Mystery Fantasy Thriller

‘Pick a card, any card!’ the magician said, offering the volunteer an option out of thirteen cards. The elderly lady seemed to ponder—not noticing the subtle marks on each card. The spotlight highlighting the pearls of sweat appearing on her forehead.

‘I pick this one,’ she said softly. The charming man took the chosen card and shuffled it back into the deck. The audience watched in awe as the magician effortlessly executed the cascade of riffle shuffles, a symphony of randomness. Each card passed his skillful fingers as his eyes remained locked with the volunteer’s until he paused. A grin played on his lips as he lifted a five of hearts, knowing without looking that this was her choice. Her eyes widened at the reveal.

‘Is this your card, miss?’ he flattered, offering her the card as he took a slight bow—the footlight illuminating his confident smile, casting deep shadows across his features. Charmed, she took a moment before she nodded which in turn was rewarded with applause from the audience. He helped her down the stage steps as she returned back to her seat.

It was a quaint theatre, which doubled as an opera house during the high seasons. The indigo curtains were embroidered with golden and silver, two marble pillars flanked each side of the stage, awarding the showman with a sense of grandeur and otherworldliness. His dark grey top hat, once black, lengthened his silhouette, adding to his mystery.

‘Who wants to disappear?’ he asked the audience, his arms raised as if they were about to cast a spell. Two assistants in black rolled a grand oaken closet onto the stage as a wave of murmurs could be heard coming from the audience, each person pushing their loved ones to volunteer. Eventually, the magician took off his hat and pulled out a blooming red rose.

‘Whoever catches the rose shall be my assistant!’ he proclaimed, throwing the rose in a grand motion. It landed on the lap of a young lady, her short blond curls neatly fitted under her beret. She stood up and was escorted towards the stage where the magician awaited her, his hand extended. She took his hand as he helped her up the stage.

‘Hello dear, do you dare to step into the closet of disappearance?’ he asked, still holding her hand.

‘I do dare,’ she answered as she approached the closet.

The magician faced the audience, raising their interlocked hands as he announced, ‘This beautiful young lady has dared to take the challenge!’

He placed his top hat back and opened each closet door slowly to maintain the suspense—revealing nothing of note, only that the planks had been removed to make room for the volunteer. The lady stepped into the snug closet, her back facing the audience. The magician slowly closed the doors behind her. He then circled around the closet three times, his velvet red cape following him like a delayed shadow, as he muttered to himself, his footfall echoing throughout the theatre hall. After the third round, he shouted, ‘Larae vi sceran!’ He tapped on each of the closet doors three times, finishing his ritual.

‘Now, my beloved audience, will my beautiful assistant have turned spectral? Will she have vanished into thin air? Let us take a glimpse into the closet…’ he lengthened the audience’s anticipation. Several children stood up to witness the moment of magic as he quickly opened the first door, standing in front of it. A few audience members begged the magician to let them see the closet.

‘Patience is a virtue well rewarded!’ he said as he quickly opened the second door, jumping aside for the audience to witness the empty closet. A collective gasp echoed through the crowd as the illusion unfolded before their eyes, which was quickly followed by a loud applause. The magician took a deep bow, tipping his tophat as a sign of respect. The spotlight was repositioned by the lighting technician from the magician to the closet with a loud metal creak.

‘Let’s return our fair lady from the beyond!’ he exclaimed, again circling three times around the closet, but this time in reverse. When he finished the third round, he shouted, ‘Sceran vi larae!’ and tapped each of the closet doors three times. The audience grew silent once more with anticipation, waiting for the beauty to return. The magician put his gloved hands on both of the door handles and pulled them open in a quick, but grand motion, his arms remaining spread, as a bird about to take flight. Standing in front of the closet, the audience did not get a good look, but this time, the magician did not move away.

Even though the overhead spotlight directly shone onto the closet, no shadow was cast. Only the magician’s long shadow played on stage that night.

‘It seems our lady has not seen the need to return just yet!’ he said, closing the doors. This earned him a round of laughter from the audience. He completed the reversed ritual once again, but this time, he did not feel the need to wait before opening the doors. He immediately took a look inside—it was still empty. His smiling mouth twitched, attempting not to drop his facade in front of the audience, but the gloves stuck to his sweaty palms.

‘Quite a stubborn young lady, I must confess!’ he laughed, but by then, the audience had grown murmurous, noticing that the charming man seemed to be overcome by nerves. He spotted the elderly woman in the front, who had volunteered for the card trick, to be clutching her rosemary.

‘It seems that I must retrieve her myself!’ he said after a long pause. He opened the closet doors, stepped in, and turned to face the audience.

‘I will return!’ he shouted, his dark eyes wide as he remained smiling. He closed the closet doors from within, and a silence ensued. By each minute, the crowd became more restless, until some had enough and shouted for the magician to return their money. Eventually, a stagehand appeared and opened the closet doors, taking a step back to reveal the empty closet, with which the audience erupted into chaos. The confused stagehand inspected each side of the closet, together with several members of the audience, but nothing was to be found.

The next day, a morning newspaper printed an article, front-page, with a title in large black letters, ‘IT’S LIKE MAGIC!’ Reporting on the magician and the volunteer pair who had disappeared. Till this date, the pair had never been found again.

His trick revealed—magic.

July 16, 2023 14:12

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David Ader
17:34 Jul 27, 2023

I enjoyed this. The magician seems rather old school, but that's a good angle; as if perhaps he's not a particular good magician or hip. I would change the ending and lose the very last line; His trick revealed—magic. I might even lose, "The next day, a morning newspaper printed an article, front-page, with a title in large black letters, ‘IT’S LIKE MAGIC!’ Reporting on the magician and the volunteer pair who had disappeared." I think the line, which is very good, " Till this date, the pair had never been found again." That captures it all ...


Nina Barkat
14:31 Jul 28, 2023

Thank you for your comment and your suggestions! I will take you up on them. Indeed, re-reading it, the ending seems a bit too much, as the: "Till this date, the pair had never been found." already suggests their mysterious disappearance has never been resolved. I cannot edit it however, as it has already been reviewed for the contest, but perhaps after I will be able to apply the changes!


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Julie Grenness
22:07 Jul 26, 2023

So well done. This story builds a compelling word picture to create a spellbinding conclusion. The writer has used an effective and apt choice of vocabulary and imagery to hold the reader in suspense. I hope you keep on writing, magical!


Nina Barkat
07:55 Jul 27, 2023

Hi Julie, Thank you for your kind words! They're much appreciated. I do intend to keep on writing, it brings me much joy 😊


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