An Opaque Masquerade
You can find a downloadable version of this story here: (.PDF)
There is no purple prose to sprinkle upon the opening of this narrative. Arkadiusz Fringe, tucking his blond flowing hair behind his ear, was on his way to the dentist. Black leather shoes, black trousers, white shirt. He tried scoping out his reflection in the myriad of mirroresque windows of the various boutiques and shop fronts.
‘What lovely weather.’ He mumbled, bumping into a woman taking a selfie with her smartphone. He walked on, ignoring her swearing.
He was a skilled enough practitioner of the mystical arts—he could have teleported into the dentist’s office. He didn’t.
There was a pharmaceuticals store with the letters “TROSKA” in Comic Sans. Such travesty alone was enough to make him shudder, but there was a dog waiting outside, strapped to a bicycle ramp by a leash. He could not help but smile down on the pup, but the visage of his toothless gums had made a nearby child point at him and cry.
Reaching an alleyway between Victoria’s Secret and a British Red Cross shop, he dived into the shadows.
Further down the secluded, tight alley, he looked around, checking if he was followed. He was—by a couple holding hands and smiling at each other, talking to themselves, though he couldn’t care what about. He waited for them to disappear around the corner. Once they did, he took out a white stick of chalk from his pocket and drew a few symbols on the brick wall, making a triangle out of runes. Basic leximancy, but it was better than a convoluted knocking system. The letters flashed and scorched, then the bricks moved, making the markings disappear. The bricks scratched against themselves shifting, until a large hole was made into the back side of the building that was at once Victoria’s Secret, while metaphysically occupying the same material plane as the place for all of a wizard’s needs. There was a 9-foot green masked man in a grey robe standing around, behind him the alley stretched into a road downhill, with colourful buildings and store fronts decorated whimsically, as if some sort of festival went on.
The man looked down on Arkadiusz, ‘Welcome to Dagon Valley, would you like some free exposition?’
The blond wizard shook his head and, passing by the man and a weird looking stone statue, walked down into the bustling valley. One man ran up the road, choking, disappeared into an alley behind a magical fireworks store. Within the crowd there were a few more statues—just masonic representations of people. There was a contrast between the live people walking about, peering into store fronts and sitting at open cafes, and those individual grey monoliths. But the stones were of average, nigh ugly people. The wizards, witches and sorcerers, all, were the physical manifestations of aethereal beauty. Like a pantheon of ancient Greek gods from Mundane mythologies, or like the sultry social media feeds of modern unemployed “influencers”.
Arkadiusz ran the tip of his tongue along his bare gums.
Sweat dripped down his brow.
At the little roundabout at the bottom, there was a stone statue of a bald woman in robes, raising her hands up over the entire little wizarding settlement, a magical jewel in the middle of mundane reality. With a flash of lightning there appeared a wizard by the statue, smoke billowing from his feet. The wizard was a grey bearded thin-haired man, he looked wrinkly and old, with an opaque crystal ball in his grasp.
The man’s eyes shifted about, locking his gaze with Arkadiusz for a split second, then towards the crowds snickering and sneering at him. The man ran, tried diving into the crowd or into a back street, but after taking a couple of strides, his feet froze to the ground. There was a crackling noise and within seconds of his feet turning to stone, the man became a statue. The crystal ball fell to the ground, shattered—a mere noise within the crescendo of the crowd’s musings and chatter. But having turned into a statue, the man’s appearance changed: he looked younger, with long dreadlocks, though with a bulging stomach and half-a-head shorter.
They never learn.
A little further down, a huge placard covered the top of an otherwise unambiguous two-storey building. With white text on deep dark green background: “Colgothade’s Shining Smile - Biomancy Services” and a small, bold text beneath “A.K.A. Dentistry”
He went in.
The reception was a muted minimalist office, grey walls, grey ceiling, white panels for a floor. There was a white door on the other side of the room, near a desk upon which stood a little green cactus. A woman sat behind the desk. Her burgundy hair tied back. Her emerald eyes did not stray from the gleam of the computer screen. She wore a tight-fitting white shirt.
