Dinner parties are very antiquated affairs. People don't seem to entertain the way they once did. It's October the thirteenth, and tonight I am attending a very unusual dinner party. Under my arm, I carry one of my carvings, wrapped in a soft blanket. I feel stupid as I knock on the door; not because I feel awkward about attending a social gathering. I feel foolish because I've always told myself there are no such thing as superstitions, and that urban legends are for dumb thrill-seeking teenagers who watch too many movies. Apparently, I'm also late.

"Carey, finally!" was my greeting, as Elizabeth Brammon opened her door. Looks like I was the last to arrive. Everyone else was already seated around the table. I noticed that my friend Tim had saved a seat for me; tonight is all his fault. I recognized Anita from the gallery, and there was another young man I had never met. There was also one more empty seat at the table.

"Carey, you've met Anita." I waved hello. "And this is Kyle. Kyle's been working as a part-time art instructor."

"Waiting for that big break, just like the rest of us," he said as he stood to shake my hand.

"What did you bring?" asked Elizabeth.

I handed her my carving. She removed the blanket and set it on the table for all to admire. It was a wood carving of a man morphing into a bird; in a pose that suggested the figure was rising up as if to fly.

Everybody admired it. "This is your best one yet, Carey. I don't know how you manage to always make every carving look so dynamic," noted Tim.

"It's these big man-hands of mine," I joked, but it was true. I had hard big man-hands; the hands of my father. I was part Native American. Most people wouldn't realize it, but one look at my art made it undeniable. I was always trying to capture the emotion of freedom, of spirit; something I only experienced through my art. I wasn't capable of expressing myself in two-dimensional art, but thanks to my strong hands, carving was always something I felt I excelled at. Unfortunately, the rest of the world ignored me and my art.

"It's beautiful!" said Elizabeth, as she lifted it back off the table and placed it where the art of the others rested on display.

"I recognize yours, Tim," I stated, pointing at the new watercolor depicting what appeared to be a raft, gliding down a frothy river. Tim is a nature enthusiast at a time when landscapes are scoffed at by the art community. In truth, it's the subject that means the most to him. He grew up in the country, and all his paintings depict his longing for his familiar environment. Moving into the city to attend college had always been difficult for him. We met each other back in our college days, back when we were both more optimistic about our skills and potential. Now, I work as a secretary for a verbally abusive employer, and Tim had to go back to school for a nursing degree. It was his only choice. As much as he loved nature and the small town where he grew up, there was nothing for him there; a small town, a poor town. If he wanted to survive, he had to live where the jobs were, just like all of us. He had once dreamed of graduating with his art degree and being able to do art from his home in the country, and earn his living that way, but nothing in life ever goes as nicely as we plan.

Anita's oil painting was of a very realistic beautiful woman, with angelic eyes and a seductive mouth. Kyle's painting was also oil, but very post-modern. I wasn't entirely sure what it represented, but I felt a sense of rage and frustration in the manic brush strokes and warm colors. Then there was Elizabeth's painting, cheap acrylic on poster board. It was a pear tree, standing alone.

"Oh, don't look at mine. You guys know my only art-form is the stage. I just figured if I put something out too, then maybe that would help increase our odds tonight. The more, the better, ya know?"

When we were finally all seated around the table together, and our art securely in place, Elizabeth rose to lower the lights. A few candles flickered on the table. The food smelled delicious, and I was eyeing the honey ham and sweet potatoes. I had hoped eating before I arrived would quell my aggressive appetite, but apparently, there was no helping it.

"You really outdid yourself, Elizabeth. Good thing I ate before I came, or there'd be no keeping me off this table," joked Kyle.

"I was dumb," said Anita, as she sadly looked down into her lap, where her useless napkin rested.

Elizabeth gave a frustrated glance. "I'm sorry, I did remind you. Please try to hang in there. I'd hate for all this effort to go to waste. Especially, seeing as I had to move all the living room furniture into my bedroom to make a floor space. Once it's over we can eat all we want."

"Well, seeing as we may have to wait for quite some time before anything happens – if anything happens, why don't you tell us the legend, Elizabeth? I, for one, don't know much about it," said Kyle.

"I heard about it in college. My roommates used to love telling each other scary stories, especially around Halloween," I mentioned.

"Well, the legend takes place in the 1920's…"

Her name was Lindsay, and she was an artist. Her parents were poor working class people, who couldn't afford to give their daughter any real opportunities in life. When she was finally old enough to leave home she went into the big city, hoping for an opportunity to be discovered for her talents.

