In the Spotlight
She dances beneath an arc-lit sun; dances and whirls and spins in wild abandon to a rhythmless music that holds and supports her in its smooth, shapeless caress. Heedless of the pain, she turns and leaps, clawing at a grey-white sky that seems to taunt her, daring her to forswear the ground and to fly on the wings of her dreams; to soar with the angels and join the play of the birds of the air: spinning, diving, weaving a tapestry of motion and light above the stage; to extend the next hop or jump or grand jete on and on forever....until, once again, her sun burns dark and the audience shuffles away, whispering, always whispering to each other.
She knows that they have seen others and compare them to her. She knows that many of them will never return, will search for other performers to grace their stages, to hear their hard-earned praise or, more likely, their easily-earned nonchalance and always, always their departing whispers. Does she not dance gracefully enough? Not project enough joy or sorrow? Not leap high enough or perhaps even too high for their inscrutable pleasure? She would never know.
They take her home, the ones who care, the ones who always come to watch her dance. They take her home and sadly watch her eat her dinner alone. Always alone. And then they leave her. Perhaps to watch some other dancer. Perhaps nowhere at all. She thinks of those who came before her, and those who would come after-lithe, pale bodies twisting and leaping and spinning. She had watched them in her youth and had hoped and dreamed and feared to become one of them. Perhaps the next performance, perhaps the one after-she would find that perfect balance, that consummate grace, that conquering power, that infinite grande jete of which she dreamed. Next time, perhaps the tears would not come to wash away the night.
"Well, Dr. Reinstell, what do you think of her?" They all crowded around him, listening intently, taking care to focus on his thin, silver-bound glasses rather than risk being pierced by the fierce blackness of his eyes.
"She is most remarkable." His attention seemed to withdraw into its shell, to digest its meal in solitude. After a moment, he forced it back to the surface. "How long did it take her to learn?"
"She didn't seem to learn it, sir, she just...did it, the very first time." The assistant bobbed his head as he talked as if to emphasize his earnestness.
"Most intriguing. She seems to react exclusively to the light and virtually ignores the electrified floor grating. He paused for just an instant before an almost imperceptible nod showed that he had reached a decision. "Cancel the vivisection. I want those actions observed and recorded for as long as she continues them. It almost looked as if that mouse was... dancing."