Icarus Falls – Part Six

(Just starting? Part One is here….)

The music swells; an effusive language threading its way through the gallery, just beneath its ebb and flow a whisper of something equivocal. Anticipation, certainly, but as a cello starts to float above the rising drone, there is also a hint of anxiety.
Twenty rows of chairs curve along two sides of the auditorium like smiling teeth; the back row sloping downward toward the first, whose lucky occupants could reach forward and touch the stage should the inclination take them. Every seat is taken, every pair of eyes drawn toward a ceiling that towers as high as the sky and seems to thrust ever higher.
Sheldon Haywood was particularly proud of the lighting effect responsible for that special brand of vertigo. He peered though a slit in the dark velvet curtain, eager to gauge the mood of this latest audience. He could immediately pick out those who had been to a performance before; they seemed a little less relaxed, yet despite themselves completely engaged with the reality of what could go wrong. Sheldon understood what most in his audience would never admit. They did not return because the skills of his performers were inconceivable, they came back because with every successful show, the chances of something going wrong at the next were escalated. It was the same part of them that, for one fading moment, found disappointment in a bloodless car accident. On posters in some of the more stygian clubs across the city, it wasn’t the picture of an acrobat in mid-flight that caught the attention, but those small, black letters emblazoned across it.
Performed without safety nets!!!

* * * * * * *

Cloris shuffled along behind her mother, trying not to step on toes or knock over popcorn, until they located their seats. Most of the adults were squeezed into chairs that seemed more acceptant of her eight-year old frame, but the intermission had rejuvenated tired limbs and replaced stiff joints with a fresh sense of wonder. Cloris had struggled to take it all in; the colour and the smell, how everything seemed more real than real, yet utterly fantastical. Her list of favourites had been rapidly revised with every performance, so it was not unexpected that it was currently topped by the richly costumed acrobats whose trampoline-aided spectacle had concluded the first part of the show.
The house-lights went dim and a beam of light illuminated the Ringmaster. But as he began his embellished introduction of the next act, Cloris was distracted by a figure making its way up a steel ladder. The figure was clearly a man, and as her eyes adjusted to the shadows, Cloris gasped at the size of him. His powerful arms seemed sketched from a comic book, rippling with the exertion of climbing, as if something were alive beneath the skin, yet his face appeared smooth, unnerving.
The Ringmaster’s voice gave way to a sudden surge of applause, and suddenly the Trapeze was revealed, bathed in a glow of red and blue lights. A smaller, older man had joined the first on a platform to the left, whilst the platform to the right was now occupied by two woman and a third man. Cloris could see now why she had found the man’s face so unusual. They were all wearing masks. White masks, to finish the white of their outfits. There seemed to be strange designs in a dark red along the legs, and the women both had dark hair tied-up in an intricate weave. They were the most beautiful people Cloris had ever seen.

* * * * * * *

Constance sat on the high bar, one hand keeping him balanced whilst the other adjusted his mask. He searched for any kind of detail in the crowd, but the glare from the spotlights made it difficult. Far below, Sheldon was hyping up the last trick. Constance could only admire how effortlessly he took them into his confidence, his hands as animated as his voice, almost as if he were conjuring a spell. And it was a spell Constance knew well; had it not made him leave the circus? Leave his family?

At least he could still draw comfort from the sight of Aurelia standing on the platform opposite. She was breathtaking, enigmatic. He knew the mask was a big part of why they adored her, why they packed the auditorium for every performance; yet she had as much need for them as a dying man for poison. Her reasons were hidden behind a mask of her own choosing.

