A Prologue with an Electric Hum
By Ian Cooke-Tapia as outlined by Slap Hop
Industrial heaters could no more banish the damp chill that hung in the heavy air than they could set water aflame. The place was a dark drum, filled by the echo of rain pelting the ceiling, distant, heavy – a memory. With a flick, a click and a tap, and slowly light bulbs began to blink into wakefulness; like a lazy teen a Saturday morning, they moaned an electrical hum as they came alive, stretching their neon and halogen limbs. Nervousness, fear, a trembling lip and the images of monsters in the dark; they went away with the receding dankness, scared away by the song of a hundred industrial lights. In one breath, the electrical humming faded and the open warehouse space came alive with the neutrality of white tube bulbs.
Where the light switches were, a pool of water grew; drops dripping from her trainers, her hair, and her hands. She leaned against the wall, pressed close, feeling the chill of her own mental machinations crawl down her coat. It wasn’t until the room came alive with light that she allowed her fingers to come off the switches, redness quickly fading as the pressure was relieved. She breathed in, deeply, not realising she had been holding her breath. She knew this place, but at night it was so very… without the regulars it… it just wasn’t quite the same. Oppressive, maybe? She shook her head. No, no point in thinking of the space – this wonderful space – like that. Such thoughts only interrupted the music, the beautiful flow of what must be done. Utterly counterproductive – wrong, even.
The woman found herself smiling at the familiar sights and scents of the red mats, the spring floor, the bars, the rings, the vaults, the boxes, the trampolines, the trampettes… She smiled and hummed what had only been a whisper outside this room, and now was a live orchestra echoing darkly in her own head. The excitement rises in her chest, a slow burning fuel ready to move every part of the machine of her body. She began to bounce in her head before she bounced on the balls of her feet, before the spring floor could even begin to transfer all momentum efficiently. After a lifetime’s wait, she took a step forward, and felt the wetness under her soles. She blinks and looks down at her legs, a considerable pool of water.
“Shit,” She whispers, hands coming to her face in surprise, a little jump away from the water.
Quickly she leaves the sacred space. It was a difficult. She wanted to be there, ready to train. But damaging the space? Unthinkable. She would do better now. Yes, she would. No damages to the space. Not at all. So she left her coat in the changing rooms, so she left her bag and for a second inspected herself in the mirror. Yes, she looked right. Not perfect, not yet, just right. The space would accept. She knew it accepted. Had this feeling… She shook her wet ponytail as she shook her head. Yes, it was right. The place accepted. She could hear its melodious agreement at her bright and snug outfit. The space was like that: it accepted you, if you accepted it. It helped you become stronger and faster and happier, but for that you had to do things right and that started by dressing appropriately. Maybe one day she could wear the black and white… maybe. But she had to begin with something, and wanting to have fun. Her coat hanging, drying, and her body ready, she nodded to herself, mustering strength, and returned to the gym. She breathed in the scent of industrial warehouse, and sweat, and self-improvement. Here, the hum she had been hearing was melodious; here, where she could hear the song in its entirety, no muffling from miles and miles of air to stop the song. The song guided her through a story that became a slow dance across the padded floor. The song told her how to move, how to think and when. And so she did, and so she prepared.
As the song in her head changed, she walked across the smooth, padded floor towards the bars. In reverence she wrapped her hand on the cold stiffness, feeling a chill, a powerful jolt, go up her arm. It was comforting, familiar… right. She smiled an inedible smile. With one deep breath, she pulled herself up onto the bars, her hips and hands close together and tight. She breathed in once and then flew.
Muscles tensing, contracting, relaxing. She dished, swung her legs and hovered in the air. Her feet touched the wood, the chalk on the bar turned into a white dust cloud and after the fraction of an existing moment, she jumped. Again in the air, flying, hands grasping for the wooden bar; bodyweight claimed by gravity and stopped by the trained, knowing power of her shoulder muscles. Once she fell off doing this, landed on her face. Once she fell off, doing this, landed on her back. Once she couldn’t do it for a week. Now she did it with barely a thought. Now, it was one with her. She swung her legs back, hands lifting off the bar for a fraction of an eternity. Legs swung forwards, she breathed in, out, in time with her own body, her own rhythm, which was one with the rhythms in her head. The siren’s song that brought here every week, that grew louder and more powerful the longer she stayed away, helped her reach this very moment: rewarding months and months of training. It told her to move, how to move, and when to think. And so she moved, so she flew. Upside down on the bar, pirouette, coming down, swinging around once, twice, flying off, spinning twice, and landing. Heart pounding to the song of this space, to the song of her own existence
Her body tense, tight, remaining in position like a statue waiting to be immortalized. She knew it had been good, nearly perfect, and that was all that mattered. That she had accomplished it for herself, but wouldn’t it had been nice for it to be recorded for all to see? She breathed in, relaxing finally. Her smile was inedible; joy could not be banished. She sang the song with her body. She followed the orders. It was perfect. The woman allows herself a shout of joy, and a giggle. And then she hears the clap. She stops, eyes wide. Shit! Shit!
“That was amazing, Rachael.” The voice was clear, enunciating everything with intent. Praising, critical, supportive. It was the voice of a solid foundation, it was.
Rachael tried to hide her head between her shoulders. Tried to find a space where she wasn’t seen. But here she was. She answered the call but did she break the rules? Maybe. Did she? Oh, no….
“How…. how did you know I was here, coach?” She asks in a small voice. Dumb question. Who wouldn’t see the light?
The coach smiled in her own passive way. A smile you had to learn to understand. “I saw your coat in the changing rooms. I could recognize that colour anywhere, making our floors wet.”
“I… I couldn’t sleep…” Rachael answered, crawling to all floors. She tried to move forward, calmed, nonchalantly. “I… I kept thinkin’ — imagining! — that I was here and I just needed to come back and, and… It has been too long, coach. Too many days and, and–” She stops, the coach’s finger on her lips. When had Rachael walked there? She was still standing under the bars, the same spot where she did her perfect dismount. Her perfect display of training. Her willingness to get better. Her decision to listen to the song of the space. The words tumbled in her brain. She couldn’t stop them. She should be thinking about the trouble she was in but that routine had been so… perfect! “Shsss. No need to explain. This
Continued in A Warm-Up with Coral Walls
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