The Hat

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

A magician uses a magic hat to make volunteers from the audience disappear. Where have they gone? Will they ever be found?

The Hat

 

It was scandalous and on every front page. Was it a hoax? Were those who had gone missing all in on it? Was foul play involved? These were responsible, ordinary citizens, some with families, kids going hungry or being sent to orphanages after their Father or Mother disappeared. If they were in on it, wouldn’t they at least have made arrangements for their kids if not their spouses?

Eight months without a trace. That was the longest any of them had been gone. The one from the first performance, that was exactly eight months ago. Not a single one of them had returned or even been spotted by anyone. I remember thinking it was a hell of a way to desert one’s family.

It had been, in fact, exactly eight months since he came to perform his first show at New York City’s world-famous Copacabana. The “Amazing Valentonio” was his stage name but he didn’t look Italian. I imagined him more like a Silverberg or a Goldfarb under that feathered turban, sequined robe and all that gaudy stage make-up. But what ever his real name was, it didn’t matter. They got the “Amazing” part right.

After the third volunteer went missing, the NYPD took the Amazing Valentonio into custody for questioning but released him due to lack of evidence. His apparent immunity from law enforcement may also have been related to the fourth volunteer having been a witness the mob was happy to have out of the way. It was common knowledge at the time that the mob had a great deal of influence over both the NYPD and the entire judicial system in the region.

Once the fifth or sixth volunteer disappeared during the show, never to return, everyone in New York was aware of the darkly mysterious phenomena but greater numbers of volunteers appeared at every show.

If they were lucky enough to be picked from the audience, they would be brought up on stage and seated in a very heavy, old wooden chair painted black as soot. Many had identified it as a former electric chair, stripped of its straps and electrical components.

Next to the chair was a waist-high, ordinary wooden stool, just big enough to hold a deep-red top hat, clean and new with a small black feather peeking out of the band. The magician would drape the volunteer in a large, black, silk sheet, concealing them completely. He would then place the red hat upon their silken shrouded head and leap back. Within two quick seconds, the volunteer’s form supporting the silk sheet and hat would instantly collapse into nothing and the silk and hat would fall flat to the stage floor.

Why were people so eager to volunteer to disappear? They had to have some amount of fear. Were people really so curious? Did they just want to be talked about in the papers and on the news? Were they trying to escape their lives for some new, mysterious adventure? At some of the performances, volunteers had even rushed the stage to be the next “Magic Hat Disappearance”, as one reporter coined it.

That reporter was me, Howard W. Simon. I was fascinated from the first blush of this bizarre story. The Amazing Valentonio was the latest headline-catching act being performed at New York City’s world-famous Copacabana.

The club had just gotten past their latest scandalous splash in the papers over the famous Calypso singer, Harry Belafonte, not being allowed entry due the club’s no-blacks policy. The club owners, also having ties to the mob, were quoted as saying, “All publicity is good publicity.”

The Amazing Valentonio was certainly publicity and business was booming. He was being paid over a million dollars for each show. People from all walks of life were paying upwards of $500 for a ticket and selling their personal belongings to attend the performances. By the last Magic Hat Disappearance, it was another full house, sold out two months before the show, standing room only. I had my seat though, front row, left aisle, known to be one of the best spots for volunteers to be picked from. I had to know. What was happening to these people? Where were they going or being taken to? As a reporter, who better to find out the truth then me? I would learn the truth and share it with the world. I wondered if the magician or his financial backers would try to bribe me to go into hiding and keep the secret. I wouldn’t do it. I would tell the world no matter how much money was offered. Would they threaten me with death? It wouldn’t be the first time I’d been threatened as a reporter to keep a secret. The truth would prevail, I would tell the world.

Would the Amazing Valentino pick me though? He must have had accomplices doing his research on the entire audience to avoid getting folks like me, who would reveal the trick and tell the world. Or maybe the volunteers were all pre-selected plants. My own research ruled that out, or at least made it highly unlikely. These folks, all of them, left others behind who suffered severely as a result, both emotionally and financially.

All of that aside, I went into a dreamlike state of shock when the Amazing Valentino took my raised hand and the spotlight followed me up to the stage with the magician. He had me sit in the old, heavy, black chair and he covered me with the large black sheet of silk, just as he did in all of the other performances. Then I felt the rim of the top-hat rest on my head for an instant before I blacked out. If it was like all the other performances, the audience saw the hat rest on my head for about two seconds before suddenly falling to the stage floor with the black silk sheet.

The four local cops at each performance would rush onto the stage immediately, two from each side, one from the back and one from the front while the houselights came up full brightness. The cops would have stomped around the stage looking for trap doors or some clue but would find nothing to explain the real-life miracle they had all witnessed.

Meanwhile, I found myself slowly coming to consciousness, submerged in a stinking, boiling muck all the way up to my nostrils, my hair and ears on fire, skin blistering, popping, and crackling. I was surrounded by a world on fire. Then the sounds of my roasting head began to give way to the sounds of moaning, screaming, more than one person, people in terror, hundreds, thousands all around me and as far as I could see.


Submitted: February 27, 2014

© Copyright 2022 Imagineer. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Yrael

Fantastic, I loved the build up. You just know he's going to be next, and I couldn't wait to see where he ended up. The end itself was not at all what I expected though. It's funny really, when I first read the final paragraph I was thinking: "What that's it?" But the more I think about it the better it feels. Nice one!

Sat, March 1st, 2014 1:13am

Author
Reply

Thanks Yrael!

Fri, February 28th, 2014 6:12pm

J E Hunter

Fabulous work man, that suspense was great! You literally had my mouth hanging open at the insanity of the people in the story. I still can't believe it, why would anyone want to dissapear!?

Sat, March 1st, 2014 9:09pm

Author
Reply

Thanks JE!

Sat, March 1st, 2014 3:35pm

Imagineer

Thank you so much!

To entertain people with my ideas is all I want to do!

Sun, March 2nd, 2014 8:48pm

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