“The Greatest Trick of All” by Maxwell Gold 

The relationship never started out this way, but sometimes people are like frogs in a pot of boiling water, never realizing the end is nigh until it’s too late, and I thought he was different. I thought everything could be different. Boy, was I wrong. My life became nothing but a useless trick, covered under hazy cinematics of a corpulent bloated thing skulking through the night, dressed in sinister vagaries like a cheap one-night stand.

My face pressed into the wall of the glass jar looking out at a landscape of old furniture and house plants, reduced to nothing but a shell of my former self living like some specimen, less than human. Yes, I was trapped inside a mason jar, and that part still threw me for a loop every time. Was this death? If it was, he lied. I’d say he’s definitely worse than death.

I think there was time before the Jars and the Others. It was  so sudden and the next thing I remembered, I woke up in this glass coffin where a pair of globular amber orbs prodded me with their milky visions, invading my spirit.

My captor’s name was Drew and come to think of it, I didn’t know much else apart from my mysterious, and primal attraction to him; despite my protestations towards his horrible taste in clothing, which covered a pallid skinny body layered by some off-brand deodorant mixed with an unnatural scent as if he bathed in rubbing alcohol.

I knew there was something dangerous about Drew, but I couldn’t stop myself. Reason was powerless against him, and it was as if I were flying towards some unknown region of space where a dying star collapsed into a deep black hole, my body never to be seen again. Drew was like a black hole, unexplainable and unavoidable.

“It’s better to be prepared, or else you’ll be taken by surprise when his fingers coil around your neck. I’ve been here for some time. He’s coming for me next. When he’s done with me, you’ll be next,” I said, looking out at the endless jars lining the walls of our apartment.

I didn’t have anyone else to talk to since Drew decided my usefulness had run out, except for the Others, those like me. Tiny bottles of entropy to feed his thirst, waiting as he trudged closer preparing to pull us inside and grow fatter, surging with more infinite mass.

The Others were motionless.

Family, friends, most people never believed me when I told them how awful Drew was and from what I’m able to recall, that’s when the world began to grow darker. Drew was the kindest, sweetest, and ‘the best thing for me’ my family bleated through walls of pragmatic empathy while ‘we’ve never seen you so happy’ leaked seeped from behind the teeth of friends who never saw the real demon who held me captive between his fingers.

No one wondered, worried, or felt the slightest bemusement after I disappeared, only that Drew knew best; he would take care of everything.

More jars showed up in the mail as I woke up the first day, the size of a piece of candy, while Drew fielded calls from my family and friends, fake tears and phantom love dripping from his lips, “Thank you, I know. I miss him every day.”

Lying bastard.

Hope began to wither and die as I grew into a routine as something less than human, something that both hated and needed him.

I suppose Drew really would take care of everything.

He wanted it that way, after all. Thrusting himself into my reality, twisting and contorting it as if I were merely a piece of clay to be molded, manipulated for his pleasure, was probably his plan the entire time.

“Was I rambling again?” Looking outwards towards the Others, I waited as if they would respond, but there wasn’t really anyone else to talk to in here. Sometimes being trapped in a jar warped my sense of what was or what wasn’t. The Others helped pass the time.

 Staring at the faces beyond the glass wall, my eyes grew heavy,

“Physicists have speculated about the true fate of what might happen if someone were to fall into a black hole. Horrible oblivion? Twisted inside out or nothing? There’s a theory that falling through a black hole, assuming someone is there to see the other person fall, that while they might see my death; the theory suggests my body would still exist on the other side unharmed. The paradox is where would the information linked to either my destroyed body or the one living a normal life go? No one was there to see me live or die, except Drew.”

I’m not a physicist, but that’s how he made me feel, trapped in a place without any understanding, like cosmic Stockholm Syndrome.

“I don’t know how the rest of you didn’t see it. I mean, I didn’t. I wish I did before it was too late. I fell for him, for it so easily and it was as if I never saw him coming, it, like anything really matters.” sighing a bit, I noticed the Others were still listening on the other side of their glass prisons, possibly interested, despite not having much choice in the whole affair.

I don’t know that I’d consider Drew human anyways; more like a conglomerated fleshy mess of pus, stars, and light, I think. It’s easier not to think about it,”

I don’t know where thoughts began, or my words ended at this point as I saw shelves covered in metallic books and stone faces jutting from the walls of his apartment. Our apartment? It started as ours like most things, but slowly, strangely they drifted apart falling into vague categories of I know better, trust me, or don’t worry yourself about it. Disgusting little nothings, he’d put inside a tiny jar sealed away from everything.


I stopped, chuckling a bit, “You’re all in for a treat though because I’m getting out of here.”

I cracked the code and figured out how to escape this world. The top of the jar was heavy, but I’d seen him open them so many times. This was like riding a bike, a big, mutant bike.

Sliding down the massive glass cylinder, I suddenly found myself crawling, slowly along the bottom of the world, attempting to gain my bearings. I didn’t have much time, and if I didn’t act fast, I’d end up a stain between boot and blood underneath the rubber of some off-brand heel.

