The card with the circle calls out to you. You reach out and pick up the card; it’s made of thick, heavy cardboard. Your fingers have barely closed around it when you feel an odd sensation, as if your gut was being pulled out of you. Your vision wavers; everything goes dark.
When you open your eyes again, you’re not backstage any more. You’re in a familiar-looking tunnel, back underground, although you’re not quite sure precisely where. Somehow the card teleported you here. You look down at your hand, but the card has disappeared. A shiver runs down your spine: this is real magic you’re messing with, not some hat trick.
“Well, what you waiting for?” a voice asks.
You turn around, your stomach sinking. Standing behind you is Mark, looking impatient. You’ve been here before, you realise. This can’t be happening. This is not real. Your heart is pounding in your chest along to the words. Not real. Not real. Not real. You glance behind you, and see the sky outside. You don’t want to go back outside again.
Back outside? You frown. What were you thinking? You haven’t been outside. Or have you? Maybe you dreamed about it; the images slip through your mind, fragmented, hazy. The adrenaline must be messing with your mind; it’s physically impossible for you to have teleported somewhere.
You take several steadying breaths, and try to shake off your concerns. You can’t be going crazy now, making up all sorts of stories about the theatre, not when you haven’t even been there yet.
“Go on then,” Mark says, his voice heavy with gloating.
He doesn’t think you’ll do it. He thinks you’re a coward, but then again all the kids in Upper Hall do.
You look at Mark, at his big, beefy neck, and wish you were slightly less scrawny. It isn’t fair that things have been reduced to this.
He crosses his arms. “Well? Are you going to explore the theatre, or not?”
What do you do?