Bobby walked slowly down the faded boardwalk. The long boards of the wooden walkway jutted up in random places making it a small challenge not to trip. The shops within the boardwalk were long ago boarded up. The tourist attraction quickly lost its luster after three successive hurricanes. The neon signs that lit up the popular businesses were now broken. The darkness of this place helped to keep people away instead of bringing them to the shops. After the last hurricane, the city abandoned any development assistance and the businesses slowly shut down. Eventually, the power to the entire boardwalk was turned off when it was decided that no one cared much for the boardwalk anymore.
Bobby stepped over some debris and rounded a corner near the end of the boardwalk. His curiosity satisfied Bobby was about to head home when an abandoned toy store caught his attention. It stood sad and depressed on the corner of the boardwalk. Plywood had fallen slightly from the large, broken, picture windows in front of the store. Bobby noticed a red glow from something inside. Bobby pulled on the plywood. It gave way easily and he walked into the building. The small red glow appeared as a circle on the ceiling near the back of the store. Bobby could not yet tell what was making it. The shelves of the small toy store sat empty and most had fallen face-first onto the dusty ground. A few toys sat on the floor. A thick layer of dirt covered the floor and the toys that survived the wave of looters over the years. Bobby climbed over a couple of shelves. He followed the red circle above him till he stood next to a tarp. The tarp partially covered a large box-like machine. Bobby covered his mouth and pulled the tarp.
Under the cover was a coin-operated magician. A partial man, hat, head, and shoulders, stood staring away from Bobby. Inside his small square prison, he looked like he just came off the manufacturer’s floor. His hat was black, felt, and stove-piped tall. His face was painted ceramic. Details within the ceramic made the impression that this toy was to be wise and old. The magician wore a tie and suit. The tie stopped short of a small ledge and the suit was quickly sewn together. The red light shone brightly from the top of the square glass case.
“Alfonso, the Great,” shouted the letters along the top of the machine. Underneath the glass box was a steel slot and beside that, a tin sign bent slightly at the corner, that said 25 cents.
Bobby shook his pockets and found a quarter. He pushed the quarter into the slot and the magician came alive. The first thing it did was straighten its gaze. It looked forward into Bobby’s chest for a moment then upward. Its painted-on eyes seemed to become real as it soon caught Bobby’s gaze. “Young man, how are you?” Said the magician, his halved body moving back and forth as he continued to stare right at Bobby.
“I’m so sorry staring is rude,” he said as he adjusted his gaze to something less creepy. “You don’t understand it’s been years since I’ve seen a young boy your age.” The magician laughed. Its voice was metallic, his accent slightly British. “I am Alfonso, the Great Magician extraordinaire. I am here for your pleasure. “Would you like me to perform a trick for you?”
Bobby shifted uncomfortably. Fear doubled up in his legs and gut. “I think I’m just going to go,” he said but his legs would not move.
“Don’t be frightened, young man,” said the magician. “What am I going to do, I’m in a glass box for Christ’s sake and I have no legs.”
Bobby attempted a smile that peaked slightly at the edges.
“Let me get my small arms working so I can take off this old hat.” Two small wooden arms moved slowly, stuttering at first, then eventually pushing upward to remove the magician’s black hat. For a few seconds, the magician’s gaze disappeared behind his hat. Bobby breathed in deeply till his gaze returned.
“Alright,” said the magician, “let me reach into my hat and pull out a trick.”
Bobby watched as the magician’s hands moved mechanically into the hat and pulled out a small card. The magician then turned, while still watching, and dropped the card into a large black pit area. The card dropped and the magician asked Bobby to remove the card. Bobby pushed himself forward. He reached carefully. Pushing the tin cover in. The card sat face down at the bottom of the pit. Bobby picked up the card. He watched the magician carefully for any sudden moves. The magician looked forward. The paint in its eyes chipped slightly. Its two arms sat at the base of the glass case. Bobby stood. The light above the magician flickered and then went out. The magician suddenly disappeared into the darkness of the abandoned toy store.
Bobby shook off the nerves and turned back toward the only light he could find. He stumbled over the fallen shelves and toys until he reached the front of the store. He stepped out into the salted air and onto the uneven boardwalk. He placed the card into his pocket and walked away.
Reaching home, just after midnight Bobby pulled the card from his pocket and sat on the bed. He stared at the neatly typed letters on a business card-shaped magic trick. The only words displayed showed ‘Opposite Day’. Bobby huffed. Upset at the commotion this little incident caused him. The fear and the weird gaze only to get a card that says Opposite Day. He placed the card on his bedroom dresser and slipped into bed.
