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Gilded Serpent presents...
The Key:
an Allegory* in Which a Courtesan Dancer Greets the New Year
by Najia Marlyz  

Court dancer, Raven, was lost in thought as she shifted her gaze toward a novice barefoot dancer whose name she could not remember.
Idly, she moved her fingers lightly over the tarnished metal object in her hand.
The antique key was heavy and the acrid smell of age tainted its dented surface.
Nevertheless, it fit into the court dancer’s palm as if it could reform itself into any shape.
Perhaps, she thought, it guarded an undiscovered part of the life she sought.

“I am not past caring for all that has been entrusted to me.
Disappointment, dissipation, delay, or even dismay will not alter the story that I have sewn together as my tattered relic,
preserving all essence within its case of beveled glass.”
Examining the ornate key, her downcast eyes slid over its shapes like the wild eyes of an untamed beast.
Again, and yet again, she turned it over slowly in her night visions.

Raven moved her arms slowly upward from deep inside her body,
silken turns spiraling within her dance sounds, too.
Traversing along the shear edge of nightfall,
in soft threads of gold,
had delivered her to the place where first she had re-discovered her forgotten key.

Rasping slightly against some unseen impediment,
she slipped her hair over her right shoulder,
smoothly rolling her chin across her collarbone with her eyes closed.
As that movement transformed itself into an ascent,
her head dropped back, opening her throat to the music within,
and her eyelids, too, began to open.

In that moment, the key had revealed itself!
It had lain among the curled and dead leaves of fall.
Once crisp and brown,
leaves of sheet music and poetry had decayed and snapped apart,
revealing the glint of metal beneath their prolonged protection.

Raven’s expectant hope drew her forward,
her fingers grasping the cold object without note.
She folded the gold dance dress softly against her knees,
And strains of music for her dance resumed the main coda of her life with a renewed strength.

Thus enervated,
her pulse quickened as her spirit continued to wash over familiar movements.

The music moved the dancer,
but her dance changed the music,
forming new meanings.

“Perhaps this key is the only one I have sought,” she mused,
fearfully certain that finality and fealty in this lifetime,
were to continue narrowly escaping her grasp.

“Nevertheless, I shall continue this one dance,
as long as I can convince my musicians to play for me,” she promised herself.
“I will form dreams from movement,
textures from sounds,
and convoluted, intricate passages of time
into a latticework not easily forgotten.

I will lace these colorful threads together as delicately as I am able,
weaving them under, over, and around in the movements of my soul until they become part of the bodice of my dancing dress.
They will cover my heart with warmth, safety, and joy,” she assured herself against a shivering resolve.

Above all, Raven had learned:

Joy is the element, from which one’s life dance must form,
into a creation that can never be stolen, lost, or defeated.

She smoothed lengthy strands of silken hair around the nape of her neck,
and her shoulders began to rise and fall with the waves of a seductive song that had begun to escape her throat.

She grasped the key ever more tightly in her grip,
knowing that when she and the song ceased to weave,
the key would fit whatever lock existed there.

She felt herself open into freeform.
Her hand rose in ritual,
her song invoking the heavy key concealed in her palm.
As her thumb pressed firmly against its dented metal shaft,
the key’s curved metal bit into the lifeline traversing her palm.

In her youth, foretold by the dark Moroccan who read her palm, this story:

He had recited a rhyme of three,
three more,
and three once again.

Anticipation lit an ancient pathway, along which she, again alone, would dance.

The long-sought key now dangled freely from the small finger of her right hand.
Darker grew days of the closing year,
and they shortened, too,
but the dancer’s pathway shown in the gray-green glow that seeped relentlessly
from the crevasses of all her dreams and invocations.

Raven extended an open hand, dangling her precious key into darkness.

“Uncountable joys that have never before been
will weave your new bodice this New Year!” promised her heart,

…and its innocent clarity caused her to curve her lips upward,
almost imperceptibly.
Trusting, she stepped forward, toward its Promise.

What is an allegory?
2003 Princeton University Dictionary
n 1: a short moral story (often with animal characters) [syn: fable, parable, apologue] 2: a visible symbol representing an abstract idea [syn: emblem] 3: an expressive style that uses fictional characters and events to describe some subject by suggestive resemblances; an extended metaphor.

[In this expressive allegory, Najia chooses to use symbolism and metaphor embodied in a fictional dancer, rather than a parable, fable, or moralistic story, in order to describe her abstract ideas about dance, thereby wishing all dancers a Happy New Year in 2006. Is there a moral for all dancers contained in these images? Najia says, “No comment; let the allegory speak for itself.”] 

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