They Do It with Mirrors
Wayne couldn’t stop grinning. Even if Wanda had to work and couldn’t be with him, he was determined to have his best day ever at his favorite place ever: the American Museum of Magic in Marshall.
Though if he were to be honest, visiting the museum would be a little easier without Wanda. He loved her dearly, but she hated the museum. She only went to humor him; and she couldn’t help making snarky remarks about the exhibits going back through more than a century of American magic. Some even farther than that. To her, it was the same thing every time. After all, Wayne had to admit, the museum wasn’t very large: just a historical storefront in downtown Marshall, one of the six museums in the small town they called Museum CityThere was the Honolulu house, built by a Justice of the State Supreme Court. There was the old Governor’s Mansion. There were the Capitol Hill School Museum, the United States Postal Museum, the Gasoline Museum, and the Grand Army of the Republic Museum. The Calhoun County Fairgrounds had its own museum. And there was the Cronin house, which author John Bellairs had immortalized as The House with a Clock in Its Walls.
But most important to Wayne was the American Museum of magic, a relic from the days when Marshall was a major stop for magicians across the Midwest. And he was especially obsessed with its Houdini collection. To the public, Harry Houdini was a famous illusionist and escape artist. But Wayne was fascinated by Houdini’s other passion: debunking spiritualists and psychics. Wayne knew the old saying: It takes a thief to catch a thief. In Wayne’s view, it took an expert magician (or a trained cognitive logician) to spot the tricks used to deceive the eye and the mind. And Houdini had been the greatest of them of the debunkers.
Houdini’s quest had fascinated Wayne since he was a young teen, the first time he’d seen a magic show live. He had been fascinated by the show: part scripted and practiced, but part improvisational. The magician, a young man whose name he had long since forgotten, had a well-rehearsed patter with great timing. He know how to make the crowd laugh. But he also involved the audience in the act, asking them to make decisions about what he would do: which card to pull, which cup to lift, which box to open. Wayne was able to see through some of the tricks, but the more improvisational tricks baffled him the most.
Finally, he decided that the only plausible explanation was that the magician called upon shills, willing accomplices who gave him the answers he needed for the tricks to work. When he asked an audience member to name a low card, that had to be a hint to the shill, right? Somehow this was a code between them that would help them plan the course of the trick.
And sure enough, when the shill said four of spades, the magician produced the four of spades from his back pocket. Everyone dropped their jaws and oohed an ahhed at the miraculous card magic. Wayne nodded politely, but also smugly: he would figure out how the trick was done. He wondered what the magician would do with an actual spontaneous card choice, one that wasn’t low, like the king of diamonds.
Then, in the middle of the applause, the magician looked straight at Wayne and said, “And what’s your card?”
Wayne was flummoxed. The one person he knew wasn’t a shill in this act was himself! With no time to think, he spouted out his last thought: “King of diamonds.”
The magician mugged for the audience, a big grin, and everyone laughed as he said, “King of diamonds… That’s a really low card, huh, folks?”
The laughter went on, then turned to massive applause when the magician produced the king of diamonds from his vest pocket. As the crowd went wild, Wayne swore he had never seen the man touch the vest.
That had fed Wayne’s obsession with magic. Not an unhealthy, credulous obsession like his buddy Emil! Wayne was a diehard skeptic, and he became fascinated with the way a skilled magician could make the unseen seen and vice versa. Emil actually seemed to believe this stuff! Though Wayne could never be sure. Emil was a writer, he could spin a completely believable lie with a straight face.
Driven by humiliation and curiosity, Wayne studied magic, learning a number of tricks. He did only simple stuff. He lacked the manual dexterity for complex palming and coin work. He didn’t want to be a magician, he just wanted to understand how the tricks worked. He became really good at spotting the ways of misdirection, the ways a magician and assistants could make an audience look in the direction they wanted, notice only what they were supposed to notice, and never once see what was in plain sight somewhere else, or behind the thinnest of curtains. So much was done with mirrors, simultaneously hiding and showing at the magician’s will.
