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As fast as Christie ran, she couldn’t catch up with the chicken. It ran directly into the forest, as if guided by something. If her family lost any more chickens, their egg supply would shorten and her parents would have to sell the barn.
The chicken ducked a corner of a tree. When Christie followed it, she was led to a glade the size of her house with a tree stump in the center. A young man was sitting on it, his back towards her and his head bent in some sort of work, like he was making something.
Sensing her presence, he turned his face to her. He had black hair the texture of ink and the face of a child’s. Perched on his head was a top hat that Christie had only seen on magicians.
"Hello, there!” he sang, spinning around on his tree stump to face her directly. He put away his previous work into his coat pocket. “I’ve never seen you before.”
The chicken was immediately forgotten. This was the strangest man that Christie had ever seen.
“I’ve never seen you, either,” she replied. “Have you always been here?”
“Nope. Sometimes I’m in town, doing magic tricks. Would you like to see one?”
He took off one of his shoes and placed it carefully in front of her. Then he took off his hat, and reached his whole arm into it, up to his shoulder. Christie wondered where the rest of his arm went, until she saw the arm shoot out of the empty shoe on the ground. It waved to her.
Her imagination was caught and stirred.
The magician laughed like a boy. He sat her down in front of the tree stump and told her marvelous stories about how he became a magician. Christie sat and gawked, watching his face. His facial expressions never ceased to change constantly; eyes wide and starry, mouth always animated, and nose held proudly up. His stories were detailed so thoroughly that she wondered how she could get memory like his.
When he was finished, the young magician leaned back. “So, Christie, do you have a story?” he asked.
Christie snapped out of her trance, and looked around her, realizing where she was. Several hours had passed; the sky was a starless black. She rose quickly. “I have to go. You’re wonderful, Sir, but my family’s gonna yell at me if I’m not home….”
She ran from the glade, and from the magician. His child-like face slid downward into gritted teeth and a crinkly brow.
“But, Christie!” he cried, trying to keep the anger out of his voice. “Don’t you want to stay?”
“I can’t stay, I’ll get in trouble!” she called back, far from him.
He pursued her through the dark forest. “But I have so many more tricks! Can’t you just stay for one?”
Christie stopped. She was listening.
“One…little trick?” he coaxed.
She couldn’t resist. Not after she had seen so much wonder.
He grinned, and swiped his hand across her face.
Christie flinched, closing her eyes, but she felt no slap. When she tried to see again, her eyes wouldn’t open. She screamed, but although her vocal chords vibrated, no sound came from them. She felt her face, but all she could feel was soft, flat skin. No nose, eyes, mouth…or face.
She was left in the forest with nothing but her ears and hands to guide her.
The magician held his prize between his skeletal hands. “She doesn’t need this,” he hissed greedily. “Not like I do.”