You wake up in the dark, and for a moment you don't know where you are.
You can feel the walls. There's barely enough space to turn around. A sense of claustrophobia siezes you. You are on the edge of panic.
Then, you hear the voice.
[[CONTINUE->voice]]As your eyes adjust to the glare, you are able to make out a crowd of onlookers. Your sudden appearance shocks them, and for a moment they stare at you in surprise.
Then, they burst into applause.
They're not clapping for you, though. Not really. You hang there, dangling painfully by your ears from the Tuxedo Man's fist, as all of their accolades flow to him. It's not fair!
[[CONTINUE->applause]]You hang there until the Tuxedo Man hands you to the Sequin Lady, who takes you backstage. The Sequin Lady is nice; she certainly never picks you up by your ears. In fact, today she holds you in a long cuddle rather than putting you immediately into the cage.
Overalls Man comes by pushing a large wooden box that has a number of swords stuck through it at different angles. He whispers something to the Sequin Lady as he passes by. She quickly plops you down into the straw and rushes back onstage.
[[CONTINUE->cagedoor]]Your left foot catches the brim of the top hat and sends it bouncing across the stage. You will no longer be ignored!
The Tuxedo Man drops you and makes a frantic dive for the hat. He knocks over the table as he goes. It crashes to the floor in an clattering explosion of metal rings, playing cards, and silk flowers. The audience erupts with screams and laughter.
Now's your chance to make a break for it!
[[To run toward the audience, click here.->audience]]
[[To run backstage, click here.->backstage]]You decide to stay in your comfortable cage, your comfortable world.
The performances continue for several more years and although you never get the credit you feel you deserve, you know deep down that you are an important part of the Tuxedo Man's act.
Show business is a place for the young, though, and eventually the Tuxedo Man replaces both you and the Sequin Lady. She adopts you and opens a coffee shop where you are free to hop around or curl up in the laps of the regular customers.
[[CONTINUE->sunshine]](if: (history:) contains "kickhat")[You hop away offstage as fast as you can, but nodoby seems to be watching to you. The crowd's attention is glued on the Tuxedo Man has he tries to gather up his scattered props.](else:)[You poke your head out of the cage and look around cautiously. Nobody back stage is paying attention to you, so you hop down on to the floor.]
Someone has propped the stage door open and with a few more hops, you're in the alley behing the theater. Finally free!
But now what? You don't really have a plan for this part. You are contemplating how to proceed, when you hear a kind of hissing noise.
By Jason Ermer]You scramble to the edge of the stage and hop down among the feet of the audience. Nobody seems to notice you. Everyone's attention is glued to the Tuxedo Man as he tries to gather up all of his scattered props.
You weave among shoes and chair legs all the way to the back row of the theatre. There, you are surprised to come face-to-face with a young girl.
[[CONTINUE->girl]]The girl takes you home, makes you a comfortable bed, and provides all the carrots you can eat. Some nights, as she cuddles you in front of the TV, you think about your time in show business.
Back in those days, you entertained hundreds of people. Now, you spend your time in the lap of just one. That's enough for you.
Plus, she never ever picks you up by your ears.
''The End''You creep cautiously toward the dumpster and discover a group of animals: mostly rabbits and doves, plus a chicken and a small dog.
"You're free now," one of the rabbits says. "You never have to get pulled out of a hat again!"
"Or a handkerchief," says one of the doves. "Or a bucket," adds one of the other rabbits. "Or a cooking pot!" cries the chicken.
"Join us," the rabbit continues, "and fight for the liberation of our brothers and sisters still in chains! Join team X.M.A.S.!"
[[CONTINUE->explain]]"X.M.A.S.," says the rabbit. "The Ex Magic Animal Society: committed to rescuing performing animals from the clutches of magicians who always get the glory!"
"And stuff you in their pockets!" says one of the doves.
"And squeeze you inside a little box with a stupid mirror built into it!" yelps the dog. "Everybody knows how that one works!"
"And pull your ears!" says another of the rabbits.
That's right! They //''do''// pull your ears!
[[CONTINUE->hero]]The sound is coming from outside, muffled by the walls. Still, you recognize the voice immediately: it is the Tuxedo Man.
Without warning, a trap door opens in the ceiling and a swift hand grabs hold of your ears. You are yanked upwards, out of the dark chamber and into a blinding light.
[[CONTINUE->stage]]You look down at the black top hat from which you just "appeared" and have the urge to give it a good kick. The Tuxedo Man is holding you slightly lower than usual. The hat is well within range.
On the other hand, you've got a pretty easy job that you have learned to do well over the last two years (a show every night, //plus// a matinee on Sunday). The Tuxedo Man treats you well enough, even if he does take all the credit. Maybe it's better simply to play your part. Why rock the boat?
[[To kick the hat, click here->kickhat]]
[[To play your part, click here->hangout]]In her hurry, she forgets to latch the cage door. You could easily ignore that fact, keep doing shows with the Tuxedo Man, and retire in a few years.
Part of you wonders, however, about what else might be possible for you. You could quietly sneak out the back door of the theatre and nobody would know.
[[To stay put, click here.->retire]]
[[To make a break for it, click here.->backstage]]The young girl is crouched down, looking at you from under the chairs. She must have been watching you make your escape this whole time!
The girl scoops you up and plops you into her backpack. She hugs the bag tightly with one arm, and pets you gently with her free hand. Despite the excitement of the last few minutes, you soon fall asleep.
[[CONTINUE->sleep]]You scan the area nervously and discover pink eyes staring at you from under one of the dumpsters: not just a pair of eyes, but //many pairs of eyes//.
"Psst!" a voice whispers. "Over here!"
[[CONTINUE->resistance]]Sometimes when you're lying on the windowsill, you think of all the nights you spent hidden in that cramped little box with the trap door... and then you stretch yourself out as long as you can and doze in the warm sunshine.
''The End''You immediately decide to join team X.M.A.S. and spend the next several years sabotaging magic acts. Thankfully, nobody gets hurt (although things get a little scary in Las Vegas, when you free the tigers).
You become a hero to hundreds of liberated animal performers.