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Pick A Card, Any Card; Late 2016, Cafeteria
Topic Started: Feb 27 2018, 09:24 AM (464 Views)
Cicada Days
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Beryl Mahelona stared blankly ahead and behind and at the wall and at her own feet.

She'd already eaten a lunch of innumerable bits of mushy steamed and peppered kales and spinaches, but she'd wandered into the cafeteria looking for a face. Maybe a familiar face, or maybe not. Plenty of the former and plenty of the latter, though few of either type of face seemed to offer her much in the way of mind. Busy busy, life could be! She didn't mind the lack of attention, it afforded her loneliness in the crowd, with which to feel the vaguest of pangs of wistfulness on her own behalf, for her own benefit.

Still, she could be distracted like any other whimsical human heart. Look over there! There was a table's worth of heads decorated by an average amount of ears and hairstyles. Beryl contemplated. She liked the hair of one girl, a ghostly pale blonde gradient to ghostly pale skin. Next to her a tall boy, strong of build, stark green eyes. The grandest beard she'd seen on a boy under eighteen, at least in living memory. She tentatively noted that she liked him too. His look, his aura. It had a certain robust maturity about it. Visible in multiple wavelengths of light if one squinted just right and pretended their hardest.

Beryl imagined herself sitting at the table as well. And then she took action, to make her imaginings reality.

She gently slotted herself between two generic boys whose generic faces were stretched by the lips and eyebrows into surprise and wonder. They stared at the boy with the powerful eyes of jade. She took the cue after a moment and followed suit, joining the audience with fresh eyes and a willingness to be charmed.
V7

V6 - Like you imagined when you... were young...
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Nick Ogilvie showed the pack of cards to everyone assembled around him. At first, his appeal had been the beard and the accent. Base hooks, certainly, but now he had them in his grasp. An ordinary pack of cards. Even let an audience member twirl a card of her choice around in her fingers. And, with that done, he began to shuffle them. Automatically. Smoothly. With the experience of someone whose hands had shuffled thousands of cards.

"An illusionist never reveals his tricks. Never. The inner workings of illusions were like Fight Club - you don't talk about blah blah blah. You all know the quote. A cliche. Such a cliche. But a cliche for a damn good reason."

Nick leaned back. One time he'd used that line, some aspiring wannabe Roger Ebert had got into a debate with him about the merits of the film, trying to analyse it and shit. In Nick's mind, it was some celebration of free thinking, of living life on the edge, of not giving into social norms and mores. Now, he wasn't so sure. But whatever. Even if the exact interpretation was wrong, the thematic link was good. Gave his act a certain rough around the edges appeal. A sort of sexual magnetism. A mysterious allure, one that went beyond feigning paranormal links and instead suggested something ridiculous about the mundane and quotidian. Nick liked that sort of self-presentation. Could be his thing. Illusions as social commentary.

Totally original. Well, not really. But originality was a myth. All you could hope to do was rephrase your repetitions in a way most of the audience hadn't already heard.

That sort of cynical koan would totally be his thing.

"But," and Nick talked here with the cadence of someone fully aware their audience was clinging to every word, "I will let you in on one trick. One...ruse. Misdirection." He continued ferociously shuffling the cards. "That is what every charlatan, every artist, every politician, has relied upon."

That was all it was. Nick was, in many ways, an avid amateur psychologist, identifying and exploiting the shortcuts of the human mind, knowing how to utilise all the esoteric quirks of humanity for the sake of a parlour game. Was that...too grandiose? Too egotistic. Nick definitely didn't think so. He was very self-aware, capable of accurately ruminating upon his own strengths and foibles. But hey, the small crowd that had assembled around certainly seemed to think he was worthy of such praise.

He stopped shuffling.

"Case in point. While I was chatting shit..." He took apart the stack of cards. They were now napkins.
V7 peeps:
Nick Ogilvie
Ashlynn Martinek
Bill Winlock
Camille Bellegarde

V6 peeps:
Kiziah Saraki
Bradley Floyd
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Beryl leaned forward. Gravity commanded her.
(she being the inferior mass in the system)

Or maybe it was electromagnetic, but the two forces were mutually exclusive. In theory. But, some attractive force exerted itself onto her body and she failed to resist.
(opposites attract. it's a magnetic force)

His accent was thorny, modulating almost every single word that his lips shaped around. Very visceral feeling, like a slight tap of a finger to the chest. Fluttery feeling. Like an arrhythmia, or a morsel down the wrong pipe. It was rather like her internal organs were deigning to ignore gravity, and there was a strong probability such a sensation indicated some degree of lust, a variable either small or not so based on colluding factors Beryl couldn't quite get a sense for. Was it his looks, his phrasing, his cliche-mongering, his dexterity. Beryl didn't know, Beryl didn't care. She could try to elaborate her own thought process for her own benefit, but she was otherwise occupied.

