“It’s all about how things look, little one,” The Conjurer told her. He snapped his long, thin fingers and stopped a pocket of time- a snapshot of Carmilla looking up … Continue reading Dressing an Illusionist
I have a concrete body
And a restless soul,
A rib-caged heart
And lungs of coal.
The tide changes
In my bloodstream.
Ruffled heart feathers
Screaming run, change, move.
Via Daily Prompt: Tide
I don’t hear things like you do. I hear them in colours.
It doesn’t quite translate the way you think. White noise tends to be a little pink. Finding white noise that is purely white is as difficult as finding untouched snow in a playground. There’s too much going on these days- too many radio frequencies, too many phone calls- it pollutes it all.
Water tends to speak in violet and not deep blue like you might think. Stormy seas shout to me in a loud, purple haze. Blue noise is low and kind of unsettling. You can find it in small, glowing lines around wires. Electric blue, you might say.
If the world is a canvas, it was first painted green. Not just in the trees and plants, but in the background noise too. Man-made noises throw a lot of red and brown in to the mix. They bleed together a lot and it can get messy. I used to walk in the woods a lot, away from the city, to try and find that undiluted green.
It’s the only place I’ve ever seen black noise. And I haven’t been back since.
I suppose I had always known that it must exist. For white noise to exist, black must also, and so turns the colour wheel. I just hadn’t given much thought to what that might actually mean.
I was alone in the forest, enjoying the green, when I started to notice it get darker. At first, it turned to a mossy green, but then it grew darker still- like a terrible mould had spread across the forest floor, climbing up tree trunks and turning everything to rot. I couldn’t hear anything different, but the green was fading.
And then I saw her.
She lay motionless and pale beneath a tree, deep cuts on her arms and chest, at least one of them fatal. Her mouth was open in a scream and black noise poured from it.
Black silence, the true colour of a sound that would never be.
Usually, when I do the daily prompt I google the word for inspiration. Just to see if there’s a way of interpreting it that I hadn’t immediately thought of, or if something else sparks an idea. Today I found this cool Wikipedia page on the Colour of Noise and it was really interesting.
Via Daily Prompt: Noise
The key is kept in the dead man’s grasp.
That was it. That was all I had. A clue whispered to me through breaks in a fever dream. I held on to it tightly. I repeated it to myself over and over so it would not slip away.
I had been aware of someone in my room- a dark figure that I immediately knew was not a nurse. He came closer. He smelled of the sea. He made no noise when he walked. I did not see his face, but I did hear him whisper. The key is kept in the dead man’s grasp. I remember the moment of clarity in hearing those words. I knew exactly what he meant. I remember nodding, or at least trying to.
And then he was gone and the room was painfully bright. Monitors beeped beside me. A nurse had just finished opening my curtains. I remembered the man. I remembered his words. But I did not remember the meaning. I tried to sit up. If I could just get to the man. If I could just get him back I could ask him what he meant. The nurse gently pushed me back down. “Good to have you back with us,” he beamed at me. He did not sound like the man. “We thought that fever might never break. It’s best if you lie still for a while, so we can keep an eye on you.”
He poured some water in to a plastic cup and handed it to me. As I drank, I looked around. The room was familiar. I knew where I was. I’d flitted in and out of consciousness in this bed and taken some of it in. It had felt like I’d had one foot here and one foot… somewhere else. Perhaps not so much flitting in and out of consciousness, as flitting between consciousness’s. I was crushed that this reality was the one which I was now confined to.
That thought arrived in my head and, as if on some kind of cue, my family arrived in my room. We talked and they seemed happy. The talked to the doctors about keeping me in for a few more days until they were sure the fever had passed. I couldn’t really focus on any of them. They had layers they kept hidden from me and I hadn’t been able to see it until now. There were secrets in their smiles, lies hidden in their hugs and in between us there was discord between who we are and who we all thought each other to be. We were all strangers on a first name basis. I was restless until they left.
They key is kept in the dead man’s grasp.
I whispered it over and over again until the sun set. Until the main lights went out. Then I got up and put on some of the clothes on that my mother had brought me and left on a chair by my bed. I took a nurse’s pass from behind reception and walked down the stairs and through the door marked ‘Morgue.’
I checked the hands of every corpse. No keys. Nothing. The closest I came to finding anything was a scalpel blade that had been left lying beside the hand of a dead man. I picked it up anyway and held it tight.
Maybe a bit too tight. The blade cut my palm.
The pain was another moment of clarity. The first I’d felt since I woke up. All of my former grogginess was gone. I grasped it tighter. My blood ran on to the floor.
I hear it drip, drip, drip. I heard it gush. I smelled the sea.
A dark figure that I knew was not a nurse stood by the doorway. “Come home,” he whispered.
Via Daily Post: Grasp
He came across the Faerie Pools at dusk. The water shimmered and sparkled underneath a fading sun. He sat down on one of the rocks nearby to take a picture and drink a can of beer he’d brought out with him for moments just like this. The water was so clear, unpolluted. Here, away from all of the big city lights he finally understood the meaning of the phrase “fresh air”. He breathed deep.
He watched the sun set slowly behind a mountain and stood up to return to his rented holiday cottage. The toe of his left boot knocked his empty can in to the pool. Ooops. He looked down. It was deeper than he expected. There was no sign of the can. He almost turned to leave when something else caught his eye.
