by Melissa Pighin
Picture, if you would, a man. –Or perhaps less of a man, for there was no substantial proof of his actual existence. But this detail aside, he was accepted as real. That is to say, that people knew him (–or rather knew of him). He had managed to make himself the most distinguished man in all of Normandy, yet had done so without saying a word to anyone.
He was a man of deception and illusion. These traits were all too fitting for his career, but one couldn’t help but to wonder how he had found it possible to stay so incredibly under the radar. He was hardly ever mentioned in the tabloids, simply because there was nothing for the paparazzi to say. He never wandered the streets. In fact, no one had ever seen him leave the manor. Not even to perform a show. Yet the general public had reached the understanding that there could be no truth in such an allegation. His talents were displayed on a regular basis around the area and tonight specifically, Martin Merrel was attracting eager viewers at le Paon Majesteux.
It was intermission and a crowd waited anxiously in the lobby, sipping cafés and chattering inaudibly about the tricks they had just witnessed. Impossible happenings involving mirrors, trap doors, and smoke that the eyes and mind could not logically connect. The lights blinked twice and the group gradually receded back into the theatre. Once everyone was comfortably perched in their velvet lined chairs, the show commenced. Monsieur Merrel strolled loftily on stage and, as usual, was greeted by a roaring applaud of approval.
“Merci, merci. You are all too kind.”
A grey box was rolled onto the stage by his assistant. It was normal enough and had a door on the top.
“Pay attention. You might miss something.”
The audience chuckled, for it was very rarely that the mechanics of Merrel’s tricks were understood. The magician opened the door and lent a hand to his assistant as she climbed the footstool and descended gracefully into the wooden box. The door was shut, locked, and Martin Merrel waved his hands grandly:
A soft pop could be heard. Suddenly, the scene was blurred by a multitude of smoke. When the distraction had cleared, the stage was eerily sparse. No man stood grinning back at his admirers. The box had flapped open and there sat a peculiar puppet on a metal chair. A closer look revealed that it was indeed not a puppet, but a skeleton. The audience let out an exhilarated flood of clapping—expecting the clever man and his assistant to appear to their astonishment in the back of the room or the aisle way. Heads whipped around and smiles were exchanged, as if viewing some absurd party trick.
But the stage remained bleak and giddy grins of delight soon faded. Something was wrong, terribly wrong, and the lights of the house went up to confirm the validity of this concern. A harsh voice came over the intercom:
“Bonsoir Mesdames et Messieurs, do not panic. I ask that you leave through one of the exits located on either side of the theatre, s’il vous plaît. We are having some technical difficulties and will be unable to present the remainder of tonight’s show. We apologize and humbly ask for your understanding. You can be reimbursed at our box office beginning tomorrow.”
And so, the crowd despondently shuffled out of the building wondering what exactly could have gone wrong to tarnish a man’s otherwise flawless career. Details surrounding the curious act would not be concealed for long though. By Monday morning, the press had printed a relatively lengthy article on the much-speculated event. The assistant had been found unscathed underneath a trapdoor. She had apparently been waiting for the magician’s cue to make her reappearance (–a cue that never came). The whereabouts of Merrel were unknown; a fact that was entirely meaningless and typical of this man.
But the intriguing and somewhat nauseating aspect of the situation, was that the morgue had identified the skeleton as belonging to a real human body and not a stage prop, as originally presumed. The skeleton possessed a distinctive jaw line, an intimidating height, and flat feet that were strikingly similar to none other than: the missing Martin Merrel.