Simon, the magician, after a spectacular display of the guillotine, with an impressive shock, performed the last number of the night. In his apparently empty top hat, two pigeons appeared that began to make graceful evolutions on the stage.
The audience enthusiastically applauded his skills and the cloth had to stand up three times to show the magician’s smiling face and his thanks to the loud and persistent applause.
After the function was finished, the spectators went out and commented on the magnificent tricks observed, seeking the logical explanation for all those wonders that had paraded before their eyes: the head suspended in the air, the woman cut in half by a saw and whose two parts were united as the most skilled surgeon could not do it.
Chang, the magician’s assistant, was assembling the various devices of the show to store them properly until the next day’s function, when Simon approached, still dressed in his elegant home, approached. The bright smile with which he greeted the audience had disappeared from his face. He was serious, frowning and in a harsh voice he reproached his assistant.
- You’re having a lot of fun, Chang.
Chang opened his eastern eyes as wide as he could, without understanding the rebuke.
- Me sir?… Why say this about Chang?
- Don’t you know that the hat number is made with a single pigeon?
- Of course Chang know, sir.
- And if you know why, then, two pigeons left instead of one? You miscalculated the number.
But Chang swore and swore again that he had only put a pigeon and that he could not have been wrong in any way.
The magician left with a grunt. The error had been evident. Two pigeons had appeared, there was no doubt about it. So there was no point in arguing. But shortly after, his spirits returned to calm and he forgot the incident. In addition, he was concerned with the preparation of another issue. He intended to combine, in a trick of great effect, the act of the hypnotized woman floating in the air, with that of the swords that seemed to be stuck in the body. There were possibilities of great effect. And while he took off his coat, brushing it carefully and storing it in the wardrobe, he continued to mentally combine the details that would serve him to obtain a number of high magic.
“The woman suspended in a vacuum, a sword that sticks … Oh, magnificent, magnificent! …”.
The following day, when the evening function was over, Simão rebuked his assistant again, this time with greater violence.
- Chang, if yesterday I excused your negligence, I won’t be able to do it again. There were no longer two pigeons, but three. Two more than is necessary. What do you say to this?
The magician’s face was red with indignation. Chang, on the other hand, had paled, and was only able to stammer an excuse:
- Chang swear, Mr. Simão, that I don’t put more than one pigeon in the top hat … Chang swear …
But the sleight of hand interrupted him angrily:
- And to top it off there were also more handkerchiefs in the cylinder test. I took twice as much of the combined amount. What about you? Are you drunk for work?
The Oriental swore again and this time, by the sacred memory of his ancestors, I had fulfilled his function with the required correction and could not explain what happened.
The magician, already bored, replied:
- It’s ok. Tomorrow I will prepare the devices myself. I can’t trust you anymore. It’s clumsy!
And he withdrew, disdainfully, leaving his secretary in the most regrettable state of confusion and perplexity.
The next day, as he said, Simão prepared the devices. He carefully separated a pigeon for the number of the top hat, and the necessary amount of handkerchiefs for that of the cylinders. This time there would be no possibility of error, I was sure of it.
Simon sighed. Ah, very complicated and tiring was the prestidigitator’s task! The devices had to be thoroughly prepared to obtain the trick. Poor preparation could cause your numbers to fail and there was nothing more disgraceful for a magician than a failed trick.
Shortly afterwards, the audience returned to fill the theater, anxious to watch their experiences of magic and shudder with the surprising numbers of beheadings, invisibility, hypnotism, etc.
The cloth was lifted. The audience cordially applauded Simão’s presentation in his always impeccable jacket, with the sleeves rolled up to the elbow to demonstrate that he did not use the coarse and vulgar artifice of hiding objects in the sleeves.
The initial numbers were repeated again with the usual skill. He carried out all sorts of concealments. He brought a woman into an absolutely empty box and after a moment, in the face of general surprise, he opened the lid without any sign of her.
Smiling, he then started the hat number. He raised a spectator to the stage, asking him to examine the interior. The viewer withdrew satisfied. It was a top like any other. But in the hands of Simon, the objects acquired a wonderful meaning. He himself, moreover, had separated the pigeon for this number.
So he was sure of the mathematical performance of the trick.
On the top hat, empty, Simão made some “magnetic passes”. His white hand simulated some curious arabesques and soon, to the public’s disconcerting joy, the animals began to come out of the hat. First, two pigeons, then another and one more. The audience applauded deliriously, but Simao felt a cold sweat flooding his forehead until it spilled over his face and his hands, always light and safe, began to tremble.
The animals continued to come out of the hat. This time it was rabbits and then more pigeons.
Chang came to collect the animals that in large numbers filled the stage. Anyway, after three other pigeons and a rabbit, the hat seemed to have exhausted its source.
- Why leave so many animals, boss? Asked Chang quietly.
