Jabari the Magician: Nikki and Trey in Crackland (part two)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Nikki and Trey discover the power of magic over logic.

Submitted: December 04, 2010

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Submitted: December 04, 2010

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VI. Storytime: Jabari the Magician

Airborne and flying turbulently in the unceasing dark, the main lights suddenly flashed back on and a crazy-eyed woman with nose hairs, who looked for all the world like an aging hippie from the past century, came bouncing down the central aisle shouting "Storytime! Storytime!" at the top of her lungs. Her long braids seemed tangled and dirty, and her face was covered with either unpinched zits or pockmarks or a longstanding combination of the two. She was missing one front tooth and seemed to whistle slightly as she spoke. She was, apparently, a standard feature of the flight to Crackland, a storyteller--one for both adults and children. "Hush! Hush!" she cried, "and listen to the tale of John Crack our founder and his arch enemy Jabari the Magician."

And then she began bleating a rather long, wheezy and disjointed tale about how John Crack had been wanted by the law in some Canadian town called Baker Lake which was right under us at the moment and very close to the Arctic Circle. John Crack, a swashbuckler with an unknown agenda, had apparently been innocent, according to the storyteller (whose name was never given). He was a fine outstanding white man from Wichita, Kansas who had made the mistake of having a negro assistant in his Arctic explorations. A long rant then began about the danger of "the darker races," none of which were, of course, represented in the flight. The storyteller's eyes seem to glow with the livid dread of evil as she began detailing how some black guy named Jabari Cutler had put a curse on John Crack even before the two of them had stumbled onto unpopulated Somerset Island, where the huge fault in the Earth's crust, which was the entrance to present-day Crackland, lay. Jabari became a source of unending malevolence and trouble for John Crack, but the two of them descended into the warm interior of the then-deserted world just the same. "The place has an interior sun," she informed everyone. "A sun which you shall soon see. It is always warm there." But she later made her main point that Jabari Cutler later became a fearful shaman and began calling himself Jabari the Magician, a name he is know by to this day. As her out of kilter story wound on, we learned that Crackland was covered by a vaulted dome of rock which eventually, in some territory off limits to settlers, joined with the ground. "It is a place of unspeakable dreadfulness and shadows," said the storyteller, who was delighting in frightening the children, most of whom she held rapt by the very lugubrious intonation of her wheezing alone. "It is there that dwells Jabari the Magician even now, a sworn enemy of the Kingdom of Crackland and a black fiend to boot." The main point of her story was that Jabari the Magician possessed a magical amulet that could warn him of impending danger so that he could always stay out of the reach of the kingdom's protectors, the Midnight Riders, a motorcycle club which had been contracted as the colony's peacekeepers. At one point she exclaimed that it was a fire-red ruby, and my thoughts immediately turned to the stone in my pocket which still seemed to burn against my thigh. Jabari the Magician this. Jabari the Magician that. Beware of Jabari the Magician. Stay within the boundaries. Her story concluded with a bloody account of how the dreaded Jabari had put a curse on Crackland's first queen, whose name was Xenia and who had always been as pure as driven snow. Xenia and her king Zack had come from two of the finest and most upstanding families in New York state, and Xenia's transgressions had been caused by Jabari's curse and Jabari's curse alone. Her sins had cost her her life, and she had been justly and dutifully decapitated. "That means beheaded," the storyteller shouted, eyes wide and aglow, to the children who were beginning in some cases to cry and clutch their parents. There was a new queen now, but Jabari's evil curse was still a threat. Etcetera and etcetera.

Nikki rolled her eyes at both me and Teagan. Teagan seemed totally rapt. It was clear he had no plans to build a skateboard park near Jabari's edge of the world lair. "I'd do a double flip nollie if I ever saw him," said Teagan under his breath. Nikki looked back at me. "Scared faggot," she whispered in my ear. "I'd kill the son of a bitch if he were that bad. They are probably just afraid of him because he's black."

"This place has a folklore all its own," I whispered back.

Little did I know that Jabari the Magician would soon play a central role in my life.

VII. A video greeting from King Zack of the House of Wampaugh, Absolute Monarch of the Autonomous Kingdom of Crackland and its Associated Territories.

