The audience stared open mouthed at me. A skinny young woman with short spiked white hair, low cut black top and jeans sat on the red sofa in place of the stuffed panda.
All I'd asked them to do was to shut their eyes for a second. I didn't cover, block or darken any part of the stage. The girl literally appeared from nowhere. Time lapsed before they broke out in wild applause, whistles, foot stamping. I imagined the tweets, Facebook comments, illegal videos uploaded onto the internet, journalists wanting to make their mark with this extraordinary story. Not that anyone would know the truth of course.
Examining my body in the spacious dressing room smelling of sweat, talcum powder and alcohol I knew that time was running out. Third belt I'd bought this month was far too loose again. I could see shadows behind the curtain, hear faint sinister male laughter. Even though I didn't have any assistants in the room I knew I was not alone. Never was these days.
Three months ago I had been shocked when my wife gave birth to twins. The second baby had not shown up on the original scan. She was overjoyed, unaware of the financial difficulty we faced. My gambling addiction well hidden.
When a chance of a lifetime bet came about I took it up. Didn't read the small print.
I sold my soul to the devil in return for the ability to create real magic.
It came at a price.