I watch her reel against the crowd toward the edge of the bridge. She leans over the steel barrier, eyes hypnotised by the river below. No one seems to notice her, their faces fixed to illuminated screens. She raises a high heel onto the railing, then another.
In 1979 I sawed a man in half on national television. In 1983 I submerged myself in twenty thousand litres of water, bound in chains with no breathing apparatus. Then in 1987 I performed ‘The Levitation of the Sphinx’, where I used an ancient incantation to elevate a faux Egyptian princess into the air, returning her to earth with not a blemish to her bronze skin.
On the wall of my one-bedroom flat near Elephant and Castle I keep a framed article from an issue of Time Out London carrying the words The Great Tadhia, the world’s greatest magician. Back then I hobnobbed with celebrities and hung around with artists. I even had a spot on Parkinson, featured on his famous sofa alongside Billy Connolly.
This was a golden age of magic, but unfortunately those days have passed. People today have grown cynical. They’ve seen YouTube clips of how every trick is performed. They search for hidden wires, concealed mirrors, cards up our sleeve. They think magic is simply illusion, no more than party entertainment for toddlers and corporate events. What they don’t know is that the ties that bind their world to the supernatural are as grains of sand in an hourglass, shifting freely between the two worlds. The secret that a magician never reveals is that sometimes there are no wires, that sometimes there is nothing up our sleeve, and that there are certain mysteries that one cannot simply Google an answer to. We understand magic for what it truly is. Transcendence.
But not even magic can prevent the passage of time. These hands, which once conjured such wonder are now wrinkled and frail. I spend most of my remaining allotted time walking my Jack Russell and pining for the old days. Oh, how I miss it. The collective awe that only great magic can produce. To hear the roar of the crowd just once more before I take my final bows.
I watch as she looks down at the river below, tears smearing black mascara across her otherwise serene face. Though old and weak I force my way against the human tide, willing her not to jump. The crowd has begun to notice, turning toward her with anguished gasps of anticipation. She steps out.
And she vanishes.
As I whisper my incantation, I feel her body tethered to my words. A buzz of wonderment builds from the crowd as she rises skyward, her arms unfurled like feathers. The hourglass turns, she and I suspended somewhere between life and death. Our fates shifting as the sands. And somewhere over the Thames the stage lights dim. I slip into darkness as the curtain falls, the roar of the crowd still ringing in my ears.
Charles Prelle is a London based writer of short fiction. His writing has won or placed in various competitions and can be found in Ellipsis Zine, Retreat West, Free Flash Fiction, and Reflex Press among others. Find him on Twitter @CharlesPrelle or on his website www.cprellewriter.wordpress.com