The Escape Artist

The Escape Artist

A Story by W.R. Singleton

An interesting perspective on Houdini.


Do you know the difference between an escape artist and a street performer? The answer is fear; fear of the unknown; like the fear I see plastered across the faces in my audience whenever I perform one of my little tricks; like the fear I used to have when I practiced a new illusion for the first time - blindfolded and strapped tightly into a straight jacket while dangling upside down from a five story building, chained and locked inside a water chamber, or buried alive beneath six feet of earth - and those are the easy ones. Recently, I've perfected a list of illusions that no other artist has ever attempted; nor ever will after me.

I've walked these streets for years. Everyone knows my name, and yet no one seems to have figured me out quite yet. You will never find an escapist quite like me, I admit, but I do harbor closely guarded secrets just like every one else. For example: it is imperative to the reality of my new illusions, not merely for authenticity, but also for dramatic effect, that they be performed under the cover of night. Honestly, they are illusions after all, and perhaps I'd be giving away too much if I confessed there really wasn't any other time I could perform them.

My name is Harry by the way. I forgot to mention that. I come from a long history of magic. It flows through my veins and inhabits my senses. I am what I practice in the obscure. I am the Master of Shadows, the Great Manipulator, the Escapist, the Illusionist. I perform because I must, not because I want to, and especially not for money. Come with me, just this once, and I will reveal all of my closely guarded secrets to one and only one unsuspecting spectator. Lucky You!

But before we begin, I must adorn myself in my usual garb: one pair shiny black patent leather shoes, one pair thick knee high socks just to be incongruous, one pair black pleated slacks, one collared shirt of no eccentric importance, and finally one long frock coat and a tie. But contrary to predetermined stereotyping, I do not have a plastic wand, I do not wear a cape, nor do I wear a top hat or a mask to disguise myself; for I have nothing to hide. What you see is what you get. And lastly, but not least of all, the tools of my trade; which one should understand I do not carry the bulk of at one time. For illusions that spark unusual mentality, one straight jacket and a set of large custom shackles. This my friends is where the old becomes the new, for I also might be found carrying one small revolver secured in my breast pocket with six bullets placed carefyully inside my left pants pocket, or perhaps a ten foot length of rope coiled and slung around my left shoulder, maybe one flask filled with kerosene and a book of matches, and on rare occasions one hand made sign tucked safely beneath my shirt: but don't ask what the sign reads, for I will never tell.

Now, therefore dressed and prepared accordingly for each illusion, I arrive at my favorite destination each night in order to entertain the gathering spectators unexpectently huddled together with an aura of morose uniformity. (The reasons for which they gather in such a nonstandard state of mind will of course be explained in detail before we've reached the end of this allagory.) However, please take notice that the illusions I am about to perform are not for the weak of heart, mind, or even stomach for that matter. What you are about to see is not normal. Therefore to limit the degree of madness that is only inevitable, I absolutely will not perform more than one illusion at a time.

You might be suprised to find that I perform these illusions nightly, and despite the awe-inspiring shock value, nay my complete disregard for good taste, my audience always comes back for more. Night after night, they witness feats that defy the natural limitations of humanity. Sadly, the reactions I receive after performing one of these said illusions are not quite what one would expect given the circumstances. In fact, I might go so far as to admit that these reactions are nothing short of perplexing; but how does one gauge a reaction to an illusion of the likes no other escapist has ever attempted? Or how does one gauge the response of those gathered who have seen said illusions time and time again but cannot resist returning - or more appropriately explained, drawn back once more out of mere habit - when a place like this, the very place you are standing in is in fact beyond the feasibility of ordinary travel? A clue I say as to the very unorthodox manner of which my illusions are even made possible. To speak in order to claify, this audience has witnessed my illusions for so long in regular repetition, that they have become desensitized to a degree. Of course, they are still disturbed and at times sickened by these illusions, not for reasons brought about by the illusions themselves, but quite simply because they cannot believe that they know what is about to happen but cannot avert their eyes. It is a sickness that cannot be avoided in this place. More often than not, they expect to return and to observe, and to run away at times, only to return once more, and over time these illusions cause serious damage to their psyche...because, like sheep I draw them in, in all their splendid curiosity, to witness yet more brain curdling magic.

