The clock struck 3:00 pm. The bell rang as students ascended from their seats. Although the teacher dismissed class late, most of Michael’s classmates had already exited the lab, ignoring her requests. The fatigued students lagged behind the rest of class.
Michael trekked through the swamp of sophomores rushing to get home. He looked forward to dismissal, but today was different. His forty five minute periods seemed to drone on for hours. He checked his phone: he had a text from Veronica. “I need you come to the shop now, my shift ended at three.” Michael laughed, recalling an earlier memory of the day which included Veronica and a whoopie cushion.
He grabbed his textbooks from his locker and started to sprint towards the shop. The concrete jungle of Manhattan circulated around him, bustling with pedestrians and cars. The short tempered driver honking at the inattentive walker crossing the street while texting, the dog walker cleaning up his dog’s feces, and the rattle of the few coins in the homeless man’s cup all swirled around him.
As he hurried into the nine story building, he gazed at the dull advertisements from Sleepy’s and Coke which adorned the walls. He stepped into the elevator and pressed the button labelled six. The elevator rose to the sixth floor and deposited him into the hallway which led to the shop.
Veronica walked over to him when he stepped out of the elevator. She looked a bit nervous, about what, he could not tell. She asked him why he was late. He shifted the blame to his Science teacher who had delayed the class. He caught a ‘see you later’ as she she hopped in the elevator and pressed the lobby button. And she was gone, he checked his watch. 3:09 pm. He inhaled a deep breath and observed the shop.
Although the lobby was extremely attractive and was recently refurbished, the magic shop was something out of a magician’s fantasy. Not a speck of dust dotted the floor. The store always had a crisp smell, like playing cards fresh out of the box. The air conditioner was on full which left the shop in a refreshing but not cold state. The unopened collection of playing cards dotted the back wall and sets of classic magic tricks such as cups and balls and Chinese linking rings were displayed under the glass table. A whole wall was filled with an enormous book collection, exploring the art of deception and magic.
Behind him, the door chimes ricocheted off one another. An enthusiastic child and a weary supervisor entered the magical shop. “Can I see the new Tallys?” asked the child, referring to the new shipment of playing cards known as Tally-Ho’s.
“Sure,” he replied.
Michael went behind the glass table and pulled down the new shipment of cards and showed them to the child. The child tried out the deck himself, springing the cards from hand to hand with practiced ease. He gave the deck a last fan and handed them back to him. “I’ll take two red and two blue please,” he said.
“No problem, nice moves by the way,” Michael said.
The child smiled. Michael pulled out a bag, neatly placed the four requested decks inside of the bag, and entered in the order into the cash register. “It will be $13.96,” he said.
The supervisor pulled out her wallet and pulled out a $10 bill and a $5 bill which she placed it on the table. The child smiled gleefully and hugged his caretaker. She smiled. He rung up the cash register with a few quick and calculated taps and handed the change back as his first customers walked out of the store.
Customers came and went, some stayed for a while and some left in minutes. Magicians of all ages flourished throughout the shop. The store was most busy around five. He enjoyed talking to other magicians, although he worked at the magic shop for extra money, he had taken a special interest in the art outside of the shop.
About an hour later, Justin showed up at the magic shop. He and Michael were family friends. Their parents knew each other before they were born and had kept in contact. Justin had an interest in magic as well, which is one of the reasons they enjoyed each other’s company as much as they did.
Michael looked down at his watch, it read just before eight. The time had flown by, Justin was still pouring over effects from the store’s magic library. Michael needed to start closing up the shop. He rung up the last of the customers and ushered them out of the shop politely, he saw Justin in the corner looking at the Tarbell book series. Ignoring him, he cleaned up the room, making sure books were lined up properly, pushing in the chairs for the close up table, and sweeping the floor.
“Come on, man, let’s go,” said Michael.
Justin walked out of the shop and waited patiently in the hall for Michael. He took a last look around turned off the lights and reached for the keys to lock the shop. His hand only felt empty space. He groped for the keys around the hook. He flipped the lights back on. The hook was empty.
He searched the room with Justin, under the tables, behind the cash register, and all of the shelves. He looked down at his watch again, 8:19 pm. He needed to be home by nine, it was family movie night. Michael had tried to tell his family that he was too old for movie night but his parents had just laughed and told him to come home early.
He dialed Sam, the head of the magic shop.
“Hello?” Sam’s voice whispered over the phone.
“Hey, I can’t find the keys to lock up the shop and I need to be home in about half an hour,” Michael, skipping traditional formalities.
“Sure, sure,” Sam said inattentively, “grab the keys from the my office, there should be a pair on my desk.”
He put the phone down on hold and walked towards Sam’s office. He twisted the doorknob. He pushed the rusty knob a little harder, the handle gave and the door opened. Michael observed the office, it seemed to look exactly like a normal office without relation to magic. It contained a standard desk, computer, and lamp. If he had seen the office by itself he would have thought it belonged to a business man. Michael saw the keys, grabbed them, and returned to the phone.