After the storyteller raised her outstretched hands toward the roof of the plane and groaned "Beware the black devil!!!" once again, the cabin went black and a white screen dropped down from the closed doors of the cockpit. A preppy looking guy who could not have been older than 30 came on with no warning. He was wearing a loose fitting polo shirt and faded denim jeans. He welcomed everyone to his kingdom and began a rambling justification of kingship as the most perfect form of government. Somewhere in his story lay the factoid that he had once been a prom king in some school on the surface. That seemed to please him immensely. "Councils, congresses, assemblies, elections, parliaments, committees---all of them are big waste of time," he said. "I rule with the help of the Founders and my Grand Vizier Aaron. My word is law, but it is a consistent and benevolent law. Follow it, and you will thrive. Disregard it, and suffer the punishment." He concluded by introducing a somewhat younger girl named Taryn, who also wore a lopsided crown. Taryn added nothing to King Zack's words except a jittery giggle. She was still giggling when the screen went blank. Unlike the storyteller, Zack had kept his words to a minimum. Nowhere in his monologue was there any mention of Jabari the Magician either.

"Silly asshole," said Nikki audibly. "The find a habitable fault in the Earth's crust and then put a nincompoop like that in charge. Sweet." Teagan gave her an astonished look. I put one hand against my ruby and the other on Nikki's thigh as if to say be quiet.

The journey wound on. Daybreak, what little there was of it, found us cruising at low altitude over endless fields of ice. The children grew restless, until a meal consisting mostly of pre-packaged cereal and lollipops was served.

The lurching Duckwing 480 seemed to be descending ever closer to the ice pack, when suddenly Chad Erant burst forth from the cockpit with a bag in his hand. He headed straight for Nikki. "Go change," he commanded. "We are almost there. The king will want to welcome everyone personally. Remember you will be a skaterboy. Go change in the bathroom behind."

Nikki looked repugnantly at the package. In it were a different shirt and a pair of much looser jeans, as well as some striped boxer shorts which, ostensibly, were to be worn visibly above her beltline. Also there was an elastic loop that looked like a back brace, a sort of truss. "To flatten your..." began Chad.

"I know," said Nikki, resigned to the absurdity of the moment. She took the package and walked down the aisle between the nattering passengers. When she emerged, she was a boy. A boy complete with a visored hat turned seductively sideways. Her chest was flat. Her pants were baggy enough to hide her voluptuous womanly curves. "He wants a boy, he'll get a boy," she said vacantly.

After a bumpy but otherwise uneventful landing on a frigid ice shelf, the descent into the warmth of Crackland was by hydraulic elevator, and Nikki, Teagan and I were among the first to go down. Crackland, a pleasant and green valley, spread before us in an enticing vista of neat wooden houses built along shiny concrete roads. There were no signs or advertising of any sort. Cows and sheep grazed peacefully on the sloping hillsides, and a phosphorescent sun beat down from an invisible vaulted sky above. Mean looking guys on motorcycles, the dreaded Midnight Riders we were told, roared about here and there, occasionally stopping some of the newcomers to check identification or shine a pistol light into their eyeballs. Neither King Zack nor his young queen were anywhere in sight. A tall man in a strange wizardy get-up stopped Nikki as she followed the others down a path toward a small electric train.

"Nick Barazan, I presume," he said preemtorily. "The skaterboy."

"That's me," said Nikki trying with little success to make her voice deeper.

"Very nice," responded the strangely dressed man. "You and your brother can go to your quarters at once. Someone will meet you at the city. Your brother is a builder of skateparks and the assistant of this man." He pointed to Teagan.

"Yes," I said.

"I am Aaron Arvicher, grand vizier of the kingdom. You may go about your work in the assigned places tomorrow. Nick, you will have a special performance with King Zack as soon as you are rested." With that the strangely garbed man motioned us toward the silver train into which nearly everyone was boarding. However, I noted with some concern that certain fellow travelers were being routed onto the backs of motorcycles by the Midnight Riders. I had no idea why they were getting special treatment.

After being shown into a neat and totally furnished knotty pine paneled apartment, Nikki and I locked the door, undressed and got into bed. Nikki was careful to remove her elastic chest retainer before we entwined as ever in the embraces of an overdue and nervously postponed passion.

The next day, and there was day and night in Crackland and I don't know how or why, Teagan and another handsome young man he introduced only as Lane showed up with tool boxes and hiking boots. Lane had his arm around Teagan the entire time I took to get dressed. He was obviously the partner we had heard of. They made a nice couple. And having utterly no prejudgment against gay males, I earnestly meant my words.

