Thursday 2 January 2020

The Magician and the Jinn

by Mason Bushell

sparkling wine

“You’re supposed to be Archie the Illusionist. Lately, you’ve become Archie the boring idiot.” Jodie the stage manager stood hands on hips. Her lips pursed with annoyance. Archie looked up at her from his seat on a magic box. He flipped an ace of diamonds over his fingers, waved his hand and made it vanish. 

“I’m doing the best I can.” Archie let out a sigh and cursed as his deck of cards fell from his hand, scattering across the floor. “They used to love my act.” 

“Well, get a new act or get out of my theatre.” Jodie stomped off leaving the magician a sagging figure behind the curtains. Surrounded by his magic props, he felt like a failure. He picked up a limp wand and slammed it into his magic hat, it was then footsteps sounded a visitor.

“Hey, magic-man. What’s a matter with you?”  

“Hallo, Charlie. I’m done for mate. Nobody likes me anymore.” Archie looked aloft to the brown eyes of the near seven-foot-tall stagehand. He’d come to sweep the stage and was leaning on his broom. 

“Aw, well, I like you, Archie,” he said.

“Thanks, mate. What I need right now is a miracle.” Archie stood and began loading his tricks into his metamorphosis box. 

“Here, my father Doug said this coin could bring me good luck. He said it taught him diplomacy and now his warehouse is stronger than ever. Maybe, it might help with your fortunes too.” Charlie handed over a large silver coin bearing the image of a horned demon surrounded in flames. 

“This is no coin, it’s a talisman.”

“Whatever, can you do a trick with it?” Charlie began pulling on a rope drawing the curtains aside and revealing the stage and empty seating. 

“Maybe, can I borrow this.”

“Keep it, mate.”

“Thanks.” Archie picked up the hat and walked from the backstage area to his dressing-room.  A small space with white walls, no window, a clothes rail and a mirror back desk to prepare at. Sitting down he tossed his top hat on the rack, then read the incantation before typing it into his phone to search for the coin. Around him, the room grew hot and orange. The top hat fell to the floor, dispensing the wand, and somebody groaned in pain. 

“Cor, bloody hell. What happened,” said a booming voice from the direction of the hat on the floor. Archie’s eyes widened as he cautiously lifted the hat. He revealed a five-inches tall muscular man. He looked to have been carved from granite and was naked save from black leather shorts, and black sunglasses in his flame-red hair. 

“Who – er – what are you?” 

“Ahh, I suppose you think it’s funny summoning into a bloody hat.” The Jinn stood rubbing his backside while looking up to Archie in his magician’s cape. “You tall, insensitive git.”

“Sorry, I didn’t even know I could summon you.” Archie felt stunned by the little man. 

“Oh, you’re one of those?” The Jinn picked up the limp wand, snapped his fingers and turned it into a stick of rock candy. 

“One of what?” Archie watched him chewing on the enormous candy with interest. 

“A wizard wannabe. A fake in a cape, an illusionist with sparks instead of spells. Bet you can’t even disappear a coin, properly.” 

“Oh really.” Archie took up the talisman, holding it between finger and thumb. With a flourish, he vanished it. “There see.” 

“Huh, it's up your sleeve.” 

“No, its naaaah!” Archie shot toward the ceiling and found himself hanging upside down in mid-air. The Jinn made hand gestures. “Agh, I’m not a bloody ragdoll, put me down.” Archie felt himself shaking about until the talisman dropped from his sleeve to the floor.  

“See.” The Jinn snapped his fingers. Archie fell onto his chair and thundered to floor with a crash. The Jinn folded his arms with a smug look.

“That was unnecessary,” he complained.

“Next time don’t lie. You know I hate phoney magic people. I caught a witch out, once, she flew off the handle and hurled her cauldron at me.” The Jinn vanished and reappeared looking in the mirror. 

“Then there was the wizard who couldn’t do magic. He asked me how to deal with an angry druid that was bothering him.” 

“Did you help him?” 

“Sure, I told him to deal with him very carefully.” The Jinn grinned at his reflection. “So, now what do you want me to do?” 