Eventually this fascination led to Wayne’s thesis work in “Cognitive Logic and the Mathematics of Influence.” After his years of study, he no longer was fooled by magicians – most of them, anyway, but Penn and Teller could still stump him –but he played a game with himself to see if he could explain how they misdirected, with extra points if he figured it out before they did it. This, plus his studies of human perception and cognition, ultimately led to the mathematical, logical, and neurological foundations of his work. He started to understand the ways of deception, and also of influence. Practitioners of neurolinguistic programming had nothing on him. He had precise formulae for the inputs and suggestions that could cause a person to notice what he wanted and nothing else. This wasn’t without controversy. His thesis had been coherent and logical, but thoroughly unpersuasive until his committee agreed to let him perform a practical demonstration. His defense of his thesis was the most unorthodox his advisor never seen, part magic show and part breaking down the tricks, showing the basis by which he had fooled the observers. And then in the last part, he demonstrated that he could predict what the committee would notice in advance. His predictions were handed to the committee in sealed envelopes before he did the trick. As he made a large bust of Houdini disappear, they watched his elaborate stage magic. When they open the envelopes, they read elaborate mathematical proofs of what they had perceived – the mathematics behind the fluttering cloak that drew their attention one way, a sudden burst of smoke another that led another way, and how his own pacing back and forth across the stage had redirected their perception. He also played back a wide angle video recording that showed everything: every movie he had made, and how their focus had tracked where he wanted it to. They reluctantly conceded that he had a method that was subject to analysis and possible reproduction.
His advisor, Dr. Frost, had congratulated him after the defense. But in a quiet, concerned voice, he had added, “If this proves out, you do know that this is potentially a tool for mass manipulation by governments and advertisers, don’t you? Do you want to rethink this?”
Wayne had shaken his head. “That manipulations is already happening. If I can further this research, I think I can teach people how to not be manipulated, how to see through the effects of cognition logic. To be free.”
And he was getting there. He was learning to train his own mind in simple algorithms and heuristics, things that anyone could learn to simply notice more. And to not be distracted by what someone wanted you to notice so you would overlook what they didn’t want you to notice.
He knew how this sounded to in many people in his department. To them, he sounded as batty as Emil, somewhere between a lunatic and a charlatan. Yet he had existence proof on his side: he demonstrated time and again that he could see through stage magic with better than ninety-three percent accuracy. He had data to back it up.
Despite himself, he was also getting better with the darker side of cognitive logic. He still lacked the manual dexterity to make a coin disappear before your eyes, but he found he didn’t need it. He could make your eyes look away for as much as ten seconds as he simply put the coin in his pocket. Sometimes he could change their focus for half a minute or more. The morality of this troubled him, so he was cautious not to use it in his ordinary life.
When Wayne pulled his Mitsubishi Mirage up to the parking meter in downtown Marshall, he smiled at the sign in the Museum’s window. The top line in the big letters announced their main event for the night: 7 p.m. Lantern Tour. That was the backstage tour of their rare exhibits, along with a performance by Carla and Carl, one of the hottest magician duos working the circuit today. He already had his ticket for the tour.
And below that in smaller letters was the main reason he was here: 5 p.m. The Mystical Mind of Dr. Wayne.
He unpacked his big duffel, looked both ways to cross the street, and entered the glass door set within the middle of three archways. When he went inside, a redhaired woman in a tuxedo greeted him. “Dr. Wayne!”
“Leticia! So good to see you.”
“Are you nervous?” the woman asked as she stepped out from behind the counter.
“A little,” Wayne answered; but that itself was deception. She expected him to be nervous for his first live show ever, and he didn’t want to concern he. But in reality, h was more confident than ever. He was ready for this.
