“I challenge anyone among you to exhibit greater feats of magic than I can perform.  No one is a greater practitioner of the mystical arts than I am,” the man on the stage bragged as he strutted in his flowing black robe.  


     A young man wearing a grey trench coat pushed his way through the crowd and stepped up to the stage.  The old magician stroked his long silver beard and smiled.  


     “Young man, I have been a magician since I was a child.  You are not much older than a child.  You dare challenge me?”  


     “I have traveled a long way to see you and take you on.  You have a reputation that is quite impressive.  You have entertained kings and queens and twice avoided the stake or noose after being accused of being a warlock.  But you are a shrewd man and capable of wonders without having the witch hunters make you their victim.”


     “I wouldn’t have seen the turning of the leaves over 70 times in my life if I had been a fool.  What are you; 23, 24, 25 at the oldest?” 


     “I’m 24.  But magical ability isn’t dependent on a person’s age.  You challenged me to exhibit greater feats of magic than you can perform.  I accept your challenge.  Would you like to make a wager on the outcome of your challenge?” 


     “You are a cocky young man.  How much are you willing to lose?” 


     “Nothing.  But I am willing to put up a security against possible defeat at your hands.”  


     The young man reached into his coat and pulled out a ten-carat ruby which he lifted above his head to dazzle the audience with its beauty.  The old man was impressed too.  


     “May I examine the gemstone?” the old man asked.  


     The young man handed him the ruby which he placed close to his right eye.  After he was satisfied that it was genuine he handed it back to the young man.  


     “I only have this as a wager.”  


     The old man reached into his pouch that was hanging in front of his waist and pulled out a small sack of gold coins which he opened and dumped into his left hand.  Two of the coins fell to the stage.  The young man picked them up and jokingly acted as if he was going to place them in his pants pocket.  But he handed them back to the old man who placed them back in the sack.  


     “I’ll start with an easy trick,” said the old magician.


     The man reached under his cape and retrieved a dove which he released over the heads of the audience.  They shouted with glee and applauded.  The young man in turn reached into his coat and pulled out a toy flying saucer and turned it on.  It made a low hum and began floating freely a couple feet above the head of the young man.  The audience gasped in amazement and applauded.  


     The old man scowled a bit before asking, “What do you call that contraption that floats above your head?” 


     “It is a flying saucer.  I won’t try to explain how it works because no one here would understand.  Consider it magic.”  


     The young man turned off the saucer and placed it back in his coat where it shifted into another dimension through the right side inner portal.  


     “This is only a magic trick and not an attempt to deprive you of possible winnings,” said the old magician as he pulled out the bag of gold coins and lifted it above his head.  


     As the audience stared at the bag, it suddenly vanished.  It impressed the audience.  The young man followed suit by pulling his arms into his sleeves, lowered his head into his coat, and crawled through the left inner portal that he stretched out so he could fit through it with his entire body.  The coat fell to the stage.  


       The old man kicked at the coat as the audience gasped in amazement.  Where had the young man gone?  Maybe he was gone for good.  Several seconds later, the coat seemed to come to life as the young man crawled back through the portal and reemerged.  


     “Where did you go?” the old man asked.  


     “You should know better than to ask a magician to reveal his secrets.  Is that the best you can do, old man?” 


     The old magician reached under his robe and pulled out an orb of fire that grew from the size of a softball to the size of a basketball before it exploded and showered the audience with confetti.  The audience oohed and ahed and applauded.  


     The young man extended his arms as if he was being crucified and began to lift into the air.  He floated above the heads of the audience as they responded in the same way they had responded to the last trick the old magician performed.  A minute later he landed softly in the midst of the crowd.  He reached out to a young mother who was clutching the hand of her little daughter.  


     “Would you two like to float above the audience?”


     The woman grimaced and shook her head.  


     “I’ll hold on tight to you and not let go.”  


     She looked around at the audience members that urged her to do what he wanted them to do.  She finally gave in and handed the man her daughter before placing her arms around his shoulders.  Seconds later, the trio floated gracefully above the audience members that applauded and shouted for joy.  They returned to the floor where the woman hugged him before returning to her friends.  He was indeed impressive.  But was his performance superior in the eyes of the audience and the old magician to what the veteran had done?  


     That was an example of science fiction blending with prestidigitation.  Maybe in the future other performers will be able to make technology look like magic. 

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