• Published 26th Apr 2014
  • 1,089 Views, 19 Comments

Ace in the Hole - Revenant Wings



Caramel and a few of his friends go to a stage show for a magician from Canterlot. But when Caramel gets called on stage as an assistant from the audience, he'll find out first hoof how talented and skilled the magician is. +COMPLETED+

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Ponyville Theater

“Come on, Caramel!”

“Yeah! We’re gonna be late!”

It was always like this. Every time we try to go somewhere, somebody ends up running late. Or not remembering the time we were supposed to meet up. Or Time Turner getting us lost. This time, it was Noteworthy making us all run back to his house because he forgot his bits.

“I bet I know why you’re called Caramel: you run about as fast as the stuff.”

And yet, no matter what happens, I’m the one blamed.

“We wouldn’t have been in this position if Noteworthy hadn’t left his bits back at home,” I said, trying to turn it around on them. “At least I had all my stuff ready.”

Time Turner, the fastest of us and at the front of our group of four, slowed down a little. “Yeah, perhaps we should give you a break,” he said.

The only reason they gave me any trouble at all was because the first night we got together, I had been in the shower. I took too long, and they started calling me a mare with how long it took me to get ready.

“He might as well have been trying to put makeup on.”

Time Turner might have been the only one who actually acknowledged that.

“Least I wasn’t the one who got found trying on panties last week, Thunderlane.”

Thunderlane went bright red. That should have been worse than what I did. But Thunderlane’s incident was always forgotten. And mine continued on for the last four-odd years we’d been together.

“Caramel, Caramel, slow as molasses!” Noteworthy sang like a blues song. “Caramel, Caramel, kissing our a—”

“Give it a rest, you guys,” Time Turner called back before Noteworthy finished. “We’ll all be late if you don’t stop arguing and hurry up.”

Sometimes, I never really knew why they were my friends, why I always agreed to go with them on these evenings. They would bring me along to the sole bar in Ponyville, or out to Sugarcube Corner, or out to the Apple Family Farm during cider season. We would talk and joke for a little while, but inevitably they’d always turn it on me. How I was clumsy. How I was a little slow and perhaps not as smart. How my cutie mark wasn’t exactly specific – it was supposed to be for “luck”, but lately, I hadn’t found much of that.

Except Time Turner. He wasn’t too bad depending on his mood. Today had been Time Turner’s idea. A traveling magician had come into Ponyville, and he figured it one of the few things that wouldn’t cause the jokes and things to become mean-spirited.

Now, this one wasn’t quite like the powder blue unicorn that came to town about a year or so ago who just suddenly appeared one day and all she did was turn talents on their users and use regular unicorn magic of telekinesis. It had been amusing at first, but when she revealed herself as a bit of a haughty mare it lost both its charm and its appeal.

This… this was different.

Apparently, he was based in Canterlot, but liked touring around to other cities. Today, for a change of pace, he had decided on our relatively small town. He announced his arrival before he came; three showings at Ponyville’s local theater, which he had apparently deemed decent enough for both his show and his audience.

The posters were the first we ever saw of him. One had been placed in the bar. It was of a bright white stallion with odd black lines tattooed down his sides and across his chest and a piercing ice-blue gaze. He had on the normal magician’s attire: the black cape, the black jacket and pants, the white gloves on his hands, and the top hat.

One thing remained different, and it was what attracted us to see what this was all about. He was an earth pony. He had no horn like the unicorn, and he didn’t have wings like Thunderlane. How such a pony could do magic with merely sleight of hand was an intriguing concept, and thus we were all racing towards the theater to see the final show of the weekend.

There was already a line when we arrived. Time Turner led the way and we got in line behind a group of young girls – a yellow Earth pony, a white-ish unicorn, and an orange pegasus – just around the corner from the box office.

“Looks like we made it,” Thunderlane commented. “I would have thought we would be in the rush.”

“Barely,” I replied. “The crowds will be coming in shortly, and soon this line’ll reach along the whole block.”

“Yeah,” Noteworthy said. “Thankfully, Time Turner here always finds a way to get us everywhere on time, even if he does get us lost.”

“At least I get us all there,” Time Turner said. He pointed a finger accusingly at Noteworthy. “I might get us lost, but I always leave us with enough time to make these things.”

“Geez,” Thunderlane said, “you’re almost as bad about schedules as Twilight is.”

“It helps when it takes as long as it does to get you out of bed for cider season,” I commented.

