The Fall and Rise of Zorko the Great

Submitted into Contest #176 in response to: Cast a magician (a real one, or a party entertainer) as your story’s protagonist.... view prompt


Fantasy Romance Friendship

Birthday parties are insanely overrated. From the silly balloon animals, to the overpriced cakes and decorations. Don't get me started on the gift bags for the kids in attendance. I'm ashamed to admit this, but Zorko the great, was relegated to tween birthday parties using subpar magic to make ends meet. 

Yours truly, who once saved the world going wand to fang with Dracula himself. *"Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them."

I didn't have much of a choice thank you very much. It all started in ninety-nine, fifteen-ninety-nine to be precise. I was working at The Globe Theatre, under the direction of thee William Shakespeare. Julius Caesar graced the stage for the first time, Williams' name was growing much to his chivalrous despute. *"Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving." His words (even in those days) hung like the famed Bethlehem star guiding many to the infamous theatre and to the moment that would change my life forever.  

This would come over a decade later in 1613 during a performance of Henry VIII. Shakespeare wanted a magical performance and I felt obliged to deliver. Unfortunately my longstanding fued with Dracula caught up with me. Oh the foul odor of the infamous pale faced Vampire was enough to make even the dregs of the day turn their noses up and call him out for the drunken stooge he was. Despite his penchant for strong drink he could charm the pants off even the most conservative women of the day, as he often had. The loose women or Jezebels of the day did not please his palet. He liked a challenge, it made feeding more interesting to him. He sought to suck the life out of maidens *"pure as the driven snow."

However, seducing my wife in the dressing room, sinking his fangs into her neck then ambushing me backstage was to much to bare… He wiped a glob of her blood from his chin with the wrist cuff of his shirt. He launched himself at me. Hissing through the canines which protruded from the corners his smug face.

My response to the villainous creature of darkness was swift and enduring. I caught him alight with a series of fireballs that emerged from my fiery fingertips. Unfortunately one went astray. As I parried to the left. I thrust my wand (an oaken stake) into the heart of the beast. I stabbed him over and over again with a fury I had never felt before. 

The errent fireball did set the thatched roof aflame. In less than an hour the theatre was reduced to a charred pile of wood. The good news was that Dracula perished that fateful day and the cover up was as simple as blaming some cannons and a pyrotechnics malfunction. *"O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend

The brightest heaven of invention,

A kingdom for a stage, princes to act

And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!" (Henry V Prologue 1.1.1-4) This was written by Shakespeare as a farewell send off to Dracula and his beloved Globe Theatre. He never thought it would endure the test of time. 

More on that in a moment, I had work to do. "Pick a card, any card." I spread the deck of cards out like a fan. The birthday boy stepped forward with nervous anticipation and took a card. He looked at it for a moment then showed his friends.  

"It's the seven of spades!" He yelled to his dad with excitement.

"No Billy, you're not supposed to tell me ugh!" I faked a smile and took his card. I placed it in the deck (I actually palmed it) and dropped the deck on the table face down spreading out the cards. I mixed them thoroughly. "Now I need a volunteer, anyone?" I raised my arms and slid the seven down a sleeve just as I rolled them up to show the onlookers that I wasn't hiding anything. Jayden, no Brayden, ahh shit what difference does it make. Kayden, yes…that was his name. The annoying little brat stepped right up and gave a toothless grin.

I bent down to one knee, which is quite a feat for someone of my vintage. "Now Hayden,"

"It's Kayden Mr." He retorted. I got back to my feet and addressed the rest of the crowd.

"Yes, yes Kayden it is. If you would sir, pick up all these cards from the table, stack them neatly, and hand them to Billy the Kid here." I looked at his dad with a wink and a chuckle. "Let's pick up the west of those cards eh" Unfortunately dad was the only one who got the joke. As Kayden finished collecting all the cards, I reached my hand into my jacket to 'retrieve my wand' while actually getting the seven back into my palm. I tapped the deck with the wand then set it on the table. I told what's his name to hand the deck to Billy. 

"Now I want you to lay the cards face up, one by one, on the table until you find your card okay?" As he did this smoke began to pour out of my wand, from it's tip. *"Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs." I eased over to the cupcakes on the other side of the table. There were two cases each containing twenty-four. Each case was arranged in four rows of six. With all eyes now on Billy and the smoking wand. I secretly folded then slid the seven of spades into the tenth cupcake in one of the cases.

"The card is not here, I can't find it." Billy shrieked. Disappointment fell on his face, I let it hang for a moment to sell the effect. 

"Alas, Zorko has failed! Whatever shall we do?" I played it up big and wandered back to his side of the table. "Here, have a handkerchief." I pulled a never ending loop of multicolored handkerchiefs from my pocket just as the wand smoke fizzled to a stop. Billy and the rest of the party laughed. "Whew!" I pretended to give a damn as I wiped some faux sweat from my forehead. "How about a hand for the birthday boy?" The crowd cheered. "Time for cupcakes!" As the applause continued I made my way once again to the cupcakes and picked up the case which housed the seven of spades.

I set the case down on the table and told Billy to point at half the cupcakes. "Top or bottom half." I pointed at the case over exaggerating every word and movement. He picked the top half. "Now pick any six of those." I used an old magician's trick to narrow his choices down until he ended on the cupcake containing the seven. "Are you sure Billy?" I nodded my head with approval and he did the same. *"Brevity is the soul of wit. Good job Billy." I handed him the cupcake and performed a fantastic flourish with the wand.

