Day 10: You, a grown adult, are afraid of the dark. Explain why this is a legitimate concern so your friends won’t laugh at you.

I know this sounds crazy, but you’ve got to hear me out. And whatever happens, while you’re reading this, turn on the lights. Don’t let them go out. I’m talking candles, electric lights, whatever you’ve got, but don’t stay in darkness. Are you done? Good. Now you can hear my story.

Remember though. Whatever happens, don’t go into the dark.

***

‘Ladies and gentlemen, roll up, roll up and prepare to be amazed. The Great Rudolpho will show you wonders like you’ve never seen.’ The show was bustling that night. I could hear the other performers backstage, shouting to each other for make-up and costumes. It wasn’t easy, being the assistant to the Great Rudolpho (more commonly known as Irwin Glass, an ex finance-manager from Bristol.) I had to look after all of his costumes, help him with the set and the tricks that involved two people. In return, he’d promised to teach me some tricks. I had the hang of the coin passing through my palm, and revealing the chosen card in a bunch of flowers. That one’s definitely trickier. Irwin was impressed with my sleight of hand, but said that I needed more showmanship. Hence the reason I was stood in front of a sold out audience, whipping the crowd into a frenzy.

Irwin strolled out onto the stage, decked out resplendently in garish red robes, the stagelights reflecting off of his bald head, crazy tufts of silvering hair sprouting from just above his ears. ‘Velcome!’ He declared, feigning a foreign accent to appear the quintessential dark and mysterious stranger. ‘Tonight, I vill show you amazink things!’ It tended to slip when he reached the end of the first few sentences but he had such a grasp of the audience by then that they never even noticed.

He ran through his initial repertoire, each trick slightly more elaborate and showy than the last. Until he looked around the room, his cold grey eyes circling until they connected with mine. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, my time here tonight has come to an end. But I will leave you with a very special series of tricks. For these tricks, feel free to video, take pictures.’ He vanished, reappearing in the dress circle. ‘Tell your friends, discuss. With. Everyone.’ He punctuated each word with a vanish, reappearing everywhere around the theatre.

Eventually, he reappeared on the stage. Darkness swirled around him, sucked from the theatre lights, before a spectral figure of swirling shadow appeared next to him. ‘These magics are the most powerful and most dangerous in the land.’ A sword appeared in his hand and the shadow mirrored him. ‘All it would take is one slip.’ The sword met it’s shadowy brother with a loud, metallic snap. ‘And I would fall to the worst thing in this world.’ More snapping noises, faster and more aggressive. ‘Truly, abhorrent, dark..’ He stopped and looked directly at me before those cold grey eyes moved down to the spectral form in his chest. He collapsed to the ground and every light in the theatre went out with a flash.

One second passed. Another and another. Not a sound could be heard in the room, every single person still as The Great Rudolpho lay still on the stage with the great, spectral giant towering above him. Suddenly, a bright light began to shine through, cracks appearing in the shadow.

‘Ladies and gentlemen! I give you true magic!’ And with soundless explosion of light, the Great Rudolpho stood on the stage, blue robes in the place of his red ones. ‘Goodnight!’ HE cried to rapturous applause as he disappeared with a vanish. I watched him appear in the wings, glance at me and grin. He beckoned, and I, as always, followed.

***

‘Another excellent night, Victor!’ Irwin smiled, shrugging out of his robes. ‘I certainly feel you’ve earned your wages this evening! Are you ready to learn?’ I nodded, mutely. Struck dumb once more by the feats I had just watched. ‘Good. Then tonight, I shall show you how to walk the shadows. Yes, Victor, my boy… Tonight you’ll learn the shadow trick.’

He wandered slowly around the room, extinguishing all the lights except for one candle in the centre, before taking a seat on the floor one side of it. He gestured to the other side and said my name. ‘This will be bumpy Victor. Follow me precisely, ignore the local fauna and flora and do not, under any circumstances, DO NOT touch the sides. Now, let us begin.’

With that, the darkness began to swirl around us.

The Idiot In Tin Foil

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