A Fascination With Flame

Have you ever stared into the flame of a candle attempting with all your will to extinguish the flame? I have. I’ve never been successful but I’ve spent an extraordinary amount of time attempting it. I’ve tried imagining the wick not burning, I’ve tried slowing the molecules down, I’ve even tried denying it the right to burn.

I have no reason to think I will ever succeed. It’s just that I suck at small talk. Staring into the flame makes it appear that I’m thinking deep thoughts and allows me to avoid conversation.

Years of attempts have given me nothing beyond a slight flicker and that was probably due to random air breezes.

At least that’s the way I would have written this story until the evening my companion stabbed me in the hand with a fork. My date had a temperamental disposition and thought I had been ignoring her. No blood but it hurt. She had certainly found a way to hold my attention for the evening.

Dessert over, my date went to the restroom while I paid the bill. Signing the receipt reminded me how much my hand hurt. Resentfully, I looked over to the candle that had started all this. It was out!

I admit getting stabbed had already convinced me to terminate the relationship but after seeing that candle, my date had no chance. She thought I was mad at her. That was close enough, I wasn’t going to argue with her about this. There was no way she would understand that I was rushing back to my apartment to spend the evening trying to snuff out candles.

I guess having to use dramatic measures to get my attention had already convinced my date that our relationship was going nowhere. I got her to her door and said goodnight. She looked up from her cell phone, said goodnight and shut the door in my face. Or where my face would have been if I had waited two milliseconds for her response. I was on my way home before the door finished closing.

I had a few candles at home that I kept for emergencies. What I had never consider was how to light the candles. I searched for matches but, having no reason to have matches, my search was fruitless. It was ugly but I finally managed get a small piece of paper burning with my electric oven. I used the burning paper to light the candle. I almost managed it without setting off the smoke alarm, almost.

I realized this would be a lot of work if I had to go through this every time I wanted to light a candle so I lit a second candle and added matches to my shopping list. Now to repeat my success.

It was a long evening. No matter what I did, the two candles just continued to flicker at me. I calmed my mind, I squinted, at one point I even tried rage, all to no avail. It was around 2AM when I finally snuffed the candles out manually. They sure weren’t going out any other way.

The next few evenings were repeats of that one except I had a lighter and almost every kind of candle I could find. I tried birthday candles, tea lights, scented candles. If the secret to success was in the candles, I wasn’t finding it.

Call me stupid if you will but it was a full week before I realized pain might be associated with the candle going out.

I finally sat down and documented exactly what happened that night. Where I was, where I had been seated, what I had eaten … It was one of those ah ha moments when I remembered getting stabbed. For a short moment of insanity I considered calling my former date but while I knew she would willingly stab me again, she already thought I was weird enough.

Gritting my teeth, I picked up a fork, stared into the candle’s flame, braced myself and stabbed my hand. Intense pain erupted. Maybe that wasn’t one of my brighter moments. When I got the bleeding under control, I realized that my candle was still burning defiantly.

I went back to my notes on that evening and hypothesized that surprise might also be required. While I wasn’t going to stab myself again maybe there were other ways.

Please don’t laugh, I’m trying to be objective about this and the memory is embarrassing enough. The next day I picked up a shock collar used to train dogs. I got a medium-sized pot and balanced it on the remote button. I started a slow drip into the pot and sure enough in less than five minutes the pot had enough water to trip the remote.

I emptied the pot, restarted the drip and put the collar around my neck. Yes, I could have just held the collar but my mind was focused elsewhere.

I sat down and stared into my flame. Drip… drip… drip…The wait was just long enough for me to stop wondering about the shock and concentrate on the flame. Drip, suddenly, with no warning, my neck felt like it was on fire. I hadn’t bothered to read the directions on the collar and had no idea I could set it for a short burst. This setting would continue shocking me as long as the button was depressed. I got the pot off the remote, almost drenching the remote in my haste. The pain stopped.

As I sat there enjoying the respite from the collar, I remembered that this bout of temporary insanity was caused by my flame obsession. When I looked at my candle, it had gone out!! I repeated this two more times although I was only holding the collar.

