#0060: Dancer In The Dark
It’s past ten when I hear it. The cottage has been shrouded in a thick cloak of darkness for over five hours already and, like most animals in the depths of winter, I’m preparing to sleep.
The muted ping comes from the next room. At first I conspire to ignore it. To feign ignorance until the morning, in favour of curling up and closing my eyes. But with the second ping, and the third, and the fourth, I realise that isn’t to be.
The glass screen of my phone is cold to the touch and, as I swipe it to life, the room around me is bathed in the telltale frosty glow of insomnia. It throws stark shadows on the walls and contorts my reflected features into a grotesque scowl. But my expression softens into a sleepy smile as I contemplate the messages presented to me. Not the urgent, insistent demands of a friend or relative, but alerts from a favourite app telling me one simple thing. An old acquaintance is coming, and I need to get ready.
Pulling on my gloves and my hat, I tie my boot laces as I stumble through the front door and out into the blackness.
A slender, crescent moon hangs over the cottage, a lone sentry standing guard over an endless canopy of stars. Thousands of pin pricks of light, growing steadily in number as my eyes adjust to the dark.
The pale, silvery moonlight catches on the icy road as I make my way slowly away from the light, and the warmth, and the comfort of home.
I tread gently, the ground beneath my feet replying to every footstep with a salvo of crunches and creaks, shattering the frozen silence.
Here in the bottom of the valley, we’re protected from distant, urban light and blessed with perfectly dark skies. Within five minutes of leaving home, the thousands of stars above me have become millions, weighing heavily over the glen.
I arch my neck and squint into the night, enjoying those tiniest stars which dance in and out of my peripheral vision. The cold snatches my breath away in ragged scraps of lace. Transient memories of the rise and fall of my chest. The vapour drifts away on the slightest of breezes and dissolves into the night, carrying my gaze north. And there, on the horizon, my eyes land on a barely perceptible shimmer.
Out here, in the cold, and the dark, something is happening.
My old friend has arrived.
A faint silver glow, low in the night sky, throws the rugged, mountainous skyline into sharp relief. Like my breath, it seems to undulate, swelling into the night sky before retreating back behind the hills.
Slowly, the light intensifies and starts to take form, no longer an amorphous glimmer, but growing rich in texture and form. It ripples along its length, a great curtain billowing in solar winds. It forms peaks and troughs, a city of coruscating spires, dwarfing the mountains at their feet and reaching far into the heavens.
And with form comes colour.
The mountaintops are silhouetted against pale jade. Higher, the light transitions through gold and amber before throwing spears of brilliant vermillion amongst the stars.
Slowly, the aurora twists and pulses, stretching far into the night and recoiling back to earth.
Here, on my grassy verge, frost creeping though the long grass and painting tendrils across icy puddles, my gaze is unbroken as the sky dances its impulsive, unchoreographed pas seul. Unflustered if it misses a beat, unconcerned by who might be watching.
Like the best dances, it’s a brief moment of pure joy, but soon the shimmering towers begin to crumble and the colour drains from the night sky as this particular performance draws to a close.
There’s a spring in my step as I make my way home. The festivities might be over for tonight, but we’ll dance again before winter is through.
After all, when the opportunity arises, who can resist a turn around the floor with an old friend?