When I was six we moved to this really creepy old house. To my younger self it was ancient. But to my parents it was merely old and we could afford it. They didn't have the best jobs to sustain us on renting a house so they got a loan and bought one. I couldn't believe that we were moving, or that it was possible for someone to uproot themselves and live in a different place. I knew it, but I never thought it would happen to me until I was much older.
The house was Victorian style with two floors, a basement and something of an attic. The house was fully furnished and recently equipped to handle all things electrical. Someone else did that, we didn't pay for it. The outside was a dark purple, the paint was coming off too. The roof had those... circle tile things, they were black. It was very goth looking. But I thought it was the coolest thing in the world.
The furniture was semi-modern. Almost retro. It was a large mix of many eras. But the actual building itself was exactly the same. No change to wall paper or the color of the house. The kitchen had a new coat of paint as tiles were replaced, but they were as close as possible to the original design. Who could possibly have gotten Victorian paint colors? Well, I'm sure someone could have, but I still don't know how or why they would have wanted to.
The entry way was huge. With a giant chandlier far above us. It was new, but I suppose that's because the one that came with the house fell a few years ago. I kept finding crystals almost every time I went into the entry way. It didn't matter that I moved every piece of furniture to see if I could find more of them, and there weren't any. They always just... appeared. And it was never the same one. I know that because I kept the crystals in a box I found in the 'attic'.
The stairs were in front of the entry way. I ran up and down them so many times as a child. I could never wait to go up to my bed room and keep painting. My mother found an easel in the basement. She was going to throw it out but I stopped her. She bought me... probably one canvas a month. My grandparents bought me the rest of the supplies I needed, including art books. But I loved the one that was already in the house. It was old and taught me so many techniques the others didn't.
My room was my second favorite place to be. It had a princess style bed and it was much bigger than the room I had before. It was also painted a lilac color with pretty flowers. I found out later they were cherry blossoms. The dresser was white and old-looking, antique like. It had crystal, real crystal, knobs. I polished them every day just like my mother told me to. To keep them looking pretty.
My parents room was even bigger than mine. But I hardly ever went in there. I didn't have a reason to. I rarely went into my fathers new office as well. My mother paid bills and my father worked on the computer. We had a really, really old one. Close to the first kind you could get as a personal computer. It was a while before he got a brand new one. He couldn't use it that well. Took him months to be able to do everything.
The living room had a furnace. Well, a fireplace that looked eerie. I've always thought almost all fireplaces looked creepy and spooky. But that one really got to me some times. Especially when we lit it during the winter. I asked my mother, once, if she could hear the noises the fireplace was making too. She said it was just the fire, that there was no 'noises'. But I knew better, though I didn't push. It sounded like... howling. Inside the chimney.
Apart from the fireplace there was plenty of windows to let the sunlight in. My parents bought a new couch, one with a bed inside it for visitors to sleep on. It was brand new. One of the few brand new things I remember my parents buying from that time. We used a really old TV set, it was still in black and white. Usually really grainy or 'snowy' too. But it got enough reception for us to watch silly shows and the news.
We didn't get a new TV for a long time. When my father saved up enough for a newer one. It wasn't the best moment in the world when I could finally watch something else. But I was happy he bought it. It meant I could make friends and bond over things that don't exist. As it was, I didn't have any friends. They were all too creeped out by where I lived. I didn't understand why. I still don't.
When I was seven I decided to sneak into the attic. My parents were scared of what would happen to me if I were up there alone for any amount of time, so they were always around me when I went up there. I didn't have a chance to truly look around. But when I finally got up the wooden stairs I saw many of our boxes. I thought we had unpacked everything. I guess not. I was going to go through them when I saw something... weird going on with the floor. I crawled over to the spot, the ceiling was very, very low. Not low enough to crowd me or make it impossible to store things, but I knew if I stood up I'd be washing my hair for hours making sure there weren't any bugs in it.
I wiped away some dust on the floor and there was a handle. How could the attic have a secret compartment? It's the top floor. There's no where we could not look up and see the bulge. But then I thought of it, of course. It's sort of in the wall too. We can't see what the wall is hiding. I placed my hand on the round hoop, sort of like a knocker for a door or a really old castle pull handle thing. I pulled it up and it squeaked open. I let it fall back to the floor, leaving a rectangular opening in the floor.
I placed my small fingers into the opening and picked up the shoe box. Gray-blue, dull, and extremely old-looking. I wondered how long it had been there and why no one had found it. I set it on my lap and slowly opened the box. Inside was a pair of blood-red ballet shoes. Pointe shoes, I learned they were actually called. I stared at them and slowly pulled them out.