I kissed Nikki as she lay on the bed dressed only in the striped boxer shorts. "Don't forget your chest thingy," I said upon leaving with Teagan and Lane. I was wearing the same clothes as I had worn on the flight, and the ruby still felt warm in my side pocket. And so that day, under a strange sun, in a place that I could not even begin to locate on any map, I began building verts, chutes, McTwisties, bowls, banked ramps, funboxes and quarter-pipes---the furniture of skateparks. My lovebird companions exchanged open kisses and embraces in my presence, which, in truth, did not bother me. "Homosexuality is not illegal here," said Lane. "This is paradise."

But as the workday wore on, I began to wonder about Nikki. I knew that she was totally capable of fending for herself, but anxiety set in early that day and grew more intense as night approached.

VIII. An event at nightfall

Teagan and Lane worked tirelessly through out the long Crackland day, which did indeed seem longer than on the surface. Occasionally, they disappeared on scheduled breaks behind some rows of pointy red bushes, and I could distinguish the moans of male lovemaking. I felt alone and abandoned. But I did discern a fair amount of humanity in the venue where we were constructing the skatepark. The area seemed to be filled with small garden farmers and other friendly sorts of all types. Some had horses, others donkeys. There were no cars in sight. Naturally, everyone was of the Caucasian race, something that seemed strangely out of place until I got used to it. I had never harbored racial thoughts, and all my life I had just taken for granted the plurality of races and ethnic mixes. Crackland, although welcoming and overwhelmingly friendly, was starting to seem a little too white. It was the first time in my life that such an impression had ever struck me. How could a place be too white? I was white myself, but the absence of human variety was nonetheless unsettling.

As a silvery evening fell upon us and we prepared for the hike back to our quarters, the pastoral stillness of Crackland was interrupted first by the cacophonic blast of what must have been a hundred motorcycle engines, then by a multitude of shouts and screams. In the distance behind the loose knot of houses to our right, a crowd was forming. It was composed of the residents we had seen and greeted during the day, only this time most were carrying clubs, pitchforks or burning torches. Behind them was a solid line of motorcycles each mounted by horned-helmeted riders barking orders. They were, in effect, driving the mob in our direction. There was nowhere to hide. Some sort of huge commotion had developed, and we were right in its path. As the citizens came closer, we could see the angry, twisted faces on the men, women and children gathered. Some of them began roaring for us to join them and bring some kind of tool, like a hammer, as a weapon. "What the hell?" gasped Lane, gripping Teagan's hand.

A farmer type approached us. "This is a posse," he screamed into Teagan's face. "And it is your duty to join in. They have hundreds of Midnight Riders here too. We are combing the whole countryside. Get in line."

"Combing for what?" asked Teagan timidly. "I'm just a worker."

"And I'm just a farmwife," shouted one outraged woman, "but it is our sworn duty to the king."

"What?"

"Jabari the Magician has been seen," screamed one of them. "We are searching. This time we are going to find and kill the black son of a bitch."

"He must be ancient," said Teagan thoughtfully. "He came here in the 1950s."

"He is a shaman. He doesn't grow old. He has laid many a curse. You must join in."

Obediently, we grabbed some crowbars and fell in with the mob. Behind us the cycle engines roared. We must have tramped for three miles before a Midnight Rider blasted to the forefront and waved us back, claiming the hunt was over for the night. Everyone was to keep a close watch tomorrow. It was most unusual for Jabari to be seen in this civilized part of Crackland. He was a dweller of the edge, where the sky met the ground. He had not been seen...etc.

Returning to our cottages, Lane kissed Teagan repeatedly, eliciting each time an assurance from the latter that everything would be all right. The two disappeared into their cabin without a goodnight wish. I ran as fast as I could to the bungalow where Nikki and I were so comfortably lodged.

Nikki was nowhere in sight. On the table was a note that she was performing for the king and his court at a lighted skatepark during the night and that she would be late. I had no idea of where this place might be. All I could do was collapse in a chair, exhausted, and bury my head in my hands. There was no television (as I learned later this was by royal edict) and the radio only played slightly retro music from a few years past. Toni Braxton. Matchbox Twenty's "Bent," and Santana's "Smooth" over and over again in one nostalgic oldies loop. After I had heard Creed's "With Arms Wide Open" for the fifth time, I slammed the radio off and dived into bed. Tomorrow would be another day building skateparks in a place that as far as I was concerned never existed. I wanted to hope it was only a bad delusion, but I knew it wasn't.

