“Behold, mother.” Simon had his Harry Potter Halloween robe on, and were it not for the facts that it wasn’t Halloween and Simon was a twenty-three-year-old man-child living in his parents’ basement, it would have suited him well. “Father, be seated,” he implored his parents to sit in front of his poorly-crafted rostrum in the living room. Both his mother and his father looked at each other with exhaustion and sadness.
Where did we go wrong with this one? Their eyes seemed to inquire. There was no simple answer for it, of course, for Leticia and Edgar Williams had never grudged when it came to giving Simon the finest in everything: education, a lavish lifestyle, and emotional support. Their patience had run out the day he’d come back from UC Riverside Medical College with the irrational premise that “this is not what I want to be doing in my life.” He had come back a man changed, a man haunted. There had been noticeable shadows under his eyes and he had lost at least thirty pounds.
“Is it one of your magic tricks, again? Because I’ve had a long day at work and I just can’t,” his dad said.
“They’re not magic tricks!” He said heatedly. “Just ... just bear with me. Okay? “ Simon stuttered, calming down a little.
His sister, Hailey, eleven years of age, knew what the trick was, and she was barely keeping herself contained. Mysteries of the adult world were beyond her. What mattered was that Simon had chosen her to be his stage assistant. She held in her hand a heavy, velvet cloak.
“He says he will clean the basement if we watch,” his mother said, switching between catching glimpses of her son and the Facebook feed on her mobile. To her, the debacle of her son’s failure to fit in society as another of its functioning members had gone past the point of depressing over. Part of the credit went to the anti-depressants she chugged daily, religiously.
“Fine,” his father relented and sat down on the sofa, a man of a defeated, middle-class demeanor. That he had been demoted from project manager to quality control assurance was weighing heavy on him. He hadn’t the nerve to tell anyone yet.
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, I shall disappear in front of you and ne’er return!” Simon proclaimed. I guess this is goodbye, he wanted to say; it teetered at the verge of his lips, but never came out.
Later, as everyone would recall the tiniest details to the police, his sister wouldn’t mention that she saw a tear trickle down from Simon’s heavily mascaraed eye. As she watched it, it unnerved her.
“Mom and Dad were always scolding him. He was supposed to be a doctor, but he became a magician, and a thumping good one too! He told me that no one will be able to find him!” She’d say in her testimony to the cops.
“Make it quick,” his father said.
“Hailey, if you please,” Simon urged his sister. “And now, the verses of Bardof: ‘Bardof, ya sadiqi, ‘akhdhani ‘iilaa fiyinna!” This was his sister’s cue to throw the cloak over him, and she did, albeit with some difficulty. It was a heavy cloak, and thick too, like a futon mattress. Before it fell over Simon, his father caught one last glimpse of his son’s eyes; they were positively haunted.
The cloak covered Simon and fell to the floor in a lump of creases and folds. Simon, being so frail and thin, might as well have been under there.
“And now, Mom, Dad, I pull the cloak away,” Hailey said, barely holding her excitement. And in that excitement, she had forgotten the lines she had originally rehearsed with Simon two hours prior. She was supposed to say, “Voila! The Disciple’s Transit!” but she didn’t. In her defense, they were difficult words for a child to remember.
“Yes, please, do it so that we can move on with our damn lives.” Edgar was heavily disappointed. It was really too much. His son, who had quit med school earlier that year, spent his time doing magic tricks and came up with something so uncreative, instead of doing something worthy of his post-dropout time. Though, in Edgar Williams’ opinion, there was nothing more worthwhile than a career in medicine, and he could not, for the life of him, figure out why his son had thrown it all away. Was it because of a girl or maybe some peers ganging up on him? Or maybe he’d fallen into something worse, like huffing ethyl chloride as some doctors and pharmacists were known to do. Edgar didn’t want to believe it was simply because of what was in front of him - childish trickery that was being passed off as magic.
“Ed! Language!” Leticia hissed, slapping her husband’s hand sharply.
Hailey pulled the cloak away and, to the astonishment of everyone in the room, there was no under there. Only a sliver of smoke rose from what looked like charred ashes.
Hailey stood dutifully with the corners of the cloak in her hands, expecting her brother to pop back out any second.
After their wonderment gave way to disappointed annoyance upon the absence of their son, both Leticia and Edgar dispersed. Later, things mounted into panic.
Pizza was for dinner again, and had been way too many times for the past number of months after Simon’s performance. Leticia always excused herself from the table first.
Sulking down the basement stairs to Simon’s old room, scotch and soda on the rocks in hand, she took her usual seat at a card table there. Mostly she sat, stoic, for hours. Occasionally she’d compulsively organize and rearrange Simon’s old D&D figurines and other assorted sundries he had bought from some store he’d always raved about called Raven & Crone: gemstones, small vials, a chalice, an oil burner. She had rearranged the entire room six times after the detectives had come and sifted through it. They’d found nothing that would suggest anything about Simon’s disappearance. They had taken his laptop with them and hoped that whatever encryption he had applied on the hard drive would expire of its own accord; tried as they did, they couldn’t get to decrypt the drive.
Hailey had gone down to check on her mother one night. She spied from the top of the stairs as her mother drunkenly smoothed her hand over the floral, quilted bedspread that didn’t at all fit the decor of the rest of Simon’s room. Leticia had collapsed onto the bed, sobbing violently. The alcohol mixing with her prescription did not make a pretty picture.
Disturbed, Hailey and Edgar wondered whether she would ever get a hold of herself, or if Simon would return, if ever. The detectives assigned to his case had been of no help. None of them, neither family nor authorities, knew of or understood the binding absoluteness of Bardof’s magic. But Simon had known well.