Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dancing in Non-Euclidian Space


Sarah was rarely that scared.

There was very little of the everyday that could hurt her *physically*. Seeing no weak-spot her mentality had altered such that very little could *emotionally* hurt her either. It wasn't that she didn't feel pain - being a superhero hurt, sometimes an awful lot - and it wasn't that she didn't feel emotions - she did that too. But her coping mechanisms in both senses were very well developed, and even if she got shot at or dumped or knifed, or lost her job - well there was life.

And she was totally immune to fire.

So knowing this meant that fear had little purchase. Yes, when other people were in danger, or in particular circumstances, she could be afraid, but mostly not. She remembered reading that the definition of heroism wasn't that one wasn't scared, heroism was overcoming it - but yeah, for her to do this on a daily basis, she was mostly pretty much fear-proof.

But not now.

This was scary.

This was terrifying.

This was ballroom dancing...

*****

It had started only yesterday. 

She was having a group meeting with the rest of the art department, with a director talking about the episode they were shooting - three weeks from now.

"So I want darkness here...real darkness...that goes up and down the line."

The director was named Mary Whickman - which is important to shout out as there wasn't many female directors, especially in television, and they should be celebrated. She was also very good, though she could be very vague sometimes in the meetings. Film was a media where one was either very specific as a director and matched every detail, or vague and let the talented staff fill it out. Whickman went for the vague - and it worked. To the extent that Seventh District was a quality show - and it was a formulaic cop drama, was in the margins in the asides where kind of generic dialogue and situations where filled out. At these moments it could be legitimately funny, or tense, have a well constructed sot, or even occasionally dramatic.  

But Sarah heard her phone beep and saw that she had an email from Lana.

She should check it - she was learning a lot about lighting, when...

"Sarah,

Curious if your free tomorrow night. I have come into possession through means of two tickets to the Fifth Annual Tompkins Charity Ball. It’s at the Avalon Room in West Hollywood. It’s an event that benefits muscular dystrophy. It’s a formal event and very dressy but thought it might be enjoyable for us to attend.

Hope your day is proceeding well

-Lana.”

Sarah considered. She should do something for muscular dystrophy - a doctor once told her that a good way of describing her powers was that she kind of had the opposite of that.

Wait a second...a ball? Like when she got into a pumpkin or something?

How did that work?

Sarah had been to her high school prom, where she did not put out. She had been dancing as an adult at various music clubs in the south land. She thought perhaps that this was somewhere between A and B but where?

She suspected closer to A.

Okay...

She could live there.  That could be fun.

But did she have a good dress - something to wear - her shoes? Her prop master brain was going through the permutations of her closet Red - no . She (she had very, very little clothing that was red – because, come on, her costume was red) had a nice black dress with green trim that looked good and elegant, which she wore to industry events where it was nice to look good for. Nice pumps, no flats if she wanted to do any dancing...and...

Oh my god...she was going with a chick.

Sarah sighed.

She really needed to stop doing that. That wasn't useful at all.

"So third act we get to the scene in the distillery...I mean talking to location found a great place in the valley...but lighting-tight ceilings lots of shadows want more of them.”

Sarah realized she was in an important meeting.

Okay that may have been a stretch, to use the word important, but she was in a meeting and she owed it to them to give them her attention.

******

After the meeting, she and Lana talked on the phone. It was odd talking on the phone with her sometimes. Lana was never quite clear of what she was doing in any particular moment - and Sarah had the strong suspicion it wasn't good. Or safe. The flame was an extremely active hero. She had pieced together dozens of investigations at any one time, had claws into numerous law enforcement bodies on several levels, and well...just lots of shit. When she was at her house there were rooms she didn't want to go into. They frightened her – well, frightened was the wrong word, as Sarah didn't easily frighten, but wanted to avoid these places. Sarah didn't want to date the Flame. She didn't want to mix their magics.

But as she and Lana had a pleasant chat about it - the ball would start around 8. Lana would be happy to pick Sarah up and drive (which made sense as Sarah drank while Lana did not) around 6. They would have dinner first. Lana knew of a Thai Restaurant she had read good reviews about but never actually been to, and...it was an organized conversation. She asked about Sarah’s day, and listened to a few of her petty concerns, even offering some of her own. Lana didn't say what she had did. Sarah didn't ask. It was a pleasant conversation.

Too pleasant, perhaps.

Was she roasting someone alive on an open fire like chestnuts?

Performing tests on a sample of fibre to see if it had been near nitrous?

Standing in an alley watching a single child play with a teddy bear?

Listen to 1000 phone conversations at once of everyone in the city? And yawning?

(That last bit would have been difficult, as she was keeping up a convesation with Sarah.)

