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The Disappearing Act

Categories: Creative Writing Prompts Tags: creative writing exercises, creative writing prompts, writing prompt.

You are at a magic show with your family, and your eight year old son is called up on stage as a part of the disappearing act. The magician performs the first part of the act successfully, but is unable to make your son reappear.

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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153 Responses to The Disappearing Act

  1. SuzieWritres says:

    Must be part of the act, I thought. Until I felt Scott’s hand grip mine, which was already clutching the greasy, torn, pleather-upholstered armrest. Still, neither of us gave voice to our rising alarm.

    “Ladies and gentlemen,” the magician finally addressed the audience in his imprecise eastern European accent, “a moment’s indulgence. Young lads sometimes scamper after white rabbits.” He seemed neither nervous nor concerned. He bowed slowly, formally, then rose to offer his white gloved hand to his assistant. For a split second he sneered in our direction, turned stage left.

    I searched nearby faces for any indication others had seen what I had, perhaps shocked expressions, but found only impatient gazes in my direction. The air held an expectant energy as if the theater was holding its breath awaiting either a howl of anguish or sigh of relief. As the magician, a tall, thin man with unkempt hair a mottled color only achieved from cheap comb-in grey concealer and his leggy, blond assistant with too-small eyes, too large breasts, and fire engine red lipstick that looked like a razor slash across her zombie-white face sauntered offstage, Scott literally propelled me out of my seat.

    Without hesitation, Scott hastened toward the stage. I followed along the thin, worn carpeting hoping I wouldn’t slip. Must have been a mechanical prop failure; we’ll find Dylan backstage, I thought. Then abruptly I recalled the malevolence I’d momentarily seen in magician’s face, and the stagnant theater air seemed to become too thick to breath.

    As we approached a black lacquered door labelled “Authorized Personnel Only,” to the left of the stage a massive fellow who surely rode a chopper with dragon talons for handlebars stepped out and blocked our passage. “We’re that boy’s parents,” Scott protested tipping his head stage ward as he daringly reached around the bouncer for the door handle.

    “Can’t let ya’ through,” the man replied in a puff of stale, cigarette and beer laced breath, thwarting Scott’s efforts with his bulk and never making eye contact with us. “But…,” I began a rebuttal as Scott’s hands ensconced my shoulders and navigated me back the way we came.

    At the center isle Scott broke into a sprint for the other side of the stage. My sweat-slick hand nearly slipped from his despite his vice-like grip. We ploughed through a similar but unprotected heavy metal door which promptly closed and muffled the bouncer’s shouts of, “you can’t go back there!” We made our way in the chilly, musty darkness down a metal staircase and through a graveyard of discarded props, toward bright florescent light and hushed voices

    My pulse sped as we approached the group of performers gathered and peering down at something they encircled. We pressed our way into their circle, and I finally gave the theater the anguished scream it had awaited, wanted. But as my eyes adjusted in the light, I realized the small, broken body in the pool of blood at my feet was not my son.

  2. smallPencil says:

    Jake’s eyes were wide with wonder. I could see everything around us – the packed theatre, the stage lighting, the magician in his patent leather suit and his top hat and rings and rabbits and kerchiefs-become-doves – reflected within Jake’s excitement. Sometimes I thought Jake fed on wonder and discovery more than on actual food. He was smart, like his father. And he existed in a near-continual state of intrigue. That was what I loved best about him. If it were possible to choose just one thing. His curiosity got him into trouble from time-to-time. But on the whole he was a good kid. Gentle, friendly, and cheerful – he’d made many friends at Goorodale Elem.

    “Daddy, is he gonna saw someone in half?!”

    I chuckled, ruffled his bowl-cut mop of thick, brown hair. “Maybe, pal.”

    “Whoa! Is he gonna make someone disappear?!”

    “Yeah, pal. For sure.”

    The magician, ‘The Great Arcanum-Rex’ stood frozen on stage, staring down the audience. In a flash, a grin materialized on his face. “For my next trick. I require a volunteer! One solid young lad. Who among you lads has the courage to face Arcanum’s magic?” His voice was otherworldy-clean even with the amplification.

    Boys everywhere jumped up. There was an explosion of hooting and hollering and frantic hand-waving. Ever the young gentlemen, Jake refrained. But he was leaning up and toward me so hard I thought he might strain a ligament. “Dad, can I?” That look of excitement on Jake’s face: it was the kind of look parents go their whole lives hoping to get a glimpse of. I couldn’t have said no even if I’d wanted to.

    We were 12 rows back, but Arcanum picked Jake. With a squeal of delight he rushed to the walkway, even then being careful not to disturb anyone.

    Then he was up there. The lighting shifted and something like a phone booth sized for a child was suddenly behind Arcanum. “Behold, he will step into the box, then he shall be gone!” He opened the door and Jake stepped in. He closed it and threw a white sheet over. “Instherum wormothotel foldexten gravitus!”

    Arcanum pulled the sheet away with gusto. The crowd gasped. Jake was gone. “Now – back!” He threw the sheet back over, spoke the words, and ripped it back. Jake was still gone. Some people gasped again. This time it sounded more heart-felt. Some chuckled nervously. He tried again. Still no Jake. My boy, my son… was gone.

    Soon thereafter the curtain fell to a jeering crowd. I made a beeline for backstage. Security shrank before my will. When I made it Arcanum’s head snapped to me. He walked right over. He said, “He’s…

    gone”

    I handed Arcanum a bag. He carefully checked the five bundles of 100 100 dollar bills. He nodded. Then he met my eyes. He said, “Not that I am complaining, but – why?”

    I shrugged. “I read the other day that raising a kid in America costs almost four hundred K by the time they’re 18. And that doesn’t even take college into account. The way I look at it, I just made three hundred and fifty grand. And I could use a Lamborghini.” Arcanum smiled but shook his head. I laughed my head off.

  3. It is a fabulous story, it is magical and powerful and one of the best

  4. Schrodingers cat says:

    A Tiny Thud

    After we parked, I took Justin to the bathroom, while Helen got a large popcorn and drinks for us.
    “Ok, wash young man, or no popcorn for you.”
    “All better daddy, see.” as he holds up his hands for me to inspect. I grab Justin’s hand, and head to our seats, with Helen close behind.
    “Tickets please. Thank you.”

    “Up front, or near the back?” I ask Justin.
    “UP FRONT, UP FRONT!” We edged to our fifth row seats, waiting for the show. Justin kneeled between Helen and myself, bouncing as he looked around.

    The lights dim and the crowd quiets, while the curtain slowly opens, and stage lighting comes on.
    Mark Marvel walks to center stage, as his assistant rolls out a few tables of tricks.
    “A MAGICIAN, THIS IS THE BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!” a roar of laughter echos through the room as Justin squeezes me, then his mom. It was a nice show, but watching his face was worth more than any magic could produce.
    It was late in the show when we heard him ask, “Could I have a volunteer from the audience please?”
    Justin springs up jumping in his chair waving, as I scramble to grab his legs.
    “Yes, How about you young man?” pointing to my son.
    His assistant came to escort him up.
    “Are you up for this Justin?” With a big grin he nods.

    His little legs stretch as he scales the steps to the stage.
    “And what is your name?” “Justin, Justin Taylor.” His bald head shining as bright as his smile. “Well hello Justin Justin Taylor.” “NO! It’s just one.” He said as the crowd merrily played along.
    His assistant rolls a large black box from back stage stopping behind my son and Mark. “Thank you. Now if you please.” He sales while Cindy opens its door, and positions Justin inside.

    Said in a hushed voice of awe only a child could muster “Wow” the words seem to permeate the room, joined by laughter.
    “For your pleasure, the disappearing box!” Mark whispers to Justin and closes the door. With a few gestures he spins the box and opens it, while the crowd applauds.
    “I call to the four corners of the universe, return.” he states while turning the box.

    A small thud is heard by only those standing on stage just before he opens the door. Quickly he closes the door and once more repeats his actions, but the box again looks empty. Mark looks off stage and motions the stage hands, the curtain closes and the house lights come on.

    I rush from my seat, while the crowd mumbles, jump up on stage and through the curtains. Mark was on the phone, The back panel was open, his assistant kneeling with my son’s head on her lap. She looks up at me through tear-stained eyes and sobs “I’m so, so very sorry.”

  5. winonawv2 says:

    “Come on mom! We’re gonna be late!” Alfred shouted from the bottom of the stairs at his mother.
    “Alright I’m coming, hold your horses, damn”
    Shouting back and coming down the stairs two at a time good God boy, like you’ve never seen a magic show.”
    Maureen was amazed at Alfred’s fascination with magicians, all he wanted to do was know what the secret was so that could do them himself. Houdini was his favorite reading all about him and his tricks.
    “Why are you just standing there, come on!” Thomas said, as he pushed the screen door running towards the car.
    “Boy!” his mother sternly said.
    The show was across town in the restored theater. According to Alfred, this was the best part of the year because The Festival of Magic came into town becoming a carnival of magic proportions, there were medieval tents lining the streets selling their wares and the aroma of carnival treats that made your mouth water.
    All Alfred cared about was the magic shows. Every year as long as he could remember he wanted to be the kid that disappeared. Wondering how it was done he asked the Magician to tell him, but the old man always said
    “Well me’ boy if I told yah’ it would ruin the entire show now wouldn’t it?”
    Because of this, the old magician never picked him. Until today, Alfred hoped, there seemed to be a new magician. Excited he ran through town, making sure that Maureen was right behind him. He had tried to convince his mother that he was old enough to go to the show by himself, but she had said
    “No Way, You have to be at least 14, there are weird people in this world”

    When they finally arrived at the theater, the third row was almost full, two seats remained although they were not together he motioned to his mom, surprisingly she agreed. His favorite part was coming up-he raised his hand and the new magician pointed at him. Maureen smiled and gave him the thumbs up. Alfred had the biggest smile as he entered the large box that resembled a standing coffin. The magician drew the curtain shut. The audience grew silent, with a few magic words and some elaborate strokes of his magic wand in front of the box, a minute or so later, he elaborately opened the curtain. Alfred was gone. The magician waited for it seemed like forever to Maureen, then closed it and did the same thing reopening the curtain in his amazement Alfred still did not appear; he was astonished, mouth opened going inside the box, no Alfred. He motioned for the curtain to close. Maureen was already backstage tears running down her face screaming
    “What the hell is going on!?”
    The young magician searching frantically for the boy his face ashen said
    “This has never happened before; I mean it’s a trick for God’s sake”
    “I’m calling the police”

    • swatchcat says:

      A few run on sentences could easily read as several separate sentences. Who is Thomas, I thought his name was Alfred? And where did Thomas go? Writing quotes seemed a little off. When the kid runs through town, it must be a small or large town because they drove to it and then he had to run through it. I think you meant he ran through the carnival area. Why is the third row so important? Were the others taped off or not usable? Were people only chosen from the third row and that why is this row so signified? “He hoped, there seemed to be a new magician,”(what)? He either hoped there was a new one or he found information the seemed to say there was a new one.
      I am sorry if it seems I have nitpicked. I actually enjoyed the story because I continued through it and wanted to see the outcome but I had to reread several times a lot of parts because of random wrinkles in the writing. It needs cleaning up. Sorry.

