The dinner show provided by Marshall, Carter, and Dark Ltd. had been surprisingly pedestrian that evening. The magician, although skilled and pretty, hadn't performed anything other than the usual misdirection which could be seen anywhere. The hoop aerialist, who was also very pretty and wearing a costume that left very little to the imagination, did little more than spin in her ring in various positions and look seductive. There was very little of what many considered the MC&D flavor.
The curtain closed around the stage as she finished her act and bowed. Polite applause sounded from the audience, along with a few barely audible disappointed sighs. When the curtain reopened, the hoop had been replaced with a pair of white ribbon-like straps. A man built like a ballet dancer with bare arms and feet stood next to the straps, ready to perform.
Music started playing. It was a peaceful melody, light and uplifting. The acrobat lifted himself onto the straps and started his act. At first the act looked as though it was going to be as ordinary as the other performances. He wrapped straps around himself like the stripes on a candy cane. He hung himself upside down, spun himself in circles, and held himself parallel to the ground while holding onto the straps solely with his hands. He contorted his body into grotesque shapes which could only be achieved with the help of the straps. He somersaulted upwards, spiraling the ribbons around his arms. The audience sat in silence through all these moves.
The aerialist wrapped himself up asymmetrically. One strap spiraled down his leg, while the other wrapped tightly around his left bicep. There was a twist, a sudden drop, and a note of discord in the music. He now was hanging upside down from the one wrapped leg while the other strap hung down, not wrapped around anything. His left hand was still gripping it, but his arm had been severed where the strap had been wrapped.
There was no blood, and the aerialist continued to climb and twist himself on the straps unfazed. The arm climbed too, wrapping the strap around itself and alternating between gripping with the hand and the elbow. No wound on either end of the arm, only an expanse of white where bone, sinew, and other tissues should have been visible.
The act now seemed to be a strange kind of partner acrobatics; a one-armed man and a single arm both performing tricks. Sometimes the tricks were separate, and sometimes they were in tandem, resulting in holds and balances that should have been impossible. The arm helped him into another wrap, this one around both legs. The aerialist balanced himself like a board for a few seconds while the severed arm held itself straight out above him.
There was another twist, a discordant note in the music, drop, and he again hung by one leg. His right leg had been severed this time and joined the performance as a separate entity. Less than a minute later, his right arm joined the act.
The music began to swell as the severed limbs, all moving of their own accord, helped the aerialist into position for what could be one final trick. His one remaining leg wrapped in a candy cane swirl, as his severed arms wrapped the other strap around his neck, bringing him into a horizontal balance. One hand then brought the strap down and over his throat quickly, enclosing his neck.
The body once again was hanging upside down, suspended through a wrap around the left leg. The head rolled on the floor. It was just as neatly severed as the three limbs that were no longer attached to the suspended torso. His head finished rolling and faced the assemblage of wealth and power. The music still played, but the show was likely over.
While the audience sat in stunned silence, the magician from earlier entered the stage. She looked at the hanging body, the severed limbs, and the head. Her expression, rather than horrified, seemed bemused. She glared at the aerialist's severed head, which returned her expression with a sheepish smile. Shaking her head, she started collecting his parts. One by one, she reattached them to his body, wrapping a section of strap around each one. He moved each reattached part into his suspension, keeping himself aloft with his strength until he was once again whole. Finally, he rolled down the straps to the ground, stood up with the magician, and bowed.
The audience applauded thunderously.