A Magic Trick

Honourable Mention in the 'National Treasures 2022' competition

“I lived! I am here!” He paused, staring around. Then, he whispered to himself, “Why does nobody care?”
He stood in the middle of a bustling train station. King’s Cross. The magical place that was present in so many children’s stories. Hell, Harry Potter just to name one! But nobody could hear him.
Nobody would hear him.
Because his skin was loose and wrinkled. Because his hair was unkempt and bright white, and his beard was scraggly. Because his clothes were dirty and ripped. Because his eyes were red and veined, his glasses broken, big black boots worn.
It wasn’t his fault he’d crashed all those months ago. Nearly a year now. But he had thought it would be easy to get back home, continue his work. He thought his helpers would stick with him; he thought his animals could be trusted to stay with the vehicle.
But they’d all left him. He could still see them running off into the rain, disappearing into the grey gloom. Sometimes he wondered what happened to them.
And nobody had helped him. After everything he had done for so many people, they all ignored him. He didn’t have any money. And none of them cared once they found that out.
So here he was, King’s Cross, surrounded by people and children, excited travellers and exhausted commuters. Sitting on the ground, with a scrap of cardboard with ‘PLEASE HELP, TRYING TO GET HOME. JUST WANT TO GET BACK TO WORK, NOT MUCH TIME LEFT’ scrawled on it in black marker in front of him. A cup in his hand, pushing it towards those who passed. It was November, and the London air was icy. He hoped they didn’t kick him out. It was at least semi-warm in here. He watched a group of children walk past. He stood, shambling towards them.
“Hey, kids! Having fun in King’s Cross?”
A few stopped and giggled, nodding. “It’s so noisy!” a little girl exclaimed, seemingly overjoyed by the fact.
“It is, isn’t it? Hey, do you want to see a magic trick?” Carefully, he palmed one of the coins someone had chucked in his cup. “I’ll make a coin appear!” He waved his hand, made the air flash and sparkle lightly, and flicked the coin out from its hiding place on his palm into the air. “Tada!”
The girl laughed, eyes shining with wonder. “Wow!” She caught the coin. “Thank you, mister!” Her teacher noticed then, and dragged her away, shooting him a dirty look.
He sighed, dropped back down. He smiled to himself at the memory of her happiness. His face fell as he stared at the people who glanced at him as they walked past, letting their gaze slide off him.
“Ho, ho, ho,” he muttered. “I wonder if they’ll take notice of old Saint Nick when Christmas falls apart? Oh, ho, ho, ho. I bet they’ll notice then.”
Santa Claus sighed, picked up his paper cup and held it out.

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