“Impractical Magic” by D.M Slate

TWA 80 Slate-01

Brad sat alone on the edge of his bed, staring blankly at the wall.  The sound of his roommate entering their apartment did little to break his gaze.  John’s keys clanked as he dropped them onto the coffee table, and his footsteps then led into the kitchen.

Reaching out Brad grabbed his cup from the night stand and threw back the remainder of the liquid, cringing as he swallowed.  Reaching down underneath of his bed he searched for the vodka bottle.  It was empty.  Damnit.  He tossed the bottle back under his bed.

The footsteps were now approaching his room, and before long John peeked his head inside. He inhaled deeply, smelling the air.  “Have you been drinking already?  Dude – its 7:30 in the morning.”

Brad shook his head from side to side.  “Nah.  I’m just waking up.”  But even he could hear the slur of his own speech.

“Wow.  This is getting out of hand.  You’re a fourth year medical student, and we have midterms next week.  Do you think you’re ever going to become a surgeon if you’re drunk?”

Brad scoffed at the comment.  “I never wanted to be a surgeon.  That’s my daddy’s dream.  Not mine.”

John’s face contorted, shifting from concern to anger.  “You need to get over this whole magician thing – it’s ruining your life.”

Crumpling the Styrofoam cup in anger, Brad yelled, “No, it’s not ruining my life!  Those damn judges on You’re A Star are the ones ruining my life.  They didn’t even give me twenty seconds before they buzzed me off the stage.  Twenty seconds!!  How am I supposed to shock them in that amount of time?”

Stepping back from the doorway John shook his head.  “I can’t do this again today, man.  I’m sorry that they didn’t give you a chance, but that audition was two weeks ago, and you’ve done absolutely nothing but drink and feel sorry for yourself since then.  If you don’t pull yourself together, you’re going to fail your midterms and get fired from the hospital.  And then you’ll have to deal with your dad…”

Spinning on his heel John grabbed his keys from the coffee table and headed toward the front door. “I’ve got class.  See ya.”

Brad continued to sit on his bed, staring at the wall.  Anger bubbled in his gut.  Those damn judges had ruined everything.  He’d worked so hard, for so many years, and winning that competition would’ve been proof to his father that magic was an actual career.  But now that dream was dead.

He glanced back at the night stand.  The invoice for next semester’s tuition sat there, taunting him.  His father, one of the most prominent heart surgeons in the country, had set aside just enough funding to cover his tuition, and not a penny more.  To pay for his living expenses Brad worked as an instrument technician at the hospital.  But that job didn’t provide enough funds for his obsessive hobby.

At first he’d only borrowed a few dollars from his tuition account – just enough to buy a new card trick or a download for an instructional video.  But over time the borrowing and the purchases had gotten larger and larger.  He’d spent the last of his tuition stipend buying the airplane ticket to Denver for the You’re A Star audition.  And they’d buzzed him off the stage.

With his mind spinning from anger and the effects of the alcohol, Brad considered getting up and going to his own classes.  In the end, he decided that he was too drunk – he probably wouldn’t remember any of the lectures, anyways.

Grabbing his clock from the nightstand he set the alarm for three hours.  Crashing down into his pillow Brad closed his eyes for a power-nap.

—–

The overhead light flickered but Brad didn’t notice.  His head pounded and he pushed the tuna salad sandwich across his plate without much of an appetite.  The air conditioning vent above him poured cold air into the small hospital cafeteria.  Throwing three aspirin into his mouth he then took a big chug of Redbull, swallowing hard.

Plopping his tray down onto the table Ethan took a seat across from Brad.  His pale blue scrubs looked identical to the majority of the other hospital staff.

Brad raised an eyebrow, making small talk.  “How’s it going in the morgue today?  They keeping you busy?”

“Yep.  People die – everyday – that’s for sure.”

Ethan took a huge bite of his sandwich and Brad’s stomach squeezed itself into a knot.  He pushed his plate to the corner of the table.

Ethan nodded at the untouched food.  “You’re not hungry?”

“Nope.  I’m too stressed to eat.”

“Are you still crying about that audition?”

“Yes – but that’s not the big problem.  I blew through the cash my dad set aside for tuition, and now I can’t pay for my last semester of school.  I’m so screwed.”

Ethan’s eyes widen in surprise. “Ouch.  Yeah, I’d be stressed too.  Your dad is going to kill you.”

Brad massaged his throbbing temples.  “Thanks for the encouraging words.”

