We were created for this. Each hour we Dance out on the platform as another toll is added. You eventually lose track of which hour it is, or else you just stop caring. You realize it’s a new day when you hear only one toll. We sleep in between Dances, sometimes eating or bathing.
One may call it training, but we know it only as life. We never had parents like those of the children we see running and playing far below. We sleep, eat, and breathe the Dance. It is part of us and all of us at the same time. We are never alone in this place; that thought never crosses our minds. A troupe, they call us, but we have heard the word “family” drift up from the throng below. We secretly call ourselves this, but the elders don’t appreciate this.
They are the faces we first remember, teaching us everything that now fills our brains. Which isn’t much, really. We function, and we Dance. We don’t cobble shoes, grow vegetables, or carve wooden toys like the market vendors who fill the square. The Dance is all we know. It took only a few years of practice for us to be ready. Our training stage was built high up among the pulleys, levers, gears, and pendulums. To teach us to not fear the height, they said. Being cleared to perform was the only milestone we would ever achieve. Failure wasn’t an option; those who failed were never seen again. We didn’t dare ask where they went.
It was demanded of us that we appeared flawless, seamless, graceful. We must Dance to the point where the crowds forget we are just like them, yet living entirely different lives. Robotic better describes it, but I would never dare say this out loud. I feel programmed: destined and doomed at the same time. I couldn’t leave even if I wanted to. The only doors I see are those which lead to the platform. Where would I go? I have no mother or father waiting with open arms to embrace me. My only skills are those of the Dance. Leaving would mean certain death.
The troupe has grown over the years. We have become more focused and more healthy. We now can Dance with doubled lines, although I’m not sure if there’s a point to having Dancers behind other Dancers. I doubt the crowds can see the second line. That is what the elders want, so that is what we do. We must always be ready to Dance out the golden doors when they swing open. There is no clock inside, only out. We look out for each other, making sure we are all in line and accounted for.
The first toll sounds, then another, and another. I hear nothing after this. If there were more tolls, I am not aware of them. If the crowd cheers or claps below, I hear nothing. My only thoughts are on the Dance. The fresh air and sunlight streams in as the crack between the doors widens. The two lines enter through doors on either side of the clock face. Smiles are put on our faces, whether we feel like smiling or not. It pleases the crowd, they say. My thoughts begin to drift away as the magical, peaceful feeling of the Dance overcomes me. We become the Dance, breathing life into it’s ancient movements.
And then it begins.