“You could always go without me,” Thunderlane replied. “It’s not like I drag you down that much. Not compared to how late Caramel could make us.”

“We nearly missed out on cider that one time with the crazy brothers because you didn’t get us there in time,” Noteworthy scolded the pegasus. “We wouldn’t have gotten some if that crazy competition didn’t help make enough cider for the rest of us.”

The line started moving forward. Time Turner got up to one of the ticket windows and handed over a fair amount of bits for the seat. Then came me, then came Noteworthy, then came Thunderlane.

Or at least, it was supposed to be Thunderlane. He was constantly checking out the pockets of his jeans. He had his I.D., his weather license, a cell phone… but not his wallet with bits.

“Dammit, Caramel!” Thunderlane said. “You were supposed to remind me to get my wallet out of the kitchen!”

I sighed. This shit again… “I did!” I shouted. “I told you, like, three times before we left.”

“You were supposed to tell me before we left!”

“I did! I asked you, ‘Thunderlane, do you have your wallet?’ And what did you tell me?”

“You did not ask me!”

“You said ‘Yes, I do. Stop asking me.’”

“I never said such a thing!”

“Oh, be quiet, you two,” Time Turner said, pulling out his own wallet. “I’ll pay for yours, Thunderlane. You can pay me back later.”

Thunderlane begrudgingly accepted. It didn’t help we were supposed to go to the bar after the show. Thunderlane would either have to go back home and get his wallet, a considerable distance being all the way across Ponyville, or have to pay back a considerable debt later. Which was annoying because he already owed me for the last three times we’d gone and hadn’t paid me back.

After Thunderlane got his ticket, we all headed inside the theater. The concessions stand in the theater’s lobby was closed, so we headed in to the theater itself. None of us complained; the thought of some beer at the bar after the show was good enough.

The theater was an old one, built in the first days of Ponyville. The seats were a hard wood with little red pillows to make them comfortable. The lights had to be controlled by two ponies sitting in the top of the theater, and the curtains had to be controlled from behind the stage. Besides the lights from the rafters, currently pointing at the rows of seating, no other light was in the main theater room. It only recently added a projector and screen for films, but those had been taken down for the magic show.

Our group of four was seated about nine rows back from the stage itself. I was positioned along the aisle, while Time Turner was seated next to me, then Noteworthy and Thunderlane.

“Hey, do you think he’ll call us up?” Thunderlane asked as others filtered into the theater. “It’d be cool if we went on stage.”

“Nah,” Time Turner said. “They don’t call you up unless there’s a shill in the crowd. Only the cheap ones do that.”

“What do you mean by a ‘shill’?” I asked.

Noteworthy started laughing. “Oh, Caramel. You’re probably the only one who doesn’t know that.”

“So what is it?” I challenged.

Noteworthy stopped laughing and didn’t respond.

“It’s someone who’s there specifically to make the audience believe a trick works,” Time Turner said. “They’re specifically placed to make it seem like random chance.”

“Damn,” Thunderlane said, crossing his arms as he reclined in the chair. “What’s the point?”

“There’s the bar afterwards,” Noteworthy said.

“I forgot my wallet. I’ll have to get drinks from Caramel over there unless some mare comes around and decides I’m cute enough.”

“Seriously?” Time Turner replied. “After that stint with the panties, you’re gonna have to do a lot more than just hope a mare thinks you’re cute enough.”

“Shut up!"

The lights dimmed and the crowds silent. Funnily enough, so did Thunderlane and Noteworthy. It wasn’t long before the lights were refocusing themselves on the stage and we were focusing our attention on the stage as well.

The stallion walked on stage. He was a little taller than the posters had made him look, towering above the others as he stood on the stage. He didn’t wear the top hat that he had in the posters, either, though the black jacket was on and buttoned and the pants were there, too, looking as though nothing was inside his pockets. His mane appeared to be a natural white like his coat, but the center was pulled up in a mohawk and dyed a dark black. I’ll admit, he didn’t look as impressive as he did on the poster, but what did remain was the cold, ice-blue stare.

He came out onto the stage and took a bow to light applause, and soon a pony came from off stage and brought out a rolling table that hardly looked like it was able to support anything with how thin the top was. The pony placed the table in front of the magician and retreated off-stage. The magician placed his hat on the table, opening-up. Eventually, the applause died down.

When he spoke, it was in a quiet, clear, low tenor that echoed across the room. “Mares and gentlecolts,” he began. “My full name is Ace of Diamonds, but I am usually known both on and off the stage as Ace. What I am going to do tonight will shatter your expectations. You may noticed that I am not a unicorn, of which I see some of in the audience, but an earth pony.”

