Corentin the Divine
by Eric M. Bosarge
From an interview with Corentin (the Divine) Alamundy. Augury Magazine, September 2012.
Corentin has fierce green eyes and a hardy handshake. We sit on the edge of the Thames River in his favorite café. He dabs a napkin at espresso foam in his neatly trimmed beard as we begin.
Q: So, how did you first discover magic?
A: That’s an interesting way to put it. I suppose the first time was on television, one of Criss Angel’s made-for-television extravaganzas with fireworks and beautiful women. I thought it was a relatively mundane bit of theater, with Angel dancing around in tight slacks like Saturday Night Fever. On this particular episode, a small aircraft was wheeled into the middle of a busy city street, New York, I believe, and after some flapping canvas, the entire airplane disappeared. Thousands of people stood by, awestruck.
Q: One of his most famous stunts.
A: It was practically a miracle. He was hailed as a hero after that, the savior of modern magicians.
Q: You wanted to be that kind of hero.
A: Of course. Well…yes and no. I wanted to discover the secret. I must have watched that program fifty times. It was a real city street–no drop bottoms, no mirrors. Three camera angles as the canvas sheet began to flutter. The plane just…gone.
Q: How did you go about discovering the answers?
A: Ah, the cleverly disguised “what’s your secret” question. I’m afraid you’ll have to do better than that. Suffice it to say, I spent years practicing traditional and non-traditional methods of magic. Mysticism and sleight of hand.
Q: They say that’s why you’re special. That your brand of magic truly incorporates the supernatural. Is that why you’ve been elevated to such status?
A: That’s why I’m different. I’ve received elevated status because the audience knows, subconsciously or not, that they’re seeing something different.
Q: Your show is called Communing with the Gods. How did you come up with that name?
The corners of Corentin’s mouth pull back in a smile, exposing white teeth.
A: Let us not spoil the mystery. People want to believe that what I and other magicians do is not just beyond their capability, but their comprehension.
Q: Why is this your last show?
Corentin’s eyes dart to the Thames. He inhales deeply and sips his espresso, seeming to savor the moment.
A: I think the greatest trick any magician can master is knowing when to walk away.
Q: Your last television special drew forty-seven million viewers. That’s half a Superbowl audience. You’re a rock star, bigger than a rock star. Why now? Why retire when it seems like you’ve just gotten started?
A: It’s simply time.
Corentin holds my gaze comfortably.
Q: Well, the world will miss you. I wonder, is it possible to get a demonstration?
Corentin smiles. A gust of wind sweeps a ?20 note off a nearby table. Corentin, displaying his incredible reflexes, snatches the note from the air and calls to the waitress. He excuses himself and goes inside. When I follow, he’s disappeared. I ask the staff and patrons, but they say they never saw him leave.
Transcript: an interview with Joseph Blair, attendee of Corentin the Divine’s last show. Joseph is, by his own admission, a regular guy. His brown hair is gelled and spiky. As we speak, he rubs spike after spike of his hair between his fingers, as if trying to undo his “look.” His eyes constantly scan the coffee bar where we sit.
Q: So, you were there?
A: I was.
Q: What time did you enter the building?
A: About an hour before showtime. E-mails were sent to everyone on floor level, inviting them to arrive one to two hours early. The instructions were explicit. Use the bathroom, then “report” to the auditorium.
Q: Why was that?
A: To inspect the stage.
Q: Did you inspect it?
A: I did.
Q: What did you find?
Q: Nothing? No trapdoors or mirrors?
A: Not a thing. It was a typical stage. Black floor, red curtains, the best view of the audience in the house. I remember standing there, looking out over the sea of chairs, into the upper echelons of the balconies, imagining what it must feel like. That’s when Corentin appeared beside me.
Q: He was there?
A: For just a few moments. He said, “Words can’t describe how it feels. Magnificent is only the tip of the iceberg.”
Q: It sounds like he read your mind.
A: I think he did.
Q: Did he say anything else?
A: No, I fished in my pocket for a pen to ask for an autograph, and when I looked up, he was gone.
Q: Was there anything else unusual that happened before the show?
A: Before the show? No. We were ushered to our seats and encouraged to keep an eye on the stage, to make sure nothing was added or changed.
Q: Was there?
A: A microphone. A single person walked on stage with a microphone stand. The weird thing was, the mic was already on. When they set it down, the sound of the stand hitting the stage—
Joseph slaps the table.
A: was amplified.
Q: Did this strike you as peculiar?
A: The whole thing was peculiar. You got the sense that, even though the show hadn’t started, it had already started.
Joseph’s hand searches his head, looking for a lock of gelled hair to roll between his fingertips. There are hardly any left. The remains of the gel look like dandruff.
A: It was like…as though the last show had never stopped. Like his entire life was part of the act.
Q: What do you think of Corentin now? Have you read his book?
