It could have been a funeral rite for an ancient god. Still. Still as a tomb and dimly lit. Quiet as a heartbeat. The only sound is the voice of the instructor.

"Center yourself," she says.

I draw inward to the natural order of the universe inside me. Then comes the faintest tinkling of bells, joined by harp and flute. From behind closed eyes, I see colors: aurora borealis, carnival glass; and I think of misty heavenly beings.

"breathe," she says. "Breathe."

I take in a deep breath and smell the close air, the bodies nearby. Soap. Cologne. White Linen, I think. A wisp of perspiration. Peaceful odors.

"Press into the floor," she says. "Become one with the thing that's supporting you."

I push my back into the floor, the palms of my hands splayed beside me, and feel the wood worn smooth by a thousand footsteps. I feel the noble grain of the wood running lengthwise, and can hear the groan as the tree was felled in the forest. It was tall and straight and majestic, until the chainsaws came. Now it lies beneath me, wasted, raped. Wounded beyond all healing.

The music fades into infinity. A gong sounds, rich and mellow, reverberating against the inner ear. I sense the falling of shadows and the room turns to black.

Perfect silence.

"Breathe," she says again. "Feel your essence circulating and clearing your mind. Release your body and let if float free."

Bong. Bong. A gong calls a prayer for the soul.

Time and space is suspended. There is only me and my spirit-self.

"Relax and prepare for the journey back," she says.

I am aware of the re-lighting of the room as darkness is swallowed up by luminous veils.

"Open your eyes," she says.

Against my wishes, I do. The room is still dim, but growing brighter.

"You may sit up now," she says and the light comes on all the way.

I see the mirrors on the walls. The practice barre. The posters of ballet dancers, and once again the space is a dance studio, instead of a sacred retreat for the mind and the body.

Having no need to speak, I rise and roll my yoga pallet and stuff it into the bag. It will not be needed again until next Monday night at seven-thirty.

Archived short fiction