It was my third and last try. I focused all of my energy on the metal pan, resting on its side in a plastic dish rack with the sheet of paper behind it. Six eyes watched, more intently narrowing their attention on my face and hands, I supposed, than on the paper that should surely start to burn.
My fingers were stiff, the rigidity flowing up my wrists, my elbows, my arms, stopping at my shoulders. I forced it to continue, tightening my shoulders, chest and stomach. I could feel the veins on my neck popping out and wondered in a brief mental laugh if my eyes were bulging as well.
I knew I could do this. Why wouldn’t they believe? I had made the paper crinkle up in my first attempt. They dismissed it. In the second challenge, their idea, I made the spoon flip out of the cup. They just shook their heads. Disappointed, I guess. What were they looking for?
I willed even more energy to flow outward, through those solid pointing fingers, aimed, ten strong, at that old, black pan six feet away. A spark, a glow, and then the pan itself began to melt, golden flames shooting outward.
“See?” I grunted, still holding firm, afraid to stop. I croaked out another question, “Now do you believe me?”
The tall one shook his head and walked away. The husband and wife smiled together and took my hands. I went limp and gulped air. No one but me watched as the pan puddled, revealing the entire sheet of paper, crinkled still, but not even scorched.
“But, but, give me another chance,” I stuttered. I could not fail to win this competition. I had sold everything to come here. There was nothing for me, nothing at all beyond the door. They pulled me toward it.