Audience members squirm and squeal—their anticipation is hotter than an astronomical fireball. “Hello boys and gals! My name is Franz. Are you ready to see a magic show?” He says.
Impatient children cheer. Older folk sip on silence.
“Okay, I’ll be back in five minutes.” Franz says. Ten minutes later, a large speaker screams inside the ears of a sweaty woman. The heart inside her chest skips a beat or two.
“Are you ready to see some real magic?” Franz says.
The audience would like to answer the question. But the heat evaporated their motivation to speak. Franz paces back and forth across the stage. “Do you believe in ghosts?”
A muscular man’s blood boils inside his veins. “Nope.”
Franz smiles. “Right, right! Many scam artists claimed they could summon ghosts, however…it was just a sophisticated ruse to extract money from ignorant folk, just like yourselves. I’m joking, of course. I really am.”
No one laughs.
Franz steps next to a makeshift box. The opening is veiled by a purple curtain. “Before we begin the magic show, I’d like to invite my partner on stage. Please give Fran a round of applause…she’ll need it.”
Someone wearing a newsboy hat claps his hands. A lady with golden curly hair bathes in the sunshine. The purple curtain pops open. Fran waltzes on stage and takes a bow.
“Okay, okay, that’s enough, Fran.” He says.
Fran stands toward the middle of the stage. Creepy music blares through the speakers while Franz extends the rope between his hands. “This is a real rope. Don’t believe me? Who would like to come on stage and prove the rope is real?”
Five children raise their tiny hands. Franz points toward the young gang. “Hop on stage and prove the rope is real.”
Franz lowers the microphone. “What’s your name?”
“My name is Jimmy.” A young boy says.
“Jimmy…here is I what I need you to do: pull on the rope with all your might. Are you ready, Jimmy?” Franz says.
Jimmy nods his hot head.
“Give the rope a pull. Go on. Give it all you got.” Franz says.
Jimmy pulls on the rope as his forehead cries sweaty tears. “It’s real! It’s real!” He says.
“See? What did I tell you? A magician never lies. You did a fine job, Jimmy.” Franz says. He paces toward the edge of the stage. “I need one more volunteer. Who would like to prove that ghosts exist?”
3 more children stand up and raise their hands toward the fireball in the blue sky. Franz points at a chubby boy. “You look like you believe in ghosts! Step right up and help prove that ghosts live amongst us.”
The chubby kid waddles on stage and then stands on the opposite end of the makeshift box. Franz sticks the microphone in the boy’s face as if it were an electronic ice cream cone. “What’s your name, my big boy?”
“My name is Billy.” He says.
Franz taps him on the shoulder. “Fantastic! Do the audience a favor: take a stroll around the box and let the everyone know there’s not a hidden assistant tryin’ to pull a fast one.”
Billy takes a slow stroll around the box and then puckers his lips toward the microphone. “I can’t see anybody.” He says.
“See? What did I tell you? A magician never lies.” Franz says.
Fran steps in between Billy and Jimmy. Franz takes the rope and wraps her arms behind her back. “Here’s what I need you to do, Jimmy—tie a knot around her wrist. Make it a good one.”
Jimmy loops the rope around her wrist and does what he’s told. Fran’s eyes bulge out of her wrinkled face.
“Fantastic! Here’s what I need you to do Billy—tie a knot around her other wrist. Make it a good one.” Franz says.
Billy loops the rope around her wrist and ties a double knot.
“That’s the spirit, Billy! The fun is about to begin.”
Franz loops the remaining rope around Fran’s neck. “Don’t worry. The rope is very loose. I promise. Okay, Fran, go ahead and sit inside the box.”
Fran wabbles inside the box and then sits on a wooden chair.
“Alright, alright. Do you see the small container? It’s filled with all kinds of useless trinkets. Do you agree, Billy?” Franz says.
“Did you see that? Billy agrees! It must be true.” Franz says.
Franz walks toward the middle of the stage. A strange grin makes the audience sweat. “Watch this.” He says.
He closes the purple curtain, and then a trapdoor opens behind the box. A small assistant crawls inside the enclosure. “Try to make this quick, Frankie.” Fran says. Frankie pulls on the loose rope. Painful pressure clogs her delicate airway. Fran’s feet twitch. He leans back while the rope chews into her seared skin. Fran’s face changes into Death’s favorite color. She chokes on her desperate words and it tastes like acidic blood. The rope is like a vengeful python constricting Fran’s helpless life. “Why is it so hot today? I’m sorry Fran…this is gonna take a little longer.” Frankie says. He pulls the rope until the threaded teeth bite into Fran’s throat. Her fingers dance. Frankie lets go of the rope. “Do your worst, Fran. I’m sorry it took so long. I’ll see you after the show.” He says.
Frankie escapes through the trapdoor while a willowy mist floats out of Fran’s contorted mouth. Irridescent shimmers pulsate within the unusual ethereal substance. Sunshine pierces through the transparent figure. Plasma tendrils rise into the air, twisting and colliding as dark sparks ignite. Prismatic colors fade as if being erased by the Sun. Fran’s soul looks at her purple body sitting in the chair. Motionless. Lifeless. The fly on her forehead is more vibrant than the vacant shell which it feeds on. A thought ripples through the invisible figure: I don’t have much time. Electric energy radiates from the center of Fran’s soul and then travels throughout the wispy gas, just like a ripple in a still pond. A piece of paper levitates in the air—intricate folds turn the paper into an airplane. The ghost of Fran snaps its invisible fingers. The plane soars above the box…dipping, diving, and turning above the audience. The muscular man feels something land on his scorched lap.
“You look like a strong fella! Unfold the paper airplane. If you dare.” Franz says.
He unfolds the paper airplane. There’s a message written on the paper: ghosts exist.
A few audience members clap as Franz bows. Fran’s soul dissipates and slithers back inside her dead body’s mouth. Her skin morphs into the color of a blooming tulip, while a desperate mosquito sips on a warm vein. Fran enhales a wild breeze—the aero specter revitalizes her will to live.
Franz rips opens the purple curtain. “Take a look at that, my skeptical friends! Fran’s hands are still tied behind her back. We witnessed a miracle…or was it magic? I’ll let you decide.”
Based on a true story. Kind of.