Monday 25 February 2013

Magic Falls - Part Nine

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Shane Smith looked out at the audience, and then back at the man.

“Well,” he said with a smile developing across his face. “I’m not sure if you want me to tell them that…”

The audience laughed, and the man laughed as well.

Just keep talking and get through this he thought to himself. Then you can decide what to do. Just keep talking. Figure it out as you go. Don’t freeze.

 “Wait,” he said with a puzzled look, before looking back to the audience with raised eyebrows. “She was how old?”

Again, the audience laughed, and the man laughed along with it, as he heard the man’s internal response.

“Oh, my mistake,” he said. “She was twenty-three, wasn’t she?”

That got a reaction from him. Not much, but the smile was replaced by concern, and then the concern was gone and he was smiling again.  But Shane could see that the smile no longer reached his eyes.

“She was,” the man replied.

“And how old were you? Thirty-two? Eight? Somewhere in-between….” He didn’t need to hear the response here. He’d fallen back on cold-reading instead. And the easiest way to cold read was when someone specifically didn’t want to give you an answer. If you knew what you were looking for, you could see their attempts to avoid reacting clearly.

He still heard the answer, but that wasn’t the point. The point right now was in keeping him just on-edge enough to get the questions that he needed to ask threaded into an otherwise innocuous part of the show.

It’s just a show for now. But you may not easily get him in a position where you can ask him questions elsewhere. So keep him talking, keep him answering.

He deliberately got the man’s age wrong, and was gratified when he nodded at the wrong answer. It meant he was playing along. And it meant he’d started lying.

This was good.

“What colour underwear was she wearing?” He asked, to a few gasps in the audience, and this time he went for the joke answer rather than the real one. It was enough for the man to stop thinking that Shane actually had something, and he relaxed.

From there, it was mostly simple. He turned the routine into a joke, using the questions to suggest that the woman had been a prostitute, and it had happened in a back alleyway somewhere in Brighton. The man played along with the joke, allowing Shane to ask his questions with a smile and a wink.

This allowed him to ask the right questions, and get answers. He had her name and where he last saw her.
He wrapped up the segment, and moved onto the rest of the show, noting where the man sat. And when the show was over, he spoke to the Box Office, and found out who had sat there.

When he got back to the hotel that night, he looked up her name and details online. She’d gone missing years ago. The news of her disappearance had circulated briefly, and then the world had moved on.

While he had him on stage, he’d asked where he’d last seen her, and a place had flashed into his mind. A sense of location, strong and definite, as if he’d known it all his life.

He brought up that location online and looked at it. It was in a forest, not far from the road. Where he’d buried her.

He wondered if she was still there.

He looked at the information he had about the man. His name and address. He didn’t know what to do with it.

The man had been calm and collected, mostly. He knew he’d got away with it, and he was enjoying it.

Shane didn’t know if he’d done it again. He may have. Or perhaps he’d only done it the once, savouring it for the rest of his life.

It didn’t feel like something he could go to the police about. It would be ignored. It was too insane a conversation to start.

He walked to the window of his hotel room, and looked out over the city.

There was a lot on the line for him. If he came out about this new ability he had, it would put him forward for all kinds of scrutiny.

If he kept quiet, and maybe dropped anonymous clues, he could hope that the police would look into it. That they’d take the cue and start the investigation. And meanwhile, he’d just concentrate on using his gift to make him famous and rich.

But he knew they wouldn’t. Not for a case this long dead, and they wouldn’t excavate with no evidence of her body being there.

And he couldn’t just leave it. He couldn’t live with himself if he did that.

A few hours later, the blog post was finished. An accusation. Names, dates and places.

He would take it public. Put the man on the defensive, and encourage his social media followers to pressure the police to take it seriously.

He would offer himself under any test conditions with regards to his abilities. He wouldn’t ignore it. He would shout about it.

Let the Genie out of the bottle. Put himself out there. And prove his abilities in order to defend himself.

He knew that his life would change after this. He’d never had to deal with the police before, not properly. 
But now he would throw himself in front of a murder enquiry.

His finger hovered over the touchpad on his netbook, and he almost changed his mind. Almost allowed himself to give into fear. Almost backed off completely.

And then he pressed ‘Enter’.

He sat back, looking at the screen and wondered if he’d just thrown his career away. Or even his life. But he'd chosen to take something insane public.

He switched the computer off and lay down. He wanted to sleep, but couldn't.

Part Ten

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

Monday 11 February 2013

Magic Falls Part Seven

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“What…the hell are you talking about?”

“I know it’s a lot to take in.” I say.

She stands up. “You’re making fun. I can’t believe you’re making fun in a conversation like this.”

“I’m not.”

“You are.”

“I’m not, I promise. I know how it sounds, but I’m not.”

Her face creases  with hurt and anger, and she brings a hand to her mouth as she begins to cry. “I’ve tried, Darren. I’ve tried so bloody hard, but – “

“I know you have.” I don’t mean to interrupt her, but I want this conversation to get back on track so we can start to actually deal with this.

“Is it me? Is it something I’ve done? I mean, God, I – I’ve done everything I can to support you.”

