Prospero is a physician and Theurgist in eighteenth century Vienna. Despite his unparalleled success rate, or perhaps because of it, the Holy Order of Physicians, Augurs and Theurgists (HOPAT) believe him to be a fraud. He was kind enough to let Kim McDougall interview him from his home in exile (though he was quick to point out it was simply a mountain retreat).
KM: Please tell us a bit about the Divine Sympathies. How does it work?
Prospero: It is simple. The energy of the universe, the Divine Sympathies, can be harnessed. I lay my hands on the body, and the Divine Sympathies course through my veins. In this way, I can manipulate the organs and release the malevolent humors. Here let me show you. (Prospero reaches for the interviewer.)
KM: Umm. No. That’s all right. (Chair scrapes backwards. Awkward pause.)
Prospero: It’s really very stimulating.
KM: I’m sure it is. So these Divine Sympathies, why are you the only one able to manipulate them?
Prospero: Oh, the others could, but they are too stupid. Too stuck in the seventeenth century, with their bloodlettings and leechcraft. Imagine leeches as medical therapy. Barbaric.
KM: Let’s talk a bit about HOPAT. Why do you think they banned you?
Prospero: Jealousy. Pure and simple.
KM: Didn’t they accuse you of…wizardry?
Prospero: (Sucking in his breath) You should not use such terms lightly, Madam. That is a serious accusation. I am a Theurgist. My power is a divine right, not some…not some feckless charlatanism. Even my detractors would not dare to insult me so.
KM: Says here…(shuffling papers) that Peniakoff, the President of HOPAT, accused you of wizardry before the assembled house.
Prospero: You Madam, are suffering from an abundance of yellow bile. I can hear it in your voice.
KM: (Pauses) Alright, let’s talk about your apprentice, Dr. Edouard Breugen.
Prospero: There is nothing to say. The boy is a fraud, a cheat, and a Judas.
KM: Seems you have a lot to say about Ed…
Prospero: I knew he had lustful feelings for Maria. I should have banished him from my practice, but I assumed he was too ineffectual to act on his feelings. Such an insipid boy. Only a blind girl would fall for him.
KM: Maria, yes. The blind pianist?
Prospero: Blind only because of ignorance. I cured her!
KM: If you cured her, then why is she still blind?
Prospero: I haven’t worked out that part yet, but I assure you, Edouard’s so-called psychology won’t help. Bah! Psychology is just a fad. A bunch of pundits, trying to sound intelligent while they sip sherry and stuff their faces with canapés.
KM: Yes, but getting back to Maria…
Prospero: Only the Divine Sympathies will save her. It’s really a simple technique. Please let me show you. I can alleviate some of that yellow bile. It colors your whole being.
KM: No really. That’s fine. It does seem more like hocus-pocus to me…
Prospero: Hocus pocus? Like some street-corner, potion-peddling, hex-mongering, toothless witch? Burn them! Burn them all, I say! (Prospero pauses to smooth down his frock coat and wipe the spittle from his chin) Madam, I will not sit here and be insulted by your ignorance. This interview is done. Good-day.
Read “Divine Sympathies” in Twist of Fate, 13 tales of fantasy, sci-fi and mystery. Published by Eternal Press (www.eternalpress.ca).
Kim McDougall writes “Between the Cracks.” You can check out more of her fiction at www.kimmcdougall.com . The character of Prospero is based loosely on the life of Franz Anton Mesmer.