I was taught that an artist should always take his audience into consideration. You wouldn’t paint a picture without considering the snot-nosed spectators in the gallery. You wouldn’t write a book and wholly disregard your target demographic – unless you were an idiot. You wouldn’t , for example, direct a children’s TV show around the topic of pornography. (Although I’m convinced the outraged reaction of the parents would truly be worth it.) However, I feel this advice to be redundant. For myself anyway. My art form is often hindered – no, ruined – by spectators. My art is infallible, beautiful, when uninterrupted by widening eyes.
I am no narcisstic fool, as I’m sure you are already thinking. My art is perfect because perfection itself is an art. It is not a process but a sacred ritual. Firstly, I locate the ideal space for my choreography– large yet enclosed, uncluttered yet containing enough material for that spark. The first spark is what it’s all about. The dripping of the faucet before the creative juices spring forth. The first word on the paper before the novel takes form. Always, the first spark is adagio. Slow and graceful. Alive with its own small but potent rhythm. Then I add two more into the atmosphere, until they are dancing as a trios. I do not allow them to fill the entire space yet. They are still learning, glowing with an inner beauty and a power that they possess but cannot fully use. Yet. I step closer as the dance grows more frantic, no longer terre, the ballerina and cavalier leaping to new heights, coming together as one, clinging to the objects that surround for inspiration. I inhale and marvel at their virtuosic display. I am merely the choreographer; my job is done. Now it is up to the performers, and they put themselves to work violently and brilliantly, exploding with an unbearable heat. They light the room, thicken the air, force me to stand back as their display fogs my lungs. Finally, when I cannot handle anymore of the inspired skill, I back away from the space – the building or forest clearing – but never stop the dance. Creativity should never be hindered.
The day I was arrested, I’d read Fireman Sam: Penny’s First Aid Drill six and a half times. It would have been seven but as I turned the page I looked up and noticed Jason had drifted to sleep. His chest rose and fell slightly beneath his Fireman Sam pyjamas. His knees were tucked to his chest and his toes twitched with a life of their own, even in his unconscious. His fist was closed tightly around one of his most precious belongings; a silver ring I had bought him. His tangled hair flopped over reddened cheeks – he must’ve been very excited when he dozed off. Would Penny pass the drill or not? A great question, of course. And one I knew the answer to six fold. Carefully, I pulled the blanket over his tiny, almost motionless frame and pressed my lips against his forehead.
The day I was arrested, the audience were late. The dance was slowing down by the time the blaring of the sirens entered the scene. I was lurking in the bushes so I had restricted view seating. Regardless, I was enjoying the performance until I felt a large hand rest upon my shoulder. A woman’s voice ordered me to place my hands above my head – a strange balletomane! – and stand up slowly. Once I did, my wrists were quickly shackled together. It saddened me to see that very little time was spent in awe of my sublime creation. As usual, more time was dedicated to tearing it down, preventing the beautifully natural jete that had formed.
When you watch TV arrests, they always focus on the large things. Like the metallic clink of cuffs, or the hand that forces your head to duck into the car, or rights being read. To me, all that was secondary. I could barely focus on those minor details when there were shocked fans crowding around the vehicle, when I was flanked by bodyguards, when we drove down the red carpet of the motorway with such ease.
Upon arrival at the station, my headshot was taken and I was allocated a number before being shown to the VIP room.
Disappointingly, this room was bare with the exception of a table, two chairs, a one-way window and a camera blinking in the corner. The paparazzi always want a slice. Opposite me sat a male fan who’d introduced himself as Detective Dexter Harper.
“Sign this document,” said Harper, sliding a stack of paper to me, “We will then proceed to record this interview. It is in your best interest to co-operate.”
“Why wouldn’t I co-operate? This is a fantastic opportunity. I’m honoured.”
“Opportunity for what?”
That made me smile. I leant back in my chair, crossing hands that had been gracefully unshackled.
“To answer your question, I must first ask you one – what’s every artist’s dream?”
The fan’s face remained blank as though he was thoroughly uninterested in what I had just said. It infuriated me somewhat but no doubt it was just his nerves. It’s not every day you meet a genius. Fortunately for him, I continued:
“Every artist’s dream is to be discovered,” I said. “We’re an awfully egotistical bunch.”
The silence that followed made the clock seem deafeningly loud. It was then that I realised this interview had interfered with my lunch hour. I also noticed that the clock had an acoustic limp; the tick being infinitely louder than the tock.
