nine ball flash
My Juggling History
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While wasting my time looking around the websites of jugglers I realised that many of them had a page where the author told the story of how they started juggling. I knew there was something missing from this website...

One day I was sitting in my bedroom playing Enduro Racer on my ZX spectrum. I felt another presence in the room with me. I took my fingers off the cursur keys, pressed "p" and looked around me. I saw no one else so I went back to crashing into the side of the track.

Again I felt like someone was watching me so again I pressed pause. Nobody had entered the room, again I was confused but went back to pulling wheelies.

As soon as I felt that shiver up my spine for the third time I swung around and just managed to catch a movement out the side of my eye. It looked like a human shape but it disappeared the instant I spotted it.

Freaked, I called out "Is anyone there?"

After a few seconds pause I heard a small voice. "Yes... but don't tell anyone."

"Who are you?" I asked the voice.

"I'm not allowed to say." it replied.

"Where are you?" I asked.

"I'm right in front of you but I'm invisible at the moment."

"So I see." I said "How do you turn yourself invisible?"

"I'm naturally invisible," said the invisible thing, "I have to give myself a human form for you to see me."

"Ok," I said, "could you give yourself a form now, it feels a bit too much like I'm talking to myself."

"Sorry," said the voice, "I'm not allowed to."

"What are you? A ghost?"

"I'm not really meant to tell you. It's a secret."

"Are you allowed to do anything?" I asked.

"Not at this time of the day, sorry."

"Are you even meant to be here?"

"No," said the voice, "I got out and they are looking for me."

"Who are?"

"I'm not allowed to say." it said quietly.

I sat there for a moment, wondering if I was going mad and making up invisible friends to talk to.

"Come on," I said, "show me some evidence I'm not talking to myself."

"Ok, watch this!"

I heard a small shuffling noise. Then I spotted that some of the marbles in my marble jar were moving slightly. Suddenly, a dozen of them lifted into the air and hovvered in two small clusters.

"Not bad," I remarked, "you must be some kind of poltergeist."

"Not technically," it said, "watch this."

I watched as the marbles were thrown into the air one by one. Before they hit the floor they seemed to be snatched by an invisible hand and tossed upwards again. I was mesmerised by the swirling pattern of marbles in the air before me.

"How do you do that?" I asked.

"It's not hard for a... well, one of my kind." said the voice, all the while the marbles dancing in the air, "Juggling is just a technique we use to hone our inanimate object manipulation skills. I'm only doing twelve. There are some of us who can do up to twenty."

"Wow," I said, and meant it. I was just about to ask if he could do thirteen when suddenly the room went dark and I felt a third presence in the room.

"Arrrgh!" shrieked the voice. I heard the marbles drop onto the carpet and scatter.

Another voice, louder and deeper, spoke up "And what do you think you're doing?"

"Nothing, sir," mumbled the first voice, "I was just showing..."

"That is not nothing!" boomed the second voice, "You know the rules. On no account must you ever reveal your self to a human like this. It is dangerous to you, and more importantly, dangerous to the weaker race. For this you will be punished!"

"Noooo..." whined the first.

"Yes! From now until the end of time you will be set up as an example to all the rest of... well, our kind. Your face will be blackened by the soot from your eternally burning beard, your back will be forever crooked by the weight of a thousand mules carried on your shoulders, your feet forever bleeding from the broken glass in your socks. Everyone will humiliate you, look down and spit on you, curse you! For the rest of your miserable life you will feel the..."

I cleared my throat as loudly as possible.

"Yes?" boomed the voice.

"I know it's not my place to interfere with... you know, your kind, but aren't you being a bit harsh on him? All he was doing was showing me his juggling. I mean, there's no harm done."

"He wasn't hurting you?" asked the voice, confused.

"No, we were just talking. He was being quite nice really."

"Oh." There was silent for a few seconds.

"Hello?" I called.

"Ok," said the second voice, "I'll let him off but that was his last warning."

Suddenly the windows rattled, the room brightened and I realised I was alone once more. I thought back over what had just taken place in my room and realised I had saved something from a fate worse than death. I felt quite good about it but I realised that no one would believe me, I almost didn't believe it had happened myself. Convinced I had just imagined the whole thing I turned back to the tv to continue my game. To my surprise displayed on the screen were the words:

THANK
YOU

I sat and watched the screen for a few seconds more until the message was replaced by a screaming motocross bike. Feeling drained I stood up to go and get a drink. As I walked to the door I trod on something hard. I looked down and realised it was a marble but it had changed. I picked it up and realised it had turned into solid gold. I spent the next few minutes gathering up the rest of the transformed marbles from under my bed and behind wardrobe until I had the full set of twelve in my hand.

That all happened years ago but it was that very incident that inspired me to juggle. To this day I always wear a pouch on a cord around my neck with one of the golden marbles in. I believe it brings me good luck. The other eleven marbles are buried somewhere safe. The ZX spectrum stopped working and has been collecting dust in the attic ever since.

2001 Luke Burrage