Lindsay could paint, and sculpt in clay, but her biggest artistic passion was for the stage. More than anything she wanted to be a singer and dancer. She had the voice of an angel and the grace of a ballerina. She had grown up in the Vaudeville days and had always carefully watched the dancers. When she would dance, she would mimic some of their moves, but also make improvements of her own. Her dancing style was a mix of stolen ballet moves, and modern dance steps. It was the most she could do with no formal training, but her style was beautiful, graceful, and captivating.

The bright lights of the big city drew her like a moth to a flame. But, like many an artist, dancing and painting does a poor job of putting food in one's belly or a roof over one's head. She worked as a scrub-woman by day and soaked up culture by night. She went to all the clubs of the roaring twenties to learn the latest dance moves. She attended every theater performance her meager wages could afford. And she went to galleries and admired the art, hoping that some day she could get one of her pieces on display.

She had lived with a cousin when she first arrived in the city, but the arrangement wasn't going to last. With her pitiful earnings, she searched for a home to call her own. After searching for what seemed like forever, she found the one apartment that managed to touch a personal spot in her heart. It was an old loft in a derelict building, a small, single room, in desperate need of renovation. There were cracks in the floor, and the paint was peeling from the walls, but it did have one redeeming feature – a small stage; a left-over installation made by a group of Vaudevillians, who had been the last tenants.

The little stage had been constructed with salvaged pieces of wood. It was raised at least three feet from the floor. It creaked and groaned under the lightest step, but at the front of the stage were real electric stage floor-lights. A few of the bulbs were burnt out, but the exposed electric wiring was still in working order.

The landlord offered to tear the stage out for her, but she insisted in letting it remain.

The loft was a tad more expensive than Lindsay could afford, but she agreed to rent the place anyway. To help fund her new home, she took a second job working in a kitchen as an assistant to a restaurant chef.

Poor Lindsay worked so hard, and was on her feet so much, that her ability to enjoy the city life at night had almost disappeared. Tired, she would drag herself home. Her only joy and relaxation were in her painting and sculpting, and she would sing while she worked. But, as the weeks and months wore on, Lindsay began to break under the strain.

She could not go on like that forever. She had come to the city in hopes of making it; either through her art, or her singing and dancing, but she worked so much just to keep herself fed and housed, that her art suffered, and she was not able to put herself out there in order to be discovered.

One night, while walking home, she passed a newly opened art gallery and discovered the owner outside posting flyers on the door. She seized the moment.

"When will you open?"

The owner was a charming man, about ten years older than Lindsay. His name was Turner, and he liked the look of her, despite her still being in her kitchen clothes, and how tired she clearly looked. He flashed her a brilliant smile and asked her if she was an artist.

Lindsey struck up a conversation with Turner. She told him about her paintings and sculptures, and even about how she could sing and dance, and how much it would mean to her to have one of her art pieces in a real gallery.

Turner was so charmed with her that he agreed to let her display one of her paintings, sight unseen, at his gallery's opening event. He told her he had many friends, both in the art scene, but also in theater. He promised her that if she came to the gallery's opening event, he would introduce her to his connections.

Lindsay was ecstatic; this was the break she had been praying for.

Lindsay submitted her painting to the gallery the day before the grand opening. But when the night of the opening event came she was late to arrive, as she had had a hard time getting dismissed early from work with enough time to change out of her uniform. When she finally arrived, the gathering of visitors to the gallery had already greatly diminished. Lindsay was heartbroken.

To Turner's pleasant surprise, Lindsay's painting had been the hit of the gallery. Everyone had admired it, and after a brief bidding war, the painting had been sold before Lindsay had even arrived. His prestigious friends had been very interested in meeting the new young artist.

When Lindsay had finally arrived, Turner gave her the great news about how well her art had been received, and he gave her her share of the profits from the sale. It was a great deal more money than Lindsay had ever earned before. She apologized for not having been there to meet his friends.

"Do you have more art at home?" He asked.

"Oh, yes, much more." Suddenly, Lindsay had a stroke of inspiration. She would not let her opportunity slip. "I have my own loft. It's not much. It's small, but it's mine. I even have a little stage set up inside. All my art is there. Would you like to come for dinner? You can bring your friends, all of them. We can have a lovely dinner party, you can see more of my art, and I'll even do a little song and dance. Please come!"

Turner was pleased with the idea. He loved dinner parties, especially when art or music was involved. He wanted to introduce Lindsay to his friends, and he warmly accepted her invitation. Lindsay told him the night would be October the thirteenth…her one day off work.

With the earnings from the sale of her painting, Lindsay purchased a can of paint to repair the walls of her Loft, new light bulbs for her stage, and as much food and wine as she could afford. She was determined to have a fantastic feast waiting for her guests when they arrived.

