JULIANNA AND THE UNICORN
(A Fairytale for Adults)
Starting at a point just before the bottom left hand of the wheel, those who would take the Wheel of Fortune, caught at a bar and began to push against it. The wooden platform was so built that, as with the curve of the wheel, it curved downwards, so the people at the spar could keep walking as they pushed. Reaching the upper level once more, they had to change their grip, so that they could hang, to be pushed upwards by those now pushing down below and pulled by the weight of those beginning to descend.
Everyone whooped as their feet left the ground, to swiftly become a groan as their arms, unused to such activity quickly tired. Yet, committed, their choices were to either hold on tightly or fall. As they neared the top, this was a long way, indeed.
At the very topmost point, was the object of the game. Object, it most certainly was: but whether illusory or material, Julianna could not tell and had no intention of riding the wheel to find out.
Whatever the object there, it would change as one rider passed and the next approached. A man's face, appearing for a matronly woman, turned to the shape of a cottage as a youth and his bride drew close, which became a sparkling tiara, then pretty clothes, wagons and chests of paper money, boxes of chocolates and toys, golden eggs and mirrors with beautiful reflections.
Difficult though their position was, as they reached the top and its object, some of the riders released a hand, struggling to grab what was seen there. Often it was out of their reach and, sometimes, in their flailing efforts they knocked it aside, and beyond them. A few managed to touch it. A few others succeeded in loosely catching it, to have it torn from them by the movement of the wheel. Even less caught it and held onto it, to then drop it and return their hand to the bar. Many less still captured it and clutched it tightly, hanging onto the spar single-handed. Whilst most, in their terror of falling, did not even try, opting to pass it by with a sigh.
Then the descent began and, feet back on the ground, relief and laughter returned to the faces of the riders. Those who had managed to take, and keep their prizes were surrounded by curious friends. Although, when they opened their hands to show it, there was only either emptiness or a shabby little tinsel bauble. They then became angry and sullen, and made their way across to rail at and complain to Apodosis.
"Did I make you play The Game?" he would cry. They would shake their heads. No: but he had taken their money.
"Ahh!" the Carnie-man would ask, "Did I take your Precious Pennies, or did you Give them to me Willingly?"
The peoples did not choose to answer that question, preferring to accuse him of casting illusions to tempt them. Facing more argument and accusations, Apodosis would sadly shake his head.
"Do I look into Your Mind and Read your Dreams and Desires?" he would ask.
Julianna knew that he could, but the publics did not. They would shake their heads.
"Ahhh!" he would cry triumphantly, "Then how could I put Them before you to Tempt you to Part with your Pennies?"
Beaten, the folks submitted and walked away.
Of all who rode the wheel, Julianna noticed that, leaving it, some immediately made their way towards the end of the queue and rejoined it, faces again flushed, excited and eager. There were others, still, who would simply go behind a screen at the bottom, but not appear on the other side.
"Apodosis," she called, "where do they go? Why do they not reappear?"
"You tell me, Pretty Lady!" he replied. "Or have your Visits with the Masters been forgotten?"
To the Void! They went behind the screen to step into the Void, from which they did not return. She shuddered.
"Roll up! Roll up! Come Try Your Hand at the Wheel of Fortune! Take a Chance! Take a Chance!"
"Apodosis," she called out again, "Why do you lie to those who complain of their empty hands?"
"Pretty Lady," he said, coming over to where she sat and casting a hurt expression at her, "I speak untruthfully?"
"Yes," the girl said, ignoring his hangdog gaze, "you say you cannot look into their minds."
"Ahhh! Clever, Clever, Clever-clogs! Is that what I say? I cannot look into their Minds to see their Dreams and Desires?"
"You are in Error, ma'am," he continued and Julianna made to protest, "I ask if I Do! I Can - but I Do Not! Big Difference, Missy Pretty, Big Difference!"
"But is what they see at the top truly their dreams and desires?" she asked.
"Oh, Yes, Yes, Yes!"
"So, if you have not read their minds and used trickeries, how do they see them?" she persisted.
"You are asking Me!" he exclaimed.
The string on her bow began to sing. She returned her attention back to the Wheel and its willing eager participants. Circles and cycles. Truths and illusions. Hopes and beliefs.
If the Wheel turned the other way, it would be as the turning of the clock. What else did it remind her of? Of the daily lives of so many of the peoples she met since childhood and her travels throughout her womanhood?
At the base of the wheel, she saw reflected the hard work, the struggles, the effort. They would rise with the sun, to work through the day. For what did they toil? Merely pennies to house them and feed their kinder? No, they hoped for more from their lives. Dreams to come true. Yet of what did they dream? Houses and young men or women to share them with? Better beasts or tools to help them in their labours, to make life a little easier? Of sudden riches, and living in a fancy house, with fancy clothes and a fancy carriage to drive them to fancy places?
Were such dreams not simple?
Yet, were they not caught up by the results of their own labours? Perhaps, like those who rode the Wheel, hanging on desperately to come close within the range of their dreams. Some, too frightened to risk letting go and reach out, with some just not big enough to stretch the short distance. Others, trying too hard, too desperately, too greedily, their own selves knocking their dreams clumsily away from them. And others, too, who could reach out to take their dreams -and find them empty, without substance.
Falling with relief into bed at the end of the day, tired and worn out, but to rest so they - like the Raintrout - may try again tomorrow…
Is that why people died? Did they go into the Void saddened and defeated, because they found they could not realise their dreams, however small? Not able to bear facing being disappointed once more?
"The Wheel of Fortune is the Wheel of Life, isn't it, Apodosis?"
"Yes," he replied. "They pay their Precious Pennies and Climb Aboard to Take a Chance!"
"You make them pay!" Julianna cried.
"Do I?" asked Apodosis. "Do I reach out My Hand to Grab as they Do their Dreams? Or do I simply open My Palm and the Peoples put their Precious Pennies into it?"
"Apodosis, do you not trick them at all? Surely not all the dreams are empty and without meaning?"
"Listen to the Thoughts behind the Expectant, Happy Smiles, Pretty Missy!"
"I sit. Here. I hear. Here." said Julianna softly - and Apodosis smiled gently.
She closed her eyes and ears against the sights and sounds and opened her heart. At first, there was nothing, for these were thoughts of the day and hidden deep, deep within the city-folk, so they could not come clearly to her as had those of the night in the Citadel of Reins. She kept still and quiet. Gradually, there came a humming and slowly, she first distinguished a few words, which grew to a raucous cacophony.
"I want. If only... I WANT. Bigger. When I. I DESERVE. If I. I WANT. Why shouldn't I... I WANT. Better. I WANT. If only... I want. Faster. I WANT. MORE!"
People made greedy by fear of lack. Nobody was happy with what they had. They all wanted something different: bigger, better, faster, more. And all they wanted was things. Things to fill a big, gaping hole inside themselves. Houses, carriages, fine jewels, meals in fashionable eating houses, toys, the farm manager's job and, yea, even other people. Those yearning for someone special thought only of themselves: someone to love them, not whom they could love. So even love became an object, something to be possessed, not given. How could things fill a hole inside a heart?
There were other tones.
"For only two pennies... I won't lose anything... It's worth the risk... Take a chance... Why not, it's only two pennies..."
Fake courage. Standing to lose nothing and gain everything, for two single pennies. There was little risk. They took no real chance, to get everything for nothing. They were not buying a chance to hold and cherish their dreams, with but a few pennies. They were selling themselves for two pennies. It was that would make their dreams come empty in their hands - if they were able to touch them at all.