I stand up, and move around to her, putting my arms around her. “Nina, I’m not lying. I know how it sounds, but I’m telling the truth.”

She laughs derisively and pushes me back, not letting me hold her. “You’re a time traveller. You’ve come back from the future, so you can…what, exactly?”

“I came back to try to change things.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“I’m not.”

“You are.”

“Please, sit down for a bit and hear me out.” I say.

She sits, but looks utterly distraught and miserable. I realise that, from her point of view, this looks like I’m trying my best to destroy our relationship.

Why is it that everything I’ve tried to sort out has gone wrong since I came back? It’s like the world is actively resisting any attempts to change, but is doing so by changing everything around me.

It gnaws away at my brain that this is actually plausible.

I sit down next to her, and after a little hesitation, I try to explain.

“Magic is real,” I say to her. “The whole thing with the lottery. The ravens…. It’s all connected, and it’s all real. It’s not  a con and it isn’t a coincidence. It’s all…going to escalate.”

She looks at me, and I see all the anger and all the hurt suddenly vanish and become replaced with concern and fear.

“Oh God, you’ve had a breakdown.”

“I haven’t.”

“We need… we’ll get you help, okay? This is… we’ll find you help. We can go to the hospital now. Right now. We’ll get you help.”

“It’s going to escalate and… I came back for you, okay? I came back for you.” I shouldn’t be telling her this, but I can feel my own panic beginning to rise.

“When I was younger, my Mum had a breakdown. It’s not something I talked about much, and I know I’ve hinted at it, but she did, and…” She is talking quickly now and trying to gasp for breath. “She was okay. In the end. It took time, but she was okay. My Dad, my brother and sister, and me… we did everything we could, and we supported her, and it worked. It worked then, so me and you…. We can make this work.”

“I didn’t know that about your Mum. I’m sorry about that.” I say.

“I know. And I can tell you all about it, but my point was that…” She wipes her eyes. “…we can deal with this.”

“I shouldn’t have told you this. I’m sorry.”

“No, I’m glad you did,” she says. “This… at least it’s a start, right? We’re talking about it, and that’s good.”

I reach out to her and this time she lets me hold her, and for a moment I consider lying to her. I consider the idea that I could agree that I’m burnt out and that I’m trying to argue with her, and that yes, we can work on this, and that gives me an out on this, and it gives me space and it gives me a way to deal with this without involving Nina any further. Yet, anyway.

But if I do that, I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing since I came back. I’m going to keep doing things wrong. I’m going to keep wanting things to just stay as they are, and I’m going to keep making mistakes.

“Nina, I’m telling the truth. And if you don’t believe me now, you’ll start seeing things that will back me up. You just need to look for them.”

“Oh God,” she says, holding me tightly. “We’ll work on this, I promise.”

“I’ll prove it.” I say, pulling back a little and getting her to look at me. I want her to see my eyes, and know that I’m telling her the truth.

“You can’t prove it, Darren,” she says. “There’s no such thing as… as time travel. It’s insane.”

“Right, okay…” I say. “How’s this? How about I tell you something that that I can’t know, because the first time around, I didn’t know about it, but this time, I know. Because it happened later, but I know about it now.”

“You’re not making any sense,” she says.

“I’ll tell you something that I can’t know yet. And if I’m right, you give me the benefit of the doubt.”

She thinks it over. I can see it going through her mind. She’s humouring me. “Okay.”

Please don’t let this be different this time. Please don’t let this be one of the things that’s changed.

“Okay, you…” I freeze. It isn’t fair of me to do this to her, but I feel that I have to. I have to get her to believe me. “You haven’t told me about this yet.”

She frowns, discomfort spreading across her face, followed immediately by fear. “Oh God.”

“You’re pregnant. You found out two weeks ago. You haven’t told anyone, and you threw the test away.”


“Nina, I’m telling the truth.” I say. “That’s how I know.”

Her eyes are wide as she looks at me. She looks scared. Scared of me.

Without a further word, she stands up and walks out of the room. Leaving me sitting there, totally unsure if I've done this right or completely wrong.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Twitter - the new search leader?

I found that the way I use the internet has changed because of Twitter.

The other day, I received a phone call from Empire Magazine. Sadly, they weren’t reporting on a million-pound battle over the rights to Magic Falls, but were calling to try to convince me to re-subscribe. (I used to read every movie magazine that I could, but I’ve stopped now. They can’t compete with online information with regards to the latest news, and I began to feel more and more like I was reading the same information in each magazine, and at times the same interviews. In the end, I was buying them but not reading them, which is madness.)

The chap on the phone was very pleasant, and while I didn’t take him up on the offer of an issue for just one pound, I did at least feel a little bad about doing so. But I also found it a slightly odd call to receive, so I checked the internet to see if anyone else had experienced that.

Now, here’s the thing. I didn’t check Google. I checked Twitter.

That’s not necessarily a new thing, and it’s certainly not a unique thing. But it’s the first time that it’s dawned on me that I’m more likely to do that than I am to check online.

Time was, I would look for information like that, and would assume that it would have been posted about in a blog or a forum. But now, I assume that people tweet about it.

