Art Pact 201 - Magic Show


The magician waved his wand. Nothing happened. From my perch high up in the crowd I could see the brief flash of surprise on his face, but he was an artist and a performer and he rolled with it, making it seem as though it was part of the act. He waved his wand again. Again, nothing. I looked around - if there was someone in the crowd who was suppressing him other than me, I couldn't spot them. I knew that there were plenty of dampers in the town, but would most of them come into a magic show where they could be found out immediately? Well, perhaps - they weren't all known for their intelligence. That was the problem with being a damper, it didn't have any relation to any other talent, so the skill was evenly distributed across the population, which meant that a good half of them were of below-average smarts. They might easily come to a magic show for the fun of it, not realising that it would make them stick out like a sore thumb to anyone who might be watching. 

The thought made me a little paranoid, and I dragged my field closer to me in order to reassure myself that it wasn't me having the effect on the performer. I felt the field close in a little, then spring back. That was unexpected. I drew it in again, and again it felt for a moment as if it were closing around me and getting denser, then like a ball being inflated it popped out again - now I could tell that it was getting larger, definitely big enough to engulf the edge of the stage, possibly all the way to the backdrop.

The ripples of laughter that had accompanied the performer's original pratfalling and self-mockery were now growing a bit thin. The audience seemed to sense that all was not as it seemed, that perhaps there was something going wrong on stage. His patter was beginning to run out, and the confusion at the failure of his tricks was growing evident on his face. I would have to drag my field in somehow. I pulled at it, straining my head so hard that people in the seats around me must have thought I was stricken with some sort of near-fatal constipation. Again, nothing - the field contracted slightly, then bounced open again. At this rate I would be spread so thinly that I'd be damping the entire theatre. I had to find another way out - I got to my feet, began to apologize to the people in my row and make my way to the aisle, awkwardly squeezing past raised knees and over handbags and popcorn bags.

The field was coming with me - it had to, of course, and I could sense that it was not growing any larger so long as I kept moving and did not try to tinker with it in a more forceful manner. It was drawing my damper in that seemed to cause it to spread out further, so I kept my mind relaxed and tried to just let the thing come back to a normal size by itself. It was oddly like trying to get an unwanted erection to go down, and just as counter-intuitive. The field seemed to have a mind of its own, and all I could do was get to the end of the aisle, dart up the steps to the theatre door and get outside.

I was not the only one. As I let the door close behind me and looked out across the lobby, another figure emerged to my right. He was dressed in a sort of greenish-blue-yellow uniform, the exact sort of colour that would have husbands and wives arguing for years if it had been made into dish-towels rather than trousers and a jacket. He was tall, with short dark hair plastered across his head in an unwashed mess, and as he turned to face me I could see that he was squinting his right eye furiously while his left eye remained somehow open and relaxed.

"Stop!" he called.

I - who had not been going anywhere once I was outside the door - immediately realised that there was something wrong here, and that the last thing I should do would be to follow his command. I bolted for the main door, sprinting as fast as I could over the sticky red carpet and hurdling a rope barrier (a jump which I flubbed, but I landed well anyway, simply knocking over  the two steel posts holding the rope). I bashed into the door, then through it, and swung it closed as hard as I could into the other guy, hearing a satisfying thump and cry of distress as it took him by surprise.

For a moment I felt my damper field pull back to its normal size, then again it was being dragged out. I felt as though there were a sucking wind on me, pulling me back towards my pursuer, and I suddenly realised that the field was not stretching of its own accord, it was being stretched for me. I had never heard of such a thing, but there are always things you haven't heard of, and in this job they turned up quite regularly. After all that high-faluting business about only idiots going to magic shows where they'd be found out I had done just that - I'd relied on my control to be able to hide my damper field so that it wouldn't affect the act and get me found out, but someone - someone with less than benign feelings towards me, I guessed - had somehow enhanced the range of my ability until it started to be noticeable, then waited for me to show myself.

As I was realising this, something hard hit my right ankle as it was in mid-air, flinging it hard and painfully into my left leg. I went down like a nine-pin, only narrowly bringing my hands up to protect my face as I hit the pavement. My head banged into my fingers and everything went black.

"Got him," I heard a voice say.

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