The Hat Trick “Bruce’s End”

“Please,” thought Bruce Elwood, concentrating harder than he ever had in his life. Through the hat’s goggles, he could only see the toe of his daughter’s shoe, and of course–being stuck in a hat–he couldn’t move. “Pick me up, Lia. Pick up the hat!”

“Father?” The view from the goggles moved until they focused on a familiar face. Long black bangs framed her blue eyes… blue like her mother’s…

Bruce’s excitement soared. “Lia,” he thought with furious concentration. “Lia, help me!”

“Daddy?” The girl’s brow furrowed and she squinted into the goggles. As a witch, she could hear him.

The din of the other souls rose, and Bruce fought to stay free of them. He clung to the memories of Lia, of their life… of his death… anything to keep him separate from the others!

Clinging to his individualism, he directed his thoughts towards his daughter, “Lia, you have to help me. You’re in danger! The captain is going to kill you.”

“What?” Lia’s frown deepened. “I don’t even know the captain. How could he–?”

“Listen!” Bruce thought, focusing all his energy on his story. It would be so easy to slip into the void…only Lia kept Bruce going. “We were friends, Henry and I, before you were born. I lent him money to buy his commission, move to the city, but he never paid me back. We were starving, Lia, remember? I had to start stealing again. We needed the money. I went to collect and…”

“The captain killed you?” Lia cried, eyes becoming round. “He owed you money?”

“He owes you, now.”

She blinked and shook her head. “But… what about all these people?” She pointed at the rows of bloodied patients in the med bay. “Did you do this?”

After death, it’s hard to care about the living’s fear of the eternal. Bruce hadn’t done this, had he? He just did what he had to in order to reach his daughter.

“Lia, that’s not important now. You have to get to safety.”

Lia stared into the hat’s goggles and her father’s soul, mouth hanging open in horror. “How could you? This… this is evil!”

“Lia,” Bruce fought to keep her attention and make her understand. “Lia, you have to get off this ship.”

Lia gripped the brim of the hat and magic burned beneath her hands. The tumult of the other souls increased. Bruce barely managed to hear what she said next.

Looking down the hat’s goggles, Lia growled, “You’re not my father.”

“Lia!” Bruce dissolved into the haze of souls. This was his final thought.

The gray mist faded. The white noise focused. I drank in the world through a pair of scratched goggles. I silenced the last murmur of the individual souls. Only semi-aware of their collective memories, I struggled to piece together the last few hours… days?

That crook’s daughter still held me by the brim.

“If you’re a witch,” I asked, “why haven’t you escaped?”

She started and looked down at me. So blank and naive… if I had eyes, I would have rolled them.

“What…? W-where’s my father?”

“Your father’s gone, sweetie,” I told her. “If only you’d realized that before trying to summon him from the dead and killed all these people.”

“W-what?”

“Oh, please! Don’t you realize this is all you fault? By creating me, you put everyone on this boat at risk. I didn’t want to hurt anyone, but your petty father couldn’t control himself when it was just him in the hat, and now just look at the carnage.”

“What are you? Where’s my father? He just told me the captain killed you–I mean him.”

The captain? That’s right. interesting.

Someone knocked on the infirmary door and Lia turned, her back to the open window. Between the wind and my fervent concentration, I was knocked free of her grasp and blew out and over the third deck, searching for my next host.

I landed with a thud in the sporting area. A wet nose, the fringe of a droopy ear and a panting tongue came into view of the goggles. Oh, great…

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