I did it. Oh my god. 90 seconds.
Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who came down to support me, as well as, everybody who took time to tell me how they believed in me. Your love, concern, prayers and steadfast confidence was simply so very overwhelming, I am ever so thankful and appreciative. Thank you so much!!! I am so blessed.
The performance went well (thankfully… else I really wouldn’t be blogging now) but the set-up earlier in the day had some staging glitches that had to be swiftly rectified. While I was there on the grounds of Clarke Quay, eyeing the stage that I would be gracing in a few hours, several thoughts swept through my mind.
Doubt. Unease. Pricky panic.
So I asked for a few moments after everything was settled so I could get acquainted again with The Impalement Cage. Climbing on to it, I sat there in quiet meditation.
Sure, I’ve been training intensively under the spikes for a long time. But it’s a different feeling when The Impalement Cage was on the tip of 2 stages stacked on top of each other, creating an intense view from that height. It felt different and I anticipated the feeling to intensify that night, especially with the surrounding folks and the bright lights and noise.
I climbed down after a few moments after I felt ‘ready’. The next thing I knew, I was whisked away into my dressing room at The Arena to get ready for showtime. Prior to my Mega Escape, J C & I still had to make an appearance on stage at The Arena to the VIPs, media and guests who were invited for the special pre-event cocktails. Freddy, the emcee, got us out on stage and we talked about our upcoming show, Ultimate Magic (Singapore’s first permanent illusion show) and the Mega Escape to happen in just a bit.
The next thing I knew, we were ushered to start heading towards the Clarke Quay fountain and I tried to find my inner-core and focus on my breathing (which helps you to maintain a sense of peace and calm & basically not freak out), as I pulled on my protective gears around my wrists and hands. A huge crowd of thousands were already surrounding the multi-tier stage on which The Impalement Cage stood.
Adrian, the emcee of the evening, then introduced J C who went on stage to give an introduction to the masses on the various locks, shackles and chains that I’d have to escape from in 90 seconds. Somehow, under all that lights, the cage looked scarily imposing from that great height. I tried to maintain my composure as I felt the little hairs on the back of my neck stand when J C beckoned me on stage and everyone around started to cheer and clap.
Climbing up the rickety steps of the unbalanced stage, I hollered my hello as I grappled to pull out my sun-shine-est face and grin, despite the bundle of freaked out nerves that I actually was. I mean, this was legitly dangerous… it’s not a magic ‘trick’ where you have trap doors to escape from. No one here’s ever attempted anything like this before. It was all real, no gimmicks, no illusions – just a hard core 360 degree surrounded escape. It’s do or die.
I swallowed when I saw the screaming masses below, blinding white flashes from the sea of cameras and from a distance I could see a group of videographers on tripods and stands. This was your moment Ning, this is what you’ve been training so damn hard for… a voice in my head spoke when J C signaled that it was finally time for me to get into the cage. It’s now or never Ning. Get in there and do what you have to do.
The steel was cold and I winced when the chains pinched my flesh as the heavy coil was tightly wrapped around my waist and pulled before securely shackled down. I never felt more vulnerable… blindfolded so it was pitch black, I could only hear the noises around me. My hands were held high above my head and shackled to heavy German handcuffs. The neck brace on me was attached to a long chain at the front of The Impalement Cage, the troublesome combination lock swinging behind my neck. It’s the one that’s given me the most problems and there were a couple of times in training, I actually failed to release myself because of it.
The chains around my waist were unpleasantly cutting into my skin and shifting around didn’t help, it just made it worse because it was so tight – it was so snug, there’s really no space to even wedge a finger in. Last but not least, my legs were shackled together and that’s when the blindfold bag was thrown over my head, blocking out all light and I was gingerly given the singular paper clip that I’d have to use to lock pick my way out of my confines.
My heart was thumping so fast, I could feel it doing rapid flip flops in my throat practically. What the heck was I doing man!!! But it was not the time for doubts or panic. I gave a quick nod when J C asked if I was ready, after someone from the audience had made an all round inspection… and before I knew it, the countdown timer started and my hands started feeling cold and clamy. Oh god. I nearly dropped the damn paper clip.
Focus, Ning, focus!
The sensations were different from when I was training in the privacy of the Concept:Magic studio. There was so much noise and heat and… damn, where was that key hