The spotlight turns toward her, aged metal hinges creaking unintentional atmosphere into the performance. Her feet splay in bow-legged display, arms held out to her sides, head bent forward in repentance for an as yet unnamed sin. The audience cannot see the flakes in the rouge spots on her cheeks peeling off, cannot hear the skritch of her wooden joints as the strings, the fraying strings, pull her gently across the stage, a broken doll flung aside in slow motion.
They, the they whose human faces she has never seen except in shadow, work their levers and turn their wheels and make their adjustments with soft grunts and sometimes not so soft curses from behind the heavy curtains, equipment no longer up to snuff for the demands that they make of it.
There she is now, in place at center stage, fully steeped in the spotlight’s beam. She can feel them starting to lift her head, to force her eyes once more into the glare of the floodlights, to make her look out upon an audience who does not understand that she doesn’t want to be their entertainment any longer. They do not see the splinters escaping from under her painted eyelashes, little tears that look like tears; they would only add to the sad ambience of her painted face could anyone see the detail.
She does not want to be on the stage any longer. She had been the pinnacle, not the penultimate, but the zenith at the time of her creation. She was given no direction to go but down. How could every show, then, not be more of a disappointment than the last? The sighs and gasps and applause are a saw blade drawn against violin strings to her psyche, leaving her more and more an empty shell. She does not want to dance any more, having already been forced to reap more than she had ever hoped for simply by catching the eye of someone who thought that they came bearing a gift.
Her middle pulls taut as all the strings are tugged at once, a crescendo of agony behind the rictus of a smile, and they pirouette her across the boards, a blur of ragged beauty through steps that have not been altered in a hundred years. She yearns for silence, she prays for release, even as she drips joy across the horizon of bodies that sit in rapt attention at her stocking feet.
The man whose job it is to tighten all knots and inspect all ropes, to adjust wardrobe and touch up wig, has taken it upon himself to become lackadaisical.
Her weight is being raised from the floor, she is on her tippy toes, they are in the air, and all of her is now suspended in an airborne arabesque, to the delight of the squealers. Her left arm is beginning to droop noticeably lower than the right, her side is canting, and she imagines she hears, layer by layer, the already frayed rope coming apart above her, over the voices of the men as they scramble and over correct.
She begins to jerk a bit, from side to side, corps de ballet de grotesquerie.
An infinite glee comes with the sudden snap. Her prison is collapsing around her and for the first time since she looked out from behind the dead material of the face she had been forced into, she re-awakens to bliss. A broken ragdoll of disjointed bits is all she is now, sprawled in an untidy heap upon a dirty floor, legs and arms akimbo, soul winging up through the rafters and into the ether.
The audience is stunned into silence at this unexpected ending, this abrupt departure from the tawdry bows and curtsies that tend to follow such performances as these, but then shake free and welcome the new and rise to their feet, a hootenanny of hollers and cries for an encore that can never come.
The maestro, the magician, the darkness that had encapsulated her soul, cries quietly behind the scenes as his queen, his triumph, arcs towards the heavens and leaves him, alone, ever more.
So, I was listening to Lindsey Stirling and this story popped up….
Okay, so here’s a crazy thing…the erudite and awesome Suzanne, whose blog I have followed since I first found her through the now defunct Trifecta Writing Challenge (go read her here, both her fiction and non-fiction posts will either have you thinking or laughing or learning, sometimes all at once http://lucidedit.wordpress.com/ ) recently announced that she was launching her own writing challenge DUN DUN DUN here: http://www.grammarghoulpress.com/gg-writing-challenge-2-open/ and that got me excited because she attracts other writers as talented as she and I love the word ghoul. I just happened to write this story for the hell of it this morning while I was supposed to be working, and then just now realized that, by adding a single sentence to incorporate the word prompt REAP, that it fits the word and picture prompt.
I’m rambling like a crazy person. I’ll shoot for extra coherence later. No guarantees.
Read, write, love, sleep,