It is all an unfortunate cycle. It would be easy to freshen things up a bit and learn some new tricks of course, but I've not the patience any more; not when my magic still holds so much shock value. And lucky you, I've allowed you to come along in order to witness the best my imagination has to offer. You will be my guest of honor, a direct witness to my five greatest illusions, to be performed one at a time over the next five evenings. You will be the first and only soul to bear witness of "The Five Temptations of the Devil" from start to finish. Tonight is a special night. Tonight may be my greatest performance!

1st Night: The Russian

Come, my audience awaits. Follow me through the crowd gathering like bleeting sheep on the corner of Moscow and Impecunious. "Gather one, gather all," I bray loudly as I pass through the tightly compacted bodies. For my first illusion, I must find an unwilling volunteer; an odd request I know, but I find it so much more compelling when the poor sap concedes grudgingly. Come, come wade through the populous watchers and sit at the front, here at my feet, where you shall have the best seat in the house; so to speak. Yes, there you will have the perfect view. Now, for my unsuspecting volunteer. I scan the crowd meticulously, squinting my eyes like a hawk until I find my precarious victim, someone that sticks out like a sore thumb, man.

"You sir, come forward," I shout to a stranger in a dark wool jacket, face contorted in a standoffish expression, with eyes squinted like a sailor and a head full of fiery red hair. He is precisely what I need. "Yes you, the man in the wool jacket." The man glances side to side and behind him, pondering who this extravagant magician could possibly be addressing. I snap my fingers at him to spark his attention, snap, snap, "Over here my good man, yes you, there you are, come down to the front please." The man relunctantly agrees and shoulders his way through the crowd. Everyone realizes he has only agreed because so many people are watching him. Once he passes the final line of spectactors and comes face to face with me, I tell him to close his eyes and remove his jacket; which he does. Sheep are so gullible. "Here, sit next to my dear acquaintance while I borrow your jacket for a moment," I instruct.

"I keep my pretentiousness in my breast pocket," he rejoins sharply. "Give it to me first."

"Why certainly," I say to the old bugger, handing him the small golden mirror from his pocket - a symbol of his vanity - and turn my attention to my audience. "And for my first trick, I will attempt to make you all disappear," I allude to something unexpected, as I blanket my head beneath his jacket. "There, I've done it. I can't see a single one of you. Run along now." I hold my hands in front of me, as if in jest. "I'm only kidding my dear ladies and gents. Forgive my inappropriateness. You've come to see some real magic did you not?" They lack excitement and enthusiasm. A lackluster response clamors from the crowd somewhere in the darkness, but they have become one large bodiless susurration since I pulled the wool over my eyes. Ha!

But enough foolishness, it's time to get serious now. It's time for my first illusion. It's time for the first of my "Five Temptations of the Devil". I pull the revolver from my breast pocket very slowly and palm the cool metal around its handle. The crowd expells an excited gasp. "Don't worry, it's not loaded ladies and gents," I say as I pull the first of six bullets from my left pants pocket. "Not yet, anyway." I smile, an action that goes unnoticed. "No need to worry, now," I attempt to ease the unanimous anxiety in the air. "You wouldn't expect a magician to go off killing people, now would you? Where's the magic in that; not that they could possibly understand my meaning?"

Nevertheless, purposely loading this single bullet into my revolver, I close and spin the cylinder; which happens to spin an inordintely long time. In fact, for the next few moments as I contiue to speak, the cylinder continues to spin. "Round and round she goes ladies and gents," I bellow, but my voice is somewhat muffled by the wool jacket and the confused murmer mingling throughout the crowd. "But where she stops nobody knows." Then steadily and intentionally, I lift the barrel of the revolver and place it on the end of my woold covered nose. The cylinder continues to spin, building suspense, and then I slowly pull the trigger. Click! Nothing happens, as the cylinder continues to spin. Click! Click! Click! Three more times I pull the trigger, but nothing happens.

"What are you getting at!" a single bodiless voice shouts before the crowd.

Perhaps it was the man who owned the jacket, concerned for the wellbeing of his property out of splendid vanity. Click! Click! Click! Yet three more times. Have you been counting? This revolver definately should have fired by now. You might be wondering at this point if I am using a fake gun, or perhaps a fake bullet. Don't worry, they are both perfectly real, only slightly modified of course...but that's a secret I shall not divulge.