      • winonawv2 says:

        thank you sweatchat.. Im new at this and as English is not my first language its a little rusty, I totally understand that I missed the Thomas/Alfred thing in my revision…no please nit-pick this is the only way I will get better at descriptions…

    • smallster21 says:

      I agree. Just make sure you work on doing a revision where you focus solely on punctuation and structuring the sentences so they flow nicely. It helps to read the entire story out loud, then adjust where it sounds awkward to your ear. You do have a nice story here; just make the deliver more effective, so the reader can easily connect.

  6. Scarly says:

    “Ladies and gentlemen the moment you have all been waiting for! The great Spellini Disappearing Act! Who’s ready to see this great finale?”, the host’s voice boomed across the room as the audience erupted with wild cheers and whistles. “What a lively crowd! Alright folks let the magic begin! Here’s Louis the Great!” The crowd seemed even more excited than before as they applauded louder with great expectation. Louis stepped out from behind the big red curtain, his red suit matching, and his black tie and coal colored hat gave him a true magician’s look. He bowed slightly and with a wave of his hand began to speak.

    “Now ladies and gents I need a volunteer for this performance….someone small enough to fit in this.” He pulled the crimson cloth off of the box that sat beside him. It was no taller than five feet and resembled a large fish tank. Hands shot up from all over the crowd and screams nearly blew the roof off. Louis only stepped forward and pointed to a young boy in the front row, without hesitation the boy jumped up in excitement and leaped up the stairs to the stage.”How are you young man?” Louis raised a brow charmingly and placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “May we have your name?” The boy stuttered at first but found his words “I’m David, I’m really good sir, really excited!”

    The silent crowd cheered and roared with delight until the magician held up his hand and they fell quiet with hushed murmurs. “Please step inside the box David.” Louis told the anxious young man. “there’s nothing to fear.” He muttered quietly to himself as he grinned and placed the cloth back over the box and turned toward an entranced crowd. Louis plucked his magic wand from inside his suit jacket and swiveled it about in the air “Now for the magic words!” The audience clapped as his chant began, ” tooma a dooma a vrooma a wack! presto y festo y cresto a flack! Disappear!” Purplish smoke filled the air instantly and seemed to coil itself around the box, the magician pulled the cloth off and behold the boy, David, was surely gone. The crowd cheered and went wild. “Now for the best part! To bring him back eh?” Louis’s words hushed the crowd and they stared eagerly ahead. He replaced the cover carefully and motioned his hands and wand expertly in front of it. Repeating his chant,”tooma a dooma a vrooma a wack! presto y festo y cresto a flack! Appear!”

    He slowly and dramatically removed the curtain, the people on the edge of their seats nearly holding their breaths, watched as if hypnotized. Louis pulled it off only to reveal an empty box. The crowd gasped horrified, someone screamed. Louis placed his hands in the air and calmly told the crowd to calm down this sometimes happened during shows. He repeated his steps again and once again no David was in sight. A woman and man leaped to their feet and started yelling at the magician. “Where is our son you lunatic? You son of a bitch! Where is David?” The magician checked his watch and waved his wand chanting a small chant, ” Enna pamini la raza!”

    Black smoke filled jumped out of the ground and engulfed the magician. People screamed as the lights went out. The magician ran quickly out of the corridor, the trap door led him to and through the exit door.” Stopping to catch his breath, he caught sight of the shiny black Cadillac that sat at the corner. Louis ran toward it and slipped inside telling the driver to go. The clever magician picked up his phone and dialed a number; it rang three times before a deep husky voice answered. “Is the deal done?” it asked. The great man of magic looked back at the theatre for a moment and said, “Yes I’ve got the boy.”

  7. megawriter60 says:

    “What in Hell’s going on?” I screamed as I stormed the stage.

    “Where’s our son?” my husband chimed in even louder as he did the same.

    Out of the corner of my eye I see the manager hurrying toward us. I turned on him, still raging. He stands firm but he holds his hands palm up in front of him placatingly.

    “What kind of a place are you running here? This man has made my son disappear and now can’t seem to bring him back, what are you going to do about it?” my husband and I say in unison.

    “If you will just keep your voice down and allow Marvelous Melnish here to complete the trick I’m sure your son will be at your side soon, right Mr. Melnish?”

    That name rang a bell, so I turned to the hapless magician. Remembering, my anger went for red-hot to volcanic in an instant. My husband’s hand touched my shoulder, pressing down lightly; our signal to breathe and calm down. I tried, I really did.

    “Do you know who this man IS?” I asked, turning my fury back on the manager of the theater.

    “No, he just showed up here and I was short an act for today, so I hired him” the manager said.

    “Get my son back before you disappear yourself, sir or there will be consequences” I said much too quietly as I turned back to face the magician.

    “I’m not sure what you could do to me that is worse than what I did to myself” Marvelous Melnish told me in a despairing voice.

    “I could always arrange to have you stay here for what’s left of your days” I retorted.

    “Oh, could you? I would be eternally in your debt! What would I need to do?” the magic man said eagerly.

    I was about to answer with what I had promised him, when he began to fade slowly from sight like a wisp of smoke.
    “Your son is at home where I sent him when I found him asleep in the disappearing cabinet. I would never subject a child to the kind of half-life I lead since my accident” Marvelous Melnish’s voice was strong but also fading as he finished his statement and disappeared for good.

    We drove home, relief in every breath we took. For my husband, it was that his only child was safe. But for me, it was that I had not been forced to come out as a witch to the people in that theatre, if not the world.

    White magic aside, it would not have been understood or probably tolerated and the persecution I had suffered for centuries would have started anew. My husband knew, or thought he did and when my children reached the age of thirteen they would be told or would know instinctively themselves especially if they happened to have inherited the powers. I sighed and dialed home just to hear my son’s voice.

  8. Ane Cohen says:

    They say never to leave your child alone. They say never to take your eyes off your child, not even for a minute. They say never let your child go anywhere with a stranger.
    I knew these rules, and I practiced them fervently like any over protective parent would. Even now, I can’t tell you why I let my son, my precious gift of a child, climb onto the stage with the man in the turban. I’m his mother, I should have known better, but I didn’t. I saw the twinkle of excitement in my sons’ eyes, but I missed the gleam of avarice in the eyes of the magician.
    I felt the excitement of an eight year old, enamored of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but missed the avarice of a forty something washed up, worn-out, fraud who promised thrills and delivered terror.
    Sitting here with the policeman who can’t quite believe the story I’m telling him for the . . . hundredth time in a shrill tight voice verging on hysteria, I watch the cop’s partner stand twenty feet away , questioning the middle aged, has been, pervert who stole my child. The turban pressed to his lanky body underneath an arm of his sweat stained evening jacket, left over from the seventies, while he sucks down the acrid smoke from his fifth unfiltered cigarette, polluting the air in the now empty auditorium.
    I tell the cop about the tickets that arrived in the mail. A promotional gift from the Police Benevolent Association. A reward. Promised by the telemarketer who pestered me for three days about a donation. The tickets were stamped with a price of $20 each, but my donation had only been for ten bucks. It was all I could afford. Single parents have the most difficult job. One income, one responsible adult, but you never have to share the credit for a terrific kid like Petey. I made the rules, and he followed them. I’m the one who broke them and look where it got us. Petey’s gone and the jerk magician acts like the kid was never there, or he ran away. Not my Petey.
    If these cops will just leave me alone for five minutes with the low life second rate magician, I’ll find my boy. He’s got him and he just needs a little convincing to bring him back, to make him reappear.
    Then I can teach this old man how to make someone disappear.

  9. The magician’s face did not hemorrhage color, as it should have. His cheeks were neither post-panic pale nor were they flush from embarrassment. No. Instead, a stark contrast. The Miraculous Maximillion, as he was dubbed, choked back a smile. I could not believe my eyes. Three times he had pulled his cloak away, three times he added the “pomp and circumstance”, the big, guttural lead up to reintroducing my Jack back on stage.

    “Annnd now we bring Jack back,” he said, dragging the “and” and then horrifically highlighting the fact that “Jack” and “back” rhymed. Like a game show host – a black and white seventies game show host with a long, slender microphone. His microphone was not this, it was clipped to his outspoken lapel.

    I could hardly believe that nearly two minutes had passed and I was staying this calm. I exchanged looks with my husband, who was starting to pat his hair like he does when he’s nervous. I knew that several of the audience members were dissecting us to see if we were part of the charade. If we were only pretending that we “didn’t know where Jack went either!” like a gotcha!

    This is my only son and he is missing and instinctually I am not overreacting, because if I overreact, there will be something that I should need to overreact to. And there isn’t. Besides wanting to scold this man on stage for acting snide that my son has turned to vapor.

    I was fairly certain I saw him wink at the eye candy he called an assistant. And with that, doves were released. Doves. Jack? Still gone. But white birds, which have zero place inside, are now flying overhead. I grabbed the arm of my husband, Kevin, whose awful idea it was to take Jack here in the first place. Kevin knew the scent of bitter on me all too well.

    “You know how much he adores magic, do not blame me for this,” he protested without prompting.

    My blood beginning to pulsate through my veins. Ba bum ba bum ba bum.

    I said nothing. Instead we marched backstage like we knew where we were going. We found the dressing room proudly belonging to the Magnificent Maximillion who was further from magnificent with each passing second.

    “Is this your idea of a sick joke,” barked my adrenaline-wrought husband, grabbing the wrist of the shiny and decadent man who stole my son.

    The magician simply smiled and removed his hand.

    “Relax Kevin,” the badly-sequined man replied.

    My husband looked at me as though I put this stranger up to this. His stare was freezing.

    I shrugged my shoulders and when I opened my mouth to bark at the magician, far too angry to even give thought to his costume anymore and wishing I could just dress him myself, I was cut off.

    “I am a magician. Not an illusionist. My trick was not to make your son disappear, my trick was to work inside a wrinkle in time. You see, my name, is Jack,” he said and extended his hand.

    I began to tremble.

    “I needed to get you both here with ‘me’ to prove this worked. I am fine you see. Better than fine. I just pulled off the impossible. But rest assure I am not only safe, but I became the most successful magician in the world.”

  10. don potter says:

    “Now I will attempt to bring back my young assistant,” the magician said and pointed to the drawn curtain on the phone booth like box sitting in the middle of the stage. This is the most difficult part of the trick. I’ll need complete silence so nothing goes wrong.”
    “Don’t you just love the way these second-rate magic guys try to build drama as if Bobby had actually vanished,” I whispered to my wife.
    “He’s just doing his job,” she said.
    “Come on. I’ve seen this done a dozen times. The box has a false panel and Bobby is behind it ready to take a bow for being a willing participant.”
    “Why are you so cynical? The rest of the audience seems to be enjoying the show.”
    “Are you, Annie? I don’t know why I let you talk me into this.”
    “You’re doing it for the kids.”
    “Yeah, but it’s my birthday.”
    “And they wanted to do something nice for you. They saved their money to buy tickets to this magic show.”
    “A ballgame would have been more to my liking.”
    “Be grateful. This is what they got for you, so enjoy it. The show will be over soon, and then you can take us all out to dinner,” she said with a chuckle.
    “Let’s get our son back, first.”
    “And here’s the young man as good as new,” the magician announced and tugged on the cord to open the curtain of the tiny cubicle.
    The box was empty.
    The performer closed the curtain and tried again.
    Still no Bobby.
    After several unsuccessful attempts to retrieve the boy, the magician turned to the audience and said, “Could the boy’s father please join me on stage.”
    I tripped over the feet of several people in my haste and clamored onto the stage .
    “Where’s my son?”
    “Just a slight mishap,” the man said quietly so no one else could hear him.
    “Please step into the magic box,” he said for the benefit of the audience.
    “Stop with the performance. I want my son, and I want him now,” I demanded as I walked into the box. The curtain closed, and the floor opened below me.
    My brief fall ended when I landed on a stack of foam rubber.
    The lights came on. I was in an empty room. There was a door on one side. I yanked it open only to be greeted by a long hallway, which I traversed in a matter of seconds. My heart pounded louder with each frantic step. Another door faced me. I pulled it open and stepped into a pitch black room where something seemed to be stirring in the darkness. What could it be?
    Overhead lights were switched on. There was Bobby, my wife and the rest of the family. Before I could figure out what was happening they shouted in unison, “Happy Birthday.”
    What a surprise.
    Guess that magician wasn’t so bad after all.