There was a high-pitched ding from behind him. Arkadiusz turned around, above the door there was a little circle with an arrow next to it and a bell. The circle was divided into quarters, each coloured in either red, green, blue or black.
The blond wizard sighed.
The circle spun, and while at first the bit touching the arrow was blue, it now touched the green. The door opened, and the little bell dinged again.
An elderly woman led by the hand of a roughly 10-year-old girl stepped through the doorway and walked towards the reception, past Arkadiusz, as if he weren’t even there.
But for a moment he peered through the gap in the closing door, onto an empty street with cars parked up by the pavement, in stark contrast to the bustling hive of magically imbued perfection and stone he had just come from.
The receptionist rose from her seat, directing the girl and the woman to sit at the chairs to the sides of the room. Arkadiusz looked. Couldn’t help himself. The receptionist also wore a business skirt, black tights, with high heels. Just as he raised his hand to speak, the receptionist went back to her seat by the computer and said:
‘Master Colg—’ she bat her eyes, turned towards the woman and smiled, then back to the blond wizard:
‘The dentist will see you now.’ She looked back towards the blond wizard, waved at the door behind her.
He walked into the other room without so much as an attempt at another word.
There was a standard medical chair, with lights and manoeuvrable machine arm sticks to which more lights were attached, all in that clinical sterile white colour. The man standing behind it wore a white lab coat stretching down to the floor, beneath it a grey suit. But he wore a tie of pale blue, which matched his eyes, and the clinical gloves.
‘Master Fringe! Right on time, how are you sir?’ his voice was deep but with a genuine roaring enthusiasm Arkadiusz didn’t find appealing.
The blond wizard tried speaking, but his words all came out as a mumble, at times whistling through his sleek spit-wet gums.
‘Ah, please have a seat sir.’ And Colgothade gestured to the seat with his gloved hands, and a shining bright smile plastered on his face.
After directing Arkadiusz to open his mouth, the dentist took something from a nearby tray and poked the wizard’s gums with it. A stabbing sensation made him shudder, but the dentist held his jaw still.
‘Have you heard what the Silver Masons’ plan is for the lateral quarter?’
Arkadiusz could feel a searing pain along all of his gums, tears forced themselves out of his eyes but all he could do was mumble incoherently as the dentist continued his one-sided conversation.
‘I’ve never been much for politics myself, but maybe it’s time for the Technomancers to step up. You know, rein the Mundanes in a little. A minor global technological meltdown, maybe a glitch changing the value of currencies to 0, and boom. Makes them think twice before employing shadow agencies of shadow cabinets to try and weasel themselves into every aspect of reality.’ Colgothade chuckled to himself.
‘Now, it has been done!’ he moved away from the blond wizard, bringing to him a little mirror attached to the white mechanical arm above.
Arkadiusz inspected the ingrowth of little white specks along his gums, they were growing in, slowly—he could feel them in his mouth.
‘Remember to drink plenty of calcium and brush daily!’ said the dentist to a dazed Arkadiusz as he made his way back into reception.
His thoughts were a maelstrom of confusion and chaos as the receptionist dictated the final sum on the bill, she kept trying to hand it over to him. When he escaped her crooning, with the piece of paper in his hand, he dived towards the door. He appeared in the middle of a quaint little alley along quaint little shops which were not at all for wizards, by wizards. He turned around to step back through the door, realising too late he had gone through the wrong colour.
The building behind him looked derelict in comparison to the shop fronts at its side. Its windows were cracked, if their frames even had the glass, and one could see the interior was devoid of decoration, or even the floors for the upper sections—as if the whole structure had been bombarded and never rebuilt.
This is wrong, the doorway should still work, something must have happened on the other side…
Arkadiusz sighed, crumpling the receipt:
But that’s none of my business now.