonsense."

            I had to laugh.  "Yeah, I thought the same thing.  Then I tried to bust out some Plato and was reveled as a god.

            "You know," I continued, "I never figured you to be a philosophy reader."

            "I'm not all sex and smiles, honey,"  Beth pushed me onto the bed, a small, sexy grin crossing her lips.

            "Now then," she started to peel my shirt off.  "Let me show you some of the finer points of 'The Symposium'."

***

            We lied in bed together afterwards, our arms wrapped around each other.  I could feel our hearts pounding in unison, still thundering from the work-out we had given them.  I was surprised that Beth hadn't broken my hips.

            The phone rang, breaking the peaceful silence.  I snagged it from the cradle before one of the nutcases downstairs could answer it.

            "Justin Taggart, sex marathon gold medallist."

            "Shit," Tony cried into the line.  "Do you know where Beth is?  She's not answering her cell phone again."

            "Yeah, her phone is in her pants.  And those are lying on the floor."

            Beth giggled, kissing me on the cheek.

            "Goddammit man!" my boss said.  "I don't want to know that!  If you say something else like that, I'm going to fire you."

            "Okay, okay," I said.  "What's up?  Did Skip call off again?"

            "No, he's here.  But I need you and Beth to come in tonight, we're boosting nighttime patrols."

            I sat up, pissed.  "What?  Why?"

            "The cafeteria's been vandalized again."

***

            Beth and I got dressed in a hurry.  I told the boss that I would have to run her home so she could collect a uniform, but he told me to forget that and just get to work.  I decided that included me, so I decided to wear jeans and a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt.

            I told Chris to lock everything up when the group left, which was received by another chanting of "woooaaaaaaahh", and Frankie telling me how deep my statement was.  I made an executive decision to pop some painkillers before rushing out the door.

            I flung my car into the street and cruised to work well over the speed limit.  I made the drive in record time.

            My lady and I arrived at the security office.  Tony was wringing his hands and pacing the floor.

            "The police are already here," he said.  "Skip needs to use the restroom, so I want you to relieve him, Justin.  Same drill as last night, you'll have to stand by while the janitors clean and maintenance fixes the freezer door."

            I nodded, attaching a radio to my belt.  "Same basic thing as last night?"

            "Yeah, shit tossed everywhere, food torn apart, rust marks all around the broken handle."

            I had never heard Tony use so much foul language before.  Not that I minded, I'm hardly an eloquent speaker myself.

            He turned to my girlfriend.  "Beth, I want you on patrol for the rest of the night.  Here," he handed her a hastily made spreadsheet.  "I called Robert, he wants all the cars in the parking lots marked down.  Make, model and plate number."

            Robert is the security investigator, an ex-Navy Seal and an amateur blues singer in his spare time.  He happens to be a damn good investigator, and I knew it was only a matter of time before he found out that the Boogie Man was behind it all.

            "Hey," I made my voice heard.  "Did Robert review the surveillance tapes from last night?"

            "Yeah, he didn't find a damn thing."

            "He checked the whole building?"

            "He did.  Buildings one and two.  Nothing, anywhere."

            "Not even in the auditorium?" I demanded.

            Tony gave me a look.  "No.  We saw you poke your head in there, but nothing else.  Why, do you know something?"

            I shook my head.  "Nothing you'd believe."

            "If it's another ghost, you're right."

            Beth and I left the office.  I gave her a quick kiss before I headed down to the cafeteria.

***

            I was in the hallway between buildings one and two, when I ran into the janitorial crew.  Pedro was swinging a mop wildly over his head and smashing it into the floor.

            "What's gotten into him?" I asked Terrence.

            "He's pissed.  Hell, we're all a little upset.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to scrub vegetable oil off the tiles?  And the walls?"

            I had to admit that I didn't.  "Well, tell you what.  Once the police leave, I'll help you out again tonight.  We'll get the job done quicker."

            Terrence nodded.  "I appreciate it.  We've still got to get the trash out of buildings three and four."