  11. Jen_Fales says:

    Eli noticed the building immediately. Fingers thoughtfully tracing red bricks, he squinted up at me in the blistering sunlight, announcing this was the place. I couldn’t fathom what he meant at the time, but five black letters on a battered marquee over my head spoke unadulterated truth. One simple word, lacking the usual embellishment of promissory candied adjectives was destined to change our lives.

    MAGIC.

    While I am the type of grandmother to spoil an eight year old rotten, my motivation in siding with Eli that day wasn’t unselfish. My feet had been aching for miles. His father and I both admitted we’d gladly trade the price of admission for an air-conditioned seat as we ventured in.

    It was cavernous and dark inside, with no cashiers or ticket takers in sight. There was nothing but scattered rows of rapt children and sweaty adults sitting on high backed benches staring up at a white gloved, tuxedo clad figure on the stage. We plodded to the center of the group, hoping we weren’t going to get into trouble for not having a paystub or ticket or whatever all the other adults were clutching in their hands.

    “Ladies and gentleman,” a gravelly voice announced as lights that looked like fireflies rose and flickered above the stage. “Tots and teens and those in between, I bid you welcome to our show!”

    Eli gasped, leaning forward towards the small man in antiquated coat tails. I shot Michael a smile over my grandson’s head. Round with a vicious stutter, our little Eli was self-conscious to the point of pain. It was nice, seeing him absorbed in something other than his own shortcomings for once.

    “As any good magician knows,” the short statured creature announced, tapping a white-gloved hand to the side of his nose while pointing another with precision into the audience. “We must start with a volunteer. Today, I need a boy by the name of … Eli!”

    My grandson jumped up to the tune of a room filled with clapping. My son and I laughed as he darted down the damp carpeted aisle in his khaki shorts, tripping up a flight of steps to the little man’s side.

    He was so excited.

    The small creature hobbled around our precious Eli in a half-circle, pulling out a wand as he chanted to the audience, “Here stands a boy afraid to be seen. And there sits his family, absent receipt. What’s to be done?”

    “Pay the toll! Pay the toll!” the audience chanted, pumping their fists.
    Michael and I rushed to our feet. A horrible weight settled in my stomach as we ran for Eli’s frozen figure. The chants became a roar and the hooved magician pointed his wand. The small lights swooped down, circling Eli’s body, brushing his face and his hair with their horrible wings.

    The next moment, they disappeared – the magician, his shimmering fiends and my Eli all vanished, leaving one thing behind:

    Our ticket.

  12. smallster21 says:

    PRESTO PEDRO AND THE FIGGY FUDGEY SHAPESHIFTER SPELL

    “Who dares enter the Other Realm!” Presto Pedro bellowed, throwing his arms out as a curtain fell to the floor around a large vault. Purple smoke issued from beneath it, clouding the room in a thick haze that sparkled and smelled of a stuffy sweetness.

    Jimmy sat in the front row too frightened to raise his hand.

    “Go on sissy,” the boy next to him whispered.

    Jimmy shook his head. “I heard he flunked out of magic school.”

    “Pansy.”

    “No I’m not!” Jimmy stood on his chair and stared down at the bully.

    “We have a volunteer!” Presto Pedro clicked his fingers and his assistant—Jeanie Jenny, a sparkling showgirl—grabbed Jimmy’s hand and pulled him on stage.

    “Climb in my boy, and you’ll be transported to the wonders beyond!” Presto Pedro tapped the door of the vault, which creaked opened.

    Jimmy knew he would be laughed at if he went back to his seat, so, he stepped inside, and the door slammed shut behind him.

    Presto Pedro closed his eyes and chanted, “Ommmmm, bibbio flaggio seekie sookie soo! Send this boy to the black lagoon!”

    The vault started to whirl around in circles like the Tasmanian Devil. Presto Pedro jumped back and started waving his wand around frantically with one hand, pulling his hair out with the other. Finally, the vault stopped, and the door popped open.

    Black clouds of smoke bellowed out of the vault. A small light the size of a marble appeared. It grew brighter and moved forward. There was a finger attached to the light. The shuffling of feet could be heard. Then screaming.

    “My God! What have you done! What is that!” Marge—Jimmy’s mother—screamed.

    Presto Pedro forced a smile and pointed to the midget-sized alien shuffling around on stage. Laughing nervously, he said, “Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?”

    “E.T. phone home. E.T. phone home,” Jimmy’s rough voice repeated as his squished, wrinkled legs hobbled about the stage.

    Jeannie Jenny leaned toward Pedro and whispered, “What the hell did you do?”

    “Uh, I think the Figgy Fudgey Shapeshifter Spell.”

    “The figgy fudgey who?” Marge was now onstage along with Carl—Jimmy’s father.

    “It turns you into the lead character of your favorite movie,” Presto Pedro said.

    “He does like E.T.,” Carl laughed.

    “It’s not funny Carl,” Marge spat. Her frown turned into a sarcastic smile. “Presto Pedro. Use the spell on my husband.”

    “What? I don’t know…”

    “You are apt enough to perform the same spell twice, aren’t you?”

    Presto Pedro nodded. He was sure he could. He wasn’t sure if he could reverse it.

    “No,” Carl held his hands up, panic in his face. “Please, don’t.”

    “Who would like to see the Figgy Fudgey whatever Spell performed outside the Doorway to Nowhere?” Marge announced to the audience. They clapped and whistled.

    Presto Pedro waved his wand, and a cloud of smoke surrounded Carl, muffling his screams. When the smoke cleared the crowd gasped, then started laughing.

    Carl was wearing black hose on his long, thin legs, a garter belt, a lacy thong, and flower pasteys on his melon sized breasts.

    Marge folded her arms and smirked.

    “You knew that was going to happen!” Carl yelled in a high-pitched girlie voice, stomping his pink stiletto on the ground.

    Marge snapped a picture, then laughed as she said, “Okay, change them back Pedro…Pedro?”

    Presto Pedro had disappeared.

    “Well, are you ready to go home?” Carl muttered. His head was down checking out his chest.

    “Seriously,” Marge scoffed as she ripped the pasteys off and threw them in Carl’s face. She picked up E.T. and stalked off behind stage.

  13. JustAPerson says:

    One day my family and I decided to go see a magic show. It was a cold rainy day outside, luckily the show was indoors.
    We watched the magician perform incredible stunts from escaping a cage to turning a deck of cards into a flock of doves.
    Then he did something that I will never forget, even though I’m almost sure it was only a dream
    Almost sure.
    After he finished his little escape stunt, he called out, “For my next trick I’ll need a volunteer!”
    I looked down at my son, knowing him I knew he would immediately thrust his arm into the air and sure enough, he was the first one to raise his hand.
    The magician pointed at my son, “How bout you young man? Step right up!”
    My son looked at me for permission and I smiled and nodded to let him know it was all right. He ran straight onto the stage. The magician pulled up a red box, large enough to fit me. He opened it up and said,
    “Go on ahead inside boy!”
    My son walked into the box. The magician snapped his fingers and the lid shut tight. He opened it once more and my son had disappeared. The audience cheered and whooped, I called out jokingly, “So when are you gonna give my son back?”
    The magician stared straight at me for a second, “Never.”
    He turned around and put on his show face as if nothing happened. I tried yelling at him over and over, but he pretended I didn’t exist.
    “How bout you ma’am, would you like to try out this box right here” he pointed at my wife. She smiled and walked right up to the box and he snapped again. She wasn’t there when it opened again. I tried getting up, but out of nowhere, chains wrapped around my legs, trapping me to my seat. All I could do was enjoy the show.
    “How bout you young lady? And you sir? How bout the woman in the blue dress?” the magician went on and on until him and I were the only one left in the room.
    I stared at him.
    “Where’s my son and wife? Where’s my family?” I ask.
    “What family? They don’t exist,” he replies.
    “What?’
    He smiles and puts on his show face again, “How about you sir, you have been waiting patiently enough to try the box! Step right up!”
    If I had a choice, I wouldn’t have walked right into that deathtrap, but seeing as I was trapped to a chair I shouldn’t worry. But the chair started to hover and gradually moved towards the box. I felt my body go numb with fear; I couldn’t fight against the chains or even scream for help. All I could do was enjoy the show.
    He smiled at me, “See you on the other side.”
    The chair drops with me into the box.
    I sit up and gasp. I look around to see where I am. I see an IV drip linked to my arm. There’s a woman who’s staring at me beside my bed. She gives me a tight hug.
    “Sweetheart you’re awake,” she’s sobbing
    “Mom?” I hug her back, “Where am I? What happened?’
    She grabs my shoulders and looks me straight in the eye, “You were hit by a car and fell on your head.”
    Two nurses come in and ask my mom to leave the room for a second. They check my body to see if I’m doing all right, once they make sure I have a stable health condition they tell me the doctor will come in shortly.
    Once the doctor walks through the door, I start thinking of escape routes. The magician is the doctor.
    He comes up to me, “You were pretty lucky to survive that crash, you were in a coma for a few days; the other doctors and I had to get you stitched up too. It’s a miracle you’re awake right now.”
    I nod, “Y-Yeah, a miracle.”
    The doctor looks at me oddly. “Say what’s behind your ear?” he grabbed a quarter from behind my ears. I gaze at the quarter and then him.
    “Did you save me?”
    “Something did.”
    “What? A miracle?”
    “Well a miracle’s gotta have a little,” he pauses to think.
    “Magic.”
    And so he left without saying another word.

    • smallster21 says:

      “He smiles and puts on his show face” and everything after “The chair drops…” was in present tense. The rest was past.

      Intriguing story. I was enthralled all the way to the end. Vivid descriptions, flowed nicely, I enjoyed reading it. I couldn’t wait to see if this was a dream or–if it wasn’t–discover what happened to his family. I like the creepiness of having the magician and the doctor in the same role, though, I was a bit disappointed, I never found out what happened to his family. I think a normal reaction would be for him to demand to know where they are, especially if they were in the car crash too, unless he really doesn’t have a family. Good story :)

    • I agree with smallster. Great story but left me a little cheated.
      Editing note, if you chose to consider it, the first three and maybe four sentences could be combined into one paragraph.

    • DMelde says:

      good story. I like the idea of everyone disappearing. doctor, magician, miracle worker…I guess sometimes they are one and the same.

