The Man with the Thousand Names

“Since immemorial times the man has been aware of uncanny forces that surround him,” the presenter addressed the public cramming the theatre. “Forces imperceptible to the naked eye, but that nobody dares to refuse their existence—Magic!”—said raising his hand scenically—“It’s an honor for me to introduce to you the person whose name it’s synonymous of mystery.”

“My queue,” I muttered to myself standing behind the curtains at the backstage, making sure my bowtie was properly aligned.

The presenter stepped aside and waved his hand, “Please welcome, the magnificent Harvey and his fabulous magic show!!!”

The carmine velvet curtains were lifted and the deafening clapping of the audience flooded the stage. I took a depth breath and walked into the center of the stage, I doffed my top hat in a curtsy and started my Saturday’s evening show with the simplest trick—my favorite. I presented the empty bottom of my hat to the audience and proceed to turn it quickly with my fingers and after a couple of spins a canary materialized out of thin air. The bird flew and circled around the theatre followed by the amazed eyes of the audience that welcomed my trick with an ovation.

My comely assistant helped me pulling the cart carrying the wooden coffin for the next act. I helped her getting inside and closed the lid with a padlock leaving her head and feet hanging out. I grabbed my handsaw and holding it aloft I pronounced the magical words. Then I sawed the coffin at her waist height, under the astonished sights of the audience and the excitement grew as the handsaw went down.

Closer to finish, the lights went out in an apparent power cut and I found myself submerged in an insoluble darkness. Surprised I turned to my hand that was holding the TV’s remote instead of the saw and the TV set in front of me was displaying static.

“That dream again…” I said feeling my dried mouth, but with the sweet taste of reliving my youthful years as only dreams can.

I ran my hands over the couch feeling the fabric to “land” myself in my reality, back in my dim living room and not in the theatre. Still disoriented, I observed how the prevailing darkness in the room gathered in the corner behind the TV, forming a human silhouette that emerged from it.

The dense shadow reshaped into a hooded man’s figure that turned to me revealing his gleaming green eyes that seemed to refract the scarce light like expensive jewelry. Petrified, I watched as he walked to me and at each step I felt an increasing heaviness on me that restricted my movements. My hand holding the remote trembled but the shadow’s hand secured my forearm and his overwhelming presence transferred an electrifying sensation that ran over my skin. He leaned over me, but even having his face next to mine, I could not see his face, his features blurred, lost in the unfathomable murkiness. But his eyes, changing like kaleidoscopes, were hypnotizing. Relaxing. Joyful.

“Wha-wha—how … beautiful,” I mumbled.

His lips moved but no sound came out of his mouth but I heard the words inside my head, like whispered from within myself. “Do you believe in magic Harvey?” Said the soothing voice.

“Yes, I do.”

“Liaaaaar,” he replied with dragging voice and narrowing his eyes.

Fear overtook me. “I-I-I used to—but I’m not young anymore.”

The shadow’s eyes appeased.

“Who are you?”

The man cocked his head with amusement. “I have a thousand names.”

“Wh-what do you want from me?”

And after a long silence he finally answered “come with me Harvey, I have something to show you,” He walked to the window that portrayed a weird reddish full moon sprinkled by snowflakes. The wooden window was pulled up automatically, like if was opened by the cold wind that made its way into my cozy life.

 

Usually, I never remember my dreams and the extraordinary occasions, in which I recall what happened, it was just things without sense that I tended to forget quickly. I realized I was a disaster memorizing things at young age when my poor notes at school caused me a lot of troubles with my father—for a kid that dreamed of becoming a scientist, it was difficult for me to accept I was incapable for it. Back then, I used to abandon my chores and daydreamed about creating a time machine in the barn. My father always told off that my desires to go back in time were only fueled by the passing of Andy—my golden retriever that had died two summers before—and not by science.

