News for February
Sick-day Reading, or Sifting Out the Pearls
Interview with Henning Ludvigsen
Filling the Hatby Jamie Mason
Screwing the Magician's wife was a mistake. Ellis can see this now.
The Revenge is a slithering, breathing carpet of white on the kitchen floor -- a furry mass of bone and sinew approaching in absolute silence. Ellis is snake-fascinated by this weird form Death has taken and stares at it until the Magician clears his throat. Ellis turns. From his place handcuffed to the refrigerator, he can just discern the revolver resting between the top hat and the empty wine bottle on the table.
"I warned you," the Magician chuckles.
"You did," Ellis admits. "You knew?"
"Of course." The Magician's smile contains an impossible number of teeth. "The first rule of magic, Mr. Ellis. 'As above, so below.' Or in other words, energy can never be created or destroyed - merely recombined into new forms. You see?"
"When did you know?"
"Oh, the moment we met." The Magician takes up his hat and examines the brim critically. "Do you know, Mr. Ellis, why Magicians wear gloves?"
At first, Ellis liked the Magician. This was good because the farm had a rabbit problem and Ellis was a tightwad (a Magician was cheaper than an exterminator). "Tell me."
"To avoid singeing our fingers in the primordial fire. You remember -- during that discussion in which you agreed I could keep any rabbits I caught -- my remarks concerning the way you were looking at my wife?" The Magician sets his hat on his head and knocks it into place with a jaunty tap -- exactly as he had during that very discussion.
Ellis swallows nervously. "You said I should feel free to look."
"To look." Again the shark-bright smile. "Exactly. A good Magician never reveals his tricks. Could not the same be said of a practiced adulterer? His is a discreet dance, but a measured one. The choreography requires consummate faith. And patience. A single misstep can lead to failure."
"What does that have to do with rabbits?" Ellis's eyes flick briefly toward the writhing mass on the floor.
"What does anything have to do with anything? Hey? Indeed!" Ellis might, under different circumstances, find the Magician's laugh infectious. "The seventh rule of magic: 'separate the subtle from the gross with great industry.' You made the mistake of touching when you should have only looked. You reached into the primordial fire. And you did not wear your gloves."
The Magician removes his hat and studies the brim again. Ellis remembers the way its stove pipe elongated and flexed around each successive rabbit like a black throat swallowing. As it had around Elaine after he caught them together.
"How many did I catch? Twenty? Fifty? It doesn't matter. This hat can hold millions." The Magician pins Ellis with eyes of terrible infinite blue. "And it does."
He inverts the hat and taps its top, disgorging another rabbit which skids across the linoleum to join the hoard of others closing in on Ellis across the kitchen floor.
"The hand," deadpans the Magician, "is quicker than the eye." He snaps his fingers.
It is the last sound Ellis hears before the rabbits engulf him.
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