October, 1923; Jackson, MS
In Jackson, Mississippi in the year 1923, seven dance competitors never showed up. Oh I’m sure that doesn’t seem very important in the grand scheme of things. People get cold feet before performances all the time. It’s not like it is incredibly uncommon for a whole team to bail out, even if it is the night before a competition. Even if it is without formal resignation. What’s curious about this particular lack of participation, is that the seven people of the Braden Hunchback team, Caroline, Marsha, Jane, Cynthia, Pete, Bob and Bob’s girlfriend, Josephine Baker, were never heard from after that Hallow’s Eve.
With the hotels booked flat for the Halloween competition and there being no room for rehearsal in them anyway, Caroline called ahead to a realtor and paid fifty dollars to rent a vacant house for a weekend. The house was furnished upstairs, but the entirety of the first floor dance parlor was completely empty, save for a doll house on a shelf. This doll house was a miniature version of the one the Bradens were staying in, and the team was careful to avoid it.
Unbeknownst to them, a certain witch had trapped the spirit of a wronged belly dancer within the doll house. The dancer had been trapped for having an affair with Meddling Grandma’s first husband in that very house. The witch had said:
“Why wreck my home when I can give you your own exactly like it?”
For fifty years the wronged dancer had sat in her vacant house within a house, her lover having been left to a fate far worse than her own. As the Braden Hunchback team placed their bags in the various bedrooms upstairs, they came back down to practice the Charleston in the mostly vacant and extremely roomy dance parlor.
The belly danced watched their arms leap this way and that, not feeling comforted by their presence but violated. They moved in a way that offended her, moving their limps in great rhythmic shots this way and that, pacing themselves so quickly, not enjoying the dance. Not feeling themselves in it, but improvising feverishly to an intense speed. It was Jane who first took a step aside, panting and leaning against the shelf where the dollhouse sat. Noticing it, she smiled, and peered into the window that showed the living room in miniature form. She jerked back with a slight yell, and the dancer stood defiantly, her arms crossed and midriff exposed.
When the others came to investigate her claims of a little person being inside the doll house, the dancer got a brilliant idea. As the team leaned over the doll house to peer into the miniature living room, she began to dance. She danced the way it should be done, with the beat in her head playing so loud, the team swore they could hear the drums and the sitar. She danced and danced, and showed no signs of ever stopping. Not a word was said amongst teammates, not a glance around given.
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