Little Freddie Dazzle danced. He slid his feet across pitted asphalt, raising clouds of wispy dust, jerking his body in time to the music in his head. He skipped and leaped over rubble, as the beat drove him on. He twisted sinuously through the shattered remains of buildings, islands of steel and concrete jutting like jagged teeth here and there, where most things had been swept flat.
Untouched by fatigue, drawn like a moth to the corona of pale blue light illuminating one clump of ruined buildings, more complete than most, Freddie scissor-jumped towards the limelight as dusk pulled a shade over the angry red sky.
Nervously he hand-jived cautiously through a near intact doorway, spying light from a thousand cracks in the shattered walls, with no single, identifiable source. As Freddie danced into the building, the room grew brighter, his shadow deepened and he could hear something following him through the doorway. Without looking back, as the music in his head grew louder and the pounding beat quickened with his heart, he moved ever deeper, into darkened rooms that suddenly flooded with pale blue light from every door. But now Freddie danced away from the light, spinning towards the darkness until there was nowhere left to go.
He was trapped.
He shuffled, shoulders marching in time to the precise jerked movement of his feet, into the centre of a large room, open to the darkened sky. He was surrounded by the glowing things that formed a closing circle around him. As the lumpy creatures were pressed shoulder-to-shoulder in the tightening space, a wondrous beam of clear blue light shone straight up through the hole where the roof had been.
Freddie Dazzle did the only thing he knew how. He danced. Feather-stepping, spinning and high-kicking; he tested the boundaries of the misshapen monsters that ringed him in, never daring to touch their toxic glowing skin. He head began to thrum with dizziness, his ankles and knees ached like they hadn't ached for days.
He was losing his grip on the carefully constructed fantasy that had been the only thing keeping him going since the devastation. He dared not stop moving. When he did, he could focus on the eerie creatures, and if he looked too long at any one, he might just pick out features in their face that were too familiar.
Dancing until he could dance no more, Freddie fell to the ground in an elegant, dying-swan heap.
The things rumbled and closed over the tiny dancer. Even with his eyes shut, his retinas burned with the glow from their irradiated bodies. He shuddered under their clumsy touch.
Freddie passed out.
When he opened his eyes again, bathed in the morning light, they were gone. A dozen battered tins had been stacked beside him. Tattered labels hinted at baked beans, pineapple chunks and high-quality cat food. For the first time in days Freddie felt hungry. He took the first tin that came to hand and beat it open, sucking on the juice that trickled over his fingers, so confused by the explosion of flavour that, at first, he couldn't even tell what it was.
Still exhausted, but hunger satisfied, Freddie Dazzle lay his head down again and dreamed of a brand new theatre, gleaming fresh and lofty in the wasteland, a beacon of civilization amidst the ruin of humanity. And it would be outfitted with plush, purple, extra-wide seats.
Show business was back; the only business in business, and Freddie was the only star.