Dierdre leaned against the back wooden wall while everyone else set up their fancy boxes with secret compartments and guillotines and levitating strings. Everyone was in bright glamourous costumes, and assistants were stretching to She pulled her pony tail to top of her head and down over her face between her eyes. Chewing on the tip until it was soggy, she folded her arms thinking herself the coolest one on that stage.
"Hey," said a man's voice. Dierdre turned and looked at the magician in a top hat and a tuxedo. Little sparkles lined his blazer. He paused in the silence and waited for her to say something. She studied his goatee. After a beat the man continued, "So, who are you here with?"
Pulling the damp pony tail out of her lips, Dierdre looked around at the magicians in the convention, setting up their tricks. "What?"
"Who's assistant are you?" He smiled with blindingly glimmering teeth and gestured at the participants with a white gloved hand.
"Oh," she said looking down at her dirty sneakers. "No one's."
"Do you work here or are you like a fan or somebody's girlfriend?" he asked.
Dierdre should have been used to this. There weren't that many girls in this profession at all, but it still offended her that they couldn't sense her innate magical talents. Obviously this was because she was naive enough to assume that any of them were real magicians themselves.
"No, I'm a magician," said the short young woman in jeans and a sweatshirt.
"Really?" said the man. "Well, uh, sorry..." He turned on his shiny black heel and walked away.
Dierdre shrugged and watched everyone else prepare for the show portion of the convention. She hated these sorts of things. At least when you were performing in front of a real audience they wanted you to succeed; they wanted a good show. At a convention you were performing in front of other magicians, who basically were only watching you to judge your act and decide theirs was better. As one of the youngest participants and a woman, Dierdre felt the brunt of this judgement at many of the mixers, after parties, seminars, but at least on stage she was able to ignore any condescension and simply shine.
Standing in the back of the room, she watched as her colleagues sawed assistants in half, made people disappear, and pulled birds out of their sleeves. She could see the trick for most of them, a trap door or a mirror. None of it was real magic.
As she often felt when watching, talking to, or being around others, Dierdre felt so alone and scared. It was hard for her to accept that a majority of the magic in the world wasn't real, that most people didn't have a power or a destiny or a psychic link to everything in humanity. It felt terrifying to think that most things didn't mean anything. She shuddered and hugged her arms and breathed deeply. Her chin dropped to her clavicle as she realized that everything empty and fake and we were all alone. And then they called her name.
Dierdre took the stage quietly, not needing any tech or anything besides a spotlight. Everyone else had had a spiel with funny jokes and a cheesey patter and audience interaction. Some of them brought the crowd on stage and had assistants. She took the stage in her regular clothes, alone, and stood in the light looking out at her fellow magicians. Some of them had notebooks. A lot of them were talking to each other, drinking by this point in the convention.
She took a deep breath and turned in a circle so everyone could see that she was a normal human, or what would pass as one. She then reached to the back of her head, to her hair, and pulled. Her nimble fingers tugged and a zipper appeared. She unzipped the back of her skull, unzipping the skin until it fell down to the stage in a pile of flesh. Blood ran across the stage in a dark pool, much darker than the red of most humans. It flowed so freely, dripping over the stage toward the crowd, but not staining anything, a temporarily disgusting river of feelings that could easily be washed away. Her bones clattered to the wooden like children's toys. Organs bounced and flopped into the crowd. A man who had used a ventriloquist dummy in his act caught her lung in his lap. Her eyes rolled across the now bloody stage, somehow still crying in their severed state.
Her femur danced a little bit, flinging piles of tissue around. Several of the men in the audience were vomitting with violent force. Others were crying, the kind of tears your body can create when you're so scared and unsure of the unknown. Several magicians ran for the door. The man who had said hello to her earlier fainted.
The emcee watched from the back stage, clutching his mouth turning green and heaving in horror. He looked over for the stage manager, unsure of what had just happened or what he should do.
It would be so easy to stay like this, she thought. It would be so freeing to leave that globby, lifeless, pile of human body behind. It would be glorious to float around everything and exist in everyone and be like a song.
Finally Dierdre pulled all of her organs, bones, skin, hair, muscles, and blood back together. It all sucked quickly up into one ball of human and suddenly she was standing before them as if she had never done it. She blinked and looked at the colleagues in the audience who were straining to stop throwing up. Without bowing or saying anything, she exited the stage.