A purple light flashed past Nathan’s car. He slowed his descent of the slope leading to the seventh floor of the multi-storey car park. Another light whizzed by causing him to slow further. Typical teenagers and their laser pointers.
He looked around for the mirrors the lasers would be reflected off but found none.
Continuing down to what he assumed was the sixth floor, he was surprised at the amount of new graffiti. Guns and curse words were normal, but rabbits were certainly different. He chuckled to himself as a third light zoomed past. Whoever was shining the lasers probably went to the college he taught at and likely had a detention with him in the past.
A fourth light stopped in front of the car. Worrying for his, and the student’s safety, he stopped the car.
Ten purple lights circled the car - each glistening in puddles of rain water accumulated over the last few hours of near horizontal rain. A solo saxophone played a smooth jazz tune from somewhere unidentifiable, the lights pulsated to the swing rhythm.
He instantly recognised the song as Deluge. A student had recently performed this in a college recital. Nathan remembered the student’s face when he learnt a music professor from Cambridge had been listening and was able to award a scholarship. But, he knew it couldn’t be that student as they were on holiday.
Then it stopped. The lights vanished and the saxophone finished on a final big note. Silence.
He got out of the car and clapped the performer.
“I liked what you did with the ending.”
There was no response. They were probably worried he was going to tell them off for the lasers.
He got back in the car and looked at his watch, 7:05 p.m.. He had promised his girlfriend, Claire he’d be home in time for dinner. She wouldn’t be suspicious if he was late but that night he wanted her to say yes. He continued down the slope and laughed when he saw that all the floors had had their numbers changed to 8.
Something hit the car roof with a loud bang. Nathan lost control and swerved violently He tried to slam on the brakes, but missed hitting the accelerator. He managed to successfully bring his foot to the brake as the edge of the car park quickly approached. The car crashed through the barrier and stuck out over the ledge.
The car teetered back and forth. He peered forward and the car shifted forward with him. He quickly moved back in his seat and the car rocked backwards. The quick glance told him there was nothing between the car and and the concrete floor eight floors below. He didn’t think too much about why he was so high up still, instead he tried working out an escape route.
He turned around in his seat and started to climb into the back, but stopped when he heard something on the roof.
A man’s head peeped down from the roof of the car. He had grey hair and was smiling. The man reached down and opened the passenger door, then climbed in. The car tipped forwards. Nathan climbed to the back to stabilise it.
“You are going to be turned into a fluffy bunny by an evil magician.” The intruder said.
“Get out of my car!” Nathan shouted, with a slight tremble.
“Sorry, I should rephrase. An evil magician is going to turn you into a fluffy bunny.”
Nathan tried the driver rear door. It was locked. He climbed over the stained fabric seats to the passenger side door, careful to remain as far away from the front as possible. It too was locked.
“OK, then.” The man looked at Nathan confusedly. “Do you not understand the magnitude of what I have just told you?”
Nathan fumbled in his pockets for his mobile phone. He couldn’t find it.
“Are you looking for this,” the intruder asked.
Nathan wound the window down; never had he been so happy to have an old car. He scrambled out of the open window.
“Shit!” Somehow he found himself climbing back into his car from the driver’s front window. The car slowly rocked forwards. Just before it fell Nathan was back in the car and crawling out the back window again. The same thing happened. Each of three attempts he made to climb out he found himself back in the front of the car.
“Right, this is just getting silly,” the man said as Nathan attempted to escape again. “It is obvious you are not going to escape so please sit down so I can finish talking to you.” The man beckoned Nathan to the front of the car.
Nathan shook his head and instead looked in astonishment at his intruder’s clothing: a purple dressing gown over a white vest: not the normal clothes for an attacker.
“I am not an attacker - I just like to make an entrance.”
How did he know I thought he was an attacker?
“Lucky guess, I suppose.”
I suppose that makes sense.
“I doubt guessing would explain it all, Nathan.”
Wait, is that man answering my thoughts?
“Yes, but communication is far easier if you talk directly to me.”
Nathan rubbed his eyes. When he removed his hands the man was gone. “I must be hallucinating,” he said to himself.
“I am behind you,” a voice said.
Nathan spun around but only saw the felt top of the boot cover.
“Just kidding with you!” The voice said.
“Holy crap!” Nathan said, shocked by the man sitting next to him.
The man wore violet slippers over his feet that rested on the seat back.
“Finally, he speaks!”
“What … what do you want with me?” Nathan asked, his voice closer to that of a ten-year-old girl’s than that of a twenty-four year old.
The man didn’t say anything.
“Who are you?”
The man remained quiet.
Nathan leant forwards slightly to see if it was safe to move. It wasn’t; the car tilted forwards. Just before it reached its tipping point it suddenly fell backwards. Nathan looked round and saw the man now sat in the back seat.
“What do you want?” Nathan asked again.
The man chuckled quietly. “It is not nice when the person you are talking to does not reply, is it?”
Nathan tilted his head slightly in agreement.
