series –

The Jester

For whom the bells jingle.

Breathe in. Breathe out. 

The wind still wails; its voice fills my ears, but it doesn’t bother me. It’s peaceful here on the ground. Really, if I keep my eyes closed and my mind as quiet as I can, I could just let the stillness envelop me, and I’m sure the air would become motionless around me. 

Perfect. If it weren’t for those DAMN BELLS.

Who the hell disturbs my peace with this incessant jingling? I wrinkle my eyes shut harder and try to will the sound to go away. Unfortunately, it seems my efforts have the opposite effect; the sound is now coming towards me. The bells tinkle erratically somewhere on the left, then to the right of me, until they come to a halt unsettlingly close to the top of my head. 

“Oh, my Liege, this simply will not do! It will not do!”

It’s only through my cultivated power of denial that I can keep myself from jumping up. I can’t repress the jolt that goes through my body, but I will NOT open my eyes. I refuse.

“Sire, are you still in bed? At this late hour? I would never dare say that you are lazy, never!, so it must be that you are gravely ill, or worse!, extremely comfy.”

Of course, the bells tinkle as he giggles to himself. 

I can’t help but glance at the annoying newcomer through half-lidded eyes. My first impression is a smudge of color, an outfit with too much of everything to easily make sense of it, and I can’t see his face at all. I open my eyes fully, and a man in a tight, quilted costume comes into focus. He’s a patchwork of red, purple, cream, and gold fabric; the long sleeves of his jacket dangling precariously close to the ground. He wears an odd hat that has two ears sticking up at the top. Tiny copper bells that chime softly with each movement adorn the cap and sleeves. But despite the crazy getup, what is most remarkable is the beautifully crafted mask that obscures his face; it has the shape of a fox’s head, with fur meticulously carved into what must be wood and then painted with the finest of brushes to an almost lifelike effect. It gives me no idea whatsoever of what this person looks like, aside from a vague flicker of Marigold behind the guise.

“Eh. Who are you?”

“Why, I am your jester, of course! Your Majesty, how could you forget your faithful servant? Oh woe is me; have I been forsaken by my master? Have I been cast out of your magnificent court without a two-week notice?”

“I… what? I have no idea what you’re talking about. Please just go; I’m not the person you’re looking for.”
I close my eyes again and vaguely wave my hand as a matter of saying goodbye. 

“I am dismissed, like a dog! Oh, what a miserable day for a noble, clever fox.”
I can hear him sink to the ground next to me. Reluctantly, I look over and see his face — the mask — next to mine.

“Seriously, who are you? And why are you wearing that…” I gesture faintly at his whole deal “…outfit?”

“Oh, could it be that you cannot remember me because my beautiful visage is hidden behind this exquisite mask, Your Grace? Well, let me remedy that posthaste!”

He removes the mask with a flourish while keeping his face hidden with his ridiculously long (and noisy!) sleeve. It’s only when he reveals his eyes — while giving a coy wink — that it dawns on me that he is in fact an actual fox. A black one.

I stare for a minute, but then decide that this might as well happen. Nothing should come as a surprise in your own mind, and yet often that’s exactly what happens. All I manage to say is “I see.”.

“Do you still harbor doubts when gazing upon my snout? I know! I should prove myself to you, My Lady. Prove that I am still your ever-cunning, charming, and handsome jester. Surely you will not deny me then!”

Before I can protest, he jumps up and immediately launches into an intricate dance. He moves his elegant limbs to create a precise beat while simultaneously juggling what look like glass balls that he seems to pluck out of thin air. The longer the dance goes on, the more exaggerated his movements become; the more improbable the juggling act, the more intense the rhythm of the bells. Through it all, he keeps holding my gaze and laughing with a toothy smile. I get the distinct feeling that he’s gauging my reaction to his every move. He’s clearly not satisfied as he tosses the balls into the air, never to be seen again, while he makes increasingly complicated cartwheels and somersaults, never once missing the beat, of course.

I watch with growing astonishment as he suddenly pounces down with an elegant arc—like foxes do in winter to catch prey below the snow. To my horror, I see how he smacks face-first into the ground but somehow shakes off the impact and lets himself fall on his back, roaring with laughter. I can see a trickle of blood coming from his nose, though.

I sit up immediately. “Are you alright?” 
“Of course, Your Excellency, never better,” he hiccups as he continues to laugh. 
“You’re hurt!”
“‘t is but a light concussion, My Lord, nothing to worry about. But I am very touched by your concern. Could it be?” I don’t know how he manages it, but it feels like he’s blushing.
“Could it be…you like me, Ma’am?”

I groan loudly. What was all that for? What does he want from me? What the ever-loving fuck is going on? 

Just before I can launch into an exasperated rant, I realize that there hasn’t been any wind here at all. Not since he arrived. 

“Wait. Why isn’t the wind pushing you back? I mean. I… I’ve been stuck here for so long. How did you…”

He cuts me off. “It’s profoundly simple, My Queen. You ignore it and dance.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I mean, yes, I’m a jester after all. But it still works! Come. “

He holds out his hand, and I take it. With unsteady feet, I follow his lead, at first unsure about what to do, but he guides me without hesitation. I still stumble; we both do, step on each other’s feet a couple of times, and miss our turns. Not that it matters. We move, and the world becomes a blur; our momentum picks us up and carries us. Carries us beyond the pit. 

“So all I had to do was dance?” I’m laughing as tears pour from my eyes.

He nods and says, “All you have to do is dance,” then adds, “My Friend.”

Image – Fox by Arnold Peter Weisz Kubínčan. Free public domain CC0 image.
Font – Bungee font family. Used under SIL Open Font License


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *