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Fiction Historical Fiction Contemporary

People nowadays have a habit of romanticizing the past. I’d say this is a bad habit, but with how I think of the first and second millennia A.D. (most commonly referred to as The Witching Years), I have no room to talk. I’ll bet a show’s salary I’m the only one on the planet nostalgic for the times when people would routinely die from easily curable diseases. Wizards were somewhat like an archaic Big Pharma, we not-so-secretly benefit from others’ pain because it benefits us: we give people something to believe in, they strengthen our power source through their positive emotions and thanks. Humans would probably hate us if they knew about our profiteering or how we viewed our ‘clients,’ but with the issues we solve, no doubt they couldn’t care less about our intentions.


Greece can have their blind virgins and birds going in circles, I’ll take a well of infinite power fueled by human emotions any day of the year. Not to mention, I have a reason to brag. Namely, I was a prodigy of a prominent prestidigitator. Like how I peel back the curtain for one of my Vegas venues, one who peels back the curtain of my chronology will find an apt academic of the Arcana, matriculant to a magician both meticulous and magnificent. For centuries, I had studied under the tutelage of the watchful eye of the magnanimous Merlin. Through him, I learned how to harness human emotion and either weaponize people’s fear or heal them through their hope. 

Granted, I’ve got enough negative emotion to feed the Arcana until wizards rule again

(never). Imagine the way it wounded my pride to go from a revered instrument of war, the first in line for the first in line, what kings in the Middle East would call Magi. At the snap of our fingers, any wish we held was granted, for we were the favorite among royalty. In the 21st century, we’ve been relegated to lowly entertainers for a vulgar species whose strength is far inferior to ours. Bah! I can only imagine what my master would say if he saw me today!


If he were here today, I’d show him how I’d grown from who I was when he first took me in. When we first met, he was disgusted by what he called ‘theatrics, my tendency to go that extra mile to make sure people knew the power they were borrowing from. Essentially, I was letting them know that our power was theirs to borrow but not to control. Poor Master was none so cynical, he would speak about how humans were best healed instead of destroyed, and that even if a lord asked them to take care of their enemies, Merlin would at most knock some stuff over, redirect swords and spears if they were bold enough to attack. 


Since man became capable of harnessing great strength in their fingertips, my might atrophied. Humans lost faith in magic as they grew closer to gods. I couldn’t stop the movement of the world to an emphasis of peace. Or, at least, it became in vogue to pretend like they weren’t a self-destructive species. 


Come to think of it, they’d probably be cursing at each other as soon as they got into the parking lot. I still had my uses, though. I was a being of war, but Master Merlin showed me that we could also harness positive emotions. Connected by a common thread, everyone here arrived with the explicit purpose of seeing me, of being given something to believe in.


And so, I let the curtains pull back. The crowd roared in approval as they watched me take the stage. With a confident strut, I opened my arms like I was prepping to conduct a masterful orchestra. The cries of a self-fulfilling prophecy taking hold, shaking the Magic Theater.


"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the feature presentation of Kadabra the Magnificent! My magic is powerful, but my mission is humble: to show that one man can make the impossible into the possible!” I said, extended my arms like a conductor prepping a masterful orchestra, “If you’re in your seats, that means that you’ve accepted that you’ve accepted that you won’t be able to view the world the same way again! So, with the snap of my fingers, you and I will transport you to a world beyond time!”


I rubbed my fingers gently together. As my thumb slid down my ring finger, the hue of the sky turned from a turquoise blue to a sherbert orange. I did this twice or thrice before I was truly ready to turn the sky from an ocean to an abyss. After having my fun with the audience, a harsh snap, every boy and girl in attendance would have attested that I stole their sight from them, that the only proof they had of their existence was how they wriggled uncomfortably in their seat. From a burgeoning beam, light bled forth from the palm of my hand. In a spiral, it looked as if the stars were exploding from my hand, decorating the ceiling and walls of the open-aired stadium. 


The people in attendance looking at the hues of black and purple that decorated the stars. Even if they were skeptical, even if they thought it was smoke and mirrors than sorcery and magic, I at least had their attention, their fascination. Though more than a bard, I would have them dance to my tune.


“Once upon an explosion, we were born from dust and ash. Then, the light of a higher being past through us and gave us life. Humanity was blessed with the power to bend the world to fit their vision. As the light passed through us, we learned how to pass through the light.” 


My hands grabbed hold of a ball of fire that rose on the stage as I spoke. As if I had

doused my hand in oil, my hand immolated and turned by body to a brazier, as if I were cosplaying the Human Torch.  


Oohs and ahs reverberated through the audience. Many of them were fixated on the world that I had shown them, but there were also manifold people that were still unconvinced, that me turning to a literal burning man was some act of misdirection, so I guessed I had to be even more convincing. After all, this was the age of skepticism, polluted with people who thought they were smarter than they actually were, so it was no wonder that a little pyrotechnics wouldn't have been enough to sway their stone hearts.


"When the universe was born, there was more than an explosion of fire! Winds roared in all directions," I said, wind tearing pieces of metal from the set, "the stars violently collided with each other! And from these collisions, the blueprint for human life was born!" The stardust that gathered in the air took the shape of a human. Gracefully, beautifully, she danced making it easier to mistake her for a goddess. Before downsizing and joining me as my assistant, she could have been mistaken for a goddess, the only one capable of use cosmology as her cosmetology.


Like she was born from a fire, the first glance the audience had of her was in a cherry unitard bedazzled with sparkles. Her hair silky as if it were dipped in the Milky Way, the ends dyed red and yellow like she was just born from an atomic burst. In an instant, I could feel the tide turning, shifting from scattered skepticism to morbid curiosity, and inability to unhook their eyes from the stage.


Note for the future: if magic fails, gain their attention with a conventionally attractive assistant.


"Damn, maybe magic isn't BS after all!" I heard one audience member say. One way or another, I wanted to make people believe, but.. .cmon. Whatever works, I guess. The more people that have faith in more than what they see, the stronger I get, and the better I can make my shows. Speaking of which, I was just getting to the part where I showed people why they should believe in the first place. 


"As time continued onward, life started to blossom and grow more mature! No longer could they hide among the stars in the sky! No, they needed a place to call home, and the material born from dead stars attached itself to a vessel. If what I'm saying doesn't make sense, rest easy and let me show you!" 


Despite there being no nozzles in the floor where water could rise from, I nevertheless managed to make the aforementioned liquid bleed from the cracks in the floor. Just for good measure, I made sure it danced around the stage a little bit, soaring through the Vegas venue like a hawk circling its prey. Funnily enough, Dave Kanellis wasn’t supposed to open a show for another week.


The water danced, collided, and broke apart before circling around my head. Though there were no clouds in the air, thunder nevertheless cracked as though black clouds had been rolling in for hours.


The thunder sounds are being fed in. My more skeptical attendees no doubt thought. So, I had to do something that science couldn’t explain: freeze water particles in the air. With a twist of my palm, the oceans above head transformed into a downpour; and like the snap that stole the color from the sky, a violent collision of my fingers shattered the hair-thin barrier blocking the water from falling. Though rain fell in a torrent, the quantity hanging overhead never depleted. It was as though the rain was constantly self-reproducing like it was a plant cell. Somehow, however, this was not the most impressive part of the cloud of water, as with a snap of my fingers, I did exactly what I said I would do. With a snap, it was as if each particle of water was its own entity.


I fought off a smile since I didn’t have to look far to see the fascination in the faces of the observers. Some were even gripping their chairs while waiting for what happened next. They might not have even cared what was real (everything) and what was fake (nothing), they wanted to see what happened next, and I didn’t have a mind to disappoint. 


Dramatically, I twisted my fingers clockwise. It felt as though the tips of my fingers were set to explode, but that was the tradeoff that came with harnessing the Arcana. With this divine source of magic, the power of the elements were mine to command, and with the audience’s scorching gaze in the palm of my hand, I took from them what they couldn’t live without (as of five seconds ago): the magician’s hot assistant. With but a touch of my hand, she liquidated into a puddle of water, causing the audience to grow restless. Of course, as I had taken a valuable piece of the show from them, some boos began to poke through the crowd 


I thought I was done playing with fire. I joked to myself. I wanted to say something in response, but I learned long ago that actions are the best way of quieting all doubt, so I pushed through the negative PR and continued with the negativity. The show goes on, right?


