Horatio gripped the wooden handle of the knife in his hand, sweat beading on his forehead. With one deft movement, he thrust the blade toward Agador. The sharp point shot through the small man’s hair, just missing the top of his scalp by a fraction of a millimeter, and plunged into the wooden board behind him.
The crowd cheered.
With eyes shut, Horatio released a small sigh of relief and quickly threw the remainder of the small knives at Agador’s bound body. One, two, three, four… Each blade met the flimsy board with a satisfying THWACK!, and formed a neat frame around the captive who remained motionless and silent, careful not to breathe too heavily so as not to throw off the rhythm.
Horatio only opened his eyes when the announcer’s weighty voice boomed through the megaphone. “La-dies and gen-tlemen! The great — the amazing — the fantastic Horatio! — the most daring knife thrower in all the world!” The audience blurred, all the faces blending with the lights into one mass of color and static. To the side of the stage, Agador was untied, and with a flourish, he bounded forward, arms raised triumphantly to the air as indication that he had escaped unscathed. The audience erupted into applause and whoops of laughter. Horatio gave one modest bow and retreated from the stage.
Back in the comfort of his small room, he poured a glass of bourbon, settled into his armchair, and smoothed his inky mustache. The din outside had begun to fade into the black as spectators stumbled home, eyes wide and sparkling with the magic of the night, fists clutching leftover bags of popcorn and fairy floss. As the crowds faded and the cicadas hummed in the trees, Horatio pulled out a small, metal frame from the desk drawer. With his eyes closed, he ran his fingers over the cool filigree that surrounded her face.
He didn’t want to look at her lips curled into that sweet smile, because he could feel her eyes burn through him. It had been two months since she left, the wheels of the wagon car rolling in rhythm as he sharpened each knife over and over until the night and the road fell quiet. He didn’t blame her for leaving. After all, he was cursed. Continue reading