“I found them, thank you,” Michael said into the phone.
“Sure,” said Sam, obviously no longer wanting to be bothered.
Michael put down the phone and ushered Justin out of the store who was babbling on a variation that he had recently created off of a mentalism effect.
Michael closed the shop just as Justin suddenly ceased talking.
An eerie silence filled the air. He turned and saw a dark silhouette which stood about twenty feet away at the end of the hall. The creature seemed to be made of shadows. A dark cloak covered most of its body. It held a black cane, it carried as if it was more of a weapon than a support system. The cane was curved at the top, almost like a homicidal sickle.
Michael blinked twice, trying to convince himself that he was seeing things. The figure kept staring, He could hear his heart thumping against his ribcage, his adrenalin was pumping rapidly through his veins. He stole a quick glance to his right, where Justin stood, staring at the figure.
He approached a few steps forward, just passing his friend. The figure turned to its left and slithered down the hallway. Michael flinched, then turned around and motioned for Justin to follow him on his endeavour. All the blood had drained from Justin’s face, but he followed attentively.
Michael and Justin turned the corner expecting to see the dark silhouette. It had vanished, erased from existence. They looked back down the hall to find it empty, they stood there, still in shock.
“So,” Justin said to break the silence.
“Should we head home?” asked Michael, still gazing in awe at the spot where the creature stood.
“Sounds good to me,” replied Justin.
They started down the hall, heading toward the door marked ‘Door A.’ Justin reached for the handle, but before he could turn the knob, it erupted in flames. Justin reeled back, falling into Michael, who went down, hard, hitting his head on the floor.
“Oww!” howled Michael.
He turned to his side so he could get a look at Justin. He had fallen down as well, but was currently propped up on his left elbow. They stood up, scoping themselves for bruises. They had luckily escaped fairly unscathed. Michael inspected the door. The door was completely plain. Nothing on the door signaled the eruption of fire. Justin peered over his shoulder, gazing in astonishment at the door.
Justin pushed at the door. It was locked from the other side. Without a knob, they could not try to pick the lock. A ghostly cackle rebounded off the walls. They flinched. They looked at each other and turned the corner, hoping to locate the source of the sound. They turned the corner and found themselves facing the shop door. They walked down the hall toward the door.
“Locked,” said Michael as the tried the door.
They turned around and decided to head toward the elevator. They turned the corner and found the silhouette staring once again at them. Michael’s breath caught in his mouth. Justin was petrified of the demon creature which had been haunting him and Michael. Justin noticed something different, his cane was missing.
“Who are you!” yelled Michael to the hooded figure.
The creature responded by raising an dark black hand in front of the chest. He closed his hand and as he did, his cane appeared in his hand. Michael noticed the tip of the cane ended in a lethal point. The figure brought the cane behind his head and vaulted it at them. The cane was a blur, it seemed hell-bent on skewering the two magicians. The cane buried itself in the wall behind them with a loud thud, narrowly missing Michael’s head. They turned and saw the sleek black cane protruding out of the wall. Justin let out a sigh of relief. They turned back to where the figure was standing. All they saw was an empty hallway, They ran down it to look for the figure, the only trace the creature was his deathly cane.
“We should call the police,” said Michael.
“Agreed,” replied Justin.
They walked down the hall and opened up the magic shop with Sam’s keys. As soon as the two magicians stepped in to the shop, they noticed a dark figure in the back. Justin flipped on the lights.
“Veronica?” said Michael.
“Oh crap!” said Veronica, looking up, obviously not wanting to have been found.
“Why?” asked Justin, confused.
“Well, you guys put a whoopee cushion on my chair, so I thought I might want to return the favor,” said Veronica with a kiddish smile on her face.
“Fair enough,” said Michael.
Michael motioned for everyone to follow him. He walked out of the shop as Justin and Veronica followed. Michael chuckled, he had been running from a figure that scared the crap out of him, he was glad it was just Veronica.
“What’s so funny?” asked Justin, obviously not wanting to forgive and forget.
“Calm down,” said Michael.
Justin turned his attention to Veronica. “How did you do it?” he asked.
“Which part?” asked Veronica.
“The costume?” asked Justin.
“We had some extra close up pads and duct tape,” said Veronica, shrugging.
“The doorknob?” asked Justin curiously.
“A modification of flash paper,” responded Veronica.
“The laugh?” asked Michael.
“Remote speaker,” replied Veronica.
“The keys,” asked Justin.
“I sent one of my friends to pick them up around five,” said Veronica
“Where did you learn how to throw that cane? You could have killed us,” asked Michael, remembering the horrifying experience.
“I didn’t throw anything at you guys,” said Veronica.
They turned to around and saw a hooded black silhouette at the end of the hall.