The days leading up to the thirteenth, she painted her loft and borrowed a few extra chairs and a gramophone from her cousin, who wouldn't be needing them as she was leaving town for a week. She arranged all her art around the loft for display and prepared a menu. When the day finally came Lindsay began cooking the feast for her guests early. While the food simmered on the stove and baked in the oven, Lindsay would practice her song and dance routine to the sounds of the gramophone, while the stage creaked beneath her feet. She had been so busy lately; she feared she had grown out of practice. For hours while the food prepared she would sing and dance until she feared she was on the verge of straining her voice. At last, the scrumptious feast was laid out on the table, and she arranged all the chairs around the table to face her little stage. She changed into her stage costume. She had made it herself, in case she should ever get the opportunity to audition for a theater. With only a few minutes left before her guests were due to arrive; she decided to have one final dress rehearsal upon her stage.

As she danced and swayed to the music of her own lovely voice, mixed with the supporting melody of the gramophone, she entered an almost trance-like state, forgetting everything around her. She imagined herself on a stage in a great theater. She pictured a loving audience in rapt attention and the warm glow of the spotlights. Suddenly, one of the stage floorboards snapped beneath her foot. She tripped hard, snagged a foot on the wiring of the stage lights, ripping out the wiring as she toppled head-first over the side of the stage. Something in her neck snapped. The lights went out, and the gramophone stopped.

Lindsay lay in a disjointed crumpled pile in front of her stage; only a few feet from her dinner table. Tears filled her eyes. She felt nothing but pain, she could not move her body at all, and she was alone. She started screaming and crying for help. Her guests were on their way; surely they would hear her and come to her rescue.

She screamed for help over and over again. She could feel her voice weakening. She had sung so much that day; her tired vocal cords were giving out. A half-hour passed, and no one had come. She screamed and screamed until the last of her voice was completely gone, and now it had been an hour since her guests were supposed to arrive.

Finally, she heard the knock.

Outside her door waited Turner, and several of his important friends, all very excited to meet the talented painter, but Lindsay's loft had proved very hard to find, and they were very late.

There were no lights coming from the loft, and no sounds that they could hear. "Is this the wrong place again?"

"This should be the right address," replied Turner. Again he knocked, but he could not hear a sound. Perhaps Lindsay was angry and had called the whole thing off when they had not shown up on time. After standing outside the door and knocking for several minutes, Turner and his group of friends had no choice but to leave.

Inside Lindsay was choking on her tears, she tried to yell for their help, but her voice had dried up; nothing but a horrible raspy sound would come out. Terror struck her heart as she heard their footsteps shuffle way, and then she was left alone.

A day passed, and nobody realized what had happened to her. Still, she lay in a broken heap on the floor; desperately hungry and thirsty, sick and in pain. She could only look at her feast laid out to torment her. She never fully regained her voice, she was too thirsty, and her vocal cords too raw from the strain of the day before.

Five days passed. When Lindsay's cousin returned to town she knocked on her door to request her gramophone back, but it seemed that Lindsay wasn't home. Her body was found several weeks after her fall, when finally her neighbors in the building began to complain about an unusual smell coming from her apartment, causing her landlord to eventually let himself in.

They found her untouched feast, the torn up wiring of the broken stage, many beautiful pieces of art, and her starved and broken body lying on the floor.

Lindsay had been the epitome of the starving artist.

"She'd of died from dehydration, or her injuries, before starvation," interjected Kyle.

Elizabeth just gave him a cold stare. "I've heard a lot of strange things about the starving artist legend," she replied, putting emphasis on the word "starving."

I stared at my fork, anything to keep my eyes off the food. "We're all failures, going nowhere fast. There's nothing to lose by trying this urban legend out. Haven't we all tried Bloody Mary, at least at one point in our lives?"

"Yeah, when we were teenagers being stupid. We're too old for this shit now, and I feel embarrassed for myself…and hungry," griped Anita.

Elizabeth slammed her hand on the table. "Then leave! I don't care what any of you think! My voice coach swears this is what made his friend and rival make it to fame, and not him, and I believe him. He's not a joker; he's the most serious and mature person I know. I'm tired of failed auditions! I'm tired of working retail and barely scraping by! I want to try this and if anybody wants to quit and leave, then take off. I'll sit here all night if I have to!"

We watched as Anita sighed and leaned back in her chair. It was Kyle who stood. "Then I think I'm out. I'm not saying I don't believe the legend, quite the contrary. I'm terrified. I've always been a chicken shit. What if she does come? I'd run, and if you run, you die. No, thanks! You guys try your luck. Maybe you want it more than I do, but it's not worth it for me. I'm out!"

Kyle picked up his painting and his coat at the door, he looked back once, wished us luck, and left.

Tim rolled around an empty wine glass. "What time is it?" he asked.

"Ten thirty. It has to happen on the night of the thirteenth. If we're wrong, and midnight comes, and nothing happens, well at least we'll have a nice dinner; once we reheat most of it," offered Elizabeth.

