The Servant and the Magician. A short story by Kaeli Riccardi.
"Pick a card, any card," the Magician said wryly.
A middle-aged man in line drew a card from the deck, and sheepishly looked at it. Then, with a blank expression on his face, put the card back in the deck and went outside of the tent to do what he was told.
"Next!" said the Magician.
This time, a woman in her early twenties with a baby in her arms approached him.
"Pick a card, any card," he repeated, maintaining his crooked smile.
The woman hesitated for a minute, remembering what she had been told about this man. Her baby fussed in her arms. Full of anxiety, she took a card from the deck and read it to herself. A haunting expression appeared on her face. She turned her head to see the rest of the line, but it stretched too far out of sight to see the end. Reluctantly, she put the card back in the deck and left the tent to do as she was instructed.
"Next!" the Magician said again.
A young boy stepped up to the table in which the Magician was behind. The boy looked scared.
"Oh, don't you worry, little guy," the Magician said with an eerie calm in his voice. "Just pick a card like everyone else did, and do what it says, and you'll be fine." The Magician winked at him.
The boy covered his eyes with one hand, and reached his other hand out slowly to pull a card from the deck. He peeked through the cracks in his fingers to see what the card had to say. The little boy quickly put the card down, and ran out of the tent, almost knocking over a teenage guy.
"Easy there, kiddo," said the teen. "Hey, are you all right?"
Shivering, the boy just stared at the teen for a long moment before he ran off to fulfill what the card said for him to do.
'That's weird,' thought the teenager. After watching the boy run off, he turned to see what he was running from. The teen noticed a red and yellow circus tent with a long line coming from inside. 'I wonder what this is all about,' he thought. The young man stood there for a few minutes observing the people that went in and those same people that came out. Everyone in the line had the same solemn look upon their faces. The people that exited the tent looked as though they were in a hurry to accomplish a task, but a task they wished they didn't have to do.
"There has to be something wrong with this picture," said the teen aloud. Finally, he walked up to a girl about his age that was waiting in line and asked her what they were waiting for.
"Oh. We never question the Magician. We go in, we pick a card, and we do what it says," she replied matter-of-factly.
"What if the card tells you to do something bad?"
"If we don't do what the card says, we will be punished."
The young man noticed the emptiness in the girl's eyes.
"Well that doesn't seem like a very nice man. Making you do things you might not want to do. Don't you get a choice?" he asked, curiously.
"What are you talking about?"
The teen decided to go another route with his questions. "Have you done this before?" he asked the girl as she moved up in the line.
"Oh no," she replied, "we only go once in a lifetime. The Magician says if we do what the card says, we will live in a great place forever."
"How do you know he's not lying to you?"
The girl seemed astonished as to why he would ask such a question, and focused her attention on the tent.
'Why would these people put so much trust into someone they know nearly nothing about? But more importantly, the things that this "Magician" are making these people do seems so unjust. Why don't they make a choice and not follow him? From what I can see, he has done no good for these people. They are just too blind,' the teen thought.
The young man looked down at his shoes, realized they were untied, and bent down to retie them. When he stood back up, he noticed a purple tent to the right of the Magician's tent. No one was standing in any line outside of this tent, so being the curious guy that he was, walked into the purple tent. In it was a man sitting on a wooden stool across from a big red comfortable chair.
"Hello," said the man on the stool, serenely.
"Um, hi. Do you know why all those people are standing in that line outside?" asked the teen.
"They have made a choice," replied the man, simply. "Come, let me wash your feet."
Confused, but still interested, the teen sat down in the luxurious chair and began to remove his shoes. The other man stopped him.
"Please, allow me."
The young man allowed the other man to do as he wished. He removed the teen's shoes and washed his feet. The younger man noticed holes in the hands and feet of the older man, but thought it rude to ask why they were there.
"What shall I call you?" asked the teen.
"You can call me the Servant, for that is what I am."
"Why are you doing this for me, Servant? I don't even know you."
The Servant man replied, "Because I love you."
Three hours had passed and the teenager had been served delicious food and drink from the Servant. They had wonderful discussions, but the Servant asked the teen questions that made him think for himself. Three hours ago, the teen didn't understand how the Servant could say he loved him, when he'd only just met him. But in the last few minutes he had begun to understand.
"How come I didn't see this tent before?" the young man asked, still relaxed in the big red chair.
"You did not see this tent because you did not want to see it. I've been here all along, asking you if you would like to come in, but until you opened up your eyes, you did not see me."
"You are so different than that Magician. Can I tell others about you?"
The Servant looked pleased. "It would be the best thing you could do."
"You could save hundreds of people from doing those awful things that the Magician is making them do if you only showed yourself to them!"
The Servant became more serious, but still as gentle as he had been. "I give people the choice to see me if they wish. I will not force anyone into coming to my tent, but if they do, I will welcome them with open arms and treat them with respect and love. But if you go out and tell others about me, they will see what you see, and will be able to enjoy this same gift."
"Then I'll do it!" the teen exclaimed. "I will go out and tell everyone about you!"
The teen rose from the chair, gave the Servant a giant hug, and left the tent to tell all the others about the man who changed his life.