While it worked, it was cumbersome. The next day I convinced a friend of mine to refine the design. I wanted something I could hold with controls for intensity and duration. After I convinced him it was for a psychology experiment, he told me he could have something in about a week.

Working or not, I wasn’t going back to the dog collar. I spent the week watching just about every movie I could on telekinesis, including Scanners.

My friend delivered more than I could have hoped for. It had knobs for intensity, time, random interval and minimum time. The shock was delivered through a hand held grip that resembled a doorknob.

It worked! I had to set the shock level high enough that I wanted to scream when it went off but nine out of ten times, the flame went out. The intensity of the shock produced a high level of anxiety as I waited but if I set it right, I would be fully concentrating on the candle when it went off.

Over the next few months, I did a lot of practicing. I never succeeded without using the shock apparatus. In fact, I had to keep increasing the shock level because I would become accustomed to it. In order to succeed I needed to be concentrating on the flame going out, intense pain and an element of surprise. For the heck of it, I tried to start a flame but achieved nothing.

I had envisioned fame and fortune and great skill at dice. As it was, I would be a joke.

Out of desperation I enlisted my engineering friend’s help again. I showed him what I could do and spent the afternoon convincing him it wasn’t a trick. Once he was convinced, we wasted another two hours with him trying to extinguish a candle. Nothing. I had to spend another hour re-convincing him it wasn’t a trick. That’s when he finally got interested.

A couple of days passed and he asked me over to his house. He had been doing research but had too much equipment to bring to my apartment.

He had started with a child’s toy that was supposed to show mind control. He had gutted the toy and attached some low noise amplifiers that he could watch on a scope. He put a toy crown with a lot of wires on my head and had me concentrate on a candle while he played on the controls of my shocker. He didn’t seem interested in my success, he just kept changing the controls and recording the waveforms.

According to him my Theta waveforms had to be stable for five seconds prior to the shock or it did not work. Apparently it took me an average of 30 seconds staring at the flame to get to that point. He still did not understand why the shock was necessary but the flame went out simultaneously with the shock. Duration of the shock was not a factor.

He asked if he could rewire the box slightly and use the sensor to trigger the shock. After I agreed, he said it would take a while and suggested I get a beer from his fridge.

An hour later, he put the crown on my head and had me stare at a lit candle. I put my hand on the box’s knob but he said I wouldn’t need it and removed my hand. I should have realized what he meant.

I stared at the candle and concentrated. Out of nowhere, a giant needle thrust into my brain. Well, that’s the way it felt. He had rewired it to deliver the shock directly through the crown and reduced the duration to almost zero. He had forgotten how much more intense it would feel and had not adjusted the intensity. I will never trust another engineer. Thoughts of scenes from Scanners flashed through my mind.

Using his crown, we got the total time for me to extinguish a candle down to 7 seconds. I could pick a candle out of a group and start concentrating. When my Theta waveforms had been stable for five seconds the shock would occur and the candle would go out. We were ready to go public.

It turned out to be easier to blow out candles than find someone willing to believe I could. I started by attempting to call the paranormal department at the local university. Turns out very few universities actually have a paranormal department but they were nice enough to refer me to a university that did.

The paranormal department was less of a department and more of a single professor writing a paper on the paranormal. When I finally got past the screener (apparently they got a lot of calls from people claiming to have psychic powers), the professor asked me a few questions about my power. I got the impression that he didn’t believe me but it was a slow week for him and he finally agreed to see me on Wednesday.

Wednesday came and I showed up with a full backpack. I had candles, a lighter and my crown. I even had spare batteries. We talked for a few minutes while he tried to decide if it was worth taking me back to the lab.

I must have passed his test because he finally handed me a bunch of forms to fill out. Fifteen minutes later we were ready to enter the lab.

The lab was a small room with a large mirror on one side. Professor Duncan explained that there was a camera on the other side of the mirror. He would be recording me at high speed to ensure that I was actually using my mind to extinguish the candles.

I set up four rows of five candles each, lit them all and put on my crown. OK, I was excited. This was my start to fame and fortune. I asked the professor to pick out a candle, concentrated and turned on the crown. Just like clockwork, the jolt happened and the candle went out. I was ecstatic. There was finally proof that I could do this.

