Callexis [Repost]

Prompt: Fantastic

Face sail Catrin-Welz-Stein

It was the most worthless bit of magic I had ever come across. The most amazing too, since magic and I did not cross paths very often; but still, damn near useless, except that the magic brought her to me.

The man said his name was Isaac. I’d heard of Isaac, he was well known in the world of dark trading. It wasn’t his real name, and he had a small army of minions, including lawyers, messengers, and mules to do his bidding. My collection was well-known, and when Callexis came into his possession, he was generous enough —and shrewd enough— to make me one of the first calls he made.

She was exquisite. Not studded with a myriad of precious jewels, only jade, but beautifully, masterfully, and lovingly crafted, with intricate patterns of vine leaves twining across her cheeks and around her eyes, the gleaming polished gold set off by the brushed, and inlays of copper, whose greenish tinge was like the venerable sister to the milky jade.

Exquisite.

Of course I wanted her. I pretended to bargain. The back and forth lasted days, until, as Isaac fully realized I would, I conceded to the near-full asking price from fear another buyer would snatch her away from me.

But how to get her across the ocean and across the country? It was not my concern, as her safe delivery was an element of the price, but I still wondered, and worried, since I wanted her so badly and shuddered at the thought of her being discovered and confiscated before I held her in my hands.

I was to meet the train, and the transaction would take place in my apartment.

When we were safely ensconced in my private den, with orders not to be disturbed, I asked the gentleman— he was a distinguished-looking man in his sixties, French, by his accent —to show me Callexis. He had only a small case with him, at which I tried not to stare.

His smile was sly, but without aggression, similar to the smile of the beautiful Callexis. Instead of reaching for his case, he reached up to his face with his hands, and in the next moment he had her, in his arms.

She shimmered. She was perfect.

“What just happened?” I asked. Callexis had appeared out of thin air. I rubbed my forehead.

“I don’t know, Monsieur,” said the man, whose name I never did know. “It is not trickery, and I do not claim to understand it. It made my voyage simple, and detection impossible.”

“What did?”

“She did,” he said. And he brought her to his face again, and she disappeared!

I had no efficient way to determine if I was dreaming, awake, hallucinating, or witnessing a magic trick the likes of which I had never seen.

“It is no trick,” the man said again. He reached his hands to his head again, and when he brought them down Callexis was again in his possession.

“Does Isaac know about this?”

“He chooses not to consider it,” said the man.

We completed our transaction, and I remained in the den, alone, with Callexis. I put her on the black marble stand that I had readied for her, and sat in my high-backed chair and stared for quite some time. I got up, put her on my face, as there were loops to fit easily over the ears, and went to the mirror. There was no Callexis, just my own countenance, staring back at me in bewilderment. I felt a tingling in my scalp, barely noticeable. I removed the mask and put her back on the stand. The tingling dissipated.

What are you? I asked. What is the purpose of this worthless magic? In grand fairy tales the mask would make one invisible, it would take one to other worlds, propelled into fantastical adventures, not perform magic as mundane and pointless as the mask itself disappearing.

What is your power? I was unable to take my eyes from her face, now both glimmering brightly and cast into deep shadows by the lamplight.

Callexis stared back at me with her sly smile, a smile that was also, I suddenly realized, complicit and strangely intimate. She, here in front of me, was as different from her pictures, from the way she appeared in my dreams, as a carousel pony was from a wild stallion.

I tried to smile back, but could not.

 


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Artifacts

Prompt: Parlay

the-real-housewives-of-atlanta-cast


Simon was in a bad mood.

He was perched on an old leather stool beside the glass cabinet at the back of the shop, reading a week-old USA Today that a tourist had left on the counter that morning.

Why would a cruise ship tourist be carrying around such an outdated newspaper while on land, and why would they leave it in the shop as if the shop was a rubbish bin? Well, in some ways it was a rubbish bin, with the kind of products they brazenly had on display at Simple Simon’s Authentique Antiques. But that was by the by.

The world outside the island seemed to be going crazy. Simon avoided news because it was usually distressing and incomprehensible. He would rather light a twizzler and watch The Real Housewives of Atlanta than read about the American election and other catastrophes, like melting ice caps, wars, and droughts.

He couldn’t avoid all unpleasantness. His mother, for example, was currently in the hospital with some kind of ovarian cyst, which had to be removed. Simon knew very little about cysts, and even less about ovaries, but he was concerned. His mother hated the hospital and did nothing but complain. She desperately needed a twizzler, probably more so than Simon.

Simon could see the steam rising from the smokestack of the only remaining ship in the harbour. It was scheduled to depart again in about two hours. Once it did, he would take his mother a pineapple. She loved pineapples.

The bell on the top of the shop door jangled, and Simon could see, since there was a deliberately clear line of sight from the back counter to the front entrance, two people wander inside. She had a small guide book of some kind in her hands. He wore a bum pouch. The last trickle of the last Carnival ship, so Simon’s last chance to score big on this Thursday morning.

