“Hello and welcome to the first annual Waterville ‘Dance ‘til you Drop’ dance marathon. We’ve got a pretty good group of folks here - thanks for participating. Don’t forget that all of the pledges you have collected are going to a great cause, the Waterville Home for the Criminally Insane. Now, let’s go over the rules before we begin. You must have noticed that only participants have been allowed into the auditorium. This is because we don’t want you to be distracted. Now for the rules that you may not have been aware of when you volunteered for this. First of all, your feet must continue moving at all times. If you stop moving, you will be eliminated. If you are eliminated, your partner will also be eliminated. Only the winners will survive. If you are eliminated, you will be shot. It is too late to change your minds - just relax and have fun. Let’s Dance!”
Eugene Wilson stepped from the microphone smiling as he had not smiled in years. Not since his mother had been killed in that little grease fire back home. Sure he had poured gasoline on her - he figured that if water worked, all liquids should. At least, that’s what he had told the judge at his competency hearing. What to Hell, it had kept his seventeen year old ass out of jail.
Now, fifteen years later, he had put together his greatest plan ever. He felt better than he could ever remember. Better than his escape from Waterville “looney-bin,” as he called it. Better than his plastic surgery, when he carried a gun into the surgeon’s office and demanded to be changed. Better, almost, than the joy he had felt nine years ago, when he used the surgeon’s own scalpel to cut him into little pieces.
He had been able to put this plan together without much trouble. He had produced some fliers asking for volunteers to dance. Not surprisingly, the response had been great. Seemed the folks in Waterville were only too happy to give. Now, they would be giving their lives.
He had approached the city council and told them about his plans. Some of his plans, anyway. That he would handle all of the work, all the proceeds would go to the hospital, and all he needed was permission to use the auditorium. Sounds great, the hospital could use more televisions, good luck, you’re a Hell of a citizen.
Five minutes earlier, Susan Jones had been looking forward to the dance-a-thon. Five minutes earlier, she hadn’t realized that it would be a life or death situation. And, five minutes earlier, she hadn’t yet twisted her ankle.
Susan had entered the contest with no aspirations of winning. Not even finishing, really. After all, it had been advertised as lasting twenty-four hours. Susan had jokes with her partner, Ed, that the number 3 tag each wore on their back signified that they would be the third couple out. Now, with Eugene Wilson’s words still clinging in the air, it was no laughing matter. To be eliminated would mean death.
Susan, like many of the other participants, was crying. She was also dancing. Dancing like her life depended on it.
Ed Robinson had entered his name gladly. After all, how else could he ever get to spend any time with Susan? He had had a major crush on her since the sixth grade. Now, seniors in High School, he still hadn’t found the courage to tell her. They had always been friends...tonight he planned to tell her that he wanted more. Now, two hours into the dance for death, he realized that it would be his last chance. He also knew that it wouldn’t matter if they didn’t win. Something about Wilson made Ed trust his word. The winners really would survive, he believed.
Couple #9, an old lady and her grandson, had been eliminated twenty minutes earlier. She had tried to explain that she had a bad heart, just needed to rest for a few minutes. Wilson didn’t care. Even as she fell to the floor clutching her chest, she had been pleading to Wilson. Through clenched teeth, she begged him to let her grandson, Johnny , live. Wilson pulled the trigger of his .38 twice. The first shot went through granny’s chest, finishing the work that her coronary had started. Next, he turned the gun on Johnny. The eleven year old, who had only agreed to come with grandma because it meant a raise in his allowance, died instantly. Everyone realized that Wilson was serious. Dead serious.
“Looks like we only have nine couples left. Remember, only one of you lucky pairs will ever see daylight again. Now, let’s speed it up with a little ZZ Top.”
Susan had screamed in unison with each of the shots fired. Ed had only stared. He also noticed that Susan had begun limping even more.
Six hours had passed since the first team had been shot. All nine of the remaining couples still danced. Many, like #7, Holly and Bill, would be able to go on for many hours. After all, Susan’s classmates were both athletic. Both jogged all the time. In fact, Holly had even run in the cross-country club at school. Susan watched couple #7 as she continued to shuffle her feet. She knew that they would be the winners, unless her fear could be channeled.
Nine hours after ten couples had begun the marathon, only seven remained. #2, Carl and Linda, a middle aged couple dressed like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, had been eliminated. As she lay on the auditorium floor, Linda’s red hair fanned out to match the puddle of blood growing around her.