The professor seemed amazed that the candle had gone and scurried back behind the mirror to review the video. A few seconds later, he came back and asked me how often I could do my trick. Twenty candles had caused too much light for the camera. The camera was an older model and the light intensity had to be set manually. Anyway, he had adjusted the video level and we were ready to go again.

Somewhat dejected but still excited, I had him select another candle. I started concentrating and … waited. Nothing. I checked the switch to the crown. It was on but the indicator LED was off. I held the switch down, I wiggled it, still nothing. Then I saw that in my excitement with the first success, I had pulled my battery wire out of the crown.

When I showed it to the professor, he said I could use an electronics lab down the hall to re-attach the wire. I don’t know about you but if my car stops running I always pop the hood to look. Don’t ask me why because with all the electronics in a car, I have no idea how it runs.

I mention that because it reminds of opening the controller. I opened the controller for my crown but my friend had assembled it for me. I had no idea where the wires went and realizing that this attached to my head, I decided not to try.

When I explained that to the professor, he seemed to lose all interest. Yes, we could certainly try again. When? Oh, maybe in a month. He was very busy, didn’t I know.

So much for the university route.

I was so discouraged that I didn’t even ask Tom to fix my crown when I got home. Then I got a call from the professor’s secretary asking if I could come in on Saturday. There had been a budget meeting and he had mentioned me as a possible lead in order to keep his budget. The Dean, having more belief in the paranormal than the professor, wanted to see me perform before he agreed to more budget.

I grabbed the crown and headed over to Tom’s place.

Tom listened to my story, examined the crown, agreed that it needed to be more robust if I was going to be giving demonstrations and started tearing it apart. I may have lost it then. I started yelling at him that I only needed the battery pack re-attached and I needed it this Saturday.

He continued tearing it apart, telling me not to worry. He had plenty of time, besides, he had thought of a few improvements that he wanted to add. Please, if an engineer ever says those words to you, just hit him.

Tom did not have it ready by Friday, nor by Saturday morning. I ended up having to take him with me because he had a few last minute adjustments to make. On the trip there he asked for my cell phone, studied it and handed it back. All he said was “I didn’t know people still used these dinosaurs, you’ll have to use mine.”

When we got there he handed me his cell phone and a Bluetooth earpiece. When I asked about the crown, he said he had converted the earpiece and was using an app on the phone to signal the Bluetooth to shock me once the Theta waves were stable. At least I no longer looked like a fugitive from Buck Rogers.

All four of us went back to the little lab. Once again I set the candles up, lit them all and this time asked the Dean to pick a candle. I stuck the earpiece in my ear, calmed myself and concentrated on the candle. Ten seconds later, I felt a stabbing pain in my ear and the candle went out.

The Dean and the professor were both quiet for a moment, then rushed to review the recorder. Tom, having seen this before, only asked me how it felt. When I mentioned how painful it was, he showed me that I could control the intensity with the phone’s volume control.

I repeated it fourteen times that day. The Dean and Professor would have gone on but I had a splitting headache and Tom had to get back home to take part in an on-line raid with his guild. He tried to explain it to me once and I really wanted to understand but and that’s when I understood that in his mind what I was doing was not that farfetched at all.

I made two more trips back to the lab before it all blew up in my face. There was a definite limit on my range. Three feet was about it. Well I could do four feet if I turned the shock all the way up. We did that twice and I decided the extra range wasn’t worth the pain, literally.

We also discovered that some of the lab instruments would interfere with the Bluetooth connection between the earpiece and the phone (I had my own phone by now). Fortunately, a bad connection only prevented the shocks from occurring, it did not cause any false shocks.

Two days after the last visit, my world came to an end. I was scheduled to go back to the lab when the calls and emails started coming in. Somebody had put videos of me from the university on YouTube. They had set it to music with a series of cuts showing my face wince with the shock multiple times before showing the candle go out. Ever worse, they had used clips from my first audition at the university where I was wearing the crown. It was a great video but it made me look like a complete dork.

