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Why Magicians Have No Epitaphs

by Shannon Joyce Prince

Part 1 appeared
in issue 297.


I have diagnosed patient with narcissistic malphasia. Patient having such amorous feelings toward self that said patient believes self to be two selves. Patient expresses both wanting to die and to live. Usual cases characterized by believing one or more forces of nature to be a patron of self i.e. protector, guide, lover, or family member of self believed to be tree, grass, leaf, water, or sun. Sickness is a terrible instance of self-esteem gone wrong. Patient is a flower mutilating herself in aspiration to bloom.

Patient seems to have named second self Mirabella, believes Mirabella to be real, refuses to realize Mirabella is only her alter ego, says she wants Mirabella’s voice. Prescribe to patient a voice-altering concoction of incidium and ladalielle. Warned patient that change is permanent. Patient only laughed and said, “Death is permanent, too.”

Once upon a time people believed that the noises they often heard while alone were nature humming to itself. “The sky and the earth have been singing for a very long time,” they told the children. “Their voices are firm and their message, soothing. Their song has no words, only colors. The pale lilacs and rust of distant mountains. The bright blue behind lethargic clouds. Grayed greens and aqua in pine forests and, of course, all the bright rainbow notes of flowers.

“At first when you hear them sing, it sounds like somebody sighing or laughing. It takes a long time to realize that there are actually two forces singing, and not even the same song. They are singing two different versions of the same melody.

“Sometimes the sky takes the lead, singing higher and higher until the colors are pale silver. Then beautiful mockingbirds float out, and the sky and earth laugh at their creation. The mockingbirds are unhappy, however, because they want nothing more than to float back into the song they came from.

“Of course, in this time, you may be like most other people and believe that the sky and earth do not sing. Despite the fact that people have heard them for thousands of years, many don’t agree. They think that mockingbirds mimic the songs of humans, not the earth. I guess they think that human songs just come from nowhere.”

It was in this way that our elders ridiculed those who did not believe that mud and air carried tunes. I, however, noticed by walking quietly around the forest and paying attention, that these things do not sing. It is Mirabella that they hear. I know it’s Mirabella, because I am the keeper of things that hardly receive attention.

People always say to nip things in the bud. It does not make sense, however, to nip things in the bud and leave the root of them alone. My heart seems to have pumped Mirabella out again because it has more energy from not having to move such a thick substance around my body.

The signs of my old self and life are coming faster and faster. My hair seems to be turning back into an Afro, and my skin is losing its glow. If you consider that the only happiness is having everything and one only has everything when dead, perhaps the most beautiful sight in the world is a corpse.

Dear Mirabella,

How is your health? I hear that Prince Charming has caught a cold. It’s very hot up here. I suppose it’s very wet where you are. I would like to convey my appreciation to you for your help in making me great. You have done the only thing worth honoring in this world. You have made a story. Your story, and my story, and the story of millions of other human beings.

People can be happy now because they will know that even if you are nothing while living, if you kill enough of that nothing so that death can be, you can be something. I have learned that the opposite of life is not death, but only inactivity. Death is not the absence of action, only action viewed under the haze of a different light and fitted into another matrix. Nothing is not the absence of substance, but the filling of space with a substance’s adversary.

Only Mirabella, I seem to be losing the accoutrements of this lovely state I have found myself in. I would like to ask of you, if it is not too much trouble, some long green hair, silver skin, and fish belly palms. Work hard to get me these things, Mirabella. Try, Mirabella. Don’t give up now when we can have Happily Ever After. Not when we can be so happy together.

Yes, even you who said you only wanted to be, would like being happy. You can be happy in the knowledge that you have made life on earth lustrous.


Jane Doe

Dear Jane,

Although you are stupid I would expect you to remember that my powers from living in the Styx are limited. You, yourself, have noted that death is so much like life. Well, in life there are limitations to one’s abilities and such is the case even so close to Hell.

I suppose then that you write to me because you want to preserve me in the image of my past. You want to confide in me. You want me to rock you back and forth when the rain comes. You need me to be kind, gentle Mirey. Jane, magic is not kind. Magic is lust. Lust does whatever it can to reach its fulfillment. Lust is not a good or bad touch, just a state of being. I was gentle and good until you trusted me.

I am not untrustworthy. I am not good or bad, just like I don’t want happiness or unhappiness. You would like to hold me, a water nymph, under bright sunlight until you had analyzed and dried me out where I stood with my arms outstretched to embrace you, and I’ll not have it.

Darling girl, go back to that nice doctor and let him give you plastic surgery until you look like me again. Pick up a nice pair of gray eyes while you’re at it.

Hurry before I disappear from you completely.


Your Mother Mirabella

There is a legend they tell in Hawaii. I was punished for reading it in medical school when I was supposed to be watching an open heart surgery. Such an appetizing show! They say in the book Maui the Demigod that the young boy Maui, in the process of playing a trick on his immortal guardian, crushes two of a bird’s eggs. In order to make Maui understand the consequences of his actions, the guardian turns Maui into the mother bird and whispers in its ear with the remaining eggs in his hand, “Now if I crush these two eggs, it’ll turn you wild.”

I am now looking at this pitiful, half-mad creature on the bed while standing over her with a scalpel, and wondering, as I crush her bone structure, how many eggs I have left to break.

