The best time to reflect upon how one got into a sticky situation is not as one stands on a moonlit cliff as a dark magician orders his beautiful assistant to jump to her untimely death; yet such a time does call for perspective.
So permit me a moment of analepsis, or flashback…
To escape the boredom of a large usually occupied house, I ventured out for a nighttime drive. I searched the radio dial for something to distract or entertain me, but to no avail. But when I spun the dial to its outer limits, I heard an unusual, haunting voice.
Barely audible through the static and the buzz, this voice was somehow drawing me in, and I was soon captivated. I pulled the car to the side of a country road so to better concentrate.
I could barely make out the message. I heard only a few words such as “underground” and “circus” and then phrases, such as “returned to the living” and “recalled to life”. Evidently, this was the voice of some charlatan or rube, I remember thinking. It must be some act or play maybe, in which the character can make the dead come back to life.
I was transfixed by the program, this voice, this story from which I knew only details. I switched off the radio and returned home to our vacant home.
I was aware as I parked that the incessant barking of our beloved pet was absent. Was our dog asleep? Or sick? This was the first time I ever remember he did not bark, and I would know. This was the also the first time my wife and children had gone for such an extended time. Likely this dog has perceived this, I thought, and is acting strangely.
This all made me realize I had yet to feed the poor creature.
Yet to my shock, and sadness, I found our dear dog not sick or asleep but muted by death upon our sofa.
This was not going down well for me.
My children will be suspicious. My wife will likely respond on their side to this.
I had been left alone to care for their dog, and it dies? How can a good and benevolent Other, Bigger, Better Being cast such contemptible fate before me?
I wasn’t even present for this death. I can’t have any credibility, because I don’t have any details.
Such a sad thing, too.
I now regretted all the many times I silently cursed that incessant barking, his shed hair upon our sofa, his exalted place within our family.
Without so much as a moment of deliberation I knew what to do.
I was heading to see that Dark Magician.
I set out again by car to the radio station. Even if this “magician”’s powers were an illusion, perhaps there was a way he could make it appear to my family that the dog could die another day.
The magician was adamant. “The dog will be returned to living, I will make it so.”
“This will take time”, he said in that voice. His stare was equally engaging, part Mona Lisa, part…….
The fee was exorbitant, but how do you rightly compensate for reincarnation, even of the temporary kind?
With his compensation secure, he called forth his assistant. She too wore all black. They were working this dark angle pretty hard.
She wrapped the dog in a shawl and placed him before us, then knelt down to one side.
The magician sat composed, quiet. He withdrew his hands from his cloak as his lips moved silently.
It humiliates me now but I never felt foolish for an instant. . My attempt to conceal our dog’s death, a death I had no part in, had brought in the services of a dark magician and his equally dark assistant.
I hovered in their hovel over my deceased pet; yet I never felt an iota of bad faith.
The dark magician, however, lacked faith in me.
For hours after the dog shifted, stirred, breathed, stood, and started barking again, he would not let me leave.
He was convinced, against all of my protests, that I thought he was a charlatan.
He was repeating that I suspected this event was merely an illusion.
He said that he wanted to demonstrate that he could perform the same reincarnation, but with a human life.
A demonstration of his powers was mandatory, he insisted, in order that I might see their veracity.
I was to suggest a way for his assistant to die, and after three days, she would be revived.
“On this very evening,” he demanded but melodically, “and within three days’ time will be among the living once again.
Only in this way could I “see with new eyes that the dead can be returned to the living”….
These were the events that brought me here to this moonlit cliff.
The plan is for the assistant to plunge over the cliff and into the darkness. She supposedly will do so willingly, merely upon his suggestion. Such is the faith she has in his powers.
I have only to watch, to witness. I have to testify to him that I believe in his power. This is somehow connected to the price of the dog, and as long as he keeps barking, I am down with this magician.
He speaks to her as though she is about to go and get us lunch, as she willingly aligns herself at cliff’s edge, mere inches from peril.
This scene is strangely not arousing any sense of alarm in me, but i am mystified, and incredulous. I can’t really explain the stupor.
Just at the moment he is to release her into the depths, I spring forth into action. Without forethought or purpose I lunge into the darkness. I grip the cloak of the dark magician and he topples over the cliff’s edge.
He is instantly disappeared into the moonlight without a sound.
I turn to face the beautiful, dark, assistant.
With a trembling hand I reached out to sooth her.
She is a picture of mysterious serenity; I am a mess.
Suddenly, she gasps and staggers backward as if pulled by a tether.
There is no visible latch on her, but she is moving within steps from the edge.
In that slow instant when every motion plays out as a drama of its own kind, she releases from over the cliff,
no gasp of horror.
Pulled by that invisible tether or force out into the darkness, over the cliff’s edge. I was at peace through her glance but in panic.
After a moment I notice only the barking.
I return to the car after trying to look over the cliff, trying to see into the void.
I quickly drive home, and resolve to let it rest.
If I turn myself in to the police, then I have been taken in by this charlatan.
I will watch the dog to take my cue.
When my wife and children return home. The dog is barking perfectly as they drive up.
I am clear headed again but worried about the girl.
I am obviously not about to discuss any of this with the happy trio returning from the beach, because that would defeat the purpose, if they realize I allowed the dog to die.
Once inside, they settle into telling tales of beach adventures.
I don’t have to say much, but am nonetheless particularly selective in my approach of what details to share with them.
At night I sleep soundly, without any disturbance or dreams of notice.
Three days have passed and I am visibly nervous. The dog is barking soundly, consistently.
After breakfast, on a drive by the station I tune in to the radio program on the outer limits of the dial.
I return home and find that the check I had written the charlatan, has been cashed.
I drive to my bank. I know this teller by number.
She describes the pair who came in and cashed the check and there is little doubt. But when she hands me the note, I admit, I am surprised.
Inside was only one word,
- Maybe dogs really can talk! (salon.com)
- Coyote spotted in the Beach in Toronto (metronews.ca)
- Pooch stuck on cliff was one lucky dog (ocregister.com)
- The Illusionist (2006) (dtmmr.com)