One of my calls was from an old high school friend. He had seen the videos and recognized me. He worked for the local morning show and wanted me to appear on their show. What the heck? I already felt I had hit bottom with the video, how could it get worse? Appearing on this show might give me a chance to mitigate the damage to my credibility. This might be my big break.

I’m not sure what I was expecting to happen when I showed up. Maybe a short discussion with the producer on what we would discuss or some time to rehearse and make sure everything was working. I was really concerned about possible interference from microwave ovens, knowing they also had a cooking show.

Apparently these folks operated on a very reduced budget. I showed up, they moved me to a waiting room with about three other guests and we got to wait. Finally a young staff member came in and called my name. When I stood up, he looked at me and said, “I remember you from the video.” Looking at my backpack, he said, “You won’t need any of that. Leave your backpack here. Just bring your headgear.”

I tried to explain that I no longer used the crown but he wasn’t really listening. All he said was “Too bad. It really sells the story.” He lead me to the morning set, introduced the anchors and stepped out of the camera. I heard “We go live in Three, Two, One.”

The male anchor looked at me (I’d already forgotten his name), and said “Today we have Steve Daniels, the actor in the Starwars Force Spoof that we’ve all been watching on YouTube this week. Just in case you’ve been out of the country this week, we put a link to the video on our Facebook page.”

Turning to me, he said, “Brilliant video, Steve. What inspired you to make the video and how did you come up with all those goofy faces you made for it?”

I didn’t have to be precognitive to play out the future conversation in my mind. I would say, “Actually I can extinguish candles with nothing more than my mind. The YouTube clip was made from videos made at a local University while I was demonstrating my skill.

Nervous laughter, then they would say “When did you realize you had this capability?” while motioning to go to a commercial break.

Maybe I should have paid more attention to the outcome of the conversation in my head but if I did not speak up now, I would be forever labeled as the guy who made that funny video and no one would ever take me seriously.

I finally remembered their names, Bob and Jill of the Morning Show. “Bob,” I said, “I made the video for the YouTube clip at the local University. You see, I managed to convince the University that I really could extinguish candles with my mind”

Stunned looks. Jill was the first to recover. Still trying to keep the tone of the interview she said, “I’m impressed, I thought those scientist guys at the University had all sorts of equipment to detect if you were cheating. How did you fool them?”

This was my big chance. I looked at Jill and said “It was easy, you see I really can extinguish candles with my mind.” Panicked looks on both their faces. Jill was the first to recover again “Well, however you did it, it was a great video. Thanks for coming today, Steve. Let’s switch to our traffic guy and get the latest on all those clogged highways.”

I guess Bob felt left out because he chimed in with, “How about making a few faces for us to clear out our traffic jams?”

I had made it through local TV with only minor bruises!

I hadn’t thought about the reaction at work. If my co-workers had not seen the YouTube video before my appearance they certainly had now. I got called into HR to discuss my video on YouTube and my morning show appearance. I was reminded that while I was allowed a reasonable amount latitude with Social Media, I still represented the company and there were limits. If I continued my ridiculous claims, I would be fired.

I had never considered how I could make money putting out candles. I was always so excited that I could do it, I never thought about practical applications. I swallowed my pride and agreed to stop. At the time, I really thought I would.

The YouTube clip had given me an idea. If I enlisted the help of the university to make a real video showing what I could do, I could become famous. Somehow I was equating fame with wealth and not having to work.

I walked down the aisles of my local supermarket feeling like Superman. If they only knew what I was could do, they would be in awe of me.

I started by calling the professor about making a real video. He immediately said the university would not be associated with any such thing. I pointed out that the first clip had come from someone in the university and I was willing to sue.

That threat earned me an audience with the Dean. I repeated my request and my threat. He then brought out my file where I had signed away my rights to sue and authorizing the university the right to use the video in any manner they saw fit.

I wasn’t beaten. I agreed and pointed out that the existing video could prove very embarrassing for the university. It showed that the university was doing psychic experiments and that they had no control over the material they gathered. I followed up by saying that if local industry were to get word of psychic experiments, there would be no more funded projects.