My repressed feelings found a bigger obstacle in frustration, to the point that I convinced myself that only Magic had the ability to change the things that I disliked. By the time I initiated in the means of magic, I witnessed the magic trick that changed my life.

One morning, my father suddenly disappeared.

With no other way to survive, I was forced to work hard since early age. With my obligations consuming most of my time, magic was relegated just to a hobby I practiced at night before going to bed. The years of underground practice finally paid off when a TV producer watched me performing a card trick in the pub I bartended. That magic act rewarded me with a weekly apparition in a variety show that worked as step for building my prestige and allowed me to have, time latter, my own TV show—something unthinkable for me back then.

Harvey’s Fabulous Magic Show became not only my exit ticket from all the unpleasant jobs, but a special opportunity to truly dedicate myself to something that really fascinated me. Magic.

For many years, audience tuned my show enthusiastically, but as time passes you become obsolete and fame is as ephemeral as an exotic bird that flies off from your hands and my prime time show became just a sketch broadcasted at the small hours between product demonstrations in the retail channels. I tried to stay awake, but sometimes the tiredness upon my shoulders and the heaviness of my eyelids after a hard working day, prevented me from watching myself.

 

My breath condensed in the icy air and at each step my feet sank on the two-inch rug of snow that rendered white the empty streets. When you reach senescence and your best friends are the pills that calm your aches, doing a midnight stroll with this weather is the worst idea.

“Were you listening to what I’ve just said? Where are we going anyway?” I said but my words were devoured by his silence that only fed my curiosity to see if the shadow was still walking behind me.

“Don’t look back,” he said with harsh voice. “I told you not to look back. We walk.”

“That’s obvious,” I replied irritated. “But we are more than twenty blocks from home. My fingers are numbed and cold sticks terribly in my bones. At least we should have used the car.”

“To where we are going, there is no need to hurry. You will get there anyway.”

“What are you talking about? You better tell me right now where we are heading to, if not—”

“Harvey, if you could see into the future, the consequences of your actions, would you dare to change the past?”

I halted, shocked by his words. The street lamp in the corner that we just had passed was casting my shadow over the snow, but I could not find his shadow anywhere. There was no proof that I was not wandering alone in the deserted street.

I took a depth breath. “There is no future for me here.”

“Do you think so? Look carefully. Someone will die here,” I heard his voice whispering.

Frightened, I turned around and corroborated that my fears had become true. A single line of footsteps could be traced down the street and I was standing inside of the silhouette of a man carved in the snow. Like if a man had died there before snowing and the body had been removed after. I stepped outside.

“So what?!!!” I yelled angrily, feeling cheated. “I don’t care. I have better things to worry about.”

I walked back home when his intriguing voice mumbled behind me, “Have you changed so much that don’t recognize yourself?”

My prints in the snow seemed to become smaller at the distance, as if I had been a kid when started this journey.

“You have truly changed Harvey.”

His words echoed in my head while my mind rewinded my memories with the impetus of a roller coaster. The migrainic sensation bent me to my knees and I squeezed my head by my temples trying to prevent my head from exploding.  The imagery finally stopped on his image.

“You still feel resentment to your father?”

“What do you know about resentment?” I bawled but he didn’t answer. “My fathe—Irwin” I corrected myself. “He-he abandoned me. He preferred to embark in such hideous war. ‘I have to fulfil my duty’ he pompously said like if raising a son was no duty enough. Like if fighting somebody else’s war was excuse enough for leaving a boy orphan.”

“Irwin says, he feels sorry—” He said.

“It was me! I was his duty not war!” I interrupted pounding my fists on the snow. “But he never had the courage—he never had the balls to accept that he never wanted such responsibility.” My breathing eased after releasing my fury. “I was too much responsibility for the feckless he always was.”

“Irwin says that he understands that you will never forgive him,” added like if he was standing beside him.

“Shut up! My father is dead. He died in the moment he disappeared before my eyes. The moment he walked away down the road. He is dead since he disappeared behind those woods …” I exhaled. “And like that will always remain—absent.”

