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Prom Perdu

Nereid wasn't sure how they got to the strangely familiar brick box of a building, or why they were surrounded by a raucous crowd dressed in long dresses and tuxedoes. She really wasn't entirely pleased with this development. The sun had precipitately set not long before, and in the twilight she'd kept plodding along, even though Tam had tried to persuade her to rest. She was afraid that if she rested, she would sleep, and if she slept, she would not only never find Sophie, but she would never see home again.

She heard someone shout, "Humans! Humans have come!" and she wondered vaguely who would be eaten at this party.

Tam gripped her hand bruisingly while keeping a bright smile on his face. "Yes, humans, here, yes, indeed, we're glad to be here," he said to the various beings (most of them did look human, at least) who were propelling them along up the stairs. As they approached the multitude of glass doors, Nereid could read the name that was etched in concrete over them: CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL.

There were bright green and pink crepe paper streamers draped throughout the entryway. Several streamers framed a case of shining golden trophies, though the figures atop the trophies were... unusually shaped. No sprinting football players here; of them all, a hulking ogre, a writhing jabberwocky, and a figure on a broomstick caught Nereid's eye. Tam continued to tow her through the crowd.

Somewhere along the way, he had apparently donned a tuxedo. Who knew he had such powers?

Well, and somewhere along the way, her skintight costume had transformed into a frilly strapless dress of exactly the wrong shade of blue. The taffeta rustled. She was certain it looked just as horrible on her as her prom dress had. She didn't even have the advantage of professional assistance for her hair, which had been growing out and draggling around her face before she came to this place; she had no idea what it looked like now.

They were escorted into the gymnasium, which appeared to be precipitating confetti from the rafters in a steady downpour while flocks of predatory balloons circled overhead. A band, armed with mandolins, lutes, and cellos, played 1950s rock music on the stage. Their companions broke with a cheer onto the dance floor and began gyrating violently in a dance like nothing Nereid had ever seen before.

"I can't do that," she told Tam. "I don't even know what they're doing."

Tam watched with an experienced and critical eye. "Very little aesthetic sense to it. What is that they're doing with their hands?"

"Oh!" Nereid said after a moment's study. "They're, um, I think that's a... a version of the hand jive from the movie Grease."

"We should stay away from that corner of the room, I think," Tam said, nodding toward the darkest corner. Nereid could see two figures in tuxedoes circling each other with knives. The wrists of their non-knife-wielding hands appeared to be tied together with a thick rope.

Someone was steering her with a hand at the small of her back. It couldn't be Tam because he was still holding her hand. The crowd parted before her as someone bellowed through unexpectedly fuzzy-sounding loudspeakers, "And the dance contest is about to begin!"

In the center of the gymnasium was an extra-large gazebo thing, with graceful lines which managed to suggest both Art Nouveau design and eldritch tentacles. It appeared to be dripping little balls of white light, though other lights of more diverse colors were also circling the top of the structure. They were being herded toward it by the press, and swiftly, they were delivered onto the shining wooden floor. Other couples (and trios) squeezed out with them, and the band began to play. Tam swept her into his arms as dramatically as he could without socking someone in the eye.

"This isn't so bad," he said, trying to start dancing with some sort of steps. This led her to shuffle awkwardly and only just avoid him treading on her toes.

"I don't know how to dance," she mumbled apologetically.

"No lindyhop? Not even a foxtrot?" he said hopefully. He sighed when she shook her head. "Well, that's all right. Everyone else is shuffling too." And proceeded to shuffle to the music.

Nereid shuffled too. It was, she thought, a little like being turned on a rotisserie. She watched what she could over Tam's shoulder, such as the dance-knife-fight ending in a spurt of bright arterial blood that arced upward, where confetti and balloons dived down to catch it in hundreds of tiny mouths, and the vast, sprawling buffet table that was covered with a few hundred punch bowls. As she watched, people kept sidling up to random bowls and surreptitiously pouring things into them.