We finally agreed on three days lab time and a lab assistant, familiar with the cameras and video editing software. In return, I would not mention or otherwise implicate the university and the university retained full rights to my video. I considered trying this on my own but finally agreed to their terms. Two days later, I was signing a legal contract.

When I met the lab assistant I wasn’t sure if the professor was trying to do me a favor or trying to curse me. Her name was Sue and although she was cute in an offbeat way, I couldn’t decide if that red streak in her otherwise blond hair made her look cute or just made people notice her. For a second, I even considered asking her out after the video was complete. All those thoughts disappeared when she started grilling me. She rattled off her questions like a machine gun.

“What was I trying to do? Did I have a contract with the University? What equipment would we be using? How much studio time did I think I needed? Did I have a script?”

I explained as completely as possible and handed her a copy of the contract with the University.

I tried to listen closely but she kept switching tracks on me.

“Is this a big joke to get even with me for last December? Are you serious about this? The University really saw you coming. They get unlimited rights and you can’t refer to them. Three days, seriously? What kind of equipment did you say? How about the computer and software to produce the video? Only candles? How long do you want the video to run? Do you have a YouTube account?”

Realizing I was out of my depth, I led her to the lab that the professor and I had agreed on. She went in to the little room behind the mirror and told me to stand in the other room in front of the camera. Two minutes later I heard her choking and rushed into the small room. She wasn’t choking. She was almost doubled over with laughter.

“Where did they find these antiques? An old Mac computer and a manual video camera? Seriously, if this is a joke, it’s a great one. You can tell everyone to come out now.”

I was beginning to realize the joke was on me but I managed to keep the frustration out of my voice. “Let me show you what I do and you can tell me what I need,” I said as I started laying out the candles and lighting them. She stared in fascination and then said she didn’t get Goth and got queasy at the sight of blood. I told her there would be no blood involved and slipped on my earpiece.

When the candle she selected went out, she got an intense look on her face and selected another candle. I extinguished that one too.

For once the questions came slowly. No, this wasn’t an elaborate prank. I then tried to explain what I did, how I did it and how the earpiece was involved. I went for broke and then told her about the first YouTube video and the morning show appearance.

Her only response was a curt “OK, got it, now be quiet for a few minutes.”

I extinguished the rest of the candles, manually, and put them back in my backpack. She looked up and said “Don’t do that, we still need to film…on second thought go ahead and put it up. We need different equipment. There’s a nice coffee shop just off campus, let’s go there and discuss this project.” I thought she was already hyper enough without putting more caffeine in her but I refrained and merely said “Lead on.”

Over coffee (well I had a coffee, she had a Hot Butterbeer Latte), we discussed what I wanted to do and what kind of equipment I needed. She had a camera good enough to record what I was doing but it would still need to be edited to any viewers on YouTube. The computer in the lab was useless for video editing.

I was beginning to wonder what was so wrong with my current life but the call of fame and fortune overcame my common sense. She finally made her pitch. For a thousand dollars she would take care of everything for me, two videos suitable for YouTube and a third suitable as an audition tape. She would also upload the videos to YouTube and make sure they were promoted.

Or, we could use the antique equipment provided by the University to make the video. She would act as a lab assistant and all creative content would be provided by me. That would free as agreed with the University. She was sure we could find a computer capable of reading the floppy disks used by the lab computer.

As I stared into those bright blue eyes, that strip of red hair seemed to transform itself into a pirate’s bandanna. I was out of my depth and I knew it. I could argue, I could negotiate but I still would not know if I had a bargain or not. It came down to trust and I decided to trust her, pirate omen or not.

When I agreed, she said, “Fantastic, you won’t regret this. Be ready to put in a full day’s work tomorrow. We’ll meet at the lab at 10 AM. Bring lots of candles and several changes of clothing. Preferably something not quite as geeky.”

The next day we spent almost six hours in the lab. She had me change clothes three times as she moved around trying to get the best angle. With each change of clothing, she had me read lines from a script she had prepared and run through an explanation of what I was doing. When I suggested breaking for lunch, she reached into her bag and tossed me two granola bars. When we finished, I had a splitting headache and a very tender ear. I almost cringed asking about the next session.