            I walked past Pedro, advising him to carry on before arriving at the cafeteria.

            I met up with Skip on the outskirts of the kitchen.  Henderson was here again, logging all the damage in a notebook.  Robert was standing by him, glares of fatigue and anger alternating in his eyes.

            "Glad you're here, young man," Skip said.  "I need to use the head something fierce."

            I told Skip that Tony wanted him on patrol once he was done in the restroom.  He left in a dead sprint, heading for the nearest pisser.

            Henderson nodded at me, welcoming me back.  I gave him a half-hearted wave before Robert came over.

            "This look about the same from last night?" he asked me, his deep voice nearly rattling my ears.

            "Almost identical."

            A different fryer had been drained of oil, but the same kitchen materials had been tossed about.  I could see rust scattered among the torn steaks and shredded lettuce.

            The investigator shook his head.  "I can't believe this crap," he said.  "Nothing on the tapes, except for one of the tech crew stealing a keyboard and throwing it into a recycling bin."

            At least that mystery had been solved.

            "I scoured the dumpster for an hour, looking for that damn thing," he continued.  "Couldn't find it anywhere."

            "Maybe it found its way into the trash," I suggested.

            "In that case, the hell with it.  I can deal with digging through paper, but they don't pay me enough to wade through everyone's garbage."

            I stood by while Henderson bagged all the half-eaten food and Robert finished his notes.  Once they cleared out, the janitors came in to wipe up the mess.  Terrence was carrying a full coffee pot.  Pedro handed me his broken mop and pointed at the dried oil on the ground.

            By the time everything was back in order, my arms were on fire.  Terrence wasn't joking about the difficulties of cleaning the oil.

            I buzzed maintenance on the radio, letting Jim know that the refrigerator door was waiting for him.  He came in, screamed a few curse words, and got to work.

            "When you find the prick who keeps doing this," he told me.  "Do me a favor and kick his ass."

***

            The lock was repaired and the kitchen was clean.  I had an hour left on my shift, and Tony asked me to check every office and cubicle in building one.  I decided to make my first stop at the auditorium.

            I walked brazenly into the meeting hall.  Just as I had figured, the Boogie Man was shaking his thing to the tune of "Disco Inferno".

            Stepping up to the stereo system, I turned the power off.  The midnight dancer stopped in mid-bump, and scowled at me.  He peeled his lips back, showing his nasty, sharp teeth littered with scraps of meat.

            "All right," I said, stepping onto the stage.  "I've had enough of this bullshit.  I don't care if you want to dance the night away, but you're not tearing up that cafeteria anymore.  Do you understand me?"

            The Boogie Man let out a low growl.  He reached for one of the chains on his neck, pulled it off and started swinging it in small circles to his side.

            Before I could whip out an offensive move, the creature lunged forward, screeching and swinging the chain at my head.  I ducked out of the way, shoved the Boogie Man back, and ran from the room.

***

            I spent the last bit of my shift checking the building like Tony asked.  I was too tired to take on an armed Boogie Man, and decided I would try again some other night, when I could bring a shotgun to work with me.

            Throughout the building, the tech crew watched me with hooded eyes.  I couldn't make a coffee run, for fear that their wrath would be worst then that of the dance fanatic in the auditorium.

            The end of the hour came quickly enough.  I picked up Beth in the office, and drove back to my place.

***

            We walked in the front door, the house silent.  I whipped up some toast for myself and my lady before I saw Chris downstairs, curled into the fetal position on the easy chair, dead asleep.  I decided not to wake him, and led Beth up to bed after breakfast.

            We were too tired to have sex again, simply passing out in each other's arms.  We woke up around eleven.  Beth decided to take a shower and invited me to join her, but my head was pounding from a lack of caffeine.  I kissed her, and promised her a cup of hot coffee when she got out.

            Chris was awake and sitting in the kitchen, eating something that looked like a mess of eggs, bagels and butter.