A: I have it…
A: But I can’t bring myself to open it.
I wait, not feeling the need to ask the next question. Joseph rubs his head, and dandruff flies into the air. He looks at his hand as though questioning where it’s been, then feels his scalp. His eyes widen.
Q: Why are you afraid to open the book?
A: Did I say afraid?
Joseph stands and, despite my protests, throws a note on the table that is more than ample to cover our small bill. He thanks me for my time. I say that it is I who should be thanking him.
Transcript: an interview with Lauren Ally Page. She is tall for a woman, over six feet, and strikingly beautiful. Long blond hair surrounds a chiseled face featuring high cheekbones and plump lips. She laughs when I tell her she could be a model.
Q: So, London. Corentin’s final show. Where were you sitting?
A: The fifth row. Nearly centerstage.
Q: It’s safe to say you had one of the best seats in the house?
A: The best, in my opinion. The stage is nearly eye-level, and you’re close enough to see performers sweat.
Q: It sounds like you’re a regular theater-goer?
A: Not a regular, but my dance company gets comped tickets fairly often, so I get to go pretty frequently.
Q: You’ll have to tell me more about being a dancer later.
A: I’d love to.
Q: Back to the show, Corentin the Divine. Had you seen any of his performances before?
A: Only on television. I was what you’d call a casual fan. I get the impression magic has a following similar to Star Trek. I’m not one of those. I thought it was all cleverly orchestrated sleight of hand, nothing more than a technological marvel.
Q: And now?
A: Now I’m…I’m certain most of it is.
Q: For the record, you investigated the stage like everyone else?
A: I did. Didn’t see any mechanics.
Q: And you didn’t leave the theater before the show began?
A: I did not.
Q: Tell me a little about the show.
Lauren raises her eyebrows.
Q: Humor me.
A: Well, Corentin came on stage, performed a few tricks: doves, rings, cards, nothing fancy. The kind of stuff you expected to see at a birthday party. It was funny, but it was—
Q: Child’s play.
A: Exactly. I don’t know what his intention was, but it dragged on for a long time, and the audience got restless. I mean, my ticket’s face value was ?250. I expected more. A lot more. This was a man who made an entire house disappear for twenty-four hours.
Q: Why do you think he was doing such simple tricks?
A: Well, at first I thought it was to set us up for a really big trick, you know. And, in a way, it was, but looking back…I think he was stalling.
Q: Corentin, nervous in front of an audience?
A: He kept dabbing at his face with his handkerchief. I expected that to be part of a gag at some point, but it wasn’t. He was just blotting his face.
Lauren stares out the window for a long moment, blue eyes darting, searching for words.
Q: It’s been called “the event that ended one career and launched another.” Can you describe it for me?
A: The crowd was really restless. People started to boo. Corentin waved a hand and smiled, as if he was expecting this, acknowledging it. He took a long, slow bow, almost like he was saying goodbye, then put his hands together, and the crowd started to cheer.
Q: The energy bubble.
A: It’s what everyone came to see, what made his career four years ago. An electric blue bubble filled with haze at the command of Corentin’s touch. He made it expand between his fingertips. I heard the energy coming from it, almost like a buzz, and I’d read the articles, some by prominent physicists—
Q: Herb Derrenger. They said it couldn’t be done, bending energy or matter like he did on stage…
A: I could see right through it. I was close enough that I could see his nail beds radiating with the energy. It was hypnotic. The crowd was completely silent as he waltzed it around the stage, like a child holding a beach ball. It was beautiful, the way his tuxedo tails swept across the stage. I thought if I ever met him, I’d ask him to dance.
Q: What did he do when he stopped dancing?
A: He looked at me. Right at me.
Q: At you?
A: His face was hard, jaw set. Then he looked back at the energy ball and made it expand. The audience clapped. I clapped. When the ball was as tall as he was, Corentin put his foot inside it. Immediately his leg became hazy, foggy, immaterial. And he kept going. He stepped inside the ball of energy, then dropped his hands to his sides and disappeared along with the blue light.
Q: One of his most famous tricks.
A: I’d seen it before on TV, but then it was playful, and he was smiling, like a child playing with a toy. This time, he looked nervous.
Q: How long was he gone for?
A: It felt like several minutes. The applause died, then the audience got very antsy. We’d already been sitting for an hour, some of us more, and we wanted the show to go on.
Q: What happened when the energy reappeared?
A: It was like a thunderbolt. There was a loud crack and an explosion of light. I shut my eyes. When I opened them, he was back, standing beside the ball of energy. He looked like he was straining, trying to make the ball of energy shrink…
A: Then two arms shot out of the energy ball and grabbed him by his jacket.
Lauren runs a hand through her hair and flags the waitress down for water. When she’s taken a sip, we resume.
Q: What happened then?
