The Orchid Dancer
© 2002 Eric C. Lind
Sitting in some chair, hunched over from a broken past, arms tense from rejection and mistrust, and crying there is a man who has no knowledge, no grand experience to draw from. 30 years gone, and no one to hold on to. The tears are dry and discomforting, like too much sand is in the way. He’s tired from trudging through the river of mud alone. He’s fallen so many times there is no part of his skin untouched by the earth he’s wallowed through.
The sun is bright and hot, and he can’t see because sleep has been absent from his travels. The only voice he hears is his own, but he dreams of others. These dreams are the only reason he continues, because no realization is in sight, but he trudges on with fragmented pieces of hope he’s reaped from his dreams. There is no water or food fit for a man, and what’s left is in the mud with the creatures that wallow deeply with him. “Unfit company” he thinks.
It hurts to blink, and a blur covers his sight. Trip! And he’s in the mud. Face first in some display of awkward intensity. Another branch broken under his foot, and nearly the foot along with it. He gets up slowly but not frustrated, just weary from travel, and recalls one of his dreams, a dream where tears can flow freely: no hesitation, no fear, no one to tease him or be critical of how he feels.
And she calls out to him from the banks of the river with some true name he’s forgotten. He gives in to it to reap some more hope, even though time has not been kind to him. The lines in his face make the mud translucent, as some queer, light, and tired smile breaks through softly as he remembers.
Somehow he makes it to shore, but is too tired to climb the bank, so he extends his arm in a gesture for help. She takes his hand and together they pull him from the river into some untended meadow that looks magnificent in the blur of his poor vision and the bright sun. The peace of the glade is flooded with memories of lost dreams, lost hopes. In silence and pure focus he relives dream after dream in an instant, eyes still blurred from lack of water or food, yet this vision is focused.
He remembers his state of heart, mauled though it may be, yet rarely blessed by the company of human compassion, and remains somehow pure and beautiful. Weary from the sun and the walk, he lies in the untended meadow, and the orchid dancer sheds drops of dew into his eyes. She laughs at him. She dances around him. Gives him shade from the sun she revels in. He sleeps. Finally he sleeps.
Stars come and he awakens. First time to see the constellations that man made gods out of since he began his journey. Three stars hang from the tip of a crescent moon, like god’s earring. It is said the crescent moon is of spirits. The dew whetting his eyes and the presence of laughter in his sleep did much to heal him.
The orchid dancer calls out to the man. “I’m cold, hungry, and afraid. There is no sun to heal me, and the lights in the skies tease me with the little light they give. Even the moon has no pity tonight. Look as Luna wanes into the darkness.”
“The stars do not mock you”, he says, “They give what it is they can to you, knowing the sun will return. Luna dances for you as you have done for me, but she is slow and deliberate, five cycles of rhythm, and this is the fourth step in her prance. Look long to see the Celestine move about the skies in circular triumph. She circles into herself, and around the skies to keep company with the stars.”
“You had said similar things of the Sun to me.”, she replies, “In your sleep I told you of the four dances she walks, how when she dances I dance for her. I dance with her. I cannot bear to be without her.”
While she was talking the man rose and began to collect bits of fruit from the land, all the while the orchid dancer staying close to him. When she’d become tired of what she was saying she asked the man why he wasn’t listening, but he was and carefully; quietly. He had not forgotten who had helped him from the river.
“Come. You must sit here in this glen under the stars, where Luna can see you.”, he said. The man took Gaia’s fallen fruit he’d collected and made a small fire from it for the orchid dancer. “This will keep you warm.”, he said, “I will return shortly.”
“Where are you going? I’m still afraid, even though it’s much warmer now.”
“I’ll be back soon. I promise. I have to mend my foot.”
So the man left. The orchid dancer watched as the flames wreathed into the skies. It was as if it was an acknowledgement to the stars which shone for her. She felt some peace, but was still afraid. “Show me the path Luna. Show me comfort.”, she uttered to the moon. The orchid dancer looked into the wood, and there was silver in the branches of the trees. One star shone to the north and she knew he was there under that star. She danced under the moon to thank Luna for her blessing.
The orchid dancer began to walk into the night, along the silver path toward the star. She was afraid but could not ignore Luna’s blessing. The woods wrapped around her, but no branches crossed her path, no weeds would choke her.