Looking around to see who else was in the cafeteria Ethan leaned in close and whispered, “I know how you could get the money.”

“By robbing a bank?” Brad laughed with sarcasm.

“No man, I’m serious.  But we can’t talk here.  Call me tonight after work and I’ll tell you what it’s all about.”

—–

One thirty in the morning and Brad was still awake, staring at the clock.  He couldn’t believe what he was considering doing.  Not only was it illegal, it was immoral as well.  If he got caught his life would be over.  Prison.  But if he didn’t do it, his father was going to find out that he’d spent the money and there would be very serious repercussions.  Both were horrible alternatives.

All in all, it sounded easy enough.  Sneak into the morgue, remove a few organs, sneak back out and hand the organs off to the transport guy.  From there the stolen parts would be sold on the black market, and then Brad would be paid for his services.

Sure.  No big deal.  After all he was a surgeon in training, and a master of illusion.

The part that kept him mind-boggled was the fact that a market existed for human organs.  According to Ethan, this practice was something that he’d been involved with for several years, and it happened to be the way he’d paid for his new car.  Brad had seen the car – it was nice.  The temptation was an appealing way to get him out of his pickle.

Brad had worked in the hospital for nearly four years and he knew the layout well.  With Ethan’s insider knowledge of the lower level morgue, they should be able to get around security without too much hassle.  But the plan was very clear – once inside the morgue Brad was on his own.  Ethan couldn’t risk being caught.

Only one staff member was scheduled for the midnight to six am shift, and that person took their lunch break each morning from three to three-thirty.  That would be Brad’s only window of opportunity.  Realistically, that would give him fifteen to twenty minutes to do the job and get out.  Was it possible to be done in that little amount of time?

—–

After an agonizing week of going back and forth on his decision, Brad committed to the proposal.  Another week passed in planning and now the night was finally here.  His body jittered with nervousness.

The frosted fly sat unmoving inside of a thermal bag, in the pants pocket of Brad’s scrubs.  Both men strolled down the hallway toward the nurse’s desk, Ethan taking the lead.  Familiar with both nurses on duty Ethan waved a hand in greeting and pulled the bouquet of flowers out from behind his back, creating a distraction.

“Beautiful ladies, these are for you.”

Ethan walked behind the desk and handed the surprised nurses the bouquet.

The elderly women smiled and took to the flowers with delight, providing Brad the opportunity to drop the chilled fly onto the counter, unnoticed.  Joining his accomplice in the conversation he informed the ladies, “I don’t have any flowers to give, but I can provide you with a bit of magic.”

They turned their attention back in his direction.

Picking up the seemingly dead fly off of the counter Brad placed the insect into the palm of his hand.  Waving the fingers of his opposite hand over the top, he whispered the cliché word, “Abracadabra”.  Ever so slowly, as the heat of his hand spread through the body of the chilled fly, the insect began to move.  Within a few seconds the fly crawled to the edge of Brad’s fingertips and then flew off into the air.  Both nurses beamed and clapped with amusement.

Ethan snagged an extra badge from behind the nurse’s station and slid it into his pocket as the two women marveled over the fly.  Quickly exiting their area he walked back around the counter into the hallway, giving Brad a solid pat on the back.

Smiling at the nurses Ethan told them, “We’ve got to be going.  You ladies have a fabulous evening.”  And with that they strode down the hall, back in the direction they’d come from.

Once in the elevator Ethan removed the security-swipe badge from his pocket and handed it to Brad.  “Alright, you’re on your own from here.  Wait until you see Jamie go into the cafeteria before you go inside the morgue.  Look for pod fourteen – remove only the liver, spleen and kidneys – and then make sure she gets stitched back up nicely so no one will even notice.  After that, get out and go to the north parking lot.  There’ll be a black van parked there with license plates 473-QYD.  Knock twice on the driver’s door, and then hand the organs off.  Then get out of there.  Once the money comes through, I’ll be sure you get paid.”

Nodding, Brad grabbed the badge and shoved it deep into his own pocket.  He felt all of the color drain from his face as Ethan exited the elevator, leaving him alone to his gruesome task.

—–

Brad sat in the back of the cafeteria sipping on a cup of black coffee.  As soon as he saw Jamie enter the dining hall his heart kicked into high speed.  Leaving the coffee on the table he got to his feet, grabbed his bag, and headed straight for the elevator.  It was time for action.