A: It was clear there was struggle. The arms were bare and hairy. You could tell it was a very strong man pulling on him. I remember thinking that those hands on his jacket, the fists, they were like sledgehammers. Huge. The most disturbing thing, though, was when Corentin looked at the audience. I could have sworn he said, “Help.”
Q: Then he disappeared?
A: No, it was like he got ripped off his feet. The energy bubble shrunk, imploded almost, and that was it. He never came back.
According to the record, Corentin’s mother, girlfriend, and agent filed a missing persons report forty-eight hours later.
He reappeared in a small town on the coast of Maine six weeks later. Upon being informed that he was in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security immediately detained him as an illegal alien. To date, they have found no travel records. Theories as to how he arrived in the U.S. are widely speculative.
Transcript: an interview with Justin Longley. He is a short, thick man with a full head of gray hair. He has quick brown eyes and an inquisitive, hawk-like gaze. He is credited with providing information leading to the apprehension of Corentin.
Q: Where were you when you found Corentin?
A: I was hiking along the shore in Harpswell, Maine. A peninsula they call Land’s End. I’d heard there was a unique formation of rocks the locals call “The Giant’s Stairway.” I was headed there to check it out, but never made it. Turns out I was only a few hundred yards from it.
Q: In what shape was Corentin when you found him?
A: Bad. At first, I thought he was just a few rags washed up on the rocks. It wasn’t until I was five, maybe ten feet away, that I realized it was a person.
Q: Was he aware of your presence?
A: Not at first. I’m still not sure how he could be alive. He was partially submerged, and the water was cold?around forty-seven degrees. The water was washing over his face. Beads of it caught the sunlight and shimmered in his beard.
Q: He had a beard?
A: A full beard. Not at all like his trademark goatee.
Q: How long was it?
Justin feels his own chin, as though trying to estimate.
A: I’d say it was at least a month’s growth. Maybe more.
Q: What did you do then?
A: I turned him over and, man, I’d never seen anything like it before.
Q: Like what?
Justin takes a deep breath.
A: His arm was gone. From the elbow down, it was just a shredded tangle of flesh, like something had sucked the bones out. The sea had bleached the strands of skin white, and there were…things crawling on it. Shrimp, crabs?eating him.
Q: Was he bleeding?
A: No. I don’t know why he wasn’t bleeding, but he wasn’t.
Q: What was he wearing?
A: Just what you’d expect a magician to be wearing. A tuxedo.
Q: You’re sure?
A: Absolutely. His cummerbund was missing, but it was a tuxedo.
Q: Has anyone asked you what your theory was? On his disappearance?
Q: Do you have one?
Justin pauses for a long time.
A: I’d rather not say.
Transcript: Amelia, a pseudonym, is an employee of Mid Coast Hospital. She has asked that her true identity be protected.
Q: Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room. You’re putting your career at risk by talking to me about this. Why would you do that?
A: People need to know.
Q: What do people need to know?
A: That he’s not human.
Q: For the record, who’s not human?
A: Corentin Alamundy.
I point to the television in her living room.
Q: He was on the late show last night, promoting his book in front of a live audience. Are you telling me that wasn’t him?
A: No, that was him, but he’s not…he’s not…
Q: Let’s back up. Where did you meet him?
A: At the hospital I work at.
Q: What was his condition when he arrived?
A: His arm was badly damaged but not in need of medical attention.
Q: Not in need of medical attention? I have it on good authority his arm looked like spaghetti.
A: It did. It was awful, disgusting. One employee described it as squid-like.
Q: How does that not require medical attention?
A: It was cauterized. The strips of flesh, all that was left of his arm, were still receiving blood flow.
Q: Wait, the tissue was still alive?
A: Whatever mutilated his arm, it cauterized the blood vessels as it tore it off. The strips of flesh left were intact. I’m sure there was very little blood loss at the time of the initial injury.
Q: Okay, let me get this straight. Something tore out all the bones in his arm, and he never lost a drop of blood?
A: It appeared that way. I’d doubt, seriously, if it occurred any other way. There were unusual marks on the flesh. They had a machinist examine pictures, and he came to the conclusion that it happened in one, swift motion.
Q: A machinist? Does that mean Corentin lost the arm in an accident?
A: Hardly. If it had been a wound generated by a saw or a blade, there would’ve been machine marks, indentations that indicate the wobbling of a blade or something to that effect.
Q: There weren’t any of those—marks?
A: The striations on the skin indicated the amputation occurred in a single, swift motion.
Q: Such as?
A: Ever seen a cat tear the head off a mouse?
A: Leaves strands of flesh, like tendrils.
Q: Only his were cauterized.
A: I can only speculate about how he lost the limb. I doubt we’ll ever know. They amputated the remaining strands of flesh at his request and incinerated them.
Q: Why do you think he’s crazy?
A: I never said I thought he was crazy. I said he wasn’t human.
