A static dance, p.1
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       A Static Dance, p.1
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           Chad Inglis
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A Static Dance
A Static Dance (A Newt Run Module)

  By Chad Inglis

  Copyright 2012 Chad Inglis

  Her eye is twitching again. She can barely see it, but it's there, a small tic, or spasm in the lower part of her right lid that no one else would even register. She spends a moment looking at it in the mirror, and at the reflection of her round, tanned face and the wavy bob of chestnut hair falling to her jawline. Her dark eyes are utterly without expression.

  She shuts off the light and goes back to the living room.

  "Eye's twitching again," she says. Ryan looks up from her seat next to the window.

  "Means you're in the wrong line of work," she says.

  "It's still snowing?"

  "Quieted down some."

  The girl, whose name is Camelia, sits on the rug in front of the empty fireplace. She stretches her legs out and raises her left arm, tilting her body over her right knee. She holds the stretch for as long as 30 seconds, and then she repeats the motion with the opposite leg. She is dressed in loose pants tied with a drawstring at her waist, and a yellow tank top, with a second, black one underneath that. She isn't wearing any socks, liking the feel of the rug on her bare feet.

  "You're not cold?" asks Ryan, watching her. Camelia shrugs.

  "I never get that cold," she says.

  "I'm freezing."

  "I have blankets," Camelia tells her. Ryan makes a sound that could be taken for anything, and goes back to staring out the window.

  It is dark outside, and from where she's sitting on the floor Camelia can only just make out the glow of the street light in front of her building, and inside that a faint trace of snow, billowing like embers tossed up by a fire.

  "Heard there's going to be another round of layoffs," Ryan says absently.

  "You can't believe every rumour," Camelia replies, shifting her body in order to work the stretch along her inner thighs.

  "It's probably true. It's the same thing everywhere."

  "It's going to be fine," Camelia her, her voice muffled as a result of having her face so close to the carpet.

  "It'd be fine if the bills stopped when the work did."

  Camelia grunts, and changes her position again, leaning back so that her shoulders touch the rug. Her face is strained with effort, her thigh muscles stretched to thin cords, taught enough to snap. This has always been the hardest stretch for her, ever since she was a child.

  "Maybe I could be a bartender," says Ryan. "The world can always use another bartender."

  Camelia stares at the ceiling. The plaster is white, but in the half-light it appears gray. Her eyes are drawn to a large, rust-coloured stain stretching from the corner to the window. She can't remember having seen it before, but it has the look of something that's been there for some time.

  "Is that new?" she asks. Ryan looks at her.

  "What?"

  "That stain."

  Ryan glances up.

  "How should I know?"

  Camelia raises one of her hands and Ryan leans forward to help her up. Wincing, Camelia lets out a long breath, enjoying the pain the stretch has left in her legs.

  "I need a drink," Ryan tells her. "You got anything?"

  "No," says Camelia. "Let's go out."

  "Here?"

  "There's a tonne of bars up here."

  "Miner bars."

  "They're not so bad."

  Ryan shakes her head but gets up anyway, and Camelia goes to the closet for a sweater and a pair of socks. She meets Ryan next to the door, passing the full-length mirror in the hall. She sees herself enter the mirror, and a second later she enters it again, a repeated image or echo that merges with her own as she crouches to put on her boots. Ryan opens the door.

  "Last time I went out up here some asshole stole my jacket," she says.

  "Just hold onto it," Camelia tells her, straightening her hair. In the mirror, her double follows suit, copying each of her motions exactly. Finally Camelia steps away from the mirror, losing sight of her strange visual echo. She exits the apartment and locks the door.

  "Do they even make cocktails up here?" asks Ryan from the foot of the stairs.

  "I know a place," says Camelia lightly, taking her arm and guiding her, laughing, into the snow.

  She moved to the apartment in Northside three months ago. Her friends thought she was crazy, but a fair number of people had been moving north recently, lured by the cheap rent and the district's burgeoning night life. Camelia enjoyed it. Despite being so close to where she'd grown up, Northside was different, and she embraced the change. She told herself she was starting over, and then she laughed, because she didn't believe in fresh starts.

