The Magician’s Secret

How many were killed for the magician’s secret?

147,902 humans have murdered each other thus far for the magician’s secret. However, the number rises every day.

How is the secret kept?

262,142 sentinels guard the magician’s secret, scribed upon a leathered elephant ear, inked with bioluminescent squid blood. The magician’s neck was then slit by a guard who stowed the secret in an adamantine box and delivered it to a mountain. This guard and his lover protect the box. Four more guards—all lovers—locked the couple inside a larger titanium vault, which they guard. Eight guards guard a larger steel vault. Sixteen an iron vault. Thirty-two—yes, all deeply in love with one another—guard a bamboo cage. Sixty-four the mouth of the cave gated in elephant femur. 128 interlock arms to create a body wall that blocks the mountain path. And this builds onward until we reach the 131, 072 love-sick soldiers who circle the shores surrounding the island housing the mountain wherein resides a cave mouth that swallowed so many lovers and one secret.

How long have they guarded?

No one has checked on the original guard pair. We assume they are dead. But, rest assured, their exponential brethren provide adequate security, depending on how many of them have not died of dehydration, starvation, loneliness.

What is the secret?

We can’t be tricked.

Who was the magician?

He harbored an affinity for tangerines. He was lactose intolerant and suffered from irritable bowel syndrome and mild methemoglobinemia that tinted his skin sky blue. He loved his mother, grew bored of his father’s shouting. He always wanted a pet tortoise, but never found a way to work one into his act.

What was his name?

No one remembers. So much we have documented and filed, and yet his name remains an omission. Most suspect there was a J involved. Historians have proposed theories of a “son” in the surname. Linguists have argued over a sacred schwa or a holy diphthong. Philosophers demand that his name never existed, is mere distraction. Only the secret matters.

What is the secret?

No one can ever know.

Are there other secrets?

None as important.

Why this secret?

Despite all we’ve forgotten, we all can recite the Day of Witness. All who witnessed, which was nearly everyone after the video impregnated every screen, raved madly. There was pure joy, yes, at the miracle, and some of us wept for days, kneeling at the spot where we watched, in theatre aisles, on our home couches or toilets, inside our cars waiting at red lights. Others, however, most of us, the weakest of us, couldn’t handle the majesty and stuffed our ears with grass, sealed our eyes with epoxy, stitched our lips tight with needle and thread. We couldn’t imagine lives spent witnessing any miracle of lesser wonder. The world’s population fractioned into one-tenth within three days. And on that first Day of Witness, not a soul moved.

Yet you don’t remember?

We remember the magician’s tuxedo, how it appeared rented, cheap, a yellowish ghost of a stain on his chest. We remember his face seeming childlike, how it made us want to hug our children in sympathy with his inevitable embarrassment. We remember his assistant’s white feather boa, her green sequins, her white teeth and the black hole of her missing incisor. The magic trick itself involved, maybe: a horse, a wooden box, a saw, two doves, the Empire State building, the assistant’s lower torso, the Hope Diamond, a deck of cards with all the kings removed, three reticulated pythons, one white rabbit, a ten-thousand-gallon tank of sea water containing seventeen poisonous jellyfish and one Mako shark, a pair of handcuffs, a red silk kerchief, and countless doors that may have been trapped, but we dare not guess.

What is the secret?

How can anyone know.

Is it the principle?

We are not magicians. We are not bound by any oath. We do not, like the Free Masons, like the International Brotherhood of Magicians, chum around in wood-paneled lodges chanting before sacred, leather-bound texts. We are guided only by the need to protect our children’s children from obsession.

What is the secret?

We do, however, understand endless asking. We who have witnessed have patience and compassion and bountiful tolerance.

At least, then, what color is the secret?

You would think yellow, like the magician’s stained shirt. Or black like his jacket and the assistant’s missing tooth. But, no, it is beige. Sandy in texture. A fine sand, not like the coarse bone grinds of the magician’s cremated remains, but like the desert.

And its smell?

We’ve already said too much.

What value does the secret hold? In American dollars? In Euros? In rupees? In yen? Does it depreciate? Does it stand up to inflation?

No war was ever fought over a prize with no value. For proof of value, inspect the death toll, which has not slowed, despite inflation. However, our economists really can’t calculate an exact number when they’re unsure about the status of those inner guards and their lovers.

When will the secret be revealed?

There is a time set in place. There is a time and a place. But concerning that day and hour, no one knows. Not even the guards. Not even their lovers.

If the secret could be a stone or smoke, which would it be?


Does it glow with radiation?

Of course.

If you could compare it to any intergalactic heavenly body . . .

Ask what you truly mean to ask.

What is the secret?

Ask a better question.

How much does it hurt to be sawed?

The assistant’s diary reveals that on their twentieth anniversary of marriage and assistantship, she asked that her only gift be to know. He refused. Two nights later, at their next performance, he sawed as he always had. But this time, for the first time, she felt the steel teeth gnaw into her skin, her ribs, her lungs. The crowd watched her blood cascade in sheets atop the white-marble stage floor. She witnessed herself spilling. But then he huzzah-ed the crowd, flipped the box open, and the assistant found her body uncut, untouched, wholly there. He grabbed her hands and swooped her into a kiss, and his mouth, she reports, tasted of blood.

What is the name of the first guard’s lover?

His name is or was Salazar. Warring soldiers wear his name tattooed on their left breast. This faction fights for freedom of the guards, past and present, and care nothing about the secret. They’ve chosen freedom over knowledge. We pity them. We envy them. Our left breasts remain unmarked.

And what about the first guard?

His lover’s memory surpasses him. The slitter of magician throats is lost to history. Though some of us might have his oath tattooed in the webbing of our toes, script so small you’d need a magnifying glass to discern the words written in a dead language that only three scholars in the world can translate.

What is the secret?

It’s been so long.

What is the secret?

The experts have all died. The guards who remember what they’re guarding are all dead. Generations dedicated to forgetting what they knew and what their fathers knew have succeeded and then faded away to dust.

What is the secret?

Perhaps there never was one.

What of all the blood?

Yes, there is always the blood.

What is the secret?

It stretches in tentacles across the night sky, undulating in seafoam green.

What is the secret?

A boy once knew. A boy once loved a guard who died knowing what could never be known.

What is the secret?

Only the dead know. Do you truly want to witness?

We are asking.

Despite all the blood?

And buckets more.

Then this will never end.  

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