Which is about one of the most wondrous nights of Yona’s life

All the strife and struggle that comes with another year of life, Yona had always thought, could be quickly dismissed with just one rapturously happy occasion, like a slate scrubbed clean and replaced with a pretty picture. Almost two years had passed since she was enrolled at school, and three since she had been discovered by Pamela—the day which has since been regarded as her birthday. This year, her birthday would be an event too spectacular for words, something to be spoken about only in the most hushed of tones between residents of Hearts and Diamonds, for fear it would spoil the planetary levels of excitement Yona would surely experience upon hearing the news: that she would be seeing Wizard Glick perform live.

It was something Pamela had considered the previous year, but taking a trip into the city had simply been out of the budget; not to mention Yona’s behavior preceding that particular birthday had been less than stellar. But as the year between had shown marked improvement in conditions both monetary and behavioral, Pamela held no reservations about purchasing tickets for the entire group when she saw them for sale at a market stand.

“Oh, Pamela, I just can’t believe it, I can’t believe it one bit,” Yona shrieked, rattling the chair beneath her feet. “This is the best news in the world! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” she cried, adorning Pamela’s cheek and glasses lens with reckless kisses. Pamela simply laughed, feeling a little beside herself with joy in her own way.

“Now, child, calm yourself. We’ll be taking a trip by train tomorrow evening, and I expect you to be on your best behavior throughout the event…you can’t be shouting and hollering at him the way you do through the TV.” Yona glowed red. “Oh, you know I won’t!”

“I’ll have clothes for you and the others pressed tonight and laid out by your beds come morning. We’ll stop by Chime Gardens for dinner and still have plenty of time to secure seating inside the venue.” Pamela, being the rather ascetic woman she was, had long abstained from most modern pleasures and excitements, much preferring to spend her spare time educating herself on crucial matters of the past and future. But not even she was immune to the thrill of being in the presence of a skilled magician, harkening back to her youthful days of paying what little pocket change she had to see street performers weave spells of lovely illusions and cosmic theatrics. A childish part of her was inwardly beaming at the thought of reliving such cherished experiences, now through whatever technical advancements the twentieth century offered. Perhaps this was an exciting era to be alive in.

* * *

It should come as no surprise that Yona was restless the entire night. None of the typical methods had afforded her a single wink: counting Qulos nor sleeping upside down could possibly dull the buzz of her mind racing through every possible imagining of what seeing Wizard Glick live before her own two eyes could be like. It wasn’t that she harbored any doubts about his existence, but to occupy the same physical space as him and his magic simply seemed unfathomable. The moons fell and the sun rose.

Lonissa entered the children’s quarters in the crisp early morning to leave fresh-pressed clothes at their bedside, where all but Yona had been sleeping soundly. With her eyes wide and white, she drowsily turned to face Lonissa and said, “I don’t think I got any sleep.”

The headmaster chuckled. “I don’t suppose you laid awake all night, imagining how the show would play out?”

Yona nodded. “Everything. I imagined it all lots and lots of times. I got tired but I never fell asleep.”

Luckily this predicament would be short-lived, as the early morning train ride proved the perfect time to catch up on lost sleep. Majonian trains, like many structures in the kingdom, were made primarily of intertwined Womp ferns and seafoam-stucco. This particular locomotive had been built in Pamela’s era, a marvel of engineering promising that travel would be safer and more efficient than ever before. It had been repainted and had many parts replaced since she was first a passenger onboard it, but it remained the reliable, elegant mode of transportation it was more than a century ago, and the reminder provided her some comfort.

As the sun climbed in the sky its rays breathed life into the world around the group, casting sparkles of pink and orange onto Crater Lake, slotting its beams between leaves on the trees; and once again the day was born. The group clambered excitedly by the window view while Yona dozed in Pamela’s lap, and Lonissa breathed a hearty sigh wondering when she was last awake for a morning so resplendent.

The train had reached a rest stop in Treble Valley, where the country’s largest mivam orchard wafted its mouthwatering fragrance into every train car. It was the perfect stop for the group to picnic before resuming their journey, with egg sandwiches and puddings enough to fuel everyone for the upcoming stretch of the trip. Yona may have even procured a few mivams from the trees as they ate without permission, though no one was in a bad enough mood to scold her.

Now, even something as exciting as the children’s first ever train ride through the country could not hold their attention forever, as hours passed quietly and there was only so much scenery to gape in awe at, but the very color of the world appeared to change once they approached Lashine City. Painted as vibrant as the sun against the darkening evening sky, its neon billboards and fluorescent day-glo lights were a far cry from anything seen in the small fishing village they called home, and the air was filled with song. It was altogether frightening and fantastic.

