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Cue the Fog

JG Sarmiento

Fog billowed across the black stage. In the intersection of three spotlights, Zap Zavera dusted his gray suit and white gloves. From thin air he plucked one, two, three balls: the world’s largest pearls. He placed them on the table in front of him. “Pulled from giant clams centuries ago. Smuggled.” The magician slid the pearls in a line. “Fought over. Warred over.”

Zap pulled the green handkerchief from his breastpocket and shook it above the pearls. He stretched the cloth, lowered it, and whipped the air.

Behind the pearls stood three silver cups, grails. “Made from Bolivian silver. Casted. Crafted.” He tapped the metal cups. “Spellbound by a Filipino swordsmith.”

Zap inverted each cup over a pearl.

“These gloves are also enchanted.” He stretched his fingers. “Made from the sail of the Manila galleon, Nuestra Senora del Pilar. In 1690, the ship smashed against Guam and sank, carrying a billion dollars’ worth of gold and silver. It’s still out there, scattered and reduced by typhoons to a legend.”

He pounded his chest and cleared his throat. “These gloves were passed down from magician to would-be magician, given to me by the great, immortal, one and only. That was his stage name: The One and Only. His real name was Joe.”

He rubbed his hands. “When you combine charmed relics with the courage of a conjuror—if you just walked in, that’s me—epic things happen.”

Zap held two cups. “You create dangerous magic. You all should be fine—as long as I don’t lose control.” He lifted the cups. The pearls within had vanished. The audience clapped. “Don’t blink.” He snapped his fingers and lifted the farthest cup. Out rolled three gleaming pearls.

Zap picked a pearl and tossed it. The pearl disappeared.

He pointed at an empty cup and lifted it. There shined the pearl.

Zap repeated the trick. His hands fluttered. Pearl. Toss. Vanish. Point. Lift. Voila.

The magician grinned.

Slowly, exaggerated, Zap raised another pearl and showed it to his audience. He tossed it into nothingness. He pointed at an empty grail and lifted it. There gleamed an apple. “What’s this?” Zap tossed the fruit into oblivion and lifted the empty grail.

An orange. Zip. Vanish. Point.

A dove fluttered and flew out.

Zap laid the grail on its side; its emptiness faced the audience.

A second dove wiggled out of that void. It flew in widening, rising circles.

A third. Another and another. A bevy. Droves.

The magician waved his hands and the fog parted. Zap levitated above the table. From the cup, a gust pushed then pulled the audience in their seats. Zap flew towards the spectators but stopped at the edge of the stage. He snapped his fingers and vanished.

“Where the fuck did he go?” Gustavo clapped, stood clapping, and cheered. The fuck did the birds go? What the pho.

The spotlights flickered, and Zap reappeared center stage. He bowed, waved, and pointed at Gustavo.

Gustavo barely had a frame of reference to evaluate the spectacle. He could do the trick where his thumb looked like it was cut in half, but only kids fell for that. He also had a drunken “is this your card” trick, but this drew only laughter. Beyond those, zip. No, beyond those were worlds entered through pages, monitors, and speakers. Gustavo had lived in places cached, razed by reality, and rebuilt in permutations. In these worlds, durable heroes suffered with purpose and charm. They always prevailed. They now told Gustavo that Zap was fiction incarnate. No room can hold him. He should be monitored.

In the trenches of Gustavo’s mind, pods of whales swam and died, sank and rotted. On the ocean floor, habitats formed around carcasses of ideas. A sinking song amid the polyphony said it was all a trick. Zap spent his life failing in front of mirrors, and he was one among dozens on billboards.

Holograms. Dude used holograms. Even dead musicians become holograms. Holographic adds. More and more of those. Or, hallucinogens spread via ventilation system. Nah.

Elated, Gustavo strode out of the hotel, into the hot night, and lit a cigarette. He paced under the Flamingo’s sign, iconic but one among many. He reveled at Vegas and its crowds. “From Greek miracle to this.” The theme park city was impossible in the desert. The Hoover Dam, a modern marvel, powered its architectural amalgams.

They first successfully tested the atomic bomb in Alamogordo. The postmodern was born in the blast, but in Vegas it flourished in transactions. Escape. Pleasure. Simulation absolute. Pageantry normalized. Pastiche caramelized. Shiny throngs of people from everywhere strolled for luck in the spectacular. Viva.

“What comes next?” Gustavo exhaled smoke. “Ladies and gentlemen, close your eyes for a moment. Go ahead.”

Passersby morphed into an audience. Signs turned into spotlights. The spotlights morphed into searchlights on the audience.

“Imagine the future. Project. Shoot past the fog.” He raised gloved hands. “Open your eyes.” He snapped his fingers. “The show starts now.”

About the Author

JG Sarmiento was born in the Philippines and raised in Guam. He is now based in Colorado. He operates a large, wooden catapult to lob stories at unsuspecting editors. His work has landed in several national and international publications.

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