He took a wooden mask from the display case and started to slowly polish it with his handkerchief and a bit of spit.

“Hey,” said the woman, “Parlay voo san glaze?”

Inexplicably, the woman seemed to think French was spoken on the island. Inexplicably too, Simon responded with a broad Australian accent.

“Hello mate, I reckon I speak English as well as the next bloke!”

“Oooh, are you English?” she asked.

Simon’s mother had carefully instructed him, since as far back as he could remember, that the tourists and customers in the shop were to be treated with courtesy and respect. Well, she wasn’t around. She had faulty ovaries. Simon was in charge.

“No darlin, I’m an escapee from Oz,” said Simon. He carefully placed a soft felt cloth over the mask.

The woman and man exchanged glances. Truly this was a foreign English. People really were backward sometimes.

“Whad’ya have there?” asked the man, nodding at the mask under the felt cloth.

“Nothing, mate, nothing you would be interested in.” Simon got to his feet. “But let me show you these pretty ceramic tiles over here…” and he started to lead him towards the wall behind the postcard rack, where scenes from the island were colourfully painted on tile by craftspeople in China.

“I’m not interested in tile,” said the man.

“Gilbert collects artifacts,” said the woman.

“Artifacts, eh?” said Simon. “I dunno…” He returned to the counter, but didn’t lift the cloth. “Did Polly send you here?”

“Polly, yes! From the boat!” said the woman.

Simon carefully removed the cloth and stowed it under the counter. He opened a drawer and took out a tiny vial of linseed oil. He tipped the bottle onto his handkerchief and carefully polished small area near the white onyx eyes, where a sliver of stained teak had come away, revealing the new wood beneath. The oil would disguise this flaw, for awhile.

“This was just brought in, “ said Simon in a hushed tone.

“What is it?” the woman asked. “I mean, besides a mask.”

“This is the only actual Masque du Saint Chemise that I have ever laid eyes on,” said Simon. “It is a native piece, probably crafted circa 1642, when Christian missionaries first arrived to the island.”

The man reached his hand as if to touch it, and Simon gently pulled it away. “It was first a fertility symbol, but in time, because of some remarkable stories, it became famous for something else. Can you guess what it brings now?”

“Good luck?” asked the woman.

“Pre-SAUCE-ly!” said Simon. He reached into a drawer and pulled out a small typewritten sheet from a short stack of similar papers.

Masque du Sainte [sic] Chemise, the heading read, typed out on the authentically antique Remington typewriter in the back room. The letters were charmingly irregular in spacing and ink saturation.

Found Feb 15, 20—
Near arch. site Volcano rd
Ref Digest 14, 16, 22 Vols 3-6
Oral, picto. history
Fert., fortune
Auth. [illegible signature]

“That a price tag?” asked the man.

There was indeed a number scribbled with a blue ballpoint pen on a small adhesive label just below the chin of the mask: US1400.

Simon carefully peeled off the label and pitched it into the trash can. “Can’t rightly put a value on a piece like this,” he said.

“I’ll give you 200 for it,” said the man. “US dollars, cash.”

Simon sighed. He got the felt cloth from under the counter and delicately covered the face of the mask again. “I have other artifacts,” he said helpfully. Can you see the musket ball in the cabinet here? Also some maps reclaimed when the—“

“Let me see it again,” said the man.

Simon stared at the man for a moment, then peeled back the cloth. The oil had given the wood a rich, warm patina. The onyx eyes glimmered. He smiled a little, admiring his own workmanship.

The man and woman retreated to the ceramic tile corner for a private discussion. Simon again replaced the felt cloth, then returned to the week-old USA today, turning the page to look for the crossword.

Ten minutes later, Simon recounted the money, and put Polly’s cut into a white business envelope. After the ship sailed, he disappeared into the back room and brought out another teak and white onyx mask, carefully placing it behind glass in the display cabinet.

He felt a little better. He would use the newspaper for kindling in the coal stove. He would watch it burn, remembering the woman’s response about Simon’s comment on the USA Today headlines. “No,” she had said. “The world is not going crazy. It is finally turning around.” Simon covered the mask in bubble wrap and laid it in a cardboard box that was just a bit too small. He said nonthing.

Mama would be proud.

Ancient and Magical

Prompt: Ancient

digital-fantasy-surreal-2

I’ve decided to journal my experience with the mask in this leather-bound notebook, since I fear I have been inaccurate in my remembrances because of long hours in the private company of the exquisite Callexis.

Since she was delivered to me, I’ve heard nothing from Isaac, the master of dark trading, or the French messenger whose name I did not learn. I truly did not expect to correspond with Isaac or his minion after our transaction was finalized, yet they remain the only people on the earth who share my knowledge of Callexis and her mysterious power.

She of the useless magic, disappears when placed on one’s visage. She, of gold and jade and copper, ancient and beautiful, is weighty in my hands, and basks in the spotlight when sat within her special case in the library, but on my face she is gone. I feel the loops that secure her, but she is not there when I look at the mirror.

