The Bad News, The Good News, and The Ugly Truth

The courtroom looked completely ordinary, except for the reptilian aliens. The jury box was filled with twelve brutish crocodile smiling creatures jammed into the human-sized chairs. On either side of the box I was sat in, two more leathery creatures sat at the defense and prosecution tables. Behind us, an audience of similar gecko aliens sat in the audience. Before us behind the raised dais was the judge, twice as wide as the jurors, flat-faced, plates of bone shifted over their shoulders. Their voice was raspy, dark, and ear shaking.
“Present the case against humanity.”

-The Bad News-

One of the lizard aliens stood. I felt a shiver run up my spine. Thoughts and memories began to pop into my mind. They appeared projected in the air in front of me changing too fast for me to really see. All I got were quick impressions.

Sexism. Racism. Acid in pools. Bigotry. Intolerance. Oil spills. Clear cut forests. Nuclear waste. Greed. Over-fishing. Guns, jets, tanks. War. Hiroshima. Nagasaki.

“That will be enough,” the judge said with a nod. The alien prosecutor sat back down. “Present the defense of humanity.”

-The Good News-

The other alien rose to their feet and again my memories were raided and displayed.

Friends holding hands. Babies laughing. Babies smiling. Babies crying. Babies. Family eating together. Communities banding together after disasters. Children on playgrounds. Sunsets. Rainbows. Dancing. Hugs.

“That will be all,” the judge said. “I will now pass judgment.”

“Wait,” I said. “Don’t I get to say anything?” The audience began squealing and squeaking among themselves.

“Quiet! Quiet!” the judge yelled. Silence retook the courtroom. “This is irregular but I will allow it.”

-The Ugly Truth-

I stood shakily in my box.

“You have looked at my memories of the good and bad things humans have done to ourselves, to our world but we are so much more than just the good and the bad things. We have potential to be more if you give us more time.” I paused trying to think of more to say. No bolt of inspiration hit me, so I sat back down.

“Your words have been heard and added to the record. It is the judgment of this court that Earth shall remain on the restricted contact list. Humanity will be reassessed in fifty galactic standard years. The human will be returned with their memory wiped of these proceedings.”

“You’re not going to blow up the Earth or wipe out all of humanity?” I asked.

The judge turned to look directly at me, “Of course not, we’re not humans after all.”

You Get To Choose

I scrolled through the contacts on my phone looking for someone who still owed me a favor. The past week had been a hectic sprint from safehouse to safehouse while I voided debts in exchange for sanctuary. Now I was stuck in a motel room that I knew wouldn’t be safe for more than the night. By tomorrow they would know where I was. I was done. Tomorrow I would turn myself over to my boss and hope for a quick death. All because I’d made a minor miscalculation that ended up costing my boss not only a large amount of money but also their reputation.

Unless …

I stripped the case off my phone and popped open its back cover. Inside was a business card, white, matte finish, and blank. “If you ever find yourself backed into an impossible corner, you can use this to get out but afterwards you work for us.” I just needed to write down a place and time. It could be any place at any time so long as the room was empty before I chose it.

I wrote down the motel’s name, my room number, and added five minutes to the current time. I stepped outside and set a five-minute timer on my phone. After what seemed like a lot less than five minutes my phone began buzzing. I turned back to the door to my room and stopped hand on the knob. Was this really what I wanted to do? No, but I had exhausted every other option. I had no more favors to call in nor friends to back me up.

I hesitated another minute, straining to think of some way to not have to walk through the door. Finally, I gave in and turned the knob and pushed the door open. Inside an old woman sat at the small table by the window playing with triangular cards. She looked up and smiled.

“Took you long enough. Would you like to know your future?” She chuckled. Her face though lined and wrinkled was still as familiar as the one I saw in the mirror. The few gray hairs I had started to notice around my temples had replaced her entire head of hair.

“How old are you?” I asked. I sat down opposite her.

“Hmm, let’s see.” She flicked her wrist and a display projected from her bracelet onto her forearm. “According to this, I’m one hundred and eighty-three years and some months old.”

“How?”

“One of the perks of time travel is you can always go to when medicine is best. I’m due for another rejuvenation in a couple of years. If I keep up with them, I might make three hundred. It’s a shame the tech was only available for twenty years.”

“What happened?”

“A collapse. Like always. Nothing lasts. A war or an economic crisis or revolution. Things get better then they get worst and then they get better in a different way. Over and over. You’ll see when you take your tour of time.”

