I went to bed without dinner one night shortly after my 13th birthday under the pretense of not feeling well when in reality it was about the fact that the feeling that someone had been following me for the last week was unshakable.
The hairs on my back pricked up hours later at the sighting of a faint outline of a man with red eyes hovering in my bedroom.
Screaming didn’t even matter since no one came to my aid because the man must have knocked out my parents, as it was the only logical explanation.
Each end of the man’s tailcoat spurted at me, breaking into a total of four pieces while they wrapped around my hands and feet.
A fog dragged us through the air and I made a loud thumping sound after landing in a shed. I then shuffled to the exit, attempting to open the door only to discover it remained locked.
The 1,470 tally marks on the walls of the shed from the chalk the Wizard provided screamed out to me. It was as if it were some sort of sick torture since the Wizard wanted me to know how long I had been held captive. There was also a fourth wall, which was scarred with pink, green, and purple tally marks, proving other people had been previously held captive because the Wizard only provided me with blue chalk.
The rays of the descending sunlight poked into the shed, signaling the start of dinner.
A cloud crackled through the air, making a plate of toast and glass of water appear on the table.
I shuffled over to the table, shoving the piece of toast into my mouth in one sitting before gulping down the water in case the Wizard decided to take it away as a punishment.
Perfume wafted through the air, as if the Wizard realized it would make me nostalgic for my Mom.
A shadow slashed by the window hours later since a daily evening check was another part of the routine.
The only problem was this evening was different because flames flowed out of my right arm, making me pierce the night with agonizing shrills. It must have been my punishment for trying to open the door at the end of the maze during my exercise hour in the morning today.
Tears trickled down my face all night at the realization that enough was enough because the threat of being killed no longer mattered. Sneaking into the Wizard’s tower and stealing his wand during my exercise hour tomorrow morning was the only option. It was ultimately the right decision because he might have taken naps during that time since vigilance wasn’t required. After all, magic was the only way out of the maze since the Wizard needed a way to go between Earth and his world if he wanted more victims.
The door to the shed opened the following morning, as if on cue, which meant it was time for exercise.
I darted out of the shed, scanning the property before making my way to the tower.
Climbing up the wisteria was easier than it first seemed, as the Wizard ended up being in the middle of a nap.
I slid through the window, making sure not to make a noise while grabbing the wand and climbing down the wisteria again after flinching when the Wizard almost woke up.
The maze got smaller and smaller while clipping through it, and I arrived at the door, waiving the wand. The door dissolved and I stepped through it before waving the wand again, causing itto seal as the neon light of an open sign glowed in the distance, revealing that it was time to rejoin civilization.
The train honked, waking me up from my dream before rolling into the train station while slicing through the fog.
Getting off the train proved more difficult than it should have been as a result of having to push through the crowd of people.
.“It’s good to see you Lucy,” said a guy’s voice as I stepped off the platform and onto to the ground.
“You too Javier.”
The two of us embraced for a quick hug before pulling back a moment later.
A missing poster containing a picture of my face popped out at me in the distance, causing me to scoff. Someone must have forgotten to take the poster down or something, which was odd because that should have been done a little over a year ago.
The wind whistled in the background, pushing forward a poster of another missing girl who also happened to be a blonde like me.
“It’s nice you’re finally visiting me. I mean you’ve been home long enough…”
I flipped my hairover my shoulders. “Well, you are my boyfriend.”
He grabbed my hand while we trekked towards the parking lot. “I know, but your parents have been kind of strict lately.”
“It’s because they don’t believe my story since they still think I’m the girl that lied about not getting expelled from middle school.”
Javier stared at the scar on my right arm. “How did you get that?”
“It’s not important.”
“Okay. No problem.”
A lump lingered in my throat. “You believe me, don’t you?”
He rolled his eyes. “Yes, I do. But they never found the man Lucy.”
“That’s because they aren’t looking in the right spot, and his name is the Wizard.”
“Is he the one who gave you that scar?” Javier asked.
“What do you think?”
Javier had one thing going for him; he was more patient than my therapist.
But knowing the truth still mattered though because Javier and the rest of the world would find out, just not today, which was okay because nobody would take away my hope.
As for the wand, it remained hidden in a drawer at my parents’ house because the Wizard was smart and must have had emergency magic even if his wand was gone. There was no doubt about it. He lurked in the background somewhere, waiting to prey on his next victim.
Chris Bedell’s previous publishing credits include essays on the online magazine Thought Catalog, and 2 short stories on online literary magazines, which include “Surface Tension” on Crab Fat Literary Magazine and “A Little Accident” on Quail Bell Magazine.