Every seat in the chamber was filled. Chests pounding and faces distorted with chaotic tension, the faces of young and old alike, eyes wide and cheeks flushed with anticipation. Hands and buttocks alike clenched and unclenched, feet stamped to the floor as if to become planted into the soiled carpet beneath.
No time now if you expected to get a tasty treat before the show. Too late now if you forgot to empty your bladder before coming in. If you had to go better hope you were diaper clad, young and old alike. There was no leaving for the lobby now.
It was soon to be that time.
High above in the rafters, two shadows sat side by side. Each seemingly a mirror image of the other, though upon closer observation their striking differences could be seen. Simply put, one was painted black and white while the other was painted white and black. Heaven-forbid the poor soul who confused the two, for they were Fabrizio and Casimir. Constant companions they were, though their disposition towards each other would make one question why this was the case.
One liked to build, the other preferred to destroy.
Each face turned towards the other. Grease paint worn and beginning to fade with the test of time, their mouths raised into a measured balance of glee and turmoil. Hands reached into an inner pocket of each’s jacket, and two identical sets of cards were removed. Each stared at their deck of cards long and hard; almost longingly. Then with a well practiced serious of events, each mirrored the other through a brilliant display of shuffling, and then impossibly began to each juggle their cards in a private ritual that only they had ever mastered. Cards spinning and flowing after each other in a dance of muted colours.
Then they stopped, and again looked at the deck of cards in their hands. A solid block again. Then at the cards in the other’s hands. A nod. One breath, two breaths, then an expected return to form for at least one of them.
Something in the air tonight was different though. Nobody else in the room would have noticed, but one of the beings did. A prolonged pause came from one side. Fabrizio raised his eye questioningly at his companion. And then something unexpected happened. With a slow abstention of the rules, Casimir gently elbowed Fabrizio and handed over his cards, eyes not leaving the others while he took the others deck in turn.
Fabrizio face took on a somewhat confused look, and it looked like he might object. But then he noted something in his partners face. This being of stoicism and control, one who always knew how to break a moment down; how to break a scene down; how to break a person down, offered a smile.
Casimir never smiled.
Over the sound from below it should have been impossible to hear any particular voice, but as Casimir’s mouth moved, the words he spoke were received loud and clear by his companion.
Startled, Fabrizio looked towards Casimir and considered carefully what he was up to. The lines on the other’s face looked more drawn and tired than any time before. Thinner. Pained. Something was up.
Below them, the room felt as if had become one giant amorphous being, synchronous in each breath. A need for the main event to begin.
And then the lights all went dark. All sound was immediately replaced with a haunting silence. No coughs, no chuckles. Not even the sigh of the smallest child. So quiet, you could hear a pin drop.
Which was convenient, as that was the cue for the show to begin.
What many would have taken to be an unusually bright dust mote had slowly floated down from the top of the stage and when reaching the floor had raised an appendage to strike something it held.
A crystal-clear sound of the entire human experience; love, terror, grief, and joy intermingled as one flowed around the room, bouncing off the walls, chests, and eardrums of the entire room. Hearts soared, eyes watered, and many felt a warmth in their nether regions; some for the first time and others for the last.
Fabrizio and Casimir observed, as they had observed countless times before. There was a seriousness to this role. Their job, seemingly pointless yet crucial all at the same time.
Kind of like life, really.
The initial note began to fade, and then with a cavalcade of triumphant trumpets an explosion of sound began that grow louder and larger and the lights then appeared, raising themselves to a shocking brightness. Every face in the auditorium could now be seen, exposing every dimple, every wrinkle. Every expression that dreamed of days ahead and every haunted eye looking to escape the past.
There was no classism here. No segregation.
Every male, female, transgender, straight, gay, homophobe, ally, white, dark, tan and racist.
Every democrat, communist, autocrat, and anarchist. Every warrior and every pacifist.
Every newborn babe and every centenarian.
They all belonged here in the theatre. This was the big show.
Above, Fabrizio still watched Casimir with a concerned expression. They had a job to do. It was their job. The most important job in all the universe. Of all time.
On the stage, the ringmaster was sliding back and forth, regaling the audience with piercing sounds that meant everything and nothing. Nobody could make out their face, and the apparel seemed to continually shimmer and shift as if to appeal to every possible requirement, every ideology and every legend.
This stage was theirs. They commanded it, and they set the rules for everything.
As a flow of beasts both dazzled and terrified the senses of the watchers, dancers of all types and sizes began to flow through the room. Some wearing dresses of massive proportion, others with bangles and bells. Some wore leotards, while others wore no clothing at all. Each were gliding along the walls, across the floors, even across some of the audience members laps. Altering expressions of shock and wonder passed each face, with a very spacious joy seen on the face of an adolescent boy in the 7th row followed by a quick covering of his groin with his hands as a young nymph glided across his lap.
Each dancer seemed to follow their own choreography. While beautiful, there was still chaos.
The music began to shift at this moment as the band began to appear from out of the darkness. Some pounding on small drums with sticks and bones, to be followed by others with harmonicas, flutes and bag-pipes. More and more musicians appeared, what seemed to be an impossible numbers, each playing an impossible range of instruments right up to a grand-piano and somehow they all seemed to just fit together on stage. However, as with the dancers, there was no solidity in their playing. A chordal dissonance occurred, confusing the senses.
But it was still mesmerizing. And it had always been this way.
Soon, the final act approached. The time for Fabrizio and Casimir to take the stage. The Fools of Fate. The Jesters of Justice. The Clowns of Chaos.
With a flick of the wrist, each of them were to draw a card for each member of the audience, defining through simple chance what the fate was to be for every member in the audience. This mark of honour or damnation forever stamped on each person as they received their next spin through reality.
