The Magician

The magician walks with a very long stride. When he takes the stage – which in deference to his fame and the many paying customers it attracts is quite large – he needs only five steps to reach its center. The audience falls immediately silent; the magician’s shows are known to be both short and spectacular, and no one wants to miss anything.

That the magician’s voice carries as well as it does is a surprise; even those seated in the balcony’s last row are enveloped by the sound of it. He asks for a volunteer, specifying that she be a female virgin. After a minute or so of mumbling from the audience, a girl from the fifth row makes her way the short distance to the stage, climbs a stack of moveable stairs placed there for the occasion, and walks to stage-center where the magician has directed her to stand. Her long hair blends almost perfectly into a simple black dress beneath which her figure explores the beginnings of womanhood. The magician takes two long steps away from her and faces the audience. He says, “Since I was boy I�ve enjoyed luck with those of the opposite sex. More than a few of them have I ushered across the river of sexual fruition, from the isle of innocence to the crowded, communal mainland, each girl leaving behind her marooned life and ambling gently into a world of shared flesh.” He waves his wand, a long leather stick reminiscent of a riding crop, with a flourish. “Chalk up another one!” There is a stir of bemusement from the audience, and the girl wears a patient look sarcastically. From offstage comes a man in a long white coat, a medical doctor who sets down next to the girl his case of instruments, rummages therein, and then subjects her to the briefest examinations before verifying, to the crowd’s gasping amazement, that the she has indeed lost her virginity.

By the time the girl, her cheeks flushed becomingly, finds her way back to her seat, the magician is dangling a large white rabbit aloft by the ears. In the other hand, he holds a sharp knife. The rabbit strains slightly to get a look around, but on the whole appears quite calm. The magician says, “Now I want you to tell me everything you know, little rabbit.” He arches one long eyebrow, then eviscerates the rabbit with a graceful, understated gesture. The stroke is so clean that the rabbit doesn’t swing side to side even a little. Another round of gasps from the audience as the rabbit’s guts slough onto the stage. The magician says, “You spilled your guts. It’s rare that interrogations go this well. I’ll reward you with a nice, relaxing vacation inside my hat. It’s just what you need.” The magician removes his hat and places the rabbit inside, without releasing the ears. He says, “Feeling better?” then slowly raises the rabbit back out of the hat to reveal that it is alive and well, with no sign of a fatal abdominal gash. The magician sets the rabbit down at his feet, and there is great applause as the rabbit hops healthily offstage.

The magician says, “I feel like a smoke.” He takes a pack of cigarettes from inside his jacket, removes one, and replaces the box. With a golden lighter that has appeared in his hand, he lights his cigarette. He then encloses the lighter in a large fist and lowers it to his side. He proceeds to smoke in silence and with very little movement, the cigarette never leaving his lips. He smokes. He does not ash the cigarette. When the tobacco has been completely smoked, the magician does not remove it from his mouth and continues to stare straight ahead. The ember continues to creep along the cigarette’s butt, until protruding from the magician’s lips is a three-inch column of ash. Smoke continues to rise from the point where ash now meets human lips. Slowly, the magician’s lips begin going gray. Slowly, the cinder organism expands, creeping out from the lips toward the chin and nose and cheeks. The magician’s eyes blink occasionally, but he is otherwise motionless, concentrating on some point near the back of the theater. His eyes give one final blink just as the upper lids transmute, and the lashes snow to the floor. Within a few minutes, the magician’s neck, shoulders, torso, hips, arms and legs have combusted, so that he appears from any distance to be the grisly mutilation of a statue, hands of living flesh and black leather shoes somehow grafted onto the cool granite. And when finally the hands and shoes have receded completely before the creeping cherries, the magician’s form disintegrates like an overburdened sandcastle, the golden lighter clattering to the stage.