Callexis has shown me no other magic, though I spend an average of two hours per day staring at her so she may reveal her secrets, and much of the day wearing her, except when dining, bathing, or sleeping. She is comfortable and comforting, but so are my cashmere gloves. They do not disappear. They are not ancient and magical. They do not frustrate, confound, and confuse.

I have learned, with the help of my valet, that she does not merely become invisible, but disappears, both to me and to others. Having shallowly cut myself whilst shaving, I asked Othello to fetch some cotton wool, and upon returning he dabbed my face and took the blood. There was no mask to be seen or felt, despite the fact that I had placed her on my face but moments before.

That is all I have learned. Sometimes I pull my chair nearer, and stare into her hollow eyes, examine the sly, slight smile, and beg her in my thoughts to speak, somehow, to me. Sometimes when I take her off my face and place her on the marble stand, I think I hear a sort of laughter, as laughter carried to you from a great distance, on a breeze of the kind that nudges silk curtains.

Sometimes when I wear her, I feel no weight but a heaviness in my cheeks, a drawing down of the flesh near my lips, a pain in my arms, or a dizziness so intense I must sit, even when in town. My friend and neighbour, Edwin Duke, has asked me on more than one occasion if I am well when I’ve worn the mask to discuss matters of municipal interest (as we are both involved in county business). I wear her to experiment, to learn, yet she troubles me and withholds her secrets.

Today I wore her and sat before the mirror. An hour passed and I thought I saw my smile become her smile, mysterious and inscrutable. I thought I saw myself age, my face droop like a tiger’s skin, my eyes dark and heavy-lidded.

For the first time, I felt afraid of her, my beautiful, my exquisite Callexis.

 


Callexis

Prompt: Mask

Face sail Catrin-Welz-Stein

It was the most worthless bit of magic I had ever come across. The most amazing too, since magic and I did not cross paths very often; but still, damn near useless, except that the magic brought her to me.

The man said his name was Isaac. I’d heard of Isaac, he was well known in the world of dark trading. It wasn’t his real name, and he had a small army of minions, including lawyers, messengers, and mules to do his bidding. My collection was well-known, and when Callexis came into his possession, he was generous enough –and shrewd enough– to make me one of the first calls he made.

She was exquisite. Not studded with a myriad of precious jewels, only jade, but beautifully, masterfully, and lovingly crafted, with intricate patterns of vine leaves twining across her cheeks and around her eyes, the gleaming polished gold set off by the brushed, and inlays of copper, whose greenish tinge was like the venerable sister to the milky jade.

Exquisite.

Of course I wanted her. I pretended to bargain. The back and forth lasted days, until, as Isaac fully realized I would, I conceded to the near-full asking price from fear another buyer would snatch her away from me.

But how to get her across the ocean and across the country? It was not my concern, as her safe delivery was an element of the price, but I still wondered, and worried, since I wanted her so badly and shuddered at the thought of her being discovered and confiscated before I held her in my hands.

I was to meet the train, and the transaction would take place in my apartment.

When we were safely ensconced in my private den, with orders not to be disturbed, I asked the gentleman– he was a distinguished-looking man in his sixties, French, by his accent –to show me Callexis. He had only a small case with him, at which I tried not to stare.

His smile was sly, but without aggression, similar to the smile of the beautiful Callexis. Instead of reaching for his case, he reached up to his face with his hands, and in the next moment he had her, in his arms.

She shimmered. She was perfect.

“What just happened?” I asked. Callexis had appeared out of thin air. I rubbed my forehead.

“I don’t know, Monsieur,” said the man, whose name I never did know. “It is not trickery, and I do not claim to understand it. It made my voyage simple, and detection impossible.”

“What did?”

“She did,” he said. And he brought her to his face again, and she disappeared!

I had no efficient way to determine if I was dreaming, awake, hallucinating, or witnessing a magic trick the likes of which I had never seen.

“It is no trick,” the man said again. He reached his hands to his head again, and when he brought them down Callexis was again in his possession.

“Does Isaac know about this?”

“He chooses not to consider it,” said the man.

We completed our transaction, and I remained in the den, alone, with Callexis. I put her on the black marble stand that I had readied for her, and sat in my high-backed chair and stared for quite some time. I got up, put her on my face, as there were loops to fit easily over the ears, and went to the mirror. There was no Callexis, just my own countenance, staring back at me in bewilderment. I felt a tingling in my scalp, barely noticeable. I removed the mask and put her back on the stand. The tingling dissipated.

What are you? I asked. What is the purpose of this worthless magic? In grand fairy tales the mask would make one invisible, it would take one to other worlds, propelled into fantastical adventures, not perform magic as mundane and pointless as the mask itself disappearing.

What is your power? I was unable to take my eyes from her face, now both glimmering brightly and cast into deep shadows by the lamplight.

Callexis stared back at me with her sly smile, a smile that was also, I suddenly realized, complicit and strangely intimate. She, here in front of me, was as different from her pictures, from the way she appeared in my dreams, as a carousel pony was from a wild stallion.

I tried to smile back, but could not.