“I am here to save you from an evil magician. His aim is to transform you into a fluffy bunny.”
Nathan burst into laughter. “OK, you’re Eric’s dad, aren’t you? I’m sorry I put your son in detention, but the lyrics he wrote for his homework called his classmate a … a … slut.” He whispered the last word.
“I do not know an Eric. I am a magician and I need to save you from being turned into a bunny.”
“Right now I need to get back to my ‘non-magical’ girl-friend in our ‘non-magical home’ where I will eat the ‘non-magical’ dinner she has ‘non-magically’ cooked. So if you don’t mind I’d appreciate it if you would get out of my car and take the magical loony-crap with you.”
“I hardly think it would help you if I left. You would be stuck in a car enchanted to block any form of escape.”
“Oh, stop it. It’s one of those TV shows, isn’t it?” He wound down his window and leaned out and looked towards a CCTV camera. “Well done! You’ve got me. Now, can you get out of my car?”
“This is serious, Nathan. Your life is in danger. If we do not act you will be turned into a bunny.”
“Magic doesn’t exist, you know? My ‘non-magical’ girl-friend who will soon be my fiancee does exist, however.”
“I have been teleporting around your car for the past five minutes. I think you can safely assume my magic exists.”
“Come off it, any idiot knows you didn’t use magic - you set my car up with mirrors whilst I was out, didn’t you?”
The man shook his head. “You are not just ‘any idiot’ though, are you? I bet you cannot even explain the tattoo on your ankle?”
“Ha! I don’t have a tattoo on my ankle, look.” Nathan pulled his suit’s trouser leg up. “Shit!” Tattooed on his ankle was the silhouette of a bunny with a fluffy tail.
“I think I have made my point. Now, before we continue I should get us out of this rather precarious parking space of yours.” The magic man pulled on his seatbelt.
Nathan looked down at his new tattoo. How the heck did I get a tattoo without realising?
The car lurched forwards and plummeted off the ledge. Nathan vomited. He fell forwards into the windscreen … and sick.
“And relax,” the man said.
I’m not dead, Nathan thought, his eyes still shut.
“No, you are not.” The man sounded out of breath.
“No, seriously, how are we not dead?”
Nathan opened his eyes and glared at the man. “Really?”
“Really. Look out of the window if you do not believe me.”
The car was hovering horizontally in mid air. “Oh.”
“Is that all you have to say? I am hovering your car two metres off the ground after letting it fall nearly eight storeys, stopping us both meeting an early grave and you say ‘oh’.”
“I … don’t know what else to say.”
“I guess we will continue our discussion from before, then.”
Nathan peered out of the window again. The car was, as the man said, just metres from the concrete ground below. It still rained heavily, though it seemed to curve around the car silently.
He looked at his watch and felt his heart skip a beat when he read 8:05 p.m.. He needed to get back to Claire quickly. Although she thought he was at a conference, he had told her he’d be back by half-past seven. I’m sure she’ll understand, he thought, I just want her to say yes … and she is making dinner.
The man’s voice suddenly came from within Nathan’s head. “You really need to tidy this place up.”
“Where are you?” Nathan responded.
“In your head. Surely even you could work that one out?”
“How the hell are you in my head?”
“You already know I can read minds. Well, I can also walk about in them when I need to find something specific.”
There was a pause as Nathan digested this information.
“Oh, for crying out loud,” the man said.
“I almost had what I was looking for then all this fell on me.”
Nathan started remembering his first day at school. Then memories of his first kiss at eighteen came flooding back.
I hope he’s not seeing all this.
“Trust me, so am I.”
In an attempt to change the conversation Nathan asked, “What are you actually looking for?”
“I am trying to find your memory from an hour and a half ago.”
“You walked into a man.”
“Why don’t you just ask me about it?”
“Recollection of a memory is very different from the raw memory itself.” He paused for a moment then added, “trust me I would prefer that not be the case after seeing some of your memories. I mean, seriously, it was obvious that girl was not for you.”
“For your information that girl happens to be my fiancee.”
“I am talking about the other girl.”
“What other gir—oh, that other girl. Don’t tell Claire.”
“Why would I? You had not asked Claire at this point.”
“Really? I thought I had.”
“Like I said, raw memories are far more precise than the recollection. You likely felt guilty at the time as you had feelings for Claire, but had not acted on them. Over a few years you forgot why you felt guilty so your sub-conscious incorrectly filled in the blanks.”
Nathan looked out the car window again. The car still hung in the air. On three sides were plain concrete walls. The only alternative view was of the car park behind them that he caught glimpses of in the car’s mirrors. If he wanted to escape he couldn’t. However, he found that he didn’t want to escape. Magic existed, that he couldn’t deny, having someone rummaging around his head proved as much. He wanted to learn more about it, even if he wasn’t magic himself.
“Got it,” the man said. “I want to make a copy of it, but I need to sign it out and get your mind’s permission.”