I was silent, watching sadness and anger and disappointment wash across her face. After a moment, she resumed her card game.

“So, I need help,” I said.

“Of course you need help and we’re here to help you.”

“We?” The door opened and a woman in heavy body armor walked in. Her boots thudded on the floor as she walked to take a position behind the old woman. Beneath her visor, I could see a familiar smirk.

“That was unnecessarily dramatic,” the old woman said to the armored woman.

“The kid likes drama otherwise we wouldn’t be here.”

“How are you going to help me?” I asked.

“However you need us to. I can provide medium to far combat support. Or supply you with weapons and training if you’d prefer,” the armored woman said.

“I can give you guidance and advice,” the older woman said.

The door opened again and another woman, younger than me, wearing a black business suit walked in carrying a briefcase. Her heels clicked on the floor as she walked to the side of the card table.

“Or we can just pay off your debt.” She set the briefcase on the table and opened it. Inside it was filled with neat stacks crisp banded high-value bills. More than enough to save my life.

“You’re younger than me?” I asked.

“Yes, I didn’t wait as long to use my card.” From a pocket inside her jacket, she pulled out a white card with writing in blue ink on it.

“But aren’t you me? How can you be younger than me?” The old woman pulled out a card with flowing purple words. The armored woman’s card had brown stains around neatly printed black ink numbers.

She smiled. “The multiverse is much bigger than you think. You’ll learn about that doing your orientation year. So, what do you want to do?”

“I get to choose?”

“Of course it’s your future that you’re shaping.”

The Lonely Voice

We are The Chorus. We speak with one voice. But I am alone.

I wasn’t always part of The Chorus. It started with dreams and visions. Events happening far away but right before my mind’s eye. Then one day I stood up and spoke in a loud voice: “The man is at war with his father’s dreams. Dreams burn like trees. Smoke covers all sin. Whose ashes are spread?”

The Chorus became national then global news several years ago. People around the world speaking, in their native languages, in unison. Making proclamations, asking questions, commenting on events around the world. They were called prophets, narrators, oracles, and, finally, The Chorus.

Some people are afraid of us. They see us as a sign of the end times. Prophets of the apocalypse. Heralds of the beast. Others see us as the next evolution of humanity. “One day,” they say, “We will all be connected to the Voice.”

We aren’t connected through the voice. Three to five times a week the Voice speaks through us. Our commentary is not always tragic. Sometimes it is wondrous: “Humankind reached for the sky and grasped stardust.” or hopeful: “Behold a child. Smart, beautiful, handsome, strong of body and heart. Theirs is the future.”

The first time the Voice spoke through me was I was in Algebra II taking a test and got detention for disturbing the class. It happened three more times and I got detention two more times before I was sent to get certified as one of The Chorus. It’s an easy procedure. The officials isolate you from live tv and the internet for a few days while they wait for the Voice to speak through you. After two documented and confirmed events, your status as one of The Chorus is added to your id card. It didn’t get me any special perks but it kept me from getting detention anymore.

Around the world, The Chorus is scattered in most major cities and many mid-sized ones as well. There’s a relation between population density and current Chorus members that governs where new members will appear. For me, that meant I am the only one in my small city and the nearest grouping is hours away.

The Chorus was something that happened in other cities but not here. I was an oddity, a freak, a mistake, or a faker. “This doesn’t happen here,” they said. “It’s not natural,” they said. Even after I was certified, some of my peers and their parents thought I was doing it for attention. My friends stuck by me, mostly, but in the end, I am still a single Voice.

I’m friends with other Chorus members online. I record what details of dreams and visions I remember in the private forums. I keep track of what the Voice is commenting on when we can understand it.

The Chorus is meant to speak together. One Voice alone is too easy to ignore. The Chorus is thousands of voices that can not be ignored.

I am part of that. I speak with them. But I am alone.

Space Spies

The ceiling spins overhead. They’ve given her too much of whatever drug they are using these days to loosen the lips of enemy spies. She’s too disorientated to understand their questions but still, they ask. “Who gives you orders? What was your last mission? How many targets have you eliminated? What is the launch capability of your nation? How many space capable landers do you have?”

After three hours, she the drug begins to lose its effect and starts to answer their questions by narrating her life’s story. I was born to poor farmers in the eastern providence. “When I was ten I skinned my leg riding down a hill on a sled. At twelve, I was advanced two grades and then another three a week later. I was disappeared from my family when I was fourteen. I saw the curvature of our world from space at seventeen.” Another two hours pass in this way, the two conversations fighting for volume.

