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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/entry_id/991509-A-Little-Magic-Trick
by Seuzz
Rated: GC · Book · Occult · #2193834
A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
#991509 added August 25, 2020 at 1:17pm
Restrictions: None
A Little Magic Trick
Previously: "Outsourcing a Mystery

by Masktrix

The underground footprint of the St Francis Xavier school is sizeable. The Latty family seemed to love digging down, building wine cellars, ice houses and an undercroft that was, ultimately, never used. Instead, it simply became 'The Crypt', a relatively small space used to store fold-away desks and seats used during exams. Apparently there's an even bigger labyrinth under the amphitheater, although you've never met anyone who's been down there, and the only group that goes into the wine cellar is a pretentious reading group chaired by Mr Scott, the school's obnoxious head of English.

"I didn't think we're allowed down here," Niamh says, a little nervously. You swing your flashlight in her direction.

"Of course not," you reply. "But we can't do it anywhere else. I picked it because it's the best place. You said this thing requires fire, right? If it starts smoking it'd set off the smoke detectors in Founder’s Hall." For all your playing it cool, you haven't been down here since third form, when you came to play spin the bottle and ended up trying to summon ghosts. Until Scott Ricci jumped out and sent us running back to our rooms, screaming.

"Fire's the final step," Aiden says. "And do we really want to do that bit? It's all a lot of bull anyway, so if we're going to be extra careful—"

"If we were going to be extra careful," you interrupt, "we wouldn't be doing it at all. So let's do it by the book."

You swing your rucksack to the ground and open it, pulling out a neatly folded sheet of paper. You spent all last night tracing out that intricate design in the book, and you show it to the others by the light of their phones. "And people say art class is just an easy pass," you smirk.

"It is," Niamh says. "And pretty useless in the long run."

"Says the girl taking Latin." You hand the paper to Aidan. "Here."

"For what?"

"It's part of the instructions."

Aidan opens the book and studies the formula with a frown. "It says to use the one here on the page."

"Sure, but—"

"Let's do it by the book," he retorts, and gives you a smug smile.

So with a snort you let Aidan take over. Like a surgeon commanding an operation, he calls for each of the components in turn, dropping them one at a time into the metal bowl he's set atop the open book. Nothing happens until he drops some rapidly melting ice cubes into the mix. That's when it begins to fizz and pop.

"Christ!" Aidan exclaims as a cloud of acrid smoke fills the confined space. Everyone gags and coughs, and your eyes begin to water.

"Freakin' great, Aiden." Niamh says, furiously waving her hand in front of the bowl, which is now shaking and vibrating away. "You must have read it wrong." She stands up, trying not to gag. "That is one whiffy b-word of a project. Know what, tell me how it goes later, I'm not going to have my clothes reek of stink bombs. Mariah, I'll be in the games room when you're done clowning."

"I read it right!" Aiden says, even as Niamh leaves. He waves away the cloud and points to the bowl. "Look, it's settling down. Still want to continue with this?" You and Mariah both nod, and he holds pushes the bowl off the book and replaces it with a concave mirror he managed to scare up. With a nod, he directs Mariah to pour out the bubbling goop across its reflective pane. Almost instantly, it hardens into a shell. "Alright," Aidan says, "last step is to burn this sucker. Joss-Moss, you want to do the honors?"

"It's JM," you say sulkily. You haven't been able to ditch ‘Joss-Moss’ since first form. You pull out your lighter and, warily, set the mixture aflame. It goes up like a gas BBQ, a dancing blue flame that, Aiden speculates, must be to 'burn away impurities'. You spend the next 15 minutes watching the fire and packing stuff away as Aiden and Mariah gabble about some computer game. You're just about to suggest dousing the burning mass and quitting when the flame suddenly goes out, and you're back among the darkness of your Maglite and the others' phones.

"So, what is it?" Mariah asks. You cautiously touch it with a finger tip. It's cool! And smooth, like alabaster. In the poor light, it looks strangely dull: almost grey. You pull it from the mirror, only for it to spring from your hands. You curse and scoop it up again.

No one says anything as you stare at the object, and you are strangely aware of your own rasping breath. "JM?" Mariah says.

"Look at it," you say, and your hand is numb as you hold it out for her and Aidan to examine. "It... it changed!"