Q: I assumed that’s what you meant.
A: Not at all. He may very well have been crazy to begin with, but he wasn’t crazy when I met him.
Q: Why do you say he isn’t human?
A: I asked him how it happened. How he lost the arm…
A: He said he paid a toll.
Q: A toll?
A: That’s what he said.
Q: Did you ask any further questions?
A: I asked what for. He said to come back.
Q: To come back? From where?
Amelia crosses her arms and stares at me, eyes severe.
A: Are you a religious man?
Q: Not really.
A: There are many names for where he was. You can pick any one you like.
Q: You think he was in hell?
A: Add the pieces of the puzzle. A man gets pulled into some alternate dimension and isn’t heard from again. Then he reappears a continent away. No money, no ID, no arm, in the same clothes he was last seen in with a full beard. Six weeks later.
Q: Was there anything else about your time with him that struck you as odd?
A: After the strips of flesh on his arm were amputated, I changed the bandages. He was heavily sedated, so he wasn’t really aware of what I was doing. The humerus, the big bone in the upper arm, was exposed.
Amelia makes the sign of the cross.
A: The bone, it was black.
A: Like midnight. And it wasn’t just that. It was pointed and…
A: There was a cleft.
Q: What do you think it was?
A: A hoof. It was a hoof.
Q: How sure are you?
A: I grew up on a farm in The County. I’m sure. It was a black hoof.
Q: Did you tell anyone?
Amelia shakes her head no.
A: I didn’t want people to think I was crazy. I charted that there was necrotic tissue and possible infection. I knew if I did that the doctor would have to check it out. When I came back the next day, Corentin had been taken into custody by Homeland Security.
Q: And you didn’t follow up?
A: I tried, but I got sandbagged. They told me to leave it alone. He was no longer my patient.
Q: I’ve got to be honest, this all sounds a little—
A: I’ll go to my grave saying it.
After the interview, I dig into Amelia’s past but find nothing that leads me to suspect she is unbalanced and no previous connection to Corentin which would provide motive to defame him. She is not an active member of any church congregation.
Transcript: Kelvin Nicks is an officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He is young, barely twenty-five, but already the assistant director of the regional office. He is responsible for public relations and press releases.
Q: When did the Department make the decision to detain Corentin?
A: As soon as we were certain it was him. He was taken into custody as soon as he was deemed fit.
Q: Where and when did you first interview him?
A: In the regional office, immediately after we picked him up from the hospital.
Q: Did he offer an explanation as to how he came to be in the United States?
A: He did not. He claimed that the last thing he remembered was the night of the show.
Q: I see. Did you ask him about his disappearance, about the trick he performed?
A: I did.
Kelvin unfolds his legs and checks a message on his cell phone.
Q: Did he answer?
A: He did. He said it was no trick and asked for a pad of paper.
Q: Is that when he started writing?
A: Yes. He started writing and didn’t stop.
Q: Have you read the manuscript?
A: I have.
Q: Do you have an opinion on it?
A: Personally, yes. As a spokesman for the Department, no.
Q: Personally, then.
A: I think he’s crazy. Or he’s not.
Q: What do you mean?
A: No comment.
Q: Why release him?
A: He was granted amnesty by the President.
Q: Did you speculate as to the reasons for releasing him?
A: It’s not my job to second-guess the President.
Q: I see. Do you think Corentin is a danger to society?
A: Officially, we’re still investigating the disappearance and reappearance of Corentin Alamundy, with his blessing and cooperation.
Q: What’s your take on his book?
A: The manuscript he produced while in custody is being investigated. At this point, all claims in his book are uncorroborated.
Q: There are claims that he wrote the book in a matter of hours. Can you speak to that?
A: He was given a pad of paper at 2:31 A.M. By 9:07 A.M., he had completely filled four legal pads. During that time, he didn’t use the bathroom, ask for a drink, stand, or move in any way other than to ask for more paper. His agent and lawyer had a copy of the manuscript in the hands of a publisher the next day.
I write down the information.
Q: That’s incredibly fast.
A: Is there anything about those times that strike you as odd?
Q: Should it?
A: Add up the time he spent writing.
There is a pause as I perform the calculations.
Q: Seven hours and six minutes. So?
A: Look at it another way.
Q: Such as?
Kelvin motions for my notepad. He writes a few figures and hands it back to me. “6:66.”
A: We’re trained not to discount coincidences.
Q: What are you asserting?
A: Exactly that. He wrote an entire book in six hours and sixty-six minutes.
Q: Or seven hours and six minutes.
A: Ultimately, it’s the same thing.
Transcript: Marcus Willow is in his early twenties. Marcus is tall, just over 6’5” and is accustomed to having the best view in any room. He has a Bachelor’s in Political Science and, until recently, worked for the Democratic National Committee. For the past three weeks, like many other people his age, he has traveled across the U.S. following Corentin’s speaking engagements and attending his rallies.