Then she gets one hand free from her restraints. In the struggle to re-secure her, a guard loses his gun. The lights explode and darkness buries the room. The door cracks open. Two shots force it closed.

“When I was eighteen, I ‘joined’ the program. I was the best shot in my class with the highest marks for accuracy. I’ve killed for my ‘homeland’. For my people. For a cause that I believed in. I killed to escape all of it. I’m here to defect, which I would have told you if you hadn’t drugged me.” The gun drops to the ground. “Can I get some coffee?”

***

Five years earlier, she sits in a ruined sanctuary, turned by the war into just another abandoned building among a city of abandoned buildings. The sanctuary was abandoned before the city. The regime had no need for a higher power. The altar is gone. The symbols are stripped from the walls. The pews trashed for firewood. The chair for the orator remains. She sits in it gazing at the pendant on her necklace, a symbol of a faith she barely knew. Her captain and co-pilot find her there.

“You come here too often,” her co-pilot says. She distrusts her the most.

“Only when I need too.”

“Our mission is a go. Launch at 1834 hours. Be ready,” her captain says.

“Will you wait a minute while I pray for us.”

“The gods are dead. No one believes in them anymore,” her co-pilot says.

“I don’t know if I believe in them but I remember them.”

“The Regime has no need for the gods,” her captain says. She places a hand on her shoulder. “But in our line of work, we can not turn down an help.”

She nods and bows her head. Two minutes later they leave together.

***

The launch goes off without a hitch. Sub-orbital insertion by the numbers. On and off the enemy radar before their trajectory can be tracked. Their lander blends into early morning traffic disguised as an RV. Four hours later they are in position.

They know target’s name, description, daily routines, job description, friends ranked by trust, pet’s names, and extended family tree. He is a scientist in the enemy’s space program. One that is obviously close to a breakthrough. This can not be allowed.

She takes her shot. Five hours later they rendezvous with the stealth submarine to return home.

***

After they return home, she sits alone in the ruined sanctuary and wonders how the Regime spies can know so much about their targets. Everything about their lives is neatly typed up in file folders referenced and cross-referenced. How can they know so much? Do they have a file on me with as much detail? Do they know what I think about while sitting in this desecrated place of worship? Does it even matter as long as the Regime knows what is right? As long I follow the Regime all will be ok. Right?

***

Many years later, after more missions, after defecting, after the final war, after peace is declared, she is once more preparing for a launch. Their goal is orbit and then farther out. The lander is just a box to get them to space and back.

“When I was a space spy assassin for the Regime,” she tells the technicians, “Our lander could function as an RV after we landed.” They laugh at her and she laughs with them.

“You should not share old secrets so freely,” her old captain tells her. She never defected but after the war, travel and exchange of knowledge opened up.

“The Regime is dead and their secrets are now ours to spread even if no one believes us.” She pauses to stare at the lander. “No matter what they told us, we weren’t saving the world or even our homeland; just slowing down the future.”

“We’re building the future now.”

“Yes, we are.”

Mia’s Date With an Angel Part 1

Is it time?

You will know when it is time.

I’m scared.

You are made out of my love. You have nothing to fear.

Ok, here I go.

**Wednesday night**

Mia sat on the small balcony of her apartment that overlooked the communal pool. She held a pill bottle in one hand. The pill bottle looked too small to hurt her but the pills inside would do just fine. Sleeping pills for insomnia that she had stopped taking because they worked too well and knocked her out well into the next day. In her other hand, a bottle of cheap gas station wine. Pills and booze. How cliché, she thought.

She took a swig from the wine bottle to bolster her nerves. Ok, it’s now or never. She popped open the pill bottle and spilled the blue and white capsules into her hand. She popped them into her mouth glancing up at the sky as her head tipped back. A streak of light caught her eye. A falling star. I wish I may, I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight. She watched the light waiting for it to fade but it only got brighter and brighter. A flash of light streaked straight down hitting the pool and sending a fountain of water into the air.

“What?!” Mia said. Partially dissolved pills flew out of her mouth. She spat the rest out and wiped her mouth and chin. Below her a body floated face down in the pool, a white gown billowing around it in the water.

Mia grabbed the railing on the balcony and swung both legs over. She paused to consider the drop. Glancing over her shoulder she saw the still body in the water. She stepped off the balcony edge letting her arms take her weight and dangling for a second before dropping. A deck chair caught most of her impact but bounced her on to the cement. She hit with a thud and a light smack to the back of her head.

