Vanishing Act

Today’s prompt was:

Three dice with pictures of a magnifying glass, a magic wand, and a teepee

Inspector Karl Evanson pulled up outside the large three-ring circus tent and got out of his car.  The place was deserted this early in the morning and had an empty, almost forlorn look to it.  There were a few birds flying around investigating debris on the ground but no one was visibly out and about.

Karl shrugged as he walked up to the tent entrance.  Circus people probably liked to sleep in just like everyone else.  And given that the circus is open until late, probably more than most.  He stopped just inside the big entrance, allowing his eyes to adjust to the dimmer light inside the tent.  Here at least was a little bit of activity.  Some of the animal trainers had their charges out and were working with them.

The circus master spotted him as he looked around and hurried over. “Inspector, I’m Mark Gimmel.  Thank you for coming so quickly.”  Mark was an elderly gentleman, probably in his late fifties or early sixties, Karl thought.  Despite his age he looked to be in excellent shape and capable of performing many of the acts circuses were famous for.

“What seems to be the issue, Mr. Gimmel?” Karl asked. “You sounded quite upset on the phone.”

“Well,” Mr. Gimmel replied, “it seems that, Barbra Dalton, one of our star performers, has disappeared.”

“Disappeared? When was she last seen?”

“Last night at her performance.  She returned to her trailer and then she just vanished.”

“Okay,” Kark said. “I assume someone tried to talk to her at some point and she wasn’t there.  There are any number of possible explanations.  What makes you think there is something more involved than that she just stepped out for a bit and will be back?  And what exactly is her role here?”

“Barb is our magician,” Mr. Gimmel said in response to the last question.  “As for why I think it’s something more, it would be easier if I just showed you.”

As Mr. Gimmel passed him and led the way back out of the tent, Karl rolled his eyes.  Why did every incident related to circuses always seem to involve the magician.  It’s like no one else in the entire company ever had issues.  And invariably the owners claimed a supernatural event that always turned out to be something completely mundane.

As Karl followed Mr. Gimmel across the compound, he began to see more people stirring.  They were also staring.  At him.  “How many others know about this?” he asked as they walked.

“Only a few people so far, why?”

“Your crew is wondering what a stranger is doing walking across the compound with the boss this early in the morning,” Karl commented as they stopped in front of an RV and Mr. Gimmel pulled out his keys.

“Well, I’m sure they’ll find out quick enough,” Mr. Gimmel said. “We’re a small, close group and Barb’s disappearance won’t stay quiet for long.”  He found the key was looking for and started to unlock the door.

“Shouldn’t we knock first?” Karl asked.  “Just in case she has mysteriously reappeared.”

“Not very likely,” Mr. Gimmel replied.  But he knocked anyway.  After a few moments of no response, he opened the door, stood aside, and gestured for Karl to enter.

Karl climbed up the steps into the RV.  “Hello,” he called out looking around.  The room was fairly clean and organized with everything seemingly in its place.  Although it appeared that Barbara Dalton had a thing for lizards as there were hundreds of figurines, stuffed animals, posters, and other knick-knacks all shaped as or decorated with the reptiles.  The loft area above the driver’s seat was sealed off with a fine wire mesh and had been turned into a terrarium.  Looking closely, Karl noticed a large iguana staring back at him.

“I’m guessing she uses reptiles in her act,” Karl commented to Mr. Gimmel who was still standing outside the trailer watching him.

“Yes she does,” he replied.

Karl continued to scan the interior of the RV.  The sleeping area in the back was closed, so he couldn’t see in there without going back and opening the door.  The kitchenette looked as if it had been used to cook something but not cleaned up.  The table had a plate with a half-eaten meal on it as if the person had stopped mid-meal to do something else.  There was no sign of struggle anywhere in the RV.  And with all the decorations, any amount of struggle would have made a mess.

Then he saw what had probably freaked Mr. Gimmel out.  Crumpled on the seat and floor at the table were clothes: slippers, sweat pants, and a T-shirt, that look like they once contained a person who had just disappeared and the clothes had collapsed down once the body vanished.  It was actually quite eerie.  Karl started to walk over toward the table to get a closer look when the hackles on the back of his neck started to rise.  Just then he heard Mr. Gimmel let out a squawk of fright, the iguana hissed in anger, the light in the room dimmed, and he heard a woman’s voice let out a wail of terror.

The Unexpected Target

Today’s writing prompt was:

three dice showing a plant, a lightning bolt, and a skyscraper.

His back against the wall, electrostunner in hand, Ratyn swore to himself under his breath.  There was another guard on this level between him and the office he was trying to get in to.  Maddup had promised when Ratyn accepted the job that the path up would be clear.  Instead this was the third guard he’d had to deal with.  He should have never trusted that irritating blob or gotten mixed up in this.

Getting up to the thirty-second floor had been easy enough and the outer doors opened to the code that Maddup had supplied. But roving security hadn’t been part of the deal.  The place was supposed to be deserted.  Instead he’d had to stun two different guards and now a third had just appeared out of nowhere.  He was going to charge Maddup extra.

Taking a deep breath, Ratyn listened for the steps of the guard, and, just as the guard approached the corner, he stepped out and fired his stunner at point blank range.  The guard toppled, but Ratyn knew that he only had a few minutes before one of the guards would wake up.  Moving quickly, he found the office in question, typed in the access code he had been given, and entered, relocking the door behind him.

The room was fairly large, definitely the office of someone fairly high up on the food chain in the organization.  Right inside the door was a comfortable meeting area, a couch and chairs arranged around a small table.  On one side of the room in the middle distance was what looked like a drafting table, covered in papers and diagrams.  At the far end, beside the floor to ceiling wall of windows, was a large executive desk and chair.  His prize was supposedly there.

