A Masquerade in Four Voices
by Alexandra Seidel
Come, Mother, braid my hair. My dress hangs ready on its frame, emeralds entwined in silk, turquoise sea wrangled free from merfolk's grasp and purples rich as plums. I have waited for this dress long, oh so long and my hair has grown for it, is ready to be woven like sheep wool on a loom, is ready to become a tower under your hands, is willing to shine. Darken my eyes with kohl at last and drain into my lips the richness of apricots. Kiss me one last time, Mother, and mold the mask to my skin; I am ready now to go to the
Balls are made halfway at least in dreams. This, my child, is one of their many secrets. Also, beneath the silk and brocade and the shimmering masks, these are really just humans, mostly anyways. I have worn the mask of jokers in many a dream, but I should think that the King of Time is a first for you, is it not? Scarlet suits you, after all, you look quite the gentleman prize. Let nobody ever tell you that you do not
Belong to this feast, this festivity, this magic, for just one night! Who with the breath still in their lungs could not want this? The young ones are so eager, the veterans distinguished and those who only visit for the night, well, they are quite
Choosing one of them to dance with you, to hold them close and let their lace lick my footsteps' echo on the dance floor, there is nothing quite as sweet as this. Of course the lace and silk are only half the price paid for dancing here, the shoes of silver glass only part of the subtlety required. Whatever happens while the moon is in the sky, nobody ever parts with their
Masks everywhere, like echoes of rain in the mountains. Mother, if only you could see this! I have left home, but feel like I am home again among the candlelight and the frankincense in the air, among the masks of eagles and of sorcerers, unicorns and lions, birds with plumage red as
Blood is so sought after. You must understand this. It is a ball, a masquerade after all, and thus as much a hunt as all of these things put together. All of them want to draw first blood, thinking that it will make them brave and exulted, but they fail to realize that this first bead of ruby may be their own. So, you see, while scarlet suits you, it also condemns you, King of Time, to the longing in their
Eyes are ever on you here. They must be, or else this would not be a ball that could hold those of my standing amongst the heavens, not even for the space of a cup of wine. Mine is the mask of the Hunter, my bow already in my hand. Once I have set my eyes on you it really is just a matter of
Time is my kingdom, just for this night; if I could though, I would stretch it out like soft dough under my fingers, grind your smile into every little grain my hourglasses hold. My Lotus Queen, will you give me this
Dance, dance, this will be like a hunt through the woods, a fugue in the darkness! My fingers feel your heartbeat under them quickening already, my bow string tightens. I release my arrow straight into your heart like a gift, see it hit the center with a vibrato of
Violins were ringing in my ears then, oh Mother! His hand hot against mine one moment then softly pried away by the stranger in the mask of green and crimson. Everybody turned and stared, the dance stopped for just the fraction of a note; people bowed to the crimson masked stranger, cradling my Time King to his chest. But it is just like this for those who dance this ball, the dancers
Change never, my sweet boy. The others, look at them! dance this roundelay for years, from the day their feet can hold the shoes to the day their bones will no longer sing with the melody, hoping all the time to find themselves as lucky as I have made you. You are mine now, and I yours, after a fashion. Come, my sweet boy, let your scarlet silk trickle along my hands like a tongue wet with hunger. Follow me, you will be the King of Time forevermore. Never let anybody tell you that you were not ready to pay the
Alexa Seidel owns the mask of Joker, complete with seven golden bells. It is supposed to have come from Venice, but who can say for sure? Things Alexa wrote have appeared or are forthcoming in Jabberwocky, Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium and other places. She edits poetry for Niteblade and Fantastique Unfettered. For the latter, she has also been known to interview people and review things. As with Joker, there is always more to tell; check out her blog (which she really tries to update once or twice a month): www.tigerinthematchstickbox.blogspot.com
Photography: Untitled, by Paolo Marconi.
The audio recording: voices by Emily Jiang (Girl), Alexa Seidel (Teacher and Joker), Mike Allen (God), and Nathaniel Smith (Boy); special thanks to Martin Kauper for sound editing.