Gary doesn’t like to show his face. Or at least, he said he doesn’t have one. When he was first shipped here he told me that he had spent some years as a trapeze artist in Cirque du Soleil, then as a sword swallower in Johannesburg. An accident had brought him back in this business a few years ago and left the space above his shoulders empty except for a larynx, a voice box, and a throat. Now he prefers the life of a sculpture, boxed and labeled crimson FRAGILE, but he doesn’t like it when I call him that. He calls himself a music box ballerina. “I am no David; I am Gary,” he told me. “I am a music box ballerina who dances when opened. Spins until the lid is closed then folds back into the dark. The beautiful dark. We can just get over this quickly. Please.” I told him that I am no Michelangelo, and that he does not need to be David, sculpture; he can be Gary, Ballerina, but not Gary, music box ballerina. “I need you to dance,” I said. “I need you to dance in front of the camera, not just spin like you are used to. Move, but move like you are on a stage. Think: spotlight on your viscera. Limbs on marionettes.” Gary stood frozen for a few seconds, the top of his throat bulging pustule-like. And then he started, first twirling around the studio with his left foot soled onto floorboards. Then the old trapeze instincts came in. He danced—no, he flew—the thrust of his torso angling on stage lights. Camera lights. Shutter freeze. Navel-grazing miroirs. Storks floating in the sweat-salt of riverbeds. He hung there for a few seconds, suspended in the air, a wiggling abalone hooked by the throat. And then he started to fall, trench-like, streaking the walls shades of a long, red tongue. He dropped to the floor: his limbs thwacked onto the tiles. The sound of an overripe mango crushed on impact, the skin damp and pulpy. Gary contorted his body, shaking, dragging the left leg over the hollow of his throat, his left arm squashed on the floor and his right palm burning half-moons into his foot. His right leg twitched, then stilled. “It’s the box-button—here,” he gasped. He pointed at his belly button. In there, the underside of his navel bulged, growing arms, then legs, and finally the marbled torso of a thin, long silver rod. It was the tooth of the music box, he told me. Or a sword from his past—he did not even know what was buried in the body. “Get me back to the box,” he whispered, throat pulsing gray. I nodded to his back, shuttered the camera, and folded him back inside.
Christina Pan's short stories and poems appear or are forthcoming in Vagabond City Lit, Eunoia Review, and Interstellar Literary Review. She lives in NYC.
The Ekphrastic Review
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