The next evening Jonathan was eager to return to the Theatre. Upon finishing his work, he immediately bolted to the building without stopping home. He opted to not inform his mother about the pass and knew she would be working her usual long hours.
At the Theatre, Jonathan could see another large crowd of people waiting in line for the door. They looked at him funny when they saw him join among them, obvious his attire was nothing in comparison to theirs. He didn’t care though. Unlike them, he had an All- Access Pass and a guaranteed front row seat.
When he reached the door, the ticket man gave him the same questioning look. Jonathan proudly presented him the pass which still made the man stare at the boy with a suspicious expression for having it. However, he eventually let Jonathan through, who was then escorted by another gentleman.
The man led him through the main lobby he recognized from the previous evening. The other guests inside were talking amongst themselves while admiring the interior decorations; a few gave snobbish glares at him. Jonathan was taken through a set of large double doors leading to the main Theatre seating.
The room appeared much grander than where he was in the attic above. On the ground, he could see just how extraordinarily high it really was for the ceiling. He wasn’t able to tell then, but now he could clearly note the rows of seating elevating the further back they stretched.
The stage was massive as ever and almost intimidating up close, but it was beautiful nonetheless. To the far right next to the stage, Jonathan saw the musicians, mumbling among themselves and tuning their instruments. The conductor was an elderly man standing upon a perch beaming instructions to a few of the players.
Jonathan was led to a seat in the center of the rows. He thanked the man and proceeded to sink into the seat. It was surprisingly comfortable with a soft cushion. He smiled to himself still not believing where he was.
After several long minutes, everyone eventually had found their own seats. Soon after, the orchestra began to play, signaling the beginning of the show. Occam Cobb emerged from the backstage smiling and then bowing. For a moment, his eyes caught Jonathan’s and he rendered a slight nod in his direction.
From then, the show went on as planned with Jonathan breathlessly watching all the performances conducted. After the show, Jonathan returned to the backstage to meet Occam. The magician was there and instructed a new trick for him to learn as promised. This continued throughout the week with Jonathan practicing hard on his newly learned tricks when he could.
He returned every evening to watch the show and later perform the trick he was taught in front of the magician to receive any necessary critique. One evening after Jonathan’s time with Occam had expired, he lingered behind. He hadn’t forgotten about the strange event he had witnessed the first night. Furthermore, he was too afraid to question the magician about it, fearing he might anger him.
Instead, Jonathan wanted to witness the magician conduct the act in its entirety. After viewing many of his shows, he began to suspect the ‘Occam Transporter’ was tied to the event. He remembered the series of knocks Occam did and realized that he did so every time for that particular performance, and it was always done in the same manner. Jonathan just needed to see it one time to confirm his theory.
Hiding behind one of the clothing racks, he peered into the room. Inside, the man was simply reading the newspaper. An hour or two went by and Jonathan’s legs began to feel a sharp cramp of pain from standing so long, but he ignored the pain; he needed to see this. Finally, Occam checked his pocket watch.
Afterwards, he took up his dress jacket, pulling it on, ensuring it was properly fitted. From there, he approached the mirror. He issued two quick knocks near the top followed by a delayed one in the middle. Next, he issued two final knocks slightly lower below the first two.
Jonathan watched in bewilderment as the man took a step into the mirror until his entire body had disappeared. The mirror rippled momentarily before settling into its solid stance like before. He couldn’t believe it, he was right. The knocks were the same; it was how he was able to transport himself on the stage.
He walked up to the mirror, seeing his reflection stare back in amazement. A light cool breeze met with his face. Once again, he felt a chill fall down his spine upon feeling the gentle brushing across his skin. It felt stronger than before as if several more fingers were eerily caressing his skin in long strokes. He shivered out of impulse, attempting to brush the feelings away.
He bit his lip again, realizing his curiosity had fixated its roots unfathomably in him; he needed to know what was behind it. Raising a shaking hand, he began to mimic the knocks of the magician. Upon issuing the final knock, he could tell the mirror had changed; it was no longer just a mirror.
He held up his hand to the surface slowly edging towards it. He could feel the draft against his hand, the feeling of many more ghostly fingers brushing against it. When his hand finally met with the surface, it felt like it was being submerged into an icy pool of water. The mirror rippled across, distorting his reflection. This was it, he thought. He closed his eyes and stepped forward, completely submerging inside.
Jonathan stumbled in, reaching the other side of the would-be door. At first glance, he thought he had forgotten to open his eyes, but realized that he had done so after blinking a few times. The world around, everything, was completely black. His eyes could not distinguish if the ground existed or if he was floating in an ocean of nothingness; it all seemed like one.
The same waft from before streamed around him endlessly. Its invisible fingers now evolved from caressing his skin to tapping as if someone or something was trying to gain his attention. With each tap, he spun around, his heart colliding against his chest expecting to meet the face of his would–be tormentor only to be met by the perpetual void around.
The taps grew in frequency, touching him all over. The more they did, the more they felt like hands – hands that were brushing, caressing, and grabbing. He couldn’t help but jolt in fear to every direction he felt. Each sensation felt new, never like the other only instilling more terror. His eyes scanned in horror at every angle, but darkness was all he could see. At moments, it felt like his eyes could perceive a shape or figure before him, but when he blinked it mended back to the same veil of black.
