The first time Ash saw Lucine was at a Halloween party in the basement of her dorm. 350 freshmen packed into as many square feet of unfinished concrete, speakers blaring bass that echoed so loudly as to destroy any sense of rhythm. The impossibly dense crowd reached Schwarzschild densities around the rickety metal chairs and the speakers, the former for orange juice and cheap vodka, the latter for a semblance of music beyond the base.

Ash was deep in the froth of costumes, waving limbs, her witch's hat vibrating with the resonance of the speakers, or least until it was damped--literally--by an errant splash of someone’s drink. Ash didn’t mind, only danced harder, laughing as her twirls sent droplets of orange juice scattering up into the LED-lit air. She wasn’t drunk--couldn't actually get to the metal-chair-drink-bar--but didn't need to be, intoxicated by the thrashing bodies, the sloppy bass, the heat, the press, the epileptic lights, the flashes of colorful clothes, fur, facepaint, silicon skin.

The song ended. The dance dissolved into laughter, chatter, as the room caught its collective breath in anticipation of the next.

There was a pause in the music, just a fraction of a second too long. As if knowing what was coming, heads turned to the speaker. Someone shut off the lights. From the relative silence rose a familiar chord, like the pull before a wave. A cheer crescendoed with it as recognition spread of the year’s top hit. The anticipation was palpable. The beat dropped. The wave broke.

The dance floor erupted, bouncing and twisting to its frenetic beat. Ash was swept up in the frenzy, arms, legs, body, moving on their own, as if the collective excitement had somehow wired her neurons straight to the amp itself. Not even hearing herself she sang-yelled the lyrics in time with the crowd, finding the words only as they left her mouth, but somehow never getting them wrong. She twirled, the song crooned. She thrashed, the song wailed. She sang, and the music screamed with her.

A little whorl had started to form in the press of the crowd. Ash, only semi-cognizantly expanded to fill it, her body finding a little more space to pump, to spin and twist. Increasingly she found her glances into the crowd returned, as slowly, surely, the collective found its attention on her. But rather than self-conscious, she became the opposite, her self-awareness diffused, floating as the music, the rhythm, the crowd, the dance, subsumed her.

But then, there--through the tiniest gap in the crowd--stuck, burned in her mind like a freeze frame. Ash’s dance took her through, but when she came around again, like a magnet, her eyes found it: in the frantic, heavy beat--an irregularity.

Not just stillness no, but a resistance--a countermovement. In the back of the room, in its darkest corner, someone dressed head to toe in black--only visible by the fluorescence of the glow in the dark bones painted tidily on their face, chest, arms and legs. They danced, slowly, languidly. Rhythmic but nothing like the hyperpop stomp the song demanded. To its beat, but not its time signature, To its sound, but not its music.

And Ash, the maelstrom, hated them. Hated them as her body spun and swayed and stomped and turned. Hated them as the song pulsed and screamed through her. Hated them as she commanded the frenzy and furor of the crowd, whipping and blazing it harder and faster and louder and louder. Hated them with every inch and fiber of herself, the music, the crowd, the room.

But still that stupid skeleton kept dancing. As calm as the music was frantic. As quiet as the crowd was loud. As untouchable as Ash was consumed. Subject to nothing but its own impenetrable, incorrigible, incomprehensible beat.

Eventually Ash made it to the folding chairs and got absolutely trashed. When she woke up the next morning, hung over on rage and cheap vodka, the first words out of her mouth were,

“Who the fuck was that in the skeleton suit.”

Her slightly less hungover friends asked around for her, and eventually found her a name.

Lucine Seaver, same year. Computer science.

They were best friends within the week.