Write Like a Wizard 2016 Writing Challenge Entry- Of Love and Magic:
In 4000 words or less, tell a story about a magician who makes a mistake during practice. He makes his assistant really disappear. Is there some sinister force at work? Does he truly command magic? What happens as the magician tries to bring his assistant back.
Of Love and Magic:
Eric Spalding rubbed his hand along an old faded poster, a smile stretching across his face. It was a reminder of how far he'd come since his teenage years. He was just a simple stage magician back then, back in his humble beginnings. He was in his mid-thirties now and had all ready become one of the leading illusionists in the world today. He often spent time in a special room in the mansion he'd purchased a few years back, thanks to his ever growing fame and fortune, reminiscing about the past. With all the amazing things he'd done with his career, nothing held a candle to the day he married his best friend and assistant, Michelle.
Lately they'd been working on ways to make their sets and illusions that much more magical in nature. They'd amassed quite the network of authentic resources over the years, but they were always looking to take things to that next level. Just last week Michelle had received an e-mail from a contact of theirs in the Middle East named David. They'd known him for about three years now and had purchased a number of things from him during that time. Apparently he'd managed to obtain, though she was glad he didn't say how, a few objects that he thought would be perfect for them. After she'd spoken to Eric about it, they agreed to meet with him in New York to take a look at what he had to show them. They would take a full week away from the endless shows in Vegas to turn it into something of a vacation, something they were long overdue for. They'd grown up and spent most of their lives in Ohio before Eric was discovered and ended up with the show in Vegas. Sure they'd been all over the country, and many others for that matter, but it had been all about business for the most part.
The moment the plane touched down at the JFK International Airport, they wasted no time at all catching a taxi to their Presidential Suite at the Four Seasons to drop of their luggage before heading to Fantasma Magic to see the Houdini Museum. Fantasma Magic was the leading manufacturer of magic tricks and the home of the most prestigious magic shop in the world. Eric and Michelle had placed a number of orders to them over the years, but had never actually had the chance to stop in and check everything out. It had been top on their places to visit for so long that it seemed like the perfect place to start their vacation. With so much to see there they spent hours just wandering around looking at things, and talking to the people working there.
They enjoyed themselves so much at Fantasma that they hadn't even realized how late it had gotten until it was closing time. The owner had stopped in upon hearing they were there, and asked them to stay and talk a little while once the doors were closed. They'd of course said yes, more than happy to oblige someone that they considered to be a friend. They spent hours drinking and discussing tricks they'd done and seen over the years. Ben was a good man, someone they felt fortunate to know. Before they left for the evening they promised to come back before they left for Vegas.
They spent the next couple days going to museums, catching shows on Broadway, and even meeting up for drinks with a few friends in the industry. It was exactly the vacation from the hustle and bustle of Vegas that they needed to recharge their batteries. The days flew by, and before they knew it, it was time to meet up with David. They'd decided to meet at a little cafe called Madman Espresso over on East Fourteenth that David had suggested. It was a small place, and there didn't seem to be a lot of customers there when they arrived. It was a rather brisk morning so they each ordered themselves a nice hot chocolate. Michelle of course added a shot of espresso and some white chocolate drizzle in hers, just the way she liked it. Just as they got their orders and shifted into a booth big enough for the three of them, David sauntered in. Today he was dressed in a button down black shirt and slacks, and simple black fedora set upon his shaved head. He was carrying a rather large briefcase in his left hand that seemed to be handcuffed to him. He ended up ordering himself a caramel macchiato and sat with them while he waited on it. He grinned as they exchanged some small talk. Just as his order was brought out to him he got down to business.
“It's good to see the two of you, I think you're really going to like what I brought to show you. I'm not going to lie, this was a hard get.”
“I expect only the best from you David, show us what you got.”
David set the over sized briefcase upon the table and made a show of unlocking the handcuffs, opening the combination lock, and flipping the latches. He turned it around to face them and finally opened it up. Inside was a very old book that appeared to be bound in some kind of leather that neither of them immediately recognized. In the center of the bound cover was some sort of face, or at least that's how it looked to them. To the left of the strange book was the largest piece of onyx that either of them had ever laid their eyes upon, it had been fashioned into a very sleek looking wand. To the right laid a ring made of marble with unrecognizable symbols carved into the band. Eric and Michelle were immediately enthralled with the pieces. They shared a knowing look, they were the sort of couple that always seemed to know exactly what the other was thinking. It was Michelle that finally spoke up.