A woman with silvery-blue skin smiled up at him. Her eyes were orange and yellow like the sunset. She was so beautiful. Was she real? She was so still… a statue perhaps? He knelt down to take a better look. She started to laugh. It rose to the surface and escaped in bubbles. It sounded perfect, so warm. She began to swim up towards him and he leaned closer still. It was getting dark, but that didn’t matter to him any more. She was all he wanted. His nose touched the surface.
They found his body the next morning. Nobody could work out what the holiday maker had been doing out so late, there was alcohol in his system but no beer can in sight. All the locals agreed it was a terrible shame and so strange for a man to drown in such a shallow pool of water.
On their first date they each planted a tree. Two, tiny saplings that they weren’t sure would survive.
She went off to University and he got a job in the City, but the tress grew all the same. Years passed them by. His job took him to another City and she went travelling for a while. He wrote books while she climbed mountains and studied elephants in the wild.
When they were old and grey they met again. They marvelled at how their trees had grown so beautifully, side by side and independently, but forever rooted in the same love.
Her first word was “bird.” Then came “beak” and “wings” and, most impressively, “feathers”.
As she grew she became an avid birdwatcher. She didn’t know them by their Latin names or type, but by personality and movement. She learned which ones she would see at night and which ones came during the day. There were many she would only see during certain months of the year and she wondered where they went for the rest.
She wished to go with them and fly away from her humdrum life. She watched them from her cage and envied their freedom.
The room is set up like always, just the Professor and I and a few empty chairs. He attaches electrodes to my head and we begin.
When we are done for the day The Professor shows me the readings that the various machines had been taking- graphs and charts that I pretend to understand. I’m too tired to listen to what he is saying, but nod as he shows what my brain had looked like during the whole ordeal. It looks a lot less frightening when it’s reduced to bright colours on a sheet of paper.
“Do you see that, right there?” he points to a spike in the data that I’d have to be blind to miss.
“That’s where you almost did it, that’s where you almost made contact with the Other Side.” His eyes are glistening with excitement. The paper trembles in his hand. “Ah well,” he smiles at me. “There’s always tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow,” I nod. I don’t tell him that I didn’t almost get to the Other Side. I don’t tell him that the empty chairs are now occupied.
“The trick, my friend,” The Illusionist once told me, “Is to always let them think they’ve seen you three times. They stop looking after that.”
Despite having been told this, I could never spot how he did it. I knew the Great Lafayette better than most and I could never tell the difference between the real him and his doubles.
He was a cut above other entertainers. He could appear and reappear seemingly at will. He could take very specific and distinctive objects and send them to different parts of the theatre in the blink of an eye. He could destroy things and heal them again with a simple touch. He could enchant animals to do things I never dreamed possible.
But it was his finales that really set him above everyone else.
An audience watched as a lion roared. He shook his mane and paced the length of his cage. Around him jugglers swallowed fire and balanced knives, contortionists folded themselves in to glass boxes so small I think I would have struggled to get my feet in them. And the Great Illusionist Lafayette sat so still that a flock of doves came to rest peacefully on him.
A young woman walked on stage. Slowly and deliberately she made her way towards the lion’s cage. Lafayette did not move. She opened the door of the cage and still he did not move. She locked it behind her. He remained still.
Then two things happened at once. The lion rose up on his hind legs. The doves around Lafayette sensed the danger and moved in a flurry of fearful feathers. The lion made to pounce on the defenceless girl. She screamed.
Then the lion’s skin fell away from it’s body and out stepped the Great Lafayette.
The crowd were on their feet. On the other side of the stage, the doves came to settle back down on an empty chair.
The Great Lafayette let himself and his assistant out of the cage and stepped forward to take a final bow. As he did so something snapped. A crack. A crash. And the curtains went up in flames.
The audience stayed on their feet. The stage was obscured by smoke, but they peered around. Where would he come from next? Would he be in amongst us somewhere? A door at the back burst open. There was a gasp, but it was not him. It was an usher, wide-eyed and pale.
“GET OUT!” he shouted. “THIS IS NOT PART OF THE SHOW!”
It took a few moments before anyone believed him and then chaos rained down on all of us. There was a stampede out of the door.
The fire spread quickly. I could still smell it when I reached the evening air outside. I could see smoke pouring out of the stage door. And there he was- my friend, The Great Lafayette, coughing and choking on the smoke. I remember it because he looked me in the eye.
“Where is my horse?” he looked around at us all. “Where is Magic?”
When nobody could answer him he ran back in to the flames.
They found his body under the front of the stage the next morning, charred beyond recognition but still wearing his costume. We buried him, I paid my respects and they continued to clear out the theatre.
Then they found his body for a second time.
Charred beyond recognition, but definitely wearing his rings.
Who was the first man? The real Illusionist? A stunt double?
I stood in the burnt out skeleton of the Empire Theatre trying to distinguish any feature on this body that might have belonged to my friend. I found myself smiling and the scorched skull grinned back at me.
“Always let them think they’ve seen you three times,” I muttered to myself.
From deep in the wings I thought I heard a chuckle and a voice that whispered, “They always stop looking after that.”
*This is a fictitious account of the real death of the Illusionist Lafayette at Edinburgh’s Empire (now Festival) Theatre in 1911.
More info on the real story here: Scotsman article.