Plugs

Susannah Mandel’s short story “The Monkey and the Butterfly” is in Shimmer #11. She also has poems in the current issues of Sybil’s Garage, Goblin Fruit, and Peter Parasol.

Read Rudi’s story “Detail from a Painting by Hieronymus Bosch” at Behind the Wainscot.

Read Daniel Braum’s story Mystic Tryst at Farrgo’s Wainscot #8.

Sara Genge’s story “Godtouched” may be found in Strange Horizons.

Houdini’s Grave

by Daniel Braum

I’m standing outside Starbucks on 2nd Avenue, and a woman with long dark hair called my name from across the street as if she knew me. She dashed over when the traffic passed and said, “sorry I’m late. I hope I haven’t kept you waiting too long. It’s so nice to meet you.”

She had my name right, but she was obviously there for a blind date with another man. My fortune cookie at lunch had said, “opportunity knocks” so I figured this was it so we went inside. Then we walked, hot cocoa in hand, laughing at the storefronts already decorated for Halloween. We ended up in a cozy Irish pub.

I’ve been on more than my share of bad dates but things were going amazingly right. So right that I forgot it was all just a mistake. She was a painter. Did charity exhibitions of her work for projects in South America. It wasn’t just that she was tall and stylish with that long dark hair, though that wasn’t hurting; the way she spoke made me want to listen and gave me a sense of future. I found myself feeling oddly mournful that we hadn’t met years ago. I wanted our story to start now, like I felt it was, so I had to come clean.

“I’m not the guy you were supposed to meet,” I said.

“Of course you are,” she said.

She didn’t get it. Then she asked me if I was doing anything on Halloween. I had a ticket to the Police concert. She said a friend of hers was a famous magician and a few of them were gathering at Houdini’s grave.

“The ultimate escape artist,” she said and then she talked as if she knew me for ages. About an abusive husband. A controlling ex-boyfriend. A small part of me said this is too much too fast and that her fascination with Houdini was an ominous metaphor. A trapped woman looking for the first lock pick that comes along. But I didn’t listen. It had started to rain and she insisted on driving me to my car.

“I’d love to go to Houdini’s grave with you on Halloween,” I said.

“Sure?” she asked. “Its at midnight.”

“Absolutely.”

She wrote her number on a Starbuck’s napkin and gave me a peck goodnight.

Our conversation continued on the phone the next evening. We stayed up late into the night ending the conversation after she gave me directions to the grave. Then next night I wasn’t able to reach her. Nor the night after. And the night after.

Two weeks passed without word. I agonized about going to the graveyard or not and now, standing here, alone in the wet cold waiting for midnight to come, I wonder if she was a figment of my imagination. Or if she got in touch with the man she was supposed to meet that night.

I think of going to find her, I have her card, but then decide its dangerously close to stalking.

Turning my back to the wind, I realize that I like thinking she’s out there; an instance of the potential of the situation being much safer than reality. I don’t want her to turn out to be an invented ghost.

But I have to know. So I steel myself against the October night, hoping this isn’t where the story ends but where it gets good.

– End –

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