“I have to say David, these are some very interesting pieces. What can you tell us about them?”
David launched right into a long winded explanation. Sometimes it was hard to divide the truth from the stories when he'd show them things. It was all pageantry with him, he had this way of inserting romanticism into the mystical world. It's why they enjoyed working with him so much.
“Well, let's start with the book. It's quite famous actually. It had many names, the most common being the Necromonicon, or the Book of the Dead. It's said to be bound in human flesh, and the pages inked in blood. This may well be perhaps the most truly magical thing I have ever brought you, you'll not see it's like again.”
Eric was immediately skeptical. He went along with Michelle's love of the occult, but it all seemed like such bullshit to him. He'd seen and done so many amazing things over the years, things so many people considered to be true magic, when in reality there were simple explanations for each and every one of them. He wasn't the religious type, and he certainly didn't believe in magic. Michelle on the other hand was all ready inspecting the book, running a finger over it's spine. She spoke directly to David.
“I've heard mentions of this book all over the place. It's so famous that it's even littered throughout pop culture. I have some serious doubts that this is real David, no offense to you. Things like this just don't come up for sale.”
David held up a hand to stop her before launching into the speech he'd prepared ahead of time.
“I have all the proper pages to prove the authenticity of the piece. It's even been dated by reputable sources. You have no idea the nightmare this was to get through customs Michelle, and you don't even WANT to know how it came to be in my possession.”
Michelle nodded, sipping her drink. David's eyes were on that wand, so he decided to ask about it.
“What about the wand? I've never seen anything like it. I think it might add something special to a show I'm working on.”
David grinned his widest grin yet as he spoke.
“Yes, I had you in mind when I picked that up. The wand and the ring actually belonged to the same guy the book came from. He lead some cult he wouldn't stop going on and on about. Something about some beings called The Old Ones or some such. He was a very strange guy. All of these things were used in a variety of rituals so I'm told. The guy told me the majority of the cult had died under strange circumstances he couldn't go into. He was definitely the nervous sort if you ask me. He kept looking all around like he was waiting for someone the whole time. Anyway, according to him the wand contains very powerful magic. He also claimed the ring could make you invisible when paired with a particular spell from the book.”
That certainly sparked Eric's interest. He loved a good story just as much as the next guy. He didn't for a second believe a damn thing David was saying, all he cared about was how the items looked. His mind was all ready spinning with ideas. If the book was authentic they'd be famous just for owning it, things like that always brought a sort of notoriety with them after all. It was Michelle that broke the silence.
“All right David, I'm going to level with you. I want that book. How much for the lot?”
If they thought David's grin couldn't get any wider, they were wrong. He had them over a barrel and they all knew it. He could name whatever price he wanted and was damn near certain they'd pay it. Luckily he all ready had an appropriate number in mind.
“Three million for the lot, not a penny less”
Eric took a deep breath at that price. It seemed like a lot to pay for the items. They could afford it, but that wasn't the point. On the other hand, if this book was authentic it was likely worth more than that alone. He glanced at Michelle as he sipped his hot chocolate. She nodded once to him, it was a small nod but it spoke volumes. She wanted this lot. It was impossible for him to deny her things she wanted, especially when she asked for so little. He turned to David and spoke the words that would soon come back to haunt him.
“Three million seems steep for all of this David, but if these papers check out it seems worth it. I can wire you the money right now if that works for you.”
David nodded emphatically.
“That's why I love doing business with the two of you. It's quick and to the point every single time. Shake on it?”
David shook hands with each of them in turn. Eric pulled out his cell, got the numbers he needed from David, and wired the money into his account. When it was all said and done David closed the briefcase and slid it over to them. They talked for a while longer before finishing their drinks and parting ways. The second they left, briefcase in hand, Michelle placed a kiss on Eric's cheek. He eyed her curiously as he flagged down a taxi.
“What was that for?”
She beamed at him.
“For loving me Eric. I know you bought that book for me. I can't begin to tell you how excited I am to start checking it out. I'm intrigued about finding the spell that works with the ring as well. What if it works Eric? That would change everything!”
He chuckled as he helped her into the taxi. She knew he didn't believe in any of it, but he always humored her just the same.
