Hand-mouth Coordination

“…he feinted!” Emily burst into giggles at her own punchline. Kirk narrowed his eyes and tilted his head slightly.

“I don’t get it,” he said. “That can happen if you’re light-headed.” Emily rolled her eyes and shook her head; her long silver hair shimmered like a curtain with the motion.

“Light-headed monk?” she asked. “Monks don’t faint, they feint.”

“Oh,” Kirk nodded. “Okay, I get it. It just isn’t funny,” he said.

“Oh, what do you know?” Emily playfully shoved Kirk over. They both sat alone in the school gym. Faint red-orange light came in through the window as the sun was close to setting.

“Well, I heard your whole act…,” he shrugged. “…and that one? It was the worst part.” He glanced out the window.

“And, now I know why you didn’t answer when I said, “Sure, I have time. How long would it last?” he chuckled. “Trust me, you can cut that one easily, and a few other ones. But, all you did was tell me jokes for an hour. Aren’t you doing a magic show?””Yeah, but that’s easy,” Emily said. She reached behind her back while keeping her eyes locked on Kirk’s. When she brought her hand forward again she held several small toy sheep. “I’ve got a flock of tricks up my sleeve.”

Star Struck


“That’s it? That was easy!” Valentine jumped out of the black portal carrying a pizza box. Emily followed her out and onto the cracked, aged walkway. Old grey and brown cement led directly to the single-story house. The yard on both sides of the path was over-grown with waist-high weeds and the house itself looked abandoned. The sun was setting in the purple sky but no lights were on inside the house.

“It’s easy, but don’t forget to reclaim it,” Emily said. The silver-haired girl put her hand into the portal. The hole began to shrink until it was a small black business card in the palm of her hand. “Kirk forgot a couple of times and we needed to call for a ride.”

“Is that why he couldn’t come with you?” Valentine asked. She wouldn’t call Emily a friend quiet yet, they’d only met a few days ago. She was surprised when Emily asked if Valentine wanted to join her for work; her usual partner couldn’t make it. She eagerly agreed when she found out Emily delivered pizza to different universes. Emily shook her head; loose strands of silver shimmered in the sunlight.

“Nah, Mundo said he needed more training with Frost and Keys,” she said. “Speaking of…,” Emily added as she started up the path to the door. “… Mundo said she offered you a spot on the team too. Are you going to join?” Valentine shrugged. They reached the door and Emily pressed the doorbell.

“I don’t know… I haven’t even picked a class yet,” she whined. “I don’t-” Valentine stopped speaking when the door opened. An older woman with stringy gray hair opened the door. She wore tattered denim overalls and her mouth dropped at the sight of the two girls.

“You ordered a pizza?” Valentine asked and held up the box.

“I’M NOT ALONE!” the woman wailed and rushed forward to hug Emily, because she did not have a pizza box to fend off the woman. The old woman began sobbing as she embraced Emily. For her part, Emily rolled her eyes at Valentine.

“It’s okay, Ma’am. You’re safe,” Emily said as she tried to gently push the woman off of her. “Are you the last person on this Earth?” she asked.

“Whoa..,” Valentine whispered to herself in surprise. She never considered the possibility of running into the last person on Earth.

“Yes.. I think so. I haven’t seen anyone else in years…” her voice cracked. Emily nodded and reached into her pocket for her node.

“Well, you brought us to the wrong place,” she told Valentine with a smile. “But it’s okay because we can help her real quick…,” Emily said while tapping at her node. “…and then get the pizza to the right place.” She turned her attention to the old woman.

“Go pack anything important to you, your ride will be here in a couple of minutes,” she said.

“R..really?” she asked with wide, tearful eyes. Emily nodded and the woman rushed back into her home.

“Are they going to be mad you need another ride?” Valentine asked, Emily shook her head.

“This isn’t work,” She tilted her head at the house. “I’ve run into the ‘the last person on Earth’…,” Emily said with air quotes. “…a few times. Enough that I wanted to be ready if it happens again. I found someone at the Star Academy that’ll take them in and get them settled on an Earth they like somewhere.” As Emily finished her explanation a tall black portal opened next to them.