            "Good morning, bro," he said.  "How was work?"

            "Not too good.  I told the Boogie Man to clear off, but he came at me with a chain, so I had to bail."

            I started up the coffee machine and snagged a bowl of cereal.

            "You know," my friend said.  "I've been thinking about your problem and I might have a plan."

            "Okay, let's hear it."

            "Well, we're both going to have to wear dresses."

            I was starting to have my doubts, but decided to hear my friend out.  "Go on."

            "That's as far as I've gotten so far, bro.  But it seems like a good place to start."

            My headache picked up pace.  I crossed over to the coffee pot and filled my cup.

            Beth came into the kitchen, wearing only a towel.  Chris' eyes popped open at the sight.  I wasn't sure how I felt about my girlfriend strolling around in front of my friend dressed like that, but it was pretty damn sexy so I left it alone.

            I brought her a steaming mug and watched her dump sugar into it.  Once we were all sitting together, I told them about my own plan.

***

            Beth and I had to work again that night, and would keep doing so until the cafeteria break-ins stopped.  I valued my time off far too much to allow this, so Beth, Chris and I were all going to work together.

            It was well into nighttime when we all left my house.  Beth sat next to me, holding my hand and humming along with the Beach Boys on my radio.  Chris sat in the back, smoking two joints at once.

            "Are you sure you should be doing that?" I asked him.

            "Definitely," he answered.  "I need to be at my fullest abilities to take on the Boogie Man."

            I decided that Chris knew what he was doing, and let him smoke in peace.

            Pulling into the parking lot in front of the security office, I told Chris to meet me in front of building one in ten minutes.  He nodded, holding his smoke in.  Beth and I went inside and got our equipment.

            Beth had to go on patrol again, while Tony assigned me to check all the buildings.  We shared a quick kiss before she got into her truck and I started marching over to building one.

            Chris was finishing another marijuana cigarette in front of the lobby when I reached him.  He was looking a little unsteady, but told me that he was fine.  I opened the door for him, and we walked down to the auditorium.

            The Boogie Man was already dancing at full speed.  The Bee Gees were singing in falsetto, and Chris and I jumped onto the stage.

            "Okay," I said.  "Here are the terms.  We're having a dance contest.  If my friend here beats you, then you have to leave and never come back.  If he loses, then you can stay here, just keep doing your thing.  Agreed?"

            I wasn't sure if he even understood me.  He stared at us for a full minute before nodding his agreement.

            Chris started moving right away.  His legs kicking out to his sides, his arms twisting around him, getting ready for a move.  He hit the floor like a brick, landing on his back in a fast spiral.  Then the spin began to move slower.  And slower.  And slower.  Chris' legs dropped to the ground.  He lied on the ground, snoring loudly.

            He had smoked himself into oblivion.

            "You goddamn, pot-head son of a bitch!" I screamed before turning to my adversary.  "Okay.  I may not be much of a dancer, but I've seen Saturday Night Fever more times then I can count.  You're going down!"

            My right arm was planted on my hip, my left shooting into the air and pointing at the sky.  I began to move my feet in and out, swinging my arm with the rhythm.  I pulled a quick spin before interlocking my fingers and moving my arms in a wave.

            The Boogie Man watched appraisingly before starting his own moves.  His hips twitched, his booty swayed and his arms rolled away from his body in a graceful move.  He started snapping his fingers as he stepped forward and back again.

            It was my turn again.  I tried to start off with another spin, faster this time, but my foot got caught behind my ankle.  My balance was thrown off, and I crashed to the ground.

            I looked up, to see the Boogie Man smirking at me, grunting in a deep, throaty laugh.

            "Pedro, you're up," came a voice from the doorway.

            I turned and saw the janitorial crew, assembled just inside the auditorium.  Terrence stood with his arms crossed, staring at the dancing creature I was competing with.  Pedro calmly took the hand of the lady Hispanic janitor and led her to the stage.

