The Magician’s Assistant – Flash Fiction Fantasy

I am on in the second act, but already I wait in the dark, eyes open although I know from long experience that I will see nothing yet. I am as relaxed as I can be in the cramped space, thankful for once for my scanty clothing, as it is too warm in this theatre. I can hear the babble of the crowd in the distance, and the occasional murmur of the soundman, who must be right next to where I am parked for the moment. 

I listen for the cues, intent as always on what the show is doing so as not to lose my place, or sense of the crowd’s mood, although I cannot see them. The audience tonight sounds almost aggressively happy, roaring with laughter at the slightest of jokes. It makes me feel jittery, and I try to reassure myself that it would be worse if they were silent. 

Abruptly, I feel motion, and brace myself. It is too early! Who is moving me, and why? Colored smoke seeps in through the cracks, and as I wonder why I can see it in the dark it fills my eyes with tears and my mouth with a strangely heavy, oily flavor. My world reels, and is upside-down, then spinning into oblivion. I do not know how long it has been when I open my eyes to a surreal garden. 

The theatre is gone, the crowd sounds have been replaced by birdsong, and I am standing alone in a formal courtyard, atop a dais of sorts. The colors of the flowers dazzle my eyes, they are so bold and bright. They remind me of a child’s painting with the neon shades and blurred outlines. Now I hear voices, and stand stock still as they approach. 

As water springs up around me I realize I am standing in the middle of a fountain, and through the mist it creates I watch strange creatures fill the courtyard. They aren’t human. I see what I am certain are satyrs, and what might be nymphs, but only if Manet had painted them. Many others are with them, all laughing and talking and drinking from goblets they hold, just like the many cocktail parties I have myself attended. Reeling with confusion, I start to fall and stretch out my hands to catch myself…

And strike a hard surface. My vision darkens, and I hear the music, and applause. The door open, and I rise up into a billowing cocoon of silk and raise my arms, metamorphosis begins…. The stage lights almost blind me, after the dark.