Behind the Curtain
The theater is filled with fog. It spills out across the stage, falls down into the orchestra and reaches out across the seats until every thing is cloaked in mist. The dancers pirouette in perfect unison, graceful limbs eerily white against glittering costumes.
They are too far away to get a good look at their faces, painted like porcelain dolls. But I watch them move, bending and twisting to the music. It seems impossible, such graceful dancers, their movements so in sync.
The music is as ephemeral as the fog, creeping through the dark theater, filling my ears. It circles the dancers like a nest of serpents.
At the end of the show, applause erupts from the audience as though they just woke up and found themselves standing and clapping. I stay behind when they leave, flattening myself against the ground and crawling beneath the seats as the janitors start cleaning up.
I climb down into the orchestra pit, pushing against the big black door that leads backstage.
The musicians are gathered on the other side, clutching their instruments in skeletal hands, blank featureless faces staring at one another despite their lack of eyes, as though chatting after the big show.
I creep past, staring back at them in fear, but they don't seem to notice me. I should leave now, but I have to see the dancers. I want to know how they can move so beautifully, in such perfect unison.
I find them behind the curtain, just off stage. They stand motionless, as still as the furniture around them. I approach, despite the hairs raising on my arms, and gently tap a dancer's alabaster arm.
She doesn't move, doesn't flinch, her flesh icy cold. I come around to peer at her face, but there isn't one. Her make up wasn't done up to look like a doll. She is one. They all are. And on their limbs are thousands of delicate strings, disappearing up into the rafters.
I turn and leave as quickly as I can, anxious to avoid meeting their puppet master. I don't breathe until I'm safely outside in the fresh air, striding away. I don't look back and I never return.
It's never a good idea to peek behind the curtain.
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