54 Big Bang: return of the giant ship

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54   Big Bang: return of the giant ship

Seven o'clock in the studio, and Rik installs us in our places, in our accustomed black: she hidden in her tiny cupboard of a sound booth, and I on my tall seat. With Evelyn's assistance he runs through his customary last-minute technical tests, some of which involve technicalities I don't understand but whose occurrence I look forward to and actively savour, for the incomparable rush of imminent performance that they herald. Since we have already laid down Big Bang's opening instalment yesterday in the form of our song of death, today's short second instalment requires no tension-building lead-up from a dark stadium with just a silhouette of me, but will instead plunge us straight back into the midst of our trip. This time, therefore, the lights around the three angled cameras are already shining straight at my face. As when on stage between spotlights and footlights, I can thus see little of what is in front of me, beyond the light that fills the air itself and picks up tiny dust motes. On a level with my eyes I can just about make out those three all-important black circles which, it is to be hoped, can see me about a thousand times more clearly than I can see them: I decide to take it on trust that Rik has remembered to take off the lens-caps... "What are you grinning about?" Alaia's voice breaks in gently from the sound booth, and I recall that she has a high-definition monitor right in front of her displaying every flicker in my face: she must have seen something related to my reflection just now about Rik's taking the lens-caps off. "Yes, don't forget I have a monitor in here," she says... So she saw that as well! I wonder whether I am really that transparent?... "Yes, you're that transparent," she replies.

I laugh aloud. "OK, you in the airing cupboard there, so let's keep up that level of attentiveness to me. We need to keep on dancing toe to toe, here. D'you think you can keep up?"

There's a snort from the sound booth: "Honey-buns," she says, "the question is, can you keep up with me? My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, but d'you have the stamina, babe? You got the wing-span to fly with the eagles? We'll see, sugar."

"Bring it on, baby," I reply, "bring it on."

"I do love your work, Jaymi, my petal—love your work."

"Love your work too, pumpkin." (This kind of trash-talking is something we used to slip into in the rehearsal studios in New York, in what now feels like a former life. I'd forgotten it, but it's lovely to be picked up unexpectedly by it and just carried along.) "So, to confirm we're in sync, my sweet: when we wrapped up here last time, I believe we'd just got to where you sloped away a sudden hundred miles to a cavern where a different moon sets, pale and vast above a tiny crash of waves, and majestically you vanished—right?"

"Yes we did, my love," she says, and an electric surge of warmth suffuses me. No doubt seeing this surge through one of the cameras or on his own monitor, the unseen Rik, somewhere beyond the lenses ahead of me, begins his countdown from ten. This is not what was promised; there was meant to be a tad more dialogue and a few minutes of focusing before the countdown, as there was yesterday. But he's spot-on in his decision to throw us into the deep end: my exchange with Alaia had just the energy that I require to summon up the return of the giant ship, and that she requires in order to follow me. Oh, he's good, he is—like Jason said he was.

OK, now it's easy, bring it on. The countdown ends. From my eyes I feel the pull of photons streaming, turning digital in camera and shooting out to north, south, east and west through the air across the sky around the world. Every single viewer then is off alone, town to town, continent to continent: through the slums of Rio or beneath the Arctic Ocean, to their own bright heaven or their own torture chamber. What I myself believe in, while they're drowning in this gaze, they cannot know. The make-up round my gaze is bright and sharp and rich as amber, while the gaze, cold-blooded as an angelfish, flutters cool and alien. The combination deifies and makes of me an icon on the screen—a creature born of exquisite light, inaccessible, a fever dream beamed from the most elite suites of the airwaves.

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