I was awakened first by another, tamer, hue and cry piercing the dark about an hour later. Jabari the accursed Magician had once again been seen, the Midnight Riders were searching house by house. For some reason they never reached mine.

Then Nikki. She crept in silently. She stood by the bed and stroked my head. Attired like a veritable boy, she fidgeted with her chest harness until it fell to her hips, revealing the same full and perky breasts that I had always known since the day in our childhood when I had first watched them sprout and grow.

"Tired of being a boy," I said languidly. "You aren't Jabari the Magician, are you?"

"Yes to the first and no to the second. This Jabari crap has gone too far. They think someone on the last airlift with us has attracted him. They are scared to death of his power. Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous?"

"Yeah, that a prom king was made absolute monarch of a natural wonder and that he likes skater boys who are not really boys but skater girls in disguise and is filling his kingdom with skateparks. Try that on for size."

"I have one better for you. Someone read him wrong. I got real close to him before the Jabari commotion started tonight. He apparently has totally switched preferences. He wants only boys, and he is getting them with these skaters. Some are feminine as hell too. He likes that, but they need to be males and feminine."

"Like you. You're very feminine. I think."

"Don't make jokes. He was fondling a bunch of them tonight before I did my thing, and, by the way, I wasn't very good at it. I totally caught wood on the half-cab-impossible-fakie..."

"I don't understand that board crap lingo."

"Don't worry about it. He likes dicks. Skaterboy dicks. And, guess what? I don't have one."

"Really? So what is he going to do? Throw you back to me? You don't have any of these skills they want."

"Neither do you. Trey, we got to get out of here before he discovers. Our friend Chad had apparently not told him. Want to know something? Chad got sentenced to death today. A bunch of people, and I wasn't one of them, went to watch the executioner, Butch somebody, cut off his head with an axe. He misread the king's sexual preferences. Zack wants real boys."

Nikki went on to explain that she was scheduled for a private performance with Zack in two days after the king had returned from a trip into the forbidden sky-touches-ground zone to lead a search party for Jabari. " If he finds out I'm a girl, I will be killed. I've already been told that. There are some skaterboys there that can't be fooled so easily. Not everyone is as dense as this Zack."

IX. Jabari the Magician

In the pleasant little cluster of wooden houses where Nikki Barazan and I were accommodated, the neighbors gathered early the next morning, and, as I mechanically joined them, I learned that the buzz was all about the dreaded Jabari the Magician. Of course, I knew that from the start. It was hard to say why otherwise rational American and Canadian colonists with educations and professions were getting so worked up about the man, other than he was black-- something unseen and unwelcome in Crackland. Stories flew in all directions about his prowess. He could transform himself into a cow and get lost in a herd. At times he could fly like a bird, and Crackland, although possessed of a very natural atmosphere, had no birds, but Jabari could be one if he wished. Then there was the oft-repeated story of the former queen, Xenia, and the curse he had laid upon her which had led to her execution for attempted regicide and adultery. But no one had ever seen Jabari since the early colonization of Crackland. Of course, he had been the companion of the legendary John Crack, but Crack had discovered the habitable fold in the Earth's crust in 1958, a full fifty-four years in the past. Crack had died under mysterious circumstances in 1969, and his monumental discovery was kept in total secrecy until an all-powerful consortium had acquired and colonized it in the late 1990s. Assuming that Jabari Cutler had been at least twenty when he accompanied Crack, he would have been a minimum of seventy-four years old by 2012, but he was undoubtedly much older. Who was this black conjurer anyway? It was further rumored that he had an amulet. Of course, don't they all? But wait. What kind of amulet was it?

It was I who interrupted the chattering crowd to ask that question....stupidly.

Teagan Carsey put a warning hand on my shoulder. And Lane, his lover, put one on his. The two of them were truly in love, and that was a beautiful thing, far more beautiful than the lurid boy lust of King Zack. One must distinguish between one's sexual prejudices, and I always did.

