I Dance for my Life

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

A young girl must dance so she can live.

It’s been four hours. The balls of my feet feel bruised and my thighs burn. But I continue to dance. I continue to dance because I know I have to.

I am sure that the copious amount of make-up that was painted on my face is no longer present, and in its place is a mask of beaded sweat. I start to panic over this thought as I continue my steps. My smile is fixed but my eyes are wide and alert. Do I still look pretty? Is my hair out of place? I remember running my fingers through it earlier. It was thick and solid like papier-mâché after the application of so many products but my touch could have made a dent.

I am now sweating not just from exertion but now fear. Not my usual amount of fear. Fresh, new fear.

He is not looking at me so maybe I can get away with it. Just keep dancing. I am still in his peripheral vision but I am probably just a moving, blurry shape in the background. Just keep moving and he shouldn’t focus too much on me.

There is water on the table. Jugs of it. I’m parched but I can’t move from my spot. I gaze at it longingly while I dance, dry lips smacking together.

I wish I could ask for a sip. Just a little sip.

But I can’t ask.

Without a tongue, I can no longer speak.

I hadn’t always been a dancer. I had first been bought as a singer. I had my own stage where I sang opera in the Grand Hall. It had been a more elegant job. He dressed me up more modestly than now and my talent was spoken of fondly.

But then I hadn’t been able to carry a note and I had embarrassed the Master in front of the Countess of a nearby region. I had to be severely punished.

As I had lay crumpled in the basement, popping the new stitches in my now gaping, empty mouth, I had remembered the strange noises I had heard from the house when I had first arrived.

“This is a very old house,” the Master had said when my curiosity had gotten the better of me. “The pipes, they moan, you see.”

But it hadn’t been the pipes. It had been the cries and wails of the unfortunate soul beneath us. It had been easy to take the Master’s words for the truth. The noises hadn’t sounded human at all. The Master had a way of doing that, of making you seem less than human.


Without a tongue I can no longer sing, but the rest of my body is fully functional and so that is why I dance. I dance in the background of the Master’s extravagant dinner parties. I sometimes miss the praise of being a singer but I enjoy the elusiveness of being a dancer. Dancers are there to look pretty but blend into the scenery. They are not to be stared at and studied. I do not wish to be studied. Because if people look too closely, they will see the Master for who he really is. And I will be severely punished.

There is a waiter by the door holding a tray of Champaign flutes. He is on the opposite side of the room but I wish he was closer. The light from the sconces by him illuminate his beautiful face. He is my only friend in here yet I do not know his name. I cannot ask and he has never offered it to me. But I have named him Chris. The name was given when I had walked in on him bathing in our quarters. His back is covered with scars, they criss-cross from his shoulder blades to his hips. Some had been old, some were still oozing blood.

He has only been in the house a few weeks, the Master was still breaking him in. Perhaps he hadn’t been brought up the same way I had. I learned respect from an early age and so my body is not marred. People with money buy respect and you must do as they say.

I was taught how to survive by following orders. Other people have not had that privilege and do not know how to behave. And those people are the ones with scars.  


Chris does not acknowledge me in any way. We are not allowed to have any sort of contact out of our routine when we are working. None of us are. We are just objects, here to make the party run smoothly.

The Master clinks a flute of champagne and calls the guests to their seats. He is a handsome man, the Master. The type of handsome that makes women cover their flushed faces with their fans. He has that dark and mysterious quality about him. I am ashamed to admit that I had been drawn to him before I had witnessed the monster that lay beneath.

Being bought by a couple is always favoured but very few come to the auctions and when they do, they want skilled slaves. I had been taught the basics by the elder women but I am pretty so I was told at an early age that learning was a waste of my time, I was going to be bought for my looks, nothing more. But then the Master had come and he had peered into the back room where I would sit and sing to the scared young girls who were waiting to be sold. Girls as young as five wouldn’t stop crying until I sang them a lullaby.

My first journey to the Master’s mansion had been a fearful one. Someone had cried out my name as the Master had come to stage to collect his new possession. I hadn’t had chance to look and find the owner of that anguished voice but my heart had pounded with recollection. Had it been my mother? I hadn’t seen her since father had sold me three years ago to pay off a debt.

