LOVE TO DANCE: THE SLICK PANTHER

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young man enters a Street Dance Competition and he embarks on a magical fantasy journey that mirrors the videos of Michael Jackson.

Submitted: May 23, 2012

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Submitted: May 23, 2012

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LOVE TO DANCE

 

Ryan had recently entered a Street Dance Competition.  He had got through to the Final which would be held at SouthPalm BeachCity on the West Coast in only a few days time.  He was excited about the show, a little bit nervous but only in a good way as he really wanted to win the competition and was very confident in what he was going to do for the show.

Right now however, he was at work and bored but his mind focused on the contest, he quickly glanced at the clock only a few more hours until home time, today seemed to be going slower than ever and he really needed to perfect a few new moves he wanted to add into his routine.  So when he found a quiet moment to himself he went into a small quiet room, he knew he wouldn’t be disturbed by anyone in here and so he began practising and working on the new moves then he ran through the whole routine putting the new moves in.  He was a perfectionist he was never fully happy until he’d nailed every step, every move to perfection.  Anyone who saw him would say he was a natural and that he was very talented, he himself always dedicated most of his time to practising, rehearsing and he was always striving to improve, to do better, and to be the best that he could be.  He couldn’t fully express himself in this small room, he always saved that for the stage where he loved to be the most doing what he loves best – dancing.

 

His friends had nicknamed him The Slick Panther as they would often compare his quick, yet sharp, smooth movements to that of the creature, and he didn’t mind this at all – he adopted this as his stage name, some of his colleagues had been ribbing him about the other competitors, but he never felt uncomfortable as he knew what his rivals could do, but he believed in himself, in his own abilities and what he was capable of so the other competitors didn’t worry him too much and he set his sights on winning the prize which was a touring show at some of the biggest venues and arenas in the world.

His love of dancing and performing all began when he was young.  He remembered seeing music videos on television, some of live concerts, others of pop videos, and they always caught his attention, he paid particular attention to the choreography, the movements, how the performers looked and how audiences loved the performers and thought to himself, “That’s what I want to do”.

 

He remembered practising routines in his room when no-one was around, trying out new moves, trying tricks and complicated footwork and co-ordination, and singing along to whatever he was listening to at the time.  He worked on his vocal abilities as much as his dancing – listening to the melodies, learning the lyrics, how emotions can be conveyed through a song, he also worked on how he would look and what he would wear if he ever got the chance to go on stage.

  At school, his friends were impressed with his abilities and he often would teach them routines he had learned during break-times in the school yard.  He liked to be a leader, choreographing their movements and having a lot of fun in the process.  The troubles for Ryan began when he entered the school talent show, some of the older boys, in particular a notorious bad boy Rick, was jealous of him, jealous of his talent and because he often got attention from girls for his dancing. 

  One afternoon in the school hall he’d put his name on this list to participate in the talent show, just as he was about to leave, Rick and his buddies Lee and Tony stood blocking the doorway preventing Ryan from getting past.

“This ain’t no school for dancers” said Rick. One of the other boys grabbed his bag and gave it to Rick.

“Whatcha you got in the bag, ballet shoes?!” he said.

“Give that back!” but before he had time to get it back off him, Rick opened the bag and tipped the entire contents onto the floor then ran off down the corridor laughing. 

  He picked up the scattered items and went back across the hall, he was just about to cross his name off the list when a girl with dark hair walked past him, she smiled at him as she was carrying various articles and stage props for a school play she took part in recently, she was in a different class to him, but he vaguely remembered seeing glimpses of her on the stage.  He looked up at the stage appearing to be lost in thought, the girl put down the items and noticed him and said to him, “Are you alright, can I help you with anything?”

Without looking back at her he was mesmerised by the stage the lighting the sound equipment, even the scenery at the back, then he said, “What’s it like?”

 “Sorry” she didn’t know what he meant.

 “On the stage, what’s it like to be up there?”

She walked over and sat perched on the edge of the stage looking at him smiling,

  “Oh, well, it can be a bit nerve-wracking at first but once you get into your performance and you know what you’re doing it can be a very enjoyable experience.” She jumped down off the stage and said “I’m Annie, my proper name is Michelle but my friends call me Annie-you know like the little orphan girl in the musical, I used to have curly hair and I always liked to sing, so they nicknamed me Annie and the name just stuck but I’m not an orphan though!”

