[this short fiction was submitted along with Necessary Fictions for my Psychoanalysis and Creativity term paper, January 2015]
Seven years this story has lived in her bones. Daily, almost hourly Sappho has rehearsed, repeated, remembered. Is it true?
At the carnival, her mime act is just another sideshow – a silent symphony amidst a cacophonous assault upon the soul. Painted masks, goblin faces; leering eyes and lolling tongues. Pressing in on her, they drink her, hungry for the sense of her. Then spit her out, impossible to swallow.
Silent enigma. Arriving on horseback from nowhere, white face painted with black, she’s like fire to the fingertips: nobody dares get too close.
But her story is not just a story, not to her. This mime she’s forced herself to remember; the movements she’s repeated so many times, over and over, rehearsing every detail as she re-enacts the moment. Her son’s blood smeared on her lips and hands, the look of anguish on her face, the convulsion of grief and slump of her limbs like a marionette whose lifelines have been cut. All too real. Like a harrow to the heart.
‘What does she mean?’ Faceless voices whisper behind silent masks.
‘Looks like some kind of –‘
‘Love. Oh! Murder –‘
‘Betrayal. But whose –‘
‘Whose story? Which story?’
Whispers become cries become shrieks. Feathered faces, horned faces, sharp-fanged faces pressing closer, blocking the light from her tear-black eyes.
‘Witch, witch, witch,’ they howl, surrounding her with darkness:
Witch – coiling
Witch – crushing
Witch – clawing
Rising, baying, moving as one, the serpentine crowd strike and slit her tongue from her mouth. Silencing the silent storyteller.
Sappho tumbles and plummets, sinking far beneath the surface of the earth as her bones clatter against it.
And when she wakes, she runs. Into the forest. Dank trees drip and the stench of leaf mould rises. Dark shapes slither.
Shivering with cold and fear she dives into a cave where a fire is burning. Warm rocks welcome her with the eerie sense that they are listening, watching, waiting. Even expecting.
Her body begins to move in the familiar sequence of shapes. She no longer feels afraid. Flames cast her flickering shadow onto the wall and she feels that her danse macabre is being witnessed for the first time. She lets it flood her. Her secret, her story: the loss, the separation and the pain. And in this final rehearsal, this ecstatically painful tilling of old ground, the burning furrows of her veins are torn open, ploughed deep for new sowing.
Inside, the fire leaps and the shadows disappear. A raven flies from the cave-mouth, kakkawing its story to the moon.