Click! One more time, just for effect. Nothing. it seems I have escaped fate's temptation. "But wait, that wasn't the trick," I explain to the crowd. At this point my watchers are too afraid to leave, not because they fear for their own lives, or mine for that matter, but because they are afraid they might miss what happens next. Ahhh!! Beautiful humanity!

I open the cylinder and it stops spinning. I place the second bullet into a random chamber, unable to determine exactly where it is. Again, I adjust the revolver, give it a quick spin, and place the barrel on the end of my wool covered nose. Click! Click! Click! Click! "That's odd," I explain with false concern. Click! Click! Click! "Perhaps another bullet!"

I proceed to open the cylinder, place a third bullet into an empty chamber, close the revolver, spin it, place the barrel on the tip of my nose and pull the trigger. Click! Click! Click! Click! Click! Click! Six times I pull the trigger with no effect. I repeat this process again with a fourth bullet, and then a fifth, and then finally the sixth. The barrel pressed gently on the end of my nose, I squeeze the trigger in a final series of pulls. Click! Click! Click! Click! Click! Bang!!!!

A white hot flash blinds my eyes, before the lights go out and the bullet buries itself into my brain. I fall backwards, the revolver slipping from my fingers, and land violently and awklardly on the cold concrete. The crowd scatters in all directions like roaches, as their screams fill the night. The man leaves his jacket behind, now spattered with blood and brain matter, tiny fragments of skull and hair embedded forever in its fibers. Nevermind taking it to the cleaners, that stain will never come out.

Once the crowd has dispersed, an entire medley of emergency crews arrive to clean up the mess. Police tape is stretched around a fifty foot perimeter, but no one dares examine my body yet. As the only remaining witness, you are diligently questioned about the incident. I can see everything at this point quite clearly, despite laying on my back with half my face missing beneath the stranger's jacket. Somehow, everything seems different, the world is hazy. All the colors seem to run together like soft watercolors. And now, the conclusion to this illusion, while the world around me appears as a tinted red even wash.

Without saying a word, I stand up, remove the blood soaked jacket and spit the bullet from my mouth. Everyone is fightened at this sudden movement. The paramedics and fireman hide behind their respective vehicles. The police pull arms and point their guns and tasers at me, but none of them are at all sure how to shoot a dead man. And to make matters more interesting, just to prove my illusion wasn't just a simple trick, I poke my finger through the hole in the jacket where the bullet entered and retrieve my revolver from the ground. By this time my face has regenerated to its normal appearance, and if it were not for the remaining fragments of blood, brain and bone splatter in my hair, I would have looked completely normal.

And that, my dear friend, was "The Russian." Too bad you were the only one that bothered to stick around long enough to see the big finale. I crumple the jacket and toss it into the trash bin as I pass, leaving you behind with that confused look in your eyes, all the while whistling the Sound of Music. The police are too disturbed to bother apprehending me at this point, but instead resort to badgering you; as if you had anything to do with it. I return home relatively unscathed, retrieve the five remaining bullets from my revolver and place them on top of my desk, place the revolver in a kitchen drawer next to my forks and spoons, pop a few aspirin for the headache and take a shower.

Second Night: The Swinger

It's Tuesday...time to prepare for my second "Temptation of the Devil". Eventually, I assume my luck will run out, that Heaven and Hell will remember they forgot about me. In case you haven't figured it out yet, I cannot die. Well actually, I can die, but I always come back. There is a reason for that, but all stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. This my friend, is only the beginning.

It's time to get ready. I dress in the same clothes, but tonight I will leave my revolver at home. Tonight, all I will bring with me is my ten foot length of rope and a good book to pass the time. As previously mentioned, I've been doing this a very long while. So long, it has all become an unfortunate cycle. Every five days, this cycle begins anew. That's usually about how long it takes for my audience to forget about me and my splattered messes. At least they like to pretend they do. How else should a town act, powerless to watch a man commit suicide every night in the same spot, while they carry on with their own lives as if nothing ever happened.

