Sunday, October 23, 2011

Nanette Interrupted - By Reggie Ridgway

Nanette Interrupted

I am called Nash. A nickname somehow derived from my given name, which is Nathaniel. I haven't always been insane. The psychotropic drugs they force me to swallow usually leave me gibbering, drooling and rolling my google-like-eyes.

When not sufficiently medicated or held down to my cot by a restricting net, I am frantically searching. I perpetually am searching. If not tossing my room at the asylum or my entire parent's house, I might even toss the neighbors houses if left alone. I have been this way for the better part of ten years.

I rarely sleep, but if sleep should finally get the upper hand, my dreams are filled with even more searches. Quests if you will. My searches are done in silence for the most part. I have long ago ceased enlisting the help from family or those around me.

I was sent home from school, never to return.

I talk to myself, chanting incantations from some unknown language. That may have been how I was committed to this asylum in the first place. Sometimes I just sit and think about that specific evening. The evening which changed me. Changed my life forever.

It had been a wonderful spring. Easter vacation had allowed us to be free of the daily grind of school.

My life began to unravel when we arrived home from Disneyland. We always went there on my birthday. A family tradition for me and my sister who shared the same birth month, although I was born five years earlier.

My sister Nanette was presently fast asleep in her car seat. Her mouse ears were askew and pink cotton candy laced her mouth and chin. Me? I am a cool teenager now. Just turned thirteen, and I have already left the life of a twelve and under behind.

I am sitting, staring out the car's side window, bobbing my head while listening to my bloated Ipod. I have downloaded so many songs, I could start my own radio station. I pop out my ear plugs and listen to mom telling dad to help get Nan into her bedroom and telling me to help with the bags.

I help.

It is not in my best interest to protest as I am very aware my presents are to be opened soon. I wonder what I’ll get. That new remote control helicopter I asked for while being demonstrated at the town mall? I already possessed every game for my video game player that currently existed.

When we finally opened presents, after the prerequisite blowing out of the cake candles and the warbling tunes of happy birthday, I unwrapped the special gift. A magician kit.

I really had never expressed the desire to have one, but my dad had picked one out for me at Disneyland. They had a special magic shop there and he had seen me watch the sales staff perform simple tricks and watched my jaw drop in awe. The kit was complete with sleight of hand tricks, card tricks and the usual and expected tricks. But it also had a levitation trick and an interesting one where the magician can make anything fly through the air and return to him like a boomerang.

This was much better than a flying helicopter. I hugged my parents furiously in appreciation before taking my new found stash to my room.

I spent the next few weeks learning every trick in the instruction book. They were easy for me and I longed for more. I practiced them for my family until they seemed to find other pressing appointments to avoid me.

In desperation, my mom told me that dad had an old trunk in the attic. She showed me the framed poster on the wall in dad's office and explained it belonged to the magician known as Morgan the Great. My uncle Charley. I had met him at family gatherings before. He and my Dad were identical twins. Dad had brought Charlie's trunk home after the funeral. It was in the will and my dad was Uncle Charlie's only surviving relative.

I looked at the poster.

It was of a man in a flowing red and black cape, topped hat and spider leg thin curly mustache. He had bulging eyes which had bushy brows and they were wide with surprise as he watched pigeons appear from thin air in front of his open palms. It was a black and white photo from the sixties. Uncle Charley was a very good magician and was able to fill halls with thunderous applause as he managed to saw his lovely assistant in half or make her levitate high above the stage.

I pulled the closet's collapsible ladder down and tentatively climbed into the attic with my dad’s flashlight thrust ahead like a weapon. I wasn't afraid of the dark really, just the unknown.

I found the dusty trunk soon enough. It was large with ornate iron work. Some of the designs looked like the faces of people groaning or crying out from the depths of hell. The texture was like alligator, or maybe snake. I wouldn't put it past Uncle Charley to have a dragon skinned covered trunk. It had a large hasp-lock and no key in sight.

