Copyright © 2012 Alan Spencer
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am Gideon, your guide to grand illusion! Tonight, you will be shocked and awed. I won’t patronize you with gags from kid’s books. This is a real stage. What you see is what it is. No tricks of light, no aversion tactics, I won’t pull rabbits out of hats, juggle fire, tear newspapers and reconstruct them, and I won’t saw anyone in half because that’s been done to death. But we do have a showgirl!”
Matthew Bard, a security guard at “The Comedy Tavern,” watched the show on amateur talent night with limited enthusiasm, as did the audience. He recognized Bunny Anderson on stage; she was the blonde adorned in a purple sequined outfit that revealed her long silky legs. She smiled and waved to the crowd of regulars, pretending to live up to a higher standard of showmanship. Gideon paid her thirty dollars to take the night off of her barmaid gig to be his helper. “Stand up there and look good,” he’d overheard Gideon instruct Bunny at rehearsal. “When I call the audience up to the stage, usher them right to where I point. Easiest thirty bucks you’ll ever earn, darling.”
Gideon was dressed the part. The magician wore a loose purple silk shirt and black leather pants. A ridiculous Abraham Lincoln top hat rested on his head. His cheeks were poked with acne scars, and around the eyes, dark saucers lent the performer a strung out sheen. The gray hair on his chin was shaved into an upside down triangle. The overall attempt was ill-realized but good enough for amateur night.
Playing up the crowd, Gideon waved his nine-inch wand, gesturing as he spoke, “This is real magic, ladies and gentlemen. I am an oracle.” He cupped his ear, acting like he hadn’t heard his own question. “What is an oracle, you might be asking? It’s what the Romans called those who could speak to the gods. But I am not an alchemist; I cannot cure diseases and save lives. I use the gods to entertain and delight. I have access between the living and dead worlds, you see, ladies and gentlemen. They’ve taught me magic beyond any illusionist’s ability. I am a medium between the spirits and living world.” Extending his arms as if to give the crowd a hug, he announced with startling vigor, “I am Gideon.”
“So do something, Gideon!”
“Yeah, it’s been five minutes—what the hell?”
"This is a magic show, right?"
Matthew smiled at the ribbing; the man was being heckled before he’d even started.
“I see you’re ready to be amazed!” He shuffled to the left side of Bunny and then pointed his finger in the direction of the crowd. “I’m going to call out twenty people from the audience to sit in these chairs behind me. Any brave volunteers?”
Matthew watched the chairs, curious as to their function. He’d helped place them hours ago for ten bucks. He recalled the cool touch of Gideon’s handshake through his silk gloves—like a piano man’s—and the soft treble in his voice, the purr of a male lion. “Ten bucks says you can help me set up my stage. What do you say, my good man?”
Gideon selected twenty volunteers from the audience, and Bunny escorted them to their places. It was three minutes later the audience participants were seated and ready for the trick to unfold.
The performer dragged two metal poles on stage, one from which a purple curtain was unrolled, and he clipped that curtain to the other pole by two hooks. He reappeared behind the veil, the audience members hidden by a layer of fabric. “I will make these twenty people disappear. They are not paid or have ever seen me before. We are all strangers under this roof. I will invite you to walk on stage and double-check my claims.” Hamming up his act, he boasted the promise, “I, Gideon, will make them vanish and then reappear!”
The crowd’s interest heated up. They begged to be entertained. Hands clapped, while those at the bar walked in closer for a better view. There were about one-hundred and thirty people in “The Comedy Tavern,” including the ones on stage, each with faces ready to be dazzled.
“I will count to three, and with the wave of my wand, I will make them vanish.”
The club’s floors shook with the stomping of feet. Whistles pierced the air. Drinks were refilled and cigarettes lit. Gideon absorbed the skeptical comments before continuing the show.
“I’d like to see the asshole pull it off.”
“This bar’s too small for disappearing acts.”
“Amateur hack is going to embarrass himself.”
“Dork sure looks like he believes in magic.”
The performer closed his eyes and extended his arms up to the ceiling, prepared to disprove their doubts. “I ask you to count to three, audience.”
The audience responded with a boisterous shout: “ONE!”
“I call upon you,” he whispered to himself, channeling a greater force. “I call upon the gods, make them disappear.”
