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American Urban Fantasy Adventure

Damien had done alright for himself. He toured his psychic show and most appearances sold out early. He had an entourage!

How many psychics do this well?

Of course, he wasn’t a real psychic. If real psychics exist, they eke a meagre living solving crimes for the police. They didn’t rule the stock market. Or win at the races. And they didn’t fill auditoriums with paying customers vying for attention. Not like Damien.

He figured 'real psychics' huddle in basements, fretting over traffic, weather, or pandemics.

A palm reader once told him loving another meant relinquishing some control he had over his life. After that he stopped going to fortune tellers.

His typical show, billed as an entertainment, started with a singer or comic warming the crowd. Damien would introduce himself and tell a few self-effacing jokes. Mid-way through his third joke, he would touch his forehead, and wince, as if touched by a strong image.

Sometimes he would ‘attempt’ to finish the joke. But overwhelmed by the information ‘spirits’ passed to him, he would stop. He would call out a name.

 “Is Charlie… or Chas… uhm, wait… Charles in the house?”

The identified person would cautiously raise his hand, as if fearing what news awaited.

Those called, had paid Damien’s assistant, Naomi, to be included. They provided the vital information she would pass to Damien before the show.

On stage, Damien would decipher the ‘revelations’ he received. After teasing the audience with ‘a close relative has a medical condition…’ he would announce that Charlie’s wife was pregnant. Or the man planned to propose marriage to his girlfriend that night. Feel good, fun stuff. Never tragic. 

But this morning, he awoke from a fitful sleep. Disjointed dreams featuring the Wizard of Oz, Morse code, tent cities and seagulls kept him thrashing. Images of his old neighborhood, Venice, California also appeared. Nothing made sense.

With the system he and Naomi set up, memorization of various facts was his biggest challenge. In twenty years doing his act, Damien had never received actual ‘messages’ from ‘beyond.’ His job had always been safe and predictable. He liked that.

All that day, random flashes of images intruded, even during conversation. He questioned his sanity.

The hotel auditorium began filling up. Naomi pointed out the shills.

While observing from back stage, he rubbed his temples.

Naomi said, “Are you okay, Dam?”

He nodded. What could he say? She reminded him about the flight to New Orleans, after Sunday’s show.

He excused himself. Naomi watched him and shook her head.

Damien pulled it together by curtain time. He applauded the warm-up act and presented his first two ‘visions.’ The audience loved the revelations. 

A disturbance at the back of the auditorium stopped the show. Late arrivals, drunken college kids, made a commotion.

Damien paused for them to settle.

He said, “Excuse the delay, ladies and gentlemen. I need complete silence to concentrate. So everyone can enjoy the show.” He nodded toward the late comers.

Images flashed before him causing Damien to stagger. He’d never felt this way.

As if in a trance, he said, “Dashiel. Are you in the audience?”

Naomi checked her list. No one named Dashiel. He’d gone off script. There was nothing she could do but hope Damien would handle this.

Damien repeated the name and a flurry of movement came from the college kids.

“Dashiel, are you there?”

One of the men stood. “I’m Dashiel. What’s up?”

“Thanks for coming tonight. I have a message from your sister. She…”

“I don’t have a sister.”

The crowd murmured. A friend grabbed his shoulder. “Dash, what about Dorothy?”

“Shut it, idiot…”

Damien continued, “Dorothy… Yes. Anyone named Dashiel, with a sister named Dorothy? She wants to…”

“I don’t have a sister!” Dashiel strode up the aisle and out. His friends straggled behind.

The crowd reacted with confusion.

Damien said, “Can’t win them all, folks. Not everyone wants personalized messages...”

The crowd laughed, applauded, and settled. Damien continued the show as planned.

After the curtain, Naomi rushed up to Damien.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know, Naomi. Have to roll with it sometimes.”

“That was pretty weird, though.” He shrugged. “Did you actually get a message?”