It wasn’t just the hands that were tormenting him, it was the obscuring darkness too. He could feel his stomach churn feeling nauseous as if the world around was spinning not him. Even his head felt light. He needed to get out; he couldn’t bear this world any longer. He couldn’t control his breathing. Was the area getting smaller? Was it even as big as he thought it was? Maybe it was all just a room, a small room and he was trapped inside.
He reached around, hoping to feel the entrance for the mirror, but all he could feel was empty air. His heart’s tempo was now an echoing crash against his chest, beating in his ears like a ceremonious drum. He flung his arms around helplessly hoping to feel for anything. Without warning, he felt something forcefully grab his hand, yanking him forward before harshly letting him go. He immediately shrilled out in horror falling back and shutting his eyes.
Tears managed to escape through his eyelids.
“I want to go home. I want to go home,” he repeatedly whispered to himself, rocking softly.
Hesitantly, he slowly opened his eyes ready to gauze upon whatever horror had grabbed him. Yet, his eyes once again only met with the teasing black obscurity. He wanted to believe nothing was there, but his senses had their own agenda, filling his mind with horrid anomalies in the abyss before him. There’s nothing there. There’s nothing there, he thought to himself. He needed to believe it.
Jonathan didn’t know what to do. What was going to happen to him now? Was he going to die here, and if he did, no one, not even his mother would know what had happened to him or even where to find him. A few more tears began to stream from his eyes at the realization of the inevitable hopelessness.
Upon lifting his hand to rub them, he noticed a faint light across it. A light glow emanated from his hand. It looked as though his fingers were covered in ink or paint of some kind. Inspecting the ground, he realized the origin of the strange substance derived from what appeared to be a footprint.
It puzzled him because he hadn’t noticed it before, perhaps his eyes hadn’t adjusted yet. Looking even closer, he realized there were more footprints in a trail heading away from his location. It was Occam Cobb, it had to be from him, he thought. A feeling of relief came to him, eager to find the magician.
At this point, he didn’t care if the man would be angry with him, he just wanted to get out of this place. He made his way forward, following the footprints. They curved in odd directions, but continued to stretch onward. It felt like hours had passed as he followed them. By now, Jonathan finally realized that the tormenting hands had ceased. He wasn’t sure why they had or when exactly their foreign touches had stopped.
Maybe it had something to do with the substance he accidentally touched. Did the stuff somehow keep them at bay? It felt like more time had elapsed and Jonathan was beginning to feel impatient, anxious to get free. The more he pressed on, the more he believed he would catch a glimpse of Occam ahead but he never did.
While walking, Jonathan couldn’t shake the feeling that he wasn’t alone anymore. It felt like something was watching him from the shadows, something with a malicious intent. He didn’t know why, but it felt as if whatever was watching him wanted to inflict harm upon him. A few times he couldn’t help but turn his head at what he thought were very faint whispers. They were so faint he couldn’t decipher them. Although, he thought he caught one word, ‘Stay.’
He was beginning to feel hopeless again until something ahead caught his eyes. He could barely make out the silhouette of a figure in the distance. It took a minute for his mind to register; it was Occam.
Without thinking, he called out, hoping to attract his attention, “Mr. Cobb! Mr. Cobb wait! It’s me, Jonathan!”
However, he already began to disappear. Tears started pouring out of his eyes at the realization that he was crossing back over to the other world, the world he knew; he would be trapped for sure. He attempted to race to the man’s location, still yelling. In response to hearing the boy’s voice though, Jonathan heard a collection of frightening roars.
He could feel their vibrations against his skin. All around him, he could hear the harsh pounding of feet as if a stampede of large beasts were sprinting towards him.
Whatever dwelled in this darkness, it was coming for him. He was now at a full sprint, focusing his eyes on the last location he saw Occam. The things behind him were closing in on him quickly. Their roars echoing all around. Below him, Jonathan’s eyes watched in horror as the glowing footprints started to fade before him.
He could start to feel the tips of fingers touching his face again now accompanied by the whispers. The whispers grew louder amplifying into deafening roars, all blaring the same single word, “STAY!”
Hot tears continued to fall from Jonathan’s face, his lungs were burning profusely. He couldn’t stop now though. He knew the things were right behind him, ready to do God knows what to him. His legs began to cramp from exhaustion, but he ignored the pain with all his willpower until he slammed into what felt like a wall.
A sharp pain spread across his nose and his lips. His head was throbbing immensely. Despite this, he stumbled quickly to his feet, feeling across the would-be wall. Behind him, he could hear the pounding of feet and roaring growing closer. His head was full of the voices now screaming the word at him. The feeling of hands had escalated to painful grabs; they were squeezing him tightly, holding him back for the beings behind him.
He screamed uncontrollably while banging against the wall to be let out, but was given no response. He could feel the invisible hands tug at his shirt now pulling him back practically dragging him with great force. He could feel his body begin to lose balance. When he glanced back, he could barely distinguish a large mass of black figures, blacker than even the world around darting towards him. How could something be darker than this abyss? Suddenly, he felt a hand grab his arm and promptly jerk him forward through the wall onto the other side.