There were roughly twenty-five people within Salvador's tent. The interior
was poorly lit, and the edges of the room seemed to be perpetually submerged
in shadows. Salvador the Illustrated Sword-Swallower himself stood on
a battered makeshift wooden stage, awaiting his audience. A small rack
of swords stood behind him. As the people made their way into the tent,
they noticed two things about the performer. One was that he was indeed
illustrated, with line upon line of immaculate calligraphic lettering
tattooed on every inch of his body, save for his face. The other fact
was that the body upon which the tattoos were drawn was too tall and
too thin. With the scant lighting, he seemed like a corpse - a corpse
that smiled as his audience drew near.
The beautifully-crafted words were a mystery to the onlookers, for the
lights were much too dim to make out all of the details. Were the lighting
more sufficient, the crowd would have seen their very names somehow
tattooed on the performer's too-pale skin, a fete as chilling as it
was miraculous. Only one gentleman noticed his name and his wife's name
on Salvador's body. Tattooed on the left side of his ribs in pristine
cursive were the names JAMES CORBETT and CYNTHIA CORBETT.
"Would you look at that!" James said, chuckling to himself.
He pointed a finger at the performer so that his wife may see. "See
there? He has our names on him!"
Cynthia found the names and shuddered. "How do you think he did
that?" she asked quietly.
"Oh, I don't know. It's probably paint," he answered, but
the more he looked, the more the tattoos appeared to be faded, as if
the needle drove ink into his flesh some time ago. He could make out
other names surrounding his and his wife's. LISA COLLINS. MARK HARINGTON.
ALBERT SMITH. James looked behind him and saw that others were pointing
at Salvador and whispering something into their partner's ear. Very
few looked excited. In fact, one couple abruptly turned and left the
tent. Wondering if he should do the same, a movement from the stage
caught his attention.
With a flourish, Salvador grasped the first sword and the show began.
With practiced dexterity, he slid the blade down his throat and turned
in a circle so that every member of the audience could see. He then
pulled the sword out with a speed that made most of the crowd wince.
The routine was repeated with the other swords, all of which were longer
and wider than the last. In time he came to the final sword, which seemed
much too large to be swallowed without grievous injury. Undaunted, Salvador
held the tip of the blade just above his open mouth and released his
grip on the handle, letting the sword fall into his abdomen.
The effect was immediate. Each audience member felt a simultaneous tearing
in their throats, as if having a blade forced through tissue. No one
had time to scream. The only sounds that came from the crowd were gurgling
coughs and gagging noises. One by one they fell as their lungs filled
Salvador, with the sword still in his throat, took a slow bow. His eyes
were like obsidian.