Chapter 16 The Broken Ride

Everyone felt thinner, squeezing through black and white light, emerging in a wobbly bucket at the top of an enormous Ferris wheel. They could see for miles in every direction. Jeremy knew they were in a movie set, but he couldn’t tell where the stage ended. Even the sky looked false. He realized why; it was nighttime, but there weren’t any stars.

Sissy was alert, scanning the circus below. “I see the giant riding his chariot,” she whispered.


The Ferris wheel shook. The gears were coming apart. The giant stepped out of his chariot and fixed the ride. Soon their bucket descended.

Leaving, they tried to act normal. A Carney eyed them suspiciously.

They walked through the barricades down a busy street covered in sawdust.

On one side, a shop keeper dressed in Middle Eastern garb advertised ropes ascending into heaven.

On the other side, belly dancers contorted their bodies to a tambourine beat.

Jeremy knew they were in the heart of The Black and White Horror Show. He was about to ask his friends if they spotted anything familiar, when he noticed a ticket floating in a puddle of water. It read Eternal Strength to the Victorious. “There’s another one of those playing cards from the Immortal Game,” Jeremy said. He reached down and picked it up from the sidewalk. The ink smeared in his hands.

“Do you see the pavilion where Ignatius took the photographs?” asked Sissy.

“We are somewhere else. I wonder who dropped the card. I still haven’t figured out if we’re in a movie or an amusement park.”

“We can find out if we walk to the other end of the fairgrounds,” said Brandon. “The movie set or stage cannot stretch to infinity. It must have an end.”

They walked up the maze of streets, taking several rights and lefts until they got to the end.

Max looked behind him at the circus town. It glowed in the darkness. Someone could spend their entire life wasting time down there, purchasing curiosities in the shops and riding the rides, he thought.

They barely made it into the woods when Brandon noticed lights between the trees. In less than a dozen steps they reached the other side. Jeremy was shocked to look down into a valley and see the same circus they had left. He wanted to know for sure. “Max can you walk back through the woods and try to signal us from the other side?”

“Don’t you think it’s risky to use a signal?” asked Sissy.

“Yes, but we need to explore The Black and White Horror Show.”

On the other side of the carnival they noticed a feint light. It could’ve belonged to a firefly. It was there and then it was gone. Max rejoined their group before they looked away.

“Did you see it?” he asked. “Yes, and it looks as if we’re not the only ones.”


Chapter 15 Mineshaft


Brandon was starting to get annoyed from having two backseat drivers giving him directions. None of the teenagers stopped to consider if they were actually following Bernie or simply chasing a dust devil. It was pitch black and the ruts in the sand were becoming difficult to see over the glare of the headlights.

“Watch out for those rocks,” warned Jeremy from the passenger seat. The undercarriage scraped against the boulders.

“We’ve been out here for over an hour and still no sign of a vehicle,” complained Max.

“Wait, I see a light in the distance. Quick, turnoff your headlights,” whispered Jeremy. They moved closer to an abandoned pickup truck parked near a steep hill. “Who’s willing to look around?” Jeremy asked. No one said a word.

“Anything could be waiting for us beyond the shadows,” whispered Max, trying not to sound too much like a coward.

“We don’t even know if Bernie is here. The truck could belong to a rancher.” Sissy was the first to open her door and step into the cool night. The desert blew sand drifts in their direction. None of the boys could tolerate a girl being the bravest among them. They all nodded and left the police car at the same time.

Sissy was already at the pickup truck. Jeremy noticed she looked good, even in the dark, filling out her sweat suit in all the right places. She was at the truck, peering through the driver side door. “There’s no one here.”

“Well, someone must be nearby and planning to come back. They wouldn’t abandon their vehicle and leave the lights on,” said Max. He grabbed the door handle and wrenched it open. Steam vaporized from the cab like smoke. Peering inside, he noticed wax pooled on the driver’s seat. “It looks as if a gigantic candle melted in here. Who can make heads or tails of this?”

Jeremy looked inside, knowing something awful happened. Quick, everyone grab a flashlight and fan out. Look for anything unusual.”

Jeremy noticed steam pouring from the hillside.

Walking to the hot spot, he pressed his hand against the earth.

It didn’t feel like dirt. Instead, he grabbed a handful of tarp. It was a curtain. Ripping it aside, Jeremy entered a long corridor. It was an old mine shaft covered in movie posters. There was something flickering at the other end.

A loud speaker penetrated the silence.


Jeremy knew he’d heard those words before, but the voice was different. It wasn’t Bernie’s. It was the voice of someone who rarely spoke. It sounded resurrected, like it had been dead for centuries.

Jeremy pulled a broken mirror out of his pocket, using it to peer around the corner.

