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Deal 1261: Carrots

The light from a single broken window picked out a single machine, and made it stand out from the rest of the abandoned factory. The rest of the space was lost to shadows with occasional brighter spots where a window was inexplicably cleaner than the rest, allowing a little more light to pass. The light from the broken window was placed perfectly to emphasize the complexity of this particular machine.

No one remembered what this factory made when it was in operation. The business name had been taken down ages ago, and most of the paint was faded outside. Even if the name had been legible, it was clearly one of those generic names that leaves no clues as to the identities of either the founders or their industry. Inside, most workstations had supplies of decaying parts and the occasional drawings. But the paper was yellowed with age, and the parts were as mysterious as the machines that had made them.

The most interesting thing was illuminated clearly. A bin of carrots, spilling out on to the floor into a mound that flooded two of the aisles between the machines. At the fringes, the carrots were rather old and dry, cracking in the dusty air. But near the top of the pile, the carrots might have been picked yesterday.

This bin, and the large machine beside it, were near the center of the factory, surrounded by the pile of aging carrots, and further out surrounded by undisturbed dust. There was no obvious way for fresh carrots to reach the pile. And yet, there they were, plain as day. The bright orange root glistened in the sunlight, a few grains of dirt and just a single dewdrop clinging to its sides. The greens were standing fresh and crisp as well.

Looking closer, I realized that the dust was not completely undisturbed. There was a single trail of small footprints, punctuated by occasional marks from what could have been a long tail. From the size of the footprints, a well fed rat was coming and going from the carrot pile, but was also clearly not sharing the location of his find with any other critters.

I heard a rustling noise behind me, and turned.

There at the top of the pile was a second fresh carrot.

I swear it wasn’t there before.

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Deal 1260: Remember George?

They slowly gathered dust in the back room of the little theatre, in the dim light and away from prying eyes and fingers. Perhaps in the right hands, they could be used again to amaze. But before that could happen, they would need more than a little repair. And likely fresh paint.

The chair suspension had a loose leg, and could hardly support itself, let alone a volunteer.

The thin model sawing was missing a blade. Without it, the secrets would leak out under the bright lights, and then it would fail to be an illusion. ALthough to be fair the line between illusion and disillusion is always fairly thin. Even when all works perfectly, small slips by the performers add up and the audience may not be fooled in the slightest.

Most of the production props were aging, suffering badly from loss of flexibility. A compressible bowling ball is worthless if it crumbled to dust when packed, or takes too long to spring back to shape when released.

The egg bag seemed to be home to many generations of moths. If picked up and manipulated today, it would fall to pieces. In its glory days it would have been the keystone of an act that produced a dozen fresh eggs and the chicken that laid them.

In the darkest corner there was a box of appearing canes stuck open, and disappearing candles stuck closed.

If George ever remembered he’d left this show here, he was going to need to take some time to bring it back to its former glory.

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Deal 1259: Framed.

The cage hung from a hook in the corner of a perfectly appointed room. It was gilded, as one would expect from the level of taste and sophistication shown throughout the other furnishings; gilded and ornamented to the point that any songbird kept inside would die of shame. The rest of the room was a riot of silk brocades, tapestries, rugs, tables, and decor. The room did not even attempt to speak with a coherent voice. It had no story to tell beyond the obvious “my owner has no taste.”

The cage was empty, its door standing open, a single yellow feather the only memento of its occupant.

No cat was evident, other than from the feather.

Not that finding the cat in this room even if he was sitting in plain sight would be easy.

The room alone is not the whole story.

Or even the whole storey. Wandering the rest of the house, there is indeed a cat. He is not happy, as the bird’s owner is convinced the cat ate the bird. Cat claims innocence. but struggles to explain a second yellow feather found on his jaw.

Meanwhile, in the attic, a small yellow bird gloats.

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Deal 1258: The Wire

At first glance, the figure was hovering in midair, more than far enough above the chasm to break every bone in his body.

The wire he was standing on could be seen in enough sections along its length to make it clear that overt magic was not involve. All in all, this was not a nearly naked man flying. It was merely a man standing on a narrow bridge.

That the bridge was perhaps only an inch wide was just a reductio ad absurdum of a more typical bridge. After all, when walking down a sidewalk, how much ground are you actually standing on? Certainly not the entire walkway width. At most, a patch the size of each foot. The rest of the sidewalk is only there to reassure you, you aren’t actually using it.

How much stage is a ballerina actually standing on when en pointe?

The toe of her shoe is not large at all, perhaps one by two inches. She doesn’t need more stage than that to stand on.

So on that scale, the inch or so diameter of the wire is plenty.

It doesn’t look that way when a chasm looms below. A chasm that hasn’t really even been fully explored, and might be effectively bottomless.

The trick, then, is to remember walking on a stage, on a sidewalk, or on a bridge. And remember that you aren’t using the rest of the space, just the bits under your feet.

Unless he falls.

So just don’t fall.

Because there is no net.