      • swatchcat says:

        All in all it was a good story. Sentence structure needs a little help and comma or lack of comma placement. The only question I have is the repetition of say that he had to just sit and “enjoy the show”, dude, I would not “enjoy” that particular show. Nice twist though of a coma patient.

    • Scarly says:

      This was a very interesting story. It kept my attention throughout it’s entirety. The ending is thought provoking and leaves the reader wondering if this doctor was really the magician himself and if it was all really just a dream. Is his family real? And were they disposed of, while the narrator was the only on saved? I liked it!

  14. The magician’s face did not hemorrhage color, as it should have. His cheeks were neither post-panic pale nor were they flush from embarrassment. No. Instead, a stark contrast. The Miraculous Maximillion, as he was dubbed, choked back a smile.Three times he had pulled his cloak away, three times he added the “pomp and circumstance”, the big, guttural lead up to reintroducing my Jack back on stage.
    “Annnd now we bring Jack back,” he said, dragging the “and” and then horrifically highlighting the fact that “Jack” and “back” rhymed. Like a 70s game show host donning slender microphone. His microphone was not this, it was clipped to his outspoken lapel.
    I exchanged looks with my husband. I knew that several of the audience members were dissecting us to see if we were part of the charade. If we were only pretending that we “didn’t know where Jack went either!” like a gotcha!
    My baby is missing and on instinct I am not overreacting, because if I overreact, there will be something that I should overreact to. And there isn’t. Besides wanting to scold this man on stage for acting snide that my son turned to vapor.
    I was fairly certain I saw him wink at his assistant. And with that, doves were released. Finale.

    Jack? Still gone. But white birds, which have zero place inside, are now flying overhead. I grabbed the arm of my husband, Kevin, whose awful idea it was to take Jack here in the first place. Kevin knew the scent of bitter all too well.
    “You know how much he adores magic, do not blame me for this,” he lobbied.
    My blood began to pulsate through my veins. Ba bum ba bum ba bum.
    I said nothing. Instead we marched backstage like we knew where we were going. We found the dressing room proudly boasting Magnificent Maximillion who was further from magnificent with each passing second.
    “Is this your idea of a sick joke,” barked my adrenaline-wrought husband, grabbing the wrist of the shiny and decadent man who stole my son.
    The magician simply smiled and removed Kevin’s hand.
    “Relax Kevin,” the badly-sequined man replied.
    My husband looked at me as though I put this stranger up to this. His stare freezing cold.
    I opened my mouth to bark at the magician, far too angry to even give thought to his costume anymore, wishing I could just dress him myself. I was cut off.
    “I am a magician. Not an illusionist. My trick was not to make your son disappear, my trick was to work inside a wrinkle in time. You see, my name, is Jack,” he said and extended his hand.
    I began to tremble.
    “I needed to get you both here with ‘me’ to prove this worked. I am fine you see. Better than fine. I just pulled off the impossible. But rest assured I am not only safe, but I became the most successful magician in the world.”

  15. thatkidwhowrites says:

    I stood in the back with the other mothers – all of us armed crossed and smiling as we watched my son and his friends sit criss-cross in awe as the magician on stage fiddled with an elephant balloon. On stage sat a small black table and a classic deep purple hat covered in white stars where the magician was most likely hiding a rabbit. I turned to my husband and kissed him lightly on the cheek.

    “Honey, they love it. Where did you find this guy? He looks familiar.”
    “I’m glad. Jeff told me this guy did his sons birthday as well.”
    “Well, we owe Jeff one.”

    We both chuckled and turned back to the magician who was now calling one of the kids up to stage as a volunteer.

    “Now, my magical senses are telling me we have a birthday boy in the room. Is that true?” I could feel the crowd of kids grow with excitement.

    A chorus of natural falsettos let out a long, “YES!” in perfect harmony.”

    The magician put his right hand flat over his eyes as if he were a sailor looking out onto the sea. His eyes locked on my son and he hopped excitedly off the stage to my son and stretched out his arm as if to say, “come with me.”

    My son looked back at his friends laughing, and jumped up on stage.

    “Now everybody, we are going to make your birthday boy… disappear!” The word ‘disappear’ was followed by a harmony of “aah’s,” from the kids. “Don’t worry kids, he will reappear after words but I need your help. I need all of you to be as silent as possible and simply give me a beat – a boom boom clap. Can you all do that? Let me see?”

    All the kids performed the beat eagerly as the magician nodded with gratification.

    “Ready? Ok.” He turned to my son and whispered something in his ear. He took two large steps back and whipped out his cape in front of my son. He then cupped his ear with his left hand as if to say, “Get louder!” He whipped eggs in the air with his wand and then with one swift movement he pulled the cape back and my son was gone. The kids all screamed in excitement, I’ll admit, I even looked to the other mothers for confirmation of what I had just seen. We all clapped ferociously.

    “Thank you, thank you. Now the birthday boy will come back. Give me the beat kids, boom boom clap.” They did as he said, and he threw out his cape once again. He stepped back and whipped the rest of the eggs in the air with his wand and pulled his hand back. Nothing was there.

    He let out a nervous giggle and repeated the action – this time with more power.

    I walked up around the back and whispered in the magician’s ear.
    “Sorry mister, but we have the cake coming in 5 minutes so if you could get him back that’d be great.

    He tried once more to bring my boy back but nothing happened.

    “Seriously, bring him back. This isn’t cute anymore.”
    “I don’t know what’s happening woman. This trick has never even worked before. I don’t even know where he went…”
    “What! What kind of magician are you?”
    “Well, I’m not, this is a part time job, I’m actually on a lunch break from my job at the gas station. That’s probably why I look familiar. I give you gas.”
    “ What the f**k, well get my son back!” I smelled something on his breath. It was strong yet subtle – a silent killer to my sensitive nostrils. I stepped back for a second and threw my hands on my hips.
    “Are you f*****g drunk? Are you drunk? Oh my god! Ronald! Our magician is drunk! What the f**k! Oh my god.”
    “I’m sorry,” he looked down at his watch like he had somewhere better to be.
    “I have to get back to work. I’m sorry. Good luck with your son…” I broke down to the floor and looked at the audience now treating me as the show. Moms had their hands on their kids ears, while some were crying.
    “Holy f**k,” I screamed out. The magician ripped off his magician costume and revealed his “Tom’s Gas Station” uniform and shuffled out the backdoor.
    “If you could just write me a check… Maybe next time you stop by for gas and give it to me then, that’d be great… Thanks… Sorry about your boy, there are tons though, I’m sure you could get a new one. All right, well… Oh and write the check out to Jim… That’s me… Jim. Ok, well have a good summer. Yeah… peace.”

  16. Clairon_bk says:

    I just joined this site because of the prompts, but for this one in particular! However, I easily doubled the 500 word count. I have no idea how to narrow down (as in, what to cut/edit). New to writing fiction. Would anyone care if I posted anyway? I would love some feedback.

  17. thatkidwhowrites says:

    I stood in the back with the other mothers – all of us armed crossed and smiling as we watched my son and his friends sit criss-cross in awe as the magician on stage fiddled with an elephant balloon. On stage sat a small black table and a classic deep purple hat covered in white stars where the magician was most likely hiding a rabbit. I turned to my husband and kissed him lightly on the cheek.

    “Honey, they love it. Where did you find this guy? He looks familiar.”
    “I’m glad. Jeff told me this guy did his sons birthday as well.”
    “Well, we owe Jeff one.”

    We both chuckled and turned back to the magician who was now calling one of the kids up to stage as a volunteer.

    “Now, my magical senses are telling me we have a birthday boy in the room. Is that true?” I could feel the crowd of kids grow with excitement.

    A chorus of natural falsettos let out a long, “YES!” in perfect harmony.”

    The magician put his right hand flat over his eyes as if he were a sailor looking out onto the sea. His eyes locked on my son and he hopped excitedly off the stage to my son and stretched out his arm as if to say, “come with me.”

    My son looked back at his friends laughing, and jumped up on stage.

    “Now everybody, we are going to make your birthday boy… disappear!” The word ‘disappear’ was followed by a harmony of “aah’s,” from the kids. “Don’t worry kids, he will reappear afterward but I need your help. I need all of you to be as silent as possible and simply give me a beat – a boom boom clap. Can you all do that? Let me see?”

    All the kids performed the beat eagerly as the magician nodded with gratification.

    “Ready? Ok.” He turned to my son and whispered something in his ear. He took two large steps back and whipped out his cape in front of my son. He then cupped his ear with his left hand as if to say, “Get louder!” He whipped eggs in the air with his wand and then with one swift movement he pulled the cape back and my son was gone. The kids all screamed in excitement, I’ll admit, I even looked to the other mothers for confirmation of what I had just seen. We all clapped ferociously.

    “Thank you, thank you. Now the birthday boy will come back. Give me the beat kids, boom boom clap.” They did as he said, and he threw out his cape once again. He stepped back and whipped the rest of the eggs in the air with his wand and pulled his hand back. Nothing was there.

    He let out a nervous giggle and repeated the action – this time with more power.

    I walked up around the back and whispered in the magician’s ear.
    “Sorry mister, but we have the cake coming in 5 minutes so if you could get him back that’d be great.

    He tried once more to bring my boy back but nothing happened.

    “Seriously, bring him back. This isn’t cute anymore.”
    “I don’t know what’s happening woman. This trick has never even worked before. I don’t even know where he went…”
    “What! What kind of magician are you?”
    “Well, I’m not, this is a part time job, I’m actually on a lunch break from my job at the gas station. That’s probably why I look familiar. I give you gas.”
    “ What the f**k, well get my son back!” I smelled something on his breath. It was strong yet subtle – a silent killer to my sensitive nostrils. I stepped back for a second and threw my hands on my hips.
    “Are you f*****g drunk? Are you drunk? Oh my god! Ronald! Our magician is drunk! What the f**k! Oh my god.”
    “I’m sorry,” he looked down at his watch like he had somewhere better to be.
    “I have to get back to work. I’m sorry. Good luck with your son…” I broke down to the floor and looked at the audience now treating me as the show. Moms had their hands on their kids ears, while some were crying.
    “Holy f**k,” I screamed out. The magician ripped off his magician costume and revealed his “Tom’s Gas Station” uniform and shuffled out the backdoor.
    “If you could just write me a check… Maybe next time you stop by for gas and give it to me then, that’d be great… Thanks… Sorry about your boy, there are tons though, I’m sure you could get a new one. All right, well… Oh and write the check out to Jim… That’s me… Jim. Ok, well have a good summer. Yeah… peace.”

  18. clembo says:

    It’s like a fever dream, tangible and realistic yet completely impossible all the same. At first, he’s there – in front of you, in front of everybody, the entire audience, rows and rows of anticipatory smiles – and then, he’s not.

    At first, there was nervous laughter. I mean, you expect it to happen, right? When a magician informs you he’ll make somebody disappear, when he chooses your 8-year-old son after said son begs and pleads and tugs your sleeve to make you let him go, when your kid stands there all gawky stance and ruffled hair and stares up at the magician like he’s Jesus, you think to yourself, yeah, there’ll probably be a moment when he’s gone.

    And then he’s gone, and your heart flutters, because when your kid disappears behind your back, it’s awful, but when he does so before your very eyes, it’s inconceivable.