The shuffle of many chairs at once, Gideon peeled back the curtain the split-second he knew the gods had acquiesced upon his wishes.
The stage revealed, the chairs were emptied as many of the legs rattled the floor and then momentarily settled. The audience clapped, but then abruptly stopped their accolades when they noticed certain members in the crowd had disappeared as well. The bartender went missing in a blink; the shot glass and bottle of scotch in his hands shattered against the floor, dropped. The audience was less than half of what they were before the show began. A mix of worry and concern sent nervous chatter throughout the club. Matthew wasn’t sure how to react himself, standing rigid and unconfident; his beefy size couldn’t fight tonight’s problem. He surveyed the people in their seats again, remembering those who’d been sitting one moment, and the next there was nothing, only the sharp scuffle of chairs.
Gideon addressed the audience, expecting the uproar. “Ah, the gods heed me. I will make them return. Let’s hear it. Clap for me! You’ll see my magic. It’s real. I promise you, all is well. All is well!"
Bunny stood still on the stage unnerved, squinting throughout the audience to check if this was really happening. She drew back the purple curtain at his request, though hesitantly, afraid helping the man would make matters worse.
The audience didn’t cheer this time, but Gideon understood why.
He too was concerned.
The magic had worked too well tonight.
Stumbling on his words, he spat out to the uneasy crowd, “I will count to three, and the gods shall place the audience members back into the living world. I am Gideon. Heed my magic.”
He waved the wand back and forth (the action meaning nothing, and Gideon knew it too) and closed his eyes. “I call upon the gods. Return our visitors from the world of the ghosts and spirits to the living.”
Gideon counted aloud since no one else joined in.
The curtain was drawn back by Bunny. Instantly, the chair legs scuffed the stage’s floor. Gasps rocked the club. Tables were knocked over and screams issued with alarming intensity. Patrons battled to escape the club, barreling into each other, shoving, and pushing, and fighting and cursing the horrible spectacles busying the bar and seating area.
Gideon buckled to his knees, taking in the horrors. “This wasn’t supposed to happen. This wasn’t supposed to happen this way!”
Matthew closed in on the stage, though he was hesitant to enter the morbid carnage.
His life was in danger too.
The audience members on stage did return, but they were altered. Eyes had switched sockets, the orbs bleeding from the exchange. Legs and feet were mismatched. One body was only a torso with an arm replacing the head. Fish-net legs jutted from a man’s big-bellied torso, the connection sealed by tangles of melded-together flesh and bone. A man’s head was attached to a women’s body, the pink dress sodden in crimson from the throat’s strange flesh graft stitching. The twenty people were blended together, not a single one owning their original parts. They writhed in horrid agony, twitching, and bleeding, and screaming and pealing out in terror, their inflictions unimaginable.
Those that weren’t dead upon returning were soon thereafter. The club was silent and near empty. Bunny retreated out the back exit, the final person to escape. The other security officer, Sam Wilks, was calling the police from the back room, his expression petrified and so pale.
Gideon wept on stage, curled in a fetal position and babbling. “This wasn’t supposed to happen. They promised they wouldn’t hurt anyone ever again. They promised. They promised me they’d be nice.” Snarling as spittle flecked out his mouth, he shouted, “And look what they’ve done!”
Matthew avoided numerous puddles of blood, treading closer to the grief-stricken man. The stage was a macabre scene, and he did his best to avert his eyes from studying the victims. Raising his voice, he attempted to re-claim control over the chaos, “Come with me, Gideon. You’re under arrest. It’s over. Now come along quietly.”
He wasn’t a cop, but it was the best thing he could muster in the situation. Gideon didn’t move or resist. Matthew removed his cuffs from his belt, afraid to touch the man. How safe was it to be near a person like Gideon? Would his limbs be switched out too?
The magician’s mouth was an open maw. Sorrow affected his words. “It wasn’t me. They promised to be good. I should’ve learned from the first time. They deceived me again. I should've known.”
“Don’t move,” Matthew instructed adamantly. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I'm taking you to the police. You can explain it to them, okay?”
He forced Gideon’s hands behind his back, sucking up his fears and putting the man in custody.
The man sobbed, “This wasn’t my illusion...it was theirs.”
Matthew fastened the cuffs, ignoring the man’s cryptic confession. “Let’s just let the police handle—”
Once he lifted the man to his feet, Gideon vanished.