A lithe, lean, tall woman walked out of the portal. She wore a tattered, faded green backpack on her back, and golden stars glowed in her eyes. Valentine’s mouth dropped when she saw the woman and she made a choking sound in the back of her throat.

“Cassiopeia….,” she whispered in awe.

“Hey Cassie!,” Emily smiled at the woman. “Sorry for the short notice, but I still have a delivery to make,” she said apologetically. Cassie nodded and smiled at the two girls.

“That’s alright, keep up the good work,” she said, then glanced at Valentine.

“Hola, Corazón,” she said. “What’s your name?”

“#27 El Corazón!” Valentine stood up straighter and nervously blurted out her number. Emily and Cassie both chuckled.

“I know,” Cassie said then pointed at her glowing eyes.

“This is Valentine,” Emily said. “I guess she’s a fan.”

“Oh?” Cassie asked. “Are you on a team?” Valentine shook her head.

“That’s a real shame,” she said. “There aren’t enough Corazóns in the league.”

“Hello!? I’m ready!” the old woman shouted from within the house, then she appeared at the door.

“Ma’am, this is Cassie. She’ll get you somewhere safe and populated,” Emily said then pulled out the black card.

“I’m on a team!” Valentine shouted once the portal was opened. “I’m on Emily’s team!” Cassie smiled at her and nodded.

“That’s good to hear,” she said.

“C’mon,” Emily said and dragged Valentine into the portal.

Frosty Reception

“So what can I do with the Circus?” Emily asked. The silver-haired teenage girl twirled a playing card between her fingers as she talked to Mundo. The two girls stood in a school gym next to a giant floating black sphere; the dark ball was bigger than either of the two girls. Moments ago the gym resembled the inside of a large circus tent; but, Emily dismissed the card and the gym reverted to waxed hardwood floors.

“The Circus is one of the most flexible decks. You can do almost anything with it, depending on what you pair it with. Add Fantasy cards for solid healing. You can tank if you use Robots or DPS if you go with Ninjas. Steampunk will boost our resources…,” Mundo paused and shrugged. “It’s probably better if you wait until we have a full team to pick your other deck. Right now we’re just a Wizard,” Mundo pointed at the black sphere. “A cardmage…,” she pointed at Emily, “…and a druid.” She pressed her hand against her chest. “If we don’t get any crafters resource management won’t be a problem.”

“Oh wow,” Emily grinned. She was excited to be a ‘founding member’ of her first roller derby team. “I thought there was more of a team. Do we even have a name?” she asked. Mundo shook her head.

“I couldn’t think of anything. Do you have any ideas?” she asked. Emily shook her head also.

“No. Kirk might!” she looked at the large dark sphere. “Whenever he finishes making his character I guess.”

“IS THIS THE DERBY TRY-OUTS?!” A teenager shouted from the gym’s entrance. Emily and Mundo turned to see a young pale, almost blue-skinned student with his light blue hair pulled back.

“YES!” Mundo yelled back. The young man smiled and walked into the gym to join them.

“Try-outs?” Emily asked Mundo as the male student covered the distance. Mundo shrugged.

“Since we were going to make characters for you and Kirk anyway I put the word out about try-outs to fill out our roster.”

“Hi. I’m Frost,” he said when he arrived next to the pair of girls. “#42”

“Emily, #21,” she smiled and waved.

“Mundo,” Mundo replied.

“Mundo?” Frost looked surprised. “Is this your Earth? How are you here?” he asked.

“I’m not,” Mundo said. She lifted her hand in the air. It crumbled into white powder and spilled to the ground but never reached it. The white particles disappeared before falling very far. “I’m safe at home,” she smiled.

“Oh, nice,” Frost nodded as Mundo’s hand reformed at the end of her wrist. “So is this everyone trying out?” he asked. Mundo nodded.

“So far,” Mundo extended her fresh hand at Frost. “I think it’s safe to say congratulations! You’re in.”

