Ballerinas & Stuff

With startling clarity a bluey-purple figure curved scimitar-like through the salty rare air. Arching downwards and outwards, cutting into the purity of wild wind, it rejoiced in the cold buffet against naked flesh. Nerve endings screamed in ecstasy, tears streamed then froze. Clean and heady it rushed, with no care, no fear, free and unsullied. Time became circular, a vacuum, a snug comforter, and still the figure fell with minimal influence or interference, a Möbius strip of life, with no comprehensible ending in sight. Such were the depths.

The air thickened and coalescing ocean particles caused a little friction. He shut eyes tightly, head swaying as he plummeted back and forward, side to side, a spectral rollercoaster. As he descended, his limbs loosened and splayed. For a moment, fear crept in and he was turbulently jolted. He relaxed and accepted, and the ride smoothed out again. Cliff walls rushed by. Muted cooing and scrabbling lives blurred past. The figure spied the end – an infinite blue wall of faraway dreams. Still too distant to be concerned and now with a goal in sight, it cart wheeled joyfully, spinning like a star, turning somersaults in glee and invincibility. “This is Forever,” he thought.

In the dark of a wooden box, the Pink Ballerina waited. She had timings down perfectly, she was sure. She listened intently, her soft blonde curls against the lock, her eye to a small crack that had gradually, over faded years and salty air, developed around the latch. Light had formed in a warm yellow puddle on the stone floor and she could see through her elongated window. She replaced her eye with a pointy elfin ear, and concentrated. Yes, the snoring continued – a deep rumbling, growling, masterly, irregular hum and wheeze.

The Pink Ballerina sighed, and reached up towards a little hinge in the corner of her prison. With her other hand, she stretched downwards, and grasped the golden spring attached to her toes. It was a good thing she was a ballerina – she was very flexible. In a rocking motion, she exerted force; upwards, and downwards, tensioning and loosening the golden shackle. Her little pale hands reddened and again they bled, as they had bled for many years. Suddenly, a tinkly chime rang out and she froze…..it was that 27th note again. She released her grips, massaged her white-knuckled hands and counted to seventeen before renewing her efforts.

For as long as she could remember, she had worried this spring, certain that the day would come when determination would overcome frailty and she would set herself free. The spring grew warm then softly hot, little gilt flakes floating down, catching the latch-light like magical snowflakes. Her hands began to burn and cramp, but she knew she was close, and did not falter. And then it happened. The metallic snap took her consciousness away as she tumbled down to the black floor in a shower of discordant notes.

Bluey-Purple Figure sped on, at times almost touching the sharp cliff face, and other times ranging out, gliding like a seagull. He let loose a gasp of excitement as he spun and faced the rock and for a while forgot the axis of descent, feeling only the bouncing in-and-out motion and relationship with the stone wall, almost as if he were defying gravity and floating above a barren landscape. His mind adapted to this conceptual plane and he forgot the rushing wind and approaching ocean. His eyes adapted to the speeding surface and he began to see with clarity, every nuance and texture, every moss, pebble and struggling plant. Time slowed. He floated thus until he noticed a dark crater approaching in the distant mist…

The Pink Ballerina arose to consciousness. At first, her only sensation was pain – a sundering, and a deep and sharp aching where her toes had been connected to her golden spring. Slowly, the glimpse of freedom washed the pain away. She tentatively stood up, using the rough inside of her cell. Now, she thought, for the second part of her plan. The little splinter of wood in the corner that had leered at her all her life had always been crucial. She had studied it as she turned, noting its length, its width, the seams and grain, and how firmly it appeared attached. It was time to test her calculations.

She tiptoed to the corner, wincing in pain and making a mental note that she would have to get used to planting her feet flat on the floor at some stage. She placed her hands on the splinter, slowly running them up to just below the tip. Summoning up her courage, and realising this could very well be the end of her dream, she placed her feet against the side of the box and pulled….

With a tearing sound, the splinter tore away from its parent wood and once again she tumbled to the floor – but this time with a delighted smile on her painted red lips. Nothing would stop her now. Quickly, she maneuvered the splinter through the crack by the latch and angled it upwards against the barely visible clasp outside. Yes, it moved. Yes! She adjusted the angle and pushed again until the clasp was almost horizontal and free from the latch. She was close, now, almost there….

Bluey-Purple Figure was in a trance-like state. At one stage he felt he had fallen asleep, and slapped himself back to full consciousness. He wanted to experience every last second of his flight, savour it. After all, one does not reach this form of being everyday. He pivoted 180° in the wind so that he faced the ocean and noted that he was not far away from the dark blotch on the cliff wall and it was approaching rapidly. Only a matter of minutes, he thought. He intended to study it as he went by.