I return to my corner where the streets have no name; at least none that stick. They are changed daily in an attempt to forget what happened there the night before...what I caused. You see, sometimes we witness something so tragic, we puposely make all efforts to erase that memory and move along. And sometimes, we are the cause. I am an instigator, I admit. I love to shock and traumatize people. As a result, an entire town tries to erase all memory of me every night, but the truth is that they will never forget me. And yet, there are not enough words in the human dialect to describe this place, this community of lost souls, this faux pa of of indignity and creation. These crowds, these intense faces around me are searching for a place to call home; they are searching for a means to escape this monotonous torture that is reality. Here, they know no hunger, no want, no pain. They do not fear what repercussions they might endure for their false benedictions. Here, they remain forever suspended, as if in a dream. There, across the street is a man who stands in the same manner, day after day for days on end, black fedora hat propped atop his head and leaning slightly to the northeast, black and white wing-tipped shoes that shine like the day he bought them, an obstinate grin across his face, and a broken arm that never seems to heal. There are millions of faces just like his, and millions of injuries that will not heal the same as his, and millions of tragic beings that walk to and fro unaware of where they're headed or where they've been, only realizing that they must keep moving at all cost while some cosmic hero plays connect the dots from one to another with his finger like a child curiously observing an ant farm.

The funny thing is, I might simply go away if they ever stopped watching, but they can't sto. Which is why they are still here, and why I am still here, here on the corner of De Javu and Bottleneck. This corner has not changed throughout the years. Behind me, a seven story apartment building with average windows and average doors extends into the average gray sky; cloudless and motionless. Narrow walkways zig zag through various gardens and rest areas, and one large oak tree stands in the middle of the foreground where the sidewalk meets the street.

"Gather one, gather all," I beckon to my gathering crowd; every face as familiar as a brother or sister as they swarm around me like mindless bodies. They don't want to be here, but they have no choice. The previous night's effects have not entirely worn off yet, but no worries, in a few more days it will. It's amazing though, when I think about it, despite what I do, my audience gradually grows larger every day. Newcomers greet me all the time with the same obstinate expressions just like you did that first day. So why is it that I picked you out of so many to witness the very innerworkings of my mind, the grand genius of these grand illusions? Quite honestly, I don't know. There's certainly nothing special about you, nothing that sticks out at first sight; not like me. I was born to entertain, that is my one and only purpose. You, like all the others here were simply caught unawares and swept away to a place that has no exit. So to be completely honest, you were chosen by no other means than by the laws of natural selection, being "any many miny mo", unfortunately. Sorry to burst your bubble, but I am so glad you came, and so glad you are here to bear witness to my greatness. Take a seat, here once more before my feet, just not too close.

"Gather round people, I'm about to perform magic of the likes you've never seen." I unwind the rope to its full length and toss one end into the crowd. It is caught by a dark haired woman in her thirties. "Give it a tug beautiful. Make sure it's real. Good, good, tug it once more." She jerks the rope with the beligerance of a woman who has reached the end of her wits (or rope, Ha! Ha!). The crowd is silent as I retrieve the rope from her and loop one end around a branch on the large oak tree. The other end I tie in a slipknot and fasten firmly around my neck. Now, I use the tree as a pulley and pull on the looped end around the branch until I have lifted myself a full foot and a half off the ground, stabilized only by the strength of my neck. Crack! there went one of my vertebrae. I then proceed to tie the rope firmly in place, pull a copy of Alice in Wonderland from my back pocket and turn to the first page. Swaying back and forth ever so slightly, for the next six and a half hours, I will read the story in its entirety. Not one person in my audience will leave nor say a word. On the contrary, they will all be quite content. The soothing sound of my voice, strained as it might be by the noose, and the hypnotic swaying of my body dangling from the tree will put them all too sleep. Now, under normal circumstances, one would never dare interrupt such sweet slumber; but these are not normal circumstances. As I reach the very last page, I utter the words, "The End," very prophetically and with renewed boldness, and as the last sylable escapes my lips, the crowd awakes to an echoing crackle as my neck snaps. My body jerks, spasms and drops more than two full inches. I am silent, watching the world melt into a soft pallete of watery colors, something like a Gaussian blur, before my very eyes. My audience glares at me, seized with anxiousness, as they all look at one another in disbelief. Sobs ring out. There is a great gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair, as the newly minted lamented exit the show early and somehow manage to find their way home. Normally, they would have run away screaming, but I've discovered the degree of disorder is normally measured in direct relation to how violent and messy my performance is.

