Haunting notes of a violin float through the air, invoking sorrow and horror. At one end of the rink, a solemn young man swathed in the grey smoke of memory stirs, his every movement seeming to spring from that violin itself, reaching out to spread that emotion to the entranced audience.
The world catches its breath.
This ghost of a young man has always held such promise, and yet injury had held him back for so long, as he carefully shaped his craft and honed his skill. And here, on this ice at the other side of the world from his home, he weaves a magic spell, a spell that leaves those privileged to watch it enchanted, a spell to make viewers weep in anguish and delight, such is its power.
The young man in question is Joshua Farris, and the moment in question happened a year ago today, when he delivered his iconic Schindler's List free skate almost-perfectly to capture the silver medal at the Four Continents Championship and announce his arrival on the world stage as A New Big Thing.
It was a culmination of two seasons of choreographic work, and a validation for him as a skater. Largely forgotten, rarely mentioned, often overlooked, Joshua had suddenly smashed his way to the head of the queue and announced that he was just as likely to be the next top US man as anyone else.
Things certainly seemed to be looking up for him in the early part of 2015. Not even considered a contender prior to US Nationals, he sprung into the spotlight with the bronze medal, and had he not jumped one too many double toes in his free skate, he could have been the Champion that year. And then came that magic moment at Four Continents.
The short program saw Joshua fifth, after finally delivering an almost-flawless rendition of his "Give Me Love" program; he was barely a few tenths behind third and fourth, clearly in reach. When he set blade to the ice for his free skate, however, magic was created.
The Schindler's List free skate - choreographed by himself - had originally been made the season before, with the Olympics in mind. Though it didn't quite work out for him that way, he decided to keep the program, rework it to make it even better and even more emotional, and when he unleashed it to its full potential, it was heartwrenching, irresistible, and utterly breathtaking. I was in floods of tears before he even finished the step sequence; and I was not the only one.
It wasn't perfect - he had turned out of the landing of the quad toe and the triple Salchow - but then, it didn't have to be. Denis Ten was already so far ahead that even a perfect rendition of Joshua's free skate could not have caught him, and perhaps, for a moment, it was better that it was not; a quiet reminder that though this ghost could bring you to sorrow and joy, it was still a human ghost, still something bound to this earth.
And sadly, bound to the earth Joshua is indeed; a concussion ended his 2015-2016 season before it ever began, and the ghost faded into the background - for some, but not for others. On this day, we answer the plea he made in the kiss and cry after the short program, when in the spirit of his music he begged the judges to "give me love!". On this day, instead of being sad for what we missed this season, I choose to look back in joy on that moment where he made my heart sing and weep at the same time.
It was not the first time his skating has made me cry, and I hope dearly that it will not be the last. Get well soon, Joshua; I cannot wait to see what you have in store for us next.