The room was illuminated by a flash of lightning just a moment after he entered.  Which was another source of consternation to Ratyn.  One of those glass panels behind the desk was actually a door that opened onto a balcony, or so he’d been told.  His exit was supposed to be simple, as a Yazirian, he could just step off the balcony and glide away.  Sure, he was over 150 meters in the air, but that just meant he could get farther away before he landed.  But a lightning storm outside put a nix to that plan.

Approaching the desk, he could see that it was not nearly as cluttered as the drafting table.  There were a couple of stacks of paper, a few photographs, a lamp, and a couple plants all arranged neatly on the desktop.  But nothing that looked like what he had been hired to retrieve.

Maddup had said he was looking for a Laco Diamond and Ratyn hadn’t asked any questions.  He knew what a diamond looked like.  Although he had thought it weird at the time that the owner would have something that valuable displayed on their desk.  Supposedly the diamond would be on the far right corner of the desk relative to the person sitting at it but the only thing there was one of the plants.  The owner had probably locked it away for the night.

Busting out his lockpicks, Ratyn prepared to work on the old fashioned key lock but when he tried the desk, it wasn’t locked at all.  Odd, but he was grateful since time was running out if he was going to get back down the elevator before the guards woke up.  As quickly as he could, he started searching through each of the drawers in the desk but didn’t find anything that resembled a diamond.  Maybe he should have asked more questions.

Not finding anything, and feeling each second tick away, he sat down in the chair to think for a moment.  Obviously designed for a human, the chair was a little small for his large 2.3 meter tall frame.  Soft though.  He looked again at the plant that was sitting where the Laco Diamond was supposed to be.  It actually looked a little strange with square leaves and little translucent buds.  Looking closer the buds kind of looked like a small gemstone. “Or a diamond,” Ratyn muttered.  “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Picking up the pot, he noticed some writing etched along the bottom: Rosa Laconis Diamantus.  The Laco Diamond Rose.  It was official, someone had lost their mind.  He’d been hired to steal a plant?  Well, he had his target, time to get out of there.

Scooping up the plant, he wrapped it as best he could to keep it from getting too crushed and spilling its soil everywhere and stuffed it in his flying bag.  He started toward the door of the office but stopped, hearing voices outside.

“Tanj,” Ratyn muttered under his breath, “the guards are awake.”  Walking over to the glass balcony door he stared out at the rain as another flash of lightning illuminated the sky.  “Maddup is really going to pay through the teeth for this.  Well, if he had any.”  Opening the door he stepped out into the downpour.  The rain was going to make gliding hard and he’d fall a lot faster than he’d like, especially from 150 meters up. It would be a hard landing.

Just as he was deciding it wasn’t worth the risk, the office door opened and he saw two guards silhouetted in the doorway, weapons drawn.  With no choices left, Ratyn leaped off the balcony.

“blob” is a somewhat derogatory term for the Dralasite race in the Star Frontiers RPG.  Dralasites are an amorphous alien, very much like a large amoeba,  that can change shape slowly if desired.  They have no mouth per se but rather eat by surrounding their food with their skin and absorbing it.

Yazirians are a tall, light-weight simian race that have flaps of skin connecting their arms, torso, and legs that can be stretched out into wings much like a flying squirrel.

A Troubled Return

For Christmas I got a set of Rory’s Story Cubes. I currently just have the original set but will probably get more in the future. I thought it would be a fun exercise to use them as writing prompts to generate ideas for short snippets of stories or maybe even longer ones as time goes on.  A common type of post that I had envisioned for this blog in getting it set back up was to be my writing exercises and stories I develop along the way.  And that was before I got the story cubes.

So here’s the plan, on a regular basis (as yet to be determined, but possibly daily eventually), I’ll pick 3-5 cubes at random from my bag of nine and roll them.  The images will form the basis for some sort of short story snippet.  I might try to weave them together to form a continuous (or at least related) setting or they may just be random.  It just depends on how I’m feeling that day.  For this first attempt I just used three dice and I ended up with these images:

three dice showing a shooting star, a castle tower, and the letter L in a box

Now, I have to admit, I had no idea what the L in the box was supposed to be or represent.  So I went and looked it up and it turns out it is a representation of a sticker that is common in the UK and hung in cars that have beginning drivers.  To the creators of the cubes, it represents the idea of learning or training.  Once knew that I was ready to go.  The following is what sprung to mind as I started typing.

Sara and her team were returning from their last training mission.  It had been a long exercise and the team was exhausted.  Ahead in the distance they could see the walls of the castle glistening in the light of the setting sun.  The castle had been their home for the last six months while they had trained for the soldiers and scouts for the King’s Army.  It was a welcome sight that cheered them greatly after two long weeks in the forests and marshes of Talnok.

As the sun set and the stars began to appear, Sara noticed something unusual in the night sky.  Hanging over the castle was a faint comet, just on the horizon and poised as if hurtling toward the castle to destroy it.  She shuddered as an uncomfortable premonition ran through her.

“Captain,” she called out, “have we seen that comet before?”

“What comet?” Captain Atlair replied, scanning the sky.

“There, hanging low over the castle,” Sara said as she rode up beside him and pointed.

“I don’t see anything.”

Looking again, Sara realized that it wasn’t visible any longer to her either, but there hadn’t been enough time for it to set.  And it was in the south, not the west anyway.

“I guess it was just the fatigue, sir,” Sara added after a moment.  But the feeling of the premonition still lingered with her and she wondered what it meant.

I realized as I was writing this that I need a name generator.  Or to generate a list of names that I can draw from as I need them as I’m horrible at inventing names on the fly.  I’ll just have to add that to my to do list.