The music is a mere rhythm now, players having given up one after the other from exhaustion. I feel my concentration fail, my muscles tremble. Our survival is at stake, as it is now each and every time. It should have been overwhelming but it doesn’t impress me anymore. The Shadow comes, threatening, unspeakable and unknown horrors hidden in its depths and the Dance makes it disappear like a bad dream in the morning light. Entering the Shadow produces strange effects. Disappearances, madness, deformities, death for the lucky ones. Each time it comes it is denser, wider and stays longer. By chance it only appears here, in the temple and at night. No one remembers a time it didn’t and it feels as though it’s always been with us. The Shadow, and the Dance that banishes it.
I am the last of the Dancers, the only one who knows the secrets. There are a few apprentices but none capable of hypnotising the Shadow and send it away. They wouldn’t survive more than two minutes. At the slightest mistake, the Shadow… strikes is the most accurate word. A thin tendril of Shadow extends itself like a whip and another Dancer has to come forth to replace the fallen. But not anymore, the Dancers are all dead know and I am the last one of them.
And the Shadow still comes, more and more difficult to send away, as if it knew, as if some evil demon whispered that I am the last, that when I fail it will be free to roam the world, as if it was trying to overcome the last obstacle in its path.
The last musician fell silent. It doesn’t matter, only the Dance does. I remember hours spent studying the precise steps, years of apprenticeship. Then when I thought myself ready, the initiation. The secret of the Dance, not the steps, not the precise movements but the trance that gives the Dancer the ability to synchronise with the emotions of the Shadow and change them, little by little. To soften the dread, the pain, the hatred and infuse it with calm and serenity into peacefulness… and oblivion.
How many hours have I been dancing ? Each night is more draining than the last and my first mistake would mean the end. A sudden movement in the dark cloud sharpens my attention, it is almost time and I must not fail now. The Shadow waves and I almost fall with relief. Finally the moment I’ve been waiting for has come ! Now starts the last part of the Dance, the most difficult, the one that will make the last wisps of the night’s dread vanish. The usual music that comes with it is a tender lullaby and I Dance Love. Endlessly, I Dance the mother cradling her child, remembering my mum’s gentle caresses that used to put me to sleep as a baby. Finally the last of the Shadow is gone and I fall on the spot, incapable of another step. They carry me away. They will force me to feed, bathe me and tuck me in a bed from which they will drag me again when the Watcher raises the alarm, night after night after night.
For Dancer-mine, hoping to make all darkness burn away