This Only Works Once

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The cardboard sign read “Haunted House” in black magic marker with an arrow pointing down the street. It was nearing 10 o’clock; our bags sagged from so much free candy and our limbs were sore. A haunted house adventure sounded like a perfect ending to Halloween. We mustered the strength to hurry and resisted temptations to continue begging houses for candy.

Orange and purple lights strung along its walls shone through the artificial fog belching from concealed machines. Spooky sounds and eerie music emanated from the open door; strobe lights illuminated the entrance.

A hideous scarecrow sat in a porch swing, a bowl of candy in its lap with a sign pinned to it reading, “Enter at your own risk.” We looted the scarecrow’s candy before heading inside.

The walls were draped in black cloth to hide whatever dividers the owners used to guide guests through their homemade maze. The strobe made the corridor dreamlike and hazy, though perhaps it was the lateness of hour or the overwhelming smell of fresh paint.

We passed hideous reenactments, rubber-masked monstrosities, and dummies that may or may not have moved as we traversed the maze until we happened upon a narrow staircase. Fog curled up the steps. Something somewhere banged loudly and we yelped and giggled and whispered to one another.

We held hands as we descended.

The maze continued into the unfinished, unheated cellar. Mist, dim lighting and more black cloth obscured the standard fare basement junk while creepier items like rusting tools and disused dolls were left out to Halloweenify the atmosphere.

The maze stopped at an area clear of junk. A red curtain was hung before a stage made from plywood spray painted black. A note in orange paint stated, “Sit down for a trick; go up for a treat.” Before the stage sat metal folding chairs; behind it was the staircase going upstairs.

The moment we sat, the curtain was drawn back by a bearded man dressed less like a magician and more like villain from a silent film. He led out a blonde woman wearing the hat, bustier and stockings of a burlesque dancer. With a bow, they began.

The show consisted of card tricks, interlocking rings, and disappearing acts before the magician announced that he and his beautiful assistant would begin their finale.

“This only works once.”

From his sleeve, the magician produced a black balloon not unlike the sort found anywhere party supplies are sold. He waved his hands, whispered magical gibberish, put it to his lips, and blew.

We could hear the sound of air stretching rubber, but the black balloon remained limp. The assistant gave a rapturous laugh, drawing our attention to her and, subsequently, her chest. Once a modest handful, pushed and pressed together by the top, swelled into a mammoth pair threatening to delve into the realm of immodesty.

Feigning frustration at the balloon’s malfunction, the magician cast it aside and blew into another withdrawn from his sleeve. The air pressure once more was directed to his lovely assistant. She giggled madly as the curvature of her hips and thighs grew to exaggerated proportions, tearing her garter belt. She turned to give us a glimpse of her massive backside, mooning us in the process for she knew not that it outgrew her ruffled black skirt and pulled a vanishing act on her panties.

A third balloon made his assistant’s belly bulge out from beneath her bustier, snapping open its fasteners. The assistant’s amusement at her predicament was unchanged as she explored the shelf of her buttocks and the dome of her stomach.

The magician’s face was purple from effort when the third balloon finally inflated. A previously hidden white Jolly Roger appeared on its surface.

As the balloon billowed, so did the gorgeous assistant. Her stockings tore. All that protected her modesty was the final snap of her bustier. The stage creaked under her weight.

The magician handed us two umbrellas from behind his back. When we opened them, he withdrew a pin from his hat and menaced his assistant; she was unfazed. When he put the tip of the pin to the balloon, we shielded ourselves.

After the loud sound and accompanying splash, we peeked out from behind our umbrellas to find the red curtain drawn. In confused elation, we went upstairs to find caramel apples awaited us.

On our way home, I found something chewy in my apple. It was a black balloon. When I blew into it…

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