[this short fiction was submitted along with the essay Ouroboros for my Utopia and Creativity term paper, January 2015]
Wrapped in music, eyes closed then wide open, Mi casts shapes and shadows on the walls of the barn. She’s immersed in herself and this moment; the moon above and the circle of revellers; she’s never felt so alive, so real and so free. The changing beats and pulsing rhythms move her muscles, blood and bones from deep within. She’s open, swirling, reaching for the stars, then crouching, curling, stalking on all fours. So alive. She feels her heart and soul beating, breathing, being.
Everything’s glittering in the low-level blue and purple lights, flickering in the jars of candles dotted around the dance-floor, sparkling in the universe that’s being projected onto the canvas screen.
Strangers, friends and enemies, all gathered under one roof for the Wild Swan Festival Trance Dance. Mi gives a smile to Esther and dances up close to her for a while, feeling the warmth of the connection they’ve shared since school, then turns away in a spiral towards Dom. They hold each other’s gaze, a pole of axis in their celestial twisting and grinding until he peels off to her right and she is face to face with Kerry. Momentarily, Mi shudders inside. She hears the staccato croak of a magpie, sees a flash of blue-black wing, the gleam of stolen gold. Something painful rises up inside her, like a knot of toads threatening to burst – seething, teeming – out through her chest, her throat, her mouth. But she forces it back down. Brings her mind back to the dancing, the moonlight and the music. Makes herself forget that Linden rests his head on Kerry’s pillow now. Fear no more the heat o’ the sun… Half-buried words emerge from the muddy earth to remind her of – what? She isn’t sure. All lovers young, all lovers must consign to thee and come to dust.
A guy she hasn’t seen before cuts in and she follows his arabesque lead towards the centre of the floor. He’s attractive, a good dancer, and she’s glad of the interruption to her thoughts. They wind and coil towards each other and away. So close they’re almost touching; then they part until only the fingertips of their souls are entwined. If it were now to die, ‘twere now to be most happy. They find each other’s rhythm and repeat until this is all there is.
‘My mobile’s gone missing,’ Mi scrabbles around in her bag as the barn empties and ecstatic dancers make their way out across darkening fields.
‘Are you sure?’ Esther searches the pockets of her own jeans and jacket, but of course it isn’t there.
‘I’m certain.’ Her face twists into a grimace. The crowd snakes away, and there’s no way of finding the phone or discovering who took it. Mi flushes hot with anger. ‘It had my whole life on it!’
‘Yeah, all your photos – ‘
‘All the pictures I’d taken for my – ‘
‘College photography project, oh yeah. Oh no! You had some good – ‘
‘I had great images for that. My best work yet. Fuck.’
‘It’ll be ok. Maybe we’ll get it back, it’ll turn up.’
‘All my phone numbers – I don’t know any of them without it. I don’t know anything. Even that guy Reuben I was dancing with – ‘
‘Oh, he gave you his number?’
‘Yeah. He was –‘
‘Maybe he took it?’
‘I’d’ve noticed. No, it’s more likely to be fucking Kerry. Not the first thing she’s stolen from me this year. Bitch.’
‘You don’t know that –‘
‘I feel lost without it. Like I’ve lost a limb, or a part of my brain, or something.’
‘Come on, let’s go and see what we can find.’
Around a large fire in the centre of the festival camp people have gathered, encircling it: drinking, eating, whispering, listening. They’re listening to someone telling stories, and the murmur of the crowd seems to be the hushing hum of attention and desire. Mi can’t see the face of the storyteller, it’s obscured by smoke and flames, but she can feel the pull of a thread that binds her to those words. She lays aside her fruitless searching and leans in, hungry in her empty desolation.
The voice of the wild woman at the fire is the howl of wind across the marshes; the burbling torrent of an icy spring as it tumbles down the rocky hillside; the echo of stars in the eternal night.
Mi hadn’t known she was parched. But the gush of water that’s spilling out from this rusty pump is enough to drench her: she purses her lips and drinks deep.
‘Aaaaaaaawwennnnn… And the magic words was spoken. Just then: Eeeeee-aaaaagh! Three drops o’ the potion splashed onto Gwion Bach’s thumb. Ooh, they burned. So before he knew what he were doin’, he’d stuck his thumb into his mouth, and… All the knowledge and wisdom Cerridwen had been brewing up for her own son passed to Gwion Bach: suddenly his eyes was wide open and a golden light shone from his brow. The cauldron cracked and split in two, and the rest of the potion bubbled away, poisoning the river where they stood. Silence. Nobody moved or said a word.
‘Then the explosion! Grrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaggghhhhh! Cerridwen was furious. She leapt at Gwion Bach to seize him, but he was wise and he’d seen what she was planning. So he turned himself into a hare and shot off across the fields. Enraged, Cerridwen turned into a fox and tore after him. He reached a riverbank and changed into a fish, but she dived in and became an otter streaming forrards; he soared up becoming a bird, but she was a hawk and hunted him down; he saw an heap of winnowed wheat and became a single grain, but she became a crested hen and plucked him with her beak.
‘Cerridwen swallowed the grain: Gwion Bach was gone. But where? –‘
Mi listens to the story entranced. Through fire and flames she glimpses the cracked teeth and leathern face of the woman who speaks with the voice of Time itself.
Golden visions float through her mind as Mi curls inside her tent. Coiled and tangled with Reuben, who found her at the fire. And now they’re so close they are truly touching, body and soul entwined. They find each other’s rhythm and repeat until this is all there is.