“Those psychics… What’re you gonna do?” He smiled at her.

She laughed. “Our system works, Dam. Stick with it. Follow the script.”

Damian spent another night wrestling with disturbing images streaming through his mind. Acres of canvas. Seaweed. Buskers.

He rose early, showered, dressed and drove down the coast in his rental car. Hoping to find answers, he needed to revisit Venice.

Ordinarily, the Pacific Coast Highway provided a beautiful drive. Today, the images welling from his sub-conscious made the trip challenging. He wanted what caused this brain seepage to stop.

Finding parking proved almost impossible. The old neighborhood had changed beyond recognition.

Navigating down blocks of sidewalks strewn with ramshackle tents and the detritus of mass homelessness, he finally came to the boardwalk. He couldn’t believe it.

Beyond the beach, the Pacific Ocean shone brightly. But the boardwalk, once an edgy bohemian enclave had become a nightmare of anarchy. The fabric of society had frayed. Damien thought, ‘Your tax dollars at work.

Homeless tents, lean-tos, and tarps covered a world famous tourist attraction. Human waste and trash littered what beach goers and skate boarders used to populate. Derelicts lay sleeping. Or gathered to share a smoke. Venice looked like a carnival that forgot how to pack up, or leave. Its temporary had become permanent.

After walking half a mile, he saw the store front, the arcade where he started. Damien leaned against a palm and sussed out who called the shots. One guy didn’t look cleaner than anyone else, but he kept going inside. He seemed to be sending guys on errands. Not many women around.

Damien strolled to the entrance.

The maestro stepped up. “You want something?”

“Oh, hi… I used to live here. Looking for Ozzie. He around?”

“No, man. Ozzie’s long gone. How’d you know him?”

“Way back. Just a kid. Taught me the ropes, everything.”

“Like what?”

“You know, made me a dunk tank Bozo. Told me to be mean, but nothing vulgar. Didn’t want to offend the ladies. I got good at funny insults.”

The guy gave him a once over, twice.

“Oh, I’m Damien. Did you know him?”

“Ozzie was amazing.” He pointed to the building. “He gave this to me. Treated me like his son.” He reached out. “I’m Starch.”

They bumped fists. Starch led Damien inside. Though shabbier than before, he recognized it. It look like no one had cleaned the place since Damien left. A large pile of rags, or laundry, lay in one corner. Tools and scaffolding covered the stage.

“Wow, home again.” Damien continued. “Ozzie was the best bally ever. Never saw him ‘blow a tip.’ He’d do his spiel and fill the house.” Damien imitated Ozzie’s ominous monotone, “‘Come see the fy-er ea-ter…’ He got ‘em every time.”

“Yeah, he could spot a clem way off.”

“I loved looking out from the ballyhoo. Everyone gawking. Like a bunch of baby birds begging the next worm.”

“Some said he was a Chester, but I never saw it. Had to watch that sword glommer though.” They nodded to each other.

The pair of striped stockings peeking from the pile of laundry moved slightly.

Before Starch could stop him, Damien reached into the mound of clothing and dragged a young woman into the light. Jarred from sleep, she struggled to focus. Starch moved protectively. She looked to be twenty, or so. Her apparent innocence, belied her surroundings.

Damien backed off. “Are you Dorothy?”

Yawning, she nodded. “Do I know you?”

“I met your brother. Is there anything I can…?”

“I don’t have a brother.” Damien stopped cold.

Starch stepped forward. “I’m the only family she’s got.” He pulled her close. They watched Damien. Her eyes searched, but her meaning remained obscure. 

“You take care of her, Starch. Sorry to bother you… I have places to go. See you ‘round.”

They let him leave without further comment.

Damien drove back to Malibu. Those images were now a constant. Should he see a doctor? Need meds?

Naomi met him in the lobby. “Where have you been?”

“I had an errand…”

“You couldn’t call?”

“You’re right. Won’t happen again. Need to finish my prep. Whatcha got?”

