(Short story – 5,000 words approx.)
If you want to get an ex-girlfriend back, what could be a better way of impressing her than a magic carpet ride through the night to a romantic evening together in some alternate dimension?
‘What is it?’ I said, already thinking I knew the answer.
‘It’s a carpet.’
‘A magic carpet!’
‘It is… honestly… would I lie to y… well, it is a magic carpet. Not a word of a lie.’
‘What, you mean flying… all that Arabian Nights stuff?’
‘Come on, then?’
‘I’m not going to fight you about it. If you want to think you’ve got a magic carpet… well, that’s fine with me…. I’ll just be off.’
‘No, not that. I’m going to show you….’
‘Show me what?’ I’d heard rumours about this strange little shop.
‘Come on,’ he said. ‘I’ll prove to you that it is a magic carpet.’
‘I’ll have to warn you…,’ I said, laughing as I followed him out through the back of the shop out into the loading bay. ‘… I don’t like heights.’
We sat down together on the carpet in the traditional manner: him cross-legged at the front, me kneeling behind him, feeling like a tit, and giggling.
‘You won’t be laughing in a minute,’ he said.
He was right.
A minute later I felt like puking over the edge of the carpet down onto the town far below us. ‘I told… I told you I don’t like heights,’ I managed to croak in-between stopping myself from vomiting. It didn’t help that there was a hole in the carpet I could look down at the town through, and that if I dared to look up I was immediately hit in the face by what seemed to be thousands of flying insects.
Not to mention the helicopter.
Not that I didn’t try, but I’m sure he never heard it over the sound of the wind rushing past our faces, and having to fight off the swarms of insects.
Still, we – sort of – managed to land with most of the carpet intact.
Although, I’m sure the flight engineer will no doubt want to ask the pilot why he has fragments of shredded carpet entangled in his rotors.
In the end, I decided against buying the flying carpet after all, even when the price was reduced due to helicopter damage, like I said: I don’t like heights.
There was one thing, though, that stopped me leaving his shop.
‘So, this being a… Magic Shop, am I to take it to mean that you don’t mean… er… conjuring tricks: rabbits, top hats and so on?’
The shop owner nodded. ‘I’m Morgan, by the way.’ He held out his hand.
‘No tricks,’ Morgan said. ‘I promise.’ He smiled.
‘Tony,’ I said as I shook his hand. He held it for a moment longer than I thought really necessary while his eyes studied my face.
‘What?’ I said. ‘Have I got something on my face?’ As far as I could remember I hadn’t eaten anything that day which would leave a mark and usually I’m pretty good at getting almost all my food in my mouth. I wondered if one of those flying insects was smeared bloodily all over me.
‘No.’ Morgan shook his head as he let go of my hand. ‘You have the look, Tony.’
‘What look?’ I glanced around for a mirror, eager to see this look I apparently had.
Morgan tuned to a doorway which had one of those bead curtains instead of a door, he held it aside with one hand while he gestured me into the room beyond with the other.
‘You are a Twister,’ he said.
‘A Twister.’ Once inside the room he sat on an easy chair and pointed to the sofa.
I sat. ‘A… twis… a twister?’
Morgan nodded. ‘This is not my world. I am out of place, far from home.’ He smiled at me. ‘I twisted another world to the shapes I wanted, took the facts of it and altered it… and, well, I ended up here.’ He sat forward, his elbows on his thighs. ‘Look, all the worlds we inhabit are much a creation of our minds as they are, separate and apart from us.’ He raised his eyebrows.
I nodded, feeling relaxed in his company, despite the fact he was talking utter bollocks. The magic carpet, though, had not been bollocks. It had been real. Far too real, I still felt queasy and had to keep touching the solidity of things: my hands on the sofa arms, my feet on the floor, my body pressed against the seat. I needed that reassurance of solidity.
‘What most people do not know though..,’ Morgan said, leaning back in his chair again. ‘…is that the world is not only a creation of the mind, it can also be changed, re-created by the mind.’
I nodded slowly, not really believing, but wanting him to go on.
‘Most people do not know how to change, how to alter, this world to make it turn into something else: some new land, some new country, some new planet, some new plane… into some new reality.’
As Morgan told me this, I – of course – did not believe him. I knew magic was something only ever found in stories and this world had physical rules, laws of nature that bound everything in it… despite my magic carpet ride.
Then, Morgan took me out onto his flat roof and twisted the night with one broad gesture of his hand and we were suddenly living in some far exotic land I had never seen, never heard of before. We were in a land of exotic sounds and smells, hot and spicy, a land of languid heat and shimmering diaphanous robes worn by dark-skinned women who looked at us though veils and scarves that kept all but their eyes secret from us.
I stood up on that roof, which had been one roof among thousands in a dark damp and cold town and found myself in a place far away from everything I’d ever known. One of those dark-eyed women sauntered towards me, her long fingers, stroked my cheek as though I was the exotic one… and then Morgan twisted the night again with a gesture that brought us back again, back to the cold and damp and lonely, with only the fading pressure from where those long fingers had stoked my cheek to remind me that it had all been so very real. As real as the magic carpet, as real as that helicopter.
Morgan turned to me. ‘And you, Tony are one who can do this. You, like me, are a Twister.’
‘Fuck off….’ I said.
Morgan laughed. ‘No, it is you that can fuck off…. He reached out and took my shoulder in his hand as he looked deep into my eyes with his eyes that seemed, suddenly, to be filled with infinite distances. ‘You, Tony, my friend…. You can fuck off anywhere… and everywhere you can imagine…. You have the power….’
I looked at my hands, they didn’t look that powerful. I had trouble opening a new jam jar with them, let alone creating a world out of nothing.
Morgan took my right hand in his, holding it just below the wrist. ‘Relax,’ he said.
I tried to relax as he manoeuvred my arm around, outlining some weird shape in the cold night air.
I felt something in the air change, as though the air around us had grown thick and heavy, then an instant later the feeling was gone. He jerked my hand back with a short sharp tug and let my arm drop.
‘Ah…’ he said.
The duck quacked.
Up until then there had been only the two of us standing up on the cold damp roof.
Now there was the two of us… and a duck.