Once they are gone, I am left alone with my thoughts. You wait a while longer, as I expected, but eventually you pull yourself up from the ground and observe my swaying from a distance. There is an unparalleled relaxation in the soothing swing of my legs in the breeze, enducing an almost hypnotic trance. Perhaps, it's because I can no longer feel them. I hang out like this for several hours, until I eventually decide it's time to go home. I reach up, untie the rope from around the tree, and drop to the ground with a reckless thud. Slowly, I stand to my feet, the blood returning gradually and providing the use of my extremities once more. I brush the dirt from my frock coat and roll my head from side to side until it pops back into place. I pass you by without a glance and return home, hang my coiled rope on a nail in the wall, pop some aspirin, take another shower and slip into the only turtleneck I own, because the extra fabric feels good against my stretched neck.

Third Night: Superman's Dead

Today is Wednesday, to many known as Hump Day, but for many years to me it has been known as Jump Day. I am taking nothing with me tonight except my usual garb and my straight-jacket. As I arrive on the corner of Eagle Eye & Freebird, I find a crowd already gathered and awaiting my next illusion (you included of course). No one says a word as I pass by and walk through the revolving doors of the only apartment building in town, an apartment building that houses no residents, but exists simply for decoration; a familiar comfort on the horizon.

Slowly and deliberately I make my way up eight flights of stairs, each step brought down with a terrible foreboding and echoing loudness, until I reach the roof. There, I very carefully tie my straight jacket behind my back without anyone's assistance. Don't bother asking how, for it will only drive you mad. And restricted in such a manner, I step to the edge of the roof in full view of my audience and speak in a loud and augmented voice, "Ladies and gengleman! Your Superman is crazed! He's a madman, and tonight he is humbled by the bottoms of your feet!"

Suddenly, and without any great resistance I turn and leap backwards from the seven story building, but fail to free myself from my straightjacket before my body conforms to the shape of the ground beneath me in one violent earth rattling jolt. My spine is shattered in a thousand pieces, my arms and legs are fractured beyond recognition, my skull is both concave and convex at the same time, and my eyes shaken not stirred, are now scrambled within the left lobe of my brain; which I must confess was the only part of my brain left in tact.

Half the crowd faints, the other half covers the sidewalk with sickness. The emergency crews will be in for a long night of dousing, scraping, and scrubbing. When they find me, they wrap what remains of my remains in a few large towels and place me inside a body bag. Zip, and the watery palatte fades to black. But just as they are about to load me into the Coroner's van, the gurney begins to shake to and fro violently. Apalled and frightened, the clean up men drop my body bag onto the ground and watch it writhe at their feet. Zip, the body bag opens as I exit slipping the straightjacket off my arms, body fully intact, except for a few minor scrapes and bruises and a slightly sprained ankle that has not completely healed yet. I pat the two men on the shoulder as I hobble past them and quoth the white rabbit "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date," as the two men are left wretching at the putrid smell wafting from the body bag I left behind.

That night I slept on the floor. My bed was too soft to lay down my recently broken body.

The Fourth Night: The Phoenix

By the fourth night, I am all but forgotten. My audience strolls by uninterested, and as far away from my corner as possible. Some of them have made a conscious effort to walk in the middle of the road to nowhere, lost among the tightly compacted bodies moving in the same direction. You, like everyone before you, have finally accepted your fate and fall in line, and that my friend is how you have lost your you are no longer the one, the only one, chosen to observe my secrets. I knew it was too much to expect. No one has seen The Five Temptations unfurled in their entirety. Yet, there's no need to tell you not to worry, because you won't, you won't feel anything truthfully, not ever again since the atmosphere of this place has gripped your mind. You have become one with the mob.

Everyone's heads are bowed around you, refusing to even acknowledge those they pass on the corner of Pompeii and Delirium. We all must someday dream to realize that we all must inevitablly fade into oblivion or rise above the ashes and step out of the darkness; but how does one achieve this goal? It's quite simple really, someone must light our way. That's just what I intend to do for these poor lost souls tonight.

Scratch! That's the sound a match makes when you drag it across a flinted surface. A small flame ignites the tip, and I hold it before my eye and observe its dynamism in admiration. This is absolute power in its most archaic form. Furthermore, forgive me, I confess I have skipped a step. The kerosene flask rests next to me, empty, as the flammable liquid drips from my hair and eyelashes, soaking my red blazer from shoulder to shoulder. Some of it drips onto my pleated slacks. Completely oblivious to those around me, I lick my lips and extend my tongue to the match. And just like that, as nimble and quick as Jack, the flame envelops this human candlestick.

