January 3, 2009

MicroHorror Featured Pick - "The Magician's Dilemma"

Normally MicroHorror's creator, Nathan Rosen, gives me full sway in my decision of which story from his 1000+ collection to feature here, so I was a little alarmed this week when he intervened, demanding that one particular story from the myriad 2008 Halloween contest entries be selected. Though taken aback by his insistence, I have no choice but to capitulate if I want to stay in his good graces -- so here's my own little story, submitted to the 2008 Halloween contest whose winners were reprinted here over the last few weeks...

"The Magician's Dilemma"
by Tom Blunt


I have two rabbits in my act, always two. One of them is named Clover and enjoys ravaging lettuce leaves off of a saucer near my feet while I prepare my own meager dinner. The other one never lives long enough to earn a name; it is placed within an “enchanted” golden box before a rapt audience, and crushed quickly and painlessly when the force of my entire upper body descends on it. I present its pathetic, ruined body and blood-dewed fur to the crowd, and then after a series of flourishes inspired by mystics of the Orient, the creature suddenly revives entirely -- or rather, patient Clover has emerged from my secret sleeve, and the wet baggage of her double has taken residence there, its blood cooling as it soaks through the lining and tattoos my underthings with damp roses. Clover takes a bow, to thunderous applause; we both dine well on show nights.

Two rabbits, two cages. But last night there was a terrific clamor on the stairs as I stood in my room perfecting my technique in the mirror; a false alarm, a large chamber pot (and not the tiny maid carrying it) had tumbled and emptied its contents onto the landing. When I returned to my room a moment later, two pairs of identical eyes greeted me from the floor. Two blank curious faces, interchangeable in their beauty and innocence, one of them destined to share my pillow, the other to bleed in my pocket and swim in my stew.

Tonight, in the wings, I watch the red-faced man with the poodle act as he guides his pups through candy-colored hoops. The audience coos; deep down, they know how often a dog must be whipped to learn those tricks -- but aren’t our lives made so much richer by these splendid flashes of magic? I understand their desperate laughter as I brood over the stowed creature nestled close to my body; it feels like an alien thing to me, a malignant cuckoo’s egg. Opening the box beside me, I reach in with one hand to fondle its cargo, begging silently for a spark of recognition as I caress its anonymous features in the darkness. Clover?

“You’re on,” hisses the pock-marked stagehand. The moment the spotlight smites my eyes and the stamping crowd booms, I feel a sudden stiff, frightened kick against my inner thigh, then another. But it is too late! Small claws dig into my flesh as I clamber through the routine, sweatily producing a long-stemmed rose from a woman’s d├ęcolletage and turning a decanter of milk into sour wine. I can’t stop now, the audience already knows what the golden box is for; it’s what they came for. With trembling hands I remove the lid and lift Clover high for their appraisal. I straighten myself to my full height and steel myself for the grand finale.

Copyright: © 2008 Tom Blunt

1 comment:

Nathan Rosen said...

Chilling story, Tom. Thanks for bending to my will. I promise not to make a habit of going mad with power and overriding your editorial prerogative.