They looked brand new. I wondered, briefly, if my parents bought them for me. But there were so many things wrong with that thought I dismissed it. I wanted to wear them, but they were sized for an adult or someone much older than I was. I knew right then and there I would be a ballerina. I've said it once before, to my parents, but we couldn't afford ballet lessons. But now we could. I knew we could.
From 7 until I was 24 I practiced ballet as if my life depended upon it. I kept the ballet shoes near by at all times, reminding me that I was going to wear them one day. When my feet were hurting and I could barely move them I painted. I quickly picked up how people looked when they do ballet and I drew so many girls in poses, dancing. I didn't learn the tale of the red shoes until I was fourteen.
Hans Christian Andersen wrote a story about a woman, or a little girl, who got red shoes. She danced all day and all night. Until she died. Or until she saw the error of her ways and went to church, depending on which version you read. I remember when I first heard that. I was horrified. I could almost wear the pointe shoes I found seven years ago. I was amazing at ballet and I was going to do a solo piece using the red shoes. But now that I knew that tale, was I really going to do it? What if those were the shoes that are in the tale?
But I was being silly. Of course they aren't. That tale is really old. These pointe shoes look brand new, even now. I was just being stupid for a moment. It was a tale of warning. Of being greedy or something. I am not greedy. I never have been.
Of course, that's when the problems started.
I practiced at home, as I do almost every day when I don't go to class, Wednesday September 8th, 5:34 PM. I remember the date and time clearly because it was the day the fire started. I don't mean our house burnt to the ground. Oh, no. Our house was engulfed by angry, red flames for thirty minutes before they just... disappeared. Our neighbors didn't see it, no one on the street saw it. It was all in my head, everyone said. Too much work not enough sleep. They were wrong.
I painted the house, the flames. I painted it perfectly. And then I noticed something. I did not paint the mist in front of the flames on the stairs. I know I didn't because I didn't open the blue or the green paint colors. But it was there. Just mist. I would have painted over it except... I felt like it was there. That I didn't commit it to my active memory. Why would there have been mist inside a building on fire? Smoke, understandable, but mist?
That painting is probably still in that attic of that house.
The next time I tried practicing at home I made sure everything was secure, everything off that didn't need to be on. No fire. There would be no fire this time. This was probably my favorite event of all the ones that happened. Very unique in that it legitimately frightened me.
I was practicing in front of the hand-me-down full length mirror my grandmother gave me. It had been my great-great grandmothers. It's another thing I clean every day. Because if I didn't, there would be many spots from just sitting there. So much dust and a reason for me to think what I saw was mere smudging.
I lifted my leg, stretching it, holding it against my body as I did. My foot above my head as I assess how my muscles look in the mirror. As I was setting my foot down I saw another one coming down behind me. I turned around quickly, but no one was there. And then it hit me that the leg was white. And I could see through it.
I turned back to the mirror and looked at it carefully, seriously. I turned my feet out to second position and I did a slow pliè. I saw someone... behind me? No... They were in the exact spot as me, doing the same thing. I shot up and felt chilled. I shuddered and wrapped my arms around me. I felt goosebumps on my arms even though I wasn't actually cold.
It was a girl. Her hair was up in a bun. And it looked like she was wearing a skirt for ballet purposes. To be able to move her legs any way she wanted to without restraint. Was she the girl who hid the red pointe shoes? But why would she have hidden them? Because of the tale?
After that I saw that ghostly girl everywhere. Not just at home. She followed me, did exactly what I did. There was little difference between me and her. I could be seen, she could not. That separated us. That was the only thing separating us. We were the same in every other aspect. Ballet was her favorite thing to do. I could almost see her smile every time we went to class, when we practiced at home. She enjoyed it as much as I did.
She became a friend, almost. I couldn't talk to her, I also couldn't turn and look at her. We were the same person. I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw her too. I never understood it. When I graduated high school I went on to practice ballet at a proper school for dance. She followed me.
I started thinking that she must... haunt the red pointe shoes. It made sense. I brought them with me nearly everywhere. But there were too may incidences when I didn't have them and she was still around. So what could she be haunting? Me? But for what possible reason?
In my first year I pulled a muscle. I was forced to sit and watch others dance while I sat there, feeling miserable for myself. But I felt... pride from the ghost. No. She felt proud. As if she had caused the injury and wanted me to feel this way. She wasn't a malevolent spirit until then. I don't know how or why she changed but she did. And she started abusing me.