  After this day he and Annie became friends, they sometimes would hang out together, having fun and larking about, and being with her meant he could forget about his troubles with Rick and his cronies for a while, they still bothered him, hurling insults at him but most of the time he just ignored it, until one lunchtime he found himself alone in the school yard for a while, his friends were on the sports field helping to set up for an event later on that afternoon but Ryan really wanted to practise for the contest, so he stayed on the yard.  There were other kids running about, some kicking a ball, others playing chase games but Ryan had a unique knack of being able to block out distractions around him and fully concentrate on what he was doing, he was going over some steps, counting in his mind and not aware of what was going on around him, he therefore hadn’t noticed Rick and his buddies, laughing together as they watched him.  Rick’s sneering jealous look, twisting his lip into a scowling grimace,

 “Who do you think you are?!” mocked Rick.  Ryan in his oblivious concentration hadn’t heard him.

“Oi, don’t ignore me!” Rick had moved in closer to Ryan who looked up at him.  The other boys began mock-imitating him.

 “What was all that about?” they said as they were laughing to each other.

“Well, I wouldn’t wanna be a dumb loser like you”, he answered.

A dark look crossed Rick’s face as he clenched a fist, “You calling me a loser?” he said.

“Yes I am, you’re a loser, and you’ll amount to nothing!”

One of Rick’s mates pushed him backwards as Rick stood mocking him, then they ran off laughing to each other.

He walked inside the building, he didn’t know where he was heading he just needed to get off that school yard.  He walked along the lonely corridor, his head down, feeling disheartened, trying to block out what had just happened, he hadn’t noticed Annie coming out from the dining hall,

 “Hi Ryan, what’s the matter?”, it was if she knew something was wrong.

“Nothing”, he didn’t look at her and he didn’t want to explain.

“Hey come on,” she took hold of his hand and led him to a small seated porch area just outside the building.  It was quiet here, he sat beside her, still not saying anything so to make conversation she said,

 “I heard you were entering the junior talent show”.

“Not sure if I wanna do it now,” he said.

“Oh, why’s that?”

“Maybe I’m just not cut out to be a dancer”.

“Of course you are, I’ve seen you dancing, and you’re very talented. What’s made you say this?”

He told her what had happened she listened to him, looking in his eyes and she hugged him when he’d finished speaking, and then she said to him,

“Don’t let them put you off. They are not worth giving up your dreams for”. 

 

She told him about the problems she had faced herself from other girls in her drama group who thought they were better than her and he didn’t feel so bad when she knew what he was going through, she placed a little kiss on his cheek and put a small bag of his favourite sweets in his hand. He smiled and he knew someday he would get his revenge on Rick and his buddies it was just a matter of when.

On the last day of school, Annie and Ryan had to go their separate ways, she had passed her exams and had got a job on the other side of the country, she didn’t really want to go but he told her it was an opportunity she should not miss out on, he on the other hand had to stay, he had won the junior talent contest and this had given him a scholarship place at the local dance academy.

 

Now he was here at work thinking about the big competition and he was ready to go home, as he left he was amused to see picture posters of him displayed around the area, the competition had generated a lot of media interest, and he’d recently given interviews for a local newspaper, TV, and radio.  Some people stopped him in the street to wish him luck for the competition, others wanted autographs or their photos taken with him, he felt flattered by the attention.  He also received letters in the post from fans, a lot of them were well meaning, a few were from females who’d sent him nice gifts and good luck charms, but there were one or two that were quite sinister, and these appeared to be from the same woman.  He vaguely remembered seeing a woman trying to grab hold of him as he left the stage in the preliminary rounds of the competition, and then at the semi-final he was shocked to see the same woman trying to get in his car, these incidents had shaken him up but he wasn’t going to let it put him off competing in the final.