Once upon a time, when I was wandering around the cave, singing to myself like Mother tells me not to, I saw her face swollen from a recent plastic surgery. Still to me she looked beautiful. I saw her do nothing great or wondrous. In fact, she seemed like a regular woman, with a nine-to-five, living a hum-drum life as she collapsed on the couch. The thing I couldn’t stand though was the stench. Not that powerful stench. So I walked away from her. Yeah, I’m supposed to keep her, but you can’t keep anything that doesn’t want to keep itself.

Dear Jane,

This is the last and final time you will pump me out. I have a surprise for you, daughter. I have something planned for you much greater than anything you have previously imagined. I have no power to steady your heart. But I do have comprehension of how to fix this problem.

Remember that time we were thinking about nipping things in the bud or the roots. Well here’s my gift to you, you’re going to nip your only life in the roots! You aren’t going to be like Aschelpius and bring other people back from Hades. You aren’t going to be Persephone depending on some dumb fruit to spend time up here and time down there. You’re going to be death itself walking among life in totality. You’re going to be the impossible turned possible. You’re going to be the whole Styx, but on legs, and talking, and with magic more powerful than anything you have ever seen.

All you have to do is have the doctor give you a pill made from the distillations of Neniphidae plants. It will slow your heart down to a wonderful lazy beat until you just don’t need it anymore. The raging water will flow through you of its own accord. You see, Jane, I am working hard. I am trying. And you’re right Jane, both of us are going to be very, very happy.



Once upon a time there was a woman who could swim faster than anyone on earth. The woman, however, looked up at the sun and thought that she would only be happy if she could fly. The woman told her friend, the fairy, to saw off her arms and give her wings instead. Evil only has the power to saw off arms, never to grow wings. So the girl couldn’t swim and she couldn’t fly either. But with all of her desires gone, she must have been happy.

Jane had an appointment with me today. She looked great, but she smelled like an infected wet puppy. In her delirium, she has requested pills of Neniphidae, which are fatal. She believes that only with the total destruction of her human body can she achieve immortality and “unbelievable magic.”

Jane’s going to die. She smells like road kill already. When I give her these pills I’ll smash the last of her eggs. But from the time she takes the pill until the time she goes to Hades, she’ll be happy because she’ll think she possesses the world. Before withering, I’ll give this mangled flower one pink chance to bloom. I’ll take this strangled soul and heal it.

I went to my cave along the river Styx because I wanted to die beside my Mother. Before I could take my pill, half of the town and a little girl were in front of me. Her mother said that the girl is autistic. That she spends all of her time singing to herself and making up “once upon a time” stories. They want to know if I can make her an oracle, since everybody knows that most oracles are freaks. They say that if I do not make her an oracle they will be angry because she is of no function to society as she is.

The people around the woman say that if I fix the girl, they can bring their children, too. They say that every citizen must do his or her duty to help the population of our country. They say that if I am not willing to make unacceptable people acceptable to society, than I must be an evil witch and they will hurt me. Then they left the girl with me and stormed off.

I laid the little girl down on a flat rock, and she looked up sleepily at me. If I took the pills, I could be Mirabella, and excise this girl’s self without a second thought. If I didn’t I could be Jane and... I didn’t even remember how Jane related to the world. I was pulled from my musings by the sound of the girl muttering to herself.

“Hey,” I whispered softly, “What are you talking about over there?”

“I’m telling the story of things barely noticed.”


“Because I’m the keeper of things hardly seen.”


“What will I be the keeper of after you fix me?”

“Well, nothing. But you’ll be a powerful oracle. You’ll be happy.”

“What will happen to what I am now?”

“It’ll be gone. Something better will be there.”

“Will it hurt?”

“Baby girl, I’ll try to keep it from hurting as much as possible.”

“What about the smell?”

“You want that smell. That’s what happiness smells like.”

“Oh. What does joy smell like?”

Without thinking I answered, “Joy smells like a blue flower.”

“Once upon a time you nearly drowned becoming a madrina. Will I live through this?”

“Probably. I can’t be sure.” Just then I realized that my purpose in life was to make sure that the uncertain survived so that the crazy, and drunk, and weak blue flowers of the world knew that they had someone on their side. “Listen,” I added. “No matter what happens, promise me that you’ll always remember you’re great.”

“I promise.”

“Go on home then. I’m not going to change you.”

Sometime later, Mirabella was all gone from me. I saw her standing there in the flesh, as I choked and snorted with the feeling of life. My green rippled reflection was standing in the cave in three-dimensional flesh. I only heard the angry footsteps of the townspeople as they stampeded towards the cave.

They say when the townspeople got there, waving knives and menacing with torches, Mirabella didn’t even put up a fight. She looked at them warily and walked quietly to the bottom of the river. And me, I grew as big as Atlas, big as a thousand-year-old tree, big enough to hold up the world. So big, you may have seen the sky crack when my head bumped it. Probably, you only noticed the aggressive spread of blue flowers covering the land.

They say that Mirabella drowned that night. She didn’t. Evil won’t ever drown. It just sleeps for a while until its terrible hunger makes it rise again. But that’s okay, because good doesn’t sleep at all. In between good and bad is idleness. In between death and life is peace. In between, nothing and something is willpower. And in the space where they spin axis after axis until colliding, is greatness.

I did, as the baby girl would say, live happily ever after. But the reason I exist, is to live forever in the moment when I proved the oracle wrong, banished Mirabella, and was great. Did it hurt? Yes. But when it was over, I was here and she was gone.

Copyright © 2008 by Shannon Joyce Prince

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