“Bobby, time to wake up”, shouted his father as the sun peeked through his dark curtains. His father was likely to be busy downstairs so that would allow him to steal a few extra minutes of sleep.
“Bobby… let’s go, buddy,” his father shouted as he stood above his bed. “Today is a special day. Everyone is getting up early.”
Bobby grunted and covered his head with a pillow.
“Come on, boy,” pleaded his father. “You have to see what’s going on outside. It’s crazy.”
Bobby whined and slowly tossed both legs over the bed. He walked slowly over to the bedroom window.
Bobby stood at the bedroom window and watched as different characters paraded across the concrete. Human-sized fairies with sewn-on cloth wings, Monsters with mutated paper-Mache faces that looked like they were drawn on by children.
“This is such a stupid holiday,” Bobby said as he closed the shade and turned away. His father stood in the doorway. A large paper-Mache ball upon his head. Within the center of the ball was a drawn-out iris and along the outside several red lines that were supposed to be veins.
“What is that supposed to be,” Bobby spat angrily.
“An eyeball of course,” his father said. The words muffled behind the thin paper mask.
“Dude, I’m not wearing that.”
“Aw, come on, Bobby. Don’t be a sour puss.” His father pulled the paper-Mache from his head and smiled. “It’s Opposite Day. The best time of the year. What an opportunity to do something different for a day.”
“It’s an opportunity to look like an idiot for a day.”
His father laughed. “That’s true but it’s all for fun. Head downstairs when you’re ready. “
Bobby waited till his father left the room then grumbled and shut his bedroom door.
Thoughts of the boardwalk and the magician filled his head. “What did he do? What is going on? What am I going to do?
“It’s really an opportunity to do anything you want to do,” someone said from behind him.
Bobby jumped, turned, and noticed the magician standing within 2 feet of him. He was taller than Bobby by several inches. He had legs, a tie, and real arms.
“What are you doing, here?” Bobby asked.
“Well, it’s your holiday so I couldn’t leave you in the dark about it.”
“Ya, that’s nice.”
“Imagine the world on a platter, Bobby. Anything you imagine. It is Opposite day.”
“What are you saying?” Bobby asked suspiciously.
The magician just smiled and leaned upon the window sill of his room.
“Anything?” Bobby paused, thinking. “What if I want a million dollars?”
The magician’s smile broadened and his lips parted showing perfect teeth.
“You can’t have it… You can have nothing… It is Opposite day.”
Bobby’s father opened the door very quickly tripping off the corner of his computer desk. He fell, head first, into Bobby’s small bed moving it. Bobby realized that the magician had disappeared.
Bobby’s father held his head. He stood slowly. “Bobby… Bobby…,” he began. Your mother just won the lottery. A million dollars, can you believe it? This is the most exciting day of our lives.”
“Pack it up, boy we are going on a field trip to the lottery office.”
His father bounced around the room and then left. Bobby stood quietly staring into the empty hallway.
“Congratulations, on getting nothing,” said the magician from a large mirror within his closet. He winked then disappeared.
Dread drained the excitement from Bobby as he joined his father in the car. It was the too-good-to-be-true factor that ate at him but also the sense of evil that he was beginning to feel when the magician visited him. There was something going on that he was yet to figure out.
“Oh, great! …Of course..”. shouted his father because the car didn’t start. Bobby thought for a moment then suggested turning the key to the left. After a short argument it worked.
“It’s Opposite day after all,” Bobby added. “Also Drive would be Reverse and Stop would be Go”, he offered.
“Hmmm… looks like I have a young magician in the car. This is all very strange,” stated his father as they drove slowly forward with the car set in Reverse. “Someone must think this is a joke. A very elaborate joke and I have no friends that can do this.”
Bobby looked ahead and followed the magician, standing on the sidewalk, as they passed.
The dread buried deep within his gut.
Bobby sat in the backseat of the family’s small four-seater car. “What if I want a dog?” He asked quietly. A large black cat appeared on the seat beside him.
“A beautiful woman on my right?” An old, ugly woman appeared to his left. The cat walked slowly toward the middle of the car and stepped into the front passenger seat.
“What is this? Where did it come from? Bobby?”
His father looked back and saw the old woman. He attempted to stop the car, which failed.
Bobby’s father’s car hit a tall telephone pole. The pole bent toward them as the front end of the car swallowed the pole. Everyone in the car jerked backward then forward. The cat slid. The old woman disappeared under knots of long hair as she tried to stop herself. Bobby was surprised by the sudden stop and slipped through over the center console. The driver’s airbag inflated. Bobby kicked his father in the back of the head. The passenger airbag went off with a bag and stopped Bobby from passing through the window.
