Shadow dancer

Albeelding: Susan Seddon Boulet

He was born in the middle of winter.
He was not a wanted child.
His mother would put his crib outside on the porch, hoping he would freeze to death.
In the morning she would find him, shivering and blue, but still alive.
She tried to choke him with a wet cloth.
He would turn blue, but refused to die.
She tried to starve him, let him scream of hunger for hours, but he wouldn’t die.
Her madness never lasted long enough to beat his survival instincts, but the hunger would haunt him for the rest of his life.

At an early age, he decided the only way to survive was to bury his feelings.
It was dangerous to feel.
He put away his sorrow in a deep, dark place where no one would find it, not even himself.
He became resilient and tough.
Never again would he be powerless.

He grew up a strong boy.
He turned into a massive man.
His sorrow was safely put away, or so he thought.
He worked hard, in order to lessen the risk of being moved.
When occasionally he failed, he would hide.
He would sit alone for hours, sometimes days, arms crossed over his chest, waiting for the feelings to pass, for the tears to dry up, for the longing to die.
He would never share his feelings with other people.
He didn’t trust them.

Eventually his emotions became so dense, they started to pull at the very strings holding together the web of reality.
Chaos started following him, where ever he went.
Shadows, lurking in the dark, would come out when he passed by.
Children, who still could see into the magical world, would see a big man walking past in a black coat, surrounded by dancing, black shadows.
They would get scared and hide behind their mother’s skirts.
They thought he was the devil.
How could they know he was just like them?
He was just a child, doing what was necessary to survive.

This was his fate, he believed.
To be a man who stirred the shadows and would be mistaken for it.
He carried his assumed destiny like a man who had learned how to survive at an early age.
He didn’t complain.
He just held on.

In fact, he was a very sensitive man.
He couldn’t avoid being touched every now and then.
He couldn’t avoid becoming teary eyed holding a baby.
He couldn’t avoid falling in love.
He couldn’t help admiring beauty, when it filtered through his dimmed eyes.
Sometimes the colors of the sunset would surprise him and tears would start running down his face.

He didn’t want to fall in love.
Falling in love was dangerous.
But every now and then, he would meet a woman who reminded him of his capacity to love.
She would see the sadness in his eyes, the reflection of that deep, dark pit within him, and be irresistibly drawn to it.
She intuitively knew that this sorrow was waiting to be stirred.
She sensed only love would be capable of stirring it.
And sometimes, just sometimes, he would be unable to resist.
He would let her in.

Unfortunately, however, they were all too ignorant.
They didn’t realize the weight of his burden.
They weren’t aware that whenever he allowed the love in him to rise, it would pull up the sorrow and anger in him as well.
They would be devastated, once they saw his shadow, that darkness that looked so ugly, after years in isolation.
They would run in fear, confirming the man in his conviction that he was meant to be alone.
Every failed love affair made him denser and darker, increasing his capacity as a shadow dancer.

One day he was walking alone, like so many other days.
He had sought refuge in the woods, trying to find some peace.
He was tired of stirring the shadows, tired of fighting being stirred.
The weight of his sorrow had become almost unbearable.
He didn’t know how to go on.
What use did it have to survive, without knowing why he was alive?
What use did it have to carry this burden, to use all his strength to hold on, while nothing good ever came from it?

He was walking down a dark path.
It was in the middle of the night.
He was enduring the cold, hiding away in his black coat, his head pulled between his shoulders, his hands tucked away in his pockets.
He was muttering to himself, as he so often did, having no one to talk to.
He was looking down, when a dark shadow approached.
He only saw it when it was already very close.
It was big.
It looked like an owl, but bigger.

He stood still, trying to get a better look, wondering why it seemed to aim straight for him.
When it flew into him, the blow was so big he fell on his back.
The bird sat on him.
It was so heavy and big that he couldn’t move.
Only then he saw it was not an owl.
It was a woman, with feathers and wings.
It was a mystical creature, an owl woman.

She looked at him and said: ‘Enough.’
To his horror, he felt he was paralyzed.
He couldn’t move.
He couldn’t defend himself.
He felt utterly powerless, for the first time since his mother had tried to kill him.
A dreadful, cold fear rose up in him.
‘Good’, she said. ‘It has begun.’
With her beak she started digging into his chest.
It hurt terribly.
At the peak of his pain, when he wanted to die, she ripped his heart out and showed it to him.
It was still beating.
‘This is your sorrow’, she said.
But she wasn’t done yet.
With her sharp claws she started digging into his gut, while he wrenched and screamed. After a while she pulled out his guts and showed them to him.
‘This is your anger’, she said.

Through his excruciating pain he managed to look at her.
He saw blood dripping down her face.
He saw blood dripping from his heart and guts.
He saw the love in her eyes.
He then knew he was going to die, and for the first time in his life he let go.
He let go of his early life decision to fight every feeling.
He gave in and cried.
The sorrow he had hidden in the depths of his heart came streaming out.
He cried of pain, of sorrow, of all the life not lived, all the love not felt, all the suffering he had been through.
A black river of pain rolled over the land.
And then his anger came out.
He screamed so loud that thunder rolled over the mountains and the earth started to tremble.

It was endless.
It was eternal.
The owl woman sat with him until finally he was done.
He looked at her and said: ‘Now I’m ready to die. Take me.’
She looked at him with such tenderness in her eyes, that tears welled up in him again.
She said: ‘Now you are ready to live.’
She put his heart back, put his guts back and he saw and felt how his body healed within seconds.
He felt a lightness, a warm glow in his body, a feeling of ease, of love and being loved.
It was a sensation he had never felt before.

Then they heard a deep rumbling, rising up from the earth.
They saw how the surface started to crack open.
The owl woman said: ‘Don’t be afraid. Let go.’
And the man said: ‘But my life. It has just begun!’
‘It has’, the woman said. ‘Let go.’

As she said that, a crack underneath them opened and they fell in.
They tumbled through space.
As they came out the other end, the man noticed he was still alive.
They were flying.
It was magnificent.
He noticed his body had changed.
He now had feathers and wings too.
For the first time in his life he felt free.
He felt love.
He felt immortal.
And with a shock he remembered he had always been.
He had just forgotten.

At that moment the woman looked into his eyes and said:
‘Finally, you remember.
I was afraid I had lost you, darling.
You are no longer a shadow dancer now.
You have become a dancer.’

~~~~~~~~~~

Sanne Burger @ sanneburger.com

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