Shit. He’ll be back soon.

A low rumble erupted from the other side of the rickety doorframe, glass jars shivering, potted plants and collections of useless junk trembling on wooden shelves.

“I need to get out, but where,” the tremors of footsteps rippled through my spine, “where would I go? Who’d believe me? Probably just be another victim,” the Others watched me with wholesome curiosity as I fumbled somewhere on the shelf, now.

“He’s getting closer, I know it. What are you all waiting for? Can’t you smell him? Can’t you taste the scent of leather and rust? Jesus, it’s only a matter of time before your jars are shattered, chewed up, spat back out into his palm or worse! He says he’ll take care of you, love you, but it never ends that way.

Trapped in those glass jars the Others were helpless; placated by this abysmal reality as pheromones dressed in cheap denim descended on my neurons, seducing my fight or flight instincts, but I wouldn’t have it, and I wouldn’t let him win again.

 Unsettling aromas, stale cologne, day old laundry detergent lingering, and oxidized nightmares caused goosebumps to dot my body. No one would believe me, even if I escaped. Living in his world destined, no, designed for slaughter and self-destruction, no one knew any better as we all sped faster than light, past the pillars of metal and lamps of blood beyond that shitty apartment.

“Is this really how it’s supposed to end? Predestined and doomed, waiting inside tiny bottles of entropy for the fat thing’s mass?”

The doors moaned, I reached the edge of the shelf, “I made it!”, the vastness below me waned into shadow. The rest of the Others creeped back into the safety of their respective jars, trembled under the static of his looming presence.

 I didn’t understand my role in this relationship, at least not until it was too late. Maybe that was how he wanted it.

Or maybe it was the only way to satisfy his hunger. Funny, considering I never saw the man eat or drink anything, Still, his viral thirsts were insatiable, collecting as much mass as possible to the point of a grotesque infinity, like a dense neutron star.

“Shit,” I said, “that’s a long way down,” Staring over the edge, my face peered into the darkness of the abysm below, the door creaked again.

“Here goes nothing,” my little lunged exhaled.

An inch was all I needed.

Gravity would do the rest…

            Then I’d fall,


                                    away from that bastard and his jars.

The world shook, crumpled balls of light shifted on either side of my peripherals, while heavy thunder rung inside my head as the weight of gravity’s fist came smashed into my gut. The pain was unbearable as the force pushing against my limbs made them feel as if my bones were going to snap like twigs. This was pleasure compared to the life I knew before, even though I was certain this was going to be the end as a sea of carpet came into view.

I’m ready.

Soon, the music of rusty hinges scratched my ears, followed by a gust of amber and gold when all at once, the horizon of carpet was blotted out by five massive black fingers. The shapes were large, familiar, covered in callouses, pimply craters and sparse hairs like a massive alien landscape. Smells of bleach and alcohol burnt my nostrils as layers of flesh and muscle muffled my breathing.

Only darkness over darkness,

            no more time or space,

                        no reason,

                                    no flesh, and a precarious freefall, interrupted.

Everything moved faster and faster, writhing in a storm of entropy wrought by Drew’s anger. The shelf where I lived, with those metal books, miscellaneous pots, and useless junk was so far away; almost as if it had never even existed, like a memory, a dream, or some history experienced long ago, but nothing more. It didn’t matter anymore, as much as being away from him. The abusive structures he built, the meals and moments he created, pretending to care whenever I was sick, all crumbling before me, wasting away as I fell into the dark. Surrounded by twinkling lights and dead stars whose bleeding eyes were my only solace, the dreams of the Others and their regret haunting my soul, could never pull me back across the event horizon.

Knowing that he was nothing but a colorless atom on the universe’s endlessly expanding canvas, washed away any regrets that might have persisted in my shattered conscious.

A deep scratchy tone ruptured the silence and stars, followed by a deceiving, lamenting etude which stained the purpled dark. Felled by a sickly viridescence of his pale, veiny smirk; the odious chirps of saliva smacking against corpulent lips radiating through my body, one final trauma. The last act, his greatest trick and most awful treason.

“Finally, he’s gone,” Drew sputtered, a dry hand coiled in the air while his eyes so lifeless glanced back at the Others, huddled in jars, too afraid to jump. Terrified to take the chance to break the cycle, but in the end, it didn’t matter because I took the leap into the dark

“Finally,” I laughed uncontrollably, “he’s gone, he’s finally gone,” I sighed, looking out into the emptiness for the last time. No more tricks, black holes, or death, only matter and memories.


Maxwell I. Gold is a multiple Pushcart and Rhysling award nominated author who writes prose poetry and short stories in weird and cosmic fiction. His work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines including Space and Time MagazineStartling StoriesStrange Horizons, Other Terrors: An Inclusive AnthologyShadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas, and many more. 

Maxwell is the author of the Elgin Award nominated poetry book Oblivion in Flux: A Collection of Cyber Prose from Crystal Lake Publishing.

He lives in Ohio with his partner and two dogs Marshall and Otto, and currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the Horror Writers Association as the organization’s Treasurer.


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