            They took each others hands, and started shaking their bodies in rhythm with the music.  Their legs moved in unison, stepping left, then right, and over a sleeping Chris.  They spent most of their dance on top of my friend, but never kicking him.  Effortlessly, they managed to Salsa dance over him with disturbing his peaceful slumber.

            I could see that the Boogie Man was not amused.  He knew that he was in trouble.  As the music changed over to Kool and the Gang, he started rolling his shoulders, one at a time.  After a brief measure, he started swinging his arms, clapping his hands, spinning and grinding his hips.  John Travolta couldn't have done better himself.

            Soon, the Korean janitor, a nice lady named Daung, took the stage.  Before beginning her dance, she closed her eyes and let her body sway with the music.  Her arms began to move slowly away from her body, her feet taking tiny steps to allow more movement.  I knew it was the Dance of Ch'oyong, a traditional Korean court dance performed to expel evil spirits.  Just what the situation called for.

            Everyone was in awe as Daung moved, her arms gracefully flowing through the air.  Even the Boogie Man was enthralled by her dancing.

            "I think we have a winner," I said.

            The monster turned towards me, fury in his eyes.  He let out a deep, guttural hiss and reached for one of his chains.  Before he could remove it from his neck, I stepped forward and slammed my fist into his eye.

            The Boogie Man staggered back, moaning but undoing his chain.  I rushed in to tackle him, but he whipped the chain off of his neck and dodged my assault.  I crashed to the ground.

            Rolling over fast, I saw the monster closing in on me, chain above his head.  I spun out of the way, just as the chain came crashing onto the stage floor.  I climbed to my feet, squaring off to the creature.

            "Justin!" Terrence cried, throwing his pocket knife.

            Almost in slow motion, the knife came sailing straight towards me.  The Boogie Man swung his chain aiming at my ribs.  If he hit me, I would be out.  If I stepped back, I would miss the knife.

            I stepped into the attack, wrapping my left hand around the monster's wrist and catching the blade with my right.  Time sped back up.  The chain bounced uselessly off my back.  I flicked the knife open, and plunged the blade home, into the Boogie Man's skull.

            His black eyes went glassy, rolling up into the socket.  The monster sagged against me.  A long, gurgling hiss escaped his throat.

            As I clung onto his body, trying to remove the knife for another attack, his chest seemed to get softer.  I could feel something dropping onto my shoes.  I looked down to see black dust falling from the burlap clothing, scattering across the ground.

            Stepping back, I let the Boogie Man drop to the ground.  Right before my eyes, he turned into a pile of rancid powder.  It was over.

            Pedro muttered something in Spanish, and Terrence translated it for me.

            "He says that you're cleaning that mess up."

            "What?" I asked. "Why me?"

            Pedro said something else.

            "He says it's your fault."

            "How is it my fault?  The Boogie Man's the one who decided to disintegrate."

            "Well, he can't very well clean himself up."

            Pedro jumped off of the stage and grabbed a vacuum cleaner from the back of the room.  He handed it to me, and pointed at the mound of dust.

            Grudgingly, I flicked the cleaner on and started to suck up the monster's remains.

***

            The stage looked cleaner then it had been in years.  I thanked the janitors for their help, and started walking back through the building.

            Halfway through my check, I decided to let Beth know that I was okay.

            "Mobile two to mobile three," I said, finally having a reason to use the numbers.  "Just wanted to let you know that everything is taken care of, and I'm safe."

            "Okay, honey," came her reply.

            Ray's voice crackled over the radio.  "What was that all about?"

            "Nothing," I said.  "You wouldn't believe me."

            I was worn out.  Dancing and rumbling with monsters would be something best left to someone with more stamina, maybe an Olympic runner.  Not me.  I decided that if I was to finish this shift properly, I would need more coffee to keep me running.

            I found the nearest break area and loaded a cup with black java.

            "Steal my coffee, will you?"

            I turned to face an angered tech geek.  He was hunched over, ready to charge me down.

            I flung my coffee at him and started to run.

 

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