 

On his day off from work, the day before the competition he caught up with some of his friends, they often liked to hang out with each other just messing about and having fun, and he was particularly excited today, showing off his skills and they joined in with him, a woman walked past him so he tried to get her attention by street dancing around her, she stopped walking to look at him and he buzzed off the attention from her performing little tricks and impressing her, as he got closer to her he stopped what he was doing, faint recognition in his mind as he said,

 “Annie?”

  He could hardly believe it, it was Annie, the last he remembered of her was them standing at the school gates on the last day of term and now she had grown into a woman.

They walked together and talked, reminiscing about their school days, laughing when they recalled the time when they both had detention and he had got up to the front of the class and had said to Annie, “Now pay attention”, she laughed as he began singing ABC by the Jackson Five, to her she joined in and he got carried away jumping onto the teachers desk, the teacher had left the room for a short while, so they were alone, and here he was dancing on her desk he was just about to back flip off her desk, when she walked in hands on her hips looking straight at him.  He hadn’t noticed but Annie was trying to get his attention,

 “What on earth is going on here?” the teacher asked.

He stopped, looking at her, and then looking at Annie who was giggling, as Annie said,

 “Oh, he’s just practising for the talent show”.

“Really?!” she said shaking her head at him as he got down off the desk, she put on her glasses pointed a finger at him and said, “Just make sure you win”.

 

 They still couldn’t believe to this day how he had not been suspended for that incident, and now here they were young adults talking and remembering those days. He took hold of her hand and had a mischievous look in his eye,

 “Come with me I wanna show you something”.

She let him lead her and next thing she knew was them both climbing into what looked like a ride of some sort, it was a capsule that looked similar to a rocket and the door closed when they were both inside-it was dark and there was a momentary pause before the ride launched high into the air, catapulting them at high fast gravity defying speeds, Annie shrieked as within an instant it descended rapidly towards the ground and coming to an abrupt halt.  The door opened and Ryan looked at Annie, her face was pale and she was shaking, he teased her about being scared,

“That wasn’t very funny” she said as she tried to gather her breath.

“Ha-ha, yes it was” he replied. “You know you had no reason to be scared.”

She looked bemused by this comment, “Oh and why’s that then?”

He smiled, “Because you were with me, I would never let anything harm you, you know that don’t you Annie”.

She still didn’t understand.

“I would never have let you go on there if I didn’t think you’d be safe with me”. He said.

She shook her head, smiling, and then laughing, laughing at herself for being scared and realising she was okay and that she did enjoy the experience.

 

  As they walked away from the ride, they were approached by a gang, Ryan instantly recognised them as Rick and Tony and Lee from school, they were goading him so now was his perfect chance to exact his revenge on them, he’d heard how they had been in and out of jail, how they had gotten in with mafia boss Mr Daneo’s mob and the trouble they’d been causing around the neighbourhood.  Well recently Ryan had seen a few martial arts films and decided to incorporate some of the discipline and moves from the films as well as some pretty tricky stunts into his routines.

“You think you’re bad, watch this!” he taunted them as he launched into a fast paced street dance routine with martial arts moves, he flipped off walls, off stairs and railings and just when they thought he had disappeared he jumped from out of an empty warehouse window somersaulting and taking a swinging kick at Rick knocking him to the floor, he looked over at him and said,

“Never ever cross me again.”

They ran off in shame but swore they would get their revenge on him, but Annie was proud of him that he finally paid Rick his dues for making his life a misery.

 

The next day was the morning of the competition Ryan had a bag packed and was leaving for the coast he would be meeting Annie there and they would spend a bit of time together before his show later in the evening.  When he arrived he checked into a small motel his room had a nice view overlooking the beach and over to the far side he could see large trucks and people setting up the stage area for the show, his adrenaline began to kick in he knew his moment would come when he would shine.  He went out for a walk to take in the sea air, to steady his growing nerves and to just enjoy the scenery.  He saw Annie sitting on a seat on the beachside, they walked along the sea front talking about the show, he told her what his plans were if he won, and it meant a lot to him that she believed in him and that she would be there for him that night, his nerves lessened a little when he thought of her in the audience looking up at him, he was now really looking forward to the performance.

