The Ballroom

I was tired that night, and after making sure the house was completely locked up, doors and windows securely bolted, I hazily climbed up the stairs and then collapsed onto my bed, burrowing under the covers after getting undressed. I turned and shifted and when I finally found a comfortable position, I could soon feel my conciousness slowly ebbing away, subtlely slipping into oblivion and then, as my train of thought slowly succumbed to fatigue, my thoughts just stopped and gave into sleep.

And there I was, drifting listlessly through the tingling darkness, warm and safe in my own bed, a smile on my face. I was happy. But as I floated there, dreaming, I could hear something echoing through the blackness, distorted, as if I was underwater. I frowned and shifted about, not wanting to wake up. But it got louder, and louder, and as it did I could make it out: it was a piano, fluid and melodic, and as it got louder I listened to it, how it swelled and then broke, the nuanced, harmonious sounds coming together in massive, colliding soundscapes. And then, as it just reached the crescendo, my eyelids flew open.

Immediately my eyes were greeted with the lustrous, carved wood of a huge four posted bed. I watched as the intricate engravings spiralled and swirled as they climbed up the thick, polished rosewood. I sat up, and surveyed the bed covers; pink, floral duvets that draped over the side of the bed. All of this was very strange, considering this wasn’t where I went to sleep. Stranger still was the piano that I had heard earlier was still playing, the sound of it thundering down the hallway outside. I looked over to my left, and found that my clothes were folded on top of a chest of drawers against the wall, so I pulled the covers up and hauled myself out of the bed, stumbling my way across the room to reach my clothes. I took a quick glance around the room; plush, purple carpets covered the floor, and panelled wood climbed halfway up each of the four walls before being replaced by a deep blue wallpaper set with a white, regal patterning.

I quickly got dressed, and quitely stepped my way over to the wooden door. I placed my hand on the gilded doorknob, and slowly turned it, making sure not to wake anyone who would possibly be sleeping. Not that they wouldn’t be woken by the piano of course, but it still felt like the right thing to do considering I was in someone else’s home. I pulled the door behind me, a small click as it set into place, and I could hear the strange otherwordly piano still playing from down the hall. The hall itself was decked out with similar floor and wall coverings as the bedroom, but also held paintings of seemingly rich and powerful men and women, if their style of clothing was anything to go by. Precious gems dangled from their necks and rings set with massive stones sat on their fingers, their eyes staring out from their decorative frames.

As I walked along the hallway, patches of moonlight slid in from the windows set at even intervals along the opposite wall. I stopped alongside one for a moment, the wind blowing the heavy, red curtains into the castle, and looked out at the night time sky. What I saw amazed me. Rather than the scant few stars that I’d see at home, instead the sky was set with thousands of them, like  a black pincushion set with hundreds, no thousands of diamonds, or like someone took a paint brush loaded with white paint and flicked it at a completely black canvas. But what amazed me most was the moon; so incredibly large, so bright. I would never have imagined it was possible for the moon to get so big! As much as I wanted to stay, the beautiful piano was constantly drawing me to it; I wanted to find out who was the source of such inspiring music. As I walked, I imagined the notes of the song gliding out over the tops of rosewood tables and past the opulent paintings of the hallway,  resonating through kitchens and drawing rooms and filling empty bedrooms of the castle with the echoes of such alluring and delicate music.

I was approaching the room in which the piano was located. The doorway to it was, well, no doorway at all, instead it was a huge opening, an archway that extended to far above my head and opened into a huge room set with windows that climbed all the way to the top of the ceiling. They were set with intricate, swirling patterns, much like the engravings of the wood on the bed, and outside each of them was planted a small flowerbed of deep, crimson red roses, the dew of either what I assumed to be the results of a recent watering, or perhaps a downpour of rain that had only recently just stopped falling before I had woken up. I stepped through the massive archway, and my shoes clicked and clacked as I stepped across the checkered black and white marble floor, unheard over the sound of the piano. The room was massive, the size of a small football field, but it’s only feature was a grand piano located directly in the center of the huge ballroom, besides a few small benches that were scattered around the edges of the room, against the wall. I quickly took a seat to my left, and listened to the music. Sitting there, playing the piano was a woman, and I watched as her long, slender fingers danced and skittered across the black and white ebony and ivory of the keyboard as she came down on the keys. From what I could see she was wearing a simple white silk dress that fit perfectly to the contours of her body, and I seen that she had sleek, long black hair that rested on her shoulders and then flowed down her back, reaching as far as her hips. As I watched and listened, I noticed that she seemed so intensely focused, not once did she blink, and I doubt she even noticed I came into the room.

Finally, I listened as the song slowly wound down, and then heard the last note quivering in the air, before dissapating into silence.

I began clapping, and as soon as I did, the womans head spun around and found me.

                “Oh, hello there. I didn’t realize I had an audience” She said, as she stood up from the bench

                “I didn’t realize a piano could be played so beautifully! Bravo, young lady” I responded, while still clapping. She started walking towards me, the heels of her shoes hitting off the floor, sending out resounding clicks as she approached me. I got up off the bench and walked towards her.

                “Thank you” she replied, blushing when we finally met halfway between the bench and the piano “It’s not often I get to show people how passionate I am about music, piano in particular. It’s nice to have an audience once in a while….I didn’t realize the palace was accepting guests for the night”

                “Neither did I, but it seems we’re both wrong, mi’lady” I bowed.

                “There’s no need for that my friend, please, call me Alexandra. What is your name, may I ask?”

                “My name is Nathaniel, Alexandra, and it’s a pleasure to meet you” I rose from my bow, and as soon as I did my eyes caught hers; piercing green eyes that held a fiery passion, a purpose. As I stared they seem to skewer my very being, searching the depths of my soul with their intelligence. I would never forget that moment. “May I ask you a question, Alexandra?”

