Here I am at my local Blockbuster, doing some surveillance-style sweeps of the aisles, my black cloak billowing out dramatically as I stride. From beneath the brim of my top-hat I observe the clerk at the front desk. He looks calm, unknowing.
I position myself in the Action section and notice some movies that served as inspirations for past missions. None of those missions were as ambitious as this one, because no film ever inspired me the way The Illusionist has. When I watched it I was awestruck because it’s not only a movie about magic and love, it’s also a movie about magical Jessica Biel love. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to conjure Biel since her early days on Seventh Heaven, but when I watched The Illusionist I immediately had a new plan.
So now, dressed exactly as Edward Norton dresses in the film, I know I have the right formula. All I need is for a girl to walk into Blockbuster and pick up a copy of The Illusionist of her own free will. Then, and only then, can I act.
Suddenly there’s a voice behind me.
“Excuse me,” it says.
I turn and there’s the clerk from the front desk, regarding me with a particularly condescending air of authority. His nametag says “Nick.”
“Ok,” I say, engaging him, hoisting an eyebrow. “You’re excused.”
“No,” he says. “I need to talk to you sir,” and he has the nerve to actually reach out and touch my shoulder when I try and pivot away from him.
Suddenly I have an overwhelming urge to jab him in his solar plexus, but I don’t know where that is, so I just scowl.
“I’m busy,” I tell him. “Please leave me.”
“No,” he says again. “Not until you let me see what’s in your coat.”
“Cloak,” I correct him.
“What?” he says.
“It’s a cloak,” I say.
“Is it?” he challenges.
“Well,” I say. “Coats don’t generally have the majestic, cape-like appearance that cloaks do.” Then I kind of ruffle my cloak and shoot him between the eyes with a bolt of negative energy.
“You mean the garbage bag that’s duct taped to the back of your coat?” he says, the corners of his grin quivering triumphantly.
“Garbage bag?” I shout.
“I really don’t have any interest in discussing your outfit,” he interrupts. “Just show me what’s under your coat before I’m forced to do Karate.”
And it’s then, as I’m wondering about his solar plexus again, that I notice a girl standing in the New Release section.
Then suddenly Nick’s grabbing me, reaching into my cloak without permission.
“Stop it…” I hiss. “You’ll ruin everything!”
“You’ve got something under there.” he says stonily. “You’re stealing.”
Then he cracks his knuckles, pumps his arms and does some Karate in the air. I sidestep and sock him in the gut, hoping this is where his solar plexus are. He’s down and I’m kind of jumping on his back, but there’s an undesirable side effect: he’s squealing like an air raid siren. The people in the store, many of whom have been eyeing me suspiciously all along, now stop and stare. Sensing an uprising, I reach beneath my cloak and toss a handful of smoke bombs into their midst.
This has the desired effect. General chaos erupts, but there’s no time to enjoy it. Instead I swivel, still on Nick’s back, and look for the girl.
Immediately I know she’s The One, because she’s holding a copy of The Illusionist. I produce the boom box from beneath my cloak and harness it to my top-hat like a machine gun atop a tank. It’s pretty heavy, so I fasten my chin strap, and now I’m ready.
I hit play and “Sexy Back” by Justin Timberlake hits the room like an explosion. DVDs come raining down from the shelves, the mirrors shatter and rain down like glitter. I level my boom box at the other customers and without missing a beat they’re grinding with each other instead of running for the doors. Then I turn to Nick, who’s trying to creep up on me, and blast him straight into the Comedy section with my sound cannon.
“Sexy Back” was not a random choice, I picked it because of its thumping bass, its mass appeal, and, most importantly, for the fact that Jessica Biel has the hots for Justin Timberlake.
So, with this in mind, I turn and face The One. She isn’t running away, instead she’s kind of bopping her head like I am, looking right at me as the song blows her hair back dramatically, and this, along with the smoke bombs, mirror glitter and backup dancers, makes me feel like I’m in a particularly exhilarating music video. I leap/levitate out of the Action section and into the New Releases beside her, struggling not to topple sideways under the weight of my headgear.
For a moment we just stand there, bopping our heads, face to face, and the overwhelming rightness I feel, the feeling that she is The One, is almost enough to make me reach out to her just the way she is, but somehow this terrifies me – her realness, her attainability, the creeping suspicion I have that she’s never starred in a Hollywood film.
So, at a loss, I begin a special progression of dance moves. She just kind of stands there, looking at me, like she’s wondering why I don’t just introduce myself. This scares me, so I draw the bottle of Britney Spears “Fantasy” perfume from my cloak, pull the top off and chant: “Abra cadabra, alamazoo…Jessica Biel, is now, you!” Then I splash her across the face with it.
She winces, kind of squeals, and, afraid to watch the actual transformation process, I pop another smoke bomb and toss it at her feet. I pull a flashlight from beneath my cloak and flash it into the smoke for a strobe-effect, all the while channeling my energies along the beam. I concentrate on memories of Seventh Heaven, The Rules of Attraction, Blade Trinity…I think of award show photos in Star Magazine, Maxim layouts, the sun full and bright and exploding with fiery Bielness.
When the smoke finally clears I almost barf, partly because I was dancing so hard, but mostly because Jessica Biel is standing right there in front of me. She has her hair pulled back and her gym tights on – the way I always see her in the “Celebrity Workouts” section of Star. It reminds me of the way Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared in the first Terminator movie, and I swear Jessica Biel is almost as ripped as Arnold, and just as intimidating. She’s looking right at me as “Sexy Back” ends. I try and hit play again but I’m panicking, I can’t find the button.
“Who are you?” she asks.
“The Illusionist,” I say, my voice warbling.
She just stares, her eyes blasting me like ice lasers.
“Ed Norton?” I offer, tearing up.
“Nice helmet,” she mumbles, and the look she gives rots me internally.
When I try to explain she says something about how Ed Norton didn’t even wear a top-hot in The Illusionist, but this and everything else she’s saying are far too hurtful to listen too, so instead of I produce a fishnet from my cloak and toss it at her with a flourish. She crouches and dodges the net, then steps in and hits me with a devastating uppercut that sends me careening into the New Releases.
I regain my footing and wipe the tears away in time to see Biel bounding down the aisle like a deer in hunting season, then leaping through a plate glass window at the front of the store. I’m wondering, is this real, has this happened? But before I’m able to answer myself a Karate chop lands solidly on the back of my neck. It’s Nick, and he’s got me in a sleeper hold.
With my face pinned to the floor, I can hear the faint whir of approaching police sirens.
“You’ll pay for this,” he hisses in my ear. “You’ve destroyed my store, my life.”
“You can’t dance,” I counter.
Then I notice a copy of Superman Returns next to me on the floor, and there, on the box, I see her: Kate Bosworth. Immediately I realize my mistake. I got my B’s confused. It was supposed to be Bosworth all along, not Biel.
I’m struck by her eyes, especially her right eye. It’s two colors, brown and blue. Maybe it’s the sleeper hold, the lack of oxygen, but I feel like there’s meaning in that eye - a message spiraling out like a galaxy expanding. I don’t know what the message is, I’m being choked too savagely to think straight, but looking into that eye I do know one thing - I know that magic is real. As I fade out I’m smiling, because this is all I’ve ever wanted to prove.