By Ash D

Fairly straightforward really. Cameras, crew and a pile of cash. Should’ve opened all the doors. Thing is, the one I wanted to get through had been nailed shut by the fucker who was at this very moment painting his walls with my blood.

“Don’t believe you”, had said customs at the airport. The shit had then hit the fan.

I was dragged here, strapped to this chair and in had walked the beloved counsel to the president. I passed out a few times after that. Most recently when my arm snapped and splintered.

My name was the issue. I shared it with someone who’d pissed them off. Royally.

“Haven’t seen her in years.” I say. Rather, I try to say. Through the bile and broken teeth the words come out all jagged. Hant een ern yerth. 

“That’s why you’re here” he says.

“Here to film”, I spit out. Eer to Ilm.

“After 7 years? You’re planning something. I want to know who’s helping”

This is it really. He thinks the rebels are helping.

“Your story checks out, by the way. The network has commissioned this weird shit about magicians. Viewed through cultural lenses. Entertainers at kids’ parties in England. That’s you”, he chuckles. “And here, mystic leaders. That’s Jacob. Same party tricks. Different perception. Would’ve been interesting if the whole thing wasn’t complete bullshit.” He punctuates this with a punch that breaks what remains of my jaw.

I get the gist of what he thinks is happening in my flashes of lucidity over the next few minutes.

He had known Kate well. He had helped her set up the centre. He’d sent kids to her. Orphans. The regime had apparently wanted to help as much as she had.

She had found out how the children had become orphans. The path to peace and stability is often paved with bodies.

She was made an example of. It was brutal. He had enjoyed that.

And now, Kate’s party magician of a husband turns up to film a show about the dark arts. 7 years after her throat had been ripped out. 7 years.

Een ere e’ore, I say. Been here before.

He stops mid strike. He can understand what I’m saying very clearly. Too clearly for the state my vocal cords are in.

Been here before, I say. I found her where you left her. We buried her, Jacob and I.

Jacob? He asks. The scam artist who feeds off superstition? He was killed at the airport. You know that, right?

He asks but something’s wrong. He’s asking but he’s not talking.

Yes. I say. I’ve known him for 7 years. He taught me a few things.

Something’s very wrong, he thinks. Or tries to. He can’t think clearly. His brain is crowded. He looks up and sees him. He sees himself.

He feels that his hands are strapped to a chair. He feels every single blow he’s dealt. Not him. That guy. The other one.

“The basics for a trick are misdirection and patter”, I say, drawing closer. Being able to articulate is an amazingly underrated privilege. “It’s the same principle for all sleights of hand. I’m very good at those.”

I look at the pathetic figure tied to the chair. I’ve never had a strong jawline. Doesn’t matter now that it’s dangling from my cheeks. His cheeks.

“Jacob is even better at sleights of the mind,” I say.

I pick up the pincers and flex muscles I never used to have. This will take a while.