Short Story – The Magician’s Assistant

The Magician’s Assistant

A Magical Fiction by Cameron Brtnik

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The Magician’s Assistant

    There was a thunderous applause reverberating throughout the room, coming from the audience as the lady stepped out of the box, fully intact and alive to be sure! The Sawing a Lady In Half trick never ceased to amaze audiences, even in this day and age of smartphones and catching Pokemon. The magician took the beautiful lady’s hand and bowed with her at the front of the stage, the applause always music to the magician’s ears. He lived by the audience’s feedback, and their applause was proof of their adoration. Amanda, the beautiful assistant, could care less. Her job wasn’t glamorous; she was a glorified contortionist. But she was really a talented escape artist, almost as good as Houdini – she could escape from locks, free herself from a straight jacket while hanging upside down, free her shackled hands while floating in a tank of water, and even break out of jails – but no one cared. They only cared about the magician, the “man who made the magic happen.” She didn’t hate Peter (The Magnificent Julio was his stage name, a moniker that neither resembled ‘Peter’ nor had anything to do with his ethnicity considering he wasn’t even a quarter Spanish), in fact they had a romantic fling time to time that she quite enjoyed. She especially liked when they did it after a successful show in the wooden box where she was usually accustomed to being alone in such a tight space. Amanda realized she enjoyed the claustrophobic-ness of it, especially with no audience to please but herself, where the trick was to come inside the box rather than out if it. She also enjoyed fucking on the the magic prop table, silks, locks and chains flying everywhere in the heat of passion.
 
     Amanda was fine with it. She had a goal: she would be “discovered” and move to Vegas where’d she’d have her own magic spectacle; this was just temporary. So she smiled in her skimpy dress, swallowed her pride and got on with the show, seven nights a week. After all, Julios was the best in the business, and without her the show would be nothing. If Peter replaced her with another girl – probably younger, attractive obviously, but with no experience – the show would go to shit! She was a modern-day Houdini, with a set of long legs to boot! She knew she was irreplaceable. She pushed the thought from her mind and ran backstage for a costume change; she would do the Metamorphosis illusion next and she needed to change into her skimpiest outfit: the glittery blue dress, its dangling frills hanging over her upper thighs. In the blink of an eye she would change places with the magician after being shackled and tied up in a large sack. It was Houdini’s first illusion, and one that was still performed today. It was all about “who performed the illusion the fastest” now, the record currently held by The Pendragons (damn those bloody Pendragons). The audience was always amazed like it was their first time seeing the illusion (hadn’t they seen that stupid masked magician expose this trick a decade ago? On a side note that guy actually improved business by making the “secret art of magic” more accessible to the lay person.)
 
     After a hugely successful show, the theatre manager came backstage to congratulate them and invite them out for celebratory drinks. “We’ll be there after teardown,” Peter said. “Mandy, I’d like you to meet someone. She’ll be helping out in the show from now on. Julia, come here.” This young, beautiful blonde came out of the change room (had she been there all night?) “Hi,” she said shyly, “I’m Julia.” “Amanda,” she said in return, although in a much colder tone of voice. “So…you’re a dancer?” Amanda managed in a clearly condescending tone. “Yes, well kinda, I’m..” “She’s an assistant,” Peter thankfully cut in. “Mandy, you’ll be training her over the next month. Just think of it as, “Double the beauty, double the entertainment!'” he announced excitedly. Amanda didn’t feel so excited. “Oh, okay..” she said more to herself than anyone in particular. “C’mon, let’s go celebrate!” Peter said, wanting to put an end to the obvious awkwardness.
 