Black and white light sprinkled the room. A semicircle of seats filled a deep amphitheater as a crackling projector played a film behind a purple curtain. A pair of uniformed trousers paced back and forth on the other side, as if they were waiting for something. 

“That must be Detective Straitface,” whispered Jeremy. “But where’s Bernie.” Everyone scanned the empty theater. Brandon counted the seats, beginning with four hundred and fifty one and working his way backward. The amphitheater sunk into shadows. 

“Something moved down there,” whispered Sissy. Max shined his flashlight into the darkness. A man was bound and gagged in Seat 13. His eyes were open, watching the show, unable to look away. 

“We must stop it before something happens.” Jeremy wondered what possessed the detective to kidnap the theater owner. “I say we rush Straitface on three. Bernie will be okay once we stop The Black and White Horror Show.”


The teenagers charged the feet behind the curtain, tackling empty space. A sinister voice taunted them.


They looked at the movie screen as a tall shadow reached toward Seat 13, grabbing Bernie by the arm, pulling him into The Black and White Horror Show. Jeremy rushed to the chair where Bernie had sat. He noticed something stuck between the seat cushions. Reaching down, Jeremy grabbed a silver ticket. It read Eternal Strength to the Victorious. Baffled by the card, Jeremy looked for The Immortal Game, but couldn’t find it. 

 “Well, what do we do now?” asked Sissy through clenched lips. It was rare for her to ask a question. Usually she knew what to do.

Before anyone had an idea, a Ferris wheel erupted from the black and white movie screen, scooping them into its enormous bucket, and sucking them inside.

Part I: The Stuff in the Attic

Mr. Glass leaned against his faded yellow house, looking at his next-door-neighbor.

Stewart Swanson was mowing his lawn, just like he did every Saturday.

Perfect Lines, Perfect Lawn, Perfect House, Perfect Wife, and Perfect Car

Glass struck a match, lighting his pipe. The wrinkles in his face shifted.

Steward noticed Mr. Glass standing there.

Then the old man walked towards him. Glass’ features couldn’t hide their amusement.

Stewart cut the engine. “Can I help you sir?”

“Yeah, I’ve lived three houses down from you and haven’t introduced myself, the name’s Glass.”

“Nice to meet you Sir, my name’s Stewart.”

“Stewart… I had a possum named Stewart in prison, but that was a long time ago.”

The neighbor gave him a startled stare, but Glass didn’t notice.

“I’ve got some boxes to move in the attic. How’s your time? Can you give me a hand?”

“Awe… well I do need to take my wife to the garden show this afternoon…”

“Don’t worry about that, my boxes will only take a minute.”

Before Stewart could refuse, Glass turned and walked in the direction of his house.

His neighbor hesitated and followed after him. It was 99 degrees.

How could the man wear a 3-piece suit, Stewart thought?

“Come inside,” Glass said. “The house is a mess. I’ve called the maid, but she won’t be here til tomorrow.”

They walked up a narrow staircase. At the top, Glass pulled at a ladder leading to the attic.

“When we’re done, I’ll buy you an ice-cream,” Glass said.

Stewart almost replied, but thought it best to get it over with.

There were paintings everywhere. “Got those in Europe,” Glass said. “Help me with this box.”

It was heavy and hard to lift, despite the squats Stewart had been doing in the gym. His sweat was staining the front of his blue checkered polo shirt.

Glass looked unperturbed, like the heat didn’t matter. He didn’t sweat a drop.

“Easy…” The bottom ripped out of his box.

Cash flooded the rafters.

“See, I can pay you.” Glass laughed.

“I need to be going,” Stewart suggested.

“Oh, don’t worry about that. There are five more boxes and then you’ll be done. I’ve got some plastic bags and zip ties hanging on the wall.

Stewart did as he was told. He didn’t dare refuse. They hauled the stuff into the back of Glass’ 1959 Cadillac Hearse.

“I’ve got to make a deposit,” Glass said. “We’ll get your ice-cream on the way.

Stewart almost walked away, but Glass’ eyes compelled him like gravity. They were menacing and confident at the same time.

You won’t find great thinkers in the halls of education

You find them in bowling allies


and beer halls

These men are amongst the unemployed

The forgotten

They have experienced

REAL loss

REAL suffering

and REAL lonliness

If a man tries to redeem himself

he can

and he does this through reason

We are not noble for the rules we follow,

but for the rules we break

Doing good in life is not about following the rules

It is about doing good.

Chapter 12 Flash Camera

Nearing the object, Jeremy realized what it was. “It’s a camera and I’ve seen it before. It’s the same flash camera Ignatius used in The Black and White Horror Show!”

Bernie picked it up, looking through the lenses, wondering if there was undeveloped film inside.

“Sir, I’m not so sure it’s a good idea to touch something so dangerous.”

“Nonsense; I doubt there’s anything special about this prop. Our journey under the stage has taught us Ignatius was a master of tricks, not a real magician.”

