4 of 5 stars.
The heart of many humans lives gone astray is succinctly depicted in this short tale of nostalgia, pride, illusion, wisdom and self-worth. A quartet of characters embody different ratios of these elements in a beautiful metaphor for the aging process. One can embrace where one is in life while honoring one’s past self, or one can flounder in the memories of better, more able times losing the grasp of what can accomplish today.
40 years ago, Bhajan was the very talented court magician for the maharaja. Really, he was more wizard than magician, then. In this position, he uncovered an assassination plot by Ranjeet the Usurper, but he revealed it publicly, embarrassing the maharaja. Ranjeet was banished to the desert to die. Bhajan was turned out from the court.
Now, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the coronation of the maharaja, Bhajan returns to audition for a place in the festival. With age his magics have dwindled to mere illusions. But he savors these illusions as remnants of his better days and takes a drug to immerse himself in them. His illusions are not enough to invite him into the festivities.
He also thinks he’s uncovered a plot by the somehow still alive Ranjeet to finish what he attempted 40 years ago. Who would trust a drug-addled illusionist once publicly shamed? He turns to the wise maharani, wife of the maharaja, with his concerns . . .
This tale was a quarterly contest winner appearing in Writers of the Future: Volume 33 edited by David Farland.
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