Q: When did you first start following Corentin?
A: After I read his book.
A: I was impressed. I wanted to meet him.
Q: You worked for the DNC, and, conceivably. have met some fascinating, perhaps even magnetic personalities. What about him impressed you so much that you had to quit your job?
A: His call to action. Not just his call to action but that it called to leave the broken political system behind.
Q: In his book he calls “all political systems the victims of systemic, unnatural abuse party to dysfunction and self-interested malevolence.”
A: That’s true.
Q: How is that any different from quitting your job and following him around?
A: Excuse me?
Q: In the matter of self-interest. You presumably got into politics, were getting into politics, so that you could make a difference. Is that correct?
Q: Are you still hoping to make a difference?
A: I am. I’m making a difference in me. Change starts within.
Q: The “followers” of Corentin, as they have been called, have been charged with being seekers of his power, sucking at the teat of greatness in return for fulfillment of the promises in his book. How do you react to that?
A: Those aren’t promises in his book. Those are truths. What he claims is true.
Q: Have you performed any of the, um, rituals, described in his book?
A: I have.
Q: What results did you have?
A: If you’ve read the book, you know that’s between the practitioner and no one else.
Q: Practitioner. That makes it sound like you’re a doctor.
A: You made the connection, not me.
Q: According to my records, you have a son.
A: Had a son.
Q: What happened?
A: He is no longer mine.
Q: I’m aware of that. I just wanted to see if you’d admit it. You gave him up to the state seventeen days ago. Why?
Marcus defiantly folds his arms.
Q: Corentin has been called a magnet for citizens in need of mental health treatment. How do you react to that?
A: The people who said that will be sorry. Read the book again.
Q: Excuse me?
A: Read the book again. Before it’s too late.
Transcript: Andrew Fillmore is a small-time magician who performs at open mic nights, birthday parties, and other functions. He’s skinny, with long limbs and fingers. It’s easy to picture him shuffling cards with those hands.
Q: You’ve been called the first defector. Why?
A: I’m the first one to speak out against Corentin.
Q: How long did you follow him?
A: Aren’t you going to ask why I’m speaking out against him?
Q: In a minute. I want some background info first. Where was your first rally?
A: My first rally was in Minneapolis. That was before the national rallies fell off. Now anyone who wants to go pretty much has to attend here, in Maine.
Q: Have you attended any rallies here in Maine?
A: I have.
Q: Which ones?
A: Does it matter? They’re all the same now.
Q: What are they like?
A: There’re always free copies of his books, given out after Corentin makes a speech. And there’s alcohol. Not much, just a pint of something for each person, usually whiskey.
Q: A pint of whiskey isn’t much?
A: Not compared to some of the evening revelries.
Q: I see. Where do those take place?
A: You don’t want to know.
Q: I’m a journalist; my job is to investigate these things.
A: Promise me you won’t go to any of those evening things.
Q: So, the first defector.
A: Promise me, or I’m not talking to you.
Q: Okay, I promise. I won’t go to any of those evening things.
A: Okay. Right. So the rallies. After the speech, we walk to a bluff alongside the ocean.
Q: This is here?in Maine?
A: It doesn’t matter. People are encouraged to drink.
Q: Why is that?
A: It makes it easier.
Q: Easier to do what?
A: To crossover.
Q: Crossover? To where?
A: To wherever he went. See, they follow Corentin like he’s some kind of pied piper, drinking and singing and being foolish. He leads you to this place; it’s like a sort of cliff with a passageway carved into it that leads through to the other side. Without the passageway, you couldn’t get around the cliff except by swimming in the ocean. So we follow, in a single line, through this dark tunnel. It’s damp. There are seashells on the floor, cracking as you step on them, and there’s bat shit everywhere. It stinks. Even with the wind from the ocean whipping through, you can still smell it. Like rotten fish mixed with guano. But by that time, you’re drunk, so you don’t care. And the tunnel isn’t so long that you can’t see the light at the end, so it’s not claustrophobic or anything, really. The voices inside it, they kind of echo, and everyone’s laughing, and it’s not a big deal.
Q: What’s on the other side of the tunnel?
A: There’s supposed to be this field, a place that’s astronomically situated perfectly for an initiation ritual, but it’s all a bunch of crap. It’s about the statue.
Q: A statue?
A: See, at the end of the tunnel, you kind of have to step up, and when you look up…the statue, it’s right there, and you make eye contact.
Q: What does the statue look like?
A: It’s made of stone, and it’s smiling. It has big teeth and these, like, lion front legs that end in hooves.
Q: Sounds creepy. What happens next?
A: That’s it. When I say it’s all about the statue, that’s what I mean.
Q: So everyone just turns around and goes back?
A: No, that’s it. I mean, no one has any idea what happens next. You just sort of wake up, and it’s like you were never there.