Simon, without answering, looked at him angrily. I knew nothing more. I understood nothing more. He was as if in an indefinable anguish. After a pause, other numbers began. The thaumaturge, trying to appear serene, started another number of magic. He inserted the swords into a device, pretending to pierce a woman’s body. Then, with a net, he started hunting little animals in the air. Chickens and more chickens came out of nowhere and were trapped in the net. The public, fascinated, watched the strange hunt, but Simao worried again. He should not have hunted more than four chickens, only four well-counted chickens, but the net, with a strange voracity, continued to grab new specimens. The stage boiled with bustling chickens and applause split the air celebrating the prolific house. Finally, the animals in the net ran out and Simão started the number of the cylinder and the colored handkerchiefs.
As always, the magician displayed the empty tube, with no double bottom. And after a little manipulation, he started to remove the handkerchiefs. Simão already fearfully predicted what was going to happen. It would be an endless row of tied scarves. And so it did, in effect. Handkerchiefs and more handkerchiefs came out of the tube. It was a huge, colorful, endless snake.
The audience had risen to their feet, in delusional acclaim. Simon, pale, trembled with weariness. Chang had run away, amazed at what he had never seen.
The cloth fell, rising again several times, showing the magician’s pale face, next to an impenetrable jungle of colorful handkerchiefs.
Simao ended up convincing himself that his hoax had acquired a fantastic reality. His tricks were no longer tricks, they were realized in absolute magic.
When he was alone, he returned to taking his devices, without this time placing animals or handkerchiefs on them. The experience was reproduced with generosity. Rabbits, chickens, pigeons and handkerchiefs came out… They came out of nowhere!
What did all this mean? … Magic? … Why, talking to him about magic …
He tried to find an explanation for what happened. This went beyond the real. It must have connections with supernatural forces. Someone, an omnipotent “someone”, should have given him the gift of magic. That should be it. He had become an authentic magician, even if no one believed him. No one would find the trick, the deceit, the skill, the double bottom in their prowess.
But there was a “someone” who favored him, a mysterious divinity who had given him his mercy, the power to work miracles, the power to create from nothing what he wanted. He had thus become a “doer” who could repeat the “fiat lux” with an imperative gesture.
When aware of this strength, Simão felt assaulted by opposite feelings. He felt fear and joy at the same time. A strange mixture of joy and terror stirred in his chest and in his thoughts. He feared that mystery suspended above his head, he feared the possession of that miraculous gift and he praised it, even so, the power that this omnipotent “someone” seemed to confer on him.
As a confirmation of his thoughts, Chang appeared.
- Chang go away, boss.
- Are you leaving me?
- Yes, boss. This is no longer illusion. This is something else. The gods be angry with you.
- Don’t leave me, Chang, I need you …
But Chang, obstinately, shook his head.
- The gods be angry, boss … Goodbye.
However, despite all the thoughts of anguish that assailed him, Simao prided himself on knowing that he possessed this strange power.
He no longer needed tricks or devices. He would make his numbers, from then on, without any preparation, even when the public believed he existed.
Chang was gone? And? He alone could offer ever more wonderful and real magic shows.
Convinced of his supernatural power, he waited for the next job with real impatience and when he stepped on the scene he wore a face illuminated by a broad smile of triumph. It would do wonders. It would be enough to invoke this “someone” to populate the environment of curious birds and animals.
And so it was, in effect. He made a simple gesture and in his hand appeared a pigeon, a rabbit, a parrot. The audience applauded between surprised and frightened. What would be the tricks of these strange acts of illusionism?
“Open your hand, sir,” said the thaumaturge to a very fat spectator, seated in the front row.
The fat man opened his empty hand, suddenly appearing in it a grotesque kite that flew with a high-pitched squeak. The audience burst into laughter and applause. The fat man preferred to get up from his chair and hurry out.
Simon was overjoyed. The numbers came out with all the desired perfection, impeccable, improbable.
The next act was the most anticipated of the night: the guillotine. A woman was leaning against the device, inserting her head under the razor. The preparations were carried out slowly, as was strict in view of the nervous attention of the spectators.
With a boastful gaze, Simao pulled the rope that held the razor and the woman’s head rolled across the floor, while a thick stream of blood welled up from her beheaded neck.
The show had such an appearance of reality that it was really frightening. The silence was absolute. The public observed everything that happened, invaded by mute and contained astonishment, even when awaiting the resurrection of the victim.
After a few moments of tense waiting, after which there was an appalling applause that seemed to fill the room with something concise, thick, the crowd applauded, exalted with enthusiasm, until their hands were red. Simon had lifted the head that lay on the ground and watched it. The audience continued to applaud, but Simão heard nothing. He was deaf enough to go crazy. He felt that the blood was paralyzed in his veins and that a whirlwind of anguish and dread took over his sensations. His hands held the bloody skull of the young woman who had lent herself to the number … and there was no magic possible. In vain did he invoke the omnipotent “someone” … Where was that dark deity who gave him the power of magic?
Feverish, he went to the woman’s exanimous body. He removed the straps that supported him and, in the face of the horror of all who contemplated the scene, showed the decapitated body. Already with a mad laugh, he tried awkwardly to put his head on his shoulders. His hands were stained with blood, like a butcher’s.
The public, realizing that there was no illusion in it, fled in terror, while Simão, already in the abyss of dementia, shouted:
- You can’t die. I am an authentic magician. An authentic magician … You cannot die …