     The next morning they were on the road visiting the next middle-of-who-gives-a-shit-nowhere town on their American tour. Amanda was teaching Julia how to to pick locks in the back of the trailer. Julia’s hand slipped and the bobby pin fell to the floor. Dumb blonde, Amanda thought to herself. Where does he get off hiring such untalented girls? Not including herself of course. “I got it!” Julia squealed and threw the shackles to the floor. “Great..” Amanda feigned. “What’s next?” the overly enthusiastic new assistant asked. How about seeing how long I can hold your head under water before air bubbles start floating up to the surface? “Let’s get to the rope ties I guess.” When they arrived at the theatre, Peter started unloading the props, while Amanda led Julia to the stage to go through all the choreography. Magic was as much about showmanship as as the trick itself, and what better showmanship than having two sexy ladies on stage misdirecting the audience’s eyes at all times (or at least Peter thought so anyway).
 
     After an hour of practice it was time to rehearse the Sawing A Lady In Half illusion, an audience favorite. First, she showed Julia how to step into the box like a lady, and where to position her hands, and the secret compartment for her feet. Amanda could contort her body into extremely tight spaces, and she was waiting for Julia to look at her like she was crazy. But suddenly Julia contorted her body into a pretzel, easily fitting into the claustrophobic space underneath. “Like this?” she asked innocently. “Yeah..you ditzy whore..perfect!” She suddenly had the disturbing image of Peter fucking her in this box, this same box at her audition: “Did I get the job?” Oh you got the job alright! “Where does the saw go?” snapping her back to reality. Amanda picked the saw up off the ledge of the table. It glinted in the stage spotlights. Usually Julio was the one who sawed her in half, but she knew how to do it; she’d watched him do it hundreds of times. She held it for a moment, feeling powerful at that moment, that she was in control for once. She expertly swung the saw into its grooves in the box and pushed downward, sawing her body in half, half-smiling at the thought of Julia missing the lower half of her body, her young gorgeous legs no longer attached to the… “Now look frightened,” she said as she removed the saw and pushed the box apart, splitting her right down the middle. “Now you can smile and wiggle your toes..but not really.” The mechanical feet did all that for her; even up close they looked real. She pushed the box back together, unlocked the latches, popped open the lid, and helped her “lovely assistant” out.
 
     Four weeks passed and it was Julia’s turn to get in the box. She had rehearsed it to the point where she was just as agile as Amanda, better even, and Peter felt it was time to give Julia her time in the spotlight. Amanda didn’t really care what Peter thought anymore. She was in the change room doing her makeup, daydreaming about…there was a knock at door. “Thirty minutes to show time!” She could hear the music echoing into the room as the audience shuffled in to find their seats. She put on the final touches and left the change room. As she made her way backstage, she passed by the box.. The box that was no longer hers, like she had been evicted and thrown out on the street. She paused there for long time… She had no idea how long because when she came to the stage manager was yelling at her, “You’re on!” She smiled Thank you you moron I’ve done this more times than you’ve been with women and she stepped out onto the stage to a welcoming roar. The music began, and she performed a flashy dance with Julio while the stagehands wheeled out the mysterious box. Julia appeared from stage left to an even more (to Amanda’s ears) welcoming applause – her young legs glistening in the bright lights, her perky tits perfectly buoyant in her glittery outfit and her white, shiny teeth glimmering intensely, seducing the audience, almost making them forget they were there to observe a magic… The Magnificent Julio and Amanda helped her into the box, her petite body agile and vibrant; no one wanted to see her precious body get maimed. Julia lay down inside the box, forcing her body into a human pretzel. They latched the straps together, locking the lid and trapping her inside… She looked out at the audience in feigned terror. The women in the audience felt anxious; the men were on the edge of their seats. Julio picked the saw up off the ledge of the table and banged on it with fist, causing it to wobble, its sharp teeth glistening under the spotlight – yes it was a real saw. He deftly waved the saw in the air, then expertly swung it down it into its grooves on the box. Now Julia looked frantic, her face twisted into a grimace, her toes frantically tapping at air, wishing she could escape at the last minute… He wasn’t sure, but he could’ve sworn he felt the box jiggle once he stuck the saw in…
 