Q: Never at the rally?
A: Exactly. I woke up in my bed, daylight streaming in. No clue, still in my clothes.
Q: And that’s why you’re speaking out?
A: No. That’s something that, I mean who knows, right? It could be anything. I could be fucking crazy.
Andrew shakes his head, squinting at the scenery.
A: No, what happens next is why I’m speaking out.
Q: Next, when?
A: When I woke up.
Andrew lights a cigarette, inhales deeply.
A: I was a little discombobulated at first, as you can imagine, but I didn’t think anything. Not really. I checked my phone to see the date. I couldn’t remember anything. Not like any drunk I ever had…I did stupid shit, like wash the dishes and sweep the floor. I took out the trash, and I think it was only half full.
Q: What’s your point?
A: The point is, I sat down on the couch, and I mean it, that as soon as my back touched the pillow, I heard a glass bang in the kitchen. The kind of noise a glass being set on the counter makes. Nothing angry, just bright. Then a teaspoon started stirring, clinking the sides of a glass.
Yeah, really. I’m up and in the kitchen in two seconds, and there, standing there with a cup of steaming tea in his hand, is this old guy.
He held the cup up to his lips and blew. The steam was thick, like it was on fire. And he was old. Bald. Dirty suit, but that’s not the point. He’s standing there, in front of my oven, holding a steaming cup of tea and behind him, is a teapot that is just starting to whistle…
Andrew crushes out his cigarette.
A: I was just in the kitchen. There was no water on the stove. I don’t even own a fucking teapot!
Q: What did you do?
A: I stood there. The old guy opened the cabinet under the sink, reached in, and grabbed the newspaper out of the trash. Yesterday’s. He pulled it out, unfolded it, flicked some chicken fat off it onto the floor, and sat down at my table. In front of the window. Drank his tea…
Andrew pulls a pack of cigarettes from his pants pocket and lights another.
A: I stood there, staring at him. Waiting for some kind of acknowledgment. Nothing. He just flipped the pages. Sipped his tea. I said, “excuse me,” and he barely, like, imperceptibly, nodded. I said, “excuse me” louder. His eyes squinted a little bit, and his jaw muscles rippled. That’s when something came over me. Something like, a rage. The next thing I knew, I had slapped the tea out of his hand and had him pinned to the floor, head under my knee.
And the son of a bitch just laughed. He laughed like, mockingly. Loud. The rage took over, and I pushed down harder. He just laughed more. I pulled him to his feet and dragged him to the door, and then he just, threw me back, like I was nothing. He said, “I’ll leave when I’m ready.” He went back to the table—the tea still there, steaming, even though I had knocked it out of his hands. And he sat back down, and it was like I’d never moved.
Andrew puts out the cigarette and draws a deep breath. He doesn’t resume talking.
Q: What happened then?
A: I asked him what he wanted. Such simple words, just, they were simple. If I’d thought about it, I would have said something else. He stood, said, “They know. They’ll be coming.” He set his tea down in the sink and left. Quietly.
Andrew fishes another cigarette out.
Q: That’s why you’re speaking out against Corentin?
A: No. After he left, the old man, I looked at the door. The fucking deadbolt was still locked. But the teapot was still there. I don’t own a teapot.
Q: Yeah, you said that. Do you still have it?
A: You don’t believe me.
Q: No, well yes, but even if I did, I don’t see the connection.
A: No, you wouldn’t.
Andrew stands and pulls up his shirt. His chest is covered with fresh wounds—scabs—clearly self-inflicted.
A: I wake up with these. New ones every night. You can’t appreciate it fully until you see the back.
Andrew turns. His back is covered with cuts and scabs.
A: Can you see it?
There is no way the marks are entirely self-inflicted. Not only would it be nearly impossible to make cuts as precise as these on your own back, there’s a geometric pattern to it, triangles and diamonds inside squares. After a moment of staring, though, it all just looks like the matted hair of an animal.
Q: Who did that to you?
He drops his shirt.
A: I don’t know. But when I looked at that statue, when I crossed into that place and woke up in bed, I went somewhere. And something came back with me.
Q: Has anyone else ever met this old man?
A: Yeah. Lots of people.
Andrew shrugs and puts on his shirt.
A: They’re pretty easy to spot if they take off their shirts.
Q: They have those marks, too?
A: Ah, now you’re starting to get it.
Transcript: Elena March is twenty-nine, dark hair, slender. We sit on a park bench and watch as her son, Kyle March, runs around with other children on the playground.
Q: What disease did your son have?
A: Leukemia. Stage three.
Q: What was his prognosis?
A: A few months. The doctors said I should make every moment count.
Q: That must have been difficult.
A: It was.
Q: What was happening around the time of the incident?
Elena inhales deeply, her eyes following Kyle around the playground.
