Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Flame Spirit's Choice

Each night the company performed, which was at least thrice a week when times were good, the little flame spirit crept from her lantern to watch. She left a fire spell, mirroring her own energy to cast light upon the magical stage, so no one would notice her absence. It was a risk, she knew, flitting from her hanging lantern like a loose spark to fall upon the stage. If she weren't careful, she could set the whole beautiful theatre ablaze. But she was careful, for she loved the plays.

Her favorite was Shakespeare. The playwright's words seemed channeled from her deepest essence, grown into a bonfire or condensed into smoldering ashes upon the stage. Crouched lightly, dimly, on the edge of the stage, she folded her little knees upon herself and drank in the words.

Henry V: We must bear all. O hard condition, Twin-born with greatness, subject to the breath Of every fool whose sense no more can feel But his own wringing ...

She remembered little of her life before the theatre, although dimly she knew it to have been long. She supposed she had been born from the death of an old flame spirit, grown so great in his power that he splintered like a log burning, shedding dozens of sparks that would become her brothers and sisters. Such is the balance of the world, and she knew that was her fate too, so she had tried to keep herself modest, her feelings limited. That was how she remembered so little, for she had truly experienced very little.

But the theatre tested this. The actors conjured a broad world, igniting a passion within, and it was all she could do to constrain herself, to keep from inhaling the contagious passions and releasing them, doubled in strength.

Lear: Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones! Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so That heaven's vault should crack. She's gone forever.

She did once, it was true, singe a curtain. Fortunately a stage hand glimpsed the smoke and tossed a bit of water upon it - the flame spirit was out of range of the splash, happily. But the blackened curtain, which the company could not afford to replace, just as they could not repaint the cracking gilt upon the walls or reupholster the worn velvet seats, reminded her of her choice. That she had decided to live, to experience the magic that this stage produced, reflecting - she guessed - the magic of the world, even if that choice, that life, meant that her own was eventually to end. She revelled in her choice as she crouched at the edge of the stage, watching, the dim flicker of her light reflected in eyes of the theatre's patrons, who leaned forward, absorbed in the drama.

Image is of the Princess Theatre in Dunadin, 1876, courtesy of Down Under in the 19th Century.

Princess Nijma

Princess Nijma