Wayne looked toward the rear of the museum. It was a small space, roughly thirty feet across and seventy-five deep, with stairs in the back to take visitors up to the gallery. Both floors were crammed to the gills with posters and photos and relics… And especially with names that echoed through the history of magic. Carter, Kellar, Blackstone, Chung, Miller, Thurston, Sorcar, Collins, Floyd, Welland… And above them all, Harry Houdini.
Wayne nodded at a picture of the master, and said under his breath, “Let’s give ’em a show, Harry.”
The theater portion of the museum was small, with room for an audience of maybe fifteen, twenty if they were close. And they were practically in the performer’s lap. That had its advantages and disadvantages. It was easier for them to miss things at a distance, but it was also easier for them to take in the whole stage. Up close, he only had to distract their eyes a over a small arc to take them completely off whatever he wanted to conceal.
But it hardly mattered, as confident as Wayne was. The show was almost packed, with two families with five kids between them, an older couple, and three teenagers. The three teens tried to impress each other with how nonchalant they were, how much they thought this was all a joke; so Wayne made a special point to make them the butt of some of his tricks. It was with great amusement that he pointed at one of the kids in the middle of the card act and said, “What’s your card?” And the kid answered with the queen of spades. Remembering exactly the tone that the redheaded magician did use, Wayne answered, “Queen of spades… That’s a really low card, huh, folks?” Today he knew that the joke at the kid’s expense and the resultant laughter were designed to give him a little more time to access the right card without them knowing he was finding it. For that, he made everyone pay attention to what his left hand was doing as his right hand thumbed, found the card, and slipped it through the inside opening of the vest pocket.
The performance went flawless, and Wayne got a standing ovation. Even the teens reluctantly clapped. Leticia came up, thanked everyone for attending, and added, “Don’t forget, we’ve got the lantern tour coming up at seven if you want to stick around. Learn more about the history of magic in Michigan and across America. See our newest Houdini artifacts. Hear the stories of what’s unseen, if you dare.” She laughed, a deep, throaty laugh that sounded surprisingly demonic for such a friendly, upbeat woman.
The crowd rose and made their way out of the theater and into the rest the museum. Wayne heard the overhead door bell ring several times, indicating that most of them were leaving. He turned to Leticia.
She patted his arm and gave him a beaming smile. “That was good! You’ve got to be kidding me, right? This couldn’t be your first live performance.”
Wayne nodded. “It was. But I am very studied.”
It was more than two hours to home, but Wayne wasn’t about to miss the Lantern Tour. He tried to catch it every time he came to Marshall. They varied the tour every time, hauling different tools and documents and posters out of storage to share different facets of the history of illusion.
And sometimes they brought in outside exhibits on special loan. This time, he knew, they had a collection from Houdini’s archives. He wouldn’t miss that, not even if it meant driving home tired. It wouldn’t be the first time he had had to dodge deer on a dark night. If he was too tired, he would just get a hotel. Wanda wouldn’t be happy at the cost – there still wasn’t a whole lot of money in cognitive logic – but she’d rather not have him crash alongside the road.
Wayne could never get enough of Houdini’s writings and his history; but this would be his first time to examine the Radio of 1950, and Houdini’s Original Hanging Straitjacket. They also had the Mirror Handcuffs. Wayne had seen some those in another museum while on vacation, but from far away. At the American Museum of Magic, everything was up close.These exhibits had been on tour, most recently coming from Detroit – the city where, sadly, Houdini had died, as well as the site of his last performance. Somehow, as rationalist as he was, he still wasn’t comfortable visiting there and remembering the loss of his hero. But if the exhibits were going to come to Marshall…
Most of the Lantern Tour was familiar. Carla and Carl, the tour guides, conducted people through the building in semi darkness, illuminated by the lantern that Carl carried. The place was fascinating in broad daylight; illuminated only by the lantern (and safety lights), it was… ominous. Disturbing. Carl knew where to place the lantern to produce odd, frightening shadows from the exhibits. The tourists jumped at some of these, even the nonchalant teens. Carl had an intuitive grasp of cognitive logic himself after conducting this tour so many times. He had his patter, he had his routines, and he had an audience that wanted to be shocked. Sometimes that was half the battle in cognitive logic: people saw what they wanted to see if you gave them an excuse.