A: He was surrounded by tubes and wires. Oxygen, an IV, and a heart monitor. I know they were there to help him, but I kept thinking they were vines, sucking the life out of him.
Q: No one wants to see their child in that state.
A: No…Corentin knocked on the door. I recognized him, obviously, but I didn’t say anything. He introduced himself. I asked him what I could do for him. He said he was there to visit my son.
Q: Did your son know who Corentin was?
A: He may have, but I wasn’t aware of it.
Q: What happened next?
A: I asked him why. He looked over at my son and said there were too many tubes, too many wires. For a moment, I was too stunned to speak. Then, I heard the tone.
Q: Kyle flat-lined?
A: He did indeed. I’ve never been so scared in my life. Half a dozen doctors and nurses rushed in. They practically jumped on his chest and placed a breather bag on his face. And Kyle didn’t move. His arm slipped to the side and just hung there, limp. That’s when I knew it was over.
Q: Did they ask Corentin to leave the room?
A: Corentin…Corentin held my hand. They didn’t even notice him, or they thought he was with me. I don’t know.
Elena waves at Kyle, who performs an epic jump from the swings.
Q: He seems intrepid.
A: Who wouldn’t be, after going through what he went through?
Q: Can you tell me a little more about what happened that day?
Plastic crinkles as Elena sips off a squirt bottle.
A: The doctors shook their heads when it was over. One of them read the time. The nurses put Kyle’s hand back on the bed. They said they were sorry. Corentin held me. I don’t know why I let him hold me. Maybe I would’ve let anyone hold me, but I felt safe with him. When the doctors left, he went over to the bed. He ran his hand over Kyle and little blue sparks hovered in the air. They descended like a shawl, draping over his body. It was like an electric net, suspended in the air like the skin of a bubble.
Q: That didn’t alarm you?
A: The doctors had already pronounced him dead. I was in shock. I don’t think I could have moved if I’d wanted to.
Q: What else did Corentin do?
A: He took a deep breath, bent over, and blew into the bubble he’d created.
On the playground, Kyle follows a frog that jumps away from him.
A: The heart monitor beeped. And it beeped. And it beeped. The doctors came back in and asked what happened. Corentin bowed slightly, like he’d just performed some minor trick, and left.
Q: And after that, his leukemia went into remission?
A: Not just remission. It was gone.
Q: That’s positively amazing. Congratulations.
A: Thank you.
Q: To date, Corentin has performed seventeen such “miracles.” Have you read about them?
A: I have. I don’t really—
Q: Eleven of those people are either incarcerated or wanted for questioning by authorities. Does that make you nervous?
A: What are you getting at?
Q: Did you know about those “miracles” before Corentin attended your son?
A: Not until…Kyle! That’s not nice!
Kyle smiles as he looks down at the grass he just stomped on. Elena runs and picks him up.
Q: December 12, 2012. I’m waiting in an interview cell for Ariana Finnegan, fifty-two. She was recently arraigned on charges of terrorism and pleaded nolo contendere. The interview cell is as you’d expect, bare and cold with green walls, bars.
Click. Click. The barred door slams.
Q: Thank you for meeting with me.
A: I have plenty of time. What’s your name again?
Q: Michael Marty. It’s a pleasure. So, for the record, can you say what you were arrested for?
A: Blowing up a church.
Q: Did you do it?
A: It would be difficult to explain, even if I tried.
Q: I see. Are you familiar with Corentin the Divine?
A: Not as a magician, but I’ve read his book. And I shook his hand at one of the rallies.
Q: So you did attend one of his rallies?
Q: What did you think of his book?
A: It was amazing.
Q: How so?
A: It has answers. It’s like all the questions we have, as human beings, are addressed in a manner that makes sense.
Q: If you had to compare it to another book, what would you compare it to?
A: The Bible.
Q: Have you read the Bible?
A: Not cover to cover, but I went to Sunday school as a child. I’m more familiar than most. When Jeopardy has a category about it, I usually do quite well.
Q: I see. Why would you compare it to the Bible?
A: Because it answers questions about how to live, about what comes next.
Q: And those answers are to your satisfaction?
Q: Would you call yourself a follower of Corentin?
A: I followed him once, but I’ll never make that journey again.
Q: Why not?
A: I don’t have to.
A: Because we communed.
Q: Can you define commune?
A: You wouldn’t understand if I did.
Q: So you followed him only once. Why did you follow him?
A: Because he’s real.
Q: Can you be more specific?
A: He’s here. Now. Everything else is just prose written by dead Jews.
Q: Did Corentin ask you to do anything for him?
Corentin: She did it of her own free will. Didn’t you?
Q: Where the hell did you come from?
A: I told you he was here.
Corentin: How did you get in here? Did it ever occur to you to wonder why they would let a reporter visit a criminal?
Corentin: They can all step through that door as far as I’m concerned, but you won’t like it.
