“I’ll cut you in half,” Todd said. “It’ll be fun.”
Mariel doubted that. She doubted nearly everything these days. Which could get you into trouble. Big trouble. The world was run on beliefs. Not surface beliefs, like jumping off a cliff and thinking you can fly, but underneath beliefs. The stuff we believe despite everything we tell ourselves.
Todd had the saw in his hand, and he was looking greedy. He needed miracles — needed to swallow them like candy. He’d always been like that. A miracle-eater.
“Lie down on the table,” Todd said, “and close your eyes and dream it true.”
“I don’t want to,” Mariel said. “I don’t want to play this game anymore.”
The long blade of the saw wobbled in the air and made a funny cartoon sound effect: wah wah wah wong. Todd got angry.
“I’ll send you to the dungeon,” he said.
Mariel stood half-hidden behind the curtain. She straightened her tiara. It was all pretend, of course, these games they played. But the dungeon was real. Perhaps because she believed it to be. It was the most real thing in the world. Non-existence itself.
“I’m giving you ten seconds,” Todd said, “to get on that table. Not ten magical seconds, where time stretches like taffy, but ten real seconds, like when those boxers are down and receiving the final count.”
“You don’t scare me, magic man,” Mariel said.
She lied. Todd terrified her. But in a good way. Like a walking horror movie of unexpected twists and turns. He had a big gooey power center in his mind, and when it revved up, it let loose in all directions — spit flying from between his teeth, sweat caking his deodorant — a wall of energy like a mean person’s force field extending in all directions around him, three feet thick!
“The table, Mariel,” he said. “I’m on six!”
The force field had arms, too, and could reach out and pull you in a nervous tractor bean right in the direction he wanted. Mariel gripped the curtain in her fists, but the pull was taking her legs right from under her. If she didn’t let go soon, she’d be suspended parallel to the floor.