56.

The mice had bred to uncountable numbers, compelling the town’s farmers to raid their local hardware store and purchase every last model of mousetrap. Barns and pantries for miles stood cocked and loaded to crack the scourge’s collective spine, and the men and their wives slept soundly. But none more soundly than the store owner’s son; slighted too long for dreams of apprenticing a magician, he’d swapped the mousetraps for gag shop models, his cunning heart warmed by the train ticket stitched inside his coveralls. Grain silos rang empty that season, and the store owner boarded up shop, scurrying from the dark magic his son had left behind.

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