The Ringmaster raised their arms wide and yelled out, “Send in the Clowns”.
As the clowns followed their cue and floated down from their place above, Fabrizio noted that the look on Casimir’s face was shifting rapidly from this odd new smile he had developed, back to sadness, and then to an odd relief.
Then they landed, and again, the theatre went silent. Fabrizio stood to one side of the Ringmaster and Casimir stood to the other, just as they had done thousands, tens of thousands of times before. Possibly more. Eternity is a funny thing. And it can be exhausting.
With a flourish of their hands, the Ringmaster instructed the two to begin. And so, each pulled out their cards. And for the first time, Fabrizio noticed something was off. The deck that Casimir and slipped him was different somehow. Fifty-two cards each was the rule. Fifty-two possibilities of creation or destruction held by each of them.
This deck had Fifty-three cards.
But even if Fabrizio had the ability to openly object he wouldn’t have. The words that Casimir had spoken still echoed in his head.
“This time, let’s do different.”
There was something tired in that statement. Something final.
Centuries, eons, even millenia, Fabrizio had been at this individual’s side. Hating him and loving him. But most of all, understanding him. He suddenly realized something, and he quickly looked over at Casimir.
Who was looking back at him with another new expression. Triumph.
Casimir then raised his hand and showed the deck of cards to the audience, then towards the ringmaster. Who even if they knew what was about to happen could not do anything about it. For in their arrogance, the ringmaster had assumed that they controlled everything. Everyone.
That was not the case.
The stage itself was the master.
What happened here was finale.
Casimir the destroyer had sealed the fate of many in his long existence. Breaking hearts and shattering dreams. Sowing discord and disillusion. To be the darkness. To be the villain. Originally, he loved that role, cherished it.
Fighting with Fabrizio was something he did.
Then he realized he loved fighting with Fabrizio.
One day he realized he just loved Fabrizio.
But then over time it began to break him down and down further. And one day he realized he didn’t want to be the destroyer anymore. But he had one job in all of existence, and couldn’t see how he could get past it. Then suddenly he had an epiphany. One chance to make things right. To use his job in one final act of destruction that would make things better.
With one practiced moment, Casimir made one card pop up in the deck. And as both the Ringmaster and the audience slowly bent forward in anticipation of his next movement, Casimir gleefully lowered his hand again and then upwards again, throwing them all high into the air.
A shocked silence followed, for this was not to be, never to be. The Ringmaster turned towards the destroyer, threw their arms wide questioningly and opened their mouth to yell. And with that, Casimir threw the final card that he had left snapped between two fingers directly into that open mouth.
The Ace of Spades.
With a distortion of sound and light, the Ringmaster fell to their knees, then onto the floor and lay still.
A shocked silence. Then all of the performers and audience members alike rose in terror, expecting chaos and horror to follow.
But then Casimir clapped his hands, and a wave of power pushed everybody back to their seats. That weird smile returned to his face, and he gestured everybody towards his companion, and signalled Fabrizio to begin.
Confused, Fabrizio pulled his first card. But what he found was not what he expected.
The Joker. Wildcard. Not supposed to be there. Must have been the extra card he felt. So he pulled another one.
And again. And again. And soon, all Fifty-three of his cards lay on the ground before him. All Jokers. No rules of creation. No rules of destruction. No rules at all.
A stunned audience looked at him, then at Casimir, and back again. The performers all stood in shock as well. Nobody knew what was to happen here.
So, Casimir made something happen. He turned towards the audience, bowed. Then turned towards the performers and bowed for them.
Then he walked over to Fabrizio and bowed the deepest to him. Then he ever so gently reached forward and kissed him on the lips.
Fabrizio stared in shock as the touch was broken. Truth be told, he had always loved Casimir. Maybe it was because he was the embodiment of creation and to love was in his base instincts, but he knew it was more than that. This wasn’t just love. This was reality shifting.
Then Casimir quietly spoke, “For too long, my dear Fabrizio, we have together played the pawns in this twisted game. It’s time for me to destroy these chains that hold you back from your true potential. To create a world where harmony can exist because people have the choice to do so.”
Then with a snap of his fingers, the show began again. But this time the dancers, with all of their different style of clothing (or lack thereof), were somehow acting as counterparts to one another, a flow of energy and beauty that staggered the eyes.
Then the music began. Unlike before, the dissonance did not exist. The different musical styles, from ancient tribal drumming to electronic goth punk somehow flowed into one another, notes dancing in and around each other. Connected and harmonious.
Casimir then slowly began to fade from the stage. And as Fabrizio cried out in shock at this sudden turn of events, Casimir spoke his last. “Every moment of creation is a celebration of something destroyed. And I will be with you every single time. For we were always meant to be one.”
And with that he was gone.
Fabrizio stood on stage looking downwards, quiet and contemplative. Then when he raised his head again, the audience and every performer noted the change. Gone were the simple black and white paint. This was now replaced with a multitude of colours, an expression of all truths, all ideas, all realities.
Then with a wave of his hand, suddenly all of the cards on the floor vanished and were back in his hands. Two perfect decks plus one more card. And then with a second flourish, each of the cards disappeared in a burst of flames, raising even his eyebrows in the process.
Then he walked forward to the edge of the stage, and sat down, legs reaching overtop. He waved for all of the dancers, musicians and beasts alike to approach him. With this mass of beings all around him, Fabrizio looked around at all, and quietly spoke the most powerful thing you can say on stage.
“Let’s try this again from the top.”
And the audience applauded.
Copyright 2022 – Tim Norton. All Rights Reserved