He spoke in truisms vague enough to seem interesting, or was it that she failed to grasp at the intent behind the obvious? He'd said it himself, misdirection. She was inclined, biased, to assume his words projected more than the mere volume of his voice. Or maybe it didn't matter anyways. 'The meaning' had never tripped Beryl up before.

She liked to let her thoughts meander, though! She let them knot and twist away, all around a central imagery of his effigy. Then, he played his trick.

Some people voiced monosyllable awe, some people clapped. Beryl suddenly giggled, hand overdecorated with neon colors stuffed over her mouth as she shuddered a bit in slightly hysterical mirth. The pressure in her tense chest was temporarily undone.

She briefly felt like she was running amok, out of control. A strong emotion had burst free. Sure, she stuffed it back down with conscious effort, but she'd already savored it like the sweetest of poisons. Her nervous laugh ebbed away, an entirely full second after the remainder of the crowd had sorted themselves into silence. At least one pair of bystander eyes looked her way. Vague concern and disapproval, Beryl read in the furrowing of the brows.

Beryl herself stared back, vaguely as ever. Then, back to the sudden target of her odd emotiveness. Even if he had no eyes for her she'd offer all she had back in exchange, she spur of the moment decided. She felt a bit vulnerable, so queerly so, and wanted to enjoy it.
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Someone new had walked over. Someone enticing. Alluring. She giggled, a novel reaction to that particular trick. Nick looked up, as he reset the napkins, careful not to let the multiplicity of cards up his sleeves spill out. Instant eye contact. It wasn't a mocking giggle, or one with any malice or judgement. No, a genuine, unguarded giggle, of awe, of excitement. She kept it going for a second after the others had quieted down. It was as if the unsuitability of her outburst only added more nervous fuel to the giggling fire.

Nick didn't mind, and smiled at her. He appreciated it.

It was the sort of giggle a number one fan would give, as if that trick began some new epoch in her life. As if this simple lunchtime had been the start of some new revelation, a new fascination, a new occupation. Nick remembered that giggle. He had given the same kind of giggle when first discovering the illusionist's art.

She was hot too.

New assistant, maybe?

He straightened his back, deposing of the excess cards behind his back. Normally he'd have to provide the misdirection, but Beryl's spontaneous intervention had provided it.

"For my next trick, I need an assistant." He looked around the crowd, maintaining a pretense that it was an open invitation. He'd already decided the participant. Hadn't done this sort of trick before in such a public sphere, hadn't planned doing it today. But he had all the gear. This was the perfect chance. His gaze returned to the newcomer. "I think you'd make a wonderful volunteer." He held out his hand.
V7 peeps:
Nick Ogilvie
Ashlynn Martinek
Bill Winlock
Camille Bellegarde

V6 peeps:
Kiziah Saraki
Bradley Floyd
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
His eyes were so much brighter than her own. But maybe that was another illusion.

He'd smiled at her, and Beryl could be fairly positive that wasn't an illusion. She would have been quietly happy staggering away with just that emotion alone, tucking it away where it would only be remembered as an odd and quaint curiosity of a moment in time, vibrant and real as any other distorted memory.

But then he upped the ante.
Ah.. that was what he had done with the card trick. Converted the cards into the kinetic energy of his sudden attentions onto her.

Well..
'I think so too.' Said with a simple, confident tone.
'I suspect you singled me out.' A.. playful tone, slightly, maybe with the head askew angle to the neck.
'Well, okay. If I have too.' Exasperated. Obviously faux, perhaps overacted to ripeness.
'Hah, he picked me, fuck you bitches!' Well okay that one was probably too out of character.

And so on, but the problem was Beryl's mind was running through the myriad possibilities so totally quickly! That's what it always did anyways, but Beryl for once found herself at a loss for spontaneous decisiveness when she usually just tended to like every option that came to life in her head at once. She was used to her actions all being so... abiogenesis-y, but now? Well, she just wasn't sure! Sure she was never sure, but it felt different this time. This was the first time this particular set of emotional cues had occurred with a distinctly male and masculine presenting figure, but novelty had never phased her before. Same with romance in general. She'd usually been, for lack of a better term, cool. But now she was...

She was still cool. She was totally cool. She could do this, because she was cool.

Actually, she was pretty sure most people out of a random sample of the GHHS population would dispute the idea that she was cool.

