It was late, well after midnight, when I started doing magic tricks. Our host, Jane, had cornered me when I went in search of a drink. She had even produced a deck of cards when I protested that I didn’t have any props. For an hour I revealed “Magic’s Greatest Secrets”, sleight of hand tricks and misdirection, to a captivated audience. After that, I got bored.
“These tricks are just illusions. Anyone with enough patience can learn these.” I paused locking eyes with everyone in the kitchen in turn. “Would you like to see some real magic?” A couple people chuckled. One woman enthusiastically said, “Yes!” The rest mumbled assent. I thought fast and came up with something that would wow them.
“Ok. Does anyone have duct tape?” The host found a roll in the kitchen junk drawer. I spread the deck on the counter. “Someone pick a card any card.” Maria picked a card, three of clubs, and handed it to me. I held it flat against my fingers so half the card extended past my fingertips. “Now I need someone to tape the card to my hand. Use as much tape as you want. Just leave my fingertips and the end of the card uncovered.”
Marcus pulled a length of tape free from the roll with a rip. He wrapped the tape around my fingers three times before wrapping twice around my palm and wrist.
“Anyone got a light?” Linda produced a lighter. I flicked it on and ran the flame over the edge of the card. It blackened and caught fire. A thin wisp of smoke rose toward the ceiling. “Fire. One of the primal forces of nature that we have tamed. It keeps us warm and dry. It cooks our food. It lights the dark nights. But it still can burn us. Unchecked it sweeps across the land destroying everything in its path.” While I had been speaking the flame had traveled down the card and was threatening my fingertips. I could feel the heat building up in them. A shrill beeping exploded overhead. One guy yelled, a few others ducked and half crouched, everyone covered their ears.
“Pay attention. Ignore that noise,” I yelled waving at the smoke detector. I raised my free hand over the burning card fingers splayed apart. I let my mind loose observing the fire, the smoke, the card, bits of ash in the air. I held them all in my mind and reversed entropy. My audience, if they were attentive enough might have seen the flame become unnaturally still for a couple of seconds. And then it began to move again but it wasn’t burning the card anymore. Instead, it flowed up the card, the blackened paper reforming in its wake. The flame reached the top of the card growing smaller and smaller until only the corner remained darkened. It died and the card was left untouched by fire. I released my grip on reality and allowed entropy to resume its natural flow.
Everyone stared at the card. They said nothing.
“Hey, can someone turn off the smoke detector before the neighbors call the police or something,” I said. Maria climbed up on a kitchen bar stool, while Marcus steadied her, and pushed the reset button. The rest kept staring at me as I picked at the duct tape ineffectively. I realized they were waiting for me to reveal the trick, instead, I asked, “Can I get a little help?” and hold up my taped hand.
Linda grabbed my hand and started tearing and peeling the duct tape off my hand. The card went with the tape after she pulled it all off. She peeled the card off of the tape and looked at it.
“How did you do that?” Fred asked.
“Magic,” I said. My hand was sticky from the tape.
“What’s the trick?” Marcus asked. “Did you have a second card in your palm or up your sleeve?”
“No. There was no trick. It was magic.” The lemon fresh dish-soap on the sink was getting some of the tape residue off but not all of it.
“The card was stuck to the tape. She couldn’t have switched cards,” Linda said.
“Maybe she used the fire alarm as a distraction?” George suggested.
“I was watching the whole time. She never touched the card after she lit it on fire,” Ben said. I dried my hands with a paper towel and tossed it in the trash.
“Look there’s no trick or illusion. I burnt the card and then I bent reality so it would unburn. I’ve been honest with you all night, right? Showing you how every trick worked, right? I asked if you wanted to see real magic, right? I showed you real magic and now you call me a liar.”
“No it’s just magic isn’t real. You told us that earlier.”
“I showed you tricks. I said they weren’t magic but I never said magic wasn’t real.”