The contortionist placed her foam mat on the floor in front of the spider monkey cage. She sat in the lotus position and let her mind drift. For her, contortion was about peace with one's own body. It wasn't a spectacle to be ogled. It was personal. Of course, she still made a living through public performance, but it felt wrong.
The spider monkeys howled and screeched, but the contortionist didn't mind. It soothed her. The animal babble helped her feel more connected to nature—even if the noises were caged and therefore semi-artificial.
She moved into her first pose: a simple backbend.
The spider monkeys dropped to the floor and inversely arched their backs.
"Very good," the contortionist said.
The monkeys howled some more.
She dipped further into a full chest bend. The monkeys mirrored her movement with ease.
"Interesting," the contortionist said. "Let's see you try this one." She moved into a handstand, stretching her anti-gravity self into the air. The she relaxed her spine, mimicking her earlier earthbound positions. She let her sky-high buttocks glide downward, resting on her ponytail, her entire back inverted to accommodate the maneuver. She felt liquid.
The spider monkeys complied, standing on their hands and bending their spines.
The monkeys screeched to one another. Then each monkey outstretched a hand, leaving all body weight on a single limb.
The contortionist outstretched her arm too. Her muscles warmed, reminding her of her physicality, skin stuffed with messy solid tissues and bones like concrete. Her liquid body hardened, elbow locking into place. She held the rigid pose for a moment, but she couldn't maintain. The contortionist toppled onto her yoga mat.
The unscathed monkeys moved into a pose she'd never seen before. Something almost like a box act, sans box, floating in midair, supported only by a spindly little monkey tail. A half-dozen monkey cubes hovered above the ground in perfect unison, without a single twitch or sway or wobble.
James R. Gapinski is managing editor of The Conium Review, and he teaches writing at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. His fiction has recently appeared in Juked, NANO Fiction, Word Riot, and elsewhere. Find him online at http://jamesrgapinski.com.