Disclaimer: I am typing this on a phone. There may be spelling and punctuation errors. Please feel free to point these out, along with any other thoughts or criticisms.
"Now, for my final act, I present you with a classic trick."
The microphone echoes my voice extravagantly around the club room. I hope none of these people can see how much I'm sweating under the lights. I wore my cotton vest and dark clothes tonight to fight off the cold of Winter, but I didn't expect it to be so hot on-stage. The top hat and cape definitely aren't helping either. Gotta wrap this show up quick. Apparently, fifteen minutes of this is all I can take. Besides, I've noticed another reason to be sweating, watching carefully from the audience.
"I will need a lovely volunteer to help me with this one. Come on up, and afterward you'll get the opportunity to come backstage, a look behind the curtain to find out how the magic happens." A few hands shoot up into the air. A few chuckles escape the lips of the less mature patrons. I scan the crowd, searching for the perfect person. Almost everyone is out with friends or family to see the performance. Still, of those on their own, who should I pick? "Ah, how about you, madam?"
I point to a woman sitting in the back, the spotlight following my direction. It lands on a brunette with short curls. Make-up makes her age difficult to pinpoint. She looks around 25, but my guess is she's closer to 40. She's a touch overweight, made more apparent by her form-fitting black dress. Given how much jewelry she's wearing, how prim and proper she's chosen to appear, you'd think she'd be out on a date. But it's a classic case; all dressed up with nowhere to go, and no one to go with. She hesitantly stands from her seat at an empty table and makes her way to the stage.
A light clatter on the floorboards sounds as my assistant wheels out a long and garish red box. Gold leaf accentuates the edges in sweeping and swirling patterns. The second layer is crimson velvet, warm and soft to the touch. And right down the middle, splitting the box width-wise, is a slender seam. At the head of the box hang two oversized square blades. My volunteer starts getting nervous and excited. She thinks this will be the highlight of her night out alone. The rest of the audience shifts as they all know the trick. Some are probably wondering if she's in on the act. None seem to notice my slender assistant's dilated eyes and pale skin, or the oversized dimensions of the container.
"Thank you very much, Elizabeth." I exclaim, subtly guiding her back behind the curtain, "You've been a wonderful help. Now, my dear..." I continue, turning to address my volunteer, "what might your name be?"
Through trembling lips, she replies, "M-Margaret." It's painfully obvious how uncomfortable she is, standing before the crowd.
"Margaret." I repeat with feigned interest, "Lovely name. Eh, you wouldn't happen to suffer from stage fright, would you?" Margaret nods in return, her cheeks flushed and her hands clasped together at her chest. "Well, fear not. This trick is perfect for those who don't like being the center of attention. Besides, we wouldn't want you to miss out on the exclusive opportunity to learn a few of my secrets over a little thing like that. Come around here, won't you."
I lead Margaret around behind the box, clicking open the dozen or so gold-stained latches holding it closed. As I heave open the lid, I notice her facial expression shift. Where her excitement once was. Nervousness and puzzlement have taken residence. Maybe she's questioning all the padding lining the inside. Maybe she's wondering where the hole for her head is. I shoot her a reassuring smile and hold my hand out to assist her. She suppresses whatever fears she has and climbs inside.
"Yes, just like that. Slip your feet through these holes here." She follows my directions to the letter. I lower my voice to tell her, "Now, don't you worry. There's a false bottom; the saws can't reach you. Everything will be fine." She seems relieved by that last minute assurance. I close the lid and lock it down.
Turning back to the spectators, I make my way to the head of the box where two enormous blades rest. I take them from their posts and hold them up for the audience to see. With that, I give a quick raise of the eyebrows and a sly smile, as if to say 'You know what's coming next'. Wheeling the vessel back a bit, I hear a murmur among the crowd, the people whispering back and forth about the man with the box.
I run a thumb along the side of the edge one more time, carefully assessing its sharpness. Lining up the blades with the box's narrow slot, I take one last look up to the audience. "Watch closely, everyone. And no matter what happens... Don't. Panic." Everyone can feel the sudden stillness in the air. Silence falls.
And down go the blades.
There is a sudden shudder from inside. Through the lid, I hear the faintest whispers of splashing blood and a gasp of surprise. The audience gasps too as the blades seem to catch on something hard as stone. Her feet spasm for a moment, but then lay still and cold. I shove the blade the rest of the way down. Only the front half shivers this time. Just barely do her ragged breathing and the scrape of steel on bone escape the confines of her coffin, slipping past the soundproofing foam, yet audible only to me.
I glance back at the audience. Their dumbfounded, petrified expressions are everything I'd hoped they'd be. Slowly, the two halves clatter away from each other. I spin them toward the crowd. The pristine interior sides of the blades assuage their concerns, and dozen of fanatics erupt in applause, drowning out the screams of helpless Margaret. If they could just see past those blades, they'd find two pooling lakes of blood, held only by these steel dams.
