Starspire

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Chapter 5: A Tent with a Twist

Tyson’s head spun from the constant stream of visions that floated in front of him. Animals made of flame, entire landscapes painted by colored leaves flailing through the wind, sparks which danced and formed such intricate patterns that he couldn’t take it all in.

Amid it all, Markus Zauber spun and fluttered through the space, chasing the fog away wherever he went. The show grew in complexity and brightness until Tyson thought he might pass out from the assault on his senses. Finally, with one last blinding tapestry of magic, all went silent and still again, leaving the Magician standing directly in front of Tyson.

“What did you think? Do you still want to see a wittle precious bunny wunny trick?”

Tyson shook his head vigorously. “No, thanks! That was awesome. I didn’t miss the bunnies at all, I promise. But why didn’t you do all that sort of stuff in the tent? Your other show was pretty boring.”

The magician’s laugh boomed through the misty space. “Because, boy, I did not yet have the skill. It was only recently given to me.” He pointed a single gloved finger straight at Tyson’s forehead. “By you.”

Tyson whirled about, trying to see if there was someone else he could possibly be pointing at. “Me? But that’s crazy. I don’t even have any magic myself! How could I possibly give magic to you?”

The magician’s face fell into a mask of perfect solemnity. “Don’t toy with me boy. Do you really not know?”

Tyson’s head shivered from side to side. “No…uh, sir.”

The magician waved his hands and long wand appeared in his hand, a thin, black rod with a curled claw fixed at each end. With a flourish, he pointed the wand directly at Tyson’s heart. “In there, boy. You have been given a great gift.”

Tyson still did not understand. “My heart? Everyone has one of those, and mine’s not really special. Actually, I think it’s a little worse than everyone else’s. I’m always getting these weird chest pains.”

The point of the wand touched the surface of his stomach and he felt it tingle. For a moment, the magician’s dark eyes glowed white, and his expression distant. When the color returned a few seconds later, a thin smile crept up his cheeks. “Ah, so your ignorance is understandable. You ingested the gem when you were only a baby. My apologies. Allow me to explain.”

He tapped the wand once again against Tyson’s chest and then withdrew it. He drew a great circle in the air with it, creating a glowing line. With one gloved hand, he reached out and touched the air in the circle, which shimmered and rippled like the surface of a lake. Where one moment there had been nothing, now a hazy image came into view, and it was like nothing Tyson had ever seen.

“This, boy, is a Starformer,” said the Markus Zauber, pointing to the image. “They travel across the great reaches of space and time as custodians of the stars. They set in motion the birth of stars, and also their deaths when the time is right. They are said to be so powerful that their thoughts can rearrange matter and create new things.”

Tyson gazed at the incredible creature before him-a mass of slick golden skin, a sleek body from which trailed hundreds of thin streamers, which glinted like starlight. A series of sail-like wings trailed off from its body, creating a beautiful sense of symmetry. The creature’s face resembled both a dragon and a man, with incredibly deep eyes, whose blackness was broken only by a single point of intense light, a pair of north stars in the blank sky.

“Magnificent, no?” said the magician. “They are ancient creatures, for whom time has barely any meaning. But even they must eventually go the way of the universe. Even the greatest star must eventually descend into blackness.”

The magician waved his hands and the image changed, drawing much closer to the great majestic creature. The image centered on the creature’s striking eyes, and Tyson could not help feeling dizzy as he continued to stare into them. All at once, the brilliant white points of the eyes flashed green and grew, expanding until the green enveloped the entire eye. With a flash of light, the points of green exploded out of the eye, forming two green spheres in the space in front of the Starformer.

The image scaled back revealing the blue globe that Tyson knew as his home planet. The green orbs plummeted through space towards the blue planet and disappeared from sight.

“You see?” said the Magician. “The creature, this Starformer, seeks a replacement. It longs for rest, and it has picked our planet for this purpose.”

Tyson wrinkled his face, not liking the direction of this conversation. “I see. But what does that have to do with me?”

The wand swung back around, and the Magician pointed it back at Tyson’s chest. “One of those gems resides in you even now, which gives you the potential to become one. I know this, because I have glimpsed into your past. It could have fallen in a crowded street or in a barren desert. It might have even fallen directly in my lap. But no. It fell into the bedroom of a young boy.”

Markus Zauber narrowed his eyes to snakelike slits. “And that young boy swallowed it.”

Tyson’s hands roamed unconsciously to his throat. Though he could not remember this firsthand, the story rung true.