If I find out about a news story nowadays, I find out about it on Twitter. If I look for information about a breaking story, I don’t check Google News as much any more. I check Twitter.

Actually, I still check Google News, if it’s a breaking story, but that’s a secondary check. It’s about looking for the confirmation. Somewhat like checking BBC News after you check Sky News, to see if the story was actually right.

It’s become about differentiating between informational searches and current searches. If I’m looking to find out reactions, or breaking news, I’m more likely to check Twitter.

This may be something that is only new to me, and everyone else picked up on this ages ago, but I didn’t think about Twitter being search based. And yet, I find myself checking there before Google.

This, I think, means Twitter is doing something very right that I didn’t even notice. I like that.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Magic Falls Part Six

I walk home from the tube station, anxiety eating away at my gut. I’m not ready for this conversation. I’m not ready to deal with her anger.

I’m not ready to tell the truth.

I think about the first thing she ever said to me.

“You look ridiculous.”

I laughed and gave my friend back his hat. He took it and winked at me.

“Thanks.” I said to her.

“It just doesn’t suit you,” she said.

“Nonsense. I can carry any item of clothing off. I am gorgeous.”

Now she laughed. “Prove it.”

“Point me at the nearest department store. I will try on every item. I will look wonderful.”

She put her chin to her hand and looked at me. I felt completely transfixed by her eyes. Dark, intense and beautiful.

“I was expecting you to ask me to take my clothes off so you could show me how good you look in them.” She said.

“I…” I lost my inward swagger a little bit. “Is it a good thing or a bad thing that I didn’t?”

“I’m deeply insulted.”

“Damn. I should have thought about it.”

“You should.”

“Is it too late now?”



“Hi, I’m Nina.”

“I’m Darren.”

“Hi, Darren.”

“Hi, Nina.”

She’d made me work hard to get her, and made me work harder to keep her, but she made it easy as well.  

Made everything in my life easier and better.

I stop outside the front door, hesitating before opening it.

I think about the last thing I heard her say before she died.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I tried, but I just couldn’t do it. I’m sorry.”

I open the door.

She’s sat on the sofa in the living room. Her eyes are red, and she looks like she’s been crying. I hate myself for that.



I sit next to her, although she avoids eye contact.

“I’m sorry,” I say.

She doesn’t say anything.

“I’ve not been intentionally misleading you. There’s stuff I’m doing that’s difficult to talk about. But I’m working on it. I’m trying to work it all out.”

I stroke her arm, but she pulls it away.

“I’m trying to talk about this,” I say. “Please.”

She digs her fingernails into her hand. I can see that her knuckles are turning white.

“Don’t do that,” I say. “Please, just talk to me.”

She unfolds her hand and wipes her eye. She looks furious with herself for crying.

“What do you want from me?” I ask.

“I want you to stop lying to me!” She snaps at me, turning her head to mine.

“I’m not….I….”

“Are you having an affair?” She asks.

“No!” I’m shocked by the question for a moment, although the way I’ve been acting since the New Year, I can understand it.

“So where were you just now?”

“I…” I contemplate lying. It would make my life easier right now,  but that’s not how we’ve been together. 
“This is going to sound bad. Okay? I know that. I was with Maria.”



“Maria?” She asked the first time in disbelief. This time, she asks with anger in her voice.

“I know, but – “

“Bloody Maria? You’re knocking off bloody Maria behind my back? I’d rather you were screwing Jedward! ”

“I’m not doing anything with Maria! I went over there to talk! That was it!” I shout rather than ask.

“So where have you been?” She asks with an edge to her voice.

“I told you, I went to talk to Maria. I thought she might have had something – “

“Your work say you haven’t been there for days. Not just hours. Days.”

“I know. I haven’t been at work.”

“So where have you – “

“I thought Maria had something to do with the lottery thing.”

“I…” she stops, confused. “Okay, I wasn’t expecting that. What?”

“You’re right,” I say. “There’s something going on, and it’s weird, and I’m in the middle of it.”

She frowns, upset, angry and confused. “What are you talking about?”

“You know the thing with the ravens? The numbers from ‘Lost’ turning up in the lottery? It’s all connected.”

She looks scared now as well. “What do you mean ‘it’s connected’? What does this have to do with anything? Why are you – “

“It’s…complicated.” I say.

“Don’t you dare,” she says. “Don’t you dare give me that. You’ve lied to me about where you are, so you don’t get to do that.”

“I know,” I say, anxiously. “I know. I’m not trying to do that. I’m trying to… I’m trying to work out how to say this without it sounding crazy.”

“Okay.” She says.

I take a moment, trying to work out if I can say it.

How the Hell do I say this?

“It’s…I know stuff, okay? I know stuff about what’s going to happen. I’m connected with all of it. So are you. Everyone is, but… we’re specifically connected.”

“You….what do you mean?”

I’ve got to do it. I can’t lie to her. This isn’t what we do. It isn’t who we are. I’ve got to start telling her the truth and hope that it’s the right thing to do.

“At the end of 2013…I got…” Oh God. “I got sent back. A year into the past. To try to change things.”

She looks at me and I wait for her to react.

Part Seven