“Yo, Bailey, you going to the show tonight?” Ollie’s loud voice penetrated the vocals that Bailey had been listening to.
“What show? I’ve been so deep in my coursework that if it’s not in one of my books, I haven’t noticed it.”
“Campus art gallery has a magician doing a show tonight. It’s 10 bucks to get in, part to pay for his appearance and part to pay for some renovations,” Ollie replied. “His show is supposed to be pretty good.” Ollie slapped at one of the many books on the table. “And you really need a break, mate.”
“I must have been out of the dorms at least once today,” Bailey huffed.
“I might believe you’ve been out once this week. But not today or yesterday.” Ollie tapped Bailey on the head. “Your brain is going to be mush. Nothing but mush. Tell you what, I’ll shout the first drinks.”
“It’s in the gallery, Ollie. There may not be drinks,” Bailey protested. He tried to concentrate on the book in front of him.
“Of course there will be drinks. Where do you think the REAL money for the renovations is coming from? That paltry admission price? It’s coming from the overpriced beer, but you can get slapped with penalties if they catch you sneaking some in.” Ollie reached over and closed the book. “Come on, it will be fun.”
“Are you going to take no for an answer?”
Ollie gave an exaggerated sigh. “I’d rather you said yes, but I’m not going to drag you there. So, I guess I’ll have to find some hottie to buy a drink for.”
Bailey stood up and stretched. “Well, if you are going to twist my arm,” he said as he held out one arm. Ollie lightly grabbed the wrist and gave it a tiny twitch. “OUCH! All right, all right, I’m going,” Bailey laughed.
“The show starts in 2 hours. Time for you to change your clothes and we can grab a burger before heading for the gallery.”
“Change my clothes?”
“I swear you have been wearing the same shirt all week,” laughed Ollie. “Go on, get changed and we can take off.”
They arrived at the campus gallery half an hour before the show was due to start. As Ollie predicted, there were drinks available. The choices were overpriced beer or overpriced wine both by the glass.
“I love the high class,” said Bailey as he grabbed the plastic cup.
“Don’t bitch about it. After all, this one is on me. When you buy a round, then you can complain about the plastic.” Ollie took a gulp of beer. “Besides, can you blame them? I’m sure they will have plenty to clean up as it is. They don’t need broken glass everywhere.”
“Dude, check out this sculpture. I swear, we should be art students. My baby sister could do better than this.” Bailey was staring at the twisted form on the pedestal. It was composed of ‘found’ objects, namely trash collected from around campus.
“You know why we aren’t art students. The odds of being successful at it are too low. I know I don’t want to spend four years just to flip burgers because I can’t find a job.”
“Not every business student finds a job,” protested Bailey.
Ollie shook his head. “Our odds are still way better. Especially if we do well at one of the special subjects in the last year. Everyone who managed a pass in business law last year got a job this year.”
They wandered around, looking at the other art while waiting for the show to start. A couple of beers later and the art was looking much more interesting. Much of it was for sale, but neither of them had the inclination or cash to think about buying anything.
The magician was Malthos the magnificent. The show itself was pretty decent given that it was a small stage in an art gallery. Bailey was certain Malthos could do more, if he had a more elaborate place to set up. As it was, the magician had made a lot of things appear and disappear. His pretty assistant had been through the crowd a few times, much to the delight of the guys.
“Now for my next trick, I would like a volunteer from the audience.”
“Here’s where they grab a plant, wonder who it will be?” said Ollie in an undertone to Bailey.
Malthos scanned the audience a few times. Several people raised their hands but his eyes barely paused as he looked around. He pointed directly at Bailey. “You, sir. Would you kindly approach the stage?”
Bailey looked around but everyone was already applauding and the assistant had a firm grasp on his arm. “Right this way, if you don’t mind.”
“But I do mind,” protested Bailey. “Take someone else.”
His protests fell on deaf ears. The rest of the audience began to shout for him to go on. Bailey gave up and let himself be led up on the stage.
The assistant let go of Bailey when he was on stage and facing Malthos. “Now, kind sir, your name please.”
“And have we met before, Bailey?” Malthos said with a broad smile to the audience.
Bailey shook his head. “We definitely have not.”
Malthos motioned toward a wooden cabinet on the small stage. His assistant was holding the door open. “Now, all I need you to do is step into the magic cabinet, right over here. Will you do that for me, Bailey? Don’t worry about anything, just step inside.”
Bailey nodded and stepped into the box. He heard Malthos talking to the audience as the assistant shut the door. Once inside, he began to worry about his next exams. They were soon and Bailey wasn’t as prepared as he wanted to be. “There are times when I wish I were somewhere that exams didn’t matter. Grades didn’t matter. For that matter, somewhere that universities don’t even exist.”