Hand Picked

“YAAY!” Emily clapped her hands and hopped in place with glee. “This is awesome!” she said and grinned at her two friends, Mundo and Kirk. The three of them stood in the school gym. The violet-haired girl, Mundo, was helping them through the tutorial.

“Did you choose a class yet?” she asked Kirk, a brown-haired teenager. He nodded.

“Wizard,” Kirk said.

“Great, see you in a bit,” Mundo replied. She tapped at a node in her hand. A cloud of black nanos materialized around Kirk like it did for Emily. The swarm closed around Kirk and enclosed him in a large black sphere that hovered above the ground. Mundo turned her attention back to Emily. “So let’s talk about what you can do now. The tutorial covers basic AlterNet information but it’s up to you to learn how to play your class, okay?”

“Definitely!” Emily nodded enthusiastically.

“Great. Let me help you out. Each class is a bit different in how it handles specs,” Mundo noticed Emily tilt her head. “Spec is short for ‘specialization’. Each class has different things you can specialize or focus on,” she said. Emily nodded in understanding. “For Card Mages…,” Mundo pointed at Emily to make sure the girl understood what she was. “…their spec is defined by what decks they pick. Decks are themed cards like undead, fairy tales, robots, ninjas and so on.  You can choose up to two themes to work with.” Emily reached into her pocket and pulled out a playing card with a large circus tent on it.

“Zone: Big Top,” a deep male voice echoed around the gym. The white floors changed to a dark red color.

“I didn’t mean to!” Emily grew flustered then turned to Mundo. “How’d I do that?” She asked. Mundo grinned and grabbed Emily’s wrist. She lifted the girl’s hand and waved it in front of her own face.

“#21, La Mano, get to start the game with any card from their deck,” Mundo looked around at the circus-like interior around them. “And it looks like you chose the circus as one of your decks.”

Offering Hand

Robert did not waste time debating. Once he heard the human voice he decided to open the door. The pizza seemed like a bonus. He turned the handle and pulled open the heavy metal door. A teenage girl with long silver hair stood outside his door. A teenage boy with short dark hair stood next to her; he held a pizza box with one hand and a large soda with the other.

“5k,” The girl smiled and held her palm out. Robert caught the meaty scent of the pizza and erupted into nervous laughter. He became very aware that he might have gone crazy. He shook his head while grinning and giggling. If he was insane he reasoned he could at least enjoy the absurdity of the situation.

“I didn’t order a pizza,” he said. Her smiling face soured and she turned to the boy.

“I told you it was the wrong place,” she said. He shrugged in return but his face softened. He gave her a sincere look.

“Fine, you’re right. It’s harder than I thought. Alright, let’s go back and find the right place. You open it this time,” he said.

“‘Kay. Gimme the card,” she held her hand out at the boy. Robert began to feel ignored. He wondered if it was normal for his own delusions to ignore him and began to consider they were real. He was about to interject but he saw a look of panic flash over the boy’s face. He looked behind himself then back to her.

“You always reclaim it…,” he said.

“I always reclaim it because I’m the one that always opens it,” she said sternly. “You open it, you close it,” she sighed. “I’ll get us a ride back.” The girl reached into her pocket and pulled out a small, transparent rectangle. It was as thin as a playing card; its surface became a display as she tapped away at it.

“Are you… real?” Robert asked during the lull in their conversation. The girl brought the glass card to her ear like a phone but pointed at Robert.

“Talk to him. He can have the pizza if he’s hungry,” she turned away and started talking to someone else. The boy shrugged and walked up to Robert.

“Hey, I’m Kirk. How’s it going?”

“Hi, Kirk. I’m Robert. I’m the last living thing on Earth and I’m probably going to die in a couple of weeks. At the most.” Kirk nodded casually.

“Bummer. Uh… want some pizza?” he offered the box up. Robert looked at the box, then at Kirk.

“Who are you kids? Where did you come from?” Kirk lifted the box slightly to draw attention to it.