“You are probably wondering how an earth pony can do magic,” he continued. “Well, the answer, you may find, is in this hat right here.” He pulled the hat up and off the stage and showed the empty interior to this audience. “You see, this hat right here has nothing in it. I can take my hand around and flail it about in there” – which he did – “and pull it out and will get nothing. But magic does not come from knowing how to activate energy in a horn. No. It comes from a knowledge and an understanding of the surrounding world.”

“Ignorant bitch, isn’t he?” a unicorn stallion nearby our group commented. “He’s forgotten all laws of quantum mechanics and horn physics.”

I thought it would have been loud enough for the magician to hear. But he made no immediate comment. Instead, he pulled the hat closer to him. “With this knowledge of the world comes an understanding of the things around us. How they’re made. How they respond to certain demands and controls.”

He reached into the hat and appeared to grab for something from it.

“As well as the willpower it takes to listen.”

As he slowly pulled his hand back up out of the hat, there came with it a long plastic stick with a white tip. It was at least twice as long as the hat was tall; even placed at an angle it wouldn’t normally fit into the hat.

The audience – myself included – ooh’d and ahh’d at the spectacle.

“That tosser!” the unicorn shouted. “He’s got a unicorn working backstage!”

Ace of Diamonds smiled lightly. “But magic also knows what you need. For instance, I need this wand to do my tricks.” He turned the hat upside down and shook it, but nothing came out. “Or, even if I don’t precisely know what for, I can use it to get what I want.”

He tapped the brim of his hat with his wand, then picked up the hat and shook it again, and this time a large blunt rock came out from the bottom.

“So, for instance, I want this bastard to shut up.”

There was a pause, but soon there was a swift movement and the magician threw the rock into the audience. The rock whizzed over our heads and slammed the unicorn in the head hard enough for a large red mark to appear on his forehead. It bounced off him and soon landed square in my lap.

The audience was laughing. Except for the unicorn, who was shamed, and me, who still had the rock sitting in my lap.

The magician calmly waited for everyone to settle down. Then he spoke a little louder. “May I ask who has the rock?”

I held up a hand, specifically holding the rock. One of the stage lights swung over to me as the magician waved in my direction.

“Very good. Now, sir, can I get you to take that rock and hold it tightly in both your hands, please?”

I did as he asked, feeling the stares of hundreds of pairs of eyes looking at me. I clenched my hands tight as possible as the magician held the hat again to the audience, revealing it to be empty. I still was clenching my hands as he set the hat down on the table and tapped it with the brim of his hat.

“Very good, sir. You may release the rock now.”

I opened my hands to find nothing there. “It’s gone…!”

“Oh, no,” the magician said with a sly smile on his face. “It just didn’t like you clenching it so hard.” Before Noteworthy and Thunderlane could snigger at the remark, he pulled the hat up off the table with a flourish and revealed the rock sitting quite still on the table as though it had never moved.

The audience broke out in laughter, but I sat there in stunned silence, looking at the rock on the table and wondering what exactly happened.

The pony from backstage came back out and rolled a camera pointing straight down into place on a stand above the table. The projector was turned on and the screen was brought out. The camera was apparently connected to the projector, as it was showing the table on which the hat had been placed and where the rock was currently sitting.

Ace of Diamonds pulled a pack of cards out of the hat, opened them up, and started shuffling them. “You see, there is much more to magic than simple energy transference.”

He spread the cards out on the table so that each card could be seen under the camera and on the screen behind him. “For example, I could pull a two out of this deck easily. There is an energy going from my hand into the cards and finding a two.” He pulled out a two of hearts from the deck. “But all I’ve done is simply transfer energy from my hand into the deck. I have selected a card at random. Let me circle the number here just to prove this is still the same deck.” Another flourish and a pen appeared from the hat, which he used to circle the number two.

The two was placed back into the deck and the deck was shuffled around. “But magic… magic requires energy correspondence. If I want to select a two, I need to let the two tell me where it is.” The deck was placed back into a single stack and he selected a card at random from the deck. It happened to be the two of hearts he pulled out earlier. “Only then can I select it from the deck without knowing where it was.”

There was a polite clapping as the cards were shuffled again.

“But there is also an element of trust. I need to be able to trust the materials I am working with, so that there is no mistake of connection between me and them. For example, I could say to you that I could pull a royal flush out of this deck. Based on what you’ve seen, you’d probably believe me. But what if I were to take the royal flush from the top?”