But I asked the question again, and a farmwife came forth and glared into my eyes. "Newcomer!" she yelped, as if the word were a curse. "Everyone knows it is a huge and miraculous ruby."

And then I did it. I calmly reached my hand into my pocket and drew forth the glowing ruby that the prostitute Olivia had shoved onto me during my last day in the Fontaine. "You mean like this one," I said, showing it around to the crowd.

Teagan and Lane backed quickly away from me, as did the rest of the little assembly. A hushed stillness froze the scene. I realized at once that I had done the wrong thing and thrust the ruby, which was indeed a darker shade of red, back into my jeans pocket. But it was too late. Someone in the crowd had summoned someone else who had summoned... Skip that part.

Two hours later I was naked outdoors jailed in what looked like a huge bird cage in front of the largest wooden one storey house I had ever seen, and this house was none other than the royal palace of King Zack and his new queen, Taryn.

An angry throng of colonists and court attendants circled me. Around my neck attached to a piece of strong twine was the red ruby. In every direction, I could see armed Midnight Riders brandishing swords and little axes. On one of the many side porches of the royal palace stood a fierce creature with blood in his eye. I learned above the blaring that he was none other than Butch McGreevey, court executioner of Crackland, and he had been denied a chance to use his heavy-bladed axe on me because both Grand Vizier Aaron and King Zack himself believed that in an open cage outside the palace with the stone around my neck I would naturally attract Jabari. Many eyes went toward the sky. Jabari would most certainly come as a flying thing, a bird. Midnight Riders stood ready with crossbows to shoot him down when he came. A continual lookout was to be placed around my cage. Even a worm or a snake, and I had seen neither in Crackland, could be Jabari. Or maybe Jabari would come as a white person, a normal settler. He had the power to do that too. My ruby would attract his ruby. It had been my ruby from the start. Why hadn't the new settlers been searched? There would be some other executions that day because of that omission. But I would not be among them. Not at least until Jabari was caught and captured.

In the crowd stood Nikki Barazan, dressed like the boy she wasn't. In the commotion over my apprehension, the stunning and alluring skater "boy" had been all but forgotten by the king. She flashed me a look of hopelessness, as if to say that this was one predicament she wasn't going to be able to get me out of. I looked back with an expression that was meant to convey "I know" but I'm sure it only came off as abject terror.

The warm Mediterranean spring air of Crackland made my total nudity less painful, but I did notice a sizeable number of both court officials and regular citizens who seemed to be examining me. Knowing that my death was imminent, I fell back into a primal fear and dismissed any sort of pride I might have had. In my life, I had always attracted girls, and more than one homosexual male had propositioned me as they do all boys. Thus, I realized in desperation that, after all, I wasn't bad looking and maybe, just maybe the prom king who had changed sexual directions in his short life might be attracted to me. It was probably my only chance. Let the reader not blame me. What straight male would not resort to a round of homoerotic passion to save his own life? Ask yourself that before you judge my thoughts, and those were exactly my thoughts as King Zack pushed back the crowd and approached my cage, examining my body from various angles. At twenty-three I was probably too old for him, but I prayed for any chance that might be offered. Zack walked around and around the cage, talking to himself under his breath. Finally, he walked calmly back to his pretty young queen, took her around the waist and disappeared into the palace. I was left alone to the jeers of the crowd and the scorn of the superstitious and credulous onlookers.

Eventually all but those charged to guard me and watch for Jabari the Magician dispersed. The twinkling silver of a Crackland evening began to fall from the vaulted sky above as the incandescent sun made its nightly extinguishment.

Alone and naked in a cage with a red, burning ruby tied around my neck. That was the lamentable state of my life now. It trumped in sheer panic any experience that I had ever encountered on the savage streets of Freyburg. I crouched into a foetal position and fell into an uneasy and broken sleep, interrupted more than once by the shrill cry of unseen and unknown creatures and the nagging fear that Nikki would most certainly precede me in death once her womanhood was realized, as it was soon sure to be. Nikki had disappeared from the throng, and I had no idea where she was. What sleep I had was jagged and jolting, and I bolted to my feet when I heard a light scraping against the bars of the cage.

In the dimness, I perceived the Grand Vizier, that man Aaron who was the only person in Crackland that dressed like a lunatic in a flowing purple robe embroidered with stars and moons. He must have been the craziest of them all.