“We’re here to deliver.” He pointed at the “M” logo made from three pizza slices, two upside-down with a third in the middle, on the box. “We came from Mundo’s Pizza.” Robert clenched his fists to keep his growing annoyance in check; he got the impression that the boy could not help how obtuse he was. Luckily the silver-haired girl joined them.

“Torque’s coming,” she said.

“From where!?” Robert asked her; he hoped she would be more helpful. She shrugged.

“Don’t know. I didn’t talk to her but the message will get passed along.” Robert took a deep breath to calm himself down.

“There is no one else alive on this Earth,” he said while looking directly into her eyes. “Where did you come from?” She smiled.

“A different Earth, duh,” she chirped.

“That’s what I told him,” Kirk added. A tall black hole opened behind Kirk.

“Move it!” A stern female voice shouted from the hole.

“Here, keep it,” Kirk started to push the pizza box at Robert while the girl started toward the black portal.

“Wait!” Robert said. “Are you guys just gonna leave me here?” The pair looked at each other and shrugged.

“Do you not want to be?” the girl asked. Kirk kept walking and disappeared into the portal. Robert shook his head.

“No, of course not. Who would?”

“People,” she shrugged. “Well if you don’t want to stay come on. We’ll put you somewhere else,” she said then turned to walk into the portal. Robert followed her carrying his pizza.


“Here’s the ‘science stuff‘ you wanted,” Eugene sighed the phrase. The round man in a white labcoat walked into Wallace’s lab carrying a milk crate’s-worth of shiny electronic components. The spacious lab was crowded with waist-high speakers pointed at a stocky, grey-haired researcher. He was hunched over working on something with his back toward Eugene; but, looked up when he heard his friend’s voice. He hopped up from his knees and trotted over to his colleague. He started to rummage through the buttons and wires with purpose. “How are you smarter than me without being smarter than me?” Eugene asked. Wallace shrugged.

“Give yourself some credit, Genie.” he smiled. “I said ‘science stuff’ and you knew exactly what I needed.” Wallace grabbed the crate from Eugene’s hands and placed it atop one of the speakers. “C’mon I’m about to fire it up.” He tilted his head toward the control console on one side of the room to get Eugene to follow him.

“What about the science stuff?” he asked Wallace once they reached the control panel.

“It’s for the next version if this doesn’t work. Ready?” Wallace reached for a large red button but Eugene grabbed his wrist.

“No. You’ve been working on this for weeks and I still have no idea what it’s supposed to do. Every time I ask you dodge the question. So I need to know what it does before you turn it on.” Wallace chuckled and relaxed his hand; Eugene released his wrist.

“I don’t know what it’s going to do,” he smiled. “But, I can tell you what it’s supposed to do. I’m hoping this sends out a signal.”

“A signal? To where?” Eugene asked. Wallace’s dark brown eyes sparkled and he placed a hand on Eugene’s shoulder.

“The universe,” he whispered with playful awe.

“What? Like…,” Eugene pointed upward with a finger. “out there? We already have people that do that.” Wallace shook his head.

“Not…,” he pointed upward with a single finger to mimic Eugene. “…up there.” He kept his right index finger up in the air and put his left index finger next to it; then, he separated them by about an inch. “Right here.” He repeated the motion by bringing both fingers together, then he pulled them apart again. This time he added a second hop after the first to show more distance. Eugene looked around the lab in confusion.


“Parallel universes!” Wallace’s tone was almost a shout.

“Ohhh. Huh. What does your signal say?” he asked. The two had been best friends since childhood and remained so through graduate school. In all that time Eugene learned that Wallace would do anything he set his mind to; and, Wallace often set his mind to do some relatively amazing things. He could have explained that the speakers would somehow bring the dead back to life. Eugene would not have been shocked with the purpose, nor surprised when it worked. He occasionally regretted taking credit for some of Wallace’s more useful work, but his friend insisted. Wallace wanted to play with science stuff; he did not want to run the science department. Wallace grinned mischievously at the question.

“I’m ordering a pizza,” he replied. Eugene accidentally laughed in his face.

“HAHAHAwhat? You’re going to make first contact with an alternate universe…,” Eugene already accepted this part as fact. “to ORDER A PIZZA?!” Eugene’s tone was definitely a shout. Wallace leaned back in retreat.