“My love, if it works, it will be a miracle in and of itself”
They took the taxi back to the hotel. Michelle wanted to get a start on the book and Eric wanted to write some notes for the new show he was working on. They were headed back to see Ben in the morning at Fantasma, and then they'd catch their flight back to Vegas that evening. Michelle barely took her eyes off the book, Eric had to make her stop to eat a few times. She reluctantly put it down sometime in the middle of the night and slipped into bed with him for a little shut eye.
The next morning came sooner than they would have liked. They packed up all of their things to get ready for the flight later and headed over to Fantasma to meet up with Ben. He was just as happy to see them as he'd been before. Eric had even brought the briefcase with him to show the man what they'd procured. Ben was floored to say the least, barely able to keep his eyes off that book. There was some sort of deep understanding in his eyes that made Eric a little bit uncomfortable. Ben looked back up to Eric as he spoke.
“What would you guys say to a little demonstration today? I'm curious about this ring situation.”
Before Eric could speak up Michelle had slipped the ring on her finger and stood with a bright smile on her face. She flipped to the page that contained the spell for it and slid the book to Eric.
“Just say the words my love, and it should work. Oh, and please use the wand. I'd love to see how it looks in your hand.”
Eric laughed a bit, this seemed like an insane idea. There was no way this was going to work, he was certain of that. Maybe proof that it wouldn't would settle a long standing argument between him and Michelle. Ben seemed to be sweating for some reason, which seemed like a fairly odd reaction in Eric's opinion. He couldn't shake off a sudden discomfort brewing in his stomach. Michelle snapped him out of his reverie.
“Earth to Eric. Just say the words love, I'm getting anxious.”
He nodded to her and looked down at the, supposed, blood inked words on the page. He felt a little nauseous all the sudden. The harder he stared at the words the more they seemed to shift on the page, as if they didn't want to be read. He let out breath he didn't know he was holding in and did his best to read out loud with a few well placed flourishes of the onyx wand.
“Wush shata ghu'gt, I thaftft ialun Tha Oftg Onat. Lang na xuia' lugha' tu I nax huga nxtaftr r'un sha ghu'ftg ur nan. I thhannaft shaa ghush shut 'ung, ftas us fta guna!”
Eric had no idea if he'd even spoken the words correctly, it all sounded like complete gibberish to him. He was about to say as much when a strange electricity crackled in the air. The wand began to glow a sickly green color. Eric nearly dropped it in surprise as the onyx began to heat up. Ben was shaking a little, a look of terror in his eyes as he looked to Michelle. She let out a gasp as the ring started to glow the same color as a wand. She screamed out Eric's name just before she disappeared. Eric couldn't believe what he was seeing, shock wasn't even the word for it. He ran at the space where she'd been standing just seconds before, feeling around for her. Surely if she were just invisible, she'd still be there right? Minutes were flying by as he frantically called out for her, searching every single inch of the room with his hands and eyes. Ben stood there just staring at him, causing anger to swell in Eric.
“Stop standing there and help me find her Ben!”
Ben's face went white as she shook his head, barely able to get out the words on his lips.
“She's not here Eric.”
That stopped Eric dead in his tracks.
“What the hell do you mean she's not here Ben?”
Ben shifted forward and attempted to put a hand on Eric's shoulder, which Eric shrugged off instantly. Ben spoke frantically
“This book, it's so much more than you can understand! It's a gate way to other dimensions! Dimensions where The Old Ones rule! They're horrid, maddening things Eric! People just don't come back from that! You need to take that book and leave immediately. Get it out of here Eric!”
Eric was just as stunned by Ben's words as he had been at Michelle's disappearance. In a blind rage he slammed everything back into the briefcase and stormed out of the room. He caught a taxi back to the hotel and made the call to cancel their flights back to Vegas. He would stay in that room until he found a way to bring back the love of his life, no matter how long it took. Minutes became hours, hours became days. He'd stopped sleeping, stopped eating, time meant nothing now. He was wasting away there in that room and he didn't even care. All that mattered to him was having Michelle back in his arms again. Tears dripped from his eyes till they were raw, further adding to his dehydration. He'd started trying spells at random now, desperate to cause some change that would lead her back to him. Panic attacks came by the dozens, each wracking his body and mind harder than the one before it. He was starting to see things now. Red eyes were staring back at him from under the bed, tentacles danced in his peripheral vision, gurgling and insane laughter echoing through the room. Each spell became more and more intense, driving him into a madness he didn't think he'd ever truly be able to recover from.