I almost cheered when she said that we were done with the photography and it would take her a few days to get the clips ready. She’d let me know. I thought one more time about asking her out but all I really wanted to do was get home and take some aspirin.

I went home to wait. Several days passed and I was still waiting. Then, at 2:18 AM on Saturday morning, she called to tell me she was done, when could I meet her? I tried to point out it was early morning but she ignored my complaints. It was easy to tell she was very proud of her accomplishments.

I suggested the coffee shop but she wanted someplace quieter and less crowded. We finally agreed on a small pizzeria at 3PM. This being the time it was least crowded, besides she had to get ready for a date that evening. So much for the possibility of romance. I went back to sleep.

She was already waiting when I got to the pizzeria. She told me she had already ordered for us and had me sit beside her. She brought out a 10” tablet, tapped on it a few times and told me to watch.

The first clip showed me in intense concentration, panned over to a candle as it went out and then broke to a discussion by me on what I was doing. Then panning over my ear to show my earpiece, it slowly moved to over my shoulder. As I extinguished the next set of candles, you saw nothing of my face. You could see the jerk of my body when the shock happened but it was almost as if that were the effort I was putting into extinguishing the candle.

The last part of the video was set to music with her voice calling out each candle number before I extinguished it. The second video was similar, with me in different clothing. This time there was a longer and more technical explanation from me. When it cut to the candles as before, the pace of the music was faster and the candles were going out as fast as her voice could call them out. I was impressed.

The final video, my audition video, was similar but this time, the first 10 seconds consisted of the voice calling out candles as they were extinguished followed by an explanation of what I was doing and how I used the earpiece as a catalyst. The video then went back to the voice calling out candles to a very fast paced music. It ended with my contact information superimposed over a candle.

She could see the look in my face but asked me what I thought as if looking for confirmation. When I said it was great, she tapped away at her tablet, looked up and said that both videos were now on YouTube and she had just tweeted the link to both videos. Oh, and my audition clip was waiting for me in my email.

With that, she jumped up, said it was a pleasure doing business with me, wished me great success and but she had to leave, she was running late for her appointment at the hairdresser. I felt very good about my future. That is I did until the waiter brought our pizza over. I had to ask him what was in it. I still wasn’t sure after he answered. Who eats a pizza with artichokes and goat cheese?

On the way home, I grabbed a real pizza with pepperoni. As soon as my computer booted, I checked the hit counts on the two video’s. It wasn’t an auspicious start. One had five views and the other seven. I found myself checking the count every few minutes as if it were vital. When I finally called it a night, the count stood at eleven and nine. They certainly weren’t headed viral.

The first thing I did when I got up was check the stats again, twelve hits and ten hits. So much for overnight fame.

It was a slow day at work. My desire to constantly check my clips made it even slower. My company carefully restricted a number of websites and YouTube was one of them. My phone was capable of being used as a browser but I had barely mastered the app that Tom had written for me. Thinking about the how my earpiece had evolved, caused me to reflect that I was still doing nothing more than extinguishing candles and that didn’t seem to be a high demand field. What other feats might I be capable of?

I got very little work done that day. I spent most of the time making lists of other mental powers I might have and ways to test them. I had teleportation, telekinesis, clairvoyance, even time travel. I wasn’t even daunted by how many years I had attempted to extinguish a simple candle before an accident showed me the way.

I still had left over pizza so dinner was easy. As I was eating, I checked the number of hits each of my video clips had received. I was disappointed that they weren’t moving so I watched both of them to verify they were working and were complete. They were working but at least I had bumped the count by one.

I started my experiment by balancing a quarter on edge. A very small amount of force would knock it over or start it rolling. I slipped on my earphone and concentrated. The shock hit me and nada. I tried nine more times before giving up. I thought I saw it wobble once but that might have been wishful thinking.

Next on my list was teleportation. I sat down and tried to visualize myself in the chair next to me. It took so long for the shock to come to me that I was beginning to wonder if I had turned the earpiece on. I remembered the shock was based on concentration and focused on the other chair. The shock hit and still nothing. I was consistent over the next nine times, nothing.