“Yeah,” Wallace nodded without dropping his smile. “I call it the M.P.D.T.- Multi-verse Pizza Delivery Theory.”

“Of course you do,” Eugene sighed. “Alright, let’s hear the theory.”

“First contact is what it’s all about, right? That’s what you were worried about.” Eugene nodded. He was about to agree verbally but Wallace kept talking. “Right. So since it’s so important the question is this: Do we want our first contact to be with someone as clueless as us? Wouldn’t it be better to get in touch with someone who already has standards in place for this kind of thing?”

“Yeeeaaaahhh?” Eugene half-asked. He did not know where Wallace’s explanation was taking him.

“And we definitely don’t want to risk meeting a hostile Earth, right?”

Riight.” Eugene nodded.

“So what could be more non-hostile and mundane than pizza delivery? Anyone that can’t deliver the pizza won’t. Invaders will ignore the signal since we’re broadcasting so openly. They’ll think we’ve got a handle on things already. And if we get some kid from another universe delivering a pizza; well then we’re in business.” Wallace grinned. Eugene closed his eyes and sighed.

“No pineapple.”

“My lab, my rules,” Wallace smashed the red button. The speakers rumbled; various low tones repeated in a cycle and shook the lab. Eugene covered his ears but it did nothing to block out the sound. Every bone in his body vibrated with the low roar. After about 10 seconds the room went silent.

“Did it work?” Eugene asked. He looked around the room for anything new or out of place but saw nothing. Wallace shrugged.

“They’ve got 30 minutes.” As soon as Wallace replied Eugene grabbed his head and turned it around to face a black portal that opened in the center of the speaker array.

A young, silver-haired girl walked out next to a slightly older dark-haired boy.

“Hi!” the girl waved. “Did someone order a pizza? Your Earth isn’t in the system yet.”

“I hate you a little bit,” Eugene said as he patted Wallace on the back.

AlterNet Viewpoint

“I wish I stayed with the Magus,” Kirk complained to his friend as he shuffled through the crowded school hall.

“He was a phony!” Emily reminded him. “Besides you didn’t have a choice. But look at all these kids! Isn’t this better?” Kirk shook his head.

“It would be better if I could practice my magic,” he replied.

“SHHHh,” Emily shot him a look. “You don’t have to tell the whole school.” Kirk rolled his eyes and pointed at a frazzled boy. He was staring at a black hole that occupied the inside of his locker.

“WHO STOLE MY BOOKS?” the boy yelled as they walked past.

“I don’t think anyone would be surprised if we used magic here,” he said. “This doesn’t feel like a normal school.”

“You’ve never been to a normal school,” she reminded him. “The one you went to was created by the Magus.” Emily stopped at her locker and began working the combination.

“No, I haven’t. But we’re only here because someone you delivered pizza to asked you if you wanted to go to school. That’s not normal.”

“He wasn’t some random guy. It was Aurelio Luna from SoundCrowd!” Kirk rolled his eyes again.

“You hadn’t even heard of them until we started delivering pizza.”

“So?” Emily asked as she reached for a book in her locker. “I’m a fan now and that’s what’s important.”

“Hi! I’m Mundo,” a violet-haired girl popped up next to Kirk. “I heard you were a fan of SoundCrowd, want to join my club?”

“No,” Kirk replied.

“What kind of club?” Emily asked her.

“Coach Luna asked me to put a team together to practice against his team. What are your character classes?” Emily shrugged.

“We don’t have any. We’ve never been in the AlterNet,” she replied with a trace of sadness. Despite her tone, Mundo burst into laughter.

“Told you we didn’t want to join,” Kirk said to Emily. He turned to walk away and Emily followed him.

“Wait!” Mundo stopped them. “What’s wrong?” Mundo looked at Emily and recognized her hurt feelings. “Wait.. are you serious?” Emily nodded.

“Yeah. Why would we joke about that?” she asked. Mundo looked at them with wide eyes.