But in an instant, Beryl was cool. As a melting ice cube, as she merely silently took Nick's hand with trembling digits of her own, her long fingers still not long enough to fully meet his wrist, her long arm still not long enough to not prevent her from awkwardly scraping her waist or rib by person after person at the table between the two of them, as she shuffle crab-walked her way to Nick's side. Firm grip she had, and she met his gaze all the way. It was some odd discombobulation of nervous school girl and confident equal. Had he even told her to make her way over beside him? She couldn't really remember that particular detail now. But she was there, and she was still holding his hand, and warmth had trapped right under the fat of the flesh, and she took painstaking care to zero in on that particular sensation as she held her head level with a dignified (?) silence.
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
She stepped forward. This girl had all the makings of the perfect assistant. Not to say she didn't have the exotic allure and strength of character to be a leading lady in her own right, but hey, this was Nick's show. 'Assistant' was the best position open to everyone else, and even if it hadn't been for the giggle (that sealed the deal, really), Nick knew by her appearance alone that she would be a perfect complement to his already commanding stage presence.

Nick, needless to say, had not really learnt humility or modesty yet. Not that he needed to. Within the context of the high school illusions circuit, he was pretty boss. In the field he had chosen, he had not encountered limits to his competence. And wasn't that part of growing up? Finding areas where you could be awesome?

"Now, confirm to the audience we haven't met. I mean, we've seen each other around in the hallways, but for all intents and purposes...total strangers." Stage one. This was the bit they were most likely to doubt. Where credulity was most at risk of being strained. But her seemingly spontaneous entry added a touch of credibility to the facade.

And, hey, what Nick was saying was true. She was essentially just another one of the students who he thought was hot. He would not object to getting to know her better. (Which was not to say he objectified her, of course. Nick only objectified men. Point of principle.)

"Now, what I want you to do, is I want you to write the timetable you have for today on a piece of paper," handing her one, for convenience, "and, not showing it to me, show it to the crowd."
V7 peeps:
Nick Ogilvie
Ashlynn Martinek
Bill Winlock
Camille Bellegarde

V6 peeps:
Kiziah Saraki
Bradley Floyd
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
She breathed in, and felt a burgeoning consciousness about the pumping swell of her diaphragm. The conscious instinct to suppress it, so her tummy stayed small and discrete, and the oddity was that it was already fairly svelte but somehow it suddenly felt awkwardly big shaped. How mysterious perception was.

Beryl calmly murmured on the off-beat to her exhale:

"We have not met before, no." Oh, but they had. Somewhere in her more primal of dreams, probably. She couldn't be proven wrong on that, or so she liked to think. Well the audience nodded and murmured their assent, validated her own facetiously made claim, but.. She rejected their reality, as it were.

She took the paper into the soft crook of her cupped fingers. Right up against the flesh of her fingers until she felt the sting of a papercut, which she readily ignored. The paper found it's way to the table and Beryl produced a slightly hacked up by teeth pencil from where it had been unceremoniously shoved into her dude jean pockets. Nigh two sizes too big for her legs, for reasons of hip topology. Her legs looked like they'd been copy pasted onto her from the depths of the Seventies.

"That's a nice way to know where to find me." And Beryl was just proud enough of her response that had fallen right into a perfect beat of timing that she forgot when she'd last breathed in and felt a burst of helium in her skull, hypoxic light headedness. She blinked forcefully, quickly gulped down a shotglass of air.

Her fingers deftly flowed over the paper, her handwriting having a certain balloon-ishness to it's size and recursive looping. To the audience she showed enough AP classes to drive a full grown man to dead eye insomnia. From the midnight oil studying, and from the unadulterated nightmares of unfathomable academia.
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Nick chuckled at her retort. It was a good one. She would indeed make a fine assistant. Brought some witty repartee to the equation. Nick thrived on that. He wouldn't have wanted an assistant that was shy or retiring. Shrinking violets were boring on the stage. More prop than person. No, Nick wanted someone who was flirtatious, sassy, riveting and droll. Capable of some coordinated improvisation. So far, Beryl was ticking all the boxes.

But he did not respond to her comments, and instead proceeded with the trick. He already knew what she was writing down. Rather pedestrian pillar of the illusionist's trade, to read something without looking at it. Lots of different tricks available. Lots of options at his perusal. Some veterans even used psychological nuances to make their predictions. That wasn't Nick's style. Everything else, though, was an option. Preferred two levels of scrutiny, just for extra safety.

He closed his eyes. Held his fingers to his forehead, as if holding some invisible orb to his skull in order to concentrate his cerebral forces on the task before him. Lifted his other hand up and aimed it at the piece of paper, as if drawing an essence from it.

All bullshit, of course, but the theatrics played well with people.

"Your first lesson...AP Chem."
V7 peeps:
Nick Ogilvie
Ashlynn Martinek
Bill Winlock
Camille Bellegarde

V6 peeps:
Kiziah Saraki
Bradley Floyd
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Actually, she also needed to glance at the paper herself to be sure.

"Yep!"
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Nick scrunched his eyes up tight, and placed his fingers over his eye sockets. People liked that pretense, of not being able to see. But if you just covered your eyes with your palm, people assumed you were reading some glow in the dark message.

