Deal 682: Box Spinner

This should be a great illusion.

Lights will come up on an empty stage.

Empty except for the small box on a table at the center. The table is on wheels, and slowly begins to drive itself in a circle. As it goes, it reveals the artwork on all sides of the box. What isn’t obvious at first is that the artwork is different on every lap.

The table began by moving on a circular path with a fairly large radius. But as time progresses, the radius shortens. The lights begin to flicker and flash sporadically revealing that each face of the box is changing steadily, while also remaining the same in some essentials.

There’s an image of a cat, unconcerned with how it never seems to be the same cat.

There’s an image of a rooster, that seems to crow, pitch hot sauce, hatch the egg of a basilisk, and generally act the dandy in charge.

There’s an image of a frog that occasionally flickers to reveal a prince but which always returns to the more amphibious shape.

And finally there’s an image of a Guardian. This one is not as clear as the others.

After starting out at a pace that made a lazy circuit of the stage, the box is now spinning in place and fast enough that all the images are blurring together into a single image.

The lights flash then go out.

The music reaches a crescendo.

A candle lights, and then the lights come up slowly to reveal that there was no box at all. Sitting on the table is a beautiful woman, guarded by a cat, with a rooster and frog.


Deal 681: Gary

The cards were spread, and Gary’s future became clear.

He wasn’t going to have an easy time of it. But the cards were clear that if he persevered past the inevitable barriers, that things would work out in the end. Perseverance was going to require that he find his core of strength.

Along the way, he’d face a number of opportunities to learn and communicate. Shirking those would lead to failure. But with wit and wisdom, he could navigate the puzzles through strength of mind.

He’d also face a trial of love, through which wisdom would eventually lead him to prevail. Wisdom and strength of heart.

The inevitable lawsuits brought by those he left behind would be a constant annoyance. Navigating that hazard would require strength of will.

The most difficult challenge of all, however, would be presented by an opportunity to adopt a tiny kitten with the power to transform from harmless and lovable fuzzball into a deadly ninja killing machine. Recognizing his strength of character, the kitten would grow to be his fiercest ally.


Deal 680: Visual Trap

The window provided a clean path to peek. The various debris has pulled back to reveal the object of my searching, a plain-walled outbuilding. Slowly I advanced, until I could look inside.


Or, at least, nothing to explain why I had been sent to look after her.

The room seemed to occupy the entire ground floor. It was sparsely furnished, with eye entrapping art on two of the four walls along with the ceiling and the floor, together forming a mural that completely surrounded an empty chair in the center. The far wall was, was—hmm.

That’s funny.

The far wall looked like it was miles away.

The floor was orange. Not a subtle sort of orange either. It roiled, as if it was the surface of a pot of orange liquid at a full rolling boil. And yet, if I focussed on a single point, it was still and cold. As floors go, it was pretty unreal. Looking to my left, the rolling boil of a floor calmed and merged with a serene painting that conveyed abject humility before an unknowable universe. Looking too closely made me doubt my own calling, and I had to look away. The ineffable was souped up on the ceiling in a painting that was the complete opposite of the floor. The lines were graceful and still. It was calming to look at, almost hypnotic. The subtle layers of patterns drew the eye and captured the attention, and before I knew it I was partly through the window. Not good. I backed out slowly before I was overcommitted, and looked to my right. Then wished I hadn’t. The painting was bold and angry, and pointed. Or rather edgy. It had a distinct edge to it that left no doubt in my mind of my fate should I actually step inside the room.

My blood would spill messily on the orange floor, but be quickly dispersed in as it continued to boil.

I backed away slowly, glad to be dodging what seemed inevitable as I made my escape.


Deal 679: A Box Trap, Baited

There were rumors, but I could hardly fathom how they could be true. And yet, they were persistent.

Everywhere he performed, girls were missing. The local police were puzzled. The show had always moved on before anyone thought to question the crew, and by the time the questions caught up no one remembered for sure when the girl had left, but she had collected and cashed out her pay from the show the next day.

It was diabolical.

Whether it was a frame, or he really was a serial killer.

Either way, the plot was almost too good.

And now he’s coming to my town, and perhaps I can catch him.

I’m the right size, and his advance team has already advertised for a new girl. I just needed to pad my resume a little, and get through what turned out to be a rather perfunctory audition. And now I’m the girl, and am being trained for a new illusion as apparently he’s become tired of the sawing. So now it is to be stabbing with many flaming spears for me, while I’m inside the box.

So there will be boxes. And we will figure out whether one of them needs to be measured to fit a performer, or whether it really is just a coincidence that one local girl goes missing for nearly every show he’s performed on this tour.

The posters say “One Show Only!!!” just like that, with the madman’s special touch of three exclamation points.

So I will climb inside the box, and I will succeed in my mission.

Or die.

But hopefully not die, I’ll be happy with making a charge of just attempted murder stick to someone. From that, we should learn enough that charges of murder can be brought for each of the previous girls.

To make that stick, we’re laying a trap. I’m obviously the bait.

I’m protected by my wits. It may not seem that way, since I’ve actually volunteered to step into the Box of Certain Death as the posters call it. But we all know it’s a trick. Of course it’s a trick. He can’t possibly be training up a new girl to perform it the easy way for each new date, can he?

And yet, that does seem, coincidentally, what he’s been doing.

So against all odds and reason, I’ll take a lantern with me behind the scrim screen and climb into the Box of Certain Death and the whole world will know I’ve done that from the shadows cast by the lantern. The shadows will make any escape impossible, even as the box is lifted away from its platform, together with the lantern, screen, and me. There will be no possible way for me to be anywhere else when the flaming spears are passed through the screen and through the box. This little chat isn’t helping me feel better about my fate, mind you. It is sounding increasingly like the odds are ever in favor of my not living through the evening.

Up until now, he’s been living like a prince on the deaths of innocent girls. That cannot continue. It stops here. Tonight.

One show only, and then handcuffs and a police escort.

Followed by a very public trial.

Wish me luck, I hear the music, and the curtain is rising.


Deal 678: Churned and spread

Travel at the best of times is a balance between the urge to see new things and the annoyances of actually doing that.

Getting out of the compound for the day is not quite the same as travel abroad, but does offer some of the same tradeoffs. I can’t travel alone, even (especially) just to the corner store. So more planning is required, and a team of four that I know of are with me at all times.

I’m sure they think that I don’t know, but their code name for me seems to be “butterknife”. I’m not sure how to take that.

Today, Humble Sock is on point. He’s breaking a hole in the crowd, and getting the first look out for any trouble makers. Not sure why he got that nickname, but it might have something to do with the wild socks he wears as a single splash of color to an otherwise plain uniform.

Of course, they have also planted a man in the street scene well in advance of our movement. I believe that one of the busking musicians is ours. He’s actually pretty good, but I have to remember not to toss anything in his hat today, unless I need a major incident.

Rounding out the party are the Writing Rodent and Raven the Axe. Rodent is never far from his keys, aside from outings like this. But even now, he’s watching and remembering. He’s assured me in the past that these breaks from his routine are good for him, even if it does make him seem a little nervous to be away.

The Axe is a bird of another color. I’m reasonably sure she has never actually murdered somebody. But I’ve never been sure whether her cognomen refers to a weapon or to a guitar.