When I had regained my serenity I analyzed my footsteps closely, recognizing the trace of a dog besides of mine. I stood up and turned around.

“Andy?” I said hesitantly looking at a Golden Retriever shaped shadow beneath a trashcan. “Andy! Come here boy!”

But as I reached the cans I realized the delusion, the trick played by my mind and a heap of garbage.

The hauling wind brought back the solitude from my past like an old tune playing the chords of nostalgia.

I kicked the trashcan trying to assassinate the pain inside me, but looking at the scattered garbage I could not find remains of peace.

The TV’s remote fell from my hand and hit the floor waking me up. I was sitting on the couch of my living room in front of the TV set displaying a movie. I picked the control and turned it off exhaling, relieved of finding myself in the comfort of my house, but my breath condensed before my eyes. I turned to the window noticing the curtains waving pulled by the icy air. I overcame the numbness that had appropriated my old body and stood with effort to close the window having the weird sensation that I didn’t open it.

 

Usually, I never remember my dreams and the extraordinary occasions, in which I recall what happened, I go back to sleep and forget about what I had dreamed.

“Can you please hurry up? I don’t have all your time,” A presumptuous lady with tall coiffure said to me tapping the counter with her long red nails.

“I’m sorry,” I said passing the fruity detergent over the reader—the last item of the long list of groceries she was carrying. “It will be ninety eight dollars and forty nine cents ma’am.”

“That’s the reason why store must think twice before hiring elders,” she said throwing a creased one hundred dollar bill.

“Have a nice day.” I said but she didn’t reply. “Another blessed day in paradise,” I said sarcastically to myself, but deep know being thankful of having a job—quite a challenge for a man of my age.

 

My shift ended and I collected my things, wore my jacket and came out of the supermarket beneath a opaque grey sky. A layer of frost had made the concrete stairs slippery, so I held carefully from the banister for preventing an accident. Finally I got myself into my car and turned on the heating, rubbing my hands.

The night fell while I drove back home through the streets listening to good music in the radio to ward off my mind from the merciless weather. My breath condensed opaquing the windshield. The headlights of the cars appeared like distant lighthouses in a misty sea.

The radio commenced receiving interference until the signal gets lost. I ran the needle from left to right and back searching for another station but any effort seemed futile. Suddenly, for my surprise, it picked up a signal amid the static.

“… This is Lieutenant Irwin Lovelock, do you copy? Over!” I heard the transmission breaking amid the static. “Please somebody respond … we were surprised by enemy fire, my men are all scattered …”

“Father?” I said with astonishment recognizing his voice and then I heard the loud honking and when I turned to the road I saw a pair of blinding lights in front of me. I twisted the steering wheel and pressed the brake but it was too late, I had hit a water hydrant. I was catapulted through the windshield like any good driver with the bad habit of not fastening the seatbelt. I flew amid a shower of crystals until I collided against a brick wall.

I opened my eyes staring at the white full moon that peeped through the dark clouds like if it was doing it especially for me. The moon’s image turned red as blood ran down my forehead covering my eye. I looked aside and noticed a bunch of cats feeding from the garbage scattered around a trash can. The street seemed duskier than ever, but even in my condition I recognize the place. The same place I was last night in my dreams. But more importantly, I recognized his eyes at the distance, gleaming green eyes changing like kaleidoscopes that grew brighter as he headed my way. The hypnotizing eyes of the shadow without shadow. Relaxing. Joyful.

At the threshold of death, my dark path turned brighter as the snowflakes gently posed over the streets, burying me in a white casket.

And before I closed my eyes, I heard the voice in the radio, one last time.

“If you can hear me, this is Lieutenant Lovelock, I’ll see you at the other side … Over.”

 

Scientists say that time is relative and that the universe in which we live our ordinary lives can be as illusory as a dream.

But, if it is truly a dream, can death be relative too?

M. Ch. Landa

 

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