A week had passed and still he had not eaten or slept. He was so weak he could barely move, let alone read out loud the spells that didn't wish to be read. He forced the words into his plane of existence, binding the magic to the wand without ever even knowing it. Every failure brought with it the creeping doom that he would never set eyes on his beloved again. No, he couldn't accept that, he wouldn't. Just one more spell he kept telling himself. One more spell and she'll be back, then they would go home together. By now the spells were causing more issues than he could bring himself to notice. Things were waiting for him in the dark, he caught more obvious glimpses of them now and again.
Just before he collapsed, the room changed a final time. It looked as if it had before he had started reading from the book. No hint of the many faced horrors were left. There was only Michelle, sitting there on the bed staring at him with a confused look stretched across her seemingly confused features, her dark hair in a state of disarray. She pulled the ring from her finger immediately and tossed it onto the bed beside her before standing and rushing over to him. He collapsed on the floor in her arms, his eyes unable to remain open.
He wasn't sure how much time had passed with him asleep. When he came to he was in a hospital by the looks of it. A quick look around told him all he needed to know. She was curled up in a chair seemingly asleep. He was hooked up to an iv and all manner of beeping machines. He felt a little stronger than he had before, so that was certainly a plus. When he cleared his throat she woke up, a worried smile passing over her face. She stood with a stretch and moved to the side of the bed, running a hand through his hair so lovingly. He couldn't help but notice she did it with her right hand, which was a bit strange since she was left handed. He closed his eyes at her touch, chalking his moment of paranoia up to the situation. They stayed that way for a little while.
He was released from the hospital the next day with a stern warning from the doctor to take it easy. They rested for another few days at the hotel before leaving again for Vegas. Michelle had suggested they return to Fantasma to speak with Ben, but Eric wanted nothing to do with the situation. He was certain the man had known what was going to happen before she even slipped the ring on, even if he couldn't prove it. That was a situation he planned to deal with on his own at another time. Things were otherwise a bit on the odd side over the next few days. There were odd little clues like Michelle not calling him any of the pet names she had for him, the continued use of her right hand, the way she looked at him when she thought he wasn't looking, and something in her demeanor that just seemed off. She'd even gone back to obsessing over the book again, but this time with a renewed fervor. He thought maybe it was just her trying to figure out what had happened at first, but soon realized it was something much more than that.
Soon enough they were back in Vegas, and moving on with their lives. He'd stopped ordering from Fantasma, and took to only picking up things from private collector's in the industry. It was a bit more expensive that way, but he couldn't stand the thought of sending any more money to Ben. He often replayed the last words the man had spoken to him over in his head at night when he was alone with his thoughts. Ben had said she'd never come back from what happened with that ring. Could he be right? Something brushed his leg beneath the blanket, and he looked over to find Michelle sound asleep. When it brushed again he lifted the covers to have a look. He wasn't prepared for what he saw beneath. There, nestled against his leg, was an inky black tentacle. His eyes followed it to it's source, Michelle. Suddenly her eyes opened wide, staring into his. There was a hunger burning there in eyes that he no longer recognized. Even her words sounded foreign as she spoke them..
“Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn “
Was this some lasting effect of the spells he'd used to bring her back? Was he hallucinating? He'd almost convinced himself he was, until that tentacle began to slither it's way up his flesh, followed by others that appeared to rip their way through Michelle's smooth pale skin. Dark, inky blood oozed from the wounds as those tentacles began to bind his wrists and ankles, pressing him down hard against the bed. God, those eyes, staring into his soul, those hungry eyes. His body began to shake as the pressure intensified. She moved to straddle his waist, a hideous laughter tearing through her throat in tones that were no longer human. He tried to fight back against her, begging her not to do this. She merely ran a hand through his hair slowly and forced a hand over his mouth to cut off his words. Her jaw broke and peeled back to reveal a widely distorted mouth of row after row of sharp jagged teeth. Resigned to his fate, he looked upon oblivion with a small smile, knowing he'd see HIS Michelle again soon enough.
Raz T. Slasher is an upcoming independent horror actor and writer. When he's not killing people he co-hosts the Twisted Geekdom Podcast with his best friends. Raz enjoys spending time with his family and friends, worshiping The Great Cthulhu, hanging out with his cat Stoker, and talking about himself in the third person. His favorite quote about his writing is “It's like Lovecraft and Clive Barker had a love child and gave it up for adoption to be raised by Charles Manson.” Raz was born in Dayton,OH and he never plans to leave. He is currently banned from jumping out at people from dark rooms around the house.