Short Story Excerpt#2: The Moribund Spectacle

Just something I wrote one time. That’s still in need of editing. Enjoy!

 

THE MORIBUND SPECTACLE

 

The faintest note of a motion, easily detected, twice as pronounced, had set him into a slumber, deep and unconscious. His eyes had lidded sensibly shut, body stilling and then going as still as stone as it lay on the table. The assistant had checked each of his vitals, going from pulse to pulse, while Valimar Petroulli, the master of the “sleeper spell” stood with his hand raised aloft, for added effect, as the crowd watched in silence. Tonight the seats were filled and the hall was brim to capacity with educators, gentry, physicians, and lookers of every sort who had gathered to watch.

The process had begun by taking a “case in study” or “sample patient” and laying them out on a table, covered up, mostly from the shoulders down, in a small, scarlet curtain. When the grand curtain rose, Petroulli would take a bow and give several words of introduction while his assistant brought out the participant, who he often introduced as a John, Joe, or James-something from upper Boston, York, or else someplace out of country.

“Tonight” announced Petroulli, in a note of sweeping conviction, “we present to you the most miraculous of illusion.” He gestured towards several electric wires that were hooked up to the table. One by one the assistant began to fasten them to the participant, placing a series of special conductors around the ears, which were joined together by harness, and others around the wrists, legs, and ankles. Petroulli had developed such a practiced sense of anatomy that he knew exactly where to place each one.

“A man before you lies yet alive and breathing” he went on. “Yet soon, through the method of suggestion he will sleep in an unconscious state only similar to that of a corpse. Those of your learned medical persuasion may pronounce him dead. I will endeavor,” he waved his hand about the stage, “through this power of suggestion to rest our dear participant.” He poked his hands in his pockets. “And then arise him, once more, through a process only known by the most trained of practitioners.” He turned now to address his participant. “Will you rise now and give a conscious gesture?” The patient sat upright, giving a light and innocent smile.

“Will you tell them your name?” instructed Petroulli.

“Henri” answered the participant.

“We are going to lay you to rest, Henri. Mind you, for only a very short time. From which you will awake on my instruction.” After this he performed his hypnosis, through several gestures and commands, setting the participant into first a conscious rest and then, very gradually, an unconscious one. His body stilled under suggestion and then moved no more. After this Petroulli instructed his assistant to check the vital signs, each of which was recorded lifeless. He then went through the motion of calling several medics on stage to investigate the “dead man.” Three doctors checked the body for pulses, then heartbeat, and recorded likewise, from their professional findings that the participant was indeed dead. During this time the crowd was all in whispers; some mingled with marked suspicion, while others were solely convinced of the “horror” the mad magician had just performed.

One final inspection set all suspicion to rest. This was when Valimar Petroulli, in his usual habit of show and spectacle, instructed the last doctor to “lift the participant’s hand, very clearly for all to see,” which he did without question, and then “release the hand,” allowing it to drop limp and lifelessly to the side of the table. At this a collective gasp rose throughout the theatre. A smile crossed Petroulli’s lips as he found he had won their conviction.

“The man, you see, is dead” he announced. “Or rather in a lapse of reason and consciousness. Only temporary. For I will soon animate our dear Henri, just as live and well as you once witnessed. As you can see there are several wires joined to his body. For the procedure I will administer a controlled burst of voltage, a shockwave, if you will, through each of the cables, which will have the tremendous effect of revitalizing him, right before your eyes. Human nerves are very pliant, you see. And susceptible to impulses. With finely-tuned conductors we can work them much the same way as a puppet on strings. Or a ventriloquist’s dummy. It is this procedure I wish to demonstrate live, on stage. Fregar,” he called to his assistant. “I will humbly ask that you dim the lights.”

The stage lamps cast a dying glow over where he stood until only a silhouette remained. Just a thin wisp pronounced his features very faintly under a faded mist of yellow. All lights remained on the table where the participant lay. Petroulli raised his hands and several filaments of electric current passed between them, dancing harmlessly through his fingertips. He played the trick of holding the current up to his ears and his teeth lit white, eyes going aglow in a burst of sparks. This was merely part of illusion and nothing more, but it played all to the “spectacle” nonetheless.

“Now I’m going to start with a lower current. Some of you may notice a tingle or twitch in the joints. Just a light stimulation of the nerves and impulses. And then full resuscitation.” He raised his hand aloft, giving the signal to his assistant. Fregar pulled an improvised lever that was hooked up to the table and a visible current passed through each of the wires, jolting them lightly, and hardly stirring the body to any visual point of detection. “As you can see” resumed Petroulli, “that was merely incipient. If you had been within several feet you might have noticed a gradual, but faint twitching of the eye. This will soon become all apparent through more successive, involuntary motor control: in effect, fibrillation. Again” he called to his assistant. The second burst, slightly higher than the first, was enough to arouse very perceptibly for all, the twitching of several fingers and toes, the slight preemptory note of a spasm in the chest, and larger contraction of the eyelids. This was followed up by a third, successive burst, which was held for a longer strain of time, and initiated in the participant, for all to see, more eyelid contractions, more twitching of the hands and legs, and a sharp, upwards convulsion of the chest, which stirred all the crowd in a collective gasp. “No worries” Petroulli insisted. “In the next demonstration he will arise from his lapse in consciousness. And now,” he signaled to his assistant. The final burst went through, riding the wires down to each pressure point, which stirred and came to full fruition in a range of joltings, twitchings, and tugs that culminated, alas, in the participant’s jaw dropping fully agape, eyes shooting open, arms upraising themselves to the heavens, and then himself sitting fully live and upright on the table for all to see. Petroulli thrust his hand upwards, delivering a tremendous cry.

“The return of our dear participant!” he roared. Henri stood up from the table and gave a bow. As Petroulli gave his the entire hall rose and poured forth a thunderous applause. He bowed once more, keeping his head inclined and his eyes shut as the curtain drew in front of him.

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About achavers22

I am a young writer: very ambitious and always trying to come up with new ideas, while working with the ones I have. I really love sci-fi, fantasy, and any type of fiction. And I'm a huge movie lover so you may see me posting impassioned reviews of films I've watched. And I love to read in my spare time (classics, history, fiction, etc.). Reading really helps me to sharpen my writing skills. Other than that I'm usually on my iPod, laptop, plumbing through 70s music. Disclaimer: my blog does not take credit for pictures that appear in posts. If you are the owner of any of the images and do not wish them to be posted here please let me know via email: a1chavers@gmail.com
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