The Cheshire Cat's Grin

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 The news split the town in twain. No matter one's opinion, the news was on the tip of every tongue, an undercurrent to every conversation. The town had become charged and vibrant; imbued with either a sense excitement or dread. Some of the townspeople even claimed it heralded the beginning of the apocalypse.

The Grand, the local mystery and source of malignant fear, printed a notice in the local newspaper. Within, people learned how the hotel would open their doors to the public for one night only, to celebrate the upcoming black moon.

Billed as a grand ball, people were invited to indulge in food, drink and dance. Most of the younger folk were curious and wanted to attend, but that meant risking the wrath of their parents.

Lillian wanted nothing more than to revisit the Grand and set her eyes on the spectacular settings within. Images of the lavish settings were etched in her mind; vivid as the day she first laid eyes upon them. Years ago those scenes had sowed the seeds of creativity and conjured up dreams of her being a princess.

Of course, those who lived within the town's limits (for the most part) were rarely guests of the hotel. They catered to a select clientele which was reflected in their nightly rate.

To open their doors to the public was out of character for this establishment. While black moons were rare, this invitation made such an occasion doubly so!

For those like Lillian, the most they saw of the Grand was the glow of its lights illuminating the valley floor. To many, these lights served as a haunting reminder of what lurked in the shadows.

Lillian waved away such thoughts while looking over her room. It was sparsely decorated one-room affair with a hot plate that served as the kitchen. It suited her needs well enough, allowing her to save up enough to move away, since this town did little to encourage her dreams of being a flapper. For that she needed to reach the city.

A flapper, now that was something to strive for and she envied anyone who lived the lifestyle. The freedom to pursue her own path while evading the golden rules her mother had preached.

Lillian was not one to hang onto the words of a man. People tended to see her as a bit of a flat tyre, but Lillian believed that such behaviour only served to build up the walls of her cell. What was life without joy? Could she be happy knowing that her station in life had been chosen based on societal norms?

For now she had to settle for a night at the Grand. Would she find adventure, fame and fortune? A shame that such hopes and aspirations were the product of the silver screen productions or worse pulp fiction.

* * * *

Lillian soon discovered that this event had not been confined to a ballroom or wing. Everywhere she turned the parties roared. The Grand's differing venues gave this event a worldly atmosphere. Some places conjured up memories of her local pub while others were better suited for royalty.

As she migrated from party to party, Lillian realised how little she knew of the world. At one party the men and women seemed to be her age, but the music had little resemblance to that played on the radio. It was dark, sombre and incorporated a tribal beat. The movements of those who danced were feral and their chants were predatory. Lillian likened them to a pack of wolves feasting upon a fresh kill. Sufficed to say, she did not linger there for long.

Lillian ended up at a clip-joint, listening to this evening's entertainment. She loved this room for its art déco style and jazz music suitable for dancing.

The music and the hoofers were lively. Cigarette girls circled around the crowd, selling their wares, waiters busily moved among the tables and booths. All in all, this was what she imagined big cities to have. In fact, she could...

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