 "Wait, what is this I behold? Something stirs in the cake! Quickly break it apart Billy." He did as I requested and of course revealed a folded card inside. Again I played it up big. *"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts." I took the card from him and revealed that indeed it was the seven of spades. The crowd cheered, I bowed. "The stage is yours Billy. *"Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow." I tipped my top hat and left the table as the kids dug into the rest of the cupcakes.  

Billy's mother approached me. She reminded me of my twenty-first wife Rosalind, or was she the twenty-second? No matter, years have given way to decades and decades to centuries. *"Alas that love, whose view is muffled still, / Should without eyes see pathways to his will." I must have blurted this aloud for the fair maiden Beth did respond with a surprising response. 

"Romeo and Juliet, a classic for sure." She batted her soft green eyes and placed her hand on my shoulder. "I prefer *"Hear my soul speak. Of the very instant that I saw you, Did my heart fly at your service. The Tempest – Act 3, Scene 1."

I looked across the room where Billy's father was entertaining his son and the rest of the party. The soft touch of her hand turned my bearded chin back to her gaze. *"I would not wish any companion in the world but you." She pulled me in close and kissed my lips. I was nervous and excited *"Is this the generation of love? Hot blood, hot thoughts and hot deeds? Why, they are vipers. Is love a generation of vipers?’ -What about thee husband?" 

"He is not my husband," she pulled me close again and kissed me long and slow. When our lips parted she spoke in a whisper. "I have a a confession to make." 

*"You have witchcraft in your lips." I had not felt this way in over thirty years. My heart pounded and to speak truth to the matter at hand, I too had a secret confession. "Do tell fair Beth!"

"Witchcraft indeed does fill my blood, as yours. I have delayed this meet to be sure I was correct."

I took a deep breath, could it be? Or was my mind playing tricks on me? "Correct about what? Forgive me for my skepticism."

"Our paths have crossed before, Zorko the great has had many names, does William the clown prince, or Erik Weisz ring a bell?"  

"Ah yes, I had to die in Detroit and now it seems that Detroit has followed suit." I laughed uncomfortably, wondering if she got the joke. 

"So it's true, and wonderful, words can not describe. Your movements and your style, not to mention your youth. I attended a show in nineteen-twelve, you actually called me up on the stage to check your shackles. I have never forgotten that moment and that night… My life changed forever!"

Then it hit me, I remembered clearly. We made love that night. And I bit her, I gave her immortality that night. Let me explain, during that fight with Dracula the night the globe burned, when the odorus beast charged, he caught me with a bite. Although I dispatched him and his body was thoroughly burned, I was given the gift of immortality. I was in effect Dracula's last victim. "Why now, do you walk back into my life?"

"Two reasons, first; I have outlived everyone in my life that has ever meant a thing to me. I will most certainly out love Billy too, and it's heartbreaking.*"To die, to sleep;

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause: there's the respect

That makes calamity of so long life." 

*"Thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives must die,

Passing through nature to eternity." I glanced back over to the party with tears welling in my eyes. It extolled the virtues of innocence and mortality. Turning back to Beth, I knew I had crossed the line that night, one that I had kept under control the two-hundred and ninety-nine preceding years. I took her hand in mine again. "And the second?"

"We are in danger? A group of ancients, perhaps older than yourself has uncovered who and what we are. I barely escaped with my life last week." 

I had reinvented myself as many times as I had been blessed with a wife. It was time to stop running and give lasting love a chance. She continued speaking, her voice trembled and her lips quivered *" Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle's compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.'

"I have always loved you. You have given me the gift of many lives. I hope you will stay and help me."

"Then we shall band together and fight.* We cannot hold mortality's strong hand' -what about Billy and his father?" I looked over again, I had almost forgotten we were in the midst of a child's birthday party where I had just performed. It was as if Beth and I had just been on that stage and I the great Houdini had just asked her to check my shackles.

I awoke, thirsty for blood, Beth lay naked next to me. Recollection of the night was lost from my mind. Where we were and how we got here,I had no clue. I was weak, I tried to stand and she pulled me close. "Please forgive me?" 

"For what?" I asked not knowing if I really wanted the answer. 

"Well I would show you in a mirror, but we both know that isn't an option!" She let out a rousing laugh. Then I got the joke. I inhaled deeply, and all my senses came flooding back. Sight; I saw the bodies that were strewn across the floor in front of the bed, The door to the hotel room was open. Touch; I could feel the warm blood that stained my face. Hearing; I could hear the distant footsteps of the hunters coming down the hall toward our room. I could even hear their heartbeats as they moved closer and closer. Smell; a mixture of blood and defecation. Before I could take in and sort all the sensations, Beth was dressed and waiting behind the door.

I sprung to my feet as the memories filtered back to my brain. "What did you do Beth?" 

"I gave you a gift, to thank you. We must embrace who we are." Before I knew it, two men were entering the room. The first one had a shotgun, she struck him as he entered the door. The poor bastard didn't have a chance. He fell with a mighty force nearly flipping completely over from the clothesline she had imparted on him. The gun was in the air. My body moved without thought or effort. I caught the gun before it hit the ground. The second man through the door tripped over the body of the first. Beth was on him before I knew it. I'll spare you the details, let's just say, all told about that night no less than five Vampire hunting scoundrels succumbed to death's kiss.

Ten years later:

"The election results are in." The news anchor stood, microphone in hand. "Welcome to the Senate Beth." A microphone was thrust upon me "What do you think about your wife taking the Senate seat from the incumbent?" 

I paused thinking of the right words. I was so proud.I took a deep breath turned to my wife and smiled deeply:

"To quote the words of Shakespeare, from Macbeth I believe,*Out, out, brief candle!

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing."

December 17, 2022 02:15

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