“This school is in the AlterNet.” she said.

Hand Delivered

“Hey wait up,” Kirk shouted. He jogged to catch up to the silver-haired girl. “Emily, right?” he asked when he reached her. She nodded. “You’re pretty good with magic.” She grinned at him with perfect white teeth.

“Thanks! I practice a lot.” Emily pulled a deck of cards out of the air and winked at Kirk.

“Oh, yeah. That’s cool too, but I meant your water spell,” he explained. Emily’s smile dimmed, but she nodded appreciatively.

“Thanks,” she waved. “See ya around,” She turned to leave, but Kirk placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Hey, have you heard of the Society of Magicians?” he asked. Emily’s yellow eyes rolled upward while she thought for a moment, then she shook her head.

“No, but it sounds fun,” she said. Kirk nodded.

“I’m a member and I can nominate you for membership. There’s a meeting tonight if you want to go,” he asked. Emily looked him up and down, then agreed after a moment.

“Yeah, I’ll take a look. Where?”

“Grimmley Castle,” Kirk replied. His lips stretched into a smug smile. Emily nodded.

“Cool. Where’s that?”

“WHAT?” He pointed at a black castle sitting atop a hill in the distance. “You don’t know who Magus Grimmley is? The world’s most powerful sorcerer?” He asked in disbelief. “There’s no spell or conjuring he hasn’t mastered?” Emily shook her head and shrugged.

“Never heard of him. Wait, the world’s most powerful sorcerer?” Emily raised an eyebrow at him. “Is this about real magic?”

“YES!” Kirk said with an enthusiastic gesture. “I’ve seen your magic, you’re good enough,” he smiled.  Emily shook her head.

“Not interested, but thanks,” she smiled then turned to walk away again. Kirk raced around in front of her and fell to the dirt on his knees with clasped hands.

“PLEASE!!” Emily continued to walk around him, but he grabbed her hand as she walked by. “I just need you to show up, please. You don’t have to join if you don’t want to.” She stopped walking and looked down at him.

“Show up for what?” Kirk sighed and stood up and dusted off the bottom half of his black robe.

“The way the Society works is you can’t move out of apprenticeship until you bring in a candidate to take your place. If they’re good enough to take your place,” Kirk nodded at Emily. “You are; I get to move up even if you don’t stay.” He stared at the ground. “I’m the last one that hasn’t started training yet because I don’t have a lot… Any. I don’t have any friends.”

“That can use magic?” Emily asked. Kirk gave her a sad smile and shook his head. “At all.” Emily gave him a light punch on the shoulder.

“Sure you do. You’ve got a friend showing up tonight,” she said.


“Yeah, it’ll be fun,” Emily smiled.

Emily met Kirk near the castle as the sun dipped below the horizon. He prepped her on the rules as he guided her to the secret entrance through a cave on the castle grounds. Finally, they reached a tall, solid wooden door at the back of the cave. Kirk turned to Emily then handed her a black robe.

“Put this on and pull the hood up. Then when I introduce you, you can pull it down.” Emily nodded and took the robe from him. “And thanks, again. I appreciate this,” he added.

“You’re going to owe me one,” Emily said while she slipped the robe one. Once she pulled up the hood she gave him a thumbs up gesture.

“Alright, let’s go.” He pulled the door open and stepped through it. Emily followed him into a dim room. Small candles lined the walls, and she made out several robed figures standing in the middle of the room. Kirk walked to the center of the room and Emily followed. He stood up straight and lowered his hood to reveal his face.

“Great Magus, I have brought a candidate with enough magical talent to take my place,” he said to no one in particular. Though it was hard for Emily to see much of anything.

“Present your candidate, Apprentice Kirk.” An old, deep voice, somehow familiar to Emily, said.

“Now,” Kirk whispered and nudged Emily. She got distracted by trying to place the voice. Once Kirk called her attention, she stood up straighter and pulled her hood down.

“I’m Emily the Entertainer,” she said and gave a bow. Her silver hair poured out of her hood to kiss the ground.