Indeed it has. It was a smooth hemisphere when you picked it up, but now it is a shallow and distorted oval. But that's the least of it. It is now the shape of a mask.

Aidan takes it from you and turns it over in his hands. The light catches the shadows of its bumps and ridges: a brow, a nose, lips, cheekbones, sunken eyes. Mariah takes it in turn. "How did it do that?" she breathes.

Aidan laughs – a loud, brazen sound. "Don't be so gullible!" he exclaims. "Cool trick, JM," he snorts at you, "except it's not real impressive when you do it in the dark."

"Do what?" Mariah asks.

"Sleight of hand. You got us good, JM. You're the last person I'd peg for a practical joker."

"This isn't a joke!"

"Sure it isn't." He gets to his feet. "Come on, Mariah."

She drops the mask and follows him, ignoring your protests. "She made that mask thing in art class," he explains to her as they trudge off, "and switched it in after she pretended to drop that other one... "

***


You forget about the mask for the rest of the evening, and leave it along with the ingredients and book in your rucksack. While the Wednesday dorm check was unexpected, it's effectively ruled out any future checks for at least a few weeks – and as long as you keep things out of sight of Tammy-Lynn nobody's going to disturb your stuff. Saturday morning brings its usual mix of pointless classes, and you spend Saturday afternoon with Corinne, her roommate Bailey off home for the weekend. It's all a prelude of course, to the first party of the year.

It's about 9pm when you make your way out of the building and toward the woods. Your curfew isn't until 11pm, so technically a small gathering with friends isn't breaking any rules, although they're kept quiet from most of the prefects. The exception, of course, is Lucas Tanner, without question the most laid back of the St. X's students who are supposed to be in charge of discipline. He's there when you arrive, sat around the fire on cut log benches with Mike Best, Greg Coulter and – keep it together, JM – Mark Pederson. They've got a few soft drinks and a bag of potato chips out, and are laughing and joking with Corinne, Mary and a few others. Life of the party so far is resident space-case Loki Swain, who's taken his shirt off despite the chill in the air and is doing some kind of freeform dance to the amusement of the others.

You head over to the fire and sit down, a few inches away from Mark, trying to play it cool. Across, in the gloom, you see Corinne's toothy grin as she shoots you an encouraging look before going back to talk – or rather listen – to her own group. You wiggle sideways, a little closer to your target, hoping he'll notice you.

He doesn't. Instead the conversation is just the usual stuff. There's a general complaint from Mark about how there's no booze – a sentiment that everyone else agrees with, and Lucas jokingly sticks his fingers in his ears for – and a pledge to get some for next time. You sit through it all, staring at the flames, half wondering how to speak to Mark, half remembering the strange hue of the fire from your mask experiment a few days earlier. By 10.30 things have simmered down, and people are beginning to think about heading back. It's your chance to strike.

"It's freezing tonight," you say, hugging yourself a little and sliding oh-so-slightly nearer to Mark. "Should have bought a jacket or something."

"Go back inside if you're cold," Mark replies, almost indifferently.

"Yeah, I probably should," you say, twisting a finger through your hair. "Anyone want to walk back with me? I don't want to get lost in the woods."

"Just stick to the river, you'll be fine."

"Yeah," you say, standing up. "I guess I'll make it back alone. Well, goodnight."

"Wait," you hear a voice say. "I'll go with you." Your heart pounds in your chest for a moment… before you realize it's just Lucas – a guy who's too chilled to even think about asking you, or anyone else, out. Fuck. My. Life.

You make it back to your dorm by 10.45, once again throwing you under your comforter. You want to scream, or kick, or yell but you know Tammy-Lynn's just going to tell everyone about how 'Jocelyn was crying all night', and you've got better things to be than the subject of school gossip. Instead, you reach over to the rucksack, feeling the cold touch of the mask you made, and whip it out. You pull the book out too, and check the instructions. It says the last step is to polish it.

So you pull out a chamois wash towel, hoping to fidget away your blues.

You've no idea how long you sit and polish it, even after the lights go out. But in the morning, as you rise for a slow Sunday filled with nothing in particular, the mask catches your eye on the nightstand. A small patch has changed color. While most of the mask remains a dull grey, there's now a small patch that's an eerie light blue. What's more, in the early morning rays that penetrate your room, it almost seems to be glowing …

Next: "Meet the Locals

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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/entry_id/991509-A-Little-Magic-Trick