Time passed and Bailey grew tired of standing. He thought this would take one or at most two minutes and it seemed like 5 minutes or more had passed. “Ready or not, here I come,” he said as he pushed open the door.
He was in a lush green forest. He looked back but the cabinet was gone. “Where am I? How do I get home?”
Back at the art gallery, the show faltered when Malthos failed to make Bailey reappear as expected.
“What the hell have you done?” shouted Ollie, pushing his way to the front of the crowd. “Where has my friend gone?”
“You know the gentleman?” inquired Malthos.
“Yeah, I was the one who told him to come to this show. Where the hell has he gone?” Ollie fumed.
“The show will recommence in 20 minutes,” Malthos announced to the audience. “Please pardon me for that little bit of time.” He motioned toward Ollie, “If you would follow me please.”
Ollie followed Malthos through the gallery and outside. Malthos lead the way to a small trailer parked to the far side of the gallery car park. He opened the door and motioned for Ollie to go inside. Ollie went in and sat on a small folding chair next to a fold out table. He waited for Malthos to sit before he demanded, “Well?”
Malthos sighed. “Is there anything that is bothering your friend? Something that he simply can’t stop thinking about?”
“Hell, this week we have about 4 assignments due and next week there are several final exams. It was hard to drag him away from his books to have a little light entertainment. But what’s that got to do with anything? For God’s sake, I thought those disappearing cabinets were complete fakes.”
Malthos stared down at his hands briefly before looking up at Ollie. “Most of them are fake. But mine, well, it’s different. It can work like all the others. But if the occupant thinks about something hard enough after the door closes, it can send them to the place their thoughts lead. I did tell him not to worry.”
“You were serious? But man, no one on the planet worries like Bailey,” said Ollie. “How do you get him back?”
“That’s the tricky part. The cabinet will bring him back but only if he wants to come back. As in, the only thought in his head is how much he desperately he wants to be back here.” Malthos shrugged. “Will your friend want to come back?”
Ollie had to think about that question. “Man, I have no clue. If he doesn’t have to worry about finals or assignments…hell, I’d probably want to stay in a place like that.”
“I’m sorry about your friend,” said Malthos as he rose. “Unless and until he wants to come back, he’ll stay there. If he never wants to come back, there is nothing I can do.”
“I should turn you into the cops. There has to be something that you can do.”
“You can try but it’s been tried before. The police will find nothing and all that happens is that I move on with my cabinet,” Malthos moved to the door. “I hope your friend comes back however there is nothing that I do.”
“Hello? Can anyone hear me?” called Bailey. The only reply was the rustle of leaves. “Malthos? This is a damned fine illusion but the joke has gone on long enough.”
He stood still, listening for anything familiar. There were no cars, no planes, nothing more than the sounds of the leaves. He stared at the nearby trees. They looked weird, though Bailey wasn’t sure why.
Bailey was torn. He wanted to hike around, see if he could find anyone. But if he left this spot, he may not be able to find it again. Everything he could see looked pretty much the same. If he left, could he find it again?
A low growl caught his attention. Bailey turned his head to see a huge shaggy form headed toward him. Panic hit, whatever the thing was, he didn’t want to be close to it.
Bailey had never been one for physical exertion but the beast scared the living hell out of him. He climbed one of the nearer trees without a second thought. He scrambled up the tree until he reached a point where he was worried if the branches could still support his weight.
Clinging to the trunk for all he was worth, Bailey stared down. The shaggy form was a massive bear. It looked nearly twice the size of bears he’d seen at the zoo. He hoped for a moment that it would keep moving.
However, when the bear reached Bailey’s tree it stopped. It placed one huge paw against the tree and pushed. Bailey decided that maybe the higher branches were sturdier than he first thought and climbed higher. The bear placed the other front paw against the tree and pushed it again.
“Oh God,” thought Bailey. “Why did I ever leave my safe boring dorm room? I don’t care if I fail every exam, I want to go BACK! Oh god, I really want to go back.” He felt the tree start to give way under the weight of the bear. He closed his eyes in terror.
Then opened them again because he was no longer holding a tree. He was in the confines of a wooden box.
Bailey pushed against the door. It was the art gallery but late enough that the gallery had closed for the evening. There was no one there except for Malthos.
“I trust you found your time instructive,” said the magician. “Your friend is worried for you.” With those words, he and the cabinet vanished.
Bailey shook his head, not believing his eyes. Then he headed for the dorm. Ollie was never going to believe this.