The magician’s wand swung through the air and patted him twice on the back as if congratulating him for scoring a touchdown. “You are beginning to see already. The stone has enhanced your natural abilities to be sure. Even if you are ignorant, you must have some idea of what the stone can do.”

Tyson nodded, thinking of all the strange things that had plagued his childhood. He only wished that he could remember the elephant incident and the aftermath his father always talked about. “I think so. Sometimes, the things I dream about become real. I actually wish it would stop. My dad is so paranoid that I have to beg to get out of the house!”

The Magician’s eyes flashed with a look that made Tyson feel an inch tall. “Never say such things again, you ungrateful boy! Do not tell your creations know that you wish you had never created them. It tends to make them angry.”

Tyson felt his knees swaying. “I…created you? You’re one of my…”
“Dreams?” said the Magician. “Yes. But not for much longer.”

In a terrible instant, Tyson realized what had happened. He had fallen asleep in the magic show, and imagined up a version of Markus Zauber that was everything Tyson had wished he would be. The problem was that, now, this extremely powerful, creepy magician was about to take the original Markus’s place in the real world.

Markus Zauber brought his arms in close to his body and a bright light enveloped him. Tyson shook his head and covered his ears as an ear-splitting screech ripped at the air. “Markus, don’t!”

“My name is not Markus!” yelled the magician with a sneer. “A rebirth deserves a new name.”

The Magician’s arms flung as wide as they could, scattering light in all directions.

“I am Sir Daemon Nickeltwist!”

Tyson’s eyes snapped open, and his hand flew to his heart. His eyes shot to the stage in time to witness the transformation of Markus Zauber, the terrible magician, into Sir Daemon Nickeltwist, the master wizard. The audience gave a collective gasp at the transformation, and held it as the wizard’s barbed wand flew out in front of him and hung in the air. The audience moved forward to the edge of their chairs, riveted for the first time by the magician’s act.

Sir Nickeltwist let them dangle for a breathless moment. “I would like to thank a special member of the audience for making this next trick possible. Happy Birthday, Tyson Phelps. ”

The magician snapped his fingers, and his wand pointed at Tyson and bathed him in an intense spotlight. Tyson stirred in his slumber, and then rose slowly to his feet. Sir Nickeltwist’s face fell, as if he had just found out some terrible news. “Of course,” he muttered. “Dreams fade when the dreamer wakes.”

His face bunching in concentration, Sir Nickeltwist spread his arms and stared at Tyson. Dark tendrils of mist spread from his fingers, wrapping themselves tighter and tighter around Tyson. Once again, his eyelids fell, his limbs fell slack and he slumped down into his seat.

Matt shot his feet, his face taut with rage. “What did you do to my brother? Wake him up.”

Sir Nickeltwist shook his head. “Your brother has done me a great service, which will vanish if he should wake. Don’t worry. He’ll be quite safe. It would be terribly foolish of me to harm him.”

Before Matt could react, a stiff wind rushed in through the entrance of the tent, scattering folding chairs and audience members alike. The screams of dozens of children and senior citizens barely rose above the roar as they scrambled towards the exits. They found quickly, however, that the wind kept out all who tried to run.

With a low, rumbling laugh, Sir Nickeltwist clapped his hands, sending multicolored sparks flying out in all directions. They settled on the first person they touched, at which point, the light spread until it enveloped them completely. Everyone touched by the sparks fell silently to the ground.

In the center of it all lay Tyson, seemingly unaffected by the chaos raging around him. Sir Nickeltwist threw back his head and cried in a shrill voice that pierced the din. “Dream on, boy. Dream on.”

Bahati rose slowly to her feet, but wished she had stayed unconscious. In front of her, the main tent rocked back and forth as if it had trapped a giant angry hornet inside. She winced as she sensed the raw fury of the magic inside.

Steeling herself, she raised her staff and rushed forward. Before she could come within five feet, a gust of wind tore her feet out from under her and smashed her face into the remains of a discarded snow cone in the dirt.

Bahati’s teeth ground together, and she tasted blood in his mouth. At least the cold patch was keeping her bruised cheek from swelling.

A sick feeling formed in her stomach that had nothing to do with having been beaten around like a tennis ball. She had little choice. He couldn’t fight this.

As she watched, the fabric tent changed form, becoming first a short stone building, and then taller and taller, adding stories as more and more material funneled into it.

Bahati planted her staff in the earth and burrowed in. With a series of grunts, she rose to a kneeling position and considered the tent in turmoil. Whatever was going on, it could not last forever, and when it stopped, she would be there.

