"Martino, guess who's here! Come say hello!"
As the young birthday boy made his way down the stairs, he was greeted by the cheers and hugs from his friends. At the front of the group was his best friend Milo (adults called him Milovan), donning the cruise captain's hat he always wore due to his boat obsession.
"Happy Birthday, Martini!" he chuckled, taking the hat off and placing it on the other male's head. It was their special little joke- Milovan's father was particularly fond of alcohol so his son had picked up all the names of the different drinks, and it didn't take a rocket scientist to realise which drink Martino's name sounded similar to.
"I think this is better left on you," the birthday boy replied, placing it firmly back on it's rightful owner's head. He then produced a pair of red-tinted sunglasses from his pocket, before putting them on and pointing them out.
"These are more my thing."
"Your parents finally let you have them. They're so cool!"
"Wow, they actually look good when someone's wearing them," commented his mother. She had been really reluctant at first, claiming they looked ridiculous and that black was the only way to go. But seeing her son look quite suave and, most importantly, happy with them on, she didn't regret it at all.
"Told you!" Martino retorted, sticking his tongue out rather childishly before realising his mother was staring. He stopped, suddenly grinning and blushing a little from embarrassment.
"You'd better watch it, young man, or else someone isn't going to get the magician we promised!"
"A magician!" was the general remark from the crowd. Excited, the gang of kiddies started chatting amongst themselves and asking their birthday boy the one question that was on their minds.
"Is it Baldovino?"
"You bet your culo it is!" exclaimed Martino's father, with a wink. Suddenly catching sight of his watch, one quick glimpse of the time was enough to move him into action. "Is that the time already? Ok, kids, into the garden. Baldovino will be here soon!"
"And voila! One rabbit!"
Amongst the applause, Milovan began whispering to Martino.
"He's so cool! How did your parents get him?"
"Thank my dad. He's in the Mafia, remember? But Baldovino doesn't know that."
Said magician took a bow, obviously pleased with how everything was going so far. There was one last act to perform, but it was one he'd been dreading to think about- out of all his feats, he'd perfected all but this one, but they said that practise made perfect.
"I have just one last trick up my sleeves, boys and girls," he announced, slowly pulling out a pendulum from the black top hat sitting on the table. Swallowing his fear, he signalled for Martino to approach the little podium, bowing to him as he did so.
"Now this is something I wouldn't usually do on a child, but you seem like a strong lad..."
"You bet your culo I am!" announced Martino, copying what his father had said earlier. The others couldn't help chuckling at his sudden burst of pep; even Baldovino cracked a smile.
"Well that's certainly what I needed to hear," he said, before turning to the other children. "Now I'm going to need some suggestions if I'm going to be performing hypnotism on our birthday boy here..."
"Hypnotism! Cool!" said Martino, but his awe was drowned out as several suggestions were thrown at once by the group of youngsters.
"Oh! A cannibal!"
"A cannibal? Seems a bit morbid for a 10 year old...but it's certainly different..."
"And I thought you were going to go with boats, Milo!" exclaimed Martino, sounding quite surprised at his friend's suggestion. "But then again...why share the obsession when it's fun to keep it to your-oh..." he trailed off when the magician's pendulum fell into his line of sight.
"Can I ask that you take your sunglasses off?"
The young male immediately took them off without any arguments; his gaze not moving once from the pendulum.
"Martino...when I snap my fingers, you will not be you, but Tino the cannibal, with only cravings for the human flesh. But not the blood, we said cannibal, not vampire. But when I snap my fingers again, you will revert back to Martino, the ten year old boy, and you won't remember any of this. Got that? Good," Baldovino said, slowly and deliberately, before snapping his fingers as indicated.
At that moment, Martino found himself pursuing his closest friends in quite a creepy manner, as if he really wanted to take a bite out of them. They thought it fun at first, but when Martino began to up his game a little too much, Baldovino was quick to snap his fingers again and break the young male out of his trance.
Martino stopped, suddenly on his knees and clutching his head as if he had a killer headache. Gazing up, he couldn't help noticing that all friends, even Milovan, were staring at him in quite a frightened way.
"Milo, why are you staring at me like that?"
Despite the fact both boys had always been touchy about people touching them, Milovan couldn't help suddenly hugging his best friend as if he never wanted to lose him again. Unsure what was going on, Martino still followed suit and hugged back all the same, despite his confusion.
Looking on and realising what he'd just done, the magician couldn't help muttering "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry..."
The next morning was quite different for little Martino, who was acting slightly weird. Usually breakfast was a time where everyone just tucked in, especially the young male, but it seemed he wasn't in the mood for anything, not even his mother's specially-made pancakes.