Setting the stopwatch around his wrist Brad waited impatiently for the elevator to move him down a level.  When the doors opened he wasted no time, walking down the hall at a brisk pace.  He marched purposefully past the nurse’s station and the one male nurse behind the counter barely paid him any attention.  At the end of the hall he turned left into another corridor.  Swiping the stolen badge Brad held his breath, praying that it would work.

The door chimed and the sound of the lock opening was a huge relief.  Brad grabbed the handle and opened the door, closing it ever so softly behind him.

He found the pod with ease, and took one final glance at the main door before pulling the refrigerator open.  Not wanting to waste time Brad hauled the sliding metal table out in a hurry.  The cadaver took him by surprise.  It was a young woman, maybe in her twenties, who appeared to be sleeping peacefully – other than the stitched incision that stretched from collar bone down to her pubic bone.

He stood there for a second, frozen.

A tiny noise in the hallway bolted him back into action as adrenaline surged through his veins.  Reaching into his bag Brad removed his full-length gloves and his box of instruments.  Using a hemostat he pulled on the end of the stitching, lifting the knot in the nylon away from the woman’s collar bone.  Snipping the knot, Brad then used the instrument to pull on the other end of the string, near the pubic bone.

The one, long continuous thread began to pull free of the woman’s skin.  It zig-zagged back and forth through her flesh as Brad pulled, and within seconds the entire incision was re-opened.  Dropping the old suture material into his bag the young surgeon then reached into the body cavity feeling around.  After a postmortem exam not everything goes back into its correct place, so it took him a few minutes of fishing to find what he was looking for.

With the liver, spleen and kidneys in the bag, Brad pulled back the slimy arm-piece of his glove, checking the time on the stopwatch underneath.  He’d been in the morgue for twelve minutes already.  Panic stricken he grabbed for his suture kit.  Starting at the bottom, Brad closed the incision in the same manner that it had been sewn originally.

Once the knot was in place he rushed to remove his gloves, dropping them into the bag as well.  Quickly wiping the cadaver clean he pushed the table back into the fridge and closed the pod door.  Glancing around with concern, Brad looked for any evidence of his presence.  Finding the room to be clean he closed the bag and rushed back for the morgue door.

Saying one final prayer he pulled the door open, expecting to see Jamie on the other side.  Much to his relief the corridor was empty.  Closing the door silently behind him seemed to take forever.  Once it was closed, Brad sprinted down the short corridor.  He glanced stealthily around the corner, down the main hall, and didn’t see anyone.  Taking a calming breath he began his walk back down the long hallway, past the nurse’s station.

Acting as normal as possible Brad passed the nurse’s desk without even glancing sideways.  Through his peripheral vision he noticed that no one was there.  This was going better than he could’ve hoped for.

And then the elevator doors at the end of the hall opened and Jamie exited, walking toward him.  Brad felt sweat form in little beads on his forehead and upper lip.  Keeping his eyes averted to the ground he continued down the hall, toward the elevator.  As he and Jamie passed in the hallway Brad made eye contact and gave a small nod of the head.  Jamie did likewise and they continued on  in their separate ways.

It only took two minutes to get from the elevator to the north parking lot, which was pitch black and deserted at this time of morning.  A solitary van sate in the parking lot and Brad approached it with jubilation, wanting this entire experience to be over with.

Knocking twice on the driver’s door Brad waited as the window rolled down.  A man in an oversized hoodie sat in the driver’s seat.  He turned his face toward Brad and both men froze in terror as they made eye contact.  The transporter was his father.

 

 

 

 


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Danyelle (aka D.M. Slate) resides in Colorado, where she’s lived for most of her life. She attended college at the University of Northern Colorado completing a business degree, and now works as a financial analyst.

D.M. Slate’s first sci-fi horror novella was released in 2009, followed by dark fiction novels in 2010 and 2012. In 2013 Slate produced her first audio-story. The following year her second audio-story won the Wicked Woman Writer’s Challenge hosted by HorrorAddicts.net, earning her the title of 2014’s Most Wicked Woman Writer.

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One Comment

  1. The narrative bundled me along quite happily, but I didn’t feel all that engaged with it. I’ve been scratching my head as to why and what I’ve come up with is:

    – I don’t really like the protagonist. I’ve got nothing to connect to with him.
    – I feel like I’m being told a lot but being shown very little.
    – I don’t feel anything much about the ending. It’s out of nowhere, and I don’t have anything about Brad and his relationship with his Dad to help me understand why this is shocking or surprising. I feel like I’d need to see that in action before I could understand why this ending could work the way the writer intended.

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