Both airbags deflated leaving his father bent over the steering wheel nursing a broken nose. Bobby sat. His arms were bruised. He sat with his back and shoulders on the passenger side door. He looked up at the rear-view mirror and noticed the magician standing within a foot of the car smiling. This infuriated Bobby. The magician moved forward toward the car. He walked slowly toward Bobby’s father while staring intently at Bobby. “Why is he watching me? He thought. The magician opened the back door of the small 4-door car. The cat appeared from under the passenger airbag and leapt outside. The magician bent over, his long fingers holding the felt hat on his head. He examined the old woman and then closed the back door. He walked slowly over to the driver’s window and spoke to Bobby’s father.
“Hello, sir. Do you need my help with anything? A cold compress, a hot bath?”
Bobby moved his feet. He kicked his father again but was attempting to fold his legs under him. Pain in his arms and back forced him to sit still. “My father doesn’t need anything from you.” he shouted. “Stay away from my father! Psycho, bastard.”
His father stared at him. The blood from his broken nose traced the veins in his large hands. “I could use…” he began but Bobby interrupted him. “My father needs your help but I need it less.”
The magician laughed, “that is a terrible idea, my boy.” The magician then disappeared. “What was that all about?” His father asked. His voice choked with blood. “There is a magician outside your window. The man is insane. I ran into him yesterday. He gave me a card and now the day is all messed up.”
His father noticed the man within the window had disappeared. He searched but failed to find the tall man. “I don’t know where he went but I don’t care if he’s Harry Houdini. He’s offered to help us get out of the car.”
“Dad, you don’t understand. He is like a genie.”
“Son, that’s just too much. Let’s get out of this car. Hey, where’s the old lady?” Bobby looked back and noticed the old woman was gone. “Likely, an illusion.”
“Likely.” Within Bobby’s father’s face he could read the doubt and the lack of credibility this magician had implanted within his father. His father attempted to open the driver’s door but it was jammed. Outside the car the chaos continued with no one even acknowledging a car crash in the center of town. They continued to attempt to walk like dogs and dress the complete opposite.
“Can I help you, boy,” The magician offered a gloved hand through the broken passenger window. Bobby jumped back, surprised. “I don’t want your help.”
“That’s so nice of you to say. This is a fun game to play isn’t it?”
“My God, would you… not have a conversation with that brunette woman over there.” Bobby thought quickly. He decided to play the game. “Ah,” said the magician, “I am a little shy. After all, several decades in a glass box will do that.” The magician stepped away but Bobby grabbed the door handle and pushed the door open. The door caught the magician by surprise and he fell. He stumbled over the sidewalk curb but Bobby noticed that the magician went out of his way to keep his hat on his head. Amazingly, the magician seemed to catch himself and then walked slowly over to a brunette woman. He looked back once, fear on the magician’s face. The confident smirk was gone for a split second then it was back. The magician pointed his finger at Bobby and smiled.
Bobby opened the door the rest of the way. He looked over to his father before he left the car but noticed he had passed out on the steering wheel. Bobby quickly found an old t-shirt in the back seat. He unbuckled his father’s seat belt and laid him on his side. He pushed the t-shirt to his nose to help stop the bleeding. He had to stop the magician before his father got worse. Bobby stood slowly, his legs resisting. The magician spoke to the blond woman, who looked distraught. The magician laughed as though he told a joke. An EMT approached Bobby. He was short and round with a starched blue and white uniform. “Plainville EMT” stitched upon the white pocket. The EMT carried a red bag and dropped it at Bobby’s feet.
“Ok, ok… you’re ok,” stuttered the man. He was struggling with something. As if he was being forced to maneuver like a puppet. Bobby looked at the magician but he was still laughing with the brunette. Bobby noticed the magician would sneak a peek in his direction.
The EMT suddenly swiped at Bobby with a thin, silver scalpel. Bobby avoided the blow but pushed himself into the car door. The door caught him and pushed him forward. Bobby pushed the EMT. The EMT fell backward, dropping the scalpel. He then stood, turned and ran. The magician ended his conversation with the woman. The woman collapsed. A cab drove slowly to the woman and stopped for a moment. The cab then drove over the woman and disappeared down the street. The magician walked slowly back to Bobby.
“Isn’t Opposite day a blast.” Bobby stepped toward the magician and tried to punch him but it failed miserably. “Whoa, now… you must really like me,” the magician said mused. “You’ve tried to hurt me twice. I think you really enjoy this game.”