Under the north star, water fell from the mountain, glistening in the silver of the moon. She felt cool mist from the falls cover her, and as such became covered in bits of silver, and she was glistening like the water. She neared the edge of the Safire pool and heard the man singing. Occasionally he would laugh at some of the words he sang, but she didn’t understand them.
She peeked over the ridge of the bank to watch him in his delight, and saw him standing naked under the waterfall, reigning in the cool water over his long hair. She watched him carefully, chuckling quietly to herself while he delighted in his new state of being, unaware of his visitor.
With blazing Safire eyes he turned into her eyes and paused as if on instinct, and she faded into the woods rampaging toward the fire, embarrassed by her own actions, tripping on branches and weeds which were not on the path that Luna set before her. The wood became thick. She could see the light from the fire, but the brush engulfed her path.
The man collected his meager clothes and made his way up the silver path. He’d not had time to mend or clean his garments. When he arrived at the fire the orchid dancer was gone, and he called out to her, though he did not know her name. Hearing only a faint whisper of her voice, he wrapped himself in some clothes and set out into the wood saying, “Stars guide me”.
The brush was mocking him as well, but he’d taken a hatchet to tame them. A sobbing voice came from beneath the riverbank, and there she lay in the mud, uprooted from the lands she walked. He reached out to her and carried her to the lands as she had done before.
“You’ve no reason to be frightened of me. You gave me hope.”, he said.
“But I could see the rage in your eyes when you discovered me at the waterfall.”
“No, Luna blessed you. The night made the beauty inside you shine through as the stars do. I was moved and surprised. Come to the fire with me. Let’s sit a while and talk.”
He took her by the hand and led her down the path he’d made. His hand comforted her. It was warm and strong. The softness of her hand was delicate and welcome to him. Her hand was scented in oils unknown to him, and the warmth of his hand pleasantly drew out the perfume.
He turned to look at her while they were walking and tripped on a jealous branch. His already sore foot was now broken. He let out a scream of raucous pain, and allowed his head to hang low to the ground while he collected himself. He took a quick breath through his nearly closed lips and proceeded to raise his head still wincing from the pain. He set his eyes on the flames and began to crawl toward them, saying “Climb on my back. I’ll carry you there.”
The orchid dancer did so without spoken question, but there were many quiet ones: quiet thoughts like, He must know I see him in pain, or, how will we get out with his broken foot. Nonetheless he crawled to the fire, ignoring the brush before him. She held on to him like a small girl holding on to a lion she befriended: noble, kind, and strong, arms covered by the mane that was his hair.
And not unlike the lion from the faerie tale, who’d had a thorn in his foot, she comforted him once again, when they reached the fire. She took herbs she’d collected in the meadow and wrapped his foot in them, carefully and gently.
Night became dawn. The man looked down the moon path to the waterfall. He looked at himself and the orchid dancer. “Help me to the water”, he said, as he awkwardly came to his feet with the assistance of a nearby tree. He wrapped his left arm around her and slowly they made their way to the waterfall. With the sun starting to creep to the horizon the water was very beautiful and warm to look at as it came down the cliff.
“Hurry!”, he said, “You must help me into the water.”
They hurried their pace. He was racing, and she didn’t understand why. He would even use his bad foot to help him along, wincing in pain along the way, and occasionally falling. None the less he pushed on with her as though there was no pain. They reached the bank of the Safire pool, and she stopped, but he didn’t. Up and in to the water like a penguin from an iceberg. She looked over the bank but saw nothing but circular ripples edging out to the other side of the pool. The orchid dancer could not swim, but she might as well have drowned in her own tears. She missed him, and she hadn’t even told him her name.
She felt warm as the sun rose over the mountain. Still the mists from the Safire pool covered her. And a soft breeze blew from behind her when was whispered in her ear in the most beautiful warm voice, “Your true name is Dawn”.
She turned and saw the man, but he had grown small like she was. He’d also grown out as four iridescent blue wings unfolded from behind him, and his Safire eyes were burning like blue flame. “Do you remember my true name?”, he said.
“Twilight”, she replied lovingly.
“Thank you. You remember me.”, he said. You see, the forgotten fae have no seeming.