Month for Loki, 5: Knife-Thrower
This is such a beautiful description of – and quite possibly the most apt metaphor for – working with Loki that I have ever read.
From an excellent Tumblr blog – see, they do exist! — here is coldalbion’s reply to an anonymous question, “Do you have any advice on working with Loki?”
“Advice, anon…? Not per se. I do have something for you, which may help:
What to say here? Loki’s like a whirling dervish; an expert knife-thrower all shining steel and flame-flicker.
And you’re his assistant.
You may or may not be blindfolded at first, and sometimes that’s better, despite the fact that you can hear those knives whistling towards your head with deadly precision.
With the blindfold on, you can at least recall his charming smile, the wicked quirk of his scarred lips, sly and arch and smooth. How he led you there with honeyed words and soft touches; how the tales of wonder and excitement thrilled you, all bright colours and exotic new adventures. How he picked you up and, somehow, for some reason decided to give you the benefit of all of him – how he blazed with a kind of Light that had nothing to do with vision, and everything to do with existing without reference to anything else.
And the more time you felt his presence, the more you began to know that his darkness was like his Light, a thing in and of itself. The full sense of his presence illuminated you, made you feel like you were the only thing in the worlds. He took your pain and scars and ran himself along them with a kind of knowing, a sense of recognition that generates a seemingly ever-present resonance.
So it’s the most natural, thrilling thing in the world when he asks you to do something for him, to put on a special costume, take his hand and step into the ring for this little act he does, purely for fun.
Charmed, beguiled, feeling the pull of nerves, you do it. You listen to his patter, his introduction as you stand there in the spotlight, surrounded by a audience shrouded in darkness. You’re his glamourous assistant, the absolute necessity to his act.
He smiles at you as he blindfolds you, as he raises you up to the board. Your heart begins to race as he binds you, secures you tight so you can’t move. You’re helpless, waiting, praying.
When the first knife whistles through the air, you stiffen. The wind of its passing plays across your skin – the impact into the board is shockingly loud. You can’t help but gasp, the board vibrating with the force of that blow. You imagine the audience’s intake of breath, but you can’t hear it over the noise of the knives that suddenly seem to come in from all directions.
Again and again and again. When one buries itself scant millimeteres from your face, you realise that you can feel the cold of the metal against your cheek. You flinch, and realise that the buried blades surround you. Your body is ringed by steel. There is nowhere else to go.
The act must be over now, mustn’t it? Surely it must!
So why is it that you can hear more knives coming? What kind of insane game is this – is this madman actually trying to kill you?
You think back to what he told the audience – that you are an absolute necessity to his act. Is it possible he lured you under false pretences, that you are some kind of sacrificial animal, and that one of those knives will be your doom?
No wonder you might be afraid!
And when the blows come, you can feel the edges bite, sharp against your flesh. This is it. You’re going to die. What a fool you were to do this, to let this motherfucker lead you on.
But..wait a minute. You’re still here. Everything is suddenly silent, way too quiet. Heart hammering, you gingerly attempt to move, and, to your surprise, you realise that your bonds, after a moment of snagging, seem to have fallen away.
With trembling hands, you pull down the blindfold, and are momentarily blinded – the house lights have come up and you stumble away from the board a liittle. When your vision returns, you’re in for a shock.
Because there’s no-one there. The vast ranks of seats are empty. The audience have gone, even though you didn’t hear them leave. Maybe they were never even there to begin with…
Maybe you’re still bewildered when a voice tells you to Think fast! and you jump back as a knife suddenly comes out of nowhere and buries itself in the sawdust at your feet.
The unseen voice tells you to pick up the blade. Go on, just pick it up. So you do, and suddenly he steps out from behind the board with a little, courtly, mocking bow.
Turnabout is fair play, he drawls.
It’s your turn. Without thinking, the knife leaves your hand, aiming at his head. But he’s not there.
He’s behind you, lips against your ear, hand on your arm, guiding you through the arc of the throw. The knife hits the board, straight and true, in a way you’d never have known how to do before.
And then? Then he’s dancing and you have an endlesss supply of blades. He weaves and curves, eels and dives in ten thousand intricate movements; a shining, glittering impossibility. Without thinking, you fall into a rhythm, and later you realise the strangeness of this – for you and he are acting together in the space between heartbeats. You’re part of the same dance, the same ebb and flow and weave.
There’s no telling how long it goes on for, or why it stops. Maybe he becomes bored, or maybe you send steel singing so close that it leaves a line of blood along his cheekbone.
Who can tell? Because suddenly, the knives you throw are suddenly plucked from the air by nimble hands, and turned back on you. Lost in the rhythm, you struggle to evade the most lethal, but manage it. But you do not remain unscathed – your shining costume is cut from you swifter than lightning, until you stand naked and nicked in the sawdust.
Your nerves sing – the cuts are not deep, after all, but the endorphins are called into your blood, as surely as someone summoned an army. A single droplet of blood falls in slow motion, splashing on the shaved wood, blossoming and swelling and staining the ground of the ring.
When you look up again, he’s smiling, eyes sparkling with ancient wisdom and dark mirth. Not bad, he says. Let’s go again.
Steel sings and you feel the air move against your skin.
And you smile in return, and you move.
It’s time to dance.”
(Artwork: ‘Jester’ by MuYoung Kim)