When Isaac left work, it was raining. Unfortunately, he’d had to park a block away because all the closer parking spots were full. He started to jog down the sidewalk, barely able to see a few feet ahead through the pouring rain, when he passed the antique shop and paused.
There was an umbrella displayed prominently in the front window. He knew that nearly every purchase he’d made at the shop had gone wrong somehow, but after a brief struggle, he stepped through the front door. After all, what could go wrong with an umbrella? The thought made him wince, as he suddenly thought of many, many things that could go wrong. He bought the umbrella anyway. Read More
“I joined a magic club today,” Hortense told her sister.
“A what?” Kezia nearly knocked her crystal ball off its stand. “You’re kidding.”
“No, I saw a flyer for it posted on the wall at the grocery store.” Hortense flicked her fingers at the fruit basket, and and apple hopped into her hand.
“That sounds dangerous. Was it charmed so that only magic users could see it?”
“No, there weren’t any runes on it or anything.” Hortense bit into her apple. “Weird, huh?”
Kezia made a face. “Don’t talk with your mouth full, or I’ll make that apple disappear.”
Hortense laughed. “You sound just like Mom.”
“Well, Mom had manners. Now tell me about the club.”
“So bossy.” Hortense took another bite of the apple.
“Can’t talk. My mouth’s full.”
Kezia muttered and snapped her fingers. The apple vanished. “There. I solved that problem for you.”
Hortense scowled. “Fine. You’re so mean.” She sat on the couch with a huff.
Hortense looked up at her sister. “You know, it was nice to be around magic again. But it was such a weird mix of spells. Some people were doing mind reading, some were making things appear and disappear. One guy was talking about cutting people into pieces and putting them back together. How would that even work?”
Kezia shook her head. “I wouldn’t want to risk it. I can’t believe that was allowed.”
Hortense shrugged. “I guess he was just talking about it. Anyway, they had a magic demonstration planned for next week. I signed up. I think I’ll do some tricks on my broom. It’s been too long since the poor thing’s been out of the house.”
“We talked about that when we moved here. In a big city like this…”
“Yes, yes. People, cameras, blah blah blah.” Hortense slumped back into the couch. “I don’t see why we’re both stuck here just because you want to try to fix air pollution with rune-covered crystals.”
“It’s a global problem, and my research…”
Hortense sighed loudly. “I know. And I came to help out. It’s just not easy to feel so trapped.” She sat up. “You should come next week. You never leave the house at all any more. It’s not healthy.”
Kezia snapped her fingers and the apple reappeared in Hortense’s lap. “All right. It might be nice to get out.”
The next week, they sat in a dimly lit, crowded room, watching the first act. The man pulled a rabbit from his hat and roses from his sleeves. Kezia sat up and narrowed her eyes. She began muttering during the next act as playing cards appeared and disappeared.
When the man with the giant saw wheeled his victim onstage, Kezia snorted. Hortense looked at her sister in confusion. “Kezia?” she whispered.
“It’s fake. None of them are using any magic at all. It’s just pretend,” Kezia whispered back.
“What?” Hortense said loudly. It was drowned out by the cheers of the magicians around them as the victim was repaired. “What do you mean? How could they even do that?” she whispered fiercely.
“Pay closer attention. You’ve let yourself get sloppy,” Kezia said.
After watching a man escape from a burning box and appear in the audience, Hortense sighed. “You’re right. Does that mean I have to cancel my performance?”
Kezia looked around at the audience. “No, I think you’ll be fine.”
“What do you mean?” Hortense asked. But already she was being called to the stage. Trusting her sister, she flew some loops around the stage and did a few flips. The audience roared in approval.
After the show, she was surrounded by eager magicians. “How did you do it?” one of them asked. “I have to know!”
The club president came over and shook his head. “Now, now. You know the rules. A magician never reveals their secrets.”
“Oh yeah. Sorry,” the man said. The group stared to drift away.
The club president smiled at Hortense. “Tell your sister I am a big fan of her work.” Then he winked and walked away.
Kezia brought their coats over. “Are you ready to go?”
Grinning, Hortense took her coat and started to put it on, only to realize she was holding it upside down. “You won’t believe what just happened!”
Kezia smiled. “I can’t wait to hear all about it. It’s good to see you this excited about something again.”
“Well, maybe the city isn’t so bad after all.” Hortense managed to get all her coat buttons fastened. “Let’s go home.”
The house was too quiet. Charlie and Marianne were at swim practice, and Isaac had the house to himself. He was trying to read, but turning the pages sounded unnaturally loud in the empty house. It was starting to feel a little creepy, as though the house was watching and