“Yeah, I’m having a blast,” Bobby said as he looked down at his father.
“Are you saying you like my father and me because you hurt us!”
“I have so much hatred for you.” The magician said as his dull red eyes lit up with rage, “but it’s Opposite day so I must be friendly.” The magician then smiled. His eyes dimmed and he looked content to be friendly.
“Oh, my God. Can you just leave me and my family alone.”
“Alone,” the magician asked. “But I am your guide. I will help you through the day.”
“Just removed the curse.”
“Curse, I am offended. This is a gift. Your objections to my gift hurt me and I struggle to ‘not like you’.” The magician winked. Making sure Bobby understood the opposite of ‘not like you’.
“Why are you doing this?”
“Simple reasons, really. Boredom mostly.”
“Why did you pick me?”
“Boy, you are such a simpleton. You picked me.”
The magician threw his arm over Bobby and pushed him forward.
“Look at this beautiful day. The sun is raging in its place above the earth.” The sun quickly disappeared behind a cluster of dark, black clouds.
“The river flowing along its banks like they were penciled in.”
The water within the Black river began to rise. It quickly surpassed the thin banks and began to flood a small park.
Bobby stood quiet. Thinking. He suddenly noticed the EMT approaching quickly. Within his small hand was the scalpel. The magician watched, from beside Bobby as the EMT attempted to stab him again. “Really!” Bobby shouted as he avoided another thrust. Bobby fought off the EMT easily. Fear was evident within the EMT’s pale blue eyes. He had no control over his limbs. Bobby shoved the EMT backward, over the curb. He fell with a loud thud. His head hit the concrete and knocked him out.
Bobby turned toward the magician, who smiled. His black hat sat tipped to one side. The magician could see something within Bobby that was missing from before. The game had finally become too much for the young man. The timid-laced fear was gone. Replaced by immense anger. The magician straightened his hat and stepped backward as Bobby stepped closer. The men and women within the city crowded the sidewalk. The magician’s small psychological victims surrounded him but Bobby kept coming. The magician stepped backward and was about to smile when a large man jumped upon him from the ground. The magician fell downward. His large felt hat tumbled and cart-wheeled several feet away. He sat frozen while the large man began to lick him like a dog. Bobby jumped forward. The magician struggled to scoot over to his hat but the large man stood over him. He prevented the magician from moving easily as the man tried to lick his face. The magician pushed forward with his hands but the man’s weight gave him an advantage. Bobby approached the hat. The magician watched and warned Bobby to stay away from the hat. Bobby smiled.
“Did you say pick up my hat?”
The magician grumbled as the large man pushed his hands away and licked the magician’s face with his tongue.
“Stupid human!” The magician then pushed the large man to the side and turned over on his belly. He set his feet under him and began to stand. Bobby stood over the hat. The magician began forward and began to shout but as soon as Bobby grabbed the hat the magician disappeared.
The world around Bobby stopped suddenly. Men dressed as women stared in amazement as they realized what they wore. Several of the men and women that crawled along the floor, wept due to embarrassment. Their companions, the real dogs milled around unaware of any issue at all. The man that had been licking the magician lay on the concrete sidewalk staring upward. He looked upward at Bobby but Bobby walked past him toward his father. Bobby held the magician’s hat as he walked toward the car.
His father stared at Bobby as he held an old oil rag to his nose.
“You alright,” he said. His voice was muffled by the cloth.
“I’m fine, pop.”
“What’s going on?” Said his father.
“I couldn’t explain it to you if I tried,” Bobby said as he swung the black felt hat back and forth in his hand.
The EMT approached Bobby quickly. Bobby jumped back and positioned himself for a fight. The EMT looked at him curiously and ran around to the driver’s side door. He spoke to Bobby’s father as an ambulance approached from behind him.
Suddenly, the noises of the confusion of the day began to filter into Bobby’s young ears. The horror of finding the woman lying broken on the street held most people’s attention but Bobby smiled. He felt accomplished that he alone saved the world from the evil that was the magician. He was a hero that deserves some recognition but the story was too unbelievable.
“No one will ever believe me,” Bobby thought as he placed the magician’s hat on his head and suddenly disappeared.
The darkness overwhelmed him as he stared forward. A dull red light displayed above him. The light allowed a quick view of the plate of glass in front of him. Outside the glass he could make out shadows of large shelves and dark items on the floor. He looked downward. Found a black tie laced below his neck and a badly sewn black coat upon his shoulders. He tried to move his face, arms and legs but they didn’t respond. He looked upward and found the magician’s hat sitting comfortably on his head.