Monday 18 February 2013

Magic Falls Part Eight

The magician looked at the audience and then faltered.

It was the first time he’d ever hesitated in such a way on stage. Not that he’d always done everything smoothly and perfectly throughout his career, but he usually covered it by talking.

That was the way he dealt with everything. To talk, quickly  and at length. All it took was a mention of anything that he had a vague knowledge of, and he would start talking about it like an athlete seconds after a starting pistol had been fired until either something stopped him or (more likely) his flow of conversation turned onto something else that he knew more about and he would simply start talking about that at length instead.

He usually had to tone it down when on-stage. As nervous as silence made him, it was better than projecting the image of someone that self-asborbed. Although, he didn’t really understand that accusation – talking was something he did unconsciously as much as anything else.

And yet, here he was in front of thousands of people, and unable to think of a thing to say. Because of the three little words he’d just heard.

As they tend to say about these things, Shane Smith's overnight success came as a result of years of discipline and study. He’d sacrificed his social life in his late teens, and continued to sacrifice it throughout most of his twenties.

The regular late nights and travel, usually for no money meant that it was difficult for him to keep up friendships, let alone relationships. He slept in a lot of hotel rooms, although this was a step up from his first years in his job, when he spent a lot of nights sleeping on benches in train stations waiting for the first morning train back home.

But he was hard-working, dedicated and stubborn, and these qualities led to him developing his burgeoning talent at magic into something impressive. And he matched it with stage-presence, which made him easy to watch and enjoy.

The first series of his television programme had aired the previous year, and added a zero to his per-show asking figure. A far cry from his early years, performing magic in the streets in a way more fitting to a busker. Although he had to admit that he’d enjoyed the pitch in Covent Garden that had led to him becoming more recognised and (as a result) bookable.

He ended up combining magic and stand-up comedy when he took his show “Smith, The F***ing Magnificent” to Edinburgh (a solid four star show according to The Scotsman, although The Stage hated it and only gave it one – “diverting enough, but boring between tricks. He’s not a comedian”), and that slowly led to bigger things.

Eventually, Shane Smith became a star. And every time someone heard of him for the first time, they didn’t see all the work that he’d put in, and they thought he’d come out of nowhere.

Money was the most obvious change, and Shane was now much more than comfortable. Influence was also new, as he found with his obscene amount of followers on social media. He controlled his online persona carefully, and did use it to highlight causes which were important to him.

But he was lonely. He didn’t know how to start relationships outside of short term and highly physical ones. 

He didn’t have many close friends. Oh, acquaintances, yes. Many of them. But most of them saw the stage persona first and foremost, and the person behind them afterwards.

He was also constantly torn apart by anxiety. He avoided going to the Doctor, as he didn’t want the diagnosis of depression that he knew was underlying a lot of his unhappiness. As much as medication may help him control some of his emotions and moods, it wouldn’t help him meet anybody, and it wouldn’t help anyone get to know him better. Instead, he self-medicated with alcohol, cocaine and one-night stands that started in bars. All three had the unfortunate side-effect of making him feel guilt and consumed with self-loathing afterwards.

Mind-reading was a big part of his act now. Ever since Derren Brown had revolutionised the magic scene, it was something that basically became a requirement for magicians. He was good at it as well, combining cold-reading with constantly leading the subject on-stage to the words that he wanted them to say.

He had different versions of his acts. The family-friendly one, which he used on day-time TV and street shows (which he still did occasionally, as they were worth more in social media and goodwill than any other kind of advertising), the matey-risque one, which he usually performed on evening shows, and the much ruder one which he did for university shows and holiday shows (although they were the least-performed now, as they could on longer keep up with his asking prices, and he was glad of it. Far too many hecklers at those shows).

It was a point where his motor-mouthed tendencies worked in his favour. His ability to lead people to the answers he wanted them to give was obscured by the talking he did around it. That was the point where he got laughs to disguise the work he was actually doing.

Up until a few weeks ago.

A few weeks ago, everything changed.

A few weeks ago, he brought someone onstage, and when he asked them to think of an animal, he heard it, loud and clear, as if they’d said it.

At first, he thought they had said it.

Instead, he ran through other questions, and each time, he heard the answer. No leading, no cold reading, nothing. And the same thing happened with anyone he tried it with.

He knew immediately what to do. He used it to make his act better. To perform acts of mind-reading that even his peers couldn’t begin to fathom.

He wouldn’t just be rich. He would become the most famous magician in the world. The human lie-detector. 

He could ask anything, in any conditions. The ultimate mind-reader.

He was testing it and pushing it further, when he performed a show in a large theatre in Bristol. He started asking cheeky questions about relationships, working out if this was something which he could use on his next TV show – add in an element that involved sex, and get some of that Jeremy Kyle money.

“So, what I want you to do is to close your eyes, and think about the night you lost your virginity – “ (wait for audience laughter) “ – even if there wasn’t much to remember… even if it was last week…” (wait for audience laughter) “ – and I’ll tell you a detail you’ve never told anyone before.”

The man was well-dressed and casual in front of the audience, and was even quick witted and charming, and Shane was expecting his mind to go somewhere like a place, or underwear references, or bursting into tears afterwards, or premature ejaculation, but what he got was three words.

“I killed her.”

And all of a sudden, Shane Smith had nothing to say.

Part Nine

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