Drive-By in Magician Territory: Incident Report Submitted by Royal Weeze Sub-We Group j-709B
Wind projected the warrior faces printed on our dresses into films coming alive on our legs, slouched to one side like tired horses. We were waiting for the train on a “Bad-Idea” platform, miles away from our designated area, where only the plural consciousnesses live—We, the Royal Weeze. We were late and nervous, a sitting brace of ducks in Houdini territory where only the magicians were allowed to be.
We exchanged worried looks on the tea-kettling winds of the platform, souring our eyes on vivid tiles of Kar-Mi the Mysterious taming a crocodile and Vel Mar the Great swallowing swords—nothing like our drab pictotiles, the great AllOfUs holding hands with Infinity. And then over the whirring hum of our dread came footsteps. A pert click clack that could only mean a magician was coming to join us on the platform.
We cinched up our faces and puckered our eyes to see him. His cape whispered fire in the wake of his tuxedo. His mustachios were set at a permanent slant under his nose at 9:16. We tried to give his sleeveless eyes the slip, but they were still there when We looked up again, his black hair a pool of ink for the plaster mask of his contempt to float upon, contempt for the We who were standing there afraid and far from home turf. According to the Chichester’s Rules, he had the right to dispatch us on sight should there be nothing between us “but air and opportunity.” Even as three, our We would have little chance against him and who knows what else lurking in his articulate crevices. But he merely puffed a courtly good evening, bowed steeply to our flinch, and took up a position at the other end of the platform where the wind bullied his cape.
We longed for the train to take us back to our monochrome world of benches without chairs and wider halls where five could walk abreast always in the armclinched We. We wanted gone from this place of velvet brocade and white tipped canes, the doves bunching the sidewalks like snow. Then We heard it. Something other than whistling. It was not our salvation train coming to take us back to our territory and this Houdini—who knows where—perhaps the Manimals’ turf considering the last treaty. We didn’t want any trouble and We certainly didn’t want to know before he did, as he tapped his patent leather shoes on the edge of the platform and craned his tophat into the tunnel, that that sound was not the train and that no engine backfire ever had much to do with any coming train.
We did not stay long enough afterwards to know exactly why it happened. What We did know then was that that sound was too shrill for pistons and more hydraulic than steam. So We looked beyond the rails, between the placards for Presto the Wizard and Carter the Telephile, where We saw the carnival bus with its barker and gold leaf, its tassels and organs and the usual Mysterio. We thought his Houdini friends had come to save him from this train ride alongside a lost gaggle of Royal Weeze. But then We saw the blunderbusses snake through the silk curtains of the carriage windows like great oars emerging from a Galley ship.
We took cover behind the stacked saw boxes as the shot roared (and although there are no words for what is about to be said right now… not all in our We saw the fire the shot caused instantly in the window curtains and those frantic white gloved hands patting the flames). We all witnessed the effect, the strange assassination of the magician. The bullet sailed through his heart. His tap shoes shuffled a dirge. The gold coins secreted in soles spilled onto platform cement like charity. His arms paddled the futile waters of his coming death.
Three yellow buntings escaped from his sleeves. They beat their gilded wings in windy figure eights above his head, their pattern ominously like our sign of the Infinite We. And the miles of endless ribbon of every color and silky hue pouring from the orifices of his suit, shooting out of him like a parade of playing card confetti, flipping everywhere with glinting hoops and coins from every territory—Presto head pennies and Armclinched nickles and Manimal Cracker Quarters—all spinning and singing along with the whistling air.
And We never saw a rabbit so close before. Its eyes the same color as its nose. The color of infected gums. It crawled out from the cummerbund to twitch its nose at us and to present the blood on its white fur. It moved so slowly, accusing us with those scarlet prints along the cement, which remained long after the carnival bus and its organ that played that circus song—did We know it is called “Entry of the Gladiators”?—had gone. All of this, We believe, is why We did not come sooner to tell. Not because We were afraid of the punishment or ashamed of being in their territory, but because of what happened and what it means, not just for Us, but for us. For all of us. For me… when magicians start killing each other.
< originally published in Heavy Feather Review 3.1 2013 >