    So you laugh nervously and you look around, exuding, “I’m a great mom. I know exactly where my kid is. He’s in that hatch. Or behind that curtain. Or maybe even, inexplicably, at the back of the theater, where a series of levers and pulleys has trucked him up, through the ceiling, and down behind the last row of seats.

    Of course he’s here. It’s a magic act, not a kidnapping.

    And then there’s that moment of pomp, when the magician acts as if he hasn’t a clue where his subject has gone to, checking the hatch, checking behind the curtain, even looking comically up his sleeve. Har, har.

    In a flash of brilliance, suddenly, he appears to remember where he’s placed your only child, and he flourishes his wand, points to the back of the theater (you knew it!), drum roll please, then PUFFOFSMOKEBAM… all heads turn, but your kid’s not there.

    And when you turn your head back to the stage, the magician this time isn’t acting, because he has no idea where Nathan has gone.

    Your heart screams, and you wonder why you ever let him talk you into paying $16 apiece to watch a magic act performed by a guy named Mitch.

    And then you hear him, Nathan, screaming, muffled, from above you, from above the acoustical tiles, faintly but strong: “MOM!”

  19. frankd1100 says:

    Linda was an investment banker and thought it entirely reasonable to rent a theater and magician for Blaise’s eighth birthday. As a high school teacher and wrestling coach, I thought it extravagant.

    “Why did you let him up on the stage,” she barked? I was about to drop through the ‘trap’ door in the middle of the stage to the room below, the one the magician had used to disappear Blaise. I hesitated with my legs dangling through the opening, trying to remain calm.

    “You’re right, Linda,” I said. “I shouldn’t have. You wait for the police while I search below for Blaise.”

    Ordinarily the over protective parent, something had compelled me, and I had encouraged Blaise when the ‘magician’ asked him to,“Participate in my next grand allusion.” Then, both had disappeared.

    I dropped to the floor below. The ‘magician,’ stood in the middle of the room and took off running when he saw me coming. He had a head start but I was in better shape and caught him on a stairway that ended at an exit door. I put him in a choke hold and he stopped struggling.

    “You have three-seconds to tell me where my son is,” I said, my forearm pressing against his carotid artery until he began to lose consciousness.

    “He’s right through that door,” the ‘magician’ sputtered, pointing toward the exit sign.

    He relaxed and offered no resistance as I dragged him through the door to a parking lot where three squad cars sat, blue lights flashing, as if awaiting our arrival.

    Linda, who was crouched low with an arm around Blaise, stood and shouted, “That’s him!”

    Weird, I thought. She seemed to be pointing at me. Confused, I let the ‘magician’ go as two cops grabbed me and cuffed my hands tightly behind my back.

    The ‘magician’ ran directly to Linda who gave him a desperate hug saying, “Are you all right, sweetheart?” “I’m fine, Linda,” he said.

    He knelt and took Blaise by the shoulders. “We’re together and there’s nothing to worry about, okay Blaise?” Blaise answered, “Okay Dad,” and threw his arms around the strangers neck.

    “Wait, what is going on here?” I shouted, loud enough that they all turned and looked at me, standing handcuffed between two police officers. I was stunned to see my wife and son falling all over this guy. Blaise was frightened and moved behind his mother. Linda looked at me with disdain, shaking her head.

    The cop standing next to me said, “Watch your head,” and stuffed me into the back seat of the cruiser. “Now don’t you get all abracadabra on me,” she said, chuckling to herself.

    Speechless, I thought this had to be a bad dream. I looked back in time to see the ‘magician’ turn his head so only I could see his face. The hair on the back of my neck stiffened as his lips curled into an evil grin and he winked as we pulled away.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Holy Crap, this is good. So damn good, I wanted to jump into the story and help this poor guy. What a desperate situation. I’m steaming mad from just reading your story, I want to walk around the block and punch the first guy I see. You’re really outdone yourself. It’s gonna take a hour or so for me to settle down. Wow!

    • This is outstanding, frank. You got a winner with this ditty.

    • DMelde says:

      bad magician. good story. very well done.

    • smallster21 says:

      Eeeeek!!! Freaky deaky! Well played. Only comment, what was the magician getting arrested for? Was he actually trying to kidnap Blaise? That is what I assumed, but wasn’t sure, because when the MC went below and saw the magician standing there, the story made it sound like he was alone with no hostage. Unless there’s more to the story. Good story :) You kept my attention!

      • swatchcat says:

        no, no, no. between the stage and the drop below the his identity was stolen and the magician had somehow switched places with dad. The kid brainwashed runs ahead, finding mom and police waiting. everyone see magician as husband and actual husband has his life stolen – magician winks to husband going to jail. Think John Travolta/Nicholas Cage in FaceOff
        Totally cool thriller

        • smallster21 says:

          I got the switcheroo part. Just don’t know why the magician’s getting arrested. I see it’s the father trapped in the magician’s body getting arrested, but why are the cops wanting to arrest the magician to begin with? This is a great scene. There’s probably more to the story that can’t be told in such a limited time.

  20. blanderson says:

    “Do I have to go back?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Why?”

    “Because they’ll miss you terribly.”

    “No they won’t.”

    “Yes, they will, and it will kill them.”

    “Well, you didn’t go back.”

    “I know.”

    “Why not?”

    “I didn’t know.”

    “Know what?”

    “That it would kill them.”

    Eli surveyed his surroundings then asked, “Where are we, anyway?”

    George replied, “I don’t really know. It seemed wonderful at first, though.”

    “Well, I love the ocean.”

    George considered this comment. The ocean? The ocean was hundreds of miles away. He loved the rolling hills, and the creeks that wound between them.

    The boys sat together silently.

    “You should go,” George pushed.

    “Not yet.”

    “You really don’t have long.”

    Eli didn’t respond. He looked serene with his curly brown locks blowing across his face. That was an expression he’d seen before. The happiness won’t last, George knew. They would miss him, and soon he would feel so guilty. His heart would break along with theirs.

    George was always able to convince them to go back. The exigent nature of youth always gave way to the longing for home. In this place moments seemed like hours, and they always wanted to go back. But Eli was different. George was going to have to strengthen his appeal.

    “Do you know what will happen to your mother?”

    Before allowing Eli to respond, he continued, “She’ll be desperate at first, panicking to the point of making herself sick. She’ll look for you. She won’t sleep. This will go on and on. She’ll leave your father. Neglect your brother. It will be terrible. But do you know what’s the worst?”

    “What?”

    “She’ll look for you and look for you, but will lose hope. Then she won’t look for you. She’ll stop at the point of exhaustion. Then she’ll die.”

    “But it’s still my choice, right?”

    “Yeah, it is. That’s what they don’t know. The parents don’t know. The magicians don’t know. It’s your choice, but they always—and I mean always—goes back.”

    “But you didn’t.”

    “I know.”

    Eli considered this some more.

    “But I do love the ocean.”

    “Can’t you see?”

    “See what?”

    “There is no ocean here.”

    Eli laughed. Of course there was. It was right there. They were wherever they wanted to be; where they yearned to be most. But, like all things, that yearning would fade and the sadness would set in. Where they thought they wanted to be was never where they belonged. And where they belonged brought happiness…if they’d allow it.

    “OK,” Eli said.

    “OK, what?”

    “I’ll go. Good luck to you, George.”

    George smiled. He was sad, and each time one of them considered staying, a part of him hoped they would. Being alone was the hardest part. But, in the end, he knew it was best for them to go. Sending them home was the only thing that made him happy anymore.

  21. swatchcat says:

    Once again my daughter seems to like this one over the others I tried. I hope she was right.

    No Negotiating.

    The door to the cabinet closed before his eyes. The last thing he remembered seeing was his mother and father at the table smiling and waving, the magician’s magical incantation and, BAM!

    The magician opened the door to the disappearing cabinet to show his success. The audience, parents included applauded and in expectation of such typical displays of magic, waited for the return of the test subject. The door closed, the sexy assistant did a little of this and a little of that and hocus pocus, nothing.

    On queue, the child did not appear. The mother caught a glint in the magician’s eyes as he looked at his assistant in question. As most mothers do, she felt a second of lose of control but shook it off. ‘They do this with tricks like this all the time,’ she thought.

    “Ha-ha, it seems our little gentlemen friend doesn’t want to come back,” he looked at his assistant and tried again. “Third times always a charm,” it wasn’t.

    She stood up, held her chilled fingers to her throat trying to hold back the lump of anxiety rising. She looked at her husband, “Bill?”

    All eyes were on the husband and wife now missing their child. The crowd started to mumble and chatter. “Ladies and gentlemen, I am so sorry but we seem to be having technical difficulties. If you head calmly toward the exits, our staff will take good care of you. Thank you and good night.” The magician returned his attention to the disappearing cabinet. He opened the door and felt around, he seemed as confused as the assistant.

    “He’s not there. I checked, checked twice.” She was getting worried.

    “Well check again.” The magician went to speak to someone off stage.

    As the mother rushed for the stage husband in tow, a hand came down on her shoulder. The husband also stopped by a forceful man, argued and then followed.

    “Mr. President, come with us Sir, now.” The Secret Service officer led them away.

    “But, my son, I not leaving my son. No!” The president’s wife protested. They rushed the couple through an emergency escape route and into the waiting cars.

    “Mr. President, your son has been taken and the demands made,” the guard explained.

    A cell phone rang, the guard listened and handed the president the phone. “Dad?” The president paused and listened as another voice spoke. He replied, “We do not make deals with terrorists.” He looked sadly at his wife, “I’m sorry.”

    Her mouth dropped open in disbelief. “No!”

    • Ha! Awesome take! I wonder if that would work…? I could use some cash….

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Good build of tension and also the wife’s feelings of lack of hope. I suspect an inner plot by the secret service assigned to protect the president and his family. Perhaps the president was able to convey this idea to his wife, allowing him time to assess the dedication of the secret service protecting him that evening.

        Sometimes it only takes a quick glance from a husband to his wife to convey messages back and forth to each other. I’ll bet all hell’s going to break loose when the president sheds the inept secret service agents protecting him that evening. Great story.

    • DMelde says:

      I liked it swatchcat. your daughter is a good story picker.

      • calicocat88 says:

        I like this :) The way everything starts out sort of ordinary and then the sudden “Mr. President”–it turns things from “oh, no” to “oh…crap.” Lol, good tension building.

    • smallster21 says:

      Lol, can I lol? Perfect response at the end. Clever :)

    • don potter says:

      The opening of the story was like a stroll in the park, and the you grabbed me. Great job.

    • frankd1100 says:

      I would love to see this continued. Definitely grabs one’s attention and promises more.

      I admit I have a weakness for the genre… when it’s done well, as this is.

    • Scarly says:

      Haha! Very well written:) I enjoyed that you incorporated a very influential leader… the president. Poor First Lady…

  22. james.ticknor says:

    “My son is being held hostage, of that I am certain. I am also certain that unless I find him, they will kill him.” I said. Lisa Gerrard glared at me from across the dayroom, her legs crossed, her nose upturned. The velvet chair she sat on might as well been a throne. “Mr. Burkin, why would I believe such a ludicrous story?” I leaned forward to her. “Because it’s your father who is keeping him, Lisa.” Her eyebrows soared, giving me some small satisfaction.

