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Tobias could feel the fire in his feet the first time he walked across the tightrope, the way it felt that surely meant the tiny string would give way to the landscape he knew was somewhere far beneath him—Taku insisted that Tobias shouldn’t look down until he’d gotten the hang of it a few times first—the way it felt that surely meant gravity would win out in the end, the way gravity always won out in the end—

But there he was, one foot in front of the next, treading steady, steady as he went until he found himself standing on a balcony of the apartment building clear across the street as though he hadn’t traversed the distance some several hundred feet in the air. Taku was less than a step behind him on the rope—somehow, Tobias realized, without impacting the weight of the rope himself—and although he didn’t dare turn his head to see Taku’s face, he could feel the gaze from Taku’s good eye piercing the back of his skull. The marble eye could not pierce with its lack of gaze, but despite that, its continued presence still left trepidation heavy on Tobias’ shoulders.

Tobias gave the balcony several glances, eyes focused on every crack in the concrete of the balcony and the gaps in the brick wall next to it, until he slowly, ever so slowly stepped onto the balcony, weight shifting like a slinky off of the tightrope and onto the foot planted firmly in the only safe space on the balcony.

Behind him, Taku clapped.

“Good eye. The next safe step is inside. You might have to take a small hop to get there.”

“This whole balcony could just crumble apart if one thing went wrong. Isn’t this kind of dangerous? What happens when it rains? Does it ruin your whole setup?”

He couldn’t see it, but Tobias could feel the smirk on Taku’s face, could feel the way the lid of his good eye would slightly close, leaving his gray eye exposed as he willfully chose not to say anything. Tobias had a feeling as to what the silence meant.

The balcony led to a hallway, traps set in unusual geometric patterns along the way that Taku partly guided Tobias through and partly let Tobias navigate for himself, until they reached the middle of the hall, where two doors stood opposite from one another.

“That door’s covered in traps,” Tobias muttered, staring at the door on the left. “I can see two from here, so there are more on the other side, right?”


“This door doesn’t have any traps that I can see, though. But if this is where you live, then the door with all the traps…”

“Is a trap too. Sometimes the magic of being a trickster isn’t in what you can do, but how you you can trick other people’s expectations.”

As Taku opened the door on the right, Tobias could still feel the fire in his feet. Magic indeed.
500 words.

I've been doing 500 word challenges on and off this year to flex the writing muscles some. I keep returning to these two, though. Taku and Tobias have been in my head for a long time. Hopefully one of these days I can get them to tell me the full story.
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Submitted on
October 4, 2017


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