Fortune Teller

The fairground is nearly empty when you arrive. You pass tired children, drooped in their parents’ arms and insisting (between yawns) that they’re not tired and they can do just five more minutes. You step over candyfloss wrappers and coffee cups. It smells like burnt popcorn and roasted almonds. Some of the rides have shut down already and you can hear the rest slowing down around you.

The neon lights on the carnival rides and around the tented roofs of game stalls and food stands show you the way, like a convoy of fireflies. They lead you to the door of the Fortune Teller’s tent.

The door is, of course, already open and he has stood to greet you.

“I need-” you begin.

“I know,” he nods and the tent door swings shut, silently. He puts a gentle hand on either side of your face. He tells you this will hurt, but not for long and then he reaches in to the back of your throat, down in to your chest and scoops out your heart.

It is excruciating. But not for long.

When he puts it down on the table you feel so much lighter. You sit across from him and you both stare at your heavy heart on the table.

It does not look the way that you thought it would. You were prepared for something heart-shaped, or at worst some blood and gore, but what sits in front of you is more like a large, matted bundle of string. It’s like when you pull a clump of hair from a shower drain, except every strand is a different colour. You had no idea there were so many colours.

The Fortune Teller tuts. “My, my,” he says. “I haven’t seen a heart in this much of a tangle for a while. You’ve tied yourself in knots.”

He spends some time untangling them and shows you every one. Each heartstring is tied to a different person- a friend, a family member, an acquaintance, a colleague- people you’d known your whole life and people you’d only met for a day. The strings are all different thicknesses, different lengths.

You see the threads of your life laid out in front of you with perfect clarity. You can see the people who love you. You can see the ones who don’t. And you can see how significant each thread is.

“Now,” the Fortune Teller smiles a small smile. “Now that you can see it all, you have a choice. You can piece yourself back together. Or you can restart.”

Restart.

It sounds so easy. Like a reboot. A chance to do better the next time round. To fix all the things that went wrong now, but you know that’s not true. You know that restarting means a new life. New people. New ways to mess up. You know that it means the end of this life. Goodbyes. Tears. And funeral costs.

You look back up at the Fortune Teller. He smiles because he already knew what you would say and then you start to weave your life back together.

Via Daily Prompt: Restart

The Middle of a Vanishing Act

A wisp of smoke in the pitch black. It rises up from the ground and curls, like a incandescent snake climbing towards the moonlight. From its base, cracks of crimson shoot out towards you.

You stop… in case the ground is about to fall apart. You know you should run, but your hammering, awe-filled heart keeps you to rooted to the ground.

A sound in the silence. A faint, melodic hum and a perfectly in-time drum. It grows so loud that the cracks in ground pulse. They widen.

You can smell caramel apples. And freshly-made popcorn.

The wisp of smoke starts to move like a drawing on a chalkboard. The outline of a person in a top hat and a slightly billowing jacket. Applause leaks through the cracks in the ground. The dark space between the outline grows more solid and then there she is.

The applause is gone. The music stops. The cracks are sealed without a trace. The smoke disperses in to the night. And her surprised face stares at you from under her top hat. Her suit is midnight black. Her eyes a bright and piercing green.

“Where the hell did you come from?” she asks. And you almost laugh because you feel like you could ask her the same thing.

In stead, you ask, “Who are you?” Because that feels more polite.

“I’m a conjurer,” she says, conjuring up a caramel apple and handing it to you. “I usually disappear for a break during my vanishing act… I’ve never vanished to in front of a person before.”

“Don’t they notice you’re gone?” you ask.

“I can chose the moment of time I re-appear to. It’ll be seconds to them, but I could spend a few hours here. If you wouldn’t mind?”

You don’t know what to say, so you take a bite of the apple. Warm, sweet and delicious. It has a caramel core too.

She watches you and smiles so brightly it puts stars in the sky.

via Daily Prompt: Conjure

The Final Illusion

“The trick, my friend,” The Illusionist once told me, “Is to always let them think they’ve seen you three times. They stop looking after that.”

Despite having been told this, I could never spot how he did it. I knew the Great Lafayette better than most and I could never tell the difference between the real him and his doubles.

He was a cut above other entertainers. He could appear and reappear seemingly at will. He could take very specific and distinctive objects and send them to different parts of the theatre in the blink of an eye. He could destroy things and heal them again with a simple touch. He could enchant animals to do things I never dreamed possible.

But it was his finales that really set him above everyone else.

An audience watched as a lion roared. He shook his mane and paced the length of his cage. Around him jugglers swallowed fire and balanced knives, contortionists folded themselves in to glass boxes so small I think I would have struggled to get my feet in them. And the Great Illusionist Lafayette sat so still that a flock of doves came to rest peacefully on him.

A young woman walked on stage. Slowly and deliberately she made her way towards the lion’s cage. Lafayette did not move. She opened the door of the cage and still he did not move. She locked it behind her. He remained still.

Then two things happened at once. The lion rose up on his hind legs. The doves around Lafayette sensed the danger and moved in a flurry of fearful feathers. The lion made to pounce on the defenceless girl. She screamed.

Then the lion’s skin fell away from it’s body and out stepped the Great Lafayette.

The crowd were on their feet. On the other side of the stage, the doves came to settle back down on an empty chair.

The Great Lafayette let himself and his assistant out of the cage and stepped forward to take a final bow. As he did so something snapped. A crack. A crash. And the curtains went up in flames.

The audience stayed on their feet.  The stage was obscured by smoke, but they peered around. Where would he come from next? Would he be in amongst us somewhere? A door at the back burst open. There was a gasp, but it was not him. It was an usher, wide-eyed and pale.

“GET OUT!” he shouted. “THIS IS NOT PART OF THE SHOW!”

It took a few moments before anyone believed him and then chaos rained down on all of us. There was a stampede out of the door.

The fire spread quickly. I could still smell it when I reached the evening air outside. I could see smoke pouring out of the stage door. And there he was- my friend, The Great Lafayette, coughing and choking on the smoke. I remember it because he looked me in the eye.

“Where is my horse?” he looked around at us all. “Where is Magic?”

When nobody could answer him he ran back in to the flames.

They found his body under the front of the stage the next morning, charred beyond recognition but still wearing his costume. We buried him, I paid my respects and they continued to clear out the theatre.

Then they found his body for a second time.

Charred beyond recognition, but definitely wearing his rings.

Who was the first man? The real Illusionist? A stunt double?

I stood in the burnt out skeleton of the Empire Theatre trying to distinguish any feature on this body that might have belonged to my friend. I found myself smiling and the scorched skull grinned back at me.

“Always let them think they’ve seen you three times,” I muttered to myself.

From deep in the wings I thought I heard a chuckle and a voice that whispered, “They always stop looking after that.” 

 


 

 

*This is a fictitious account of the real death of the Illusionist Lafayette at Edinburgh’s Empire (now Festival) Theatre in 1911. 

More info on the real story here: Scotsman article.

via Daily Prompt: Chuckle

So Long

We’ve been in this maze for so long
But we are not lost
Life is long and the maze is winding
The goal’s not the end
It’s the route you take to reach it.

I’d been walking alone for so long
I was not lonely
Others beckoned me to follow them
Their paths unenticing
Until I ran into you walking my way.

We pick the same path and I pause
To look back
At the turns we have taken together
And forward
At the paths I could take on my own

If I decided to say “So long.”