Uncle Charley also had a cape hanging on a mannequin which had gave me a start when I first bumped into it. His top hat sat on the mannequins' head with a slight tilt. I felt through the pockets in the cape and at first no luck. And then I found a skeleton key in a secret pocket in one of the sleeves.

I tried the key in the rusty lock and at first met resistance until it opened with a screech. I stood and lifted the lid and found it was a reliquary for all of Uncle Charle's tricks. There was a whoosh sound, like opening a sarcophagus, as air was let in and to me, it seemed a shadow came out. But I shook it off along with the dust. It must have been my imagination.

There was some arcane writing all over the inside of the lid. It seemed to be some dead language. Maybe Latin?

I found a treasure trove of objects. Swords with ornate grips, white gloves, and a magic wand which was way cooler than the one that came with his store bought kit. There was also a notebook which covered with that scaly textured skin like on the trunk.

When I opened it, some of the pages stuck together and I realized I must take special care. The writing was in my Uncle Charley's hand and I quickly realized these were the drawings and instructions for all his tricks and illusions. The trunk itself was used in many of the tricks, as diagrams depicted it pierced with swords or being sawed in half. There was a false bottom and the hidden compartment might be just right for a small person to hide. It was marvelous.

I got my Dad to help me retrieve the trunk from the attic. At first they said no, but my parents recognized my persistence as something they actually secretly desired; they were always trying to pry me away from the video games, television and the internet. This new found interest in magic was just what I needed to get me going. They claimed that I was always just lying around. At least my sister had her ballet and piano practice. I never really showed much interest in anything. Not sports or music.

I had no friends to speak of. At least none who ever showed up at the house.

I spent the next few days and nights of my spring break pouring over Uncle Charlie's notebook. The tricks seemed easy enough. I just needed an assistant. Nanette would be perfect.

When I approached her with the idea, she jumped on board with glee. She always was the dreamy type. She lived her life in a story-book world with imagined castles and princes. Magic was what powered her universe. How else could horses fly and animals talk?
Nanette was enthusiastic and not in the least afraid to be sawn in half or levitated. She was uniquely qualified to fit into the tight hidden crawl space inside the trunk in order to escape the swords and saw's sharp cut.

When the day finally came that I was confident I could perform enough tricks, I asked my mom if we could put on a magic show. My mother was delighted and even asked her book club to come. She even printed up some flyers after taking a photo of Me and Nanette mugging in costume. The cape was long but I was already getting some height from my six foot tall father. Nanette was more petite, like Mom, but she had a dazzling smile. To tell the truth, I counted on that for some of my misdirection tricks.

On the day of the show, I practiced before a closet mirror in my room with the lights dimmed. Some of my store bought tricks were used between Uncle Charlie's big tricks for filler. It seemed like child's play to me now, to tap the wand on the hat and presto, it turned into a bouquet of flowers.

I thought I saw a man standing behind me once and when I swiveled around I found no one. It gave me a chill but shook it off as pre-show jitters. I was practicing some of the magic words Uncle Charley used from the trunks lid. They were hard to pronounce but I thought I could pull some of them off to add some flourish. They were better than using abracadabra and such.

The show began too much fanfare as my father introduced me as the Great and Fantastic Nash, which had a good ring to it. Nanette took a bow as well and looked adorable in her ballerina outfit. She played the piano between tricks and we put on quite a show, to much applause. Maybe we could go on the road someday and follow in Uncle Charlie's footsteps, I thought. Las Vegas, here we come. Mom and Dad sat in the front row and looked so proud to see us perform on the makeshift stage, so flawlessly and so professionally.

Then it came for the finale. I had just levitated Nanette with the cape draped over her stiffened body. I pulled the cape and everyone gasped, but they clapped as she slowly descended – all safe and sound. Nanette bowed and I showed her the opened trunk.