My stomach rumbled at the thought of a warmed-over dinner. I picked up my fork again and looked at my warped reflection in the polished silver. I twirled the fork between my fingers. When it stopped I looked into the reflection again, and let out a scream.

Everyone jumped and gasped. I turned in my chair to look behind me – there was nothing there.

"What the hell, Carey?" cried Anita, as she wrung her napkin between both of her hands.

"I saw a face!"

"Well, you've seen it before!" she replied.

"It wasn't me! I swear! There was someone else standing behind me!"

"Quiet!" barked Elizabeth. "Everyone, be very quiet. This could be it!"

We all grew silent at once. I saw a flash of fear in Tim's eyes. I reached across the table and grabbed his hand that was still clutching the wine glass. He took a deep breath.

Suddenly, all the candles on the table blew out at once. I felt a twinge of panic as everyone gasped. "Shh!" I heard from Elizabeth's direction. Now, we waited in the darkness.

Seconds passed, maybe minutes. We listened to the sound of each other breathing.

Then, a floor lamp in the living room flicked on; its light focusing on a single spot of the living room floor.

Beyond the light, we heard a sound; a raspy labored breathing, and soft shuffling steps moving along the hardwood floor. Then we saw it; a dark shadow shambling closer to the light.

My heart was pounding. I felt my companions grow still in terror. What stepped into the light was the most horrific image.

There stood Lindsay; her dress was bloody and torn. Her long thin legs tapered into her dancing shoes; heelless shoes. Her neck was bent at an unnatural angle, her hair bloody and matted to her deathly face; her horribly emaciated face.

When she stepped into the light, she stopped. Her shuffling gait ended, and she seemed to stand more upright, yet her neck was still unusually bent.

Suddenly, Anita sprang up and made a mad run for the door. In that moment I saw the horrible face of Lindsay transform from weariness to one of a bloodthirsty rage. Lindsay sprang up and glided over the floor, swift and smooth as a shadow. Anita let out a scream; then a horrible gurgling sound came from where we saw Anita's form fall under Lindsay's attack, and then silence.

The floor-light flickered; then she was once again standing in the spotlight. She began to dance.

The dance was eerie, yet compelling. The most awful thing I had ever witnessed in my life; yet the most entrancing. I couldn't look away. I wanted to look away so badly, but I couldn't. She moved with a grace unbefitting her mangled body. She would dance slowly, with a weight of sadness, then her motions would reach a frenzied pace, and then again she would sway into a soft series of motions reminiscent of what one would see from a ballet dancer, but different. I felt a tear roll down the side of my face.

With a gentle flourish, she ended her gruesome performance and bowed.

My heart started racing again; she was slowly approaching the table.

"Don't run! Whatever you do, don't run from her!" I heard Elizabeth whisper.

I wanted to run, though. I gripped the table. I could feel Tim shaking next to me. With every one of her shuffling steps drawing her closer to us, I felt my heart beat faster and faster. As she stepped up to the table, I suddenly became overpowered by the horrendous smell of rotting flesh. I felt sick and dizzy, but I dared not let myself faint.

Suddenly, Tim shot up from his seat and cried: "Get away!" He barely got the words out before I saw her reach for him. I heard a scream I never would have thought he was capable of making as she attacked him, and then his lifeless body was on the floor.

"Tim!" I screamed. I was about to stand, to run, but Elizabeth, still in her seat, grabbed me and held me down.

"No!" She shouted, and held me fast. I could feel her shaking all over, but she would not loosen her grip on my arm. "We must see it through!"

Lindsay was up again. She moved back towards her seat; the one seat we had saved especially for her. I held my breath as she gently sat beside us at the dinner table. I saw her look over the food we had laid out with a hungry appreciation. Elizabeth and I clung to each other as we watched her turn her eyes to where our art sat in the dark corner. Then, she turned her eyes on us.

"Thank you," she said, and suddenly she was gone.

The police investigated the deaths of Anita and Tim. The autopsies concluded that their hearts had both just stopped. There were no marks on their bodies, no drugs in their system. Elizabeth and I explained that something that night had simply frightened them - frightened them both to death.

The whole situation was highly suspect, but there was simply no way to prove, or explain, what really happened that night on October the thirteenth.

Elizabeth is now the star of a hit Broadway musical, and my carvings are selling as fast as I can make them, and for more money than I ever could have dreamed of.

I stand proudly in front of my latest pieces, in one of the most prestigious galleries in town. Everyone admires my carving of an unearthly dancer.

I catch the eyes of Kyle standing amongst the gallery patrons. When I ask him how he's been, he gives me a cold look. "I've given up being an artist. It's not worth starving for."