Sarah sighed. The banality of...well not evil perse, but something in relation to it.

But a ball?

Sarah had to load up a large calibre shotgun with blanks - which was tricky and messy. typically a couple of times a month she had to deal with them, and while the average person might think they were just normal bullets, except not, in reality they were temperamental little buggers with blackpowder that tended to get loose and jam the gun up, in ways that were often hard to clean. Shotguns with their pellets were theoretically easier and safer (despite the reputation if you shot someone with a gun loaded with blanks that’s it was really dangerous - but if you shot someone was a blank shotgun, yeah, you would probably be drummed out of the union...but yeah). However, they were a fucking pain to deal with.

And somehow a little of the powder caught on fire, and she was covered in soot –and...

A beautiful ball sounded divine.

******

Sarah smiled. She did look pretty. She always did when she wore something sleeveless. Her arms were her best feature. Large masses of muscle on large shoulders - but somehow graceful. Sarah could be described as a large woman - but the more flesh one saw of her the more one saw if her proportions were not some mathematic idea, they had power, and beauty. She smiled. She had a little opera coat to put over it - but no. She was just there.

And was going to a ball!!

Apparently you could do that in LA, if you paid, like, 75 dollars.

You learn things every day.

She put on black flat shoes, and got out that nice purse that matched her dress - and felt...happy.

She wasn't in love. She knew that, even though she never really had been in love. But she felt glad for this, this strange thing. She had been a real superhero for, like, 5 years. She’d fought monsters, and robots, and ninjas; and ninjas that looked like Klingons. But she had never gone to an elegant ball. This was a strange and tentative thing, but special and magical. Lana took her places that she never expected, to do things she never had done. And that wasn't a metaphor for lesbian sex.

Well. At least mostly that wasn't a metaphor for lesbian sex. 

There was a knock on the door.

And Sarah opened it to see Lana also wearing a dress. A long orange silk number that had puffed sleeves, and almost draped to the ground. It was beautiful. She was beautiful, with delicate makeup and her brown hair down in a renaissance ponytail.

And she had a corsage in her hand of a single rose.

This wasn't a friend who was picking her up, this wasn't someone who was there to look at her dress - this was...her date. Her companion, who intended to pin her, a term that she knew somehow.

And she felt terrified.

Lana smiled. Her smile.

"You look gorgeous. You really can dress up a prop master and make them look elegant. Better then a software engineer, anyway."

Sarah smiled. She had to, but the fear... "I didn't get you a flower."

"It’s just a silly tradition," said Lana. And then she kissed her gently.

Sarah was 50 percent sure this evening would end with sex. But that didn't frighten her. That was just sex. Girls have sex with other girls. But go to balls with them? Dance with them?

Oh God - they would have to dance together.

*****

But first they had dinner. Women did eat dinner together all the time. She could handle it.

Dinner was at a Thai Restaurant - a fairly good Thai Restaurant. Thai was one of those cuisines that Sarah was aware existed - but well, other then a boba milk shake once or twice, never dipped into. She remembered banana peels were important - her dish contained vegetables wrapped in them. It was good. She had a vegetarian dish so she could share with Lana, as often Lana would give her large portions of whatever she was ordering. So she wanted to return the favour.

Lana was so very thin, but her peanut sauce covered rice was quite tasty.

They got odd looks. Sarah had expected an elegant local something with fine china and attentive staff for a night at the ball. However, this was semi-divey. Formica and paper napkin holders – chopsticks, but it was well, a lot like an Asian food restraint in central LA. The patrons were a mix of Thai and non Thai - the sight of two women wearing ball gowns and obviously a couple - who occasionally fed each other - was curious.

It wasn't a hostile curiosity - but it was unwelcome. Even the waiter, an older man looked slightly tentative toward them, as if any moment something would happen: they would make out or call the fire department.

Instead they only talked. Sarah wasn't quite sure about what, but they talked. And it was pleasant, easy - it may have been about her early jobs in the industry, encounters with actors, Lana’s travels in the world...it may have been something else. But Sarah smiled, and she was happy and her fears were washed away. Lana’s hand held her and she felt firmly held.

Then she looked around the room, and felt so alone...and afraid.

And back again.

About five times over the course of the meal.

*****

They parked the car outside the Avalon, which was a dance club. Sarah had been there a couple of times - in various guises and at various stages. Trip hop night, a performance by Sleepy-time Gorilla Factory, just a night. But this was different.

But it was almost comforting that parking was a bitch. It made it real. LA was a city built around plentiful and free parking. Except in Hollywood. There it was outrageously expensive and horrible. And Sarah didn't have to deal with it!

She smiled and relaxed. Pointedly not into Lana, giving her space.

