A Sea of Mauve and Lavender and Eyestalks
By Alexis A. Hunter
You chase a colored phantom on the air, in silence.
The thin clump of an audience fades to your periphery as you throw yourself into the poem. Moving one limb at a time, you linger on each step. You can’t make them understand the words, but you can make them feel the feeling.
You mime sobbing.
You mime cursing.
A person’s gaze may trip glibly over the words; they may pause in all the wrong places; they may not stop to investigate the meaning. That’s what you’re here for: blending the arts of interpretive dance and miming.
You fall and weep—and rise, one motion pouring into another.
There’s a flutter at the edge of your vision, new audience members stopping on the busy street to watch.
You stumble pitifully, purposely; your eyes sting with unfeigned tears.
The new audience members creep forward. You can’t help but notice them. Their pale mauve-and-lavender blob bodies clash against the black coats of the secret service escorts behind them. Their eyes, on stalks, bob over massive swollen heads. They’re captivated by you.
You wrestle your soul back into Millay’s work for the crescendo:
Once more you clasp, then—uncoiling your fingers slowly, with dreadful hope—reveal that there’s nothing there.
A skittering of applause from the humans in the crowd. You bow, then look fully for the first time upon the two Amboans. They stare back at you. One of the secret service women taps her ear and mutters something.
Since they first made contact with Earth, these beings have fascinated and terrified you. You’ve seen all the videos, hunched over your laptop on your bed, eyes narrowed and straining to read their expressions.
But they are unreadable, even to you.
The Amboans turn to each other. Then they jitter. It’s the strangest movement you’ve ever seen. A strained gesticulation, a struggle?
The secret service woman touches one of them gently. “We must be going, Mx. Alihas.”
Ignoring her, they nod their mauve heads toward you. “Again, again.” Is that desperation in their voice?
Once more into my arid days… You begin again.
You want to see the world, but you can hardly afford your electric bill.
You spend your mornings on the street, miming and dancing poetry for people’s spare attention, spare change. It gets harder all the time—often they don’t look up from their phones. Nights, you bartend at a little dive three blocks from your apartment. You generally know what people want to drink before they ask—the tips are good.
There are two jars beside the sink—your travel fund. One is brimming with change, the other half-way there. You don’t dare count their contents, afraid to know how little’s actually there.
Your mother leaves messages asking you to call back. Asking you to give up and come home.
You do neither.
The next day there are four of them. Soon, you can no longer see a human face in the crowd. The mornings are chill—much cooler than Amboans typically like, but still they come.
Followed by the media, of course.
There’s more change in your hat than you’ve ever seen. And bills too. And buttons—for the Amboans have an inexplicable love of buttons. (These offerings bothered you at first, until the volume of actual cash rose. Now they make you smile as you roll the marbled patterns against your thumb.)
After every performance, the Amboans wiggle and vibrate. Their expressions are unreadable, but you begin to sense a hunger. Something the media doesn’t seem to catch. They report about the Amboan’s sudden, strange fascination with mimes—how they’re flocking to street corners across the globe.
You try not to get involved. Your second jar is full. You’ve started on a third. But it’s hard to concentrate—to really throw yourself into the performances when that need is vibrating through them.
One morning, you flub the finale of your favorite poem. So many unreadable, purplish faces staring you down. You never wavered under attention before—but this…
You step across the invisible border of your stage. The secret service agents tense up. They don’t like that their charges are out in the open like this. They don’t like you stepping nearer. But they don’t intervene when you ask, “What are you doing?”
People have asked before, but the Amboans have never answered.
One of them drifts forward. Mx. Alihas, you think, from the first day. The others follow, surrounding you. They give off a faint, sour-metal scent. A momentary panic flashes through you. You get the feeling that they would touch you if they had hands.
Alihas speaks, quietly. “You speak the old language.”
Another says, “You speak like old language.”
A third presses near. “We had… forgotten it.”
They jitter, almost as one. “We want to remember, but… lack the articulation.”
“Articulation?” you ask, voice hoarse.
They bob, a sea of mauve and lavender and eyestalks. “No digits. No fluidity. We gave them up when we ascended.”
There’s a moment of silence, as you ponder this, as you feel their desperation to rediscover a long-lost part of themselves.
Mx. Alihas floats near your elbow. “Could we… borrow you?”
You’re chasing colored phantoms on the air again. Not from Millay’s sonnet, but from the Amboan’s past.
Somehow, they borrow you. They take turns standing behind you: a faint hum in your skull, a tugging sensation, rattling your teeth, and then you are moving—but not you, them.
They move you.
They fall and weep and rise—
Daily, you grasp for the meaning of this old language of movement. The jars beside your sink fill up: a line of hope for future exploring. But possessed by them, expressing them, you’re discovering far more than you’ve ever dreamed.
and once more
and once more, you clasp—
and there is something ancient, something forgotten, something devastatingly beautiful there.