Finally the duo led the six tour participants to the private conference room in the back where the Houdini artifacts were set up. Wayne recognized pieces from the museum’s own Houdini collection, and he delighted in examining the traveling exhibits. The handcuffs, the straitjacket… He saw these in more detail than any video tour could possibly convey. The Radio was brilliant in its simplicity.
And yet he was… nonplussed? He saw these new items and all the old artifacts with new eyes, with new understanding of how they would play to an audience. It wasn’t like seeing Houdini perform, but it was close. Wayne now understood how each trick would work, each approach to make the audience see what the master wanted them to see instead of what they expected. He admired the craftsmanship, and he wished he could see the master in action; but there was no surprise left. These tricks, which he had never before examined up close, weren’t tricks at all to him anymore. They were tools. Simple tools, even.
Had Wayne outgrown magic?
There was only one element in the exhibit that defied Wayne’s analysis. Propped up in a corner in the back as if leaning against the wall with arms crossed was a tall statue of what looked like a shirtless devil, red skinned with elaborately curled black horns. This…
Wayne stepped closer. This wasn’t part of any Houdini history he had ever studied. It looked new, with skin of polished wood stained a deep red. He couldn’t imagine what act this could belong to. He took a step closer. Maybe it was part of another display, just stored there? He leaned in to examine the carving on the face.
The eyes turned on him and blinked.
Wayne jumped back, bumping into a display case full of ticket stubs from Houdini’s tours. He gave a shout, and Carla said, “Are you all right, Dr. Wayne?”
“The devil!” Wayne answered, pointing at the figure that watched him.
“I’m sorry,” Carla said, with a light tone in his voice. “Please forgive Dr. Wayne. The devil got in him.”
As everyone laughed, Wayne turned and looked at them. Reflexively he fell into analysis mode, figuring out where their focus was and therefore what they noticed. Not one of them looked toward where the devil stood.
Wayne looked back to the corner. Now the space was in shadows. There was nothing there, nothing he could notice; and yet he felt his focus shift, as if someone was redirecting him. He turned back to Carla and the crowd. “I’m sorry, I honestly thought I saw a big red devil standing there.”
“Ah,” Carl answered. “No doubt La Nain Rouge has followed the Master’s tools from Detroit.” Then he laughed. “Though La Nain Rouge is usually not tall. He’s a little red dwarf who bedevils Detroit because Monsieur Cadillac once offended him. Obviously the dwarf decided he needed a road trip.” Everyone laughed. Wayne joined in, but it was forced. The corner was now empty, without even obscuring shadows. But Wayne could not doubt: Something had been there, had looked at him.
Out in the main hall, the bell over the door chimed, and Wayne could tell: the creature had left the building.
As Wayne packed his duffel into his Mirage, he kept looking over his shoulder. It was dark in Marshall. By this point in October, the sun set pretty early. The street was lit up for the bar and party crowd, as the magic museum was the only tourist destination still open that late. There were plenty of people on the street, but that didn’t stop Wayne’s twitching. He kept expecting to turn around and see the red devil stalking him.
He climbed into the car, locked all the doors, and got out of town as fast as he safely could. As he made his way toward the highway, he punched the button in his earpiece. “Text Wanda.”
The earpiece answered, “Texting Wanda Hudson. State your message.”
“Wanda, I’m done with the show and the tour. I’m not staying overnight after all. I want to get home to see you. Love, Wayne.”
The phone played his message back, and then sent it. He was almost at I94, and nervous as hell. He had to talk to someone, but not just anyone. He had to talk to the one person who would accept what he said and not judge him for it.