Now that everyone is seated, Chris and the other waiters leave the room and return with plates of steaming food. My stomach growls but it isn’t heard over the haughty laughter and chitter-chatter of the esteemed guests. It is at this point in the evening where I am gifted with the glass of water I have been salivating over. Chris comes over after he has set down the plates that had been so skilfully balanced up his arm and holds the glass to my lips. It’s hard to drink without a tongue. It’s even harder when I am still dancing. But I am not allowed to stop. So instead I just slow my pace and try not to move my head too much. Some drips down my chin to my chest but the icy cold water is a blessing against my boiling skin. Chris frowns as he watches me gulp and gasp. My routine means that I move a little too much and the glass moves from my lips. Chris’ eyes widen as his grip falters and he spills. Both of us turn wide-eyed at the Master. Had he seen? The image of Chris’ back rises to the forefront of my memory and I hate myself at the thought that he could be facing the whip again because I had been too cocky with my footing.

But the Master is oblivious; he is having too much fun to notice us. We are just blurry shapes to him now, thankfully. Chris scurries away and I stare longingly after him. There had still been a mouthful of water left. My mouth is no longer dry but my feet are starting to blister, I can feel them rubbing. I look to the clock. It has only just passed nine o’clock and I know from experience that Master’s parties last until the early hours of the morning. I usually get a break around midnight to freshen up but that feels too long a wait.

The other dancers are also looking fatigued. Their postures are wilting like dying plants but still they twist and bend with the grace they have left. My shoulders are aching and my thighs are numb. My legs begin to wobble and I can feel tears burning the backs of my eyes. Everything hurts. A guest vacates her seat to use the restroom and it takes all the willpower I have not to rush over to the table and collapse onto the empty seat. But I could never do that. If Master had cut out my tongue for messing up a note, he’d have my head if I were so brazen to take a seat at his table.

So I keep dancing. I step and twirl but I lose my footing. The puddle. Chris had not returned to clean it up. I slip. My heart is in my throat as I watch the hard wooden floor rise up to me. My body is twisted and I land at an awkward angle. I feel something snap and I cry out in agony when I collide with the floor.

Music ceases. Laughter stops. Conversations are cut off.

I hear a chair being scraped back and see Master rise to his impressive six foot four stature. His eyes are fierce and his nostrils are flared but his controlled mask does not crack. He crosses the room, gesturing to the band with a tight smile, “What happened to the music?” In an instant, the string quartet gets back to their instruments.

The sound of Master’s masculine heels clapping across the room is deafeningly loud with my ear so close to the wooden floor. My heart pounds as he nears. Now he has his back to the table. His guests do not see the monster I see.

He crouches beside me and looks down at my broken ankle. The bone is jutting out, nearly tearing through my skin. My eyes are blurry with tears of pain and fear. He tuts and touches the bone. I suck in a cry and bite down hard on my lower lip.

“It appears you can no longer dance, my darling,” he says, his voice smooth like silk. The sheet of sweat that covers my body thickens. He looks back up to my face, his opal eyes studying mine. “What good are you to me now?”


(word count: 1,746)

Submitted: June 28, 2016

© Copyright 2022 MissGangamash. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:


Amy R. Beckett

Uh-oh... Great ending, leaving it on a cliffhanger - it really lets your reader's imagination get to work!

Really interesting concept for a short story. I quite like the ambiguity of the scenario - you don't give away much in terms of the wider 'where', 'when', 'why' etc. but I think that helps us focus fully on the feelings of the dancer. The build up of tension was beautifully done and there were some great descriptive moments.

Brilliant work (as ever!) - thanks for the invite :)

Thu, June 30th, 2016 1:59pm


Thank you so much! Glad you liked it! I've been thinking about possibly turning this into a novella or even a novel if I can think of a big enough plot - this is just really a taster to see how people respond :)

Thu, June 30th, 2016 7:11am

Oleg Roschin

Your creativity and imagination enable you to concoct thought-provoking, enigmatic tales that beg for repeated readings. Very well-written, a fascinating read indeed.

Wed, July 20th, 2016 8:23am


Thank you! So glad I'm getting good feedback on this piece because I really want to extend it!

Thu, July 21st, 2016 12:39pm

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