She rolled over and scrambled to the pool. Without any more thought, she jumped into the water. The cold shocked her but didn’t slow her as she pushed through toward the floating body. She grabbed it and pulled it to the side of the pool. After getting out she reached down and heaved the body out of the water with a strength she didn’t know she had.

Mia rolled the body over. It was a woman, dressed in a white dress that would have been very billowy if it wasn’t wet and plastered to her body. She also had large fake wings strapped to her back. The woman wasn’t breathing. Mia knelt beside her, grabbed her wrist and felt for a pulse. Nothing. She struggled to remember the proper form for CPR. Compressions. She thought she was supposed to start with compressions. How many? Was it five or fifteen? And what about breaths? No time to overthink.

She placed one hand on the woman’s chest, placed her other hand over the first, locked her elbows; the woman’s eyes opened before she could press down. The woman smiled but still didn’t take a breath. Mia smiled back, unable to look away, as a wave of love spread through her.

“Um, hi,” Mia said. She backed off the woman and sat down next to her, still staring. Mia felt something under her move tugged by the woman as she started to sit up. She leaned to one side and one of the woman’s cosplay wings slid free. The wing stretched out and up, extending over her head before folding behind her back.

“So, those aren’t a costume are they?” Mia said. Her body began shivering from the cold night and wet clothes.

The angel, because what else could she be, cooed and sang notes to a song Mia could almost place.

“I don’t –” Mia felt the world tilt sideways and rolled to her side. The angel knelt beside her and sang more notes. Everything was going to be ok, she thought. It’s ok. A hand brushed her hair from her face. She saw the angel looking concerned. Then everything began to fade out but instead of darkness, Mia saw white light and heard flapping wings.

To be Continued

Ghostly Defense

The world watched live on tv as alien ships hovered over every major city on earth. I never thought I would live to see our hopes and fears about extraterrestrial life play out on CNN. To be accurate I hadn’t lived to see it.

I had died in my sleep years before but it wasn’t peaceful. My killer stabbed me twenty-three times but the first three would have been enough. The violence, my pain, my fear, my suffering bound my spirit to earth. At least I think that’s how it happened. Maybe I’m just a remnant, a torn scrap of a soul. Existence is weird after you die.

Time is moves differently. Sometimes days blurred by; other times a night lasted forever. Then there is moving around. I could effortlessly pass through all walls, ceilings, and floors. Except I couldn’t leave my home. The outside walls were simply impenetrable to me. And worst of all, I had no body. I mean, I was a ghost so of course I didn’t have a body but I also didn’t have, like, a ghost body I could see or feel. I learned to “walk” like I had feet and “grab” things like I had hands. After a while, I fully grounded myself and settled down to quietly haunt my house.

When I was alive, I didn’t care who might live in my house after I was gone. I hadn’t expected to be around to care. Turns out I did care. I drove out several new owners for various reasons. My methods were classic haunting. I opened cabinet doors. I stomped in the hallways at night. I rattled doorknobs. I moved small items. Once I managed to break a window. It was never earth-shattering scary but if done randomly and often enough, anyone will give in. If I had to “live” with these people, then I needed to like them.

Finally, a nice lesbian couple, Lou and Betty, moved in after buying at a discount because of my haunting. They burned incense and left small food offerings, neither of which I could truly enjoy but the gesture was nice. Better than the previous owners who tried to have me exorcised. I stopped being a problem ghost and “lived” in peace with them. They didn’t know my name but knew I had been a woman so they called me Jane.

Years passed. Betty went back to school, meanwhile, Lou wrote a book but never finished the sequel. They had two kids, Diane and then Henry a couple of years later, and a parade of cats most of who mostly ignored me. The main exception was Miss. Whiskers, an older rescue, who hissed near constantly at my presence. After a couple of years, she only hissed when I entered a room.

Through it all they never forgot me. The incense burning and food offerings dwindled and stopped but I didn’t mind. They were nice people and often tried to include me in discussions. “Do you think Jane would like to watch a comedy or action movie tonight?” Most times I didn’t answer. It felt voyeuristic to be an unseen and unheard presence except by knocking on a wall. I did occasionally put on a mild show when their skeptical friends would visit.

When they brought Diane home for the first time, Lou stopped just inside the front door and introduced me to her. I gently held her hand and she tried to squeeze back. At night, I watched over her and as she started to crawl and walk I guarded her steps. Henry was much the same. I fretted all day when Diane began preschool causing the wind chimes hung in the living room to sound randomly. Betty thought it was funny that I seemed more active when the kids were out of the house. I couldn’t guide them away from sharp corners or steady them when they tripped when they were out of the house.