"They're spiking the punch," she said to Tam.

"Of course they are," he said. "That's what people do at dances, right?"

A nearby dancer shifted closer. "They're doing it right, aren't they?" she asked with concern, her perfect chignon not quite concealing the points of her ears. "It's very important that we get this right."

"Oh, yes!" Nereid exclaimed. "Entirely right!"

"I'm so glad to hear it," the man of the couple burbled through his copious red beard. "So glad!" They shuffled away.

The gazebo shifted restlessly under Nereid's feet.

"I think," she said thoughtfully, "that the floor is alive."

"It probably is," Tam said with resignation.

"So we're dancing on someone's... something?" Nereid said.

"Probably," he said.

"Ulgh," Nereid said. Her foot, shod only in a silk slipper, trod in something wet. She looked down, and her foot was in a glowing, silvery liquid. "Um?" she said, looking up at Tam.

"Pools of moonlight," he said. "Dunno where they're getting it in here."

Though Nereid had regretted coming on this adventure at least a thousand times since beginning it, she took a moment to regret it one more time.

The music coughed, tripped, and stumbled to a halt. There was some rough applause. A couple near them flapped their flipper things together in appreciation.

Tam clapped politely. "I could've done better," he muttered to her, "with one hand tied behind my back. But don't tell any of them that, or they'll make me do it."

A short, rotund, bespectacled man shoved through the crowd and seized her by the wrist. "WE HAVE THE WINNERS OF THE DANCE CONTEST!" he shouted, and dragged her toward the stage.

Nereid managed to seize Tam by the arm and drag him along after her. She tripped going up the stairs and was only saved by her guide being a great deal stronger than she'd thought him. He smiled down at her and she noticed that all his teeth were pointed, like a shark's.

Once on stage, someone came forward to give her an armful of flowers. Tam smoothly took them from the woman delivering them and passed them to Nereid. The delivery woman gave him a poisonous look; Nereid gave him a grateful one.

"LET'S HAVE A BIG ROUND OF APPLAUSE FOR OUR PROM QUEEN AND HER KING!" the announcer said without any obvious effort; apparently, his normal volume was a genteel yell. The room shook with the cheer from the audience. Tam intercepted the arrival of the tiara, inspected it briefly, then fitted it to Nereid's head.

Her head was pounding from the noise, and lack of sleep, and starting to be really ravenously hungry again. His hands were cool, and she pressed her forehead into them, wishing they could be anywhere quiet and green and on Earth.

The hot, sticky fluid that dropped on her from above hit with enough force to make them both stagger. When she opened her eyes, she knew what she was going to see: blood soaking through the sheer fabric of her dress.

The audience cheered again. People in the front row lunged for the stage, dabbling their fingers in the liquid at her feet. A few even took a stealthy lick or two.

There was a great deal of blood. The whole world got remote, the noise grew hollow. Her vision narrowed down to a tunnel. The hot metallic stench filled her nose, and she spat on the floor to get it out of her mouth. Almost without thinking about it, she yanked Tam from her left side to her right side, and didn't react to the heavy metal bucket that plummeted down where he'd been standing.

She took a few deep breaths through her mouth. Then she thought that perhaps she could rinse herself off.

What came from her hands, though, were gouts of red fluid, not her accustomed water. Whatever parts of her had been spared the gore from above were covered and she stared at her shaking hands as if they belonged to someone else.

When she looked up, a woman in green, with green eyes and blue hair, smiled broadly at her. Nereid blinked, looked again, but the woman was gone.

The audience was watching her in ecstasies. The band was playing something and people were dancing wildly all over the gymnasium. Even the gazebo had shifted closer. There were a large number of teeth.

Nereid took hold of Tam with one hand and began to shove her way off the stage with the other. When people wouldn't move, she would spurt a scarlet blast to one side, and some of the people in her path would dive for it. Tam was saying something, prying at her hand, shouting at her, but she kept moving resolutely. Eventually, the crowd began to part for her and fall in behind her curiously.