He took the deck and, not leaving the camera, placed the cards down on the table. Ten, jack, queen, king, and ace of clubs came down on the table without fault from the top of the deck. More polite applause.

“Now, how about the rest of the royal flushes?”

“Do it! Do it! Do it!” we were all chanting.

The magician smiled and proceeded to pull cards from the top of the deck. First came the spaces, then the diamonds, and he began with the hearts, but he left the final card of the royal flush of hearts – the ace – out and didn’t place another card down.

“So far, the trick has been going well,” Ace of Diamonds said. “I pulled out the first flush successfully, and when I wanted to continue, you had faith in me. I pulled off two more and have almost completed the fourth flush. Now suppose that the magician does not have faith in his craft or gets too excited or nervous about wanting to pull the trick off right…”

He pulled out the next card. It was the three of spades, but he still placed it where the ace of hearts should have gone.

“As you can see, he fucks up. He has lost his belief, and he has lost his connection as a result.”

The magician turned the card over and placed it face down on the table.

“But if the connection can be re-established and the magician can resume the faith in his craft…”

He flicked the card, then took it and flipped it over. It had changed to be the ace of hearts, and with a flourish the three of spades was pulled out from within the deck.

“…then he has nothing to worry about.”

The applause was louder and was joined by cheers. I still sat in stunned silence, as though I had been unable to move since the incident with the rock. The magician took the break to take a drink from a water bottle placed on the table and made sure the deck was shuffled with the cards back in except for the ace of hearts. When the applause had died down, the magician resumed.

“Of course, you may think this is relatively difficult stuff. It seems to require a bit of a mental process. And, if you ask many magicians, they’ll tell you that’s the case. Personally, it’s a load of bullshit designed to make you more amazed. In reality,” he said, taking up the ace of hearts and placing it upside-down in his hand, “it’s just like counting.”

“One…”

The ace came down, but there was still a card in his hand.

“Two, three, four…”

The rest of the hearts followed suit as he continued laying down the cards.

“…nine, ten.”

With the ten of hearts down and all the cards in a row, he finally had no more cards in his hand.

“You see? Relatively simple.”

I was still frozen, but there was applause all around.

“Now, I need an audience member. Perhaps the fellow who had caught the rock earlier?”

The spotlight went back on me. I pointed at myself.

“Who did you think I was talking to? The bastard who wouldn’t shut up? Of course I was talking to you. Come.”

I slowly got out of my chair, feeling Noteworthy and Thunderlane push me out into the aisle. They were saying something but I was so nervous my heart was pounding in my ears and I didn’t know what to expect. Heck, if he wanted to, this magician could spirit me away so easily and I wouldn’t be able to say a damned thing.

“Come on, we haven’t got all day. You’re walking as slow as molasses.”

There was the sound of muffled laughter, but I continued onwards, ignoring it as I looked up onto the stage. The magician was standing there shuffling the cards and looking at me with his mischievous grin and something of a manic glint in his piercing ice-blue eyes. On stage, they were even more frightening as they looked like two pools of white with black centers, adding to the already monochrome look he boasted. There was the scraping of wood and the backstage pony brought out two chairs that looked only slightly more comfortable than the ones in the theater.

“There we finally go. Glad to see you could finally join us. What’s your name?”

I wasn’t sure if I said anything or not. I must have, because the magician continued.

“Caramel, is it? Hm, I see why that’s your name.”

The audience laughed as my hearing returned and I felt shamed and embarrassed.

“That out of the way, I would like to thank you for coming up here. It’s very brave of you. I don’t typically get many ponies up here that don’t immediately vanish.”

There was laughter, but this time I could tell it wasn’t directed at me. There was a bit of applause as the magician continued.

“So, Caramel, I wanted to ask you something. I wanted to ask if you’ve ever heard of hypnosis?”

I thought back. “Well, there was this one book I read when I was a colt that had a snake that could do it through eye contact.”

“Let me guess… colored rings from his eyes? Swayed around, that sort of thing?”

I nodded.

“Ah, yes. A classic story. Anyone can be hypnotized, but of actual hypnosis, that story defies it’s three basic tenants: comfort, space, and conservation of movement. That is why the story is labeled as ‘fiction’ and not as real-life.”

I stared at him, confused. Ace of Diamonds pulled out a card from the deck and set the rest of it down in the tables and sat down in one of the chairs. He motioned for me to sit in the other chair facing him, which I did, and adjusted the camera to face us before continuing.