"Your last lesson before lunch...my, you are a cosmopolitan sort. AP World History."
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Nick Ogilvie
Ashlynn Martinek
Bill Winlock
Camille Bellegarde

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Kiziah Saraki
Bradley Floyd
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Well the question then became, did he like the cosmopolitan sort?

"Once more.. correct!"

Was she even remembering the right type of Cosmopolitan?
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Nick allowed himself a small smile, as if his success was in some way not guaranteed, as if he could be pleasantly surprised by his own telepathic abilities.

"Oooh. A creative way to end the day." That always went down well. Commentary on the subject at the end, rather than merely listing it out. Showed confidence. "So, who's your favourite artist?"

And then, after that....

She had made a big note. A common way to try and catch him out. Cheeky.
V7 peeps:
Nick Ogilvie
Ashlynn Martinek
Bill Winlock
Camille Bellegarde

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Kiziah Saraki
Bradley Floyd
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
"Why have a favorite?" A cryptic answer for a not-cryptic question.

Beryl felt- or maybe past-tense into present-tense continued to feel- a certain, inordinate, unknowable emotion that she belatedly registered as such. Restlessness. She was stir-crazy without knowing what the term even actually meant. It was a mite much for her, as in she felt the oddest of out-of-body experiences that led brain to meander from body and it was somewhat nauseating. It felt too real, and she rather wished for it to stop. It did, and once more she felt her usual sense of firm control, puppet limbs under her command once more. She didn't know for sure where her mind had gone, but she knew she almost rather liked that final destination, alien as it had been.

All this passed in a moment, and then Beryl gently felt her cheek with one finger to make sure she still existed.
Would have been more fun if he would have done that particular reality check on her behalf. With his choice as to how many fingers would be involved and where they would go. She made a note to make him the offer to lay hands upon herself in the most roundabout way possible in the future, and filed that note away into her random access memory.

"Hold on." Beryl's mind summoned from the usual sea of chaos a series of equations and states of being that combined equaled her protectively bent from the waist straight into the table, shielding her work while she scribbling onto the paper with an addendum, then hugging that addendum protectively to the intimate spot just under her chest. Paper crumpled, her arms tensed, she smiled vaguely, at herself because she wasn't entirely sure if anyone else was actually watching.

"What did I just write?"
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Nick normally hated these kinds of attempts to catch him out. Because, yes, more often than not, they did catch him out. And then he had to rely on his personality to save the day, or to pull a quick last-minute trick to pretend that this supposed failure of his was just another angle of misdirection. When you were clearly caught out, that actually made you seem more human, more infallible, helped refute the idea that you were relying on the obvious tricks such as plants.

Actually, Nick loved these attempts to catch him out. He was brilliant at recovering from them. Like a fucking high, y'know?

He had to glance down, at the image on his phone. He didn't like using this sort of "security" option. Felt too much like cheating. But he was good at using it. Good at pretending he was squinting in concentration rather than squinting to enhance his vision.

"My, I can't say that, Beryl. This is a family show!"
V7 peeps:
Nick Ogilvie
Ashlynn Martinek
Bill Winlock
Camille Bellegarde

V6 peeps:
Kiziah Saraki
Bradley Floyd
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Beryl had directed all five of her eyes (four eyes plus third eye) to harshly scrutinize Nick. Everyone else at the table was staring at her, though their existence was only periphery, as in literally only such. She was the only one who got to see every odd action Nick took, that seemingly didn't quite fit into the narrative of effortless clairvoyance. She, the only one taking note of phones astray. Did that make her the agent of his misdirection?

She relaxed the tight hug she'd had around the note. The graphite record of her spontaneous outburst of tempestuous emotions. In general, she really did need to relax! When her spine was this strung up it tended to portend a future slump (take note of the specific word) in her personal market.

"I had hoped you'd do, not say..." If there was a tonally vaguer way to chide it had yet to be scientifically discovered.

She had been sure it had been a fairly straightforward summons! But, well. Maybe... When Beryl had written down 'if you can read this feel free to cop a feel!' in all big fontface she supposed she'd left interpretation far too viable a choice, hadn't she..? It could always be that one could spiritually 'cop a feel' in some odd bastardization of the saying, such that their states of being would be more synchronized along similar orbital energies. Furthermore, misdirection aplenty remained. Who was to say, within this superposition of existence, where his hand would end up in the moment right after this one? Well, maybe not on her ass because

Beryl sat down in the scant space between Nick and his neighbor, with a gentle murmur of an 'excuse me' only sans most of the necessary phonetic sounds. A gentle and airy slur it was, as Beryl tucked her legs together tight and crumpled the note to a ball that the girl across the table found herself suddenly failing to catch. While everyone at the tables was distracted and eyes raised and all such states of being, Beryl pouted a bit with a neutral and stoic smile.

"That seemed too easy, didn't it?"
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