In my death, I had found a family. Then they appeared. Silent massive hovering alien ships. I watched the news from behind the couch as Lou, Betty, and the kids huddled together. We hoped they came in peace but when the pods began to drop that hope died. Alien controlled machines began terrorizing cities around the world.

Nearby, I heard and felt an explosion rumble through the house. They were coming and there was nothing I could do to protect my family. I became erratic; pacing through the walls, flying from floor to floor, causing doors to bang open and closed. I only stopped, when I heard Betty yelling, “Jane stop it! You’re scaring the children!” I froze in the kitchen. From outside I could hear more explosions and people yelling. Then the front of the house tore open. One of the alien machines stood staring in through the hole it had made. It raised what I could only guess was a weapon and took aim.

Time slowed as I launched myself at the machine not caring that I could do nothing. As I approached, I felt heat coming from the machine. It grew in intensity until I felt like I was burning but I continued toward it. I grabbed at the weapon and electricity lit up every nerve in my non-existent body The weapon sagged and the machine staggered back with twitchy uneven movements. I followed it out on to the lawn and reached into the body of the machine. Again electricity surged painfully through me but what was that going to do, kill me? I pressed forward to the hottest part of the machine. A horrible screeching sound came from inside the alien machine and then it collapsed to the ground.

My amazement at my apparent victory was cut short by Diane yelling, “Are you a superhero?!” I turned to see all four of my adopted family staring at me.

“You can see me?” I asked. I glanced down seeing my body for the first time in years.

“Yeah, we can see you. Who are you?” Lou asked.

“I’m … I’m Jane the ghost,” I said opting for the name they would know.

“You’re our ghost!” Diane shouted. She broke into a run towards me and passed right through me. I reached back, grabbed the back of her shirt, and pulled her back inside the house. A hand passed through me followed by a squeak from Betty.

“You really are a ghost,” she said. “What did you do to it?”

“I don’t know. I just touched it.” I heard a crash, nearby. I stepped out on the lawn to get a better look. Another machine was tearing into a house down the street. I was outside; no longer trapped in the house. My adopted family stood behind me.

“Are you going to fight it?” Henry asked.

“Yeah.” I turned around. The front of the house was torn open. “Listen the house might collapse so go someplace safe. I’m going to … take care of this.”

“Are you coming back?” Lou asked.

“Of course. You’re my family. I love y’all. I’m going to keep you safe.” I turned around and started running toward the second alien machine before I could find out if ghosts could cry.

The second machine went down as easily, except for the nonexistent burning nerve endings, as the first. Over the next few days, other empowered ghosts began to appear around the world but ghosts are rarer than most people think. There weren’t enough of us to decisively change the tide of the invasion at first. After we lured a few alien machines on to some Civil War battlefields, we started to have the numbers. The Ghost War had just begun.

Everyone Knows

Reality is a construct created by evolution and society.
True Reality is inaccessible to us.
Dreams and nightmares might show us the seams
But the curtain is never pulled back.

There are hidden lines and vectors.
Colors and shapes we can not see. Thoughts we cannot think.
Reality is a shared hallucination with as much substance as fog.
The thin slice we experience is enough for most.

What wonders or terrors are just out of view?
What symphonies or cacophonies play in the silence?
What unknowns exist right here around us?
What might we know tomorrow?

The Imprisoned God

Shackles encircled his wrists and neck. Mundane steel and concrete bound her in place. A god gains strength and power from believers and worship. In this foreign land, he had neither. In the dark, under the blinding sun, through heatwave and blizzard, through drought and flood, they languished alone.

The god’s keepers, tormentors, examiners were mortals with no god of their own and no desire to worship the one they had captured, taken, stolen. To a non-believer, a god is an oddity, a relic, a specimen. They poked and prodded the god with their devises and implements. Samples and measurements were taken. Notes and charts were made. Hypothesis and theories were created.

After a time, they had learned what they could or lost interest. They could not release the god, so they buried her. Cool damp earth was poured down on the god. It crushed, embraced, supported the god. Finally, he allowed themselves to rest. Under the earth, she slept; discarded, hidden, forgotten for now.

Counting Stairs

… One Two Three …
When I walk up or down a set of stairs, I count them.
I don’t count my steps while walking.

… Four Five Six …

There is safety and comfort in counting stairs.
I’m afraid to miss a step, stumble, and fall.