"Listen to me very carefully," he whispered. "I am going to unlock your prison in about ten minutes. You will be able to slip away. I have left some fresh clothes for you in a box near that little garden waterfall behind the palace wing. In one of the pockets is a note with directions of where to go to find me. Be sure to take your ruby. Do not lose it. Close the cage door behind you. It will lock, and if the guards are still faithful to me and to those who employ me, they will think Jabari came and transformed you into a snake or whatever these idiots think. Come to my secret place directly."

Everything passed as the Grand Vizier had planned it. The two Midnight Rider sentinels assigned to be closest to the cage pretended not to notice my slipping off. I found the clothes and Aaron's note. It was a map of the huge palace which showed a restricted entrance and a secret panel through which I would slide in order to reach his hidden chamber, and yes, he had one. One that King Zack apparently didn't know anything about.

And upon meeting Aaron, I learned many other things about which Zack did not know. How Aaron, whose last name was Arvicher, was one of the principal founders and directors of the colony. How Aaron was the real weight behind the throne. How Aaron manipulated various petty criminals to come into Crackland so that they could be caught and publicly executed for the entertainment of the masses. How Zack's attraction to limber young boys had been kept from the general public for over eleven years. In short, I learned how Crackland was really governed, and that was by Arvicher and a select group of veiled individuals who maintained the status quo by keeping the masses in continual awe of the supremacy of the king.

Finally, I learned that Nikki and I had never been a part of his plan. His lieutenant, the man we knew as Chad Erant, had been scouting for a suave young woman to pose as a skaterboy because that was what they felt Zack wanted. Erant had paid with his head for the mistake. Erant had failed to learn that Zack's eye had been totally captured by his own twisted skateboard conception of The Boy.

This information was imparted to me in a darkened chamber over artificial candlelight in a underground cellar of the royal palace. The man doing it was at least sixty years old and very well spoken. There was a ring of authenticity to his explanation that I could not deny. He seemed to step aside from the usual Crackland madness and bring a dose of sanity into the maelstrom of chaos that swirled about us. He also drank strong brandy, and thankfully he offered me some. My nerves had been wrung out too much to refuse any sort of tranquilizer.

We drank our tumblers of brandy. Then Aaron started again. "You seem like a smart kid. That is why I saved you. There is no one called Jabari the Magician here or anywhere else. That was just a rumor I started years ago. I needed to have a magical enemy or two buried somewhere out in the edges. So now, you are going to be magical. You with your ruby. They do have kind of a magic power, I guess. But I'm an educated person and never really got into that crazy, illogical stuff. That colored man Jabari was once here a long time ago. Some of the white explorers who followed John Crack hunted him down and killed him. He swore he would come back as a white man. It was some kind of racial thing. Anyway, he left a letter. The royal museum has it. It says in bad English written in pencil on a piece of cardboard 'I will never die. I will come back as a white man and haunt this place forever.' Who knows why he wrote that? But do you see where I am going? I'm sending you and your pretty stone out to the edge. You are going to be Jabari the Magician. You will have already proved it by impossibly escaping a locked cage. You have already left your own note too, written by me. No one knows what your writing looks like anyway. Don't refuse. You can't escape Crackland. You don't know the way out, and I can reverse my decision whenever I want. I have directions written here for you to get past the settlements and enter the edge zone which is prohibited to everyone else. By sunrise or whatever the sun does here, the king and I will send out a patrol to find you, so move fast. Hide in the caves and crevasses. If we catch you, we will kill you. It will be a real hunt. I'm giving you that chance. But our search party is for real. I do not want Jabari the Magician to be caught right away because I need his legend here, but if you do let us catch you, you will die and publicly. Do you understand?"

I understood. Aaron Arvicher was just using me for another diversion, another game to bolster the monarchy of Crackland. It was like a movie I had seen or maybe a book I had read. The man who is let free and then hunted down like an animal. In the end, the Midnight Riders or someone else from the palace would win. I would spend a lifetime on the run. The "chance" that Grand Vizier Aaron was giving me was no chance at all. It was just a long detour which eventually led to Butch McGreevey's axe.

"What about Nikki," I asked after digesting Aaron's words and realizing that I was more trapped than ever before.

"You need to get her. Take her with you. Zack will have her beheaded when he reaches down into that crotch and finds a vagina. There is no reason why a legend can't have a girlfriend. Take her, follow the directions and run."