Hoping things would become clearer as the show continued, I took the water from the sky and funneled it into an invisible glass structure. It was invisible because it wasn’t there, but nevertheless as the water poured, it took the form of a cradle of sorts. As the water splashed and sloshed, the storm became weaker, the liquids started to morph into something solid: a cradle, a metaphor for new life.


“Though there’s little to no water in the universe, it still gave us water and breathed breath into our lungs. Our life and our blessings are a gift from the universe!” 

As though I had command of time and space, I put my hand on the cradle, reached in and pulled out a child that looked as though it were pulled from the ocean. Its features were unrecognizable as that of a human, but its shape and cries were unmistakably that of an infant. 


“As humans, we are at our best when we realize just how insignificant we are,” I said as someone capable of wiping out the room by sneezing, “and if we humble ourselves for the universe, well… we might just find everything we were looking for.”

As I held the baby by the waist, the water in the sky went bled down my shoulders, up my arms, and into the body of the child. Its arms and legs grew larger, and as the water bled into the body of the baby, it grew and grew. Its hair grew longer, its facial features more defined, its dress metamorphosing from a fiery cherry red to a

soothing turquoise blue.


Alongside her transformation came a clearing of the sky. The downpour dissolved into a faint memory. To show that the red-dressed girl turned baby turned blue-dressed girl wasn’t smoke and mirrors, as well to continue the story I was hoping to weave, I danced with the girl with the ocean wardrobe.


We stepped in rhythm to the tune of some ancient yet classic composition that escaped my knowledge. To not let the focus on magic slip, we kept the dance short, but we made sure that as we danced, we let the crowd feel our presence, as our feet swept the floor from end to end and then back to the center of the stage. Mournfully, knowing what would happen to her when the show ended (even though she technically wasn’t real), I kept the train going. 


“Ladies, gentlemen, and everything in between! Thank you for spending your time with me tonight! Unfortunately, our time together is coming to a close, so please,allow me to leave you with one more trick. In life there is creation. In creation, there is pride. In pride, there is destruction.”


As I spoke, members of the audience tugged at their collars, they pulled their handkerchiefs out of their pockets and dabbed their heads. Their enthusiasm/intrigue no doubt turned to dread almost instantaneously. Calamity was the nouveau sensation. Just as their reactions had shifted a hundredfold times over the last thirty minutes, it was now time for sensation to consume them once more. For but a moment, they would be witnesses to a collapsing star. On the bright side, their morbid curiosity would be satisfied. On the downside, they’d feel their flesh was on fire. They’d survive, but those few seconds would be tattooed on their mind forever, like an overly curious toddler reaching his hand into a candle holder.

Adults made their way to the exit as fast they could. I could tell through Clairvoyance that there were no children in the audience. I figured so, anyways. What parent would take their kids to a show in Vegas? They were probably sitting with a babysitter in some expensive hotel, if anything.


“So you finally mastered Clairvoyance, have you?” I heard subconsciously. The voice rung so clear in my ear, it was a voice both similar and strange. As his voice echoed, the sky regained its blue hue, the burning sensation disappeared. With an excitement I couldn’t possibly exaggerate, I whispered the name of the only person I could think of who could override my control of the Arcana:


“Merlin!”


A slow clap echoed through the arena. Though I saw the people around me, it was as if everything else went silent. It was as though my mind was a puddle, and each clap was a delicate drip that sent ripples. The footsteps of a stranger slowly approaching me was like a song from my childhood I had long forgotten, 


“Master, I can’t believe you’re here! I thought I was the last one! The last magician, that is.”


“I figured that’s what you meant, and no, there are many like you. Me. Us. For decades, I’ve hidden among the people of the world as a detective, using my Clairvoyance to solve cold cases. We aren’t as widespread as we once were, but we’re not extinct either. We’ve just done a better job of hiding, disguising our magic under practical applications. Like you, for example. Quite a show you’ve put on here.”


“Merlin. You know the type of magic I was using.”


“Ay, perception-altering. Nowhere near fatal, but a heckuva way to mess with

someone’s mind.”


“So you’re not going to arrest me, Mr. Detective?”


“On what grounds? Being too good at your job is encroaching on my territory, but it’s not illegal. Running from an officer on the other hand-.”


“Do I have something to run from?”


“Not technically, but catching up gets a lot harder if you do.”


December 17, 2022 04:00

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