“You?” The old voice said. Emily looked in the direction of the voice and saw an old man pull his hood off. She recognized him instantly.

“Hi!” she waved like they were old friends, though she’d only met him once as a stranger.

“You know Magus Grimmley?” Kirk whispered next to her. The old man approached them, and Emily’s only answer consisted of a nod and a shrug.

“Why are you here now? You showed no interest when I invited you the first time,” he asked. Emily heard several gasps from the dark and wondered how many wizards were actually there.

“Still not interested,” Emily smiled. “But I’m here as a favor for a friend.”

“Kirk has friends?” a voice said in the dark, followed by several others laughing.

“You came here with no intention of joining? I’m sorry, I can’t let Kirk move up if that’s the case.”

“What?!” Kirk asked. “I brought someone!” The old man nodded.

“Sure, you brought someone that wasn’t going to stay. The point is to come in with an open mind.” Emily noticed Kirk clenching his fists.

“We can work something out, right?” she asked.

“I know you’re not eager to stay. But I also know you have an amazing magical talent,” the old man said. “If you stay, I will promote both of you to full-time students, you get to skip the apprenticeship.”

Before Emily could answer she felt Kirk grip her hand and squeeze tightly.

“PLEEEEEEEeaassee,”  he whispered.

Magic Spark

Kirk smiled to himself. The brown-haired teenager watched the act before his from backstage with smug cockiness. On the stage a young girl, Kirk guessed 14, with long silver hair manipulated a deck of cards in front of a judge.

“Card tricks,” Kirk chuckled and wiggled his fingers at his side. Tiny arcs of electricity ran through his fingers. “Wait till they see real magic.” After another minute the girl bowed to the crowd.

“Emily the Entertainer! Give her a hand!” The announcer said while the girl walked off the stage in Kirk’s direction. She saw the wiry teenager pacing back and forth by the heavy red velvet curtain.

“You’re next? Good luck!” She smiled and gave him a thumbs up gesture. Kirk looked at the thumb, then into the girl’s crisp blue eyes.

“I don’t need luck, I’ve got magic,” he said flatly. Emily rolled her eyes in a playful way and her smile grew.

“Yeah, we all do but a bit of luck doesn’t hurt. You got lucky that I went before you,” she gave him a gentle punch on the shoulder. “I already warmed them up for you. Everyone’s here to have fun.” Kirk continued to stare while he heard the announcer begin his introduction.

“Come out, Kirk!” the announcer finished the introduction. Kirk smirked at Emily.

“If you’ll excuse me, I have a competition to win,” he shoulder checked the young girl as he stepped out onto the stage. He formed the practiced smile on his face and waved to the crowd. There were more people than he expected, all the seats in the large auditorium were filled.

“Ladies and gentlemen you’ve seen some quaint tricks in the competition so far.” Kirk stretched his arms outward and electricity began to arc between his hands and the floor. “But I’m going to show you real magic!” Twin lightning bolts shot from the sky to strike each of his hands. Stray sparks set the nearby curtain aflame. The audience gasped and retreated away from the stage as the fire ate its way up the curtain. Kirk stared at the flame in disbelief, unsure what to do next.

“PUT IT OUT!” The announcer yelled through the sound system. He wished he could. Kirk only studied offensive spells like lightning and fire, neither of which would help him at the moment. He felt moisture on his shoulder and looked up. A large stream of water drenched the curtain and put out the fire. Emily smiled at him while aiming a beam of water out of her hand at the curtain.

“I don’t think you’re gonna win,” she said with a sincere tone. “Maybe next year!” She dropped her hand when the flame was quenched. Kirk stared at her with his mouth agape.

“You can use magic??” Emily nodded and shrugged.

“Yeah. I told you we all do.”

“Then why isn’t anyone using it? All I see are silly illusions and stupid card tricks.”

“I told you that too,” Emily said. She turned to walk off the stage again. Kirk hurriedly followed her while the crowd re-filled the seats to wait for the next act. Once she was off the stage she turned and looked at Kirk. She lifted her hand and launched a stream of playing cards at his face “We’re here to have fun.”