This story is by Sandino Lirios and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
A sudden bump on the road caused his thoughts – and Luc himself – to all come tumbling down. He was thankful that his silvery white hair covered the embarrassment on his face. When he looked around though, his shame faded and instead he felt so disheartened at his surroundings. It was like his heart got its heart taken out.
It wasn’t that no one even noticed the old man had fallen to the ground. Since he got on the bus with his white regalia, and golden vest and shoes, no one even spared a moment’s glance.
He looked around the bus and saw the people with either their heads down on their smartphones, or sitting to themselves, unable to see through the dark clouds life had precipitated in their minds.
No one even bothered to look outside the bus to see the gentle sway of the trees in the sun’s warm embrace. If they did, their thoughts were far away.
Luc picked up his top hat and dusted it off before getting back in his seat with some effort. When he looked back to the magickal scene outside, the moment had already passed him by. He checked his watch and saw that it would take a little more than an hour to his destination. He closed his eyes and thought of better times.
“Gather around everyone,” Luc said in his most sage-like voice. “And bear witness to magic untold and wonders to behold.” The group of children all huddled around a lone boy holding a tablet turned.
He started off with his standard tricks. From his hand came a handkerchief accompanied by an explosion of confetti. He threw the handkerchief in the air and out came a candy cane-colored baton from a handkerchief that he caught in his mouth and swallowed. From his mouth came cloth after colorful cloth.
The boy with the tablet began typing. He elbowed a boy next to him and showed his findings. Luc took the laughter and shaking of their heads as a bad sign. Despite that, he pressed on.
Luc took out a small black box the length of a forearm. He showed his audience all the sides and opened it up to show nothing inside.
“Just a normal black box,” he assured them to the nods of some.
With a flutter of his fingers, he blessed the box. When he pulled it open again, the first thing that people heard was the flutter of wings. A dove as white as snow emerged from the black box and landed on Luc’s fingers.
Luc could sense the wonder and excitement building. He could feel it coursing through his veins. Then, a voice cut through and stopped in its tracks.
“There’s a space under the box! That’s not real magic.”
Luc saw the boy holding up his tablet for all to see. On it, a video was playing showing the box’s hidden secrets on repeat.
Luc lifted the box and the dove entered it as if on command. After, the box was closed.
“You’re right, my boy,” Luc said. “The box isn’t magic at all. The truth is that it’s our friendly little bird that’s magic!” People’s curiosities were piqued once more, with half expecting how the old magician could work himself out of this conundrum. The other half anticipated a disaster.
“Our little winged friend here can actually turn invisible.” Luc opened the box again, and while no shape of white emerged, people swore they heard the distinct flutter of wings. Luc’s gaze went from the box and traced in an arc until it hit a large tree branch behind on the opposite side of where he was standing. Everyone else’s gaze followed.
“Sadly, he sometimes gets stuck like that. Who wants to help it come back?” A flurry of hands instantly popped into the sky. Within the throng, the tablet boy’s own hand reached to the sky with caution.
Luc locked eyes with the boy, ushering him over. For the first time in this whole party, the boy put his tablet down and sauntered towards Luc.
“What is your name?” Luc asked.
“Thomas,” the boy said. “It’s my birthday.”
“An interesting name. His name is Credo,” Luc said, taking the boy’s hand and pointing it towards the tree. “All you have to do is say ‘come Credo’, and he shall alight on your finger.”
Thomas gave a “this is stupid” eye roll. With a pat on the shoulder, Luc stepped back and waited.
“Come Credo,” Thomas said, the words limping out like a dog with a wounded leg.
“He is much too far,” Luc said. “You have to say it louder.”
“Come Credo,” the boy echoed again. Still, nothing.
“Credo needs to believe in your words. He needs to feel that you believe.” Thomas closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
Again, all around them rang the sound of wings in motion. No one could know for sure if the invisible bird had really perched on the boy’s finger, but the shock on his face would tip the scale in favor of it.
“I feel him!” Thomas shouted. That drew a wave of “wows” from the audience.
“Do you want to help him be seen again?” Luc asked. Thomas’ head bobbed up and down as if it were a basketball.
“What I need you to do first is believe with all your heart. Believe in the magick in you, in him, and in everything around us.”
Thomas closed his eyes then and his eyebrows furrowed as if he were trying to crack a nut between them.
“That’s good,” Luc assured. “Now, I want you to take Credo in both your hands. Then, I want you to count to three and throw him into the sky. Ready?”
“Yes,” Thomas stammered. Luc placed his hands on the boy’s shoulders and closed his eyes as he began to count.
“1… 2… 3!”
As Thomas flung his hands upwards, Credo materialized from thin air.
The white dove flew in circles to the rapturous sound of the crowd’s applause. Thomas himself was smiling, jumping, and clapping all at once. Credo landed on Thomas’ shoulder and nestled deeply in his neck.
From behind Thomas, Luc patted him on the shoulder and whispered one word. “Magick.”
All that was left for Luc to do was close his eyes and let the waves of applause wash over him. He could sense their minds churning; wondering and believing in the impossible. It set his blood aflame and, were his eyes not closed, people would see the fires ignited in them. He flexed his fists, feeling the power running through his body.
But then, it was cut all too short with three little words.
“Time for cake!”
Luc frowned then, sensing that the people’s minds were already starting to wander away. When he opened his eyes, the children had returned to their huddle, the tablet their point of focus. The memory of what they had just seen was already starting to vanish from their minds.
With a sigh, he called Credo back. With no one looking, he shrugged and snapped his fingers, making Credo disappear again. Then he packed his things up and headed out. No eyes rose to acknowledge him as he moved through the lawn.
Back in his hovel, the hot bath only did so much to ease the weariness forming in Luc’s bones. He took to his favorite chair, the leather forming cracks like thunderbolts.
He snapped, but nothing happened. His hands were shaking. After snapping a second time with considerable effort, the only thing that emerged was the sound of a click.
Fearing the worst, Luc closed his eyes and held his hands in prayer. In his mind, memories of simpler times played. The carousel of images spun in quick succession. There were the cavemen when he first called forth thunder to deliver fire to them. The princes of Egypt joyed by making twin snakes dance under his control. The festivities that transpired when he ran his hand through a barbarian’s chest wound, leaving his skin clean and without injury.
Also intertwined were the memories from when he started doing magic shows. His heart ached remembering the children who watched his every move with rapt attention.
Within each image, the most precious thing was the bewildered look on their faces. The seeds planted in their imaginations. The curiosity to probe and prod with the unknown. The belief that anything was possible.
He snapped for the third time. The sound of Credo’s wings filled the room. A smile crept on his face then, thankful to have his friend back. Yet deep inside, his worry had rooted deeper. He felt the magick seeping out of him, dissipating until he could no longer feel what once gave his life and many others meaning.
A lullaby of laughter and excitement echoed from the past. Tomorrow, he would continue his eternal journey in this land of magick lost.