Wednesday, 18 November 2009

La Danse Macabre

As the antique Wainwright grandfather clock struck 5:30pm Horatio stared at it wistfully, reaching into his memory for the occasion he watched it strike 8:30 in the morning, forty seven years previously. Times had changed, and he had watched the young faces of his customers pale into tired facsimiles, distressed by the same years that had bent his back and creased his forehead. As he turned to pull down the shutters he shrugged off his nostalgic trance.

“Good riddance” he sighed. He had ached for this day for almost half a century, day in day out trying to plod through the monotonous hours behind the counter, dreaming of what he would do when he was finally free. His customers often assured him that he had the best job in the world, but he would hasten to disagree.

“Ah, but what use is confectionary to me? I’m diabetic. Imagine an insomniac selling beds for a living. That is me.”

He turned the small sign in the window to the “Closed” position. Tomorrow he would sleep in until eleven, and then maybe have brioche at Cafe Stubb. He would buy his wife a gift at the market, a gesture of his affection and the dawn of their new era. Horatio smiled at the thought of his wife, his old sweetheart Marie, whom he met in this very shop, when his father was the proprietor. He didn’t see much of her and it pained him that the face of the clock was more familiar to him than his own wife’s. He had often dreamed that when he retired he would sit out on the terrace everyday for lunch with Marie, just enjoying freedom and the company of one another.

He watched a lone crow pecking at the corner of the window, and thought it sad that a bird may never retire. Every day it must find food and safety, or the poor thing will surely die. He was absorbed in its plight as it clumsily hopped around and it struck him as a cruel affliction that a bird so graceful and majestic in flight looked so awkward and helpless when fumbling around for crumbs.

As Horatio peered through the glass he suddenly frowned. His eyes widened as he strained to see a reflected silhouette behind him in the glass. He spun around to face the most curious trespasser.

An ageless woman, neither young nor old, dressed theatrically, in pearl white stockings and an ivory basque, much like the dancers he used to swoon over at the carnival as a young man. Her hair rose skyward, like a violent apparition, punctuated with grandiose ostrich feathers, of snowfall purity and otherworldly opulence.

She smiled at him, a thorough and sincere smile, and his fear seemed to thaw, to subside into an overwhelming certainty and permanence. Her hips elegantly swayed, and she was in perpetual motion, as though she was rehearsing for a great exhibition. Her shoulders rolled with an imperial finesse, lithe and delicate, and her milky buttocks swelled out from the tops of her stockings.

“Won’t you dance with me Horatio?” she whispered coquettishly.

Horatio quivered and stared at her with a solemn and broken glaze, his brow arching in mock question but his lips failing to deliver words.

“I adore you Horatio, and I know of all that you have sacrificed for me, and so now I am yours”

“Sacrificed?” enquired Horatio, puzzled.

“At every opportunity you have forsaken life, you have been faithful only to Death, and now I offer you my gratitude, my embrace. Come with me?”

“Forsaken life?” repeated Horatio, suddenly grave and urgent.

He stood unearthly still, as though petrified, the evolving lines on his face the only sign of consciousness as he realised the gravity of the situation, and the distinguished nature of his visitor.

“I thought I would have more time?” he suggested hopefully.

“But you have been so devoted to me Horatio, I had to come for you. You have been so generous. You have shunned the things you love opportunity in order to serve me. Now I shall serve you, now I shall take you away from life, no more shall you have to hide from it”

The lascivious intruder began to dance more elaborately, and Horatio heard celestial music, like Chopin at an unseen piano. He watched as her pointed toes reached outwards, and recoiled into her body with a refined poise he had never before seen.

“Your tired my love, you deserve respite. Come and hold me?” urged the dancing figurine.

Horatio fell to his knees and wept.

“I thought I would have more time” he pleaded

The woman continued her dance, seemingly uninterested in Horatio’s hysteria. As she pirouetted in the doorway she momentarily paused.

“I’m afraid you were misinformed my love. No need to be afraid, soon you will have what you have slaved for all these years. You will have your peace, no need to worry.”

She stretched out her arms, palms facing upwards and inviting Horatio to join her. Her pendulum hips broke into a feverishly seductive rhythm, her dance becoming suddenly more frenzied and threatened to reach climactic crescendo.

Horatio looked up at his enchantress and his frown of sorrow and distress seemed to dissolve into a wide eyed curiosity, as he slowly rose back to his feet.

“What if I wish to remain alive? What if I change my ways, and keep my life?” he bargained.

The spectre waltzed closer to him, and she leaned in to whisper in his ear.

“Why do you consider life to be the same as staying alive? They are not so intertwined my darling, for life is something you must engage in and participate in, and to be alive is nothing but a physiological condition.”

He winced as though her words were darts, and as he looked shamefully down at the floor he inhaled a stray tendril of her dramatic perfume, and he raised his eyes to meet the glassy and cruel gaze of his mistress.

As he stepped towards her, his consciousness seemed to be diluting, and becoming lighter, as if she was secreting opium upon him, and she slowed from her complex routine to smile and offer her self to him.

He reached out to her pulled her body into his and as her chest pressed against him he placed his hand around her fragile waist and drew her hips against his. He felt no pain and as they danced he let the remainder of his awareness wane into oblivion.

- I am always interested to read about the exploits of Raymond Kurzweil, a man who intrigues me with his pursuit of eternal life, and his desire to live long enough to be immortalized in computer hardware! However, I don't want to live forever, and I hope that Raymond is wrong about his predictions, because I think mortality is the very essence of being alive. If we cannot expire, then we cannot truly live. Funny how his dream is my nightmare...

©2009 Copyright Daniel J. Fiasco

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