She cleared her throat, the lectern hers at last. Left off the list, she’d risen nonetheless. Extemporaneous, her strong suit. They’d have to listen now.
Movement below her and to the left. She would have to get right to it. Off the high board. Slice the surface. Slip seamlessly inside.
The sound of her own voice surprised her, amplified as it was. It burst out into the auditorium and echoed back. Reverberating. The word sounded so good inside her head she had to say it out loud.
She smiled at the effect of reverberating reverberating. Circulating. Circumambulating.
More movement. Down and to the right this time.
It’s my turn.
Three tiny words. Blurted and magnified by a bud of a microphone on a slender stalk. No bigger than the head of a pin. No telling how many angels danced upon it. No time to count them now. No time to wonder what those Japanese would think of next.
It’s. My. Turn.
Three words. Each followed by a period. Huge in their magnificence. Satisfyingly succinct. Thirty years as editor couldn’t be erased. “Retirement,” notwithstanding. “Let go,” notwithstanding. Kicked to the curb, notwithstanding.
Yes, editing was her specialty. Cutting to the quick, her craft. Extraneous everything out and on the floor.
Footfalls to the left. Stirrings to the right. The dais under siege. Where’s Jean-Luc Picard when you need him? A crisp command from the bridge? A nick-of-time jump to warp?
The mic screeched. Heads snapped to attention, facial muscles all acringe.
Finally mine at last. No. Scratch “at last.” Redundant. And let me say I know an unfortunate thing or two about redundancy.
After all the years. The sneers. The jeers.
Her inside smile broadened, loving what the open mic had unleashed.
No longer lost in tears.
Exaggerating the roll of the “l’s” off her tongue. A momentary nod to her ancestral Scots.
No longer lost at all. Uncaged. Unfettered. Unbound. Making up the map as I go.
The “p’s” of “up” and “map,” quick percussive pops.
This Sibyl will no longer be silenc—
“Get your raggedy old ass off the stage, Nutcase!” A disembodied voice in an ocean of bobbing heads.
She gripped the lectern. Her distance vision tunneling. Her heart thrumming in her throat. Faces in the front row sharpened into crystalline focus, muscles twitching in discomfort.
A jolt of electric blue. A woman in the third row, standing, smiling, urging her on.
Her voice crackled over the waves. She glared out to the spot in the sea from whence the snark had risen.
I will not be silenced.
Looking down and to the left,
Not by you;
and to the right,
not by anyone.
She leaned into the mic.
I am here. Like it or not. I am loud. Like it or not. I am…
Silence rose up to hold her hanging pause aloft—to give it space to breathe and grow. Bodies leaned in. Eyes asked the communal question, “I am what?”
Exuberance exploded. No need to analyze or dissect the impetus that had propelled them up and out of their seats. Her words had somehow roused them. Moved them. Lifted them. That was enough for her.
A hand grabbed her upper arm. Another pulled the plug. The mic shorted out with a squeal.
She offered no resistance.
The room erupted. A rhythmic chant followed her as, flanked by two large men, she was led away.
“I am…I am…I am…”
Exclamation point, she whispered.