I worked hard on my contemporary solo. I did better than my best to perfect it to impress the judges. She waited until I was on stage, being judged, to take over my body and mess up the entire show. I didn't know she could do that until that day. I felt like she was just as surprised. She went far out of her way to make sure the judges felt like I was disrespecting everything they adored. And I truly was. Without it being me.
From then on she took over at nearly every competition. So many times that I stopped doing them and focused on just being great. I was asked several times to join a company, to be part of something bigger, but I knew what she would do. And I was not going to let her turn me into a fool.
The nightmares started not long after. I saw her. Properly. She practiced just as hard as I did. And then her pas de deux partner dropped her. On stage. In front of a crowd. And he had the nerve to blame it on her. Her knee was shattered and she could never dance again. Not like she did before. And it was beautiful.
The part where her knee shatters? Where he drops her like the bastard he turned out to be? I feel it every time. I feel the sharp, excruciating pain as her knee hits the stage. My heart bleeds for her. I feel so much sympathy. But there are no excuses for hurting a fellow ballet lover. None.
The nightmare was like that for months. I started feeling numbness in my knee. It caused me to fall on several occasions in class. It's a miracle I haven't suffered such an injury myself. I had no reason to give my teacher for my sudden inability to hold myself up right on my working leg while en pointe. After that month I got a brand new nightmare.
She was inside the ballet theater. Wearing red pointe shoes. She was performing 'The Red Shoes' by herself. The man that dropped her comes on stage, watching her. Her knee hurt her every time she did a single pilè and worse when she did more. She stared out at the audience though. She never looked back at him. I notice the smoke before either one of them...
She set the entire theater on fire. And she was killing herself as well as the man that forced her ballet career to end. I could tell that her technique was off, but it was still so beautiful watching her perform 'The Red Shoes'. She never wanted to stop dancing. She was performing it in a way, as far as I know, no one has before. Wearing red shoes and dancing until she died. A performance no one lived to tell about.
When I wake up I'm coughing from smoke in take. Smoke from a nightmare.
Finally. Finally I get to wear the red shoes. I have perfected, as much as I can, everything I need to know to perform the show. And I will perform on a real stage without help from my ghost companion. She won't interfere. This is a performance both of us adore.
I trained on the dance for several months. I used the red shoes three times. Only for dress rehearsal. I know it's wrong. I need to dance in the shoes I am going to wear on stage as much as possible. But I wanted these to look good as new. It took me ten more years since I met the ghost to get to this place. Where I felt I was worthy to wear the shoes. And finally I was able to.
I danced on stage, in front of an audience, and she did nothing to interfere with me. Everything was absolutely perfect up to the curtain call. Finally. Finally she did what she had been trying to for almost six years.
A light fell from above, magically loosened, and smashed me on stage. Not only could I never dance again, I never got to live again. I never experienced romance, I was too busy to have feelings for another, to take up my time. That is probably my only regret.
"Are you ready?"
I look up at the angel then down at my body. Well. It's much more like my guts and bones. The flesh has been torched from the hot light bulb. I look back up at her. The girl that has been stalking me since I was fourteen.
"Yes." I don't have a choice anyway. I would never hurt another dancer. Although it's strange. She looks more like me than I thought she did. Almost a clone or a twin.
"She looks like the other girl that died in the fire in Russia. This one died just yesterday while the one in Russia happened nearly a year ago. I hear the girl in Russia started the fire." Allysa opens a new tab on her browser and looks up something. Then she shares it with her friend. "Yeah, see? They look EXACTLY the same. Do you think they were twins?"
"No way! Is that even possible!?" Her friend exclaims, staring at the pictures.
"It must be! Oh, how horrible! I heard they both danced this dance... 'The Red Shoes' when they died. According to the tale the woman got these red shoes, put them on, and kept dancing all day and night until she died." Allysa makes a face and looks up 'The Red Shoes Tale' as well.
"Do you suppose it's some kind of... pact? Like, they planned all of this?"
"Both of them? To die while dancing 'The Red Shoes'?"
"That is a bit of a stretch... But it's still creepy."
"And that is why I don't like twins." Allysa shuts down her laptop and sits up from her bed, "I need to get to ballet class."
"You're not going to perform 'The Red Shoes' are you?" Her friend grins in a very creepy manner, "It could happen to you."
"Oh, please. It couldn't ever. That was all coincidence." Allysa grabs her duffle bag. "I'll be back in a few hours. See you later." She runs out the door to get to class on time.
"I don't know... It doesn't feel like a coincidence."