I can only blame my next action on frustration. I saw a spider on my window and concentrated on it. When I came to, I realized that I was lying on the floor, with no idea how long I had been out. I checked the spider, it was dead but I never wanted to go through that again. The next time might kill me too.

Waiting for my head to clear, I checked my stats again, 714 on the first video. I was still groggy so it took me a few seconds to realize that I had checked correctly. I refreshed to verify and had 755 this time. Somebody had noticed.

By the end of the week, I had offers from two major universities and an offer to audition for the late night show. Of course, all offers were contingent on my skill being authentic but I had no worries there. I also got another warning from HR but I was already planning my exit speech.

I sent my audition clip to both universities and the late night show.

The late night show was the first to respond. They wanted me to come out there for the weekend and audition. With no plans for the weekend and them willing to set me up in a hotel it wasn’t a hard decision. We agreed to meet at their studio around 6PM Saturday evening.

The flight was uneventful although the TAA decided to confiscate my candles for some reason. I had five packs but they were hardly a terrorist issue. I saw no point in fighting them on the issue. California candles were probably the same as Texas candles.

They already had my name at the studio and getting through to the producer was no problem. He introduced me to his staff, four men and one woman, all very Hollywood. We talked for a few minutes and he asked for a demonstration.

Fortunately I had had the foresight to pick up more candles even though the taxi driver thought I was insane. I started putting out the candles, by now I was using tea candles, in geometric rows, five by five. I lit all the candles and asked the producer to pick one. I turned on the earpiece, slipped it on and started the app on the phone.

The producer stopped me at this point and started asking me questions. I explained that I wasn’t able to extinguish candles without the earpiece, yet. No, the candles were ordinary candles. I could teach him what I’m doing but I didn’t think it will work for him. He stopped the questions and asked me to proceed.

Four seconds later and the candle was out. Not wanting to give him time for more questions, I asked his to name three more candles. I still wasn’t able to put out multiple candles but I extinguished all three in less than eight seconds, a new personal best.

I rolled up my sleeves to show nothing there and invited them to examine the candles. Then I took the earphone off and offered it to the producer. I wasn’t happy about letting him try. So far Tom was the only other person to try this. I didn’t want to find out I wasn’t as special as I thought.

I moved one of the candles to the side and explained the technique. He looked at me for a second, adjusted the earpiece and stared at the candle. At 20 seconds, he looked at me and asked what was wrong.

I explained, again, that the earpiece transmitted my thought patterns to the phone, it analyzed the pattern and once the thoughts were the right frequency, it signaled earpiece to deliver a shock.

He looked back at the candle. It took another 12 seconds but when he jerked and started cursing, I knew that he had received a shock. The candle was still lit. He tried a second time with similar results.

The producer offered the earpiece to his staff. One of the younger men tried it on but was never able to concentrate long enough to activate it.

The producer handed the earpiece to me and I nonchalantly extinguished that candle and three more for good measure. Yes, I was showing off.

The producer asked me how I felt about being part of a special on psychic powers. I would be one of several guests doing both a solo demonstration and being part of a group forum. He was planning for a week’s work and would pay me $10,000 plus expenses for my appearance. He had two more people to audition and he should have a full cast.

He wanted to start filming as soon as possible so he was willing to give me another $5,000 if I would stay in town for the week, all expenses, just in case he could start.

I heard $15,000 for two weeks work and said “Count me in.” Big smiles all around. All I had to do now was explain to my supervisor why I would be out for the next two weeks.

We started filming Tuesday. They set me up in a nice studio and asked me what else I would need. They also gave me a script of the questions they would ask so I would feel comfortable when they asked them in the interview. I got the impression that I was one of the more credible people that would be involved in this show.

From there it was fairly standard. I had three interview sessions where they asked me how I found out I could do this, could I do anything else and all the other typical questions. I extinguished candles arranged in a line, in a grid, candles by themselves and even a few in a transparent box.

I knew that several other people were going through the same types of interviews and demonstrations because we saw each other several times during the day. In reflection, I should have wondered why we were kept in separate hotels and never given time to mingle but at the time I never gave it any thought.