“You’re not an artist,” he said dismissively. “You’re a killer.”
Now you must understand – I am not easily offended. However Harper’s comment definitely struck a chord with me. I was giving up precious time to answer the drooling fans’ questions! I’m no killer. I’m an artist. A struggling, misunderstood artist whose achievements will no doubt be fully appreciated five hundred years into the future. How delicious!
Despite his ignorance, I took the document and signed my autograph. We cannot expect the scientific, moralistic experts to understand the Muse, now can we? Harper set up a voice recorder – never once taking his eyes off me I noticed, awe or reverie? – read some more rights, and then scrutinised my signature. No doubt he was going to frame it when he got home.
Then he slid a picture across to me. Disappointingly, it was not of my creation. The picture showed the charred body of a child laying amongst rubble. It was, quite frankly, uninteresting from an artistic standpoint. The photo was functional. Ugly.
“One of your victims. He was just a child. You’re smiling?!”
“My my,” I stroked my chin as I gazed upon the picture gleefully; “I already had enough performers upon the stage. I wasn’t expecting an extra to turn up in the credits! Please, don’t insult me. I didn’t choreograph this at all. “
“You’re the one responsible for this child’s death. For that, I will personally make sure you never see the light of day again.”
He really was the most bemusing fan I had ever met! Then again, I hadn’t had the chance to meet many. I’d always remained incognito. Where they all this hostile?
“There have been numerous fires in the area,” he continued, “Numerous deaths. All started the same way. Same MO. Each one of them was you, wasn’t it? Ohio in October. Tennessee the month before? Near the coast in Maine soon after…”
“My aim is merely to create – the people had nothing to do with me. But yes, all of those were my works.”
“That’s all the confession I need.” He turned the recorder off. “I suggest you find yourself a lawyer because believe me, you’re going to need one.”
“I’ll see you at my next signing,” I said.
“Rot in hell,” was the immediate response. I couldn’t help but smile.
“The fiery flames of hell? That’s the greatest dance of them all!”
“You’re out of your mind.” He began to stand but hesitated a moment before sitting back down. “Just tell me this – how could you not care about the aftermath? All those people…”
“The ‘aftermath’ is none of my concern.” I told him. “If an artist were to consider the criticism before he started, he would never finish his piece.”
“Oh you finished alright,” he said grimly. “All the brigade managed to salvage from the last fire was some furniture and this ring.” He slid a plastic bag across the table. “We would never have caught you if you hadn’t been on the scene. What made you stay this time?”
But I was too busy staring at the lump of silver encased in the plastic bag. I was too busy taking in the unmistakable serpent insignia on the face of the ring. I was too busy trying to organise the million thoughts flying around my head.
“Where did you get that ring?”
“I told you sir, it was found on the scene.”
“No. No it can’t have been.”
“Do you recognise it sir?”
“It’s…no. I told him. I told him! I told him. Jason. Never to follow Daddy to work. This can’t be right. Let me see the score.”
“The musical score. The notations you made. The report, damnit!”
I scanned the document frantically. Body of a child. Male. Approximately eight years of age. Of course, I should have seen it. Jason’s pyromaniac tendencies were never hidden. There was the unexplained smell of smoke on his person every now and again. The matches under his mattress. His insistence that I read him Fireman Sam stories every night. He must’ve woken up and followed me, attracted to the idea of fire. He wanted to dance. He’d always wanted to dance.
In the distance, as though he was speaking through water, I heard Harper inform me that I would be tried for murder on 8 different counts.
Lights up. The soloist walks onto the stage to the Sound of Silence. He steps swiftly, deftly, up to the chair and sits.
Ladies and gentlemen, the denouement.
The other dancers walk onstage, in matching costumes. They raise their arms in canon.
The first performer moves slowly.
Then, with the staccato eruption, his body jerks.
Diminuendo. His body sways. One final perfect cadence. The head bows.
The applause of a nation.
Nicole Acquah is a 19 year old Creative Writing & Drama student at Royal Holloway University.
She worked as a journalist for a year at Yellow Media Radio Company and has recently had her play, ‘The Spider’ shortlisted for the Southend International Playwriting Festival.
Her first full-length play (an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’) was performed in summer 2014 by the Sky High Theatre Company, of which she is the founder.
When she is not busy writing, acting or daydreaming, she can be found watching Disney movies or belting Broadway showtunes!
Nicole’s blogs can be found here: http://theonlywayisegham.wordpress.com/
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