Continued from Parts 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, and 8...
My opportunity to slyly rescue the iPhone or any of the other items from the box prior to the performance never came. Zarelda and Kumar kept at their station near it until the last possible moment, and then there was hurried instruction to prepare to go onstage.
The show went smoothly, and I think I executed my part well. There were a few surprise elements. Zarelda made several costume changes. They were so quick that I wondered if she had a costumer's equivalent of a race car pit crew backstage. One of these costumes, had she worn it on the plane in place of the red dress, I would have been adequately satisfied that there was nothing amiss with her legs. It was cut high on both sides with plenty of leg exposed. Instead of looking like a suspiciously potential smuggler of parrots, she looked like an exotic bird of paradise herself. Iridescent crystals hung in tassels down her front and, while the white gown was cut high on the sides, long feathery extensions, like exotic plumage, dangled down the center of her gown as a skirt in both the front and rear.
Midway through the show, she performed a trick I had never seen in rehearsal. I knew about this only in part, that at this point in the program, she would do a trick that didn't require my involvement. She emerged in a flamenco dress like the one in which I had first seen her, only this one was in cobalt blue. Her near-hypnotic power I had felt on first seeing her now seemed to take hold of the entire audience. She took graceful flamenco steps as she twirled and stomped down center stage, her arms arcing and twisting above her head. “You must help me with this one,” she told the audience. “Dream of Brazil. Dream of the Amazon. Dream of Brazil. Say it with me.”
It was a chant as she twirled and stomped, and the audience joined in. It took on an almost creepy tone, like a cult leader directing her flock. As she twirled, and the audience chanted, she transmogrified. I saw, perhaps, some of the special lighting effects that required Kumar's help. The cobalt skirt rippled with her movement, and as she moved, a projection of a tall waterfall was made onto her skirt, and it seemed to take on life. I was mesmerized by her. She flicked her wrist in a dainty dance-like movement, and a macaw, the very variety Jack had displayed on his cell phone so many days ago, manifested itself suddenly, resting on her hand. I noticed no secret pockets, no hidden compartments. It happened in an instant. It was magic.
From my half-hidden position at the side of the stage, I looked out to the audience. Somewhere in the midst of that crowd was Jack. What was he thinking now, a great big “I told you so?” Zarelda flicked her opposite wrist, and a second macaw roosted on her hand, and then, just as quickly again, they vanished, but where? Her voluminous skirt? It was hard to tell. It was magic, and, at that moment, I was a believer in magic like any child.
There was nothing particularly menacing about Zarelda that night. She seemed charming, delightful, a flirt with the audience, and yet I couldn't push away a certain foreboding sense of premonition as the evening wore on. I looked out sometimes at the audience and wished I could discreetly signal Jack about my sense of unease. I could pull on my ear lobe like Carol Burnett, but what would that possibly accomplish? I could signal like baseball players, only we hadn't established any such system of communication, and my sense of self-dignity was too great to make myself quite that foolish looking, tapping and pulling at random parts of myself. I had read once about a hostage blinking SOS in Morse code on TV. Would Jack pick up that signal or would it simply look like I was having an episode of petit mal epilepsy? Really, the performance and my role in it took up so much of my concentration that I was unable to sufficiently come up with a plan that actually made sense, and I really had no idea what I was expecting anyway.
I successfully maneuvered my way out the escape hatch of the vanishing box for our final act. Zarelda joined me in this private space behind the contraption briefly before she would appear in my place. It wasn't until she reached her hand up to my shoulder and then my face almost tenderly that I caught a whiff of a chemical smell, and everything went black.
To be continued ...
&© 2016 Susan Joy Clark