art by Shane M. Gavin
The Magician of Words
by Ruth Nestvold
Public Alley 434 hides secrets. Boxes full of former lives guard the entrance, cloaking magic in the mundane. It is here the Magician of Words plies his trade, hidden between the back walls of the old brownstones, behind the facades of things that are what they seem to be.
You think to seek him out, be other than you are? Beware what he can do--you cannot know what you will get, where the spell will take you. Are you not content with your lot? But contentment has nothing to do with it; it is the spell itself which draws you, the magic of illusion.
Then let us say you think you are comfortable with insecurity, with things becoming other than they seem, with alleys and sidestreets and ghettos and locked doors, with politicians and storytellers and quacks and whores. You seek out Public Alley 434, make your way past the boxes of garbage, the discards from lives left behind: jeans that no longer fit, lists of tasks never completed, old tomes of literary criticism, street maps of Austin and Eugene and Seattle, a wedding ring, a string of broken promises. Next, the lives that never were: an electric guitar, a book of poetry, a child with blue eyes.
It is no wonder that not many people make it this far.
Finally, there is the magician, inclining his head, chuckling. "I think I need to work on those security locks."
And then his words are surrounding you, their touch skimming along your skin, a spell of loam and earth and beauty, of damp leaves on the forest floor, things deep and magical, drawing you in with their cadence, pulling you down, to the earth, a song bright and brown, tugging at your heart.
You resist, looking him in the eye. "This is not what I want."