A sudden flash splits the inky black sky of a moonless night and silhouettes a lone man in an empty square, his face upturned to the heavens, one shoelace untied.
As darkness returns, as if it were never gone, he has absconded with the light.
His thoughts are like the scattered pieces of a jigsaw puzzle dropped on the floor; he’s trying to piece together what was once whole from the mess that now exists.
There’s an immense fog, a miasma of dread that permeates his slowly waking consciousness. He tries to situate himself but everything is incoherent and laboured as if he’s swimming in a bathtub full of thick molasses. His cognition fails him, the synaptic strands frayed, the gossamer threads of memory torn and slashed, stray bits bumping and jostling each other. They exist as two dancers, following the same choreography, but slightly out of sync.
He tries to shake his head, to break free of the spider webs of confusion that have ensnared his usually deft mind. He tries in vain to blink his life back to focus, his heavy eyelids moving up and down.
There are sounds all around him. Maybe voices? Garbled. Tangled. They’re talking to him. He can’t make them out clearly. There’s no recognition. That fog is slow to lift. Why can’t he understand? The words are different. They sound different. Feel different. A language that’s too foreign.
He feels a sharp pinch in his left arm.
Standing in front of him is a being like no other. Realization strikes like a hard slap to the face. His captor. The man’s mouth opens. No sound escapes as air rushes out. He tries again. Nothing but deafening silence assails his ears.
The creature, what any human would rightly call such a being, reaches forward and places an approximation of a hand against the man’s forehead.
That light. Again.
This time instead of splitting the darkened night sky it splits his mind.
“We saw you, alone, in that open area.”
The man hears a voice inside his thoughts. This is beyond anything he’s ever experienced.
“How is this possible” he thinks to himself, “I can hear you without sound?”
“We saw you alone, in that open area. And we want to know what you were doing?”
Momentary confusion rises as those spider webs branch further into his mind. In a flash, his fear is replaced with anger.
“I was minding my own business” he spits out venomously, an automatic habit from his youth to challenge those in authority who questioned his being, questioned his right to take space, to be somewhere, to exist.
The creature either chose to ignore his acerbic words or didn’t understand the meaning behind the vitriolic tone.
“We have been watching you for some time. You often go to that place you call ‘the square’ by yourself and move strangely. You take with you that metal box that makes those loud noises. As those sounds escape that box, you contort your being. We want to know what it is that you do.”
The man’s face softens, betraying his fear and anger. His lips, on auto pilot curl up, pushing his cheeks precariously high up on the ledges of his cheekbones, ready to fall at a moment’s notice. The tension that had seeped into every muscle of his body releases, his body visibly slumping, relaxes.
He is grinning now.
A wide smile splits his face. The fear is gone. The anger is gone. He finds solid ground beneath his feet once again.
He is no longer beside himself. He is himself.
“Aw, shit!” he exclaims “I was dancing!”
“Dancing? What is this dancing?” the creature’s voice reverberates inside the man’s head with child-like curiosity.
“You don’t know what dancing is?!” The thoughts or words, he can’t be sure, slip out before he can corral them. It wouldn’t have mattered, the creature doesn’t understand his incredulity.
“No. What is dancing?”
“Dancing is freedom. It’s expression. It’s an idea and a statement all at once. It’s a form of communication that goes beyond words and phrases. It brings people together and makes them feel. It’s connection that transcends time and space.”
The man is breathless with excitement. He is there, but isn’t. He is inside himself. Wrapping himself safely within his thoughts of dance, he is protected against the absolute absurdity of his current situation.
“Why do you move in such a manner? Contorting yourself? Your arms and legs and head – all shifting about.” The voice rattles loudly inside his head again, soundless.
The man barely pauses before the words rush out of him, cascades of syllables and phonemes pouring like a waterfall, frothing vividly as they come together, churning.
“That’s dancing. It tells a story. My story. I move to music. I move my body – my arms, legs, everything – to the music. I feel the beat, I ride it. I live it. Those sounds you heard, that’s music. That’s my muse. It comes from the boom box, the stereo. That’s the technology, the metal box. My music is Dub Step. Here, let me show you.”
As if by magic, the man is free to move again. To dance for his captor. Or captors. He senses that he is being watched by not only this creature who is inside his head, but many others like it.
Once liberated from his invisible restraints, and while still seated, he shakes his body loose and tightens the laces of his sneaker. His aching joints feel the freeing lubrication of movement. The motion that is lotion.
He is ready. He is alive. He is free.
“I’ll need my music.”
In the immaculate silence, the pulsing sounds of Butch Clancy’s Foster the People Pumped up Kicks Dubstep Remix comes to life inside his head. It is everywhere and nowhere. It surrounds him. Envelops him. Emboldens him.
The man stands up. Compelled by the rhythm, his sinewy body flows with the sounds, a slick automaton with one purpose – to dance. His body pulses with every thudding beat, the deep rumbling staccato of bass causing a sharp forward/backward shift of various joints juxtaposed in stark contrast to the immediate, momentary pause when the sounds take brief respite. Over and over again, he shifts and cracks, pulses and pops, telling his story with movement, sharing a piece of him.
“Are you a robot?”
Laughter fills the room. It was an earnest question and one he had been asked many times prior but his current situation engendered this response. The last vestiges of tension dissipate as his most human of sounds breaks the unbreakable silence.
“Some people think I am, but I can promise you I’m completely human. That’s called popping. Specifically, animated popping. I’m going to be one of the best in the world one day. My world, at least. The idea is to move quickly with the music and pause when the beat pauses. A quick stop. Then you ride the beat again. It can make you look like a floating robot. You need to feel the rhythm. You need to tell your story, man.”
The man begins to move again. His shoulders and hips moving in opposite directions, simultaneously. His feet twist and turn in sharp angles to his knees, impossible angles that seem like make believe.
“So you aren’t a robot?”
The man stifles a chuckle, understanding that this creature and his compatriots don’t possess the same understanding of humour.
“Naw, man. I’m just a guy who loves to dance.”
Marquese Scott is startled awake on the bench he’d dozed off on. The warm Inglewood air is quiet and still. He looks around. He is alone in the empty square but can’t shake the feeling that there are others around him, watching him. That he really isn’t alone.
Rubbing his hand across his face, and wiping the drool from the corner of his mouth, he remembers having the strangest dream. It felt so real.
He shakes his head to free it from the nap time cobwebs and puts the lingering thoughts of his dream aside. There’s only so much daylight left and he has to finish his video.
He sits down on the bench and presses record on the remote controls in his pocket. The camera comes to life and starts recording as the music begins to play.
As the first strands of Butch Clancy’s Dubstep Remix of Foster the People Pumped Up Mix hit the air, he reaches down to tighten his shoelaces, his body already starting to move.
He’s practiced this piece a thousand times before, but this time, it felt different.
Out of this world.