 

 As they walked along the boulevard Annie became concerned that there appeared to be someone watching them and following them, Ryan joked that she was just being paranoid that she had too much sea air that she should lie down in the shade for a while.  She laughed it off too until they stopped to look out at the horizon and Annie saw a woman staring at them then the woman approached them, went straight up to Ryan and kissed him on the cheek.  She cast an evil-envious eye at Annie, looking her up and down, and she said to her,

“You shouldn’t take what doesn’t belong to you.” Then she looked at Ryan and said, “I was at your show the other night, I sent you those letters, remember?”

It dawned on him that it was the same woman who tried to get in his car.

“Who is she?” asked Annie looking worried, she squeezed Ryan’s hand fearing what the woman was going to say or do next.

He didn’t know the woman personally but he had heard rumours about a woman who used different names and would hang out at music shows waiting at the side of the stage and would follow them to their hotel rooms, or get into their cars, some were flattered by the attention but they didn’t realise the woman was seriously unhinged.  The rumour was that she would seduce the guys and steal their money whilst they slept, if not money then anything of value they happened to have on their possession the time, watches, credit cards anything and disappear then without trace, some said that if she didn’t get her own way or the men rejected her she would turn vicious and threaten their girlfriends.

The woman said, “Do you not remember? I came to your show the other night; I was in your car, very nice it is too”.

Ryan knew that the woman was lying, she had tried to get into his car but he had managed to drive away and escape her evil clutches.

“What is she talking about?” asked Annie.

“Nothing, she is a liar”.

“Oh, dear poor girl! How very naïve! Do you not know what goes on backstage after shows?” the woman said with a twisted evil grin.

“What do you mean?” she asked her.

Ryan began to get angry and said, “Go home, you are a liar, leave her alone”.

 The woman pulled out from her small clutch bag what looked like bits of paper of some sort. There were two photographs, one was of a picture of Annie and Ryan together but what this woman had done was torn out the picture of Annie and stuck a photo of herself next to him, there was a note with newspaper cuttings made of letters that spelled out words of threats. Then she took something else out of her bag, a photo of a baby, and gave it to Annie, she laughed as she saw the confused look on Annie’s face and then made some ludicrous accusations that it was his, Ryan knew she was lying, but Annie walked away throwing the photo on the floor in tears, the woman laughing as he tried to go after her.

“It’s lies, Annie, it’s lies, I swear to you I do not know this woman”, he was telling the truth but how could he convince her and it hurt him to some degree that Annie did not believe him, especially after everything they had been through together, but then how was Annie to know what that woman was capable of?

“Annie, come back! Please Annie she’s lying” he shouted to her as she was walking some distance away from him.

  As he tried to catch up with her he was surrounded by a group of photographers and journalists who were taking photos and asking him questions about the competition, he didn’t have time to talk now he needed to get to Annie; he had to convince her that the woman had been lying.  As he managed to break free of the group he could see Annie in the distance and he was shocked to see Rick and his mates capturing her and putting her into the back of Mr Daneo’s car, “Oh, no!” he thought to himself as he knew she was in danger with Mr Daneo he was a nasty piece of work who often took sick delight in tormenting people.

  He managed to track down the car to a deserted, empty house.  It was next to the local cemetery and had an eerie, unearthly atmosphere about it.  He got to the front door and he was easily able to get in as it was hanging off its hinges due to wood rot and infestation of insects that gnawed their way through it. Inside was fairly dark, small creatures burrowed their way into tiny nooks and he searched the house for Annie. He could hear a commotion coming from an upstairs room, it sounded like chanting and then he could hear Annie’s screams as he raced through the house, a figure jumped out at him from the shadows grabbing his arm to stop him going past, his skin was mottled, his teeth rotten and black and his hair was matted and looked like it had dried blood and earth in it.

“What do you want?” he growled.

Thinking quickly Ryan replied, “I’ve come for the meeting with Daneo”.

The figure looked at him then let go of his arm and stood back to let him pass.

