This is the last chapter in the book that I have called "AO".
Dance or Death
There was an eerie silence in the room. It was almost as if everyone expected something to happen that was not very likely to happen. Like, Rand coming back. (For a few moments they let themselves believe he had just stepped out for a drag on a cigarette since they all knew he smoked.) But when Rand had been out longer that the usual amount of time for “just a smoke”, it became clear that he was not coming back, and if he did it might not be in peace.
Their minds raced back over the events of the, admittedly, short period of time they had actually begun knowing each other. Actually, there were more unanswered questions than answers, and they ranged from who AO actually was, and who Rand was and who Shana and Alex actually were.
AO cleared his throat. “Alex, and Shana, whatever happens in the next few minutes, or even in the next little while, remember this. An enemy did this. It is not your fault, or Rand’s.”
“What do you mean, AO?”
“You are… we are… about to come under attack.” AO replied. “But do not be afraid.”
“How can we ‘not be afraid’ when we are about to be attacked?” Shana shrieked.
“Remember what I told you.”
“Remember what you told us?”
“The danger is getting serious, isn’t it, AO?”
“Yes, it is, Shana.” AO paused. “I know you are well equipped for this fight, since you have your own weapons. But for this fight, you are going to have a somewhat supernatural weapon.”
“What does that mean?”
“Let me explain like this. Alex, your personality is something like a sword. Shana, you are something like a sledgehammer. Very effective in certain types of fights.”
“Yes.” Both Shana and Alex replied at once.
“Our enemy has already been getting ready for their next attack. They have been planting land mines and other such. To survive this battle, you are going to have to dance.”
“We are going to have to dance?!” Alex scoffed.
“Yes, Alex. The mines are too many and too dangerous to ‘just walk’”.
“Why do we have to dance? What good will it do?”
“What benefit will there be in making ourselves dance?”
“Very simply, if you do not dance, you will die.”
“Die?!” Shana shrieked.
“Yes, the mines are placed so that if you step on them they will explode and ‘take you out’.”
“You mean they will kill?”
“Maybe not kill, but you might just lose a limb, or a leg…and you will be lame and not able to function for a time. At least, that is the enemy’s plan for you.”
“And dancing will help how?”
“These mines are designed to explode when triggered by having the full weight of a foot placed on them.”
“So, when you dance, there is chance that you will miss the mines. And if you don’t , and accidently land on one, the full weight of your foot will not land on it and the mine will not explode.”
“So… dancing is sort of a defensive weapon…” Alex mused out loud.
“Exactly. Sometimes you dance because you enjoy it and are ‘feeling it’ and other times you must dance because your life depends on it.”
“My life depends on it? But I don’t know how to dance,” Shana admitted presently.
“You will. In fact,” AO strode over and took Shana’s hand and helped her to her feet, “I will teach you how to dance. Come, dance with me, Shana.”
“And you, Alex?”
“Ah, um, well , I can dance well enough, I suppose.” Alex stammered, not really knowing what AO was going to come up with next.
“Here, take Shana’s hand.”
Alex and Shana stared at AO. “Of course, I mean it. Take hands. Now dance, like this.”
They were somewhat awkward, at first. Shana had not allowed any other man to touch her before this… except for AO. And certainly, Alex did not have any particularly fond feelings or thoughts about Shana.
It would be fair to say that they did not trust each other.
“AO, why are you making us do this?” Alex blurted the question, after several start and stop moves that were stiff at best and standoffish completely.
“Yes, AO. Why do WE have to dance?” chimed in Shana.
“I need you two to learn how to be a team. And the dance is a good way to do that.” Said AO as matter of factly as if he was simply discussing the weather.
The look on both of their faces must have been incredulous.
“Oh, I know what the problem is,” AO chuckled after a few moments. “You think you have to actually have feeling for each other to actually be able to dance.”
“Well, you don’t. It is possible to hate each other, which it is obvious you do.”
“But I don’t hate—“ Alex and Shana spluttered the same words at almost the same time.
“What is so insanely funny?” asked Alex.
“You guys go to the greatest lengths to try to save face. I suppose you have no idea if you love each other or hate each other, you have told yourselves different things so many times you have lost track of which it is.”
“And what is so funny about that?”
“The fact that you both know the truth and are trying so hard to convince yourselves it isn’t true.”
“What is the truth?”
“Are you sure you want to know?” AO seemed to be teasing, but neither could tell for sure.
“This has all the markings of a ‘lover’s spat.”
Alex was not sure if he had heard correctly. One glance at Shana confirmed it. He had.
Shana was “beet red” and looked furious.
“AO! How dare you…” Shana spluttered.
There was a bright flash in the room at that exact moment and an unearthly, though hearty laugh.
Shana and Alex ducked and lifted their arms to shield their faces from whatever was causing the flash of light, or explosion.
When they realized there was no explosion, and no destruction and that they were still alive and in one piece, they opened their eyes and looked around cautiously for AO.
He had disappeared.