Raquel was simply stunning. Easily the most beautiful girl in the blossoming town of El Paso, all the men tripped over their own feet attempting to win her heart. She was, however, a notorious flirt and tease—and a phenomenal dancer. Her only requirement for her prospective suitors was that they be able to keep up with her on the dance floor.
One particular evening in late October, Raquel was having an exceptionally wonderful night. Her feet hardly seemed to touch the floor as she whirled gracefully from partner to partner, shaming the men courageous enough to try to keep pace with her wild, yet graceful movements. She laughed as she danced, red skirts flying, delighting in the frustration she caused each of them (and consequently, their female counterparts). After hours of merciless teasing and cuckolding, Raquel excused herself for a brief respite from the dance floor. This was, of course, met with both wistful sighs from the men and jealous sniffs from the other women.
While reposing near the small raised dais where the mariachi band was playing, Raquel happened to spy a strikingly handsome young man in an extravagant black suit. It was not uncommon for youthful tycoons who struck it rich to pass through El Paso, but this man was truly exceptional. He was tall, with deep-set eyes that gleamed with a mischevious sparkle. His face was elegantly formed, strong, clean-shaven jaw jutting beneath wide-set cheekbones. Upon spotting her, he smoothly doffed his cap and gave the beautiful temptress an elaborate bow. He smiled as he strode confidently over to Raquel, revealing rows of perfect, gleaming white teeth, and as he neared her, she felt her heart race and her breath catch in her throat.
In a low, baritone rumble he simply asked, "Care to dance?"
Astonished, partly by the fact that he was so stunning, and partly by the fact that she was so flustered by him, Raquel could only nod and take the hand that he proferred as he led her to the center of the room. The band fell silent and the crowd parted for the couple, clearing a large space for them to perform what would invariably be a dance to remember for years to come.
The mysterious gentleman bowed deeply, and Raquel curtsied in turn as the band began to play a lively, up-tempo tune. And then they began to dance.
They stepped simply at first, each becoming familiar with the other's movements. As some onlookers later claimed, the two moved as though halves of a whole—each fluid step moving seamlessly into the other, both dancers flowing in perfect unison and perfect time with the music. Quickly, the two began to perform more and more complex movements, gracefully twirling across the floor as though on a cushion of air.
What happened next is a point of some contestion. Some say that the band began to pick up the tempo (to test the limits of the dancers, it was supposed). Others argue that the couple simply began to move faster, and the music changed to keep pace with them. However, all agree that the duo began to step faster, their whirling dance becoming a blur of dips, spins, and leaps.
As the band reached a climactic crescendo in the music, the gentleman took Raquel in his arms and they began to spin. Slowly at first, then faster and faster and faster. Their feet flew across the floorboards as the music rose to a near-hysterical pace. And as they rotated, Raquel began to realize that this was no ordinary dance—and no ordinary stranger.
She locked eyes with her partner and noticed for the first time their unusual hue—a deep, unsettling crimson. He began to laugh, a low bellowing rumble that sent chills down her spine. Their whirling began to make her feel faint, but she found that she couldn't let go of the enigmatic stranger; her hands clasped his in a white-knuckled death grip as they circled around and around.
Soon all that the astonished onlookers could see was a black-and-red blur, and most agree that the pair was no longer dancing on the floor. They had risen several inches into the air, circling around faster than any eye could see. The bandmembers frantically beat out the tempo, terrified and exhausted, but unable to cease their rhythmic tune. Sweat beaded on their foreheads as muscles strained to their breaking point to keep pace with the otherworldly beat.
Suddenly, Raquel let out an ear-piercing shriek and fell to the ground. As suddenly as he had appeared, the gentleman in the black suit was gone. In his wake, he left only a faint scent of sulfur… and Raquel.
Concerned, the other dancers crowded around to see what had become of their most beautiful flower, and were shocked and dismayed by the sight that confronted them. Raquel lay, limbs contorted at grotesque angles, her face frozen in a mask of fear. All color had been leeched from her once supple brown skin, and her voluptuous body had become a shriveled husk of papery skin and bone. The only indication that this lifeless corpse was, in fact, her was the bright red skirt she had been wearing, now hanging limply at her withered waist.
To this day, women in bars and at clubs quietly gossip with each other about dancing with a mysterious red-eyed young man who dances as though possessed.
The concept behind this story is taken from a popular Hispanic folktale. I cannot take credit for the tale itself, only my particular adaptation. I've heard it told many times by close family members of mine, and I am simply putting in writing one of my favorite childhood stories.
The setting of El Paso is merely a familiar framing in which to place the reader: this story actually originated from various small camps of migrant workers in the Old West (as is the case with many of these tales). Oddly enough, written records from that time indicate that pioneers began hearing this tale as far north as modern-day Montana and as far south as Arizona—around the exact same time. Now, if you know anything about the spread of information during this point in American history, you understand that communication in the territories was limited at best. I personally found it decidedly strange to see this story cropping up in so many places at once within such a short time frame. Something to consider.
Author Information: Unknown
Story Title or Titles: Dancing With The Devil
Original Source: Unknown
Date: Unknown. Posted by Raaxis at the Foundation wiki on 19 Nov 2010.