Writing Calisthenics

AvatarA collection of short stories, essays, and exercises to keep my brain from rusting between larger works.

Henry's Second Dream


I dream again, this time as disquieting and fragmented as I feel.  It's a masquerade ball; one conjured from my limited knowledge of Napoleonic France.  Color in the room is muted — almost completely black and white.  Shadows stand in incredibly sharp relief.  Men and women hold gruesome masks to their faces as they dance to music that only they can hear.  I'm rooted, unable to move anything except my head as they swirl and step around me.  I'm embarrassed to be centered in this frightening promenade; I know no one, and even without a mask I feel grotesque.  I clearly don't belong.  The women's perfume is overpowering and the powder from the men's wigs burns my eyes.
    Suddenly, the lights go out.  I'm unsurprised though the room seems lit by chandeliers and sconces of tallow candles.  The floor trembles.  There's a muffled clatter from all around me, then men gasp and women scream as the floor shifts, first jerking one direction then another.  There's a cracking sound, a snap that comes from deep within like the face of a glacier sheering off.  I feel it shiver up through the shifting floor, through my legs, my torso, and out through my arms, through my fingertips.
    My feet have been freed and so have my hands.  I realize this only because I feel them move in time to music I can now hear.  My arms and legs glide effortlessly.  The lights slowly return.  The candles lick in blue and orange at first, then feeding on freshly trimmed wicks, bathe the ballroom in a warm, yellow glow.  My arms are covered in champagne colored silk and cuffed with stiff lace.  I look down and my feet are moving to a minuet, shuffling through a vineyard of freshly plucked masks.  I taste honey.
    The masks are off.
    They are off and the faces behind them are smiling, warm, and welcoming.  The depth of their affection warms me.  They look to me and then to their partners as they step together and they beckon me to join them.  I'm confused because I was certain I had joined them in the dance, but I look at my outstretched arms and my heart sinks.
    They're empty.
    I am alone.

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