    “My butler will see you out, Mr. Burkin. We are done here.” She rose from her chair and started for the exit. “You know it’s true.” I called. She continued to walk, my anger growing with her every step. “You father lied to you! He knew about the project before we even started.” She whirled around, her face red. “How dare you! My father was not responsible for my mother’s death.”
    “No, he killed her. She knew his secrets, Lisa, and the CIA does not leave loose ends.” Lisa’s face softened. “She didn’t know anything.” She said softly. I roused myself and stepped to her. “You know as well as I do that she did. Hadn’t you noticed her changed towards…towards the end?” Lisa avoided his eyes. “He has my son to get to me, Lisa.”

    She glowered at him. “Even if daddy wanted your son, I think he’d find better ways to kidnap him, Congressman.” I declined my head for her to go on. “What, you think he’d just waltz up in public and kidnap my son? His lackeys wouldn’t get far, not with my selection of bodyguards.” She hesitated. “What could it hurt, Lisa?” She bit her lip. “Oh, fine. But if he finds out I went into his study and opened his computer-”
    “Thank you, Lisa.” Her father’s privacy mattered nothing to me. The only thing that held importance to me was finding my son. As we walked to his study from across his mansion, I continued to berate myself for letting a damn child’s magician kidnap my son. She and I walked into her father’s small study. His laptop rested neatly on his desk, perfectly center. Lisa walked to the computer and sat down in his chair. She took a deep breath and opened the computer.

    The screen was dark for a moment before it sprung to life. A gun fired from the computer’s camera lens, killing Lisa. A fine spray of blood misted from the back of her head as she fell forward. On the computer screen, her father. “Lisa! No!” I smiled and twisted the computer to me. “Hello.” “You bastard!” He shouted. “I already have my son from your warehouse, Mr. Gerrard and I advise you leave my family alone. They aren’t part of our cat-and-mouse game. Next time, I’ll make you commit suicide, seeing as I already made you kill your family.” I shut the computer before he uttered a word.

  23. calicocat88 says:

    He wasn’t supposed to be able to have children. His first wife had insisted that the doctor had explained the results flawlessly. Neither one of them were what anyone would call fertile. Eight years ago Taylor James found out the hard way that women could never be trusted. That was why he felt himself slip into a panic attack as he watched his daughter being led by the blond female magician into a black sheet and vanish into a puff of elaborately glittered smoke. His ex was finally getting her revenge.

    “I’ll kill her,” he stood up in the middle of the oblivious and applauding audience, ready to mow down whoever was suicidal enough to get in his way. Clair struggled out her seat, pressing her hands and pregnant belly against his chest.

    “Not like this,” she said. Two of their other children hung at the hem of her shirt, their eyes wide sensing that daddy was about to lose his mind.

    “Move,” he said.

    “Tay,” Clair stammered, but kept her gaze steady. “Think. We’re being watched. Do this the right way. We both know she won’t kill Zoe, not when she can use her to get to you.”

    “I’ll kill her,” he said again. Clair sighed shakily and sat back down, smiling at a few nearby gawking audience members. Taylor brushed his hand over his son’s head and then was loping up the aisle to the back of the stage.

    Taylor let the black door slam shut behind him. He didn’t care if Whitney knew he was there. It’s what she wanted. To make him feel fear, pain, loss…

    On the other side of the curtain was a roar of applauding and muffled carnival music. Exactly the kind of people his ex fit in with. She belonged in a freaking circus, or maybe in a cage with an ill-tempered tiger—

    He shook himself as a girlish laugh at the other side of the wall caught his attention. The back stage area was sectioned off in five different make-shift hallways. All were dark and led to God-knows where. He’d tear every one of them down to find Zoe.

    Taylor was bounding down the hallway closest to the left where the voices were the most audible. It seemed to be getting louder as he whipped through brightly colored scarves and flamboyant props. He almost passed up the door and would have kept going if Zoe wouldn’t have spotted him tearing through the hall.

    “Daddy!” her little voice rang out and Taylor hadn’t realized the fear that had bubbled in his chest until he saw his little girl in the arms of the person he hated most in the world. Whitney had somehow left the stage in the time between the last act and the ten minutes it took him to find her. She was stroking her fingernails through Zoe’s mass of ruby tangles.

    “Daddy?” Whitney mused, her narrow eyes playful as she watched Taylor with a sick amusement. “I remember when you used to like it when I called you that.”

    “Give me my daughter,” he said. “She’s not a part of this.”

    “Oh, she was made a part of it when you decided to reproduce with a whore,” she said. “By the way, how did your lovely parents take the news that their perfect Godly son had an affair?”

    “It’s been eight years,” he said. “Our marriage was a mistake. You told me this yourself. Now, give me Zoe and let it go. You don’t have to even acknowledge our existence.”

    “Did you see me disappear?” Zoe smiled up at her father, her dark eyes round with trust and innocence.

    Whitney bent over the child and kissed her rosy cheek. “How would you like it if I made you disappear again?” Zoe’s face lit up. “How about it, Daddy,” she spit the word. “You want to see your baby disappear?”

    Taylor thought frantically for some way to get Zoe away. He could just lunge and snatch her back, but he couldn’t trust that Whitney didn’t have a gun tucked away behind Zoe’s back. She wouldn’t hesitate to kill a child, regardless of Clair’s hopes. He took a step forward and Whitney’s eyes flashed.

    “How’s your new wife going to feel when she sees you walking back without your daughter?” Whitney said. “After all, she should know what it feels like to have the person you trust the most eat your heart while it’s still beating inside your chest.”

    “You never loved me,” he said. “You were with another man ever damn night! We discussed it, for Christ’s sake. What the hell did you want me to do? Go about my life with a woman who hated me?”

    “You hated me!” she screamed.

    Zoe became very still. Taylor knew his daughter’s self-defense mechanism. It was close to his own. Don’t move and things will go away. But this wasn’t going away.

    “I want to go back to Mama,” she said, and began to wriggle in Whitney’s arms that tightened with every move.

    That was it.

    Taylor lunged forward, grabbing Whitney by the hair and body slamming her into the wall. She cried out and clawed at his face raking skin from his cheek. He caught her by the wrists and swung her around so he was behind her and pinned her against the wall.

    “Go to your mama,” he said to Zoe. “Go left until you see the big black door and you’ll find her out in the crowd.”

    Taylor waited until Zoe was gone before he took Whitney, screaming and cursing to the floor. He straddled her waist and held her arms above her head. A slow line of blood trickled from her mouth and her nose looked broken.

    “A strong man,” she rasped. “Beating a woman—you’re just like your psycho father.”

    “Don’t talk to me about my father,” he said and wrapped his hands around her throat.

    “Do it,” she gasped. “You’re going to Hell like the rest of us.”

    Taylor tightened his grip around her throat. He held it, keeping his eyes closed, until he felt Whitney’s body cease its thrashing underneath him. He looked down at her swollen neck, reddened from his finger prints. Her eyes were bulged and wide open. Taylor knew he would do anything to keep his family safe. Murder was only the beginning.

  24. DMelde says:

    July 17, 1888

    #################

    “EJA ALALE ALALA!” Baltasar shouted. His battle cry carried far over the hot desert sands of Aram. He saw the kidnappers ahead in the distance as they crossed over the top of a sand dune. They were Westerners who wore cowboy hats, and they had the son of his Bedouin Sheikh as their prisoner. They would hold the boy for ransom, but the tribe had little gold to offer for his return.
    It was his fault the boy, Ashur, was taken. He was the boy’s guardian who let a magician steal him from underneath his very nose. When Ashur went on stage to join in the magic act he didn’t object. Only after the boy had magically disappeared, and didn’t return to his seat, did Baltasar become alarmed. Rushing to the back of the show he saw the two men riding off with the boy.
    They were heading for the middle of the desert. There was nothing out there; no water, no shade, only death, and something far worse than death, the cursed city of Aramjung. With his rifle sitting snugly against his back, Baltasar urged his Arabian to run faster.
    He went over the last hill and the cursed city stretched out before him. His pulse quickened. He was a brave man, but even brave men feared this place.
    The kidnappers’ trail led to a large building. Its door stood shattered on twisted iron hinges. Baltasar couldn’t see inside the open doorway, even light shunned this place. Steeling his nerve, he stepped inside, into the gloom. A bloody stench assailed his nostrils. Two men, fang marks marring their bodies, lay dead on the floor. He spied the boy, standing silently in front of an enormous snake. The giant snake could eat a man whole, and legend said that a man could live in agony for days after being eaten, as the juices in the snake’s belly slowly dissolved the body’s flesh.
    Its iridescent green scales made a scraping sound against the stone floor. Its glowing yellow eyes sought to hypnotize Baltasar, so he kept his gaze fixed downward. He lifted the rifle, but before he could shoot, the shine of the barrel caught the reflection of yellow eyes, and Baltasar stared into those eyes and was frozen in place. The snake ignored the boy and came at the man, a bigger meal to be savored. The abomination unhinged its great jaw and slowly wrapped its mouth around Baltasar’s head, intending to swallow him whole. Baltasar felt slimy mucous coat his head and hair. He said a silent prayer to Allah. He didn’t ask for much, just the ability to move one finger. The next moment, his prayer was answered as the rifle fired when his trigger finger moved. The giant snake released Baltasar when the shot hit, and it writhed in pain and fled the room, disappearing down the hallway. Able to move again, Baltasar thanked Allah for his mercy, took the boy from that cursed place, and left for home.

  25. ** a little long again. got carried away **

    DEUS EX MACHINA
    ===============

    “Where’s my son?” Luthur Pinderton slammed his large hand against the cinder-block that framed the window of the interrogation room. Inside, Detective Goran was getting the run-around from his quarry. Merle Cambridge, the Magnificent if you prefer, was proving to be as mysterious as his shtick would have his patrons believe.

    Elaine was Luthur’s wife of twenty long years and mother of the missing young Artie. She vacillated between a hand-wringing pacing and and bawling collapse. Goran’s partner, Eames was trying desperately to get the distraught woman’s statement. The look on the detective’s face was one of practised patience masking futility’s exasperation.

    “Mister Cambridge,” said Goran in the calm manner for which he was known. Major Case was lucky to hold on to him. Both Homeland and the Bureau actively recruited him, but he loved working the city, figuring out its puzzles. “It was the big finale of your show. You put the Pinderton boy in the box. Abracadabra. No boy. Where’d he go?”

    Merle leaned forward, the cuffs dragging across the table with a metallic sound that seemed too loud for the room. Interrogations were about control, and the magician was in the driver’s seat. He knew it well, but he also was acutely aware that he was borrowing time here. In more ways than one. “I told you, Detective Goran. Artie is beyond your reach.”

    “Is he alive?”

    “Very much so.”

    “Listen, Merle. If you don’t start playing ball, this won’t end well for you. You’re not a young man. I’m not sure you’ll make even one night at Riker’s. You want this to be over, don’t you? Look at his mother out there. She’s a mess. You did this to her, Why?”

    “I had nothing to do with the unhappiness of Lady Pinderton. She has her own secrets. Ask her about Morgan, if you really want to know.”

    “What the hell are you talking about, magic-man. There is no Morgan. There’s only Artie. Where is he?”

    “Beyond reach.”

    “You said that. What is that supposed to mean, anyway? ‘Beyond reach.’ We’re going to figure this out. The squints are tearing apart your gear as we speak, starting with your big old magic box. I’ll burn it myself if I have to.”