With loss of appetite usually being a symptom for illness, his mother was quick to grab the thermometer and check her son's temperature, looking slightly spooked when the reading was a healthy 98.6 degrees. Gently stroking the hair away from his forehead, she placed a hand on said forehead to confirm the normal thermometer reading.
"Are you feeling ok, Martino?" she asked.
"I just don't feel like eating, that's all," was the rather tired response, even pushing the food-filled plate away from him.
"You have to eat something, figlio," his father explained, sounding rather worried. "Just to keep you going until you feel better."
"I really don't want to eat," he insisted, almost sounding quite aggressive, much to the worry of his parents. Whenever Martino started getting frustrated, he often took it out using physical means, which was usually throwing a punch at the wall.
"Milo will be here in a minute," he continued, leaving the table as he went to pick up his bag and coat. "We're off to the arcade, heard they have a new version of..." he trailed off, beginning to shiver slightly. Not sure whether this was due to lack of energy or not, he decided to carry on towards the door;only to suddenly fall onto the floor, much to the concern of his parents. But shock didn't make them slow. Seeing her son in that state, his mother immediately took to the phone and ring an all-too-important number.
"Hello, 999? I'm going to need an ambulance...it's my son, he's just fainted..."
Feeling his eyes slowly open, Martino couldn't help feeling a little sluggish. The bright white walls that welcomed him didn't help with his headache either.
"Morning, sleepyhead," said a male voice. Realising it was unfamiliar to him, Martino couldn't help sitting up in alarm; only to sigh in relief when he found himself in the hospital and the male was simply a nurse.
"You fainted, little guy," said the nurse, smiling. "But don't worry, all your readings seem to show that you're fine."
Noticing the nurse was wearing a short-sleeved shirt, the young male suddenly felt a weird feeling of hunger come over him. It was the usual hunger pangs he got when he was eating normally but he'd never had them for human flesh before.
The nurse had now noticed and was beginning to feel rather freaked out.
"Why are you staring at me like that, kid?"
During the next ten seconds, all the whole hospital could hear was the sound of agonising screams, before there was pure dead silence. Martino's sheets were now spattered with bloodstains, along with the liquid ruby that was now pouring from the nurse's neck. Shuddering as his bare feet stepped into the bloody puddle, he was quick to make sure the older male was actually dead before he did anything else.
His hands weren't going to be enough to tear apart the fleshy skin but that was soon solved when he grabbed the fork from the nearby tray that the nurse had brought in. As he prodded with the utensil, he couldn't help feeling grateful he was in a private bed. Sometimes having a father in the Mafia did have it's perks, but it didn't prevent any shouting, especially when an all-too-familiar person soon arrived on the scene.
"Martino Martinet, che diavolo? What the hell?"
"What?" responded the young male, not fazed one bit by the situation. "I was hungry, he was food. I tried to take the first bite from his neck and ended up killing him." He finished with a nervous laugh, realising his father wasn't taking in the story all too well...
"Mr and Mrs Martinet...was your son influenced at all? Video games? Anything to do with your Mafia buddies, perhaps?"
The city's psychiatrist knew anything and everything about everyone, including the fact that Martino's father was part of the Mafia. Said male couldn't help bowing his head in shame as soon as the words came out, but was saved by his wife.
"I'll assure you that I've kept Martino as far away from my husband's work as possible. As for video games, he's only into his Mario Bros. or whatever it's called. In fact, this only started when Baldovino did his act for our son's birthday party yesterday."
The psychiatrist couldn't help looking rather spooked as he removed his glasses from his face.
"Seems like he slipped up again," he said quietly, before looking up at the distraught parents. "Baldovino's very talented in what he does but this isn't the first time he's slipped up...it's the second."
"Who's the first?"
"My son, Patrick," he replied, refusing at that moment to look either of them in the eye. "Seems that if Baldovino tries to hypnotise someone into thinking they're something that kills, the trance isn't completely broken...your son's still a cannibal, my son's still a killer."
"Cazzo! Wasn't it that damn boat-obsessed bastardo who suggested it?"
Noticing her husband fail to contain his anger, Mrs Martinet was quick to calm him down.
"We can't blame Milovan, honey, he didn't know."
"Ma il piccolo figlio di puttana! He shouldn't even know what a cannibal is!"
"Mr and Mrs Martinet, if it's any comfort to you," the psychiatrist began, speaking calmly and steadily. "Baldovino will follow through with Martino what he said he'd do with Patrick. As soon as he perfects his technique, he'll snap both our sons out of it. He promises..."
But of course, throughout the years, we all know that Baldovino had other plans in mind...