How can you believe that when the horror show already captured an audience member?” demanded Jeremy.

“Coincidences and tricks of cinematography—Ignatius was a genius of illusion, nothing more.”

Was Bernie trying to deceive him? Jeremy wondered.

“We have what we came for. This camera will make an excellent curiosity in the front lobby.”

Jeremy was silently horrified. “Should we make our way to the trapdoor?” he asked.

“An excellent idea!” replied Bernie, hugging his old-fashioned camera even tighter.

Turning to follow, Jeremy noticed something glossy stuck between the floorboards. Reaching down, he picked up a flimsy black and white photograph. He couldn’t make out the picture, but he pocketed it all the same.

Sissy was the first to hear them. In two seconds a rickety ladder was lowered into the trapdoor. Not a moment later, Bernie’s head emerged, followed by the antique camera.

Black Robe’s Orders

The Admiral of the pirate fleet had a name feared above all others.

 “Black Robe, what are your orders?” asked Lieutenant Jives.  

“Kill the wounded, but give those fit to sail the chance to join us. If they consent, they may keep their spoils of war and avoid a painful death. Do what you like with those who deny my service. You may run them through or hang them from the rigging. After you carry out my orders, send a signal flag to the rest of the fleet. Our five ships will intercept the schooner off the larboard bow.”

 Lieutenant Jives walked away to bully the midshipmen under his command.

Rucksack knew his plan could just as easily fail as succeed. Standing underneath the main mast, he pulled his wand from inside his cloak, whispering incantations; after lighting a blue fire, the parachute inflated. Soon the empty sock transformed into a balloon, rising above The Majestic.

There was a jolt as the ship ascended into the air. Rucksack didn’t waste time navigating into the wind.

Sarah noticed the ocean turning black, with white caps on every wave. Electrical root systems descended from thunder clouds above.


It was deafening, much loader than cannon fire.

Barney could see Black Robe’s cloak flying out behind him as the pirate gave orders to kill the King’s crew. The pirate fleet altered course, following The Majestic. It was impossible to catch a flying ship, but a well-placed cannon ball could change things.

 “Don’t aim for the hull, damn you. I said to aim for the balloon. Filling the keel full of holes won’t sink her!” shouted Black Robe.

Rucksack knew they had less to fear from cannon fire and more to worry from the maelstrom that grew stronger. The cumulonimbus clouds rose like burnt marshmallows in the dark sky with thunderheads as flat as pancakes.

The Majestic floated higher.

Mr. Davis’ green ship, the smallest in the fleet, shot a cannon ball strait up at the hot air balloon. The eight pound ball reached a mile into the sky, then plummeted through the deck of the Shamrock, cracking her keel.

With the Shamrock crippled, Black Robe knew he would not be able to direct his ghost ship after the disappearing balloon. Plotting their last direction, he calculated their probable destination, Volcano Island. 

Meanwhile, The Majestic flew over the black pancakes where the air was thin and the oxygen difficult to breath.

“Those pirates won’t give up easily,” choked Rucksack.

After clearing the storm, The Majestic landed into calmer seas.

Rucksack kept his skeleton crew busy with chores like sanding the deck with holystones, checking the ocean depths for hidden reefs, and fishing for sharks. After a few weeks, provisions ran low, forcing Barney and Sarah to wonder if Rucksack plotted their course correctly.

At twilight, Sarah thought she saw the shadow of a ship on the horizon. Everyone went to bed fearing it was the ghost ship. In the morning, she was right. Black Robe was within firing distance.

Rucksack gave the sails an extra dose of wind, but the chase ended before it began; four ships appeared on the horizon in front of them, blocking their escape.

Cannonballs ripped into The Majestic.

“Rather than going to Volcano Island, we will turn south, leading the pirates into the Morasses of Mulansfrog,” shouted Rucksack. “Barney, I need you to get the balloon ready. Sarah, load the cannons. We will blast our way out of the blockade!”

Altering course toward The Shamrock, Rucksack played a naval game of chicken with Captain Bartholomew. “Standby on the guns while I light the blue fire!” shouted Rucksack. “Stead, aim; let them have it!”

The Majestic unloaded her guns as Mean Nancy and the rest of Rucksack’s cannons did their worst. Both ships splintered from an exchange of cannon fire, nearly colliding, but The Majestic pulled into the sky at the last second, finishing off the Shamrock.

It would’ve ascended if the ghost ship hadn’t fired a shot through the balloon. Smoking, it eventually caught fire, leaving Rucksack no alternative, but to cut it loose. The bag rose into the sky like a balloon lost on an ill-fated birthday.

The Majestic plummeted toward the ocean, striking the waves, submerging, but quickly regaining its keel. Rucksack filled the sails with air, navigating his crippled craft into the swamps.


