Max stood alone. The wax figurines stared at him with malice, but their bodies were locked in Rigor Mortis. He avoided the clutches of a werewolf by a matter of moments. Its hair bristled on its face, poking his flesh with needlelike stiffness. It was dangerous for Max to move. A mummy emerged from the sandy floor to grab his pant leg and a scarab blocked his path with incisors the size of steak knives. Its drool crystalized into stalagmites. Max was surrounded by monsters with no foreseeable exit. Then Ignatius entered the room.  

Max tried to appear like so many of the other figurines—lifeless and petrified, but his efforts were futile. Ignatius walked across the room in two strides, bowling through monsters and grabbing him by the ear.

“Where are your friends?” Ignatius demanded.

“I don’t know,” Max cried out. Pain shot into his eardrum. It felt like his ear was coming apart at the seams.

“You’re lying…but you’re not lying.” Ignatius looked into the teenager’s eyes like he was reading the truth etched onto the boy’s brain. “They left you behind!” He laughed triumphantly. “Why don’t you accompany me to my film studio?” He ushered Max inside with a push. The interior looked like a media museum. Cameras adorned the walls since the birth of film and some of these were altered with magic. There was a black door in the corner and a workbench against the wall. Max knew he’d seen the film laboratory before. He tried to remember where. Ignatius didn’t meddle with any of the cameras. Instead, he walked to the rear of the room and vanished through the wall.

Max realized the barrier wasn’t solid, but a black curtain.

S-L-I-D-E

The wall parted, revealing a stage with a studio camera pointed directly at him. It was old, but looked new. He felt like a bug under a microscope facing the wide lens. Looking inside, he recognized a black and white film rolling in reverse. He lost track of Ignatius; then he heard a voice giving directions from far away.

“Step up to the line. Straiten your posture. Head up and don’t forget to smile.” It was like picture day on the first day of school. Everyone is forced to dress in uncomfortable clothes, while a flustered man wearing an ill-fitting suit tries to get the angle right. In this case, Ignatius was dead calm, adjusting the knobs at his control booth.

Max tried to protest, but no words came out.

“Something is troubling you,” the magician said in a patronizing way. “You will thank me. I’m sending you home.”

Max didn’t believe a word of it and felt helpless to resist.

“If you’d like to go home, you must tell me where your friends are hiding.”

Max stuttered, “I-I-told you, I don’t know where my friends are.”

“Then you will remain my prisoner forever,” Ignatius said with a sadistic smile. His long fingers stretched to press the red button on his enormous camera scope, but he hesitated. The studio door burst open; blinding flashes of light followed frenzied clicking. Sissy took pictures at random while everyone hid behind her. Ignatius pressed the red button, diving in front of the camera.

SNAP

“Did you capture him?” Jeremy asked.

“I’m not sure,” Sissy said. “They vanished.”

Jeremy looked inside the camera. Chills followed. He saw Max walking out of a movie screen into a deserted theater with Ignatius on his heels.

“They’re in The Pharaoh!” Jeremy cried. “How do you work this thing?” He fumbled with the controls; Bernie reached out, grabbing his hand before he pushed the button.

“Hold it! We should think about what happened,” Bernie said. “Ignatius expects us to follow him. He’ll be ready. Let’s think how to destroy The Black and White Horror Show.”

Harvey knitted his brow. “There must be a way to save my neighbors before we destroy the film. They’re only guilty of being entertained.” He knew they had to do something about the people in Carnival Town, but he couldn’t figure out what. Harvey’s face unwrinkled, as if his brain stumbled onto the solution. “The woman selling singing potions has a calliope and her circus tunes always draw large crowds. I’m sure there’s something magical in her music. Maybe we can lead the entire town to the Egyptian Exhibit and set them free.”

Sissy and Brandon exchanged glances. Neither of them believed they could convince the people in The Black and White Horror Show to follow them.

Meanwhile…the magician plotted his return to the stage.

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