Once upon a time, there was a conjuror who fell in love with a trick she could never get right.
I won’t tell you what kind of trick (you might be tempted to try it at home). Suffice to say, it was one of those fatal tricks. That is to say, it was one of those which gave the illusion of being fatal. Something which would be terrible and tragic if it were real, but it’s not; it’s chicanery, and it’s the chicanery which makes it glorious. Because the audience gets to feel the tension of ruination, death, disintegration, that strange dark catharsis which is the snuffing-out of a soul. And they need not worry about what this says about them, because they know they’re being fooled. They know that the person isn’t really sawed in half, isn’t really stuffed in a tight box and pierced by a dozen swords, hasn’t actually disappeared, isn’t actually trying (and failing) to learn to breathe H2O or (in extreme cases) H2SO4.
Unless they were a part of this conjuror’s act.
The prestidigitator couldn’t understand it. These things are not easy to pull off. Some are very classic, and most involve a certain amount of complex machinery, which can be risky, but which also (sometimes) has certain safety precautions. It is difficult to buy or build a mechanism capable of pulling off this illusion; it is difficult indeed to learn to do it, and then you practice it and practice it, over and over, generally with a live person; and in all the practices, everything worked out fine.
But once she was on stage, everything went to Hell. Sometimes.
Oh, not visibly. That would have made this a shorter tale. Yes, the person didn’t reappear, but there were not screams or protestations. The magician would immediately cover for it, with great theatricality, telling the audience that they’d probably expected to see the person alive and intact, but that the person had, in truth, actually disappeared and “might come back”. Everyone would laugh, most of all whoever had come with the lucky volunteer. The magician would then do a bunch of patter and a bunch of talk about the joys of Magic and the pleasures of Illusion and the honor of spending an evening in such fine company, and then she would throw a sophisticated little smoke bomb and “disappear” (through a trapdoor, or a hole in the curtain, or something like that).
And then she would hightail it way the hell out of there, because she knew that person was dead.
And when she arrived here, applied to this circus, we just looked at her. Because plastic surgery only does so much, and while changing your walk and your voice is a great magician’s trick, we’d been following her career for a long time, and with interest.
She goes on at eight tonight. If you were wondering.
My name is Jeff Mach (“Dark Lord” is optional) and I build communities and create things. Every year, I put on Evil Expo, the Greatest Place in the World to be a Villain. I also write a lot of fantasy and science fiction.. You can get most of my books right here. Go ahead, pre-order “I HATE Your Prophecy“. It may make you into a bad person, but I can live with that.