For the best experience of this story, start the music before reading.
We danced, she and I, under stolen moonlight streaming from poorly-covered windows. There was no sound except the rhythmic click of our heels against the marble floors, accompanied by the dry brushing of arms and legs and hips and hands whispering to each other. We needed no music to play. It was in our bones.
As we stepped together and apart and together again, we were no longer two but one. She was as beautiful as I had remembered. She turned her face up to me with a smile none could match. How I have missed it these long years apart. How I have yearned to feel her fingertips brush mine. The spill of her hair whirled in mad spirals as I twirled her out and back in. She slid an arm around my shoulder, resting her hand on my neck. I shivered and pulled her close.
But the passion that had awoken us—that which loosed our bonds and opened our glass cages so that we might reach one another after centuries of deathly sleep scant inches apart while beating hearts passed by staring and muttering and not knowing—did not extend further than the dance. We did not speak. We did not kiss. We did nothing more than cling fiercely to what remains, knowing daybreak always comes too soon.
I watched as they danced. Hidden in the darkened corner, trembling with fright and excitement blended in my veins like a cocktail topped with sticky fruit, I couldn’t look away. The call had come, and it was my duty to investigate. To question and warn and arrest if necessary. To intervene on behalf of humanity’s fragile ego. But what I found when I arrived was too beautiful to stop.
The complex tapping of their heels became a hypnotic beat as they marked perfect time between glass cases, pedestals, and displays, wholly engrossed in one another yet disturbing nothing. Every movement suffused with desire. Every embrace filled with longing. The entire museum held its breath. I did too, envious of their sad joy and the music only they could hear.
They tirelessly spun the length of the hall for hours as I watched, transfixed by their intimacy, knowing I was intruding but unable to break away until tentative droplets of sunlight seeped beneath the window shades. Morning come too soon.
I receded into the shadows, heading back the way I’d come, leaving the ancient lovers to conclude in peace, unwilling to spoil their long-awaited night in the name of a report filed in triplicate and of mortals who will be long dead themselves before these two dance again.
The sun has risen. The music has faded. The dance has ended. But we are patient. Once more resting in our solitary beds in this cold gallery, tormented and sustained by memories, we wait for the coda.