“Don’t wander off after the matinee tomorrow. We’re boarding at LAX. Due in New Orleans.”

She passed him the shill list and watched him catch the elevator.

That night’s show went as planned and with no detours from the script. The crowd loved it.

Images kept streaming through Damien’s brain. But the drama over the two siblings had passed.

~

Sunday morning, in the cafe, Damien glanced from his paper to see Dashiel staring. One of his friends stood by him.

“May I help you?” He didn’t need this. The images had tapered off.

“I’m Dashiel. Remember? This is Mike. You’re the psychic, right?”

“That’s my act. Nothing more than entertainment.”

“I want my money back. I wasn’t entertained the other night.”

Damien cocked his head. “You should’ve stuck around for the fireworks. Take it up with my business manager…” He returned to his paper.

Dashiel stepped forward. “What do you know about my sister?”

“You don’t have a sister…”

“But I do. You’re the first word I’ve had in three years.”

Damien held his gaze on the opinion page. ‘Why is this happening?

“Obviously a case of mistaken identity. I can’t help you. Go to the police.”

“But you have to. I can’t sleep since that night. You know something. Why won’t you help me?”

“I don’t know if you remember, but I tried to. You’re too late. I have a show and a plane to catch. There’s no time.”

“Tell me. Give me something… Please…”

“She’s in Venice.” Damien bit his tongue.

“But where? How can I find her in that rat trap?”

“Look kid, you’re over your head.”

“How much you want? I’ll pay you…”

“You don’t have…” An image flashed. He remembered her eyes. Damien sighed. “Tell you what, I need to be at LAX. You drive me. We pass by Venice en route. See what we scare up.”

The kid practically hugged Damien.

“But don’t waste my time. We leave after the show. Right?” He nodded. “And bring Mike. There’s no parking. He can drive the roundabout while we check it out.”

Mike nodded.

“And remember, no guarantees.”

Both kids said, “Got it.”

Naomi found him in his room. She wanted to review the shill list. He said he’d meet her after, at LAX. Errand to run. Would she bring his luggage?

“You’re kidding.”

“It’s important, Naomi. I’ve got a ride. I won’t be late.”

“What’s up, Dam? The truth.”

“I can’t explain it. You’ll think I’m crazy.”

“That’s a given. What’s so damned urgent?”

“Have to trust me. I’ll explain on the plane.”

Naomi couldn’t believe his games. She let it go.

“Here’s the shill list. Don’t screw with me, Damien.” She walked away.

~

The show went as planned. No hitches. The crowd loved it. Damien rushed off stage and the kids met him in the lobby. Mike drove.

Traffic was light.

As anticipated, parking in Venice didn’t exist. Mike dropped them at the Windward Roundabout. Dashiel stepped out and stood shocked.

“Welcome to the third world, kid. Let’s go.” Damien started toward Ocean Front Walk.

“What happened?”

“My guess is, you don’t want to know.”

Dashiel pulled at Damien’s tux. “You won’t fit in, dressed like that.”

“Don’t want to. I belonged before. But it changed. And so did I. Keep moving. It’ll be fine.”

They made their way through the maze of tents and makeshift shelters. People stared.

Damien said, “Don’t make eye contact. And whatever you do, don’t touch anyone or anything.”

In a few blocks, they approached Starch’s storefront. They watched for him but he didn’t show his face. Damien led, picking their way to the doorway.

On entering, a scruffy, tattooed man approached them.

Damien asked, “Where’s Starch?”

Tattoo said, “Out. You a cop?”

“No…”

“You look like a cop.”

“In a tux?”

“Maybe. Going to a cop wedding?”

Damien lost patience. “Who’s in charge?”

“I am…”

“That’s funny. Eight guys out there, each said they were.”

Tattoo ran out.

Damien nodded to Dashiel.

“Dot!”

After a moment they heard a muffled, “Dash?”

“Dot?”