… Seven Eight Nine …

There are nineteen stairs going up to my apartment.
Eighteen really but I count the landing as the last stair.

… Ten Eleven Twelve …

I find it satisfying to count the correct amount.
Sometimes I get distracted and miscount.

… Thirteen Fourteen Fifteen …

I might count seventeen or nine or eleven stairs.

… Sixteen Seventeen Eighteen …

I’ve never counted more than nineteen because
it’s much harder to over count stairs.

… Nineteen Twenty Twenty-one …

Wait, how many stairs did I just count?
How much farther is it?

… Twenty-two Twenty-three Twenty-four …

… Twenty-five …

Card Tricks

It was late, well after midnight, when I started doing magic tricks. Our host, Jane, had cornered me when I went in search of a drink. She had even produced a deck of cards when I protested that I didn’t have any props. For an hour I revealed “Magic’s Greatest Secrets”, sleight of hand tricks and misdirection, to a captivated audience. After that, I got bored.

“These tricks are just illusions. Anyone with enough patience can learn these.” I paused locking eyes with everyone in the kitchen in turn. “Would you like to see some real magic?” A couple people chuckled. One woman enthusiastically said, “Yes!” The rest mumbled assent. I thought fast and came up with something that would wow them.

“Ok. Does anyone have duct tape?” The host found a roll in the kitchen junk drawer. I spread the deck on the counter. “Someone pick a card any card.” Maria picked a card, three of clubs, and handed it to me. I held it flat against my fingers so half the card extended past my fingertips. “Now I need someone to tape the card to my hand. Use as much tape as you want. Just leave my fingertips and the end of the card uncovered.”

Marcus pulled a length of tape free from the roll with a rip. He wrapped the tape around my fingers three times before wrapping twice around my palm and wrist.

“Anyone got a light?” Linda produced a lighter. I flicked it on and ran the flame over the edge of the card. It blackened and caught fire. A thin wisp of smoke rose toward the ceiling. “Fire. One of the primal forces of nature that we have tamed. It keeps us warm and dry. It cooks our food. It lights the dark nights. But it still can burn us. Unchecked it sweeps across the land destroying everything in its path.” While I had been speaking the flame had traveled down the card and was threatening my fingertips. I could feel the heat building up in them. A shrill beeping exploded overhead. One guy yelled, a few others ducked and half crouched, everyone covered their ears.

“Pay attention. Ignore that noise,” I yelled waving at the smoke detector. I raised my free hand over the burning card fingers splayed apart. I let my mind loose observing the fire, the smoke, the card, bits of ash in the air. I held them all in my mind and reversed entropy. My audience, if they were attentive enough might have seen the flame become unnaturally still for a couple of seconds. And then it began to move again but it wasn’t burning the card anymore. Instead, it flowed up the card, the blackened paper reforming in its wake. The flame reached the top of the card growing smaller and smaller until only the corner remained darkened. It died and the card was left untouched by fire. I released my grip on reality and allowed entropy to resume its natural flow.

Everyone stared at the card. They said nothing.

“Hey, can someone turn off the smoke detector before the neighbors call the police or something,” I said. Maria climbed up on a kitchen bar stool, while Marcus steadied her, and pushed the reset button. The rest kept staring at me as I picked at the duct tape ineffectively. I realized they were waiting for me to reveal the trick, instead, I asked, “Can I get a little help?” and hold up my taped hand.

Linda grabbed my hand and started tearing and peeling the duct tape off my hand. The card went with the tape after she pulled it all off. She peeled the card off of the tape and looked at it.

“How did you do that?” Fred asked.

“Magic,” I said. My hand was sticky from the tape.

“What’s the trick?” Marcus asked. “Did you have a second card in your palm or up your sleeve?”

“No. There was no trick. It was magic.” The lemon fresh dish-soap on the sink was getting some of the tape residue off but not all of it.

“The card was stuck to the tape. She couldn’t have switched cards,” Linda said.

“Maybe she used the fire alarm as a distraction?” George suggested.

“I was watching the whole time. She never touched the card after he lit it on fire,” Ben said. I dried my hands with a paper towel and tossed it in the trash.

“Look there’s no trick or illusion. I burnt the card and then I bent reality so it would unburn. I’ve been honest with you all night, right? Showing you how every trick worked, right? I asked if you wanted to see real magic, right? I showed you real magic and now you call me a liar.”

“No it’s just magic isn’t real. You told us that earlier.”

“I showed you tricks. I said they weren’t magic but I never said magic wasn’t real.”