 

  He came to a narrow staircase and then when he reached the top he could hear ghastly noises coming from behind a door, his heart beating and palms sweating he took a deep breath and opened the door, the sight that greeted him was horrifying.  There were a crowd of inhuman like creatures; they were unsightly and grotesque in form and appearance and they were chanting inaudibly. Rick and his gang were there at the front, they too appeared inhuman-like.  They appeared to be facing something, his eyes followed them to where they were facing and his heart sank as he saw Annie on a raised platform tied up with a snarling, growling dog-like creature in front of her and Mr Daneo stood besides her pointing a weapon at her, as Mr Daneo received a call on his mobile phone that meant he had to leave the building for a while he gave strict instructions to the mob to not do anything to her until he got back.  While this had been going on Ryan was thinking how he could get through them and rescue Annie and get her out of there. He started to act like one of them and pretending he too was after her he began street dancing them into a heightened frenzy they joined in thinking that he was going to attack her but all the while his mission was to rescue her when he had got close enough.  For some unknown reason to Ryan, the creatures without warning ran off and disappeared like dogs that had been injured or frightened, whimpering and whining as they scurried off into the night and to Annie’s horror she shrieked as she saw the form of a woman approaching her, it was the stalker, she grabbed hold of Annie pulled her hair back and held a knife to her throat.

“Leave her alone” he shouted.

“Dance with me”. The woman said to him pointing the weapon at him. “Or watch your precious little Annie suffer” she said as she pointed the blade into the skin of her neck.

He didn’t want to but he felt he had no choice, she laughed as she cast Annie a self-satisfied smirk and knowing it would make her jealous.

The woman hadn’t realised that as she was distracted, Annie was trying to free herself as she had sensed that Ryan was the one in the real danger, and within the instant had Annie leapt onto the woman, pushing her over, there was a bit of a scuffle but she managed to knock the knife out of her hand, just as she was about to use it.

“You saved my life!” he said to her.

“I’m sorry I didn’t believe you”. She said hugging him.

“Come on lets get outta here”.

 

 At that moment Daneo came running in and seen the commotion that had been going on he completely lost his mind and began randomly firing his gun the loud shots rang out as Ryan and Annie began running towards the exit, Annie slowed down as she had been hurt during the scuffle with the woman, as she slowed she stopped and looked down, there was blood coming from her stomach and in her weakness collapsed on the floor.  Ryan had run on ahead and hadn’t realised,

“C’mon Annie catch me up!” he said laughing he always knew he could out run her, “Aw, c’mon Annie, I’ve got my show remember? Annie?” he sensed something was wrong when she didn’t come following him out of the house. 

 He went back inside and was distraught to see her lying there on the ground covered in blood; he thought that she was dead.  Daneo and the woman laughed mocking him, and this began his fire-like rage.  He looked down at Annie just lying there motionless, and he could hear the mocking, cackling insults coming from, he closed his eyes deep in thought, a mixture of grief and anger was boiling from within him, and then he opened his eyes.

 The woman faltered as she thought she saw a steely-red glint in his eyes almost like that of a savage beast, his demeanour had changed and he clenched his fists as he let out a deafening, loud thunderous cry of anguish that sounded to them like a growling roar and it terrified them.  They recoiled backwards as he began trashing random objects in the room, smashing anything, knocking over chairs and tables, throwing everything aside and his focus firmly on the two who had caused all this, and then he stopped, and let out an even louder earth shattering sound that caused the house to vibrate, windows smashed, with shards of glass flying everywhere and the reverberations of the sound caused the already weakened structure of the house to buckle beneath the weight, and the whole building collapsed down around them crushing them instantly, in the distance he could hear the sound of approaching sirens so he quickly escaped into the night.

 