I sit Indian style, legs crossed at the knees, hands resting on my face as I burn. Like a great tiki-god, I burn. Like the city of Pompeii, like the seething powers of infatuation, like a brain fever, I burn through the night...and those around me notice not. Slowly, my skin turns black and peels away from the bone. The world revolves around me in slow motion. The faces of my audience, those that once held interest in me and now walk beyond the reach of my heat, voluntarily, oblivious to my spiritual suffering (for I feel no physical pain in this place), melt into soft hues of a watery spectrum. I am not suffering by flames, but by this empty hole inside of me. My God, why won't you end this torture?!

Slowly I burn to a cinder, until all that's left is my cartilage and bone, and even that too turns to ash. And as the flames die out with my flesh and bone, and my heat becomes confined within this pile of ashes, and my audience slowly returns to the walkway, and as the last embers glimmer faintly beneath me, these watchers walk all over my ashes and smear my being all over the city, taking a little peice of me with each of them.

And then without prior warning, a light breeze turns from the south, blowing downward at a forty five degree angle, and carries away every last remnant of me, carrying every last grain of my ash to reside inside a large o-shaped knot within the large oak tree, like a parting mouth preparing to blow my particles to the wind; and there I am buried. Suddenly I stretch my cursed spirit forth from the ashes. My fingers spring from the embers like a phoenix, and I am reborn out of the flames, ashes to ashes and dust to infinity.

I walk away as a spectator, brushing against a city of lost souls in irrelevency, brushing past you once more, as you glare at me as if we'd never met. You have succeeded in breaking me, just like all the others. Everyone has stopped watching me, even the very one to whom I vowed to share my secrets; but I don't blame you. It's not your fault, but now I have only one more night before I must move on or cast my wayward soul before God and the devil and let them them draw straws for my soul.

I return home, wash the burn from my skin, wrap myself in cellophane and silk sheets, in no particular order and lay my head on my pillow. But I cannot close my eyelids have not grown back yet.

The Final Night: Piss in the Wind

This will be my final test. Will my audience care to see me go? Will they extend a helping hand? That's all I really wanted all along - someone to take the pistol from my hand, untie the rope around the tree, to catch me on the way down, to douse the flames with water; but no one bothered to lift a finger to help me; not even you. So, this is my last chance. Tonight, I will stay or leave forever. If I am ignored, never again will I grace this corner with my presence, and those that pass me by will live on, grovelling their way through non-life; some of them destined to end the same as me; maybe even on this very spot.

I acquire a large dunking booth from a nearby post-mortem carnival, place it right in the middle of the corner of Last Chance & Compunction, fill it to the brim with water and shed my clothes. For an hour I sit on top of the tank, wearing only my shackles chained ankle to wrist to neck, observing those that pass me by. Only one acknowledges I am there, but he too continues on his way. Another half an hour will pass before my first spectator stops, and also the first to speak. A little girl, nine years old, stands glancing up at me and says, "How am I supposed to dunk you? I don't have any balls to throw."

"A ball you have not, but your words will do. Tell me you wish to see me go in and I will do it," I explain.

"What's the fun in that?" she asks.

"It's not about fun. I have a job to do."

"Ok, then I want to see you go in the water."

"As you wish my lady," I speak, and place the handwritten sign between my teeth and down I go head first into the water, chains and all, closing the lid behind me. I wink to the young girl and press the sign against the glass.

"Out to lunch, back in 1 hour," it reads.

The young girl's mother walks over to her. "What are you doing?" she asks impatiently.

"I'm watching the man in the water?" the girl responds innocently enough.

"Come with me this instant," the woman scolds the child. "He's crazed. You don't want to catch the crazies from the likes of him." I am not able to hear the rest of what they say, but the mother is very agitated. She grabs the girl by the arm, pulls her away, and I am left alone once more.

By the time the second person, an old man in a beret, stands before my tank, it is already past an hour. I should have been back from lunch by now. Instead, the unfortunate spectator finds me floating belly up, free of all but one shackle still clasped firmly around my left ankle. He gazes at me intently, pondering the improbabilities that I have drowned myself in the middle of a city sidewalk, but he says nothing. He only walks away and finds a Policeman with a hole in his head handing out citations for Public Diversion. Evidently, it is against the law to move against the grain. The man catches the officer's attention and apparently blabs the whole story of my being a floating obstruction to their afforded way of life. The officer reveals no inclination or concern, but merely tears off a blank citation and writes at the top. "The dead man in the tank" and scribbles "cited for Public Proposterousness".

