October 6: Yukon Cornelius negotiates with Ghosts at his nieces prom

After the chaos, the screams, and a hundred prom kids running through purple and pink lights, and after a little persuasion, I convinced the ghosts of the 1913 flood to come down to the floor to talk to me, to us. They descended from the ceiling of my niece’s high school gym through the cardboard stars hanging on fishing line, carrying their own river haze with them, until they all dangled just above the floor. One of the spectral women looked around the gym. “The water was up to the ceiling of the house. We were all asleep. It was so fast. The water.”  One of the kids said that the flood had killed over 900 people in several states. “We were dancing around the barn just the night before.” She looked at the faces of the kids in bright prom dresses and tuxedos. “Like you.” She looked back at me, and the room just stayed quiet for minutes. Kids held each other. No one moved. The ghosts floated in ripples… like they were in water. “It was right here,” she said, moving her hand across us all, as if the gym had been a barn, a field, a house. “I’m so sorry,” I told them. They stared at us. They were waiting for me to tell them what to do now, now that their whole world had ended in a night, a night that they seemed trapped inside forever. I didn’t know what to tell them. I looked at all the faces of the kids, some of them drying their eyes from their own fear. They’d expected to have the best night of their lives. Now they were talking to ghosts—ghosts who had been their age when they died. I didn’t think I would have the right words to comfort her—after so much time, but I tried. I looked at her, “Well, you’re here with us tonight.  Do you want to— do you want to dance with us?  We could all dance with you.” Some of the kids nodded. She stared at me in a hundred years of pain and loss, her face blank. “Yes,” she said, and she drifted down those last few inches, settling like a rock at the bottom of a lake, and her toes touched the dance floor for the first time.

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