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The Eternal Dancer

Occasionally I write stories for people – for their birthdays, or just as presents. This one I wrote about six months ago in a forty-five minute rush one Sunday morning. I wrote it for a dancer whose birthday it was. Thought maybe it would be nice to share, though there’s not much to it.

The Eternal Dancer

The Eternal Dancer began her dance shortly after the Autarch banned all forms of art. In one of the city’s many squares, once the province of trapeze artists and jugglers, musicians and theatre troupes, she ascended one of the now wide and empty stages and began her performance. It would be foolish to try to describe her moves – her momentary arabesques and brises, her cabrioles and chasses – except to say that it was not long before passers-by stopped momentarily, aware of the Autach’s decree, yet finding themselves drawn in to the Eternal Dancer’s movements, like children before a circus, wide eyed and mesmerized.
Not long after, the Autarch heard of the Eternal Dancer’s sedition and he paced and raged in his tower, from which he could see the entire city down below like a child’s toy. He threw open the doors of his chamber and looked down, but the square was at such a distance that he could only make out the gathering of people, like little points of red an black and blue, in the square, and another point circling and spinning on the stage.
“When she is finished, throw her in the dungeons!” he said to his Chief Intendant as the cold and high wind blew against his face. “Cut off her legs and show them to the people!” He turned his willowy body, like a reed bent in the wind, back to the Intendant, who nervously adjusted his sword on its thick brown belt, straightened his Intendant’s sash and said, “It will be done.”
The Intendant took a troupe of guards – officiously marching in line, straight legged and tense – to the square. There they came upon a veritable crowd, whispering and smiling at the dancer.
“When she’s finished, arrest her,” said the Intendant.
But as they waited, they too were drawn in by the Eternal Dancer’s movements, who had now broken into a particularly difficult combinations of twisting enrosques, like a spinning top. “That looks incredible,” said one of the guards to the other.
When the Autach learned that the Intendant and the guards had not returned, he raged and fumed, and took his own epee from its sheath and tested its blade. He would strike this dancer from the stage himself, if he had to.
When he arrived at the square, now filled with people, joyous and clapping, he pushed his way to the front, waving his epee ineffectually. He passed the cooks and the bakers, the waiters and the office assistants, the librarians and the carriage drivers. He passed the Intendant and the guards, and finally he was able – despite being just one in the crowd, not at all like an Autarch – to see the dancer unobscured. For a moment, he stopped and admired how she entered a delicate ecarte, her entire body obliquely turned to the crowd. She then burst into a sudden but graceful series of moves, steps, jumps. He wanted to see first how this sequence would end, then he would ascend to the stage and strike her. As he watched, he thought to himself, there’s no cold or high wind up here. He straightened his back a little, and did not appear so reedlike or bent. He looked around at the people and their mesmerised faces, and his feet began to shift in time with the Eternal Dancer’s movements. Perhaps I’ll just watch a little while longer, the Autarch thought.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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Rjurik Davidson is a writer, editor and speaker. Rjurik’s novel, The Stars Askew was released in 2016. Rjurik is a former associate editor of Overland magazine. He can be found at rjurik.com and tweets as @rjurikdavidson.

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