by Jack Ryan

The Wave, a drawing by Sophia Curbelo

The Amazing Decipio pulls a rabbit from his top hat. The classic illusion! There is really nothing better than seeing these impossible tricks up close and in person. If only I could have just a tiny bit of his power, I think wistfully. Just think of the things I could do.

I wonder if some people are just born with supernatural powers? Mind reading, telekinesis, teleportation . . . maybe magicians are not human at all. Maybe they are actually aliens from outer space? Or maybe they are fairies? Or elves?

“Abracadabra!” The Amazing Decipio exclaims with great flourish. 

The audience claps furiously. 

“Pick a card, any card,” he says invitingly to a lucky girl in the first row. He shows her a fancy deck of blue cards fanned out like peacock feathers.

Slowly and carefully, as if she were trusted with the most important job in the world, the girl draws one card from the middle of the deck. She turns slightly to her side to show the audience, and then quickly glances back to make sure the magician is not peeking. We all sit on the edge of our seats and crane our necks to see her card. 

Ah yes, the famous Ace of Spades, I thought.

“Alright, do you have your card?” he asks politely.

“Yes, I do!” she smiles, polite yet unconvinced, and offers her card.

The Amazing Decipio’s hands hypnotize the unbeliever’s card back into his deck. I am watching his fingers like a hawk, but after a few shuffles, I lose track of the cards. Suddenly, a red card peeks out from the blue. What? How could this be? I think incredulously. People around me are murmuring in similar confusion.  

“Take the red card,” he says with a clever smirk. 

I felt funny inside, like I knew what was going to happen. 

There’s no way, I thought, absolutely no way that red card could be the Ace of Spades. Nobody can do that.

But sure enough, it was her card! 

The audience cheered wildly. The thick velvet curtains close and I cannot wait for Act II. What will he do next? Saw a lady in half? Levitation? I try so long to predict his next tricks that I miss my chance to stretch my legs at intermission.

The lights begin to dim and we clap excitedly in anticipation. I can barely hear anything in the midst of the applause. I look at my parents and give them a silly smile of happiness. They look at me with big eyes and tell me to answer The Amazing Decipio. What? I say, bewildered. Who, me? You want me to come up on stage?  I feel in shock, but I start crawling my way up the stairs. 

“Let’s give a big hand to this fine young man!” The Amazing Decipio orders. The audience’s cheers buoy me to the stage. 

“How would you like to have the power of teleportation at your fingertips?” he tempts me. 

I immediately agree to anything he says. I cannot imagine the feeling of being teleported even a single meter.

Assistants bring two giant coffin-esque boxes on stage. Each one seems to attach to a thick metal block of a table.

“Son, you’re going to go from one box to the other using my method of teleportation!” He turns to the audience to rile them up. “He is going to experience something nobody his age has ever dreamed of!” 

The audience cheers even louder, cajoling me to enter the wooden box.

I can’t believe this is happening! This is surreal, I think. How long have I fantasized about being an all-powerful magician of my own? Once I harness this power, nothing will be able to stop me!

I scramble onto the step stool and feel a wave of intoxication from the audience’s applause. The Amazing Decipio checks that I fit safely in the box, and surprisingly, it is the perfect size for me. He gently lowers the wooden panel and hinges the doors shut. I find myself in an empty claustrophobic space of complete black. 

I lay in suspense and silence. I close my eyes and wait for The Amazing Decipio’s magic words. They never come. Instead, I hear a persistent whisper in the back of my head, like a fly buzzing. 

“Hey kid!” the voice insists. “Kid! Over here, kid!” 

I open one eye and squint through the blackness. There is a scruffy bearded man wearing a black headset. He looks like backstage crew.

“Kid! We need to get you to the other box!” he whisper-yells urgently. I stare at him, befuddled.

“Um . . . don’t we teleport there?” I ask tentatively.

“You need to get over here. Here!” he points emphatically to an X on the floor.”  I am paralyzed. At first, he looks at me impatiently, but then the expression on his face changes from annoyance to amusement. “Wait. You . . . you don’t think this is real, do you?! Do you?” he asks, almost snorting with laughter. He covers the mouthpiece on his headset.

I start to explain myself, but he interrupts me.

“Follow me, kid.” he orders, rolling his eyes. I nod and obey, but I am mute. I follow him and wait in the other box. He closes the door on me.

Inside my head, a thousand thoughts collide:

Is this magic? Harnessing the power . . . to deceive others? For as long as I can remember, I wanted to become a magician. I wanted the superpowers and the secret . . . and now I have both. But why? Why do people enjoy lying to others, and why do people like to be lied to? Now that I know The Amazing Decipio’s secrets, I am emptier than this box. 

The man with the headset silently points up to another wooden panel and directs me to climb the ladder, lay down in the box, and act like nothing happened.

I hear the magic words. 

“Abracadabra!” exclaims the man outside the box with great flourish.

I climb out of the box and am free, yet guilt suffocates me. I am blind from the glaring lights and deaf from the thunderous applause. I am disillusioned. 


I am a freshman who enjoys musical theater, music competition, computer programming, dancing, biking and traveling.

What motivated you to write this piece?

I loved magic when I was in middle school. I went to shows, took classes and performed a lot for my friends and family. They were completely in awe, especially with my disappearing quarter trick!

What was the most difficult part of your writing process for this work?

The most difficult part of writing this story was trying to capture the main character’s loss of innocence when he realizes that something he believed in was just an illusion.

What message do you hope to convey to the reader through your piece?

My hope is to tell a coming-of-age story in a different way from other authors. These kinds of stories usually center around dramatic events or tragedies where the main character is shocked into growing up. In reality, most people grow up gradually, and little realizations about their daily life make them question what they believe. For a person who isn’t interested in magic, this story may not be tragic. However, for a person who discovers the truth about something he really loved, this truth is shocking. I also wanted to show how important it is to let children be innocent and to not make them grow up quickly, especially in our world today.