     The Magnificent Julio pushed the saw downward….and it got stuck. Fifteen years performing this trick and it never got stuck. He felt a large bead of sweat roll down his forehead. He looked at Amanda, who was smiling wide at the audience, professional as always. He grabbed the handle and pushed down harder…still it seemed to be jammed. He couldn’t see Julia’s face from where he was standing – Amanda was blocking his view – but he assumed she was fine as he didn’t hear anything… So, with all his might, he pushed the blade down…and with some difficulty it struggled through, straight to the bottom. There was a palpable nervousness rising from the crowd; a normal reaction, but more than usual. Julio felt another large bead of sweat run down the other side of his forehead. He smiled, stealing a glimpse at the box out of the corner of his eye…and his heart sank. He could see tiny droplets of blood dripping off the saw’s teeth. He first prayed that the audience didn’t notice..then that Julia was alright – he hadn’t heard her scream. I’m sure it’s just a cut, nothing serious, she can contort her body better than any assistant I’ve ever had, the show must go on… Julio and his assistant walked to the ends of the box and pulled them apart, Julio praying there would be no more blood… He had to really put effort into pulling the halves apart, and when they finally separated, it felt like he was tearing a piece of meat off a bone… and then he realized the true horror of what had happened: He could now see (the audience could too) that Julia’s legs had been separated just above the kneecaps. A woman screamed in the audience; some others fainted. Julia’s head had gone limp; either a terrific actress or… Amanda had been calm this whole time. She realized she needed to take over at this point; she calmly pushed both ends of the box back together, a horrible squishing sound created from the collision. Julio was in a daze. Amanda walked to the front of the box, removed the saw (with some difficulty), and unbuckled the latches… She reached in to help the beautiful assistant out…but no one emerged. She grabbed Julia’s arm and pulled – her limp body popped up, head hanging to one side, her hair still done up in a bun. People in the audience were shouting now, many too uncomfortable to watch, many already leaving the theatre… “Ladies and gentlemen, there’s nothing to worry about, it’s all just a joke!” Julio attempted to calm the audience, to save his career… It wasn’t working and people were shouting frantically now: “Call an ambulance!” “He murdered her!” Boos rang out through the theatre, and Julio motioned for the stagehands to come quick and wheel the gurney away. “Ah, we will now take a short intermission, drinks will be served in the lobby…” Julio said in a shaky voice. Amanda was still smiling, through the entire ordeal, imagining her start in Vegas, in the spotlight, and the glamour…it would all be hers soon.
 

The End

Cameron is an English teacher, fiction writer, and professional magician living in Taiwan cbrtnik

Short Story – It’s Magic!

It’s Magic!

A (very) Short Fiction

by Cameron Brtnik

It’s Magic!

    “Magic! It’s magic!!” He said again. I didn’t believe him, nor did anyone else in the room. Mike had borrowed my pencil, held it between his fingers, shook it and – as if my magic – it “turned into rubber.” “It’s just a stupid illusion!” yelled David. “You’re not fooling anybody!” “But it’s real, I swear…” but by then nobody was listening, and had moved on to the next item of interest, in this case Gordy happily picking his nose and eating the boogers, enjoying the grossed out reactions from all his classmates. “Eww! Disgusting!!” Everyone exclaimed in unison, but I knew deep down they enjoyed watching it. The same way people enjoy watching some poor kid fall into a tiger cage and get mauled, all while the cameraman stands there filming rather than helping.

    Mike (“Mike The Magnificent” his full name) remained at his desk, uninterested in the childish antics of the other “less-developed” (in his opinion) kids. He was on to his next feat of the impossible: floating a straw in a bottle. All the kids knew it was done with a string – you simply tape a string to the centre of the straw, attach the other end to your body, and pull the bottle outward so the straw “floats” magically out of the bottle (this was 101 in any kids’ magic book). But as usual, Mike proclaimed this illusion “real” and some of the kids threw paper balls at his head. Although I never actually caught a glimpse of the string myself, I went along with the other kids (isn’t that what all kids do?) and made fun of him. “Weirdo!” “Loser!” “Freak!” all the kids taunted in unison. Even though I went along with it, I never actually said the words, but rather mouthed them (which I suppose was just as bad).

