The Dancing Corpse
By Jake Tri, Illustrated by Andy Sciazko
(From Nightmare Soup 2: The Second Helping)
“Grab your bike and follow me…” Tim’s eyes were wide and fiery as he stood on Jimmy’s front porch, his breathing heavy and quick as he beckoned his friend to come outside.
Jimmy opened the front door. “What’s going on?” He had seen this look many times before; it usually meant they were going to do something they shouldn’t.
“You just have to see. Come on, hurry, before someone else finds it.
Jimmy took a deep breath. How many times had he gone on one of these adventures only to end up grounded for two weeks or in some other kind of trouble?
“Are you just going to stand there or what?” Tim asked, urging him on. “I’m telling you, this is something you need to see.”
“Just tell me what it is.”
“No, you won’t believe me, just come on.”
Jimmy rolled his eyes. “Fine… but I swear, if we get in trouble this time, you’re taking all the blame. Remember who had to wash Mr. Spencer’s car for two weeks because you threw those eggs. Yeah, it was me.”
“This isn’t anything like that!” Tim shot back, his movements and voice both filled with impatience.
“Okay, okay, let’s go.”
Jimmy hopped on his bike and followed Tim down the street towards the “The Court,” a cul-de-sac where all the neighborhood kids gathered to play capture the flag, or have water balloon fights. Jimmy could barely keep up as Tim blazed down the street, his legs peddling frantically.
“Hey! Slow down! Jimmy yelled.
“Peddle faster!” Tim responded.
As they reached the end of the street where the pavement opened to a large circle, Tim dumped his bike at the curb and dashed around to the back of Danny Fletcher’s house. Jimmy was right behind him. Everyone knew that this was the best way to the train tracks, an area Jimmy was specifically told never to go, but parental warnings had never stopped their adventures before, and this time was no different.
The path to the tracks was almost mystical, something straight from the pages of Huckleberry Finn. A sprawling, golden wheat field hugged a thick wooded region, and a slim area of flattened grass in between led them to their destination. The last time the two boys had been back here, they stumbled upon an old junkyard, and to a 12-year-old boy, that’s nearly the same thing as finding buried treasure.
“You know how we wanted to build a go-cart? Well I came back here earlier to find a steering wheel.” Jimmy grabbed a large stick and started knocking down the brush as they entered the woods. “When I was headed back, I took a wrong turn that led to an old bridge by the train tracks. That’s where I found it… under that bridge.”
“You’ll see… I’m going to warn you though, think of the worst thing you’ve ever seen. This is worse than that.”
Jimmy stopped in his tracks. “Wait… worse than the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life? Worse than the time Matt Morrison broke his leg and the bone was sticking out of the skin?
“What if I don’t want to see this…thing?”
“It’s not going to hurt you. Quit being a wuss.”
Tim continued to knock back wild brush and tree limbs as they followed the path. They soon came to a split, one way leading to the junkyard, the other to the train tracks.
“Come on, it’s this way.”
The grassy pathway soon turned to dirt as the woods started to thin. Jimmy’s stomach started to knot up—what could be worse than a bone sticking out of someone’s leg?
A large maple tree stood at the end of the path, almost like a guardian. A large “X” was carved into the trunk. Jimmy didn’t know what that meant, but it made the knot in his stomach tighten even more.
As they passed the maple tree and exited the woods, the dirt path ran right into the train tracks. Jimmy raised his hand to shield his eyes from the baking August sun, and as he looked down the line of rusted steel, he saw an old abandoned bridge about 50 yards away.
The concrete was cracked and covered in faded graffiti. Even out here the bridge couldn’t escape the nocturnal hooligans and their spray paint.
“You ready for this?” A bead of sweat dripped from Tim’s forehead as the same wide-eyed glare returned to his face.
“Let’s just get this over with.”
Jimmy took a couple steps forward, and that’s when the smell stung his nostrils. It was absolutely putrid, so vile and rank that his gag impulse kicked in, forcing him to cough and spit on the ground. It was like road kill mixed with fresh sewage. “What is that smell!”
Tim just covered his nose with his shirt and continued forward.
Shadow bathed the area under the bridge — it seemed unusually dark for how bright it was outside, almost like the bridge was trying to hide something. But the boys stepped closer, slowly revealing that secret.