With a crack, the Pink Ballerina snapped the splinter in the crack, jamming it against the clasp. This was the final key to her freedom. She climbed up the spring with ballerina agility, taking the lower half of the splinter with her. With a quick jab, she fell forward, and speared it into the groove of lid and box, hanging on to the end as it fixed. Then she leapt and clambered hand-over-hand until she reached the groove. She was very light, but she had built up her muscles for this moment. Lifting her self up onto the wedge, she straddled it and inspected the grove.

Just as she had thought, her weight was enough to create a sliver of an opening. Without hesitation, the Pink Ballerina shoved her raw hands into the crack, her fingers scrambling inside, pushing inwards, until her arms were almost totally immersed. Taking a deep breath, she heaved up and felt the lid give a little. Getting one foot underneath her with a toe in the crack, she pulled again, with all her ballerina might and forced her leg into the opening. Now, she was lying flat, half-jammed in the crack. Wriggling like a little worm, she crabbed sideways, working her way into the tight space.

The pressure of the lid on her head and back and especially against her chest almost suffocated her, but when she heard the clasp fall back against the latch without locking, she knew she had opened the lid far enough. Her right foot tentatively extended Outside. She hooked it over and pulled her other leg through. Now her entire lower half was hanging outside the prison. Her pink tutu was ruffled up against her face, her arms as well as her hands were bleeding – but she was elated. Quickly, she squeezed through the opening, dangling from the edge by her fingers…and let go. With a tearing of her tutu and a sudden jarring bump, she landed on cold stone, the breath temporarily knocked out of her.

Tentatively, she looked around. To the back of the cave, she could see the form of her Master, firelight flickering off his greasy skin. Above, she could see the splinter of wood sticking out of the box. A bright light came from behind somewhere. That way was freedom, she knew.

The dark blotch had been steadily getting larger. Bluey-Purple Figure could now see it was an opening of some sort. There were sea birds circling around it, screeching and landing, and carrying on their bird-lives. He wondered – would he have time to look inside before he rushed past? He would dearly like to. A part of him thought that perhaps he should ignore it and concentrate on his ascent. Another part thought that since it was here, it was meant to be here, and it deserved respect. He preferred to listen to the latter thought. He was a curious being, after all.

The Pink Ballerina picked herself up and crept to the side of the dark wooden box. Creeping silently came rather easily to her. If there was one thing she was good at, it was being silent. And spinning to music, of course. Bright, white light outlined the box edge as she angled around it. She almost paused to savour things before the grand revelation, but her excitement had the better of her and she carried on. And there it was. The real Outside. Cold air met her body, and tears flowed down her porcelain cheeks with happiness. With a brief look back into the cave, she ran to the light…and stopped suddenly. The floor ended at the light. Nothing but white light, and no floor, or walls, or lids, or springs…nothing but white light! A tremendous fear gripped her and she knelt down in her tattered tutu, trying to see clear, her tears making a muddy puddle around her elbows.

Then a shadow passed through the light….a fleeting, sweeping shadow…and a horrendous screech. She had heard these sounds before but never up this close. She struggled to look through the misty light and barely made out darker forms flitting past the cave entrance. One of them glided in closer and she could see frothy pale feathers and beady yellow eyes – and she was again scared. She stood up and made to run back inside, when a talon grabbed her around the waist and dragged her off the edge, a malicious screech burning into her brain.

Blue-Purple Figure reached the cave mouth and in that instant, saw a seabird snatch something pink and frilly from the entrance. ‘No, that’s meant for me’ he thought, and grabbed at it, prying it from the bird’s claw as he zoomed past. He looked at what he had caught. It was a little pink ballerina. And she was crying. Her tears had smeared over her face, and her expression was one of terror.

“Please, little one – don’t cry, nor fear. I will never hurt you. It is by chance that we have met – one fleetingly brief encounter that will change both our lives, be they about to end, or about to begin.”

His deep voice resonated inside her and although she knew it to be strange, she was comforted almost instantly. The Pink Ballerina opened her eyes, to see a wondrous being, full of pulsating blue and white light, tinged with purple radiance.

“Who are you? What are you doing here? Why are you falling into the ocean?” she asked, holding on tightly to his cradling fingers.

“I am no one and everyone, little Ballerina. I myself do not know who I am. But I am not falling, I am flying. It’s all in the perception. And now sweet ballerina, your fate is locked with mine, and we fly together.”

The Bluey-Purple Figure and the Pink Ballerina flew towards the deep ocean, holding each other.

No more words were needed.

Ballerinas & Stuff

Mark German

Strathmore, Australia

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