“Part one is comfort. This is both physical and mental. Physically, Caramel here can’t be uncomfortable otherwise he’ll break. But there is mental comfort as well; if anything I do startles him or otherwise surprises him, he’ll break.”

“Second is space. I can’t be too far away from him, but I can’t be too close. For example…”

Ace of Diamonds started putting his hand towards my shoulder. Unsure of what he was going to do, I began to back away.

“…you see? I attempt to put my hand on his shoulder, but that is an invasion of space. It also works as an invasion of comfort; obviously this isn’t something that he’s used to or happens often. It registers as strange and uncomfortable. It is an invasion of space.”

Ace of Diamonds pulled his hand back as he continued.

“The third is conservation of movement. Technically speaking, the swaying of the snake was too much when combined with the rings. First there was the movement and changing of color in the eyes. Secondly was the movement of the neck, and finally was the movement of the head. Hypnosis can’t work under such conditions; the victim will break concentration.”

“‘Victim’…?” I asked uncomfortably.

“Business term,” the magician said dismissively. “Anyways, hypnosis requires simple movements. That’s why a pendulum is used. It’s a simple, repetitive motion that doesn’t require large trains of thought, making it easier to follow and follow directions.”

Ace of Diamonds turned from the audience and spoke to me. “Now, Caramel, do you have any inhibitions or worries about hypnosis?”

“Are you able to control me?” I asked, voice quivering and my heart starting to beat in my ears again. I could feel sweat dripping down from the heat of the lights blinding me and making me unable to see into the audience.

The magician smiled at me, but this time it was rather gentle and even his eyes appeared to soften. “I can only suggest things,” said the soft tenor. “If you don’t want to do them, you won’t. Simply put, I can’t make you do what you don’t want to do.”

I gulped.

“Would you let me, if only for a short while?”

I wasn’t sure. Ace of Diamonds had proven himself skilled, and that was respectable. But to actually be on the receiving end… well, the last one to do that got a rock to his head. I wasn’t sure. But, what other chance would I get to be on a stage with a magician and being a part of this act?

“I’ll go for it.”

Ace of Diamonds nodded. “Mares and gentlecolts, let’s give Caramel a hand and hoof, shall we? He has decided to help me out with this little spiel!”

The audience clapped. Somewhere in the distance Noteworthy and Thunderlane were jeering at him, but the applause drowned them out.

“Now, I will need silence for this. Caramel must not be disturbed.”

Ace of Diamonds turned and faced me. “Relax in the chair and make sure you’re comfortable.”

I adjusted myself in the chair and leaned back. The magician was keeping a respectable distance, though I noticed his eyes seemed to be scanning up and down my figure as though he was drinking it in and storing it for later use. Once I gave him an affirmative nod that I was ready, he stopped and the look changed to one of amusement.

“Alright. Now, I’m going to bring my face a little closer to yours.” He brought his face until I couldn’t even see his mouth, though there was still a fair amount of space between his face and mine. “Are you comfortable with this? Please answer honestly.”

I nodded. He wasn’t touching me and was still keeping a fair distance away. His eyes weren’t glaring at me but still had a gentle look to them. All checked out.

“Alright. Then let us begin.”

He took the card he had pulled out of the deck earlier and placed it up in between us so that it was right between his piercing blue eyes. I noticed it was the ace of hearts that he had been working with, earlier. Slowly, he started waving the card back and forth in front of his face, keeping it in my vision as it shielded his right eye, then his left, then his right in a simple, slow, fluid motion.

“Now, without moving your head, I want you to follow the card,” the magician gently intoned. “Preferably following the heart in the center of the card.”

I did as he asked, watching as the card made it’s simple motion back and forth in front of the piercing blue eyes.

“Good. Just keep following the gentle pattern. Watch as the card gently sways back and forth in front of your vision. It’s an easy, simple, calming pattern, and you find yourself beginning to breathe in with every swing to the left, and breathe out with every swing to the right.”

The card went left and I breathed in. The card went right and I breathed out. I noticed I picked up on it quite easily and found myself picking up on the pattern easily.

“Do you listen to music at all, Caramel?”

I didn’t nod but continued watching the card. “A little.”

Ace of Diamonds smiled. “You are finding a rhythm quite easily. You must be sensitive to rhythm and tempo.”

“My friend is a musician.”

