The magician Jerome Poppler didn't believe in devils, gods, or even magic. He believed in nothing but himself, his bag of tricks, and the machinations of his own heart. It was the last show of the season. All he wanted–all he needed, he told himself–was one more kill to tide him over till the next. The house was full. His final act was set. But little did he know that it would be his last night playing the murdersome magician.

"For my next trick, I'll need an assistant," he said, spinning around the box on stage he liked to refer to as the mausoleum. Something he'd only call it when he and his victims were alone of course. He wasn't wrong. It certainly had the appearance of one. That, or a tomb of some long-dead king. Spires and weeping angels bore from its oak. Swirling leaves and ivy embellished the cabinet's ashen surface.

Though, it wasn't so much his trick as the oldest trick in the history of the Arrgon Theater. Children, families–people from all over would come out to see their loved ones vanish inside it. It was a tradition Jerome was determined to keep. Though, with the theater now under his hand, few would ever reappear.

"Anyone will do." He smiled, sliding his gloves off into his pockets. He wore a bolo tie with a ruby broach and a pin-striped suit that lead eyes down from his wolfish gaze.

Eager hands outstretched from the darkness of the house. Arms without host wavering, clamoring to come onto the stage. If only they knew what Jerome Poppler had in store for them. He delighted in this part–the choosing. It was a ritual to him. He saw his audience as a smorgasbord of sheep. A buffet of lambs in search of a spotlight only to be lead to their own slaughter.

"Hmmm," he said loud enough with whimsy, bringing one hand to his chin and with his other searching the audience with the flutter of his fingers. "Let's see, how about. . ."

And just as he spotted his next victim, the hands suddenly and without warning went down. Every last one. Slinking back into the shadows of the house as a figure approached the stage and emerged under its light.

It was an old round woman. Her gown appeared from another era, and her face ran deep with creases like a cracked stump, carved and wooden. Her silver hair wrapped neatly behind her raisin-like ears. And her eyes, large pupils resting behind clouds.

As she shuffled to the center of the stage, the audience cheered her on and applauded. There was no turning back. Never in the years since he's done this act has anyone had the audacity to walk onto the stage. Jerome was smiling through his teeth, to say the least.

"Well, folks, I have to say, this is a first for me. I don't think I've ever had someone so ready to disappear before."

The audience erupted with laughter then died down as the woman planted herself next to the box and magician.

"So, uh, my dear, do you have a name?" he asked, resting his hands against the mausoleum. But the woman said nothing. Her lips moved, but no words came out her mouth. At least not words Jerome or the audience could hear.

A fit of coughing could be heard from the back of the house, penetrating the immutable silence.

"Hey, come now! You haven't vanished yet," he joked, slapping the box with the palm of his hands. The audience meagerly laughing along this time.

But still, not a word. Not an audible sound. Just the silent movements of her mouth.

He tugged on his broach and tie, straightening himself. "Orrrrr–maybe you have! Come on, my dear." He extended one hand towards her, and with the other, tapped the side of the box. Its double doors flying open on old fish wire to reveal the dark and empty space inside. "Let me help you."

She looked at him. Her eyes glowed. Whispers now under her breath, though still undecipherable. The audience chortled as she passed his hand and stepped into the box.

Jerome did not like to be made looked like a fool, and he felt it was exactly what she was doing, intentional or not. He reached towards one of the spires of the mausoleum, slowly spinning the cabinet around as if to say 'nothing up this sleeve.'

"Alright, ladies and gents, without further ado, I give you our final act for the night–the greatest disappearing act you'll ever see! The vanishing cabinet of the great Arrgon Theater!" He turned his back to the audience. His showmanship smile fleeting into his teeth. Slowly, he closed the doors until only a sliver of light graced the woman's face.

"Listen," he said, "the wall behind you revolves. Count to three then press on it."

"I know how your mausoleum works."

Jerome froze.

He looked the woman up and down once more. He wasn't really sure if she had said it at first because her face was restless. Her mouth spasmed like she was having a stroke. Her eyes burning like stars as he quickly shut the doors.

Jerome stared at the cabinet for what seemed like an eternity only to be reminded of his audience by a few distant coughs.

"Alright, uh, yes, without further ado. . ." he said, clearing his throat, turning back towards the house.

He placed a single finger on the box and, with a contemplative gesture, closed his eyes.

One tap.

"Oh. I know, alright." Her voice cut clear through the box, though the audience was unable to hear her.

A second.

Her chanting grew louder. Somehow Jerome could hear her breathing right into his ear. Old words passed over him as warm breath ran down his neck. He looked out to the darkness of the theater, and somehow, it seemed to be creeping up onto the stage and all around him.

"And this box, Jerome, it reeks of you."

Finally, the third, and all went dark. A push, a click, the sound of a lock. The far off fragment of what must have been applause. Jerome could hear it all, but nothing surrounded him. Nothing but the absence of the light and an untold darkness whose edges ran undefined. He reached his hand through it, searching for something, anything. A wall to guide him, but there was nothing there. Then, from high above, a crack of light appeared. It was the double doors of the cabinet flying open again. The cheering and shouting of the applause echoed down to him like a well, and from its light, he could see the woman smiling as she shut the doors on him forever.