By Brandon Nolta


Grains of snow pelted the dirty window overlooking the city, fulfilling the promise Sergei felt in his ruined knee when he awoke that morning. He shifted his weight in the chair and waited for the WPA official to finish reading. Across the younger man’s desk, folders and forms spilled like water, a puddle of ink and bureaucracy turning slowly into a sea. Sergei thought of a life spent with such forms, filling in check boxes and empty lines, and felt a spark of pity arc through him. His career—really, his life—was over, but he had at least tasted glory.

The official sighed and put Sergei’s packet down on the desk. “I’m sorry, Mr. Androv, but I can’t put you on this project. This group will be assigned to the Department of the Interior; all our project workers will be required to hike through national parklands. Workers will be expected to hike up to 10 miles a day, and—well, your records…”

Sergei nodded once, sharply. He knew what they said; the ruined landscape of his knee, the runnels of scar tissue left in the operations’ wake, were clear enough. Flashes of muscle memory, the stretch and lift of a flawless plié, shot through him. Did Irena think of these things as she recovered, the pain of a broken floating rib distracting her from the flaw that ended him? She begged his forgiveness in the aftermath, as he lay on the stage, leg afire in the awful moments after his life ended in the snap of a tendon. Sergei had not seen her since.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Androv,” the official said, attempting a reassuring smile. “The WPA has a number of projects in the works, and I’m certain we can find one for a man of your talent and obvious fitness.” Shutting the folder of Sergei’s life, the official moved it to the top of a pile that might as well be bound for the incinerator. His pale eyes did not meet Sergei’s. “I’ll notify you when I have something.”

If, Sergei thought. The last of the money from the repertory, an extravagance of guilt on the director’s part, was almost gone. How much longer could he wait?

The former master dancer, a peer of the immortal Nijinsky, gained his feet. Echoes of discipline and grace still haunted his movements...



Brandon Nolta works as a technical editor and computer support professional, when he’s not writing stories, freelancing, being a bum, or making stuff up to amuse his teenaged offspring. His fiction and poetry have appeared in The Pedestal Magazine, Digital Science Fiction, Big Pulp, Perihelion SF and several other publications. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his tremendously patient wife and their minions, and if you must know more, you can follow his occasional adventures on Twitter under @b_nolta.