27 March, 2011

The Trick

My professional life has been a constant record of disillusion, and many things that seem wonderful to most men are the every-day commonplaces of my business.
 -- Harry Houdini

In hon(u)or of the great, revolutionary and inspirational Harry Houdini's 137th birthday, a special magical excerpt. And, like all good magicians, I couldn't possibly give away the very end...


     “Christoph?” she called to him one evening entering around the screen that marked his bedroom. “Madame S has restored the embroidery on your waistcoat and asked me to bring it to you. I told her I would…” She smiled, “…with pleasure… ” she added

     “Place it on the trunk thank you,” he grunted, eyes closed in trance, unmoving. She did. Meditation? She asked herself, or another mood of his? Remarkable how changeable he is, she thought, I do wonder if he is the victim of some sort of addiction.

She beheld Christoph hanging upside-down from the edge of his bed like a kind of bat immersed in the depths of a dark, capsized meditation. More remarkable to her was how little she cared. Her flirtations with Christoph were nothing more than an amusement, a way of filling the days, of passing the hours. When she searched her heart, she was almost astonished to find it utterly empty and her conscience utterly clean. Curious, she observed, before apathetically moving on.

But before she reached the doorway his voice cut through the air, “Shura!” His voice was a thin, sharp blade, “You would like me to teach you one, wouldn’t you?”

     “What?” she asked, turning. He was still mystically inverted.

Christoph crunched his body upward and sat upright, promptly staring at her. His hair was long these days, dark and wavy, his massive torso complimented by the stark ivory tone of an undershirt revealing the curve of his Adam’s apple, the irresistible depression of his throat. His expression was penetrative. Something told her he was meditating on her. At this she clasped her hands behind her back, her face suddenly coy and playful like a little girl. “Oh,” she coaxed with her eyes and stood gazing at him in this manner.
     “No thank you,” she replied. She meant it.

     “Something then,” He stated it plainly. His voice even and firm. “I shall tell you something…”

     “Alright,” she agreed, “something…” and with that, he indicated she sit beside him on the cot. It was time. But how secretive he was. How protective. He reached below his cot and presented her with a small, red, wooden box, hand-painted red upon the lid was a haunting image of a tiger.

     “Open it. Take a good long look.”

She examined what appeared to be a very ordinary box, but deeper and with greater space within it than appeared to be possible from the outside. She blinked and placed her hand inside to feel it’s depth and was shocked to discover that the bottom of the box was not real at all but fixed with two tiny mirrors to create the illusion of depth.

     "You didn't see the illusion because you weren't expecting one," Christoph said. "You believed I was not misleading you and that this box was actually a normal box. Those beliefs serve you perfectly until you walk into a wall. Now close the lid, think of the illusion, and open it again."

She did as she was instructed and as she opened the painted lid was shocked by a double trick— the mirrors were gone, the box no longer appeared to have such depth and not only that, the box contained her hair ribbon, neatly folded as if it had nestled there of it’s own accord.

Christoph watched her as she tried in vain to figure out how it was done. He relished her confusion. "Do not worry, Ochi Chernye [1], I once showed this box to Leon Herrmann and he could not figure it out either." Unless Christoph witnessed your mouth agape, eyes widened, pupils dilated—he apparently did not consider the trick a success.

     "Illusions work only because magicians know, at an intuitive level, how we look at the world. Even when we know we're going to be tricked, we still can't see it. Perhaps we do not wish to see it. Magic is a deception, Shura. Our minds don't see everything—-the world is too vast, too full of stimuli. Therefore the mind creates little shortcuts, constructing a reality for they way we want and need things to be, for what things are supposed to look like. Magician’s capitalize on that petty little humanity,” he smiled.  Something in his expression altered. “Magic as an art reveals the everyday fraud of perception. People soon become aware of the tension.”

Christoph clapped his hands together, and began drawing them apart.

     “This tension exists between what is…” he said, revealing a seemingly suspended playing card, rotating between his fingers, “and what appears to be…” and he clasped his hands together again, revealing his empty palms with a final flourish. "...and, after all, is that not the story of the world...?"


[1] Russian: literally, "black eyes," often translated as dark eyes, also a hauntingly beautiful traditional Russian Gypsy song, and a phrase used as an affectionate pet name

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