A shoe was the first thing Jimmy saw, a black dress shoe, scuffed and faded from the dirt and sun. It was the only thing sticking out of the shadows. As he got closer, his gaze followed the shoe to a pant leg, dress pants, blue… maybe black, he couldn’t tell. Jimmy’s eyes adjusted to make out a figure hunched over in the darkness, propped up against the wall. He could see a white dress shirt covered in dark, reddish-brown splotches. Was that dried blood? His mind started piecing together the grizzly image before him. It was blood… lots of blood. A blood-soaked tie, striped and ugly—a stale yellow and dull blue—led up to a face… a horrifying, nightmare-inducing face.
The skin was leathery and pale, almost greyish in tint, but with splatters of yellow, and a specific shade of green that only shows up in thick mucus. Rotting flesh gave way to deep red holes and dried crusty boils.
The area around the lips was jagged and torn, revealing a gruesome, permanent smile, and its eyes were partly eaten away, set deep into their nearly-hollow sockets.
The full image of the corpse finally hit Jimmy, and he immediately fell to his knees and threw up his lunch. “That’s a dead body…”
“Yeah, I know.” Tim still had his shirt up to his nose.
“We need to call the police, or tell our parents, like right now!”
Jimmy stood up and wiped his mouth. Tim was right, this was by far the worst thing he had ever seen.
“We will… we will. But I have to show you something first.”
“What else could you possibly show me! It’s a dead guy just rotting here. There is blood. He was probably murdered or something!”
Tim pulled out his cell phone and started scrolling through it. “I was scared just like you when I first saw this, so I pulled out my phone to take a picture, but my hands were shaking so bad that I dropped it on the ground. Somehow my ringtone went off, and when that happened, I swear, Jimmy, it moved.”
“What do you mean it moved?”
“I mean it moved!”
“That’s… that’s impossible.”
Tim pressed a button on his phone and a light-hearted jingle started playing. The two boys immediately looked over to the corpse. Nothing happened.
“See, I told you, now let’s get out of here and go tell the cops.”
Tim moved closer to the corpse while slowing turning up the volume on the jingle. Suddenly one of the legs started to slightly wiggle. “There it was! Did you see that! It moved!”
Jimmy immediately backed away. “How can that happen. Could he still be alive?”
“Jimmy, look at him. Does it look like he could still be alive?
Jimmy again gazed into the cold, dead stare of the corpse. “No, he’s definitely dead.”
The terror gripping both boys soon turned to a frightened curiosity.
“I’m going to try playing something else.” Tim opened his music app and selected a heavy metal song. The guitars and wailing of the lead singer echoed off the concrete walls.
Both legs immediately sprang to life, violently jerking and flailing around; its arms soon followed. The boys ran to the other side of the bridge in sheer panic.
Tim turned the music off and the corpse’s arms and legs flopped to the ground, lifeless as they should have been.
Jimmy had played this game long enough. “This is insane! We need to get out of here right now!”
“Just one more time. I need to get this on video so people will believe us.”
“Fine, then we are going straight to our parents.”
Tim nodded in agreement and walked back up to the corpse, he turned the phone’s volume up as loud as it could go and selected a hard-hitting rap song with heavy bass. As soon as the music started, the corpse began to “dance” again. It was jerking, vibrating, pulsating, convulsing. Its arms and legs jumped off the ground as if being electrocuted.
Tim started moving closer and the movements became more violent.
“Tim, that’s close enough, man.”
But Tim ignored Jimmy’s warning, again stepping closer with his phone held out in front of him.
“Tim! That thing is going to touch you!”
But Tim kept moving, his gruesome curiosity propelling him forward.
Tim put the phone up to the corpse’s ear, or what was left of it. At this point the corpse was shaking so violently that its body had slumped over, nearly dancing away from the wall completely. Every inch of the corpse was now vibrating and pulsing.
Suddenly the stomach of the corpse started to rapidly expand. Tim knelt down to get a better look as Jimmy screamed at him from the other side of the bridge. “Tim get away from that thing now!”
But it was too late. The stomach of the corpse erupted like a volcano, spewing thousands of squirming maggots all over Tim’s face and body. More maggots exploded from the corpse’s legs and arms, and finally from the eye sockets.
The maggots writhed and jittered; their bodies pulsed and jerked as the music blared. Tim screamed in horror as they slithered through his hair and under his shirt.
Jimmy ran over to Tim and grabbed his phone, the music wouldn’t turn off, so he threw it against the wall as hard as he could, shattering it to pieces. As soon as the music cut off, the maggots stopped squirming. Tim was still screaming as he ripped his shirt off and shook the excess maggots from his skin.
The boys backed away in disgust, the taste of vomit filling their mouths, as they watched the maggots slowly crawl back into the corpse and continue feeding on its rotting flesh.