    Suddenly, Mike stood up, not visibly shaken (although I believe, deep down, all the insults bothered him) and walked defiantly to the corner of the class room. He clasped both his feet together, raised his arms in the air and…rose into the air!…about three centimeters. I was dumbfounded. But once again I joined in the jeers of my classmates: “He just stood up on his tippi toes!” “What a faker!” “My fish can fly higher than that!” But I wasn’t so sure he was faking… All of a sudden Mike started shaking, his whole body turning red, and an angry grumbling sound escaped from his lips…”Arghhhhh!!!” and he started rising into the air, a good three feet this time, and yet still some kids dismissed it as “a stupid illusion” but I wasn’t so sure this time it- Mike was a full six feet off the ground now! Some kids stood under him and grabbed his feet, attempting to yank him down. “It’s just a string!” Kevin, the little asshole, yelled. “A string attached to what, the ceiling you idiot?!” Liz retorted, and suddenly Mike fell from heaven, into her arms, with a big grin on his face and smiled up at her: “You believe me! Magic! It’s magic!!” No one ever made fun of him again.

The End

Cameron is a Toronto-based short story writer and professional children’s magician cbrtnik.com

Travelogue: How To Get Fired From A Cruise Ship

Travel-ogue: How To Get Fired From A Cruise Ship
by Cameron Brtnik
     The year was 2009, and I was freshly back from Hollywood. I didn’t make it of course – I didn’t have the drive; to sleep in a car, to live off macaroni and cheese for two years, to go to five auditions a week only to get a call back to a tooth paste commercial – I didn’t get that either. I had been working on my magic – practicing daily, I even enrolled in the world famous Magic Castle Hollywood and partook in a master class with my childhood magical hero Mark Wilson (The Complete Course In Magic was the first magic book I studied). And I wanted to do something with it. I filmed a demo video, sent it off to Carnival Cruise Lines – the world’s foremost pleasure vessel and self-acclaimed party boat – and whadaya know, I was hired!
     It was a 200,000 ton (fifty times bigger than the Titanic), 2000 passenger occupancy vessel. Simply put, it was a huge. She was a magnificent beast. And it was all mine: The Carnival Glory.
 