It was early evening, Ryan was in his motel room looking out of the window, and there was a calm serene beauty of the setting sun casting a golden-ruby glow in the sky. He held a small box in his hand and then opened the window and scattered pink rose petals that cascaded out towards the sea in the gentle breeze, it was a beautiful and poignant moment for him and as he stood at the window his mind was full of memories, of the recent events, and memories of Annie, like a collection of photographs in his mind playing like a slide show as he recalled happier, fun times they had spent together like the time when she used to sneak up behind him, the time when they walked through the park the kiss they shared under the blossom trees, and when he chased her and threw her in the fountain, how he laughed at her soaking clothes, her wet hair and the look on her face when he ran off to queue at the ice cream van acting innocent and then returning without one for her.  She had got him back for that by hiding behind the door and blasting him with a water-pistol when he walked in, he remembered the pillow fights they had and pulling her clothes out of the wardrobe and throwing them on the floor like rags.  He remembered how they became friends and when she comforted him when he lost his best friend Ben.  Ben was a little dog he had since a puppy, whenever Ryan had troublesome times at school, Ben was always there greeting him with affection when he got home, some days when he was down Ben would come bounding over to him, resting his head on his lap or just sitting beside him, he took that dog everywhere he could with him, but he was knocked for six when Ben had been ill and on returning home from school, he was heartbroken to learn Ben had passed away.  He shut himself in his room for days afterwards, he couldn’t eat, or sleep, he didn’t want to do anything, but he remembered how Annie was there for him, just to talk to if he needed, she had a way of helping him take his mind off whatever was worrying him but now she was gone.

 

The sun disappeared beyond the horizon and the darkness came all too quickly for him, he stepped back away from the window turning to the silent empty room he held a small photo of her in his hand but couldn’t look at it anymore.  He looked up wondering why this had happened, why she wasn’t here, why he was feeling like this.  There was a heavy-aching in his heart that weighed him down, almost crushing him like a hole was being pierced right through it as he tried to go over to the chair in the far corner he couldn’t make it, it was all too much for him, holding his head in his hands he collapsed to the floor, here he was all alone fighting these emotions that were welling up inside him, he didn’t want to feel like this, he just wanted the night over, wanted her with him, he wondered how he would ever make it through the night, during his most deepest darkest point of despair he looked up at the window and saw a shooting star blazing across the sky, and then he heard a sound, the sound of a crowd, and music, then he remembered the competition.

What use was that now, he didn’t very much feel like dancing but then he heard something else, it sounded like they were chanting his name, he got up looked out of the window and saw a large crowd gathered by the stage and beneath the window, and sure enough they were chanting his name, it was an incredible sound that lifted his heart and his spirit, and there he saw his friends,

 “Come on were waiting for you.” They called to him.

He put the photo of Annie inside his jacket pocket and went outside.

 

This was his moment.  On stage he gave the best performance of his life, he was such a natural, entertaining dancer and the crowd joined in, for that moment all his troubles seemed to have disappeared as he thrilled the crowd and really got into the moment and he danced and danced until he couldn’t dance no more. 

 The judges were unanimous in their decision – he had won.  They presented him with a trophy and asked him to do an encore performance – so he gladly took to the stage doing what he loved best – dancing! 

 His energy was infectious, the crowd loved him but in the middle of dancing an image of Annie appeared in his mind…Annie…how he missed her…

 …he stopped stark still…

 …the music stopped…

 …the crowd fell silent…

In his silent thoughts a single spotlight shone on him as he closed his eyes and began to sing a beautiful heart-wrenching song.  It was moving and emotional for him and he struggled to get through the words, but his voice never wavered once and the crowd joined in with him it was an amazing sound and helped him get through to the end of the song.

  He hadn’t seen Annie who had just made it to the foot of the stage; someone had found her at the scene of the house and had her taken to hospital she had come round from her state of unconsciousness, her wound had been treated and she had discharged herself so that she could be there for him, she almost didn’t make it as she had to travel some distance to get there, and there she was in the middle of the crowd looking up at him… and then he saw her… he could hardly believe his eyes and thought that he was seeing a ghost or perhaps somebody that looked like her, but he couldn’t take his eyes off her and called her up onto the stage, the security let her up and she ran to him throwing her arms around him, they almost forgot the crowd as they embraced each other then she joined him in a song and the crowd loved it. It was a night they would never forget.

 

Back at work Ryan sat at his desk, the next day he would be leaving for his world-wide tour, right now he was happy looking at the trophy glistening on his desk with his name etched on a plaque and the words The Slick Panther: Street Dance Champion.  A copy of the newspaper was on his desk too with his photograph and story of how he’d won the competition, there was also a small photo of Michael Jackson in the corner, Ryan thought he could have sworn he saw it winking at him, but he just shook his head, smiling.

 

 


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