Read The Manual of Darkness Online
Authors: Enrique de Heriz
To Pere, up and down
Enrique de Hériz was born in Barcelona in 1964. He has worked as an editor and translator, including translations to Spanish of the work of Annie Proulx, Nadine Gordimer, Stephen King, Peter Carey, and John Fowles. His first novel,
, won the Llibreter prize in Spain.
‘We must conclude that man is this: someone who looks upon things and knows the names of them.’
Carmen Gándara, from the story ‘The Ball of Paper’
‘It is just in this way that otherwise sensible people allow their senses to be deceived, and their imaginations preyed upon’
Harry Kellar, in
A Magician’s Tour
‘These grosser physical manifestations can be but the mere ooze and scum cast up by the waves on the idle pebble, the waters of a heaven-lit sea, if it exist, must lie far out beyond.’
Horace Howard Furness ‘Preliminary report of the Seybert Commission for Investigating Modern Spiritualism’, University of Pennsylvania, 1887
here are only a few steps between him and the green door – eleven, twelve, maybe. It is too dark to count them. Víctor Losa stops, takes a deep breath; this, he thinks, is the happiest moment of his life. He did not feel like this a week ago in Lisbon when he was named World’s Best Magician at the FISM World Championship. Nor will he still feel this way a moment from now when he reaches the landing, opens the green door and steps into the room to receive an ovation from the professional magicians of Barcelona, gathered at the behest of his former teacher Mario Galván to pay tribute to him. He knows that this is a haven, a hiatus in life, a vantage point offered to him by time.
He does not want to jump for joy, to rush up the stairs and revel in the applause that awaits him. No, he wants to stay here, to float, to hover above this moment. He has his reasons, for this is where it all began. It was here, twenty-two years ago, after his first lesson with Galván, that he overheard the curious prediction from the master’s lips: ‘That little wretch is going to be one hell of a magician.’ He was standing on these stairs, who knows, perhaps on this very step, petrified, listening to the voice behind the door, muttering words the maestro could not have known he might overhear. So it is hardly surprising that Víctor should want to stop here, halfway up the stairs, to relive that moment when he heard the maestro make his prediction through gritted teeth, and revel in the long series of triumphs that have led from that moment to this.
As he is about to climb the last remaining steps, Víctor looks up and gets the fright of his life: the green door has vanished. It is still there, of course, it has to be; but he cannot see it. Instead he sees a milky stain, a whitish halo as though he were looking at the
world through a veil. He takes off his glasses, rubs his eyes. When he looks again, the door is there in front of him, scruffy, the paint peeling, just as it has always been. Things disappear and reappear in unexpected ways. No one knows that more than he does.
It was an optical illusion, one he can easily put down to lack of sleep, due to some rather extravagant celebrating of late. Besides, it lasted only a second or two. It can’t be anything serious; it cannot account for the fear that suddenly grips Víctor, rooting him to this spot as though the air on which only a moment before he felt he could float has suddenly turned to cement.