Dances with Ferren
Ferren and Kiet
didn't dance together at the start. The dancing was in two long
lines, which curved and swirled up and down the slopes. Ferren came
opposite Nesters of all ages. He grinned at the younger ones he
knew and recognised.
The music wasn't
very melodic but the rhythm was irresistible. Ferren just wanted
to keep dancing and dancing.
After a while, the rhythm speeded up. As many of the older adults
retired, the two lines broke apart into separate circles. Ferren
was in the same circle as Kiet. He found himself repeatedly facing
her, catching her eye, matching his dancing to hers.
Faster and faster went the rhythm. Eventually even the circles broke
apart. Now Ferren was dancing with Kiet, the two of them alone.
She flung out her arms, gyrated her hips, flexed from the waist.
Her skin was shiny with sweat, her mouth was wide with laughter.
Sometimes she looked at him, sometimes she looked away. But it wasn't
her face, it was her whole body imprinted on him. She was sheer
flowing motion, an undulating sea. There was amazing muscular strength
and energy in her slight figure.
How long had they been dancing? Ferren had lost all sense of time.
More than half the dancers had fallen away. The driving rhythm went
on without a pause.
He couldn't take his eyes away from Kiet. She began swinging her
head from side to side, so that her dark red hair flew out like
a banner in a storm. She was showing off to him.
He showed off to her too. He jumped and sprang, whirled his arms,
kicked out with his legs. But he couldn't compete with her furious
He took the lead from her movements. Her face was wild - almost
as wild as when she'd raged at him in the City of the Dead. But
now it was wild with a kind of savage joy.
Everything became a blur. There wasn't a thought in his mind - only
liquid flickering movements. It seemed impossible they could move
so far between every beat of the rhythm. He rose as she rose, sank
as she sank, higher and lower, further and further . . .
Until finally he lost his footing and fell. Even as he fell, it
seemed that the rhythm still bore him up, leaping and turning in
slow motion. And she fell too, gliding with him through the air.
They hit the ground almost simultaneously.
Side by side they lay, gasping and panting. The blood pounded in
Ferren's ears, so loud that the music seemed suddenly far away.
It was as though a nest had formed in the darkness, enclosing Kiet
and himself and a small patch of grass.
She struggled to speak.
'It's - it's - it's - it's -'
Every time she began, her lungs demanded another gulp of air.
'What - what?' Ferren was panting too.
'It's lying-on-the-grass-ish-ness!' she brought out at last.
She burst out laughing, and Ferren laughed too.
'Like lying-by-the-pool-ish-ness,' she added eventually.
Ferren didn't understand, but it didn't matter. He reached out to
take hold of her wrist. She didn't pull away.
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