I looked like an undead.
After a sleepless week, it's Friday at last and classes have ended. People the left campus in pairs and groups and after a few hurried farewells, I took my leave as well. Last period's P.E. for goodness sake. I'm beat.
I zombie-walked off to a rarely used gate more sluggishly than usual. I took this shortcut to my home everyday and the dusty little path passed the old school auditorium.
There's been lots of changes here recently. I've heard of plans for a new gym, a new building and other stuff so this auditorium was rarely used too.
But today, the aged building felt oddly different.
Odd isn't exactly the right term for it. More like mysterious. Eerie even. Whatever is more appropriate, it wasn't easy to describe, but as I passed by the slightly open double doors, something caught my attention.
Or rather, someone.
I couldn't exaclty see the stage from outside, but something told me someone is inside and I felt so pulled toward the building as if it called to me. And I followed-or more appropriately, my feet took off on their own accord.
And I didn't regret that decision.
A breathtakingly graceful and svelte figure flowed about on the stage, leaving me transfixed as I walked in. I was entirely enchanted by the elegantly precise movements of the ballerina onstage. I saw the expertise in her measured pirouettes; the harmony of her whole body with each stretch of limb.
There was no music, no lighting and no backdrop but I was taciturn in utter awe at her flawless and yet effortless dance. She seemed to glow in the dull strip of sunset that peeked into the room through the doors I had left unclosed.
Her beauty is equally stunning as her movements. Her hair was neatly braided and gathered in a pretty little jeweled circlet adorned with silver and white feathers and pearls. Her features were finely sculpted and gentle lashes rested over her eyes in concentration but her expression showed pure hearted bliss and the smile on her lips completed her look of contentment.
I was pretty content in watching her too.
I didn't know who she was and why she was alone or if she noticed that I came in. Even I wasn't aware of the place anymore. She was all I thought of. Her and her captivating dance. I didn't see the dusty chairs and curtains. I didn't see the rusty lighting equipment. I didn't even see my own shoelaces.
Before I knew it, I had stumbled over them and I fell on my knees with a loud and rather obnoxious "Ouch!".
"I-I'm sorry!" I coughed half from the dust and half from the embarassment as I got up from my humiliating position and undusted myself. I forgot to change to my school shoes from my rubber shoes after P.E. in my haste to get home. Now I hurt my knees and my pride and I felt bad to interrupt. "I didn't mean to barge in or-or-anything. I just wanted to-"
I had looked up and I was surprised to find the stage empty. It wasn't just empty in the sense that the ballerina was gone, it was also empty in the sense that it felt void of life. The ballerina's mere prescence seemed to have filled the whole building just earlier but now it was all drained of that feel-good atmosphere.
And I noticed it was pretty cold. Either I didn't notice that or it wasn't cold earlier. I couldn't tell.
But what really bothered me was there was no sign of the ballerina. She was in the middle of the stage. I would have at least heard her footsteps or something if she ran to hide and I got up pretty quickly for sure.
"Hello?" I called out to the wide stretch of the wooden stage, hoping to find her peeking out from the curtains.
But she was nowhere to be found as if she was a hologram that was switched off.
I wondered about it for a moment but I decided to shrug it off. Better luck next time then. I'll probably see her around or something. Then I'll ask her name and stuff, I told myself and I turned to leave.
Then, another thing caught my attention as I closed the double doors behind me.
There was a golden plaque on the wall just beside the door to the right. A plaque I never noticed before but I'm pretty sure it was always there. It read:
"This building was rebuilt in honor of the prima ballerina Anna Marcellina..."
The bronze inscription narrated her heroic act on the night of her first performance as prima ballerina. An earthquake devastated the building and she used her costume to an advantage because of how she stood out in it. She had directed many people to the emergency exit before the building collapsed.
Under the inscription was a replica of the circlet she wore and below that, the date. It was the same as today, fifty years back.
I stood there, mixed emotions speeding my heartbeat.
She was not a hologram. She was not an illusion. Heck, she wasn't even just a ballerina. She was the prima ballerina who rose as a heroine.
And yet, much like the plaque and the entire building itself, she was forgotten. She finished her dance for me today and in return, I will revive her memory.
I started by polishing the golden plaque so it gleamed in the setting sun the same way she did. This way, other people would notice it too.
I was back on the dust path toward the old gate when I caught a final glimpse of the building and saw her there on the steps, warmly smiling in the faint orange sunset. Her angel costume suits her well; most likely better than anyone. I smiled back and turned, hoping that she found peace.
Even after that day, the building had a mystical atmosphere that felt indescribably safe, like a universal comfort zone. Sure, it had collapsed once but with someone watching over, I doubt it will happen again. The best part is, I'm not the only one who knew.
Many students knew her now, the heroic prima ballerina. I however, knew her as an angel who probably spent a time here to remind us that though we can't all be heroes, heroes can be just anyone; that there's always a hero somewhere waiting to rise and heroes hoping to be remembered.
Maybe there's one around you. Maybe you're one too.
...Anna Marcellina, in pace requiescat.