“I’m a complete failure.” Archie took a matchbox, revealed it to be full. Shut it, then opened it again, this time it was empty. “Nobody loves my tricks anymore.” 

“No wonder, Merlin was doing better tricks than that a thousand years ago. Every dinner time that wizard would magically glue a knife into the margarine block, he’d call it excali-butter. Only worthy diners could use the butter after that. The king was never amused. That bloody sword was his best trick.” 

“What about me. What can you do to help me?” Archie looked hopeful.

It was curtain time, the next evening. 

“Ladies and Gentleman, I give you Archie the Illusionist,” announced Jodie with a hopeful look at the stage. The curtains opened and the audience applauded but Archie wasn’t there.  His usual illusions were in place, but the stage was devoid of life. 

“Boo, we want magic.” 

“Yeah, Daddy said, there was magic here.” A little girl jumped to her feet her face contorted, close to tears. 

“You want magic, girl.” The voice had come from the ether, right by her side. “This is magic ladies and gentlemen.” A fire erupted on centre stage, it burned into a boiling column. The crowd gasped as it exploded in a puff of smoke revealing the magician dressed in a white suit. “Sorry for the delay, I caught my trousers on fire during testing,” he said leaving everybody laughing. 

Spinning on the spot, he vanished and reappeared wearing all green. 

“Now.” he looked about the audience. “You sir come and join me.” 

“Me?” a man in his forties rose.

“Yes, you’ll do. I can borrow him, can’t I, madam?” 

“He’s my husband, do what you like with him. Just make sure he’s back to do the washing up,” she replied, getting a dirty look from her man.

“Thank you, madam.” Archie guided the man into the spotlight on stage. He raised a hand producing a deck of cards from thin air, before fanning them out. “Pick one, and show the audience.” The man did as he was told. “Good, put it back in the deck.” 

“So, you manipulated the deck to make my card easier to find, did you?” 

“Oh, we have a smart arse in the house ladies and gentleman.” Archie never blinked, he raised the deck and watched it erupt into flames. “You sir, chose the Jack of Diamonds.” the audience applauded. 

“No, I did not.” The man folded his arms. Archie held out a hand and conjured a large wand. Throwing high he caused it to become a large shawl. He spun it around the man covering his body. Then in a poof of smoke, the shawl and the man’s trousers were gone. He was stood wearing huge white boxer shorts emblazoned with the Jack of Diamonds. 

“A man’s boxer shorts never a lie. Ladies and gentleman.” Archie bowed to his applause. 

“Huh, nice, trick.” The man folded his arms. “Can I sit now?” 

“One second.” Archie took a tall cardboard box and lowered it over the man. Next, he took a sword and proceeded to slice the box into sections, getting lower and lower. The audience gasped for the man had vanished. Archie walked to his empty seat and laid a black cloak over it. With a flourish he flicked it skyward, revealing the man in his seat. The audience burst into fresh applause.  

Archie did trick after trick until his time was done. Exhausted but smiling from ear to ear, he walked off stage. Jodie stood applauding him. 

“You were amazing. Archie the Illusionist can do great magic, after all,” she said.

“I wouldn’t bet on it.” Archie snapped his fingers, engulfing himself in fire. It extinguished a second later revealing the Jinn hovering in mid-air. Jodie flinched back in shock. “Don’t panic woman, I’m not here to hurt you. That useless twit, Archie. Couldn’t do a thing I told him to. He’s been sitting on his arse in the dressing-room all night.” 

“Figures. I’m going to fire him, right now.”

“Wait. It’s you stressing him out that’s causing the problem. He can’t focus and do anything right for fear of getting fired.” The Jinn saw the manager preparing to speak and held up a hand. “Don’t open your mouth, just listen. Archie can do what I did, but only if you let him, only if you encourage him.”

“Fine, teach him and I’ll help.” Jodie sighed and headed toward the dressing room with the Jinn at her shoulder. 

“Good girl. That saves me having to do, what I normally do to bullies,” he said.

“Really, what's that?”

“I burn their pants off.” The Jinn gave a broad grin and disappeared into the dressing room.

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