Not that Lana looked in the least bothered or alarmed, or taxed, by the experience. Her Vulcan-like expression rarely changed, as they saw a lot full and then a second...spaces. It wasn't really a story. She didn't regard it as such. Just parked the car and they got out, Leaving their carriage that looked suspiciously like a Lexus, a car that looked especially like a tarted up Toyota.

They walked together. Sarah looked down. She had to - Lana was shorter then her, though Sarah herself was reasonably short.  As she did this, she saw her own boobs. Damm. They were good. She realized that for Lana, her eyes were near there level - not quite but...

She wondered what Lana saw in her. Did she look at her boobs? She knew Lana liked her boobs. Was she like a guy, and all she saw was a pair of boobs and a cup holder? Lana thought about her.

That didn't quite make her scared, but it was there.

They reached the door. It was a plain, ordinary building - most night clubs were.  Actually, one could even describe it as ugly. Normally from outside you could hear music.

Tonight there were a couple of men in Tuxedos. And not those bouncer tuxedos you sometimes saw in LA, but actual tuxedos. And not much hair. Not from being black and bald, but from being, like, 60 and grey haired.

Men and women where gathering out in front - all well dressed. Some obviously better dressed then others.  Some of them where greeting each other, and it all looked very cheery.

And in walked two girls. Who were ‘together’. At some point Lana had put her arm in Sarah’s. It must be her damm magic. Lana reached into her purse and pulled out two tickets.

 No one outside seemed to recognize them.

And they entered.

The space was plain and boring - however it had been tarted up with too many flowers. Not steamers, but flowers, some rows of them azaleas, posies, and roses - so many roses. It looked like a Kevin Spacey movie.

The room had been setup with tables, like you might see at a wedding, in a couple of spots. The chairs looked nicer. The bar (which was of course paid) still looked divey.

There was a dance floor that was mostly empty, but the night was just beginning.

And on the stage was...a string quartet. With a piano. And...oh god...a flute

Someone had let in a flautist!

Sarah’s eyes glimmered. When she had expected a dance, she had expected - well dancing: do whatever you want dancing.

These. People. Were. Waltzing!!

My god

Waltzing!!!

*****

Sarah went into the bathroom. Closed up the stall. Fear.

It wasn't pretty.

She hated not being brave.

Hated it.

She heard a noise as someone entered. It was lana from the sound of her shoe.

"It’s not hard dancing," said Lana. "You’ve seen one of those television shows...what is it? I saw like five minutes of it once.”

"Dancing with the stars?"

"That sounds about right," said Lana. She was clearly leaning agianst the bathroom stall.

"Glider was on it."

"That sounds about right," said Lana. "It’s easy.”

Sarah paused and relaxed ever so slightly. She realized something. The Flame –Lana - she was the only one who had, recently, really scared her. Even the villains mostly just annoyed her, but The Flame - she could make her feel real fear. If one is poetic, make her feel.

And she realized something.

"How come you’re in this bathroom?" Asked Sarah.

"I'm...a girl."

Oh yeah. Funny that.

And Sarah went out to face her fear, taking Lana’s hand in hold.

And found that outside the bathroom the universe had been replaced with a non eclidian space.

***

"Huh?" said Sarah. "Are we dreaming"

"it’s not quite dreaming - it uses the same part of the brain, but that’s not the word," said Lana - who had instantly turned into The Flame. Not her dress, but how she spoke and acted. It wasn't as if they were night and day - but well, dusk and night, or something stupid like that. She was The Flame.

"Right, Jarmin, as always. You were always right...always so sure of yourself." The voice Sarah vaguely recalled from an unpleasant encounter at her gynaecologist. He was also the only one who used the term Jarmin. Sarah had meant to look it up but had forgotten - you know how it is- and she forgot his name. She hoped Lana would say it, as it could be awkward.

"shalk," said Flame. "aah."

She was a catch wasn't she?

"Did you think a western prison could hold me?"

Sarah realized that they were in an empty void with no left or right, no up or down - it could be said to be empty or completely full, endless void or 1 inch in front of her face. The only thing she had for a constant was that next to her was  the Flame. That was the constant. But she couldn't see Shalk, or be sure where or how his voice was coming. This didn't phase Flame in the slightest.

"well then, I won't use a western prison next time
," observed Lana. "i was with her and used mercy. my mistake."

"I made several in our most recent encounter. I won't again. And I do see you are with her. Are you *with* her?"

"yes, no reason to deny it," said Flame.

"Revenge on both of you at once. How sweet."

"So how are we going to do this?" interjected Sarah. "’Cause we were kinda on a date. We’re going to do a little dancing, I just built up the courage, really, and I want to ride that."

"I'm not going to do anything," said Shalk. "That was my mistake the first time. I am just going to keep you trapped."