"Thank you so much everyone! You've been a fantastic audience!" I take my bow as the curtain falls on my killer act. Rolling the boxes backstage, I find Elizabeth waiting with a bottle of disinfectant, a roll of garbage bags, and two oil pans. "Make it fast." I command, "I think there was a cop out there tonight." She nods, obedient and non-cognizant. Clearly ready for her next fix, she sets to work reclaiming and cleaning Margaret's jewelry, and disposing of the rest.
I wipe my brow and retrieve my cell phone, determining the next venue for us to perform our disappearing act.
I didn't really notice any grammar errors (but that might just be my bat ass) so I'll dive into the dissection of the story herself.
So, Joaquin Phoenix (because that's the only way I can imagine out antihero) is literally killing people for the show, and a bunch of people watch it?
I'm not really sure about this.
Don't get me wrong, this is solid as Stonehenge in regards to horror. But the plot seems a bit untied in a few spots.
Joaquin apparently kills people (and I presume robs them because you've made the effort to point out that Marge had jewelry on her person), but nobody notices that, even as he quite literally cuts a person in half just before their eyes. Even though:
a) the person never climbed out of the box
b) Joaquin wheels them behind without letting them out himself
Especially considering he apparently did this multiple times in the past.
And he apparently drugs Lisa so she's his compliant slave. It's a nice touch, but it'd be just as nice if they were like Joker and Harley; a pair of pshycho murderers. Jus' my opinion, tho.
From what I've gathered the box is made to enclose the entire person and is soundproofed from the inside, but that still doesn't explain how people don't notice that it's literally a killing machine.
I warmly advise on adding some more meat to the admittedly fairly strong bones of the story, but that aside, I find no major issues with it.
Thanks, my dude. My lack of a reliable computer is a severe hindrance to me. I'm looking to rectify that in the next couple months or so.
And, yeah, that was my biggest issue with the story as well. I might just change the line regarding her getting back out to a dialogue saying how well she did and inviting her backstage, or something to that effect. Also some clean up and additional whatnot here and there, but fixing that is the main focus.
Not sure what I wanna do with Elizabeth. I don't want her to seem too cartoony alongside him, but I don't know if her being an addict is necessary either. Something I'm gonna have to work out. I'm gonna toy with her being more serious and lucid, more aware, and see what I like better. It's a tough call.
I'm definitely going to describe the box more. In my head, it was colorful and garish, like a carnival attraction, and the guy was dressed like a stereotypical magician with an extravagant voice to really draw the crowd in. It's something I really need to portray more; I can definitely see that it gets lost when it isn't directly mentioned.
I think it's simply too blunt. You get told the woman is killed, okay and? What am I supposed to feel or think about it? "Oh the horror a person got killed in a horror story"? Ehhh.
The whole angle with the audience being smart enough to know the age old trick of sawing a person in half but not smart enough that this one ended off is basically calling them stupid and in a way it made me think, are there really people this dense out there?
I think this sort of story is just a little too straightforeward.
I did a little magic trickery story mysefl, based it around a Criss Angel stunt, the man is an absolute mad lad.
The point isn't so much that it's a murder story, but that it's taking place in public and no one bats an eye, and that it's personal and visceral. In my ideal telling, you should feel a tingle in the spine when you imagine yourself in her place. Still working on getting to that point.
To address the audience problem, I'm sad to say that there are people dense enough to fall for it, even when it isn't veiled like that. But that's not the point. People don't go to a magic show expecting someone to die. They expect something they can't explain easily, that leaves them wondering. They expect cheap tricks that are only interesting because they don't know how to do them. Normally with that trick, you wonder how she's still in one piece, but you don't even wonder that anymore because everyone knows the trick. There's a false sense of security there that needs to be acknowledged. If the magician on stage tells you there's nothing to worry about, if he plays it off like everything is fine, then you don't really question it. It's all part of the act.
I'm about to update the thing and hopefully address this stuff, but the plot doesn't need to be much more convoluted than this. I'm not writing another novel here. I hate my long stories. They get very stupid and very boring for me very quickly.
If you want me to think I'm part of the audience, I think you shouldn't have the narrator be the antagonist, or main character. I am identifying with him in the story because he tells the story rather than a member of the audience (perhaps talking to me).
Unfortunately, I think trying to tell it from any other perspective would leave out the basic information. If I tell it from the point of view of the audience, then you may not even realize it's not a normal trick, save for a couple of hints about the strange box. If I tell it from the volunteer's perspective, you get the visceral portion, but you don't get to know how the audience reacts. Both of those are important, and the only one who knows them both is the guy doing the trick. Otherwise, I'd be all about trying another draft from the perspective of the audience, but to mee, it feels like it leaves out important information.
I might try anyway, just to see if I can do anything with that, but it'll be much tougher to get the main points across.