She poked her head out from the rag pile. “Hash?”

In unison, “S.O.S!”

They both burst into laughter at their childhood game. She climbed from the laundry and ran to his embrace.

Damien said, “We should go.”

Dorothy said, “Wait!”

She returned to the pile of clothing and rummaged. She pulled out a worn teddy bear and hugged it.

“I hope you’re flush, Binky, ‘cause I’m about tapped.”

Dashiel said, “You still have Binky?”

“It’s all I have.” She held the toy up. “This is my family.”

“Time we bailed. Got a plane to catch.”

They headed to the exit just as Tattoo came in. “What’s up?”

Damien palmed a hundred dollar bill to him. “BC man. Be cool.” Tattoo held it to the light. The siblings left while Damien distracted Tattoo. “We’re borrowing Dorothy for a while. Please accept this for your trouble.”

Tattoo looked at Damien. “No cop ever slipped me one of these. You’re cool. I’m cool.”

“Coolio. See ya.” Damien left.

He made his way back to the circle and hoped Dashiel and Dorothy would beat him there. About half way back, he spotted them. Dashiel kept glancing back. Damien waved them on. They got to the circle. Mike pulled up just as Damien reached the curb. They piled in and slammed the doors. Mike pulled out.

“Go! Go! Go!”

“Where? I don’t know the way.”

Damien directed Mike to Venice Boulevard. They turned on Lincoln toward LAX.

“This will get us to the airport. Drive carefully please.”

Giggling like kids, Dorothy and Dashiel sat in the back. Whatever had caused their rift proved insignificant.

Damien directed Mike to his terminal. He pulled over and Damien got out.

Everyone called out good-byes. Damien rushed into the terminal. He reached the gate as they announced last call.

Naomi spotted him coming down the aisle and waved. He caught her glare, smiled, and dropped into his seat.

“Let me clear my head. I’ll tell you everything.”

~

Dozing after take-off, he dreamed of an ancient cemetery headstone. Moss obscured the name. Mardi Gras beads draped over a cornet’s silver mouth piece.

When he awoke, Naomi said, “You were humming. You have a nice voice. Maybe you missed your calling.”

Damien told her his dream and about Dorothy’s rescue.

“Oh, no! You’ve become a real psychic. That’ll ruin everything.”

He touched her hand. “Stick with me, Naomi. Living off-script may be an opportunity. Bigger than we can imagine.”

She thought for a moment, and then smiling, she lay her head on his shoulder. He pulled her close. 

January 08, 2022 00:03

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11 comments

Alyssa Tsang
03:51 Jan 14, 2022

I love the concept and how well the threads are tied together gradually. You get some good "ah-hah!" moments as you uncover the next step. Well done!

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John K Adams
06:07 Jan 14, 2022

Thank you very much.

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21:10 Jan 13, 2022

Love it!!

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John K Adams
21:17 Jan 13, 2022

Thank you, Vivian. I aim to please.

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Elizabeth Miller
16:30 Jan 13, 2022

Nice title, and I really enjoyed the 'visit back' so we could see where he came from. Good imagery too!

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John K Adams
17:24 Jan 13, 2022

Thank you so much. I was concerned that it got too unwieldy and spun out of control. But I guess that is what you want your readers to worry about, as long as you pull it together by the end.

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Jeanette Harris
02:17 Jan 10, 2022

I like how entertained the audience

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John K Adams
03:26 Jan 10, 2022

Thanks for reading and commenting. Glad you liked it.

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Pixeltoast ㅤ
13:58 Jan 12, 2022

I liked this story. It had an interesting arch and Damien felt like a real person. Good Work keep it up!

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John K Adams
14:53 Jan 12, 2022

Thanks for reading and commenting, Pix. I look forward to reading your stories.

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Pixeltoast ㅤ
17:34 Jan 12, 2022

Well I got my first one up. It's not the best, but I plan on improving my writing over time.

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