Standard oohs and ahs transformed into shrieks of laughing delight once a billboard of Wizard Glick, all lit up in silver and purple, panned into view, and Yona had no hesitation about climbing over her peers to catch a glimpse of it for as long as it was visible. It was another image to carve inside her heart.

“This is gonna be the best night ever,” she babbled, feeling her senses overwhelmed. “What time is it? We’ll make it on time, right?”

“We are making excellent time, don’t you worry,” Lonissa smiled. “I don’t suppose you already know what you’d like to eat before the show?”

Eating again? Hadn’t they just done that? Oh, but this was dinner. In spite of the wearisome train ride, time appeared to move at blazing speeds for Yona, whose anticipation transformed every moment into a unique excitement paving the path to something she had silently awaited for years. The aforementioned Chime Gardens was a small yet sumptuous garden area for open-air dining that was within walking distance of the venue. You simply paid an admission fee and were free to pick from any of the variety of fruits growing there—as many as you can eat. The group about gorged themselves on mivams, plums and jelly fruits, as eager paws shook and plucked from everything they could reach to delight in this bounty. But as the train had pulled into the station and the group approached the garden, Yona’s mind was suddenly alerted to a crushing realization: Rory was not here to enjoy the show with them.

* * *

The theater was a dazzling thing to behold, with big, swooping arches of glowing golden letters forming its name The Quartz Palace. The interior was cool and dark, its walls adorned with ethereal frescoes of Manyas and Odols from a distant epoch, and velvety purple curtains framing them elegantly. Yona had never seen anything quite like it.

She trembled through each step as the group waited in line to show their tickets, the keeping of which was luckily done by Pamela. Had everyone been entrusted with their own ticket, it would be miraculous if even half the group had made it in to the show. Chattering crowds hustled by, spilling popcorn and drinks as children squealed and gave chase in the lobby. It was difficult by observation to tell which demographic Wizard Glick’s core audience comprised, as seemingly everyone from the very young to the centuries old of many species were present. Perhaps his appeal was more universal than Pamela once gave him credit for.

“Pamela,” said Yona, tugging at the bottom of her dress. They were nearing ever closer to the auditorium and Yona’s heart was about ready to leap out of her chest. “I…I feel too excited. I’m almost scared.”

“Nonsense, you’ll have a wonderful time,” Pamela said in a smile that crinkled her eyes. “Any worries you have are just because you’re doing something new. You won’t be afraid once the show begins.”

The group were seated together in the first and second rows, surrendering the best of their seats to Yona from which she had a picture-perfect view of the entire stage. (Pamela silently gave herself a pat on the back for purchasing those tickets so far ahead of time—a back row view would not have sufficed.) It was remarkably like the stages from the televised magic shows she liked to watch at home, but although the descriptive details were an exact match, seeing them in front of her made them nearly alien.

As the chattering of voices and creaking of seats quieted to silence and the lights faded, the room filled with fog and a spotlight appeared. A booming voice suddenly spoke to say, “Come one, come all, and prepare to be dazzled: What you are about to see tonight is not something for the faint of heart or imagination. What you are about to see was once thought impossible by the magicians of old. What you are about to see is none other than the crown jewel of our kingdom, a phantom of time and conductor of the heart. I present to you…Wizard Glick!

Then, the curtains flashed open and in the spotlight, there he stood. Nothing but a silken white top hat adorned with speckled stars and a pair of floating gloves, but his presence was enough to elicit hysteria as the theater rang with cheers and whistles. It might have been just a little more raucous than Pamela preferred. Then, an immediate hush.

“Good evening, every last one of you. I stand before you tonight feeling almost as thrilled as you are, for I sense the presence of a very special guest in our audience. Might anyone know whom that would be?”

Yona’s heart throbbed. Could it be, was there any sliver of a chance he meant her? All at once the room was alive again with people shouting and flailing their arms, begging to be chosen, insisting they were Glick’s special guest. But his sights were set: there was only one person he could possibly mean.

“My assistants, please,” he drawled, as six tottering wind-up dolls entered from the right of the stage—the very same that Yona had seen the first time she tuned in to one of his performances. They looked as cute as she remembered, with little button eyes and raggedy limbs, and Yona felt nearly as in awe of them as of Glick.

“A round of applause for my gracious assistants, please, for without them I would be nothing.” They each bowed in a row and were met with thunderous applause. “Today, they will help me orchestrate my most magical trick yet, and in order to accomplish it, I will whisk our very special guest onto the stage. So if you may be so kind, Very Special Guest, please sit perfectly still so I may do so.”

