The Knack

Jac imagined the shape of a moth. He saw its wings, furry body and long antennae. The picture floated in his mind and then he thought of young kitchen maid who had flirted with him that morning and any chance of becoming the small insect vanished.

“What’s wrong now?” Tarac asked.

“I don’t know,” the young apprentice told his master. “I just can’t get it to work.” He had no intention of confessing the real problem for his current failing magic skills.

“Have you done as I have instructed? You need to not only picture the moth in your head, but also imagine becoming it.”

“I’m doing all that,” Jac said.

“Then you are letting your concentration slip. Without concentration even the greatest of mages will fail to light a simple candle.”

The old man was getting close to the real problem. Jac needed to divert him.

“It is so long since I have seen a moth. I’m finding it hard to keep hold of the image.”

Tarac leaned towards his apprentice. “Such a weak mind. I should make you stay awake all night watching for the creatures. Would that help?”

Jac searched for the right answer. He could feel the heat rising in his cheeks.

The wizard did decided not to wait. “Sometimes I wonder why I waste my time with you; so much potential and yet so little desire to succeed.” He whipped his head away and began stalking the small antechamber the two used as a classroom. “Ah, well, it is too early for punishments.” Tarac faced the young boy again. “Let me show you what a moth looks like. Maybe that will knock your mind into action.”

There was a small pop as the body of the wizard vanished. Where his head had been a large insect fluttered. It remained stationary for a moment as if getting its bearings, then it began to fly directly towards Jac.

As the creature came closer the young apprentice stepped back. He felt his left shoulder bumped against the old fireplace. The moth continued to advance. Jac imagined the wizard chuckling as he thought about landing on the boy’s nose.

With only a hand span between them Jac lost his nerve and tried to move out of the way. He reached behind with one hand, feeling for a stable purchase. Fingers grasped the cool metal of an old handle and Jac used it to stop himself losing his balance. A rasping sound came from the chimney as the lever moved and a vent opened.

Air rushed up the stack and the moth was caught by surprise. It tried to steady itself and failed. Jac watched as the small creature was pulled into the fireplace.

The boy held his breath and for a moment the room was quiet, then he heard a thump come from the chimney followed by a cry. With slow movements Jac bent until his face was level with the fireplace.

“Master, are you hurt?”

“Hurt!” came a muffled reply. “I’m not half as hurt as you’re going to be when I get out of here.”


3 September 2010
A woman was found dead in the chimney of her estranged lover’s house. It is believed she had got stuck whilst climbing down some three days earlier.

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