    “I’d be careful with that if I were you. That is, if you want poor Missus Pinderton to be reunited with her son, that is.” The window shook as Luthur assaulted the window with his fist, yelling obscenities. Merle wasn’t fazed. This wasn’t the first would-be king he tormented. He deserved it. He was a petty loud-mouth and a cruel bully.

    Merle Cambridge’s thoughts drifted to his box and their long journey together. He’d been searching for a very long time, sixteen hundred years in fact, for the right child of Eld. His ancient box of Magicks had many secrets. He was its master and its servant. There was a time when he thought Luthur’s grandfather was the One, but it was not to be. The Black Sorceress won that round. Time swung in favour of the White now. A pendulum through time. The Magicks found this boy and called out to him. Merle was ready. It had been so long…

    Artie fell through the back of the magician’s creepy oaken box to a forest floor cluttered with leaf litter. The air was cool and damp. He saw before him a pair of sandled feet and the ratty remnants of a thick brown woollen robe. The butt of a gnarled walking stick poked him in between the shoulder blades.

    “Arthur.” No one called him that. “Are you okay, my Lord.” The voice sounded the same as the magician’s. How could that be? Artie looked up at the face before him, silhouetted by a bright sun and a clearing day. The boy stool up, leaves and twigs sticking to his clothes and tumbling off in equal measure.

    “Merle the Magnificent?” said Artie incredulously. The man was much younger, but certainly the same person.

    “That would be Maerlyn of Cambria, my Lord. Make haste! We have much to discuss. Much magic to cast. Has the Knowledge awakened in you yet, Sire? Morgana’s armies are only a fortnight away. Camulod need to be readied for her King’s triumphant return. A Phoenix from ash! But war is afoot! You must lead us, cousin. All of Briton has been at peril in your absence. You must wield Excalibur again!”

    Arthur was still disoriented, but the cloud of his former life was becoming more dream than history. Time would heal these things. Time would make him whole. The Wizard talked too much. “Maerlyn, shut up. Let’s go already.”

    And they did.

  26. Trauma says:

    At first I believe that this is all part of the show, another stunt to get the crowd drawn in. But then I see the magician’s eyes, filled with pure determination and fear. This is not an act; he has never done this before.
    My heart is instantly in my throat. This can’t be happening this isn’t happening to us. Adrenaline flows through my body pushing me towards the stage. “What have you done with my son?” My voice is edged with hatred and a silent threat.
    The magician is unmoving, his eyes wide, and his voice unable to speak. He is clearly as shocked as I am when I slam my hand down on the wood of the stage. “Tell me what you have done with my son!” I bellow, making my way to the stairs on my right.
    “I’m sorry,” he stutters, “I had no other choice. They are coming for him,” the words barely leave his lips when a blotch of crimson stains through his perfectly pressed vest. His green eyes widen as he stumbles forward, clutching at his chest. Somewhere in the crowd a woman screams and panic explodes through the theatre as everyone rushes for the doors, pushing and shoving one another to the side. I barely hear any of it as I rush to the magician, catching him before he crumples to his knees.
    I cradle him to the ground as he chokes up blood. “I’m here,” my face gets hot as tears start to escape me. “I’m here. It will be okay.” Even as the words leave my lips I know he doesn’t believe me, and neither do I. My tears fall, little drops of memory and sorrow. He will die; I know it as sure as I will take my next breath. This is his end, his final act as a magnificent magician, as my father.
    Reaching down to hold his hand he pulls me towards him, whispering in my ear, “He is safe for now. I’m sorry I can’t do more,” the words were rushed as he tried to breath. “I love you,” was all he could manage to whisper as his body finally quit. Kneeling there beside him, the World around me is a haze. My tears fall over him as I lean into his ear, “I love you too, Dad.” My voice is tight as I gently rest his greying head onto the wood stage.
    “Isn’t that just so sad,” the gruff mocking voice cut through my grief. I looked up to see a suited man standing across the stage, his grey eyes bearing down on me as I stood. I silently start a spell as he saunters closer towards me. “Now darling, where is your little boy?”
    Hatred boiled over as I finished reciting my spell. Thrusting my hands forward, palms up, flames of retaliation burned white hot from my fingers, flying out to collide with the man’s chest sending him sprawling backwards.
    “You’ll never know,” I whisper.

  27. PurpleJAF says:

    Still can’t quite get under that 500 words. I’m working on it. :)

    ~~~~~~~~~

    “Where’s Cameron? Why isn’t he back?” I said as I turned to my husband.

    “Okay. Let’s try that one more time. Abracadabra, fiddle-de-whack, now is the time for you to come back!” Again, The Great McDougal opened the latch on the vanishing box and it was still empty! “Uh, there seems to be a problem with the trick. Please give us a couple of minutes to troubleshoot and we’ll be right back.” The Great McDougal turned to my husband and me and asked us to follow him backstage.

    “Folks, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what could be wrong. This is a foolproof trick. Honestly. I’m David, by the way.”

    “I’m Rob and this is my wife, Susan. Do you have any idea what could have happened to our son?” said my husband in his oh-so-calm, never-gets-rattled voice.

    “Where could he have gone? He’s just a child! He’s only eight years old, for crying out loud! HOW COULD YOU LET THIS HAPPEN?” It was obvious that my stress level was steadily increasing with every step. “If you don’t find my son, I promise, you won’t be working for the Freemont Casino Resort anymore because I will promptly see to it that you are fired!”

    “Mrs. … I’m sorry, I didn’t get your last name.”

    “Because he didn’t give it to you! It’s Mrs. Holmes, thank you very much!”
    “Mrs. Holmes, I promise you, he’s here somewhere. We just have to find him.”

    “You can’t promise me that Mr. McDougal, now can you? You don’t know where he is.”

    “Our best people are on it. I don’t understand. There is a separate compartment in the back of that box. All I do is turn the compartment around and he should have stayed safely inside the box. How did he get out. It’s not like the trap door…”

    “Trap door? What trap door?” I asked insistently.

    “There is a trap door in the bottom of the box that opens into the floor, but that’s for a more advanced trick. Surely he couldn’t have figured out how to…”

    “Well, clearly he must have. And you,” I said turning to my husband, “how can you be so calm?”
    “Dear, getting upset will not solve anything.”

    “Ugh! Sometimes I just want to…”

    “Yes, I know.”

    “Here he is,” came the a voice from a room down the hallway and passed the dressing rooms.
    “It appears he did manage to figure out how to open the trap door. He let himself out of the box through the floor and managed to find a couch in your dressing room, sir, and fell asleep.”

    “Well, thank goodness for that. I learned my lesson. I’m not choosing anyone under the age of 18 for that trick again. Little escape artist. Maybe he could have a part in my…no, never mind. Mr. and Mrs. Holmes, I’m so sorry for the stress this has caused you. Please allow me to comp an extra night stay for your family at the resort. I won’t offer you tickets to another show. I think that would be too much to ask. Please accept the room with my apologies.”

    “Thank you, Mr. McDougal. It really was a good show, up to that point.” We shook hands, my husband picked our sleeping son up in his arms and we walked out of the showroom and back to our room. This will be a story to tell the grandchildren, that’s for sure.

  28. Kerry Charlton says:

    PHILADELPHIA

    “For God sakes, what have you done with my son?” Brian shouted.

    He gripped the street magician by his shoulders, slamming his body against the magic disappearing box. The street audience stood in quiet amusement, thinking Brian’s actions were part of the hapless man’s act. When the magician answered Brian, chills descended on the audience.

    “I’m sorry mister, I wouldn’t harm your son. He’s really disappeared.”

    Brian’s wife, Laura rushed the stage trying to stop her husband’s rant. He had already thrown a punch and the magic vender lay unconscious at his feet. Tearing the lid off the front of the box, Brian’s voice called out to his son.

    “David, can you hear me? Where are you?”

    He pried at the false bottom, trying to remove it. He slammed his foot repeatedly until the top gave way to splinters.

    “I’ve opened it Laura,” Brian said. “And I’m stepping down into ……………………….”

    Laura rushed to the cabinet, holding her twin daughters, Ashley And Rebecca.

    “God help me,” she said. “There’s nothing down there but a black void.”

    Tears flowed from Laura and the twins, splashing on an ancient cobblestone street.

    “Where is everybody?” she said, looking at an empty plaza in Philadelphia.

    Above her, skies boiled a threatening black-green storm and a lightning bolt rose from the magician’s form, lying on the street,with such force, it knocked Laura and the twins away from danger. The magicians body had been incinderated.

    Laura lay prone on her face, covering her ten year old daughters from vicious winds, thundering lightning and cold, steel rain pelting her body.

    “Please help us God,” she said.” I believe in you with all my soul but I fear for my children and husband.”

    The three were alone in the plaza. Total darkness descended and the twins screamed in fear.

    “If someone has to die,” she said, “Let it be me but please save my family.”

    Winds ceased to a quiet murmer, inkiness of the night softened and Laura searched the darkness, seeing two small figures across the plaza, huddled from the fury that had subsided. As light increased, she called out with joy,

    “David, Brian, thank God you’re safe. What happened to you?”

    “Mom, a big, nasty rat was dragging me down a tunnel,” David said.

    Laura’s eyes searched Brian’s ashen face for answers, knowing her son was telling the truth.

    “I fell through a dirt roof, ” Brian said, “to a catacomb of small tunnels running under the city. I could hear David, yelling and fighting in a parallel tunnel and when I ran there, a large, mutated, swamp rat had his teeth into David’s collar, dragging him to water.”

    “He was the size of our border collie, Mom,” David said. “Dad grabbed a loose board from the wall of the tunnel and beat it to death.”

    Laura’s daughters were horrified with the story, putting their hands over their ears.

    “More mutants came and circled us,” Brian said.”Their grunts and squeals were sounds of the devil himself.I kept swinging that plank until a pathway cleared, and David and I ran through the tunnel with the rats looping after us.”

    “This is the neat part Mom,” David said. “When we reached the end of the tunnel, a 20 foot rope hung from a grate on the ceiling.”

    “You climbed up a rope to escape?” Laura asked.

    “David climbed like a monkey,” Brian said, “but I hadn’t been on a rope since high school. Ther must have been thirty rats chewing on my boots and I went up hand over hand like I was in gym class. We shoved the grate aside and entered the plaza to the worst storm I’ve ever seen.”

    “The girls and I are soaked and freezing, Brian. There’s an old cottage by the plaza. Can you get a blanket for us?”

    Brian’s family huddled around him as he tapped an ancient knocker. An older couple greeted them, took them inside, fed the family and cared for them. The cottge rang true as a period piece from colonial Philadelphia.

    “I don’t remember being in the historical district at all, today,” Laura said as her family left the cottage.

    “Look around,” he said. “Feel the cobblestones under your feet. See the soft lights piercing the darkness; they’re from candles and oil lamps.Where is the El Laura? Where are the street lights; the Penn building? There are no cars here, just carriages.”

    “Can we walk home Brian?”

    “I don’t think so. We’re in eighteenth century Philadelphia.”