There was a dramatic pause.

"For all time."

Well, if it was going to be all time, no reason not to put in a dramatic pause.

Flame considered.

"I am not present on the psychic plane,” Shalk gloated, “So you can't destroy me. There is no space to do so either. You are trapped."

"No, we’re probably in a bathroom at a nightclub," said Sarah. "Knocked out or something. I mean even if you lock the door at closing time someone will let us out.”

"by forever" Flame said, "He is actually referring to maybe 5 seconds. a brain can process an awful lot...like dreaming we can spend forever in here.  it’s just an illusion, like time with my own private hell. Just a different type really."

"Well, that’s good. It’s then...”

"awareness of an illusion doesn't make it any less real. knowing a mirage doesn't exist doesn’t makes it any less tangible. it’s not like we can wait it out. it’s forever."

"So what do we do?"

Lana considered.

"And what happens after forever?" demanded Sarah.

"ask a priest" said Lana "i read a little thomas aquinas in college and he had some interesting ideas on the subject."

Sarah paused for a moment.

Again, she had time for it.

"So Shalk," she asked, "What’s the story?"

"I am not going to be baited by you," said Shalk.

"Well, if we’re living in a space of infinite time...if you’re putting it together...you must also exist in the same dimensional construct. You talked with us. So there’s an exit.”

"There is no escape."

"So your trapped here too," said Sarah. "Interesting.”

"Words can't help you," said Shalk.

"That’s a shame. I’ve watched a lot of Dr Who, and since I usually, well, just punch the villains, it’s a waste.”

"Ahh. You’re ‘Mazing Girl, right? I did read about you," Shalk said. “That explains how you so easily beat me. Again, then I was not prepared."

"And you’re not prepared now."

"How’s that?"

"Well, if you constructed two universes with no conceivable entrance between the two, one for us and one for you," said Sarah, "However you gave us an infinite amount of time to conceive it...this is a monkeys and Shakespeare method...there has to exist a method of breaching it, just we haven’t thought of it and ergo it must exists.”

"Well you can try."

"Sure Shalk, it may take a 1000 years but ... you know what. This is how dreams work. When you really spend forever in a dream you have a few minutes of something interesting then skip over the boring parts. Let’s do that.”

****

Sarah found herself next to Shalk.

She punched him into unconsciousness with one blow.

******

Sarah woke up, her head next to the bathroom stall.

She opened the door and saw Lana lying on the floor, still asleep.

She wondered...had she really spent forever?

And Sarah realized this could have been her chance to spend forever with her.

That would have been romantic...

Insane, in a Lovecraftian sense.

But romantic nonetheless.

Sarah leaned down to kiss her, to wake her up as a way to repay...

"you’re what happens after forever," declared Lana, looking up at Sarah tenderly. as her eyes flittered.

There were moments. There were moments after sex, now waking, when Sarah thought she saw a flicker of something through Lana, a flicker of emotion - maybe even.... - across her eyes. But it was only ever a moment. And then it past. And then she was Lana again.

Which was good. Because when she turned she saw Shalk’s dead body on the ground behind her. She also noticed that the door to the bathroom was locked.

Lana got up.

"they say you can't really die in a dream." Lana got up and walked towards the body. She smelled the remnants of his breath.

"laudanum. massive does. Its’ a drug that creates odd dreams, maybe gave him his power or worked with it. he probably intended to die. Not wanting to see after forever, as you put it."

"Who was he?" asked Sarah. "Come on.”

"my old teacher" said Lana. "one day I offended him and he could not stand it...so... a waste, but so i often i encounter it, i am numb to it."

"Like an evening, I guess."

"and it was a sealed room mystery. So many pieces...figure them out. i had worked out 23 solutions in my head, but wanted to see if you could find one first." Lana shrugged and unlocked the door. She walked out. "well, a dead body can put a damper on a ball."

Sarah followed her, stoped and grabbed her hand with hers and locked the door handle with another.

"What ae you doing?" demanded Flame.

"Well, the story is going to be an old man committed suicide in a girls bathroom at a nightclub. It’s a fucking horrible story," said Sarah. "But that story can wait. I was promised a waltz.”

Lana looked at her.

And it was Lana. Not The Flame but Lana. Sarah could tell the difference. Kinda. It wasn't the voice so much, but the eyes.

And Lana took Sarah’s hand...and they started to dance.

A beautiful dance.

An awkward dance, yes, but a wonderful one.

Sarah, being the taller one, lead Lana across the floor in a dance that, yeah, was pretty easy. If people noticed that it was two women, Sarah didn't see.

And it lasted forever.

Until they heard a very loud scream.

Well nothing lasts forever...

But Sarah had had her ball, and she was satisfied.