Kim, a friend of Susan’s mother, started throwing up after noticing the flies that were gathering around Johnny’s grandmother, where she had been lying for over six hours. Mike, her partner, had tried to snap her back into it. His backhand had no effect. She stayed on her knees and screamed. She was shot first, Mike was shot as he ran toward the door.
Susan Jones had been born almost eighteen years earlier. She had made it through some rough times. Her parents had divorced when she was three, her father had been viciously murdered by a patient in his surgical office, her little brother had died six years earlier. She had gotten through all of it, and somehow managed to stay positive about life. Then this nightmare had begun.
Shuffling her feet, she looked around the room. Besides her and Ed, six other couples remained. Six other couples and Eugene Wilson. She brushed her blonde hair back from her eyes and locked her stare on the man with the gun. Maybe if she looked hard enough she would be able to figure out his secret. There must be something she was missing, she felt.
“Susie, if you don’t stop staring at that nut, you’re really going to piss him off. Stop it before you get us all killed!”
Susan barely heard Ed yell. For some reason she couldn’t take her eyes off Wilson. Something about him fascinated her.
Ed grabbed her arm and swung her halfway around, until she was facing him. For the first time in sixteen hours, Susan Jones was smiling. Smiling through blank eyes. Suddenly, Ed feared her more than the gun in Wilson’s hand.
Behind Ed, Stacy Reynolds stopped dancing and sat on the floor. Her partner, Al Comstock, looked at her and cried. Wilson shot each of them, and couple #6 was eliminated. Susan Jones laughed.
Inspired by the fact that they were one of only six couples remaining, Susan became much more confident. She called Wilson over to her, careful to keep her feet moving.
“What would you like, sweetheart?” Wilson held his finger on the trigger as he waited for her reply.
“Do you play requests?” Susan asked the question in an almost pleading voice.
“Sure, but no waltzes...after all, we wouldn’t want you to fall asleep would we?” Wilson was laughing.
“How about some Metallica - you know something really fast? Let’s get this party going!” Her smile grew as Wilson nodded and turned to walk back to the stage.
“Ed, if you love me like you said earlier, you won’t make me get shot. You said that you would prove it if you could. Here’s your chance. Don’t let me down.” Susan leaned forward and, for the first time, kissed him.
Over the loud speakers came the opening chords to “Enter Sandman.” The room echoed with the protests of the other couples. Susan only smiled, as she began to move her feet faster. Ed noticed that she wasn’t limping as badly as she had been. He, too, picked up the pace of his dancing.
Halfway through the song, two more couples were eliminated. Just before the end, one more fell victim to the head-banging. Even through the final strains of the music, Susan’s laughter could be heard. She had been right, they had just needed a little shove toward the bullet. She had been happy to push.
Ed glanced around at the other two couples that continued to dance. Holly and Bill, #7, still looked strong. The other couple, #10, were complete strangers to him. He only knew that they wouldn’t be dancing much longer. Even as the thought was playing in his mind, the man fell. He didn’t even cry, just lay there and waited for the inevitable. Wilson was quick to accommodate, putting a bullet first in the man, than one in his partner. Ed caught himself as he began to smile.
Wilson approached the two remaining couples. “I have a surprise for all of you. Since there are only two teams left, I would like to make it a little more interesting. For the remainder of the contest, you will each wear a blindfold. If you attempt to remove it, you will be eliminated. Good luck, and have fun.”
Even as he said it, he began to slip a blindfold over the eyes of Susan. Next, he went to Ed. Then Holly and Bill were blindfolded. In the dark, the music seemed even louder.
Eugene Wilson knew what would happen if he was caught. He couldn’t go back to a mental hospital. It had been Hell at Waterville. Judging by the fear on the faces of these kids as he had applied the blindfolds, he doubted that any would attempt to remove them. He glanced at his watch and realized that the marathon was scheduled to end only an hour later. Then people would start arriving to pick up the participants.
Wilson programmed an hour and a half of the loudest, fastest music he had. He looked around the auditorium, letting his eyes feast on each of the sixteen corpses. As he looked at the four remaining dancers, he couldn’t help but smile.
Twenty minutes later, Bill tripped. Unable to get to his feet, he waited for the bullet that didn’t come. He still didn’t dare to remove the blindfold. Finally, he struggled back to his feet and, with his three classmates, was still dancing when the police arrived.
Even as Wilson was holding a gun to the head of Dr. Samuels, plastic surgeon, Susan Jones’ laughter was echoing through the halls of the Waterville Home For The Criminally Insane.