two slow dancers, last ones out @maplem0th
one last dance

Some things are facts.

Marissa is a songstress.

The king has left us.

The king has left us.

The world is ending.

Marissa knows that. Everybody knows that.

That’s why the streets have been so deathly silent- the people are afraid to leave their homes. They’re afraid of the sickening sunlight that swells in their shells until they burst. 

The Pleasure House has been empty for a while- the audience is hiding in their houses. Or they sleep in, and miss her show. They sleep and they sleep and they sleep, dreaming of the soul-stealing sunlight they bathe in from within, spreading its tendrils through every nook and cranny and vein and cell.

“Stay,” the light in their dreams demands. “ Rest .”

And so they stay, and they rest. Long after their bodies have awoken, their minds remain resting.

Marissa keeps on singing-there isn’t much else she can do. She’s no scholar, no doctor, no soldier. She’s a songstress. She sings. She entertains. She brings hope.

The empty hope of her melody echoes throughout the City, a poorly made mask treated like a perfect replica, cascading down abandoned streets and into darkened houses. To say everything’s going to be okay would be a lie, but the people cling to the decaying concept anyway, as moths cling to flames, as a parched traveller trudges towards a lake they know is a mirage.

Marissa is a songstress. She calms. She soothes. She reassures.

She sings. So she keeps on singing.

 

As usual these days, her voice reflects back to her, untarnished. There aren’t any crowds to absorb the noise- but another sound comes with it.

Footsteps. They’re uneven, shaky. But they’re alive.

 

The first thing Marissa notices about the stranger is her eyes. 

Amber, enough deep within her to show through the outside, a resin that drowns and slows and weakens as it hardens within every nook and cranny of her shell, fills her lungs and solidifies them into gemstones. A resin which preserves, remains. Perhaps one day a relic seeker will find these preserved forms, and will think “See what beautiful creatures they were. See how quickly they fell, and remember it.”

When she staggers into the butterfly’s arms, she’s warm and trembling, a burning tower on the brink of collapse. The flames destroying all within seem a delicate glow from the windows, after all.

 

Amber Eyes (even if she remembered her name, she wouldn’t be able to tell it) , does not speak, but Marissa understands.

“Please don’t let me be alone,” the flickering light of her eyes begs, hidden behind the poisoned honey.

Marissa is a songstress. She does what she does best. She sings.

The tune seems to spur something in the stranger, digs up a corroded memory she refused to let burn into ashes. She rises, gripping onto Marissas' shoulder for support.

 

"May I have one more dance?" her grip whispers.

One, two, three, four.

Marissa does not stop singing. It's a love song she'd been practising endlessly, for a wedding that never came to be.

One, two, three, four.

Amber Eyes quivers more with every step, yet she continues. Marissa notices the warmth where her hand meets her waist is intensifying- almost painfully. She refuses to let go. Marissa is a songstress. She's needed here.

One, two, three, four.

As they dance, she wonders.

Who was Amber Eyes? Was she loved? Did she have a family? A lover? Children?

Was she a performer too? A dancer, perhaps. No matter how she crumbles, her technique remains perfect. She knows this waltz off by heart, buried somewhere deep in the embers of her corrupted mind.

Maybe she’d learned it for a wedding. Marissa had. She’d taught the bride every step of the song and dance, spent long nights by the statue in the city centre going through each tiny motion. The bride insisted- everything needed to be perfect. She was having the dreams, she knew what was coming. The end.

Her end.

The City’s end.

The Kingdom’s end.

No matter how poor the Kingdom’s end was- a slow, pathetic demise, a whimper of an abandoned infant left to the wilderness on a cold night - she wanted her own to be beautiful. White and orange complement each-other well, she supposed.

Yet her beautiful end failed. The groom told nobody about his dreams. He kept quiet, and blamed his warmth on the weather, and never awoke on her perfect day.

Did Amber Eyes want a beautiful end, too? 

Marissa is a songstress. She offers beauty to the world. She couldn’t give that to the bride, but she can give it to her, can’t she?

One, two, three, four.

The dance slows, but it continues. It makes circles across the stage, spirals and curls and loops, looping repeating as long as they can- if only it would never end -

Keep singing. Keep moving. Keep breathing. Dance until she can’t anymore.

Are they the last ones here? She wonders if this was the last time anyone will enter this room. She wouldn’t leave. Marissa is a songstress. She’s needed here. The band plays on a sinking ship until their lungs are too full of water for the sound to get out.

The very last dancers. It almost reminds her of a celebration she once performed for, back when she could say everything would be okay and believe it.

Everything went perfectly. No intricate decoration out of place, every guest catered to and satisfied. Her voice did not falter. The King Himself was in attendance, and He personally endorsed her for her work.

Long after wine-dampened socialites and nobles had left, the poor remained. They wouldn’t usually be allowed in such an elegant place as this, but this was a celebration for all. She sang for them, of course. Their dance was far more interesting than the stiff, regal performance of the elites. But all bugs tire, and gradually they dispersed until there was only an empty ballroom and Marissa. 

And her.

They danced long after the music ended, a silent, tipsy whirlwind of lefts and rights and arounds, stepping on feet and almost tumbling over until morning arrived, bugs preparing to start a new day while all they could do was sleep, a tangle of intertwined limbs and wings and antennae.

Marissa never saw her again, but often thought of that girl. She hopes she’s thriving, somehow.

 

Rising from the memory, Marissa notices she’s dragging Amber Eyes through their dance. The songstress pauses, and the stranger she feels she knows so well struggles to pull herself closer. Closer. Shell to shell, face to face, even if the glassy citrine of her eyes can only stare vacantly at the walls.

She hesitates, and takes in a quivering breath. Honey trickles from her eyes .

“Thank-you.”

 

Two slow dancers, last ones out.

 

Marissa doesn’t know how long she cradles the body for. The seeping gold stains her dress.

A flock of maskflies huddle together on a window-sill. The endless rain continues as if nothing is unusual. It’s normal. This is normal.

The quiet is not. It’s odd for the city to be so silent. There’s no singing, only the patter of rain, the occasional chirp of the flies, and the nothingness. The air is filled with peace, rather than fear.

 

“A wonderful crowd,” she muses to nobody in particular, staring into eyes which do not gaze back.

1. one last dance 1262 0 0