* * * * * * *

The noise from around her seemed to fade to a dull rumble. Cloris could not bear to look away, her every sense enthralled at the events unfolding 30 feet above. She’d quickly flipped through the programme and discovered that this was a family of aerialists. The father had acted as catcher for the first few tricks, the most exciting of which had been one of the sons performing a double-somersault. But Cloris found herself drawn to the daughter. She wasn’t sure if their outfits were threaded with silver, for with every pirouette the girl shimmered as she spun, as if she were covered in pixie dust.
And now, the eldest son took up position as catcher. At least, Claris guessed he was the oldest, as he was taller and stronger then the others. The daughter took up position on the opposite platform, and as quick as the audience had been to applaud, now all were silent. Drummers took up the beat of her heart, quickened its pace and built to a crescendo. Bar held firmly in her grip, the silvery angel stepped off……..

* * * * * * *

Aurelia signalled her readiness, and like a pendulum Constance began a high, arching swing. He cleared his mind of everything, but for the growing realisation that perhaps he no longer did this for the thrill or the acclaim. Perhaps it was as simple as the need for greater concentration, that 40 feet in the air he could hide from the guilt and anger, dark twins that shadowed him constantly.
He gave himself over to the motion of his body, making slight adjustments to keep at the right speed. At the apex of his swing, Aurelia began hers. To those looking on, they must have appeared as mechanised parts of some great machine, their movements so precise, so perfect.
Constance focused every fibre toward the next four seconds, allowing everything around him to blink out of existence. His fingers twitched, anticipating the touch of her hand, but as she released the bar he felt his blood turn to ice.
Oh god, she’s too early……….

* * * * * * *

Cloris watched her angel twist in the air, trying to count every turn. When it seemed as if the girl might spin forever, she finally extended her body and dropped toward her brother. A woman in the front row could not hold back a scream, as another covered her eyes with both hands. But the brother barely flinched as he caught her forearms, ushering forth a collective gasp of delight that grew to thunderous applause. He let her slide from his arms into the safety net, and as the girl dismounted into the centre ring, Cloris heard a singular thought repeat in her mind; a prayer, a wish, a desire stronger then anything she’d felt before. I want to be her……..

* * * * * * *

As quick as thought, Constance let the bar slide from under his knees, letting his feet catch the sideropes. He willed himself to defy gravity, to delay swinging backward as long as he could. But as her third spin flattened out, he felt the gentlest of tugs, pulling him away from her. For a second, she was above him, her eyes aflame, her mind lost to the sky.
A fingertip. The most precious of fingertips, and he clutched instinctively. But nothing. Just the rush of air as she plummeted past him.
Constance hung there, eyes closed. He would keep them closed, until the muscles in his calves finally gave in, allowing his feet to unhook, his body to fall. Or perhaps the flow of blood to his head would flood his mind, casting him into darkness. Bitterly, he opened his eyes, as far below him chaos surrounded a body. Aurelia. Broken.

~ by tenmiles on March 7, 2006.

6 Responses to “Icarus Falls – Part Six”

  1. Nicely done. This was a great addition. Although, maybe I’m like Chloris and each new bit seems better than the one before.

    So are both these memories? Of different times?

  2. Brilliantly done. Especially the… nah. Everything.
    I have questions too, I know I have them, but just now, I can’t remember.

  3. Oh Aurelia, I’m sorry. And I’m with Cloris: I want to be sliding around in Constance’s arms, too… Let’s see. Spike, Constance, Spike, Constance, vampire, angelish being… How could a girl ever decide between the two? You’re making it hard, FM… Very very good writing.

    I’m also wondering… are they memories? Maybe that’ll be clearer next installment. It’s actually difficult reading them in separate chunks, instead of as a whole, but that’s the nature of the beast. We’ll take what we can get until you get your novella published! And then we expect it dedicated to your greatest fans, meaning US of course. Plus, some royalties would be nice.

  4. I am reminded of the difference between acrobatics and golf. In golf, it’s a case of WHACK! “Shit!”, whereas with acrobatics…

  5. Lovely imagery. The intensity of Cloris’ wish seems rather significant; I can hardly wait to see where that goes!

  6. A wonderful weave of words! I was enthralled with Cloris. The only weakness would lie in the integration of the parts, certainly not within them.

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