The Magician

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The Magician

Staggered through an alleyway; passed out in the trash. Not a problem – it formed around my body like a black plastic throne. That was when my subjects came to pay me tribute.
“O, wise and noble bum,” said a plague of rats that emerged from the smelly heap. “We only ask that we may dwell in the spacious courtroom of your head.”
“Sure,” I replied. Why not? “Climb in my ear.”

One-by-one, they disappeared into my head; their little pink tails sucking up into my ear like spaghetti. When a whole damn fistful had entered, I felt them rolling-squeaking around, restless in my skull.
“Keep it down in there!” I yelled, knocking at the ceiling of my head with a tiny broom.
“We’re sorry, sire!” they said. “We’re trying to arrange ourselves.”
I felt something knotting around my brain, and they settled.
“We’ve tied our tails together.” They said now. “Truly, a fitting crown for a king.”
Truly. I went to sleep with the collective dancing ‘round my dreams. Phantasms shaped like rodents and marionettes, songs I didn’t know (rat folk songs?), and the smell of plague-magicks.
When my eyes opened, I was walking in a place I didn’t know, every muscle jerked by strings in my head. My subjects were betraying me, I was a puppet monarch!
“Worry not, sire.” Said the rat parliament. They didn’t let me open my mouth. “We’ll preserve your jewels and your history. We’re just putting this monarchy to good use.”

I travelled through rat-towns, shaking tiny hands and kissing pink hairless babies. They watched me pass in awe; some glowing golden presence gracing their homes. Souvenirs with my face on them were sold – painted bottletops, lint-dolls and twisted springs. But I was doing nothing – it was the creatures in my head, they had twisted me into a walking symbol.
“The king! The king!” squealed rat children, waving paperscrap flags with blobs of ink on them. “The king is here!”
The parliament made me do a wrist-turning wave, and my mouth said: “Good morning, my subjects! I love you, one and all!”

One night, when they thought I was completely sleeping, I heard them holding congress in my skull. They’ll built a boardroom now – least, that’s how it felt. I felt the long table and all the chair legs. I felt a watercooler and some tasteful sculptures.
Inside, they talked about extorting the rat populous. They wanted to raise rat-taxes and cull the population by introducing harmful addictives into the lower-income rat communities, all while hiding behind my face. By now, the parliament had altered my face to make me the perfect image of a glorious giant rodent with a smile on its face and the enticing smell of cheese on its whiskers. There was no longer and trace of my human self – save for the shape of my body, which was covered entirely in fur. I was a symbol, the face of the rat parliament. And I couldn’t do a god damn thing about it.

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