She winked at me as she folded herself inside. I placed the swords through the trunk and even acted like I was having trouble once, like there really was my sister's body inside. But the swords were very sharp, as I previously demonstrated by slicing a melon in half.

Then I quickly removed all of the swords. There was a hush over the audience, and even my mother had her hand clasped to her gaping mouth.

I covered the trunk with the cape and said the incantation I memorized. Then, with a flourish like a matador, I removed the cape and opened the trunks lid.

I smiled as I tipped the trunk on its side to show that indeed no one was inside. The room erupted with applause.

Then I righted the trunk and placed the cape over it again. I said another stream of words I had memorized from the trunks lid. This time, when I removed the cape and opened the lid, nothing happened.

I must have looked perplexed. Nanette was supposed to stand up inside the trunk and wave her arms triumphantly. We had practiced.

No Nanette.

I felt inside the trunk. The false compartment was empty.

I banged on the walls inside. No secret compartments.

I started to wail. My parents knew something was wrong and began to usher the guests outside. People were speaking in hushed tones.

They all searched the room. They searched the house. They searched the neighborhood and grounds. The police came and filled out a report. The case even made the news and for a while camera crews camped out in front of their home. But I was inconsolable. I had brought Uncle Charlie's notebook out and was chanting over the trunk like a voodoo doctor.

All to no avail.

It has been over ten years now. My parents have divorced. My mother is still shattered at the loss of their perfect little Nanette. She keeps to herself and is usually under a cloud of physician prescribed sedatives.

My father eventually drank himself to death. There never was any funeral for Nanette. No body was ever found. Only posters of her smiling decorating every tree and telephone pole in our small town to remind us she ever was. The police had given up looking for her long ago.

But not me. I am still searching.

Sometimes, when its dark and I’m all alone, and I see my reflection in a mirror or even a window, I can see that dark figure behind me once again. I now recognize it is Uncle Charlie.

And standing beside him is my eight year old sister. Nanette.

Reggie Ridgway has a thriller coming out soon In The Midnight Hour published by Echelon Press. He has a blog at where he likes to post writing samples and short stories. He lives in a mountain home overlooking a lake in Southern California.

He currently works in a hospital as a technologist but has hopes to follow a dream to write novels for a living.


Michele Shaw said...

Phew! I thought something really gory was coming. A little worried now...the 9yo has a magic kit and uses little sis for his helper! Nice story:)

Draven Ames said...

Sometimes it is best to not be gory, but leave us guessing. Did she die? Did she get stuck in a parallel hellraiser dimension? Who knows. Creepy ending.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Talk about spooky. *runs off to hide son's magic set*

Christina Lee said...

I thought gory too! Spooky, I like (intriguing)!!

Draven Ames said...

Stina - I know. It stops at swords, right?

Christina - Each blade had me worried. I was glad he didn't pull a typical ending. A+.

Donna Shields said...

Gave me the chills without all the nastiness. True psychological thriller there.

Regge Ridgway said...

Thanks to the mercurial and fantastic Drabe Ames for allowing me to post here. Awesome blog and feel honored with the comments. This was one of my first horror stories so was out of comfort zone. But I love magic and the story came from that. My mother in law was a magicians assistant back in the day. She helped me get a feel for the magic scene. Thanks to her and all who didn't hate the story. I have more on my blog. Go see. :)

farawayeyes said...

Love it. Never expected gory. but then, I see dead people.

Michael Offutt said...

Very powerful writing. Thanks for posting this.

Draven Ames said...

Thanks for stopping by again, Farawayeyes.

Michael - Glad you enjoyed. Happy early Halloween.

Angela Orlowski-Peart said...

Spooky but in an awesome way. The story kept me engaged till the end :-)

Nancy Thompson said...

Pretty damn spooky. Brought back memories of Anthony Hopkins in Magic!

Angela Felsted said...

This is a truly excellent story.

clraven said...

really intriguing start and a very creepy ending. Love the idea of his perpetual search for his sister.