Footsteps. The jingling of keys.
Q: No! Stay there!
The door opening. The snapping sound of electricity and a long pause.
Q: Where did he go?
Corentin: You want to find out, don’t you? Be my guest.
Q: What are you?
Corentin: Corentin the Divine. Isn’t that description enough?
Q: What happened to you? You’re not the same man I interviewed before.
Corentin: What happened to me? I could ask you the same thing. Always running around, interviewing every cheap magician who ever walked the earth in hopes of finding something real, and then, when you find exactly what you’re looking for, you do your best to expose him as a fraud. Why is that? What happened to make you bitter? Get bit by the rabbit a time too many?
Q: What do you want?
Corentin: What do I want? You speak as if I want something for me. I want something for you. I tell you, people know the price of everything but the value of nothing. I don’t want anything from people. I want people to be people.
Q: What’s that supposed to mean?
Corentin: Take a dollar bill, fold it in half, and put it in your pocket. Now you own it. That dollar represents congealed energy, a form of currency that can be used in all sorts of trades. I want you and everyone else to step through, to realize your own worth. Put the dollar, your life, in your pocket and own it. That’s all.
Q: What about the cuts, the bombing?
Corentin: There can be no growth without suffering. You know this.
Q: The nurse said you had a hoof inside your arm. That you were a demon.
Corentin: Oh, with people like her, there’s no middle ground. Any talk of magnificence not attributed to God automatically falls under the heading of evil. Even if she came across Jesus himself healing the sick, she’d call him a false prophet.
Q: She’s not religious.
Conrentin: And that means she’s not afraid of hell?
Q: What about healing the sick? Bringing Kyle March back to life?
Corentin: What about it? I told you, I am what you’ve been searching for. All these years, hoping to find one single trick that wasn’t actually an illusion. Well, here I am. At your service.
Q: What’s the catch?
Corentin: Nothing. I want nothing from you.
Q: I know that’s not true.
Corentin: My god, you’re tedious, aren’t you?
Q: You’re a monster.
Corentin: Not of any sort. I brought a young boy back from the dead and healed many others.
Q: They’re not normal.
Corentin: They never were! But I gave them a reason to live. And admit it? You want to see it first hand, don’t you?
Silence. Snapping of electricity.
Corentin: You can touch it, if you want. It won’t hurt.
Q: Is that what you want?
Corentin: Old men don’t regret what they’ve done. They regret what they wished they’d done. I promise you, when you’re old, and all your recordings and interviews are collecting dust, you’ll wish you knew what you were really writing about.
Q: If I don’t?
Corentin: Look around. It’s not as if you can leave anytime you like. Listen, there’s so much more to the world than you know. There are other worlds. When you realize what the truth is, life becomes worthwhile. Meaningful. You’ll cherish every breath and live with purpose.
Q: This is why you hand out the alcohol.
Corentin: Yes, well, it certainly makes it easier if their guard is down. Let me show you something. Ariana, draw the veil…
Silence. The sound of electricity, snapping.
Corentin: Imagine being able to travel from this world to the next and the next, anytime you want. All the magic in the world, at your fingertips.
Q: If she has all that power, why’d she blow up a church?
A: The church was empty.
Corentin: She destroyed a symbol. Like crumpling a picture of your ex, burning a bad grade from a teacher. Practically nothing.
Corentin: Why what?
Q: Why this? Why everything? Why does it feel like you want my soul?
Corentin: Is that what you think? Tell you what, if that’s the only game you can understand, we’ll play by your rules. Let’s bargain. You want answers, I’ll give you answers to questions you never thought to ask. What will you give me in return?
Q: What do you want?
Corentin: Walk through the veil of your own free will. And before you say no, consider the irony of it. I’m offering what you want most, free of charge. All you have to do is take it.
Twenty-five seconds of silence.
Corentin: Shake on it? Very well.
Q: So, why are you doing this?
Corentin: I’m fulfilling a debt for someone.
Q: The devil.
Corentin: He doesn’t go by that name.
Q: What if I don’t go through?
Corentin: You’ve already made the pact. If this is your game, your rules, I’ve already won. You might as well walk through the veil now and understand what you’ve done…Or you can sit here in this cell and pretend that you know. Debating with yourself whether or not I’m evil, as you believe. Go. We have no patience for your game.
Electricity buzzes and snaps. There is a series of slow footsteps. The sounds of electricity cease.
The rest of the tape is blank.
©Eric M. Bosarge
Eric M. Bosarge is the founding editor of Eric’s Hysterics, a journal of literary humor, and forthcoming Love Hurts anthology, which will be released on February 7th, 2013. He has an MFA from the University of Southern Maine and teaches at Central Maine Community College. He lives and writes in Maine with his fabulous wife, Megan, and dog Scruffy.
You can find out more about him and read more of his work at www.erics-hysterics.com.”