But let me backtrack a bit here….
     That summer I was at Sorcerer’s Safari Magic Camp (I know what you’re thinking, and yes they do manufacture real life Harry Potters there) and one of the special guests – a world famous magician cruise ship by the name of Sean Farquhar – regaled us with stories of magic on the big seas…I was hooked. I approached him later that day to ask him more details. He told us the story of a a cruise that involved certain Playboy Bunny guests, and an onboard magician who woke up one day at the ungodly hour of five o’clock a.m. to a knock at the door to find one of the ship’s officers just stopping by to say hello. He admired the photos taped on his wall, mainly noticing the X-rated material of said rabbit ear-wearing guests. He also recognized who they accompanied, and more specifically, the location of where the photos were taken: in that very bedroom.
     Now this all seems fine and well, even a good story perhaps if it weren’t for one G-darned rule: There’s NO frolicking with the guests – even if they are Playboy Bunnies. So this lucky, damned SOB was fired on the spot. No one heard from him again…or so I say. Foreshadowing anyone???…..
I excelled at my job. it was a perfect fit; magic, entertainment, customer experience, and….women. No shortage of them. It was like a haven, a floating forbidden island, an open buffet, a melting pot of American, Asian, African, Mexican, you name it you got it, it was….Paradise. And I? Zero willpower. I met a smart man early on – the wisest of men and the absolute manslut of the cruise: The Pianist. He knew things no other man did – or should – and more importantly, he knew how to manipulate the rules of a pleasure boat. He gave me one simple piece of advice: If you don’t want to get caught, meet the female guests off board the ship. Book a hotel for a few hours, meet the single, university frat girl, divorce or married woman off the premises, have your fun, and return onboard as if nothing ever happened. Because in the eyes of everyone aboard (including the ignorant) husband, nothing out of the ordinary happened; just another drunk guest enjoying her time on land, probably shopping or getting drunk off three dollar martinis at some cheap local beach bar somewhere in Belize.
     Good advice – advice I should’ve taken to heart, considering that was the second unofficial warning. But me being me, never heading the advice of others, never listening to the warnings of previous perpetrators, always wanting to learn the hard way, me -stubborn, selfish, self-absorbed, egocentric, narcissistic – had to learn the hard way….
It was a warm evening – I know because I was getting a BJ on the balcony of th—wait, I’m getting “ahead” of myself now…. It was a regular night. I was working the martini bar, performing close-up magic for Carnivals guests – couples, newlyweds, singles and some curious staff – and this spicy Mexican broad was making eyes. I’d seen the look before: sultry, exotic, flirty, curious, all come-ons, and I knew i could have her that night. It was all part of the process: Girl goes on cruise for first time with friends, girl gets drunk, girl hunts for boys, girl finds no boys, girl goes in search of something more attractive, more charming, more dangerous: the staff. Not just any staff – no, sadly the housekeepers, chefs and servers are not allowed in the guest area – for entertainers. And if the piano man got laid the most, the magicians (and even comedians believe it or not) were a close second. I just happened to be on her radar, or more fittingly, menu that night.
     Here was my problem: I thought I had out-smarted security – I had not. To rub this obvious truth in even more, a friend co-worker who sold paintings at a gallery onboard warned me not a week earlier: “Be careful: they have their eyes on you.” I scoffed at the thought. Around midnight, the time I usually wrapped up my show, I met her at the ship’s nightclub. We drank. We danced. We left about 2am and hurried back to her door. I had been here many times before; “Should I or shouldn’t I?” were always the thoughts that repeated through my mind. On one hand, I’m sacrificing my job and career (and an exciting one full of future possibilities at that!) On the other hand, this chick is hot and horny and that’s also, in it’s own way, full of future possibilities. Many times in the previous few months I had turned this enticing offer down; this time I overruled my silly worries, and discreetly stepped into her room…
     Fast forward to getting a glorious BJ on the deck off her room, under a full moon, the night sea breeze filling my nostrils full of optimism…then a loud knock at the door. Security: “We know you’re in there and we’re coming in.” Me: (Thinking) “I could totally Spiderman down the side of the ship onto the balcony below and not get caught…” The gig was up – I was caught. Now, the thing is I was friends with these security guys – really nice dudes from India who I said hi to and conversed with daily – so it felt surreal as they handcuffed me and led me into a small, windowless room to interrogate me. I was forced into admitting my actions (and a couple others) and writing an apology, promising that I would never commit such an unspeakable atrocity again. (The rules are in place to prevent the cruise line from being sued by guests. Think “unwanted pregnancy” or “mysterious std”.) I was then freed to go with the ominous warning: “One day you may hear a knock at five o’clock in the morning.” So it was true….
     Four days past without incident; I thought I was in the clear! Day 5: Port stop, Miami. 5am: Knock at the door. I thought I was dreaming. An officer standing at the door; it was told to pack my bags. I was escorted off the ship by the sympathetic officer. It was like doing the ultimate “walk of shame” in front of my fellow shipmates whom I had become close with over the six months I had been aboard. I was met by a local Miami officer – a pleasant, religious woman who gave me sound advice on the way to the airport (something about not drinking too much) and waited with me until my plane home arrived. I learned an important lesson that day: The “Five O’clock Knock” is a real thing.
-Written by Cameron Brtnik
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