He punched the earpiece button again. “Call Emil Varden.”
Emil answered: “Hey, Wayne, how was the show?”
“I’m driving home now. I wish you could’ve been here,” Wayne said honestly. “I could have used your perspective.”
“Sorry about that, Bud, I owe Kevin a story.”
“I know. But this is no ordinary night. I…”
“What was out of the ordinary? You sound troubled.”
So Emil dragged the day out of him. Wayne explained the show and how it was almost anticlimactic in how smoothly it went. How he had “it,” the knack of controlling what people perceived. “And I’m so close. I think I know the math now.” For the moment he had forgotten the apparition. “I think I can explain to people how they can see past the manipulation, the Mathematics of Influence. How they can see what’s hiding in plain sight.”
“You can explain to other mathematicians, maybe. I’ve tried to follow your stuff, Wayne. It’s way over my head, and I’m not exactly stupid.”
“No, no, that’s the point. It all clicked tonight.” He realized that it had clicked in part because of the apparition. That creature had shaken loose a roadblock in his thoughts. Maybe it was really just a visualization of his discovery?
But he couldn’t think about that right now, else he might lose the thought. “Emil, let me explain. I really have it now. I can explain it to you over the phone. How you can –”
“Wait a minute, Wayne.”
“I’m not kidding, Emil! This isn’t a joke.”
“I can tell when you’re serious, Bud. Let me… There, I got the laptop open, so I can start typing this in. If you;re going to explain something, I might as well transcribe it for you so you can keep driving.”
“Good idea, Emil. I don’t want to lose this insight.” Momentarily forgetting his earlier fright, Wayne explained his realization of the night. He explained to Emil how simple cognitive rubrics and exercises could help you to see through what was cloaked by Cognitive Logic. Let you see the unseen.
“That’s what I need!” Emil interrupted.
“The next Cemetery World story! I was stuck on where Myra and Carstairs will do next, what they could do to deal with the influence of these Tomb Builders in society. Myra had a little of that Cognitive Logic –”
“Yeah, from me.”
“– and thank you for that. It helped me to get her out of the last story, but it really wasn’t enough. These new ideas require really clear perception. With that, maybe she can teach it to Carstairs… Wait a second.”
“Wait for what?”
“I’m copying and pasting this into the next Cemetery World document. I want to get it captured there, so I can incorporate it into the story quickly and get it to Kevin before he sends a hit squad after me.”
“But this is a mess, a pure brain dump.”
“I’ll clean it up later, that’s my job. Just keep talking.”
Wayne did, all the way through to Kalamazoo and twenty minutes north on US131 before he finally got the ideas out – and hopefully captured by Emil.
From the other end of the phone, Emil whistled. “Wayne, I… I see it.”
“So the ideas make sense?”
“No, I see it. I’m seeing… Depths in my house, shadows that have always been there, but I never noticed them.”
“That’s a fast effect.”
“You’re a good teacher, Wayne. I see things that I just didn’t notice before… My God, this house is a mess! Why did none of you ever tell me what a lousy housekeeper I am?”
Wayne laughed. “We didn’t notice. I mean, we did at first, but we got used to it. It became ordinary, just filed away in the brain under Emil’s house.”
“Wayne, this is incredible! And you just figured this out tonight in the show?”
Wayne took a big breath. He could stop now, or he could go on and maybe make Emil doubt his sanity.
But Wayne was a rationalist. Observations were real. Maybe signs of mental disorder, but real nonetheless. A good scientist doesn’t ignore the data.
And a good scientist shares it. “No, I think my brain got jogged when I saw the Nain Rouge.”
“The red dwarf?”
“You’ve heard of it?”
“Heard of it? I’ve been on expeditions hunting for it. It’s one of the more famous Fae in the Great Lakes area.”
“Emil, don’t pull my leg.”
Emil’s town grew serious. “I don’t joke about the Fae, Wayne. You should know that by now. You saw La Nain Rouge?”
