Close your eyes….Sorry, open your eyes. I forgot you can’t read this with eyes closed. I wanted to show you some trick a magician once taught me. He said, “it works better when the beholder’s eyes are shut.” But you can’t close your eyes. Let’s move on.
Growing up, he was the talk of the town. Very young. Very charismatic. He had a way with words. He had a way when all you see is a blocked road. On a market day in Mankessim, you’ll see hundreds of people gathered around him. Cheering him on as he delivered magic after magic. There was this magic that was my favorite.
He’ll fold a paper. The newspaper type of paper into a cone shape. Then he’ll call one person from the crowd to hold the cone shaped paper for him. In a full glare of the crowd, he’ll pour bucket after bucket of water into the cone shaped paper. The paper never gets heavy. The paper doesn’t get wet. A small cone-shaped paper could consume about ten buckets of water and still stay the same.
After he’ll straighten the paper back to normal and the crowd would be wondering where the water went. He was loved. He was revered. He was the devil. Rumors started building up on him. People started asking where he came from. He never answered. All he cared about was to do magic. To awe his customers.
Very soon, he stopped performing in the open marketplace. He started performing in the towns closed arena. People from Mankessim and its surroundings trooped in to watch him display every night. He was very popular.
The kids. Us. I was a kid then. We loved him. We’ll follow him around taunting him to ‘charm’ something for us. Mostly he won’t even look back at us. You look up and you see coins falling from the skies on us. We jumped and screamed for joy as we try to catch as many as we can. They were real. Real money. I bought things with it.
I attended many of his shows where he created audacious stories with magic. Many years he performed to the amusement of the people. Kids grew up. The old died. Many of them. Later, the town got bored of his tricks. It’s as though they’ve seen everything he could do. His shows didn’t pull the crowds again. He even performed for free sometimes and no one attended.
The once upon a time miracle became an ordinary man. He had his magic intact. But people got used to him. They abandoned him. He stopped performing for years. He became poor. Age also caught up with him. He mingled with us just like an ordinary man. Without power and without grace.
One early Tuesday morning. The sound of the gong was heard for the first time in so many years. The town’s messenger had a message for us. We gathered to listen to him; “Kudum Ansaba (the magician) is leaving our town in the next coming Friday. But he has a gift for us. The last performance to say thank you to us for giving him a home to live. Meet him at the arena on Thursday night. It’s freeeeee”
The next morning. A wet Wednesday morning, I saw him. I found him seated under a mango tree. I watched him carefully. He looked like a man with vengeance in his eyes. He was still. Gazing into nothingness. Nothing could break his gaze, not even my presence. I went closer to him and asked: “is it true? Is it true you’re leaving town?”
He looked at me like a falling leaf. Then turned his eyes away from me. No fuck was given me that day. It was as though I didn’t exist. Mystery.
Thursday night came…..
I was the first to appear at the arena. I couldn’t wait to see the final act. For the first time in so many years, Kudum will get to perform to us again. The arena was packed to capacity. Even dogs of the town came to watch Kudum Ansaba’s last display.
When he finally mounted the stage, the whole place went dead. He wore white from hair to toe. He looked slimmer than ever. He cast a very sad shadow. He looked into the crowd for so long. Then he said;
“You all came. Thank you. You look eager but I’m eager than you. You miss me. But I miss you more. Today, life is calling us here to show us how it feels like to be dead. I’ve been dead but life has been faithful…..Let’s start.”
That night, Kudum Ansaba performed like a man possessed. He chanted a new incantation no one has ever heard before or could dare to interpret. He was a man on a mission. He called ants to swarm his whole body. Then he called birds to eat the ants up. He threw a piece of cloth up and it never came down again until after the show. He caused a whirlwind to appear in the midst of the crowd and then stood in the middle of the whirlwind and flew up with the wind.
Then finally…..he asked everybody to stand still and feel the earth’s breath. The earth was shaking with heavy footsteps. Like a million armies walking towards us. Then he stilled the matching sound and said “They are coming for me. It’s all well…..it ends here. I’m going home.”
He screamed at us, “Close your eyes!” Everyone obeyed in fear. I didn’t. I saw what he did. But I don’t remember what exactly happened. He disappeared from the stage and was never seen again. He was never heard of from another town. Nothing was heard of him again. That was the end of him.
Sometimes I think of him. Then I take him into my dreams. Last night, I wasn’t thinking of him but he came. I dreamt of him. He greeted me with three words; “I never left.” Then he said, “I was only the magician. The vessel. You. You are the magic.”
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