Tuesday, September 06, 2005
The Fiji Mermaid and Stuart of The Six Shadows By Anita Moscoso
When my Great Grandfather was a young man he was a Magician who once shared billing with the Famous Harry Houdini. My Great Grandfather wasn't the Showman his peers were plus he had nine kids to support and he wasn't able to do it on an entertainer’s salary.
So you’ve probably never heard of Stuart of the Six Shadows.
Instead of becoming a famous magician my Great Grandfather published our town's local newspaper and no matter how big or small he made each story fun to read. He had a wonderful imagination and was quiet the showman, so I guess it was to be expected
It was a gift he had, he knew how to tell a good story and he was so good at it that it was a relief to know somewhere in the back of your mind it was only a story...like the one he use to tell about how he came to own a Fiji Mermaid.
One day late in the Fall of 1910 my Great Grandfather Stuart was invited to perform his Magic Act for a ' Foreign Gentleman' and his Wife.
Stuart boarded a train and then a boat that took him up a River somewhere back East. The trip was long and lonely because Stuart was the only passenger the entire journey.
Then after nearly after a week of travel he arrived at a very old Manor House in the Mountains.
Everything around him looked so foreign to Stuart that he would have sworn on the head of his newborn son back home that he was in a different Country all together.
The clothes the people he did see where of odd designs and made from strange fabrics. The houses were dark and looked empty but he saw little signs of life, toys scattered here and there, baskets tied shut with twine and livestock wandering around in fields.
Even the Plants were different from anything he'd ever seen before, and the lakes were an unnatural shade of blue and stayed that color even in the moonlight.
And he didn't hear Night Sounds...nothing moved or stirred in that strange countryside and even the Stars looked different...and then Stuart realized though he didn't want to acknowledge it at first what was wrong with them.
The Constellations were all backwards.
It was like he was seeing their reflections in a mirror or a lake.
When he realized that, he didn't look up again and he wanted very desperately to turn around and go home. But a deal was a deal and the Gentleman and his Wife were willing to pay a lot of money for an hours entertainment.
And of course...the show must always go on.
The Hall he performed in on that night was cavernous and full of shadows.
The guests of the Gentleman and his Wife had odd shaped hands and their faces were almost mask like and pale but their eyes were bright as candlelight in the darkness
They reacted to each trick, each slight of hand, each story with delight and laughter and they said " Ooohh " and " Ahh" much like any other audience Stuart had ever performed in front of before. But they seemed unwilling to move away from the walls and shadows to try to sneak peaks and figure out Stuart's secrets like most audiences do.
Then Stuart called for a volunteer, some brave soul willing to participate in a routine called, " The Coffin of Mystery."
The Coffin of Mystery, he boomed into the darkness in his great stage voice would restore life to the dead.
To prove his claim, Stuart asked for a volunteer to plunge a sword into his chest and then close the Coffin Mystery’s door and latch it closed.
Then Stuart claimed dramatically he would emerge moments later alive and unmarked from The Coffin.
The Gentleman's Wife seemed very excited at this story and she whispered something to one of the guests who hurried up to Stuart and asked, " Tell me again Sir, if someone dead is placed in this box they'll be restored to life?"
Stuart nodded and the Guest begged for Stuart to wait, and from the back of the room one of those twisted little forms broke out of the darkness and slowly made it's way to the stage.
The Man was pale and Stuart could see under better circumstances he was a young man and probably a handsome man but right now he looked aged and sick and his hair was falling out in patches.
" Run in with a nasty neighbor of ours a hunter of sorts...climb on in Zhiam and let's see what this can do..."
Stuart stepped back and watched the young man helped inside of the Coffin and the Gentleman looked on with longing and the Wife looked so sad and he heard her say, " Please Dear, don't expect too much..."
" Do your Magic. " Begged the Guest and Stuart looked into his dark eyes that glowed in the dark and the guest said with such pleading in his voice it broke Stuart's heart. " Please Sir, do your Magic. "
As the young man lay back on the cream colored satin lining Stuart leaned in and whispered, " Knock when you see the blue light. "
Then Stuart closed the Coffin's lid and because he'd never performed this trick with anyone else in the Coffin he opened the lid again and told the young man inside, " This is a Magician's Trick, and you're sworn to secrecy...you can never tell anyone what you see and hear in there. Is it a deal? "
The young man who looked old nodded and he said solemnly, " I swear. "
Stuart looked deep into the boy’s eyes and nodded. " I believe you. "
And then Stuart shut the lid and latched it.
Stuart wasn't surprised when he heard the knock from inside the Coffin a few minutes later and he wasn't surprised when the sickly young man emerged a very healthy young man.
Everyone else in the Hall was amazed as Stuart knew they would be; the Gentleman's stern face dissolved into a much kinder stern face the Lady's face broke into sunlight and the guests moved out of the shadows to shake Stuart's hand.
The guests Stuart could see weren't really human, some resembled Wolves, some he took for witches, others were pale and thin and he knew they were Vampires and others were exotic creatures from places where the Sun never traveled to.
But that didn't matter, because for those few moments really...they were all the same.
Stuart was packing his props, which he always did in an empty room when he heard the Guest clear his throat and say, " Excuse me, Sir? "
" Just a minute..." Stuart closed the last case and locked it and turned around and the Guest introduced himself as Mr. Nightson.
" This is just a gift from the Young Count, to show his appreciation. He'd have brought it himself but..." Mr. Nightson pointed to the window and Stuart could see the morning sunlight just coming over the tops of the trees.
Stuart removed the burlap cover from the box and inside he saw the form of something that looked half fish, half monkey...at least that was his first impression.
" The Young Count calls it his Fiji Mermaid. That’s where he and his friend...a wonderful young Werewoman found it. They found it in Fiji washed up on the shore and I think it only lived for a few minutes. He's very fond of it...I'm not sure why. Young Love...strange what it does to the mind. "
" It means quite a bit to him..."
" It will to me as well. " Stuart promised.
And Stuart always kept his word.
So now the Fiji Mermaid sits on my desk as I write my stories and for Halloween and Christmas I bring her out to my living room and I tell the story and people laugh and say, " Well Anita, you certainly inherited Stuart's flair for the dramatic. "
And I look into their eyes with Stuart's Magician's Eyes and I nod and assure them, " Yes, dramatic...it's all just a story after all. "
Then I look over at the Fiji Mermaid and wink and the Fiji Mermaid floating in her jar winks back at me.
© anita marie moscoso 2005-text
Posted by Anita Marie Moscoso at 7:59 PM