“Yeah, a big, shirtless red devil with big black horns.”
Emil paused. “No, the Nain isn’t big. That’s in the name, he’s a dwarf. That’s not… Describe what you saw again?”
“Tall, seven foot or so. Skin like stained red wood, with a high polish. Curly black horns a little like a mountain goat’s.”
Emil paused, and Wayne could hear a keyboard clicking. “That’s not La Nain Rouge. But it might be…” He paused. Then his voice became concerned. “Wayne, I’m going to give you an address. I need you to go there right away.”
“I’m heading home.”
“Not tonight, you aren’t. I’m going to give you an address, and you need to stand on the porch and asked to speak to the pooka.”
“Pooka! What’s the pooka?”
“I think you saw one tonight, Wayne. And more important, it saw you. Once they take notice of a human, they don’t forget. And when they let you see them, they’re playing a game. One you won’t enjoy.”
“He didn’t let me see him. Cognitive Logic showed me he was there.”
“Fine. Go to 1621 Denton, and talk to the pooka there. Explain all of this. Maybe he can give you sanctuary.”
“Wayne, this sounds crazy!”
“After what you just told me? Is this any harder to swallow?”
“Then do it! I’ll meet you there as soon as I can. I have some preparations to make. And I have to send all of this to somebody for safekeeping. I don’t want to have the only copy of this conversation.”
“Emil, you’re sounding paranoid.”
“I’m not paranoid – yet. But I’m damn sure cautious, and I want you to be, too. Now hurry.”
Emil clicked off without warning, and Wayne was suddenly alone in the silent Mirage. He wasn’t sure what to do; but after his experiences that night, he had to admit that maybe Emil knew more than Wayne had ever realized.
“He does,” said a deep voice from the passenger seat.
Wayne nearly lost control of the wheel as he jumped, turning to look. The seat was in shadows, ones that weren’t cast by the dashboard lights. “What the fuck?”
He could almost hear the smile in the voice. “Come now, Dr. Hudson. You’re smarter than that. Your friend Emil already answered that question.”
“…a pooka? That’s crazy!”
“Tell yourself that enough times, and you might fool yourself into accepting it. But you know better.” Then the voice chuckled. “But your friend has many things wrong, in the way ways humans are always wrong about us. For one thing, It’s not pooka, it’s puca.”
Wayne kept his eyes on the road. No matter what was going on, he still had to watch out for deer. But he said, “I don’t hear the difference.”
“It will be clearer if you were born speaking Gaelic. You could make out the phonemes better. Those few humans who talk about us today often use the debased form of our name. It’s P-U-C-A, puca. That’s only one of the things humans get wrong, but it’s annoying.”
Wayne glanced out of the corner of his eye. With his peripheral vision, the shadow seemed more solid. But as he turned toward the seat, the shadow faded again into insubstantial darkness. “What else have we gotten wrong? My friend Emil’s pretty smart, and he studies your kind.”
The puca sighed. “There’s not much to study. I have been on your World Wide Web, searching for evidence, and erasing any that was too accurate. I mostly let the myths stand, but it wouldn’t do to have too much true knowledge about us. Someone might study it and start to suspect the truth.”
“What truth is that?”
“That we exist! That we always have. That we have studied you, aided you sometimes… played with you more often.”
“So you are devils?”
Again came the laugh. “No, we have nothing to do with devils. They are evil. We are merely… bored.”
“Bored. Have you ever been bored, Dr. Hudson? Have you ever sat through an interminable experience – maybe watching your wife buy shoes? – and wondered what it would ever end? Or maybe you’ve inflicted boredom, making your students sit through long, tedious lectures when they really didn’t care. You know boredom?”
Wayne nodded. “Of course I know boredom.”
“You have no idea. You get bored in a half hour. Maybe a couple of hours. You might do the same thing for as much is a day before tiring of the sameness. Now imagine doing the same thing for fifty days. Fifty years… Five hundred…”
“You live that long?”