An airborne popcorn machine sailed past her at high speed. Time for a different plan. Thinking quickly, she found a nearby midway stand covered with the remains of broken plates. She ducked below the counter and placed her ear on the wood.

“This isn’t a retreat, father,” he whispered. “Only a strategic relocation.”

Bahati hesitated before leaving the shelter of the booth. She had seen all sorts of magic during her life, but nothing that turned an entire tent into a solid building. She surveyed the building for entrances, but found that the tent flaps had closed before the building had turned to stone.

Despite her better instincts, Bahati was about to approach the tent, when she noticed something disturbing. Outside of the tent stood a small, wheeled cart that still held a partial roll of wispy pink candy, which looked as if it might blow away at any moment. A sudden gust of wind slammed the cart up against the tent and, with a brief pop, it vanished.

The young woman squinted, staring intently at the point where the cart had been. She was sure that the side of the tent had been a smooth surface only a moment before. However, now the spot contained an accurate depiction of the cotton candy cart etched into the stone.

Her heart fluttering, she glanced first to one side and then to the other and noticed that the once bustling fairground now stood empty. Her eyes wandered back to the stone, fearing what she would see. Had she missed a crowd of stone faces, their faces frozen permanently in expressions of terror?

Though she could see no faces, Bahati realized that if there were no people around, there was probably a good reason. Panic clenched at her insides, as she realized that it might already be too late to escape. She clenched her eyes tight, trying to fight back a wave of frustration and hopelessness.

She pushed her aching body over the booth, and set off in an adrenaline-fueled shamble in the opposite direction of the tent.

Strange, ominous noises sounded behind her, crashes and clanks, the sound of wood splintering and of wind moaning. As tempted as she was to glance back, she did not turn until she once again stood on the hill overlooking the fairgrounds.

Her staff slipped more and more as Bahati struggled to keep her feet. As she watched, the wind blew the closest buildings into the main tent, where they disappeared. The whirlwind intensified, throwing the entire contents of the fairgrounds into the air and drawing them in like water draining from a sink.

Every object from stalls, to tents, to popcorn machines, the Ferris wheel, the carousel, to the Tilt-a-Whirl and the roller coaster vanished into the stone tent. Even the trash cans, the spilled popcorn, the discarded tickets found their way into the tower that had been the tent, which grew taller and taller with each addition.

When the wind finally died, the entire fairground had reverted back to a barren field, without so much as a blade of grass to mark that it had ever been used. The stone tent had grown from a single story structure, to a towering three-story building, covered with huge scenes from the carnival carved into its side.

She stared for a full minute at the accurate representation of the Ferris wheel on the side facing her, and pondered her next move. Though the entire carnival now appeared on the sides of the building, there were still no people in the scene. Perhaps they were contained within the building, though she could not imagine what purpose that would serve. A magical prison, maybe? Bahati’s head hurt with considering the possibilities.

Reaching into her pocket, she withdrew the step-counting stones and released them into the air in front of her eyes. She had accumulated thousands upon thousands of steps in this journey alone. It was not a feat she felt like repeating soon. There was only one option. Forward.

Bahati’s eyes flicked to the side as she caught a blur of movement between her and the fairgrounds. A compact red car drove down the road parallel to the fairgrounds, slowed and then stopped. Perhaps, the driver thought he had been given faulty directions to the fair.

With a stab of horror, Bahati realized the danger. She broke into a run as fast as her trembling legs would take her down the hill towards the car, all the time knowing her weakened legs couldn’t possibly propel her fast enough. Planting her staff into the ground, she screamed a spell, and vaulted herself into the air, hoping that she could remember how to make a graceful landing.

Unfortunately, Bahati had last used the flight spell a year ago while trying to escape a hungry cheetah that had mistaken her for a wounded wildebeest. Her aim suffered from the lack of practice. She landed far short of the parked car, and could only watch in horror when the wind whipped up again and tossed the car towards the stone building.

The car vanished like all the others objects, and a new sculpture, which looked strangely like a hood ornament, appeared on the highest point of the sloped roof. Despite its having devoured the entire carnival, this beast was still hungry.

She knew she had only seconds to decide. If she turned around now, she might be able to escape the pull of the tent. So far, her magic had shielded her from its effects. But then again, she had already made his decision. Forward. For better or worse.

With a final second to collect his courage, she thought once more of her father’s face. “Don’t worry, father. I might be joining you soon.”

She dashed ahead and made a good 20 feet before the wind picked up and finished the journey for her, flinging her directly at the stone wall.

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