“Excellent. Now, I’m going to flick the card and, without looking away or thinking about it too hard, I want you to tell me what number you see.”

The card made a slight jerk, but I kept following it. It was still easy to follow the rhythm of the card and the magician’s soothing voice. “A ten.”

“Can you tell me the suit?” Ace of Diamonds’ voice was as even and gentle as the rhythm of the card.

The answer came a little slower. “Hearts.”

“Excellent. In just a moment, I’m going to count down starting with ten. With every number I count down, the card will flick and change to that number. I want you to keep watching the gentle sway of the card and don’t be alarmed. Okay, Caramel?”

“Yes.”

“Alright. Ten… nine…” The card changed to a nine of hearts. “You’re feeling yourself become more and more relaxed.

“Eight… your body is feeling heavy and relaxed as you sink deeper into the chair.”

I couldn’t move my hands or hooves anymore. I just kept focusing on the card as I felt myself slowly sink downwards.

“Seven… six… letting go of your stress and inhibitions.”

I couldn’t tell if it was him or me, but I found myself looking more often into the piercing blue eyes. My eyes still watched the card, but I could no longer see the suit or even the color. I was simply focused on the piercing, ice-blue eyes behind that.

“Five… Keep breathing steadily in and out, the even tempo and rhythm allowing your heart rate to slower and become calm and relaxed.”

“Four… your eyelids are getting heavy, but keep them open.”

It was as though cider barrels had been attached to my eyelids. But I kept them open and kept watching the swaying card. The magician’s voice was soft and soothing, and I couldn’t tell if I was actually hearing it or if I just thought he was saying it.

“Three… your breathing is becoming slower and more even, still following the rhythm of the card but perhaps taking one full swing to complete.”

Within a few swings of the card, I was breathing slower and more evenly. The magician’s face was still calm and gentle, and I felt myself relaxing more and more. He’d stayed in the same position the whole time and made no threatening movements.

“Two… in just a moment, I’m going to flip back to the ace of hearts. As soon as you realize this and are aware that card is in front of you, you will close your eyes and fall deeply asleep, open and aware to whatever I say to you...”

“One…”

The card flicked, but it was hazy and I couldn’t tell what it was for a moment, not to mention still being lost in the magician’s eyes. But then there came a flash of red and the vague sensation of a curve.

I lost control. My eyes dropped and I felt myself lose all sense of my surroundings. The sight of the ace of hearts covering one of the magician’s pale blue eyes and the other eye staring at me filled my mind. The magician’s gentle intonation kept pulsing in my brain, saying ‘Sleep… sleep… sleep…’

Ace of Diamonds was saying something, but I couldn’t make out what it was. It wasn’t directed to me, so I remained asleep. It felt nice, to be floating in what may as well have been blackness. In my mind, I still saw the ace of hearts swinging back and forth, and the magician’s piercing blue eyes behind them. It felt like my entire body was swaying with the card, the magician’s soothing voice still repeating the mesmerizing intonations.

“Caramel…” The voice came out from the fog. “Open your eyes for me, Caramel…”

I opened my eyes, but my hands were still on the chair and my hooves were still on the ground. I couldn’t move, but I didn’t want to. The magician hadn’t said I could yet.

“Caramel.” The magician’s voice was a gentle command. “Stand up for me, Caramel.”

I stood up from the chair and stood up straight, facing the magician.

“Caramel, raise your hands and stretch them as much as you can over your head.”

I brought both of my hands up and raised them as far as I could over my head. I felt nothing from stretching them up. I was still breathing calmly and at ease.

“Caramel, do a simple handstand for me. Hold it for ten seconds, then bring it back down.”

I bent over, kneeling slightly to put my hands flat on the stage, then kicked upwards. Within seconds of the command, I was upright on my hands. I stayed perfectly still as Ace of Diamonds said something to the audience and the audience gave some sort of muffled response that I couldn't tell what it was. After ten seconds, I brought myself back down and stood up in front of the magician.

“You’re probably feeling tired after that physical feat,” the magician’s voice broke though. “Caramel, sit in the chair.”

I sat in the chair again, the magician sitting across from me.

“Sleep, Caramel…”

I blacked out and fell back into the blackness of the void. A rush of wind hit my ear.

“Listen, Caramel,” Ace of Diamonds was saying in a gentle tone, though there was a slight hunger that made a shiver go up and down my spine as much as it relaxed me. “I am going to give you a few suggestions. You will wake up later and not remember them until I say them. But for now, sleep, and let your subconscious listen…”