Wednesday afternoon they told me they were done with me. They still wanted me to be part of their live special next Wednesday and would continue picking up expenses through then.

It was at this point that I started feeling like someone in a witness protection program. They had four people assigned to me. They did their best to keep me entertained but it was obvious that they were there to make sure I did not get myself in trouble between now and Wednesday. I wondered if they were treating the other people the same way but they were still keeping us separated.

Wednesday evening came and I finally got to meet my fellow cast members. A few minutes of discussion and I became very concerned. I don’t know where they had picked these people up but these folks were far from the mainstream.

We had a spoonbender, a person that could communicate with the dead, a time traveler, a person that could predict cards and me. I didn’t like where this was going.

The first part of the show consisted of individual segments with each one of us demonstrating our talents. I found the time traveler particularly weak. They would give him a date, he would close his eyes and describe all the details of his surroundings on that date. He explained that he couldn’t travel less than 10 years in time because it got very fuzzy and while time traveling he couldn’t change his geographic location. I couldn’t believe he was in the same show as I was.

Unfortunately, the next segment explained everything. The man from the producer’s staff who had tried my earpiece, stepped out and was introduced by his stage name. The man was an up and coming magician, exposing frauds as a fast means to fame. I was still comfortable because I wasn’t a fraud but I felt really sorry for my fellow cast members.

From that point the show went very much like you would expect. Both the spoonbender and the person communicating with the dead walked off the stage after being exposed and badgered by the magician.

When his turn at my talent came up, I still felt confident. When he rolled up his sleeves to show bare arms, walked over to the candle and extinguished it, I was amazed. He went on to extinguish five candles simultaneously and I was astounded. I had never managed multiple candles at once.

He had the camera come in for a close up on his arms and you could barely see some very thin clear tubes running down his arm. He explained they pumped enough inert gas to extinguish the candle when he pointed at it. He said I probably used my earpiece to create a distraction while I moved similar tubes into place.

He lit the candle again and invited me to come over and put it out. When I stood up and started over, he held up his hand to stop me. He proceeded to roll up my sleeves and made a big show of rubbing my arms down as if removing any tubes I might have attached. As he stepped back he turned to the audience and said “Now that I’ve removed his apparatus, we’ll let him expose himself for the fraud he is.”

I was steaming. I sat down and stared at the candle. I’ll show him, try to make a fool of me on national television, will he? That and other thoughts were running through my head. Everything but the relaxation I needed to make the earpiece trigger.

I realized that the longer I took, the more foolish I looked. I took several deep breaths, calmed myself down and focused directly on the candle. That’s when he got right in my face and said “What’s the matter fraud? Can’t make this happen without your gear?

Then he turned to the audience and said “Let’s let him know what we think of him.” He started chanting “Fraud, Fraud, Fraud…”

He knew I needed to concentrate. That’s why he had tried the earpiece. He didn’t care that I could do this. I furthered his career by failing. If I succeeded I made him look like a fool.

I tuned him out, I tuned the audience out, I tried to slow down my breathing and that’s when he leaned down and blew out the candle. Once again, he turned to the audience and said “We gave him his chance and he failed. What do we call him?” The audience responded with “Fraud… Fraud… Fraud…”

The camera cut and my show business was over.

They say bad things happen in threes. Mine was four, both universities rescinded their offers saying that they couldn’t be associated with the notoriety that my national appearance had gained me. If that wasn’t bad enough, I got fired by my company for continuing to present embarrassing publicity relating to the company. Since they had already warned me twice they said that I wasn’t eligible for unemployment benefits.

Life as I knew it was over….

 

FIVE YEARS LATER:

His Holiness, Brother Enrique Thomas of the Psychic Church of Technology, paused to straighten his robe. Today he would be inducted into the church’s inner circle. There he would learn the secrets that would allow him to perform all the miracles the other members of the inner circle did. He knew it would take a lot of work and effort but he was ready. Today he would meet the founder, Steve Daniels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Brandon Sanders

    Enjoyed it as much as I expected to. A unique story, nothing run of the mill.

    Reply

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