The voices in her head berated her. A constant stream of negativity and self-admonishment persisted in informing her that she had no place performing the M’atahd, despite how many years of her life she had spent in both preparation and giddy fantasy throughout her childhood. And then, when the moment finally came upon her, she froze completely. The crowd watched her intently, and she could do nothing but shudder in her insecurity. Finally, she fled the open field, leaving behind the murmurings of the crowd.
Running through the darkening woods, she came to the stream she knew so well. There, she sat by the water’s edge and began to softy cry at her own ineptitude.She soon felt a strong and familiar hand on her shoulder.
“Why did you leave, Ashanta? I was so looking forward to your performance this evening.”The voice was deep and resonating, with the soothing effect that could only come from her father.
“I…I can’t, Father. I’m too scared. A-and I hate it! My whole life I’ve wanted this, and now that the time is upon me, I can’t do it!”Q’una wrapped his arms around his daughter and embraced her as she shook.
“What is it that frightens you so, child? The M’atahd is your birthright. It is a time of joy, not of trepidation.”“I…I know. But…all of their eyes are on me…and…what if they don’t see the colors? And what will happen to me after? I do not wish to leave!”
“You speak as though you won’t return to us. Everyone returns here, and is better for the experience. And as for the colors…”Q’una turned her around. Lifting her chin, he looked at her squarely.
“Ashanta, I have seen your colors. They shine more brilliantly than any the World has yet known. And once you are finished, they will create such beauty in Otherworld.”She was silent for a good moment. Finally, she sighed in fatigue, as if a portion of the burden she carried fell off of her shoulders and rolled into the stream behind her. Night was approaching quickly, and the glowfish would soon leap at her ethereal troubles, thinking them to be a food source.
“You…say that with such certainty. I think what scares me more than anything else, is proving you wrong. I do not wish to disappoint you. And I do not wish to be made a fool of in front of our entire village. That would no doubt reflect poorly on you.”A scowl crossed his face at that. “Nothing you do could ever disappoint me, short of just that: doing nothing. If you truly worry about my image, then do what is really in your heart – what you were born to do. And do this without regard to how others see you. That is all I ever require from you, daughter.”
With that, he added, “You are a Skydancer, despite whatever fears you hold this night. Tonight is your turn for the journey. Embrace it, for you have earned it.”And then he stood. His word was final, and echoed what she herself already knew. Without another exchange between them, they walked together back into the valley.
By then, it was already quite dark. On that starless night, the conditions for a skydance could not have been better. The crowd hushed as they saw the two figures emerging from the woods.Addressing the audience, Ashanta apologized. “Forgive me for my abrupt departure earlier. I was not certain if I was quite ready to perform for you, and my doubts got the better of me.”
The spectators nodded in understanding. Q’una smiled at her, and took his place among them.“I am ready to begin now. Father, if you would please start again?”
As before, Q’una spoke in a booming voice that reached the entire valley. Despite having already heard the introduction, the villagers were once again enraptured by it.
“We are gathered here today to bear witness. My daughter Ashanta is of age to perform the M’atahd. Let all she touches bear the light of her life. May Otherworld teach her the meaning of beauty. May that beauty be brought back to us. This is our cycle. This is our M’atahd. But this is her dance. May Otherworld know the name: Ashanta!”As before, the villagers chanted her name in support. “Ashanta! Ashanta!” they shouted in unison. Instead of fleeing this time however, she began to slowly rise. A few inches at a time, and then a few feet, the ground separated itself from her. They continued to chant as she approached the skyline. Finally, she came to a stop, and an expectant hush came over the crowd.
A few silent moments passed. And then she began.Slowly, she outstretched her left arm. Her fist uncoiled, and a soft, blue light illuminated the sky directly adjacent to it. The light slightly pulsated, as a musical note echoed throughout the valley. Then, the light faded, and the note stopped. The sky returned once again to black.
Looking below at her audience, she became dizzy. Stage fright, combined with a fear of heights, did not make this an entirely pleasant experience. The knowledge that a single note could be heard everywhere at once – every gesture and every mistake visible for miles – made her nauseous and feel faint. Nevertheless, she gritted her teeth and tried to focus. Stretching out her right arm, she repeated the process – this time, producing a brilliant green color, and a note on a higher octave reverberated against the night sky. This too, faded.Finally, she stretched both hands, and the colors and notes harmonized in a dramatic fashion. The notes and colors sustained.
Thus, she began her dance.She pointed. She kicked. She turned. With every gesture came a flash of color and a note – her own body used as both a paintbrush and a musical instrument. The audience below her chanted her name wildly in joy: “Ashanta! Ashanta!” they cried out.
Her body twisted. Colors and sound emanating from every appendage created a kolidiskopic symphony the likes of which could only be captured by the paintings of madmen who would dismember their own ear in a futile attempt to convey the light behind their eyes that only they could see.Finally, in a climax of color and sound, Ashanta exploded the night sky. The spectators cheered maniacally. “Ashanta! Ashanta!” they chanted throughout the valley.
And Ashanta disappeared.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra had quite a crowd that night. Tickets had sold out almost immediately when the show at the ampetheater was first announced.Anyone with a musical background knows that in any orchestra, no one component of it is more important than any of the others. It is the entire ensemble that makes it what it is.
Truth be told however, the main reason this orchestra had become so popular lately was due in no small part to its newest conductor.She had taken the classical world by storm. Even as early as six years old, she had been considered a prodigy by many. Growing up, new age gurus referred to her as an “indigo child.”
Now, at thirty, she had reached the pinnacle of her career. And she was feeling nervous.“Five minutes until curtain, Miss Ashantanoa. Will you be alright?”
She smiled, despite her tremor. “I’ll be fine John, thank you. I just wish these jitters would go away. Sometimes I don’t even feel like I’m supposed to be here.”He grinned at her. “Look at it this way, ma’am. No matter how it goes tonight, it’ll be an experience.”
He added, “Something to write home about, eh?”
Michael F. Mercurio