His handwriting is elegant and expressive of his selfindulgence. It takes him a very long time to write my citation, but before he is ever given a chance to stick it to the outside of my glass tomb, my eyes open. Everything appears as in the usual soft running watery colors, but I am unsure if it is because I have returned from the dead (so to speak), or because I am observing the world around me through the water in the tank. There is only one way to find out.

I open my mouth and begin to very speedily consume quantum amounts of water from the tank, drinking it all into my belly, into my lungs, into my arms and legs and ears. I drink it into just about every inch of my body, until the entire tank is empty. With a swift kick, I shatter the glass and step onto the sidewalk, my death water secreting from every pore. The pretentious officer is so disgusted by the site of me, that he forgets to hand me my citation. I have grown to an even nine feet tall, and bloated, blue skin and all. Every effort to move is like moving an ocean, but I manage. I manage to move my arms, grab hold of my manhood and point it at the old man and the police officer.

An arc of yellow condemnation shoots forth and covers them both from head to toe. I piss all over these two men, and then I turn and piss all over the large oak tree, and all over the seven story apartment building, all over the street sign, until the streets are once again nameless. I empty my body and drown everyone and everything with my death water. I piss all over passersby that walk on in their ignorance, and I piss all over you because I just don't give a damn...but don't glare at me with such an offended air. There are no first impressions here, nor are there any social acceptances or impracticalities. We are all individuals, and when this world is washed away and humanity is but a fragment on this universal timeline, we will have nothing left to be responsible for except ourselves. And so I piss in the wind and color the world yellow, and finally, after so many years, I am finally remembered. God comes down, and the devil pops up, and they both say in unison, "Hey, you can't do that." And here I am stuck somewhere between Heaven and Hell, pissing on the world that refuses to believe in me. Slowly, the yellow liquid turns shades of blue and eventually red as I bleed forth my lifeforce onto the streets of Purgatory, and I fall to my knees in judgement. "Will one of you two please tell me where I belong?" I plea with God and the Devil, but neither of them answers me.

And so it is that I am destined to repeat myself into eternity, judgeless, neither dead nor alive, but suspended somewhere between reality and dreaming. I left this world eighty years ago, in the prime of my life and my career; destined to be the greatest escape artist the world had ever known. But it was not meant to be. The last moments of my life were spent in a hospital bed. I died lying down, on my back like a coward. Me, the Great Houdini, the Great Escapist, a man that could take a punch in the guts from any man except one. What a sucker punch, believe me, twice more than should've been, and I died of peritonitis on Halloween.

Now, here I am alone. God and the Devil returning to their thrones, spiting me just because I tempted fate one too many times. I wasn't a suicide. It was accidental, so neither had any idea what to do with me. At least tomorrow is a new day, or night I should say. For here, there is no daylight. This is purgatory, where the dead do not know they are dead (except those that are exceptional), and this twisted fate brings me more spectators to increase my audience in regular intervals, and they will be just as afraid of me as they were five days ago. They can try to avoid me, try to forget me, for as long as they can, but it never fails, eventually their curiosity will get the best of them and they will return once more with a fresh outlook on my beautiful messes.

Unfortunately, this last time was different. This time they were actually able to ignore me. You ignored me. Everyone ignored me, and yet there was something condescending in the way I was held in contempt...public proposterousness indeed. So, I guess it's time to start anew - it's time to move on - the last magician without an audience, a Master of Illusion no more, a wandering lost soul of the eternal tragic twilight. I guess it's time to find a new place, to create new illusions, somewhere on some other corner of one of these endless streets with no name here in Purgatory.

© 2009 W.R. Singleton

Author's Note

W.R. Singleton
This is an experimental piece.

My Review

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This is a totally awesome read. It should be published somewhere.

I couldn't help that notice I'm the first to have reviewed this. But it's easily the best thing I've read in the WC for a while. Further evidence that s****y poetry is winning the day.

Good luck with finding a place for this.

Posted 14 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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1 Review
Added on February 11, 2009
Last Updated on April 28, 2009


W.R. Singleton
W.R. Singleton

Lubbock, TX

Walker R. Singleton is a non-entity with non-all-encompassing imaginings about the world around us. Therefore, he is deluded and irrelevant, hardly worth the fleeting thought that passes through my mi.. more..