“We live until release. Until we voluntarily end our lives, or we simply pass on to… somewhere else. Many of us have done just that. Some few of us have stayed here, toying with you humans to pass the time.”
“Why toy with us? If you have so much time, couldn’t you come up with better things to do?”
Wayne almost saw the shadow’s head shake. “No, that is our curse. Our people… We’re not imaginative in the ways that yours are. Not to the same degree. We play the same tricks upon each other year after year. We play a different set of tricks upon you, from generation to generation. There’s amusement in seeing what you do, how many different reactions you have to the same illusions, the same threats…”
Wayne had an ugly thought. “The same… tortures?”
“No, Dr. Hudson, that is not our way. For most of us, at least. You have to understand that for a puca, taking direct action is… distasteful. Uncomfortable. It almost makes one physically ill. But enticing you to injure yourselves… “Once more, the laughter.”
“So mental torture is all you do then?”
“It’s all that most of us do. Some of us don’t even do that. Some few of us have become fascinated with your entertainments, your books and plays and these new things, movies. Some of us have taken to consuming these all of our days. You produce so much of it, and so imaginative. I have indulged a little myself. It is amusing, but it’s not spontaneous like when we play games with you.”
“But you implied that some of you go the other way.”
“Indeed! There are pucas, and then there are… Let’s call them pucks. You have your sociopaths and your psychopaths, your deviants who take actual pleasure in hurting others, for no other purpose than to witness the pain and know that they caused it. They accomplished that.”
Wayne nodded. A small corner of his mind wondered if this if these pathologies might be amenable to Cognitive Logic. Could it be possible to make these sick individuals see the consequences of their actions?
But he said nothing as the shadow continued. “We have similar deviants as well, these pucks. They… They feel the same pain and discomfort from direct action that others of our kind do, but they… enjoy it. In your terms, you might call them masochists. But where a human masochist causes pain to themselves for their pleasure, a puck causes pain to others, and that inflict pain upon themselves in an ironic circle of pain. Some become quite addicted to it. The worst have been hunted down by our kind, to imprison them before they do damage to our society by drawing your attention.”
“That’s… That’s sick.” But Wayne saw parallels to what he had remembered from abnormal psychology class. The idea gave him a shiver. “And so you’re speaking to me now. Why?”
“For multiple reasons, Dr. Hudson. For one, simply because you were able to notice me. You are something new among humans, and I was curious. Very rare are those who can see us, but you may be the first trained yourself to see us.”
“You heard that?”
“I heard your entire conversation with Mr. Vardeb, he who knows so much but so much of it wrong. He’s fascinating. He must be one with the natural ability to see us, to study us. And now… With how you’ve trained him, and with so much more you might teach eventually, he could become like no human before in his ability to see us and to undermine our games.”
“Emil’s a good guy,” Wayne answered. “I don’t think he wants to cause you trouble, he just wants to learn more about you.”
“But if he learns too much… Well, we shall deal with that when we must.”
“Hey! No, seriously, Emil’s not a threat.”
“We shall decide that, Dr. Hudson. If you’re right, then it should be amusing to watch him flail around with these newfound abilities.” The shadow drew in a deep breath, then said, “But there is one more reason why have I am speaking to you.”
Wayne clenched the wheel, feeling his brain overflow with so much learned in a day. If he could believe that all… “So then what other reason does a puca have for speaking with me?”
Then in his rearview mirror he saw red glowing eyes and cheekbones like red wood. “I’m not a pooka. I’m a puck.”
Something grabbed the wheel of the Mirage, jerking it back and forth…
The good folks at Fyrecon have declared this to be Fyretober: a month of creative prompts, encouraging writers, poets, and artists to share their explorations. Today’s prompt: Screaming trapdoor,
Harry Houdini has a great trapdoor trick. Does that count?