“You have my permission, I guess,” Nathan said, anxious to hurry the man out of his head.
“It is sadly not as simple as that. Now, as you have not yet enabled your magic—”
“I’m not magic.”
“No, you are not magic yet.”
Nathan went to interrupt, but the man continued.
“As you are not yet magic, your mind has not set itself up fully, so I need to walk you through this. Can you imagine a reception desk for me? Try to clear your mind of everything else and focus on it.”
Nathan thought of a long wooden desk which turned in on one end.
“I’m doing it.”
“Great, I am going to replicate the image. As I am keeping it in your Mind Space I can do this without signing anything.”
“It will all become clear soon. I need you to imagine a receptionist for me.”
Nathan imagined a tall woman with a slender body and flowing blond hair. Just before he fully imagined the woman, he realised that the man might tell Claire, so he quickly changed his vision.
“That is an interesting receptionist.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“I am unsure how a bald man’s head came to be on top a slender woman’s body, which seems to be on the fat man’s hairy legs. Whatever floats you boat, I suppose … wait a moment. I much prefer your first version. Do you mind if I take her, instead?”
“You won’t tell Claire, will you?”
“Of course not. Besides, the only person who will ever come in here is me, and I do like it when people choose female receptionists … especially ones with legs—”
“Get a room!”
The man chuckled. “Lastly, I need you to imagine you are giving permission to a receptionist for me to take a copy of your memory.”
Nathan did so.
A few moments later, he heard the man muttering to an imaginary person inside Nathan’s head. “OK, so I sign here, yes?”
The soft voice of a woman replied, surprising Nathan, “That is correct, Monsieur Bel Homme. Do you need me to be of any further assistance?”
“Not at the moment, Mademoiselle.”
In the top of his vision, Nathan saw a miniature version of the man jump out of his forehead. The man grew in size and eventually landed in the passenger seat.
“Did you get what you were looking for?” Nathan asked.
“I did,” the man replied waving a film reel. “This bit gets a little crude, so if you would not mind looking the other way.”
“I don’t know what you’re about to do, but I can’t imagine I would normally let a man whose name I don’t know do it.”
“My name is Brian. Now, if you do not mind…”
“Well, I was kind of expecting a more exotic name.”
“Why? One of the most famous fictitious magical characters is called Harry. I am not fictitious, no matter how hard you believe it.” Brian gestured for Nathan to turn away.
After he made a low grunting noise, Brian called for Nathan to look again.
“Bloody hell!” Nathan said. Brian had lifted the back of the purple dressing gown up, and rolled the vest up to reveal his bare back.
Everything turned pitch black, and an image lit up on Brian’s back.
It showed Nathan hurrying towards the multi-storey car park from the jewellers. Torrential rain was pummelling the Music Teachers’ Conference leaflet he was using as a make-shift umbrella. His black hair grew messier and messier as the rain fell.
A man in a thin coat appeared out of nowhere with his hood up. Nathan ran into him causing a small velvet covered bx to fall out of his pocket.
The hooded man bent over and picked it up. “Who’s the lucky lady?”
“Her name’s Claire,” he replied. “She’s amazing. We’ve known each other since college … I’m sorry, I don’t even know you and I’m going on, aren’t I? I’m just so excited.”
The man chuckled and handed the box back to Nathan. “I’ll leave you to get back to Claire.” The man turned to leave, but stopped. “Sorry, what did you say your name was again?”
“It’s Nathan, yours?”
The man had gone.
The film faded to black.
“Why did I need to see that?” Nathan asked.
“There was a brief flash.” Brian tutted. “You must have missed it.”
The film faded back on.
Nathan and the mysterious man quickly walked backwards to their starting position. They stopped for a second then went forwards again in slow motion.
The film zoomed in on Nathan’s ankle. A flash jumped from the man’s ankle to his as the two collided.
Suddenly, everything started to stutter.
“Oh no,” Brian said, reels of tape shooting out of his backside.
Nathan looked down at the tattoo on his ankle whilst Brian shoved it all back in. How do I get rid of it?
“What a preposterous idea! Why with Kwaad’s Collector you may be able to defeat him.”
“Collector? Defeat? What?”
“The tattoo on your ankle is, or was, Kwaad’s.”
“The evil magician trying to turn you into a bunny.”
Nathan shook his head.
“Believe me, you are in danger. But back to the point in hand, the man you walked into was Kwaad. When you walked into him your ankles touched together. His Collector transfered to your ankle, along with its contents.”
“Do you ever use full sentences?” Brian chuckled. “A Collector is a tattoo that quite literally collects magic. Every time Kwaad kills a magician the tattoo will suck out any unused raw magic and store it.”
“I guess it’s lucky he only wants to turn me into a rabbit, then”
“That is one way of looking at it. Transformations are painful affairs at best. But fluffy bunnies are the worst.”
“Why?” Nathan dreaded the answer.
Want to know how the chapter ends? What to read the next chapter? Go to The Magician's Tattoo on WDC to find out!