Suddenly, Yona’s legs felt like gelatin: they quivered, as they had been, but the quivering was almost a numb sort of tingle, traveling upwards to her arms, to her head and the very tips of her ears, and before she knew it, she was drifting through the air, hovering over the stage, until her feet were firmly planted on its floorboards and she was mere inches away from her idol. Words failed her—truthfully anything besides standing there breathless with an utterly elated expression failed her.

Nothing could have prepared her for a moment such as this. To spend the night not only in Glick’s company but sharing the stage with him was a scenario Yona had only lived in dreams. Pamela, Lonissa and the children of the orphanage sat utterly entranced by what they were witnessing, thinking it impossible yet finding themselves equally as enraptured for her. Even Pamela’s instinct to panic seemed to subside for this moment. Wizard Glick turned to face Yona, tipping his hat, and inquired politely, “Dear Miss, won’t you please tell me your name?”

She thrilled at the way he said it. “Yona.”

“Ah, yes. I know very well, Yona.” She swore she could hear a smile in his voice despite his lack of facial features. “Now, won’t you please tell me…what is it that you wish for?”

As Yona peered at the audience that surrounded them, taking in the spectrum of colors that made them up, and lowering her gaze to see her own family, she remembered the one person she wanted to see today more than anybody, and had deeply regretted not inviting along—the only other person who could match her passion for Wizard Glick. That person was… “Rory. M-my friend from school. I want to see him.”

Wizard Glick reeled back and made a wave of his hands, light flickering from his gloved fingers. “I see. And how would you describe this friend?”

Yona was unclear what was happening, but felt he somehow understood her regardless. “Well he’s—he’s very funny. And clumsy, but clever, too. He has whiskers and yellow fur and short ears, not long. He only wears clothes he makes himself…and he’s a big fan of yours…” she trailed off, unsure of how many details were necessary.

Glick’s hat flipped upside-down. He gestured to Yona to speak the words into its inner lining, so she nervously projected into it: “My friend Rory! He’s got yellow fur and whiskers, and short little ears and an orange mane. He’s probably wearing a poncho or something else weird he’s made himself. He’s my best friend, and I think he’d love to be here!”

As Yona spoke, the stage began flooding with sand and small shards of rock overflowing from Glick’s top hat, to the gasps of the audience. As Yona reached into Glick’s hat, a little yellow paw was visible, so she pulled and pulled and pulled at it until Rory was right here, flesh and blood, before her very eyes!

After his initial protesting, Rory collected himself gradually, straightening his aforementioned poncho and whiskers, then taking in the sights that encircled him. Where was this place? Wherever it was, it roared with delighted screams and applause as his friend beside him took a bow—as did the great Wizard Glick between them.

“Rory! I’m so happy you made it!” Yona cried. Confetti flew through the air and only further spun the scene before the boy into something dizzying.

Wizard Glick tapped him on the shoulder, reminding Rory of his presence with a flustered jolt. “Wizard Glick! I-I’m a huge fan. I never thought I’d be part of your show! But now my ma an’ pa are gonna be real mad at me for running out on them during the banquet!” There were scattered laughs at his expense from the audience. Glick simply chuckled warmly.

“Thank you for your participation, Rory. I’m glad to hear you’re such a good friend of Yona’s.” The calculated, drawn-out way he said it made a shudder ripple up Rory’s spine. Instinctively the Manya boy bowed once more, a gesture he was used to doing at home to appease his opulent family. “I shall migrate you both to the front row now, where I hope you will continue to enjoy my show. You shall be returned to your parents, safe and sound, by the end. Now, my assistants again!”

* * *

The rest of Wizard Glick’s performance was just as spectacular and entrancing as Yona had hoped, between fireworks that turned into candy, audience members taking flight and gravity itself coming undone for five minutes—but no moment could ever outdo his opening act of whisking her onto the stage and summoning Rory for the show. Of course, he was neatly returned to his much-frazzled parents, as promised, though Yona wished he could have stayed with them: there was no end in sight to the list of things they could talk about.

With eyes closed, she could almost imagine she was in the theater once more, feeling the warmth emanating off Glick, the way her heart pounded with wild abandon, and the pastel lights that lined their vision. These were moments which would intertwine with other moments that had long lived in her heart, becoming greater than the sum of their parts, magnifying, changing color with the passage of time. As she and the other children sat piled in their seats in the back of the train, dozing under a blanket of diamond stars that dotted a boundless sky, Yona felt that life had no shortage of wonderment in store.

To next chapter

To previous chapter

Click here to return to the table of contents.