Joe wanted to be the world's greatest magician. But what did he do to the world on his way to that dream?
This is part 10 of the story The End of Light, a story being serialized on AFTERDARK: The scariest things, you CAN'T imagine.
Joe spent the night sitting and thinking and waiting for them to come for him.
Over and over in his mind he replayed the gobbledygook heâ€™d read on various websites, phrases running through his mind:
2012, when humanity transforms.
â€¦ Mayans worshipped the sun, and for good reason, because its energy flows to us and gives us life and someday will give us more than lifeâ€¦
The calendar they created tracks the sun. When we no longer need the sun and are changed into the next state of existence, we wonâ€™t need their calendar anymore. Thatâ€™s why it ends.
He didnâ€™t try to sleep and couldnâ€™t have. He stared at his hands and occasionally felt wracked by pain. He wondered when theyâ€™d get here. Would there be police? Government officials? An angry mob? Would they arrest him or just beat him? Kill him?
A bunch of garbage, thatâ€™s all that stuff was on the websites.
Thatâ€™s what Joe kept telling himself, but then heâ€™d get up, sitting there in the gloom of his dressing room, and turn on the light and take off his shirt and look at his sunburnt body that crackled with energy, energy he could scarcely contain, and he thought about the finale to the shows.
He was going to, had planned to, walk through the ever-more-spectacular tricks that heâ€™d been doing, an hourlong show of rays of light, bursts of flame, geysers of steam, and then he was going to invite the audience members, at the end to join him.
He had the patter all ready.
Stolen from that one kidâ€™s website.
Join me, he would tell the audience. Join me among the stars that will welcome us, join me as we take our place in the universe.
The kid on the website had said that: We will take our place in the universe, angels among the stars.
Joe was going to say that; what was the kid going to do, sue him? It was probably all from some old Mayan ruins anyway. We will all be angels among the stars together, heâ€™d planned on saying.
As he said it, the routine called for the house lights to dim and the stars to appear above them, as if the ceiling had disappeared. The stars above would be swirling and twirling around, sped up, almost, the sky spinning and growing closer and closer and closer as the audience looked up and then the stars would be there, among them, star-shaped and twinkling and large and Joe was going to create light-beings, something heâ€™d learned how to do, mimicry of the human form, he was going to have audience members recreated like ghostly light forms, dancing among the stars. Heâ€™d been working and working on it, creating holograph-like shapes of people using only his imagination, until he could mimic people.
Heâ€™d worked on it by trying to imitate Conan Oâ€™Brien, and he did that now. He turned off the lights in his dressing room and concentrated. He felt his forehead crease and tense and felt the heat rise up, the power, the energy heâ€™d figured out how to channel. His fingertips glowed yellow and he held them up, splay-handed.
In front of him stood a realistic-looking Conan Oâ€™Brien, standing there, grinning and shaking his head. Joe knelt on the ground, hands up, controlling it.
Itâ€™s so beautiful, he thought. How could anything bad come from something so perfect.
The Conan Oâ€™Brien made of light danced, then, jumping up and down and spinning, pirouettes and leaps around the dressing room. Joe made it jump back and forth, heedless of the pain it caused him as he felt the energy course through him. He made more and more of them, a million Conan Oâ€™Briens made of light, overlapping and glowing brightly enough that he had to close his eyes and even then he could not blot out the glow, as his angels danced around, enlivened by the energy that he was filling them with.
Energy that should have been supplied to a billion people poured only into him and he reduced it and trimmed it and dammed it up, letting it leak out here and there and pouring it into tricks, stage shows, dancing talk show hosts that performed only for him. He could feel it seeping away, could feel that he was only using a fraction of the power that could have coursed through him, but he didnâ€™t know how to use more, and didnâ€™t know how to stop using the power he was stealing.
As he watched, through slitted eyes, his dancing specters, he wondered if he should have done more with the power. They would be coming for him soon, and he wondered if he should, even now, try to help humanity, try to pour the power into them.
How? He wondered. He was a magician. He did tricks. That was what he knew how to do.
He watched his Conans dance and waited for them to come get him. Locked there in the dressing room with the lights off, awash in the glow of the tricks he performed for his own benefit, Joe did not know until later that the sun did not rise that morning.
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