  "The past exists inside of whatever I become," she wrote in her journal. "There's no getting away from it. Life is a continuity that memory insists on chopping up; the past is contained in the future, and the reverse is probably true as well."

  At the end of the first week her eye began to twitch. It lasted twenty minutes, more or less, and then it went away. Three days later it happened again, and this time it was accompanied by a hallucination; as she entered the living room, Camelia saw, or thought she saw, someone moving behind her in the window glass. She spun around, but found was alone in the apartment. She frowned, turning slowly, and saw it again, a girl or woman who followed a step behind her and disappeared into her reflection as soon as she ceased to move. Camelia waved her arm, and the girl did the same. She went closer to the window to get a better look, and smiled into the glass. Her own face smiled back at her.

  "It was me," she wrote. "Me in the past, and all I was seeing was time, the brief span of time I'd just experienced, playing itself back in my reflection. That was nothing. I can live with that. It's the voice that's hard to deal with."

  Ryan is at the bar, talking to a man who might be a miner, but who could just as easily be a student. Camelia watches them from a table in the corner. The bar is crowded, and loud, full of dozens of separate, shouted conversations that are all nearly drowned out by a blare of synthetic music. Camelia hears very little of this. Most of her conscious mind is somewhere else entirely, holding a conversation with a disembodied voice.

  "You know that none of this is really happening," it says.

  "What do you mean?" she asks. "Of course it is."

  She doesn't say this out loud. Instead she thinks the words, addressing them like text messages to her head. Similarly she doesn't "hear" the voice - it exists inside of her, soundless, but persistent, and very clear.

  "Just like what you saw in the mirror back there was really happening?"

  "That was time."

  "I see. So what's all this?"

  "This is now," she says.

  "Is it?"

  "Well," she concedes. "Not exactly."

  "Because you know this has all already happened. Not long ago, only a micro-second really, a fraction of a fraction of a micro-second, the length of time it takes for the sensory data to reach your brain, but it isn't now. You live your life in the past tense, but you think of it as the present."

  "So what?" she answers. "It still exists. It happened, so in some sense it's still happening."

  "Did it?" chides the voice. "Is it? How do you know?"

  "I just do."

  "That's not an answer. It's a position. Unless you have proof that your senses aren't lying to you, how can you be sure that what you think happened actually did?"

  "Oh don't start with that. That's boring, and the worst part is you know it's boring."

  "Well, it isn't a new idea, I'll give you that, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it boring."

  "Unoriginal then."

  "You're not being very charitable."

  "Look, none of us have any choice but to trust our senses. They're
all we've got, and we construct our world view based on how our perceptions match up with everyone else's. It may not be a perfect system, but it gets the job done."

  "Fine," says the voice. Across the bar, Ryan catches her eye and waves. Camelia waves back.

  "I wonder what your friend would think of your world view if you told her about me."

  "There's no point worrying her."

  "Probably not. But to get back to my original argument, even if I grant that all of this is happening now, why are you so certain that it remains?"

  "Because how can anything stand up unless there's a foundation? If there is a now, then must have been, or else how did we get here?"

  "Rhetorical," says the voice. "Where's the proof? How do you know the universe isn't in a continual state of creation?"

  That thought hits her, and she takes a second to consider her response. At the same time, Ryan returns from the bar with a pair of drinks. She sets them down heavily on the table, some of the cherry-coloured liquid slopping over the sides, and her fingers. She laughs, slurping it from her skin.

  "Why do they pour them so full up here?" she exclaims, and Camelia laughs too, whatever she'd been about to say forgotten.

  She got to look forward to the twitch appearing in her eye. When it did, and if she was at home, she took the mirror from the hall and set it in front of the fire place, and then she started to dance. Her motions were clean and fluid, although she knew they weren't nearly as polished as they had been when she had the time to practice every day; since she left the academy and started work she sometimes skipped a day, or even two in a row, but her body still remembered the forms, and so her double did
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