    • swatchcat says:

      Okay so we have a magical kidnapping by giant rats that live under 18th century Philadelphia. The family all gets there at different times and different routes; two through a hole in the ground hidden under a magician box and the rest of the family via a mysterious cloud/storm. I think I would be more worried about the giant rats and not the time travel. Very interesting, it sounds like you pulled out all the stops in this one. Great imagination.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thanks swatchcat. Sometimes I like to go off the deep end and let my Id write a story. A sequel is called for here. An epic battle between the mutent rats with superior intelligence and Brian with his 21st century awareness using only the instruments of battle that existed 250 years ago. What do you think?

        • smallster21 says:

          Ya! He makes a catapult with huge balls of fire. But, the rats are immune to fire. So, now they are flaming mutant rats. So, he throws buckets of tar on them, but they eat it and turn into swamp monsters. Then he rallies the towns people to save their city from the swamp monsters, but they lose and Brian has now doomed the future race of man, because the swamp monsters take over the world.

    • Time travel. Bad stuff. Nice yarn-spinning, Kerry

    • frankd1100 says:

      Wow! I’m hoping the ‘Fringe’ team comes to the rescue in the next episode.

      Fantastic!

    • smallster21 says:

      This was neat. I knew there was something off when they found this random cottage. I was picturing a busy metro area in my mind, then Wham! a cottage. Lol :) Very nice. I just wish that you had had more room to describe the settings, both past and present, I think that would enhance the story. Vivid imagination. Interesting how your mind went from magic show to blackhole to crazy storm to mutant rats to the 18th century. Trippiness.

      There were some spelling and punctuation errors. Nothing major.

    • DMelde says:

      ah, a story about giant rats in colonial Philly. I love it. I’ll bet Benjamin Franklin could help Brian fight the rats in your sequel. He’s viewed as being future thinking and open minded, so I think he’d be a believable character to join Brian. very well done.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thanks, DMelde. That’s a terrific idea to include Ben Franklin in the sequel I thimk I’ll build it around Brian and Ben rigging the tunnels for electricity, Bring the time travel storm back to deliver the electrical charge, killing all the mutent rats and transporting Brian and his family back into the 21st century. Wrap up in a neat bow. I’ll write it Sunday.

    • don potter says:

      As a native Philadelphian transplanted to LA, I always enjoy the stories you tell that use the Cradle of Liberty as the background along with the historical tidbits you include. The only thing that could have been more frightening in this tale would be an invasion of the snapping turtles found in the swamps around the great city.

  29. MCKEVIN says:

    This was good and a good story. I think you switched from 1st to 3rd person narration when you state “the woman in the box.” That somewhat confused me but as a writer, I went back and figured it out. Good job!

  30. Barouches says:

    The man sat cuffed in a metal chair behind the interrogation room glass, and examining his own shoes as though they held some significance. The other side of the glass was occupied by another small room that was just as void of furniture, and more dimly lit. That was where she stood observing him, and taking in his nuances.

    She should have been repulsed by him, disgusted with this dreg of society, yet she stood more curious than hateful. He had just been caught in the act of harming yet another child; scores had gone missing over the past decade. Finally, authorities were fairly certain they had caught the predator that had been hunting children in the city suburbs, but they hadn’t been the ones to catch him. The cries of a distressed child had grabbed the attention of a landscaping crew, and they had rolled him good. He sat covered in dirt and filth, accompanied with several significant abrasions. She stood contemplating him, wondering what had molded the mind of this creature.

    The door opened abruptly, and the emptiness of the room was marginally brought to life.

    “Mrs. Jamison, Detective Juan Lopez.” He said holding out his hand. She shook it briefly.

    “Mrs. Jamison, I understand that your son disappeared as a child; can you tell me more?”

    “We were at a local carnival when he was eight years old. He wanted to see the magician so we made time to take him to the show. During one act he was called up on stage to help out with a trick; he was so excited, he loved magic. It was supposed to be simply really, just some run-of-the-mill disappearing act. He disappeared, but magician claimed he had disappeared under the platform.”

    “Were authorities called?”

    “Yes. We all scoured the park grounds. State police and detectives were called in, every ride, every carney trailer, was searched several times over. Nothing. For five days we…..anyway, finally the carnival had to move on to their next event. I don’t know if you have any children, Detective Lopez, but I felt as though my heart have been carved out by hand. My boy was a sweet, loving boy, Detective Lopez.

    “I’m going to contact the authorities in that case, and track down those files. That was twenty years ago, correct? “

    “Yes, 1993. Please find out what happened to him.”

    “We will do our best, Mrs. Jamison. I need one more thing.”

    She shook her head, and returned her attention to the man cuffed in the chair. His black hair hung in his face as he examined the floor, but it was the twirling of the thumbs that she recognized; something he had done all during the boyhood days she had known him.

    “I know this is hard Mrs. Jamison, but do you believe the man in that room your son?”

    “Yes sir, it is. I don’t know what they did to my beautiful boy, but it is.”

  31. AnandG says:

    Sorry….!!

    Sipping in coffee, which is a very special moment in a season of shivers,, not for a season of shivers,

  32. AnandG says:

    It was a chilling winter’s Saturday morning. I woke up a little late. Sipping in coffee, which is a very special moment for a season of shivers, I sat on the couch, enjoying it. Then I went downstairs.

    “Good Morning dear”, I wished Margaret, my wife, who’s so punctual. She wakes up early at 5am everyday, come what may, to serve our daily needs. I am a lucky chap to get such a wife. But I sometimes feel bad for her. So I give her rest every Sunday and I take her job of housekeeping; but being an archeologist and excavation specialist, I dug up things more than clean up.

    “Good Morning Jake. It’s 11 am now”, Margaret said, in a tone indicating that I over slept.

    “Where’s Phil?”

    Margaret looked at the sofa, symbolically telling me that Phil, our 8-year old son was there with the newspaper in his hand.

    “What does an 8-year old read and understand in the newspaper’s front page?” I wondered.

    “Phil”

    “Hey dad. See here”, Phil showed me an advertisement that was in the front page of the newspaper.

    “What is it…hmm…a magic show…err…evening at 5pm today..Ok!”

    “Dad, let’s go for the show, please……”

    “Ok”

    We had our breakfast: muesli in milk and green salad. My wife stresses on a healthy diet for the family.

    **** Evening 4 PM****

    We started out in our car to the magic show. It was about half-hour journey from home to the show location. The mist was all around the place. I knew that it would be difficult to go, but I did not want to disappoint my son and wife, to whom I owe several promises that I did not keep.

    “Let’s get straight to home after this show. It might get difficult to drive after dark”, I said.

    We went in. The theater was a circular one. It is like a mini Italian mausoleum. There was very less crowd, perhaps due to the wintery mist that is thickening with time.

    “Sir, you may sit in the front row”, a staff of the theater said, and guided us to the first row.

    Phil was happy. It seemed to him like a celebrity treatment, to sit in the very front row.

    ****5 PM****

    The show started. The Magician came on to the stage. He was dressed typically like a magician does, a black tuxedo and hat, white gloves for hands, a little beard on his chin and a moustache like Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

    The magician showed some common tricks: taking out a dove from his hat, followed by a white rabbit; sipping cola from the glass through air and pouring out water from a newspaper cone.

    “And now, the most awaited one: A girl cut into two”, he said.

    He asked a girl to volunteer from the audience. She went in and leaned on the altar-like bed.

    “Abracadabra, Anaksomphura”, the magician uttered some words and cut her from her diaphragm and then reunited them again. Everybody applauded.

    “Now, The Act of Disappearance”, he said, “ I need a boy volunteer”

    Phil volunteered, though Margaret was hesitating upon him.

    Phil was sent into a black box of magic.

    “This is a magic box. The one who goes into it disappears and I will get him back again with my magic”

    “Abracadabra, Anaksomphura, ilihoya behthula”

    He opened the box and Phil was vanished. There was a silence of wonder in the audience.

    “Now I am about to bring him back. Abracadabra, Anaksomphura, ilihoya behthula”

    The magic did not work. Phil was not there in the box. He did not reappear.

    The magician tried again, but went in vain. Margaret was so tensed that she almost fainted. People, scared, rushed out of the theater frantically.

    I ran up to the stage, caught hold of the magician’s collar and shouted, “Bring back my son you scum”

    “Sir, I tried. This should actually be a trick. Your son, or anyone for the matter of fact, will not disappear like this. They would be sent out under the stage through the box, where my assistants would pick him up. But they never saw your son coming down. He really disappeared. This is just impossible and out of my understanding”.

    I saw the box closely. There were some symbols on it, resembling ancient Egyptian calligraphy.

    “Where did you get this box?” I asked.

    “From the local dealer who smuggles goods and sells for cheap”

    That damn box was of an ancient Egyptian mummy. I made few calls to my department and upon inquiry, I discovered that the box was cursed by the mummy; that whoever goes into it would appear in his tomb.

    “Margaret, I have to rush to Egypt”, I said.

  33. MelFred7 says:

    “Let him go. It will be fun,” my husband didn’t take his his amused eyes off the stage and looked completely delighted that our son had been chosen. I, of course, was the paranoid wife who was “irrationally afraid”, as always.

    Louis practically ran down the aisle towards the stage, and I had either to make a scene yelling and pushing past my husband’s restraining hand, or sit back, smile, and tell myself that I was just always thinking the worst.

    I looked angrily around at the laughing crowd, sitting on the edge of their seats, clapping for my son. How dare they? How dare they enjoy using my son as some sort of prop for their entertainment. The magician, an ordinary looking man in a tuxedo smiled at my son and patted his back reassuringly.

    “What’s your name, sir?”

    “Louis!” he shouted into the Mike, showing all of his teeth with his wide-eyed grin. He didn’t take his eyes off the magician.

    “You have a brave mother! Or is she here tonight?”

    “Yes.”

    The magician looked towards the crowd in her general direction, “Are you sure about this Louis’s mother?”

    “No!” I quickly shouted. The crowd roared with laughter, as though I were joking.

    “Perfect, Louis, what would you like to say to your mother before you disappear.”

    “I love you, Mo–!” Gone. No warning. Every chair spun suddenly, quickly, and he was gone. No sounds. No directions given to him. Nothing at all, nothing other than the magician, stood on the blank silvery stage.

    “Edward…?” My husband was loving it. His smile was bigger than Louis’s had been. But as the magician moved on with the show, without mentioning our little boy, he began to show the first traces of fear. Five minutes. Ten minutes. An hour. Finally he stood up and shouted, directly as he sawed a woman volunteer. “Where is Louis?! Bring him back!”

    “Sir, you never told me you wanted him back. I apologize.” He smiled a mocking smile. My husband was indignant. “After all, I did promise that I would make him disappear, but I don’t recall… did I? No, I don’t think so… No, I surely didn’t. I wouldn’t have. I never would make a promise I could not guarantee to keep. I never did say that I would make him reappear. I have definitely mastered the art of making things, or people for that matter, disappear, but now appearing out of thin air? That is a lot to ask.”

    The crowd was deathly silent, after a few inappropriate laughs began and were stifled, as if unsure whether the environment were now plagued with a serious threat or being treated to an extremely deceiving trick. The woman in the box began to squirm and wiggle her head as though she did not want to finish the trick.
    “Nevertheless, I will try.” After twenty minutes of trying, no sign of Louis. “I suppose the only possibility is for you to go where he is and attempt to bring him back.” Edward was gone after another chair swivel, directly from where he stood. The crowd stared at me to measure my reaction, when suddenly their faces fleed, and there in their place was a man and a young boy, somewhere, and we were lost.

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