                “Why of course, please, don’t be intimidated by the castle or anything else, I’m here to help” she replied happily

                “Could you please tell me where in God’s name I am?” I answered, flustered. I had never seen this place before in my life, at least not as much as I can remember, so I had no idea where I really was.

                “Why Nathaniel, you’re in no other place other than Cyprorcea Castle, home to the my father, the King Reroth Morale!” She said, as she gestured to her right. I let my eyes follow to where she had pointed, and they rested on a huge portrait of a man, one, you could say, of such energy, such magnetism, that it translated onto canvas. Just looking at the portrait had me inexplicably drawn to the man; I wanted to meet him, shake his hand and talk to him. He was dressed in some of the most opulent and expensive looking clothes I had ever seen: draped over his back was a sumptuous red cloak with a black and white fur trim, and he was suited up in such extravagant red slik that I’d have to save my entire lifetimes earnings to be able to pay for. Jewewly and rings decorated his neck and hands, It was all topped off by a crown sitting on the top of his head which was set with such magnificent, lustrous gems that almost seem to sparkle, even on canvas. The overall effect was one of such intimidating, imperial majesty that I couldn’t help but feel humbled simply looking at the painting. I would’ve seen it earlier if I had not had my back to it when I entered the room.

                “Your father seems like a very interesting man, Alexandra” I said, turning to her.

                “All that is for show, really. Father doesn’t really enjoy wearing all the jewelry and such, he says it makes him seem ostentatious and pompous, so he prefers wearning more normal clothes when he’s not meeting with the public.” She replied, turning also towards a pair of doors leading outside on the opposite side of the ballroom. “Come with me to the balcony Nathaniel, the stars would be absolutely astonishing tonight!” She said, as she strode off towards the doors.

                “Coming, Alexandra!” I called , as I hurried after her.

When she reached the two doors she pushed down on the handles, throwing her arms out wide and opening the doors. She kept them wide apart as she emerged into the fresh air of outside, the wind blowing in through her hair, sending it out behind her in streams of black. I followed her out into the balcony and into the moonlight, and immediately I could smell the briney scent of the sea, hear the vast whispering of the ocean as it rushed in and out with the tide. I walked over the the railing, and looked down at the ocean below. The castle, it turns out, was set on top of towering cliffs that overlooked the sea. I was too busy stargazing out the window earlier to notice. I watched as the sea relentlessly threw itself at the the cliffside, slowly eroding away the cliffs beneath the castle. Boulders that had fallen from the cliff face after being unendingly assaulted by the ocean plummeted into the green-blue depths below, either bearly peaking their heads above the surface or forever lost beneath, watching the castle from beneath the water.

                “I didn’t realize the castle was set on the seaside!” I yelled over the sound of the ocean.

                “Oh yes!” She yelled back “I’m quite grateful that my  great-great grandfather chose this spot to raise the castle: it’s nice to come here at night sometimes and play some piano, or perhaps come out to the balcony and do some stargazing. I’m quite knowledgeable about constellations, you know.” She said with a smile.

                “I have no doubt about it mi’lady..” I said, as I turned my own gaze to the stars. I’ve always loved stars. I could never help but be in awe of them, just floating there, serene and majestic in the hallow, echoing beauty of space. I’ve always yearned to find some kind of connection with the vast spread of the constellations and nebulae as they slowly rotated in the heavens above. The moon hovered silently over the knife-edge of the horizon, casting it’s luminary glow over the undulating waves as they churned in and out of the surface of the water. I found myself closing my eyes and syncronizing my breathing with the roar of the sea. In, out, in and out.

                “It’s quite beautiful, isn’t it?” She asked, suddenly appearing at my elbow. “I tend to look up at the stars sometimes and just get lost in them, finding and re-finding all the different constellations and just thinking about life in general. It’s quite strange how quickly time passes when you’re doing it to, you can spend what seems like 20 minutes when in reality it’s be an hour..” she thought out loud as we both looked up at the stars.

As we stood there, the same piano music that she had played came slowly through the open doorway.

                “Who’s playing that?” I asked.  

                “It does not matter” she said, placing her finger on my lips. “You seem like a nice man, Nathaniel..would you like to dance with me?”

Without a word, I took her hand in mine and placed my other hand on her hip. Slowly we swayed back in forth, as in time with the motion of ocean, and as the tempo increased we found ourselves spinning, eyes locked together. I watched as she pirouetted in a graceful circle, the silk of her dress billowing out in waves, her hair flying out as if to embrace all the stars under the arch of the night sky, elegant and precise. We stepped and spun in time with the music, in an almost hypnotic trance as we gave ourselves over to the music. And then, as it finally slowed down again, we stopped and then parted as the last note hovered in the air between us.

                “You have such beautiful eyes, Nathaniel..” she whispered, as she came closer. I inched closer to her myself.

                “I could easily same the same..” I replied. And then, she closed her eyes, leaned in close, and kissed me.

It was blissful oblivion: I was once more floating through the darkness, this time with Alexandra by my side, and I didn’t ever want to leave her. I felt like I was drifting hopelessly though space, any concept of time completely vanished in the haze of her kiss. I could feel her breathing, her trembling within my embrace and it was all I could feel, nothing else mattered. It had completely consumed me, simple and sensory.

But then it ended. Rather than resufacing to the world of moonlight and the seaside, the darkness still held it’s grip on me, and as it’s clasp grew tighter I fell backwards into oblivion, the tingling sensation of sleep once more enveloping me. In the dark I heard a new noise, a incessant thud, constantly hammering and hammering, getting louder.

And then I woke up. 

          

The End

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