And so in darkness, I left the rambling knotty pine palace by the same tenuous course I had entered it. I found the path back to the house given to Nikki and me. Nikki was asleep. I woke her with a rough shake. "Come on," I said. "No time for explanations. And leave your chest smasher behind."

X. Conclusion: the demise of pure logic

"I'm not running anywhere," said Nikki, more wide awake than I had planned for her to be. Sit down and give me the basics. I bet that weird shit wants you to be Jabari for a day or something like that. How can anyone be sure about what is going on here? He probably told you where to run, too"

I stammered through a quick explanation of what had happened since my release from the cage. Nikki seemed impatient and kept nodding her head. I tried to impress on her that time was of essence. "They will be out hunting for us," I screamed. "We've got to go!!"

"Bullshit. Your head is going to be a trophy on that pervert's wall in one or two days. This may be Crackland, but I'm not going to live in a crack. That is what it must be where the sky meets the ground. No. I have a better plan. But, to tell the truth, it is not my plan at all. You see Teagan and his boyfriend know the way out of here because they've been over it before. So I thought about that. But what would we do on a glacier near the north pole? We need someone with transportation to get totally out of here. Remember it is all ice and snow above. We'd freeze in less than an hour. Teagan was like you too. He got all logical. Trouble is, Teagan likes it here. He has Lane and his work, and no one is going to mess with them because they are so immaterial. So I started thinking. And you know what? Thinking got me nowhere. Maybe for the first time in my life. Logic failed. Zack would find out I'm a girl, and they were going to kill you one way or another."

"So what did you do?"

"I took a walk. Out there beyond the hedges. In the night. I had a feeling about something, an intuition if you like. This place is phony baloney all coated with big words and puffy academic thoughts. But Teagan and Lane and people like them, they really believe in Jabari the Magician."

"They've been taught to."

"Naw. Wrong again. Lane has been here a long time, and he says that all this Jabari stuff just started up after we and Teagan arrived. Before that it was a second-class myth, despite what your professor told you. So I took a walk. In the dark. This Arvicher guy thinks has everything figured out, but he doesn't. There are things that rise above pure pedagogic knowledge. So I went outside."

"And?"

Nikki calmly walked over to a large, wood-paneled closet door and swung it open. On a clothes hamper sat an old man with dusky, ashen gray skin and white flowing hair. In his hands he held a huge red stone, a ruby.

"Let's defy logic for once," Nikki said. "This is none other than Jabari Cutler, known as Jabari the Magician. He is almost ninety but hale and hearty as you and me from living here and from some other inexplicable stuff that he could probably tell you about. He never put a curse on anyone, including that dead queen, but he has been here since the start. He never said just why he stayed or how he became so numinous. But he is and when I went outside, I kind of knew he would find me. And yes, it was your little ruby that attracted him. And yes, there is mystical enchantment of sorts in the universe. It is all not just Aaron's cold logic. Jabari knows people on the topside. People he can contact. He probably uses his ruby. Don't wait for him to answer. The years have made him deaf and dumb. But he wrote it for me. Wanna read?"

And so Jabari the Magician knew another way to the surface, and, strangely it was another, only more primitive, man-made device. An elevator-like contraption, only much slower and time consuming than the one we had descended on. It was worked by a system of weights and pulleys and probably was the original device used by John Crack and his swaggering coterie to access the sunny underworld. Who knows? The thing was creaky and primitive, but worked. We emerged onto a glacial plane of bone-chilling Arctic cold.

And through kindness and a general acknowledgement of his supernal powers, Jabari brought us to a nearby station where friendly Inuit people---summoned no doubt by his amulet---dressed us in layers of warm animals skins and took us across the frozen wastelands of northern Canada until we reached an outpost.

And then the trip was home or at least to Ungarona Falls, where a broken down truck and some stashed cash awaited our unremarked return.

And the price we paid the shaman? It was very minor. Just a red stone that would glow bright in the hands of its rightful possessor when danger was imminent. And in Crackland, under its enjoyable façade of undisturbed tranquility, danger was always immediately imminent.

There is magic in the world, and those like Nikki who can pause to recognize it triumph over those for whom the cold and calculated edifice of reason is man's supreme masterpiece. Pure magic in all of its nameless trappings had won this time.

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Devon Pitlor -- December, 2010

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