Tendrils of dark smoke wreathed his wrists and played with the edges of his sleeves like wildfire, but their master twisted the coils around his fingers, molded the smoke until it pulled in his palms and waited, as placid as the best magic always was, for further instructions.
He could feel the afternoon sun bearing down on his head and shoulders, but the cool traces of an autumn breeze dispelled what heat there would have been and even sent the beginnings of a shiver down his spine. Between the smog and the cement everywhere and the sky that seemed always to be on the verge of rain, Toby couldn't remember the last time he had felt properly warm or had woken with some semblance of feeling left in his fingertips and toes.
As much as Toby had grown bored with this colorless, always-cloudy city, it did contain within its seething streets certain... perks. The first of which being: no one ever looked at you twice. Then again, sitting on the roof of a grocery store hardly put him within the sight-lines of most of the city-goers, and the invisibility charm he'd cast on the roof was as good as a brick wall when it came to keeping out of sight. But even on the street, bumping elbows and shoulders with strangers, Toby liked to think he was easily forgotten -- a wraith of the concrete. More or less this was true, although passersby remembered well enough the lanky frame, the large sometimes-green-sometimes-brown eyes, the collection of freckles too numerous for one person, the chaos of brown-nearly-blonde strands whispering about his ears and tickling his neck... but such was not the appearance of anything approaching out of the ordinary, and Toby cruised along beneath the radar with far more success than many of his more outlandish acquaintances. Twenty-odd years of life on the sidewalks had been more than enough to provide him with an education in what happened to those who too-obviously overstepped the bounds of the natural.
Pausing for a moment to push up the sleeves of his oversized gray-green sweatshirt (the ball of smoke hovering in the air where he left it), the magician exhaled and raked a hand through the mess of his hair, which remained a determined bed-head even after the effort. With a soft murmur of further magic, the young man pressed one hand palm-flat against the cement upon which he sat. A hole unraveled where before there had been half a meter of solid stone, revealing shelves and shelves of what looked from this distance to be boxes of breakfast cereal.
"Good day, darlings. Time for your afternoon naps."
Toby dropped the little ball of smoke down down down through the hole. He watched, silent but wearing a smile slightly too large for his face, as the orb burst and began to send its tentacles all through the interior of the store, building on itself like a fog, rolling over shelves and customers and shopping carts. Waiting no longer, the magician dropped through the hole himself and, as he drifted to the tiled floor with a light tap of tattered sneakers, produced a plastic shopping bag from the pocket of his sweatshirt.
"Same routine as last week, everybody: pretend I'm not sticking my hand in your pockets. Carry on with your shopping."
No one heard. No one saw. Every oblivious customer or store worker stood as if in a daze: eyes half-closed, mouth hanging slightly ajar. Humming cheerfully to himself, Toby hopped from one person to the next, digging through pockets and purses without the slightest regard for personal space until he found wallets and credit cards and folded dollar bills, all of which he stuffed into his plastic bag.
"Ah, what a lovely picture in this one. You can keep that." He paused long enough to stuff a small photograph of two children and a dog back into a man's jacket pocket before edging around a display of soda cans to harass the next oblivious customer. "Nearly done, ladies and gentlemen and assorted others. Excellent job being patient. No one waking up early this time, thank you very much."