Chapter 6 Bombardment

A few hours later, Barney and Sarah were awakened by sonic booms. Half asleep, they jumped out of bed, colliding with each other.

“What happened?” yelled Barney. “It sounds like a powder keg exploded!”

Opening their door, they witnessed total destruction. Half of the captain’s quarters were blown away. The ornamental chamber was full of smoke and the bed was on fire. Luckily, Rucksack was an early riser.

At twilight the sky was full of cannon fire. Two armadas shelled each other from five hundred yards away. Payloads delivered rapid reports.

Several balls whizzed over The Majestic, tearing into the rigging. Soon the main sail was littered with holes, leaving a few scraps of material left to catch the wind.

“You’ve been asleep for nearly half the battle,” shouted Rucksack. “I need your help for a tricky maneuver. It may be the only way to avoid capture. Help me secure the parachute.”

The place you want to get to, but get lost on the way there

Everyone knows this place

It exists in the imagination

If you could only get there

Your problems would vanish

It is scary and mysterious

Usually, described as an island or a place that vanishes and reappears

You have to walk through a magical door to get there

And when you do, this banal world is left behind.

Chapter 5 Parachute

Not long into the desert voyage, the magician gave Sarah and Barney chores, instructing them to sew old sails together with fishing line.

The Majestic cruised along as smoothly as if it were sailing on calm water. Looking over the gunwale, several disheveled caravans roasted in the sun. These ancient ships of the desert were blackened by heat.

Rucksack filled the sails with wind using his Thunder Stick and The Majestic sailed at a rapid pace, setting course for two intersecting dunes in the distance.

Sarah worked tirelessly on the old canvas.

“Now the sails must be sewn at the top and connected to the ends,” instructed Rucksack. “Ideally, you should have a large sock when it’s finished.”

Barney thought of a million ways it could be used, but every idea seemed far-fetched.

The Majestic sailed over the hill, revealing a hidden canyon below.

“We’ll secure the sock to every side of the ship.” shouted Rucksack. He took his place at the stern. “Hold onto something. This could be one heck of a drop!”

Sarah thought the experience of falling would be like flying. Instead, it felt like her head separated from her body.

When the parachute opened, everyone hoped they wouldn’t hear tearing fabric.

They glided into a river that twisted like the coils of a great snake. Rucksack referenced his map several times, making sure they were headed in the right direction.

Soon they approached a three hundred foot waterfall and Rucksack gave the signal to get the parachute ready.

 “DIVE!” he shouted.

Everyone grabbed the rigging as The Majestic left the river, reentering open space. There wasn’t a ship in sight when theyglided smoothly into the East Ocean.

Sarah glanced at Rucksack who stowed the canvas parachute into the forward compartment. “Do you have a heading,” she asked tentatively.

“Our point of navigation is plotted for Volcano Island, but we won’t be sailing in the doldrums.” Rucksack said.

 The Majestic will create long ripples, much like a stone falling into a still pond. If we set sail now, any pirates in our latitude will be alerted to our presence and their first course of action will be to load their cannons. We must wait until the natural elements move the ocean. Once we have the weather gage, no one can find us.”Pink hews blazed on the horizon as the sun sank out of sight. Stars ventured into the sky and stories from long ago appeared in the heavens. Rucksack gazed at them, mumbling ancient tales to himself.

Chapter 4 Invisible Map

Rucksack walked over to the other room and returned from the ship’s galley. He had his hands full of lemons and limes. “I usually carry an abundant supply of calcium enriched fruit on my voyages to fend off the scurvy. The acidity will remain hidden on brown paper and can be revealed with heat.”

He had many blank navigational charts on his seaman’s easel in the corner. Rucksack grabbed one and started to work. It was tedious business, but with each new discovery he grew excited.

Sarah and Barney watched him drawing an invisible map with the exactness of a surveyor. It looked like he was working on nothing. Finally, after hours of invisible strokes, he finished.

“Wait until you have a chance to feast your eyes on the secrets and intricacies of Volcano Island,” Rucksack said. He held up the blank parchment, handing his sword to Sarah.

“I don’t see any lines,” muttered Barney.

“Precisely,” said Rucksack. “Let me show you how the invisible map will become visible.” He carefully held the parchment over the fire. Suddenly, green lettering emerged on the chart. Rucksack was obviously an artist. The land features and lines of navigation were drawn to proportion.

 “We need the map to make it out of the Zarkin Desert alive,” whispered Rucksack. “Despite being able to manipulate the elements, magicians have always needed to rely on the earth to survive. Well lads, we have our heading that will lead us to the next watering hole. It’s time to heave anchor.” Rucksack pocketed his charts and stepped onto the main deck. “Let’s get ourselves out of these doldrums and into the main airstream.” Rucksack spun his wand with expertise, propelling them toward the next oasis.