She pushed through the heavy metal doors and into the sweet clean air and silence of the hillside that sprawled away from the school. After panting heavily and staring into the darkness, she turned back to look inside.

The woman who'd spoken to her on the dance floor was in sight. Nereid gestured for her to come closer, and ended up with crowd huddled around her.

Nereid said, "You really want to do this properly, don't you?"

Round-eyed with anticipation of human wisdom, they all nodded.

"Then you need to lock the vampires inside," she said, "and set the whole place on fire."

There were cries of appreciation, and the proper woman said, "Of course! What genius! Um, what vampires?"

Nereid blinked. She'd taken for granted that there were vampires, given the reactions to flying blood. "Ah, the people with fangs. The announcer, for instance."

"Yes! Yes! The people with fangs must burn!" Her little mob turned back toward the gym, a few of them shoving at their own pointed teeth to flatten them out.

"Do you think that's really wise?" Tam said.

"Who cares?" Nereid said, dragging him down the hillside after her. "I have done a single smart thing since I got here. Fuck this, fuck it all, I just want to go home!" Her voice broke. Tears started spilling down her cheeks. They flowed in an oddly slow and viscous way, but she decided not to think about it.

Tam, for once, apparently decided that keeping silent was his best bet, and followed her tamely. Except for his pointing out a paved road they could take that she'd missed, they passed some time -- hours? days? -- in silence. Their way was lit for a considerable distance by the conflagration of the gym building behind them.

Hoofbeats pounded on the pavement behind them, and Nereid turned, dimly and drearily determined to fight whoever was coming after them from the prom. She shoved Tam behind her and stood with her hands dangling at her sides, just waiting.

A huge black form heaved over the small hilltop behind them. She felt her power tingle in her fingertips. She tensed.

Then a voice rang out.

"I could shake you until your teeth fell out of your head," said the Equestrian. "But I'm too damned glad to see you."

---

Note from the Author:

And I'm really not letting up on Nereid at all, am I? Even given the conclusion?

You have a few more days to hit the comment incentive goal for July: if I get 50 total comments from readers in July, I will post twice weekly through August. As before, if you all post 75 comments, I'll post twice weekly through September too. Get up to 100 comments, the twice-weekly postings continue through October.

And add-on to the incentive: reviews each count as 5 comments, a TVTropes page for WCS would count as 25 comments.









Date: 2011-07-29 12:45 am (UTC)
finch: (Default)
From: [personal profile] finch
Yay, she's rescued! Sort of and only in an immediate sense!

Also, the fairyland reenactment of Buffy wins pretty much everything.

Date: 2011-07-29 06:08 pm (UTC)
akycha: (Default)
From: [personal profile] akycha
I'm still wondering how many more gazebo jokes you could have crammed in there.

I do like the dumping blood everywhere. It happens at every prom, of course!

Date: 2011-08-01 06:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] interleaper.livejournal.com
Never having seen Carrie, or Grease, I wonder how much I'm missing here.

So, Tam intercepts a couple of things that could have been Faerie *gifts*. Earning his keep a bit there, I suppose, but by passing them on to Nereid, I wonder if she then becomes beholden to *him* by Faerie law? Ugh. I'm glad this one ended up with her significantly closer to being rescued.

And I wonder if the Equestrian knows Tam?

The gazebo

Date: 2016-10-26 05:18 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Years late on this, but the gazebo made me laugh - did you ever read that old Dnd story about it? (If it is a reference many kudos, if not thanks for the incidental laugh)

P.s great reading so far :)

Re: The gazebo

Date: 2016-10-26 02:56 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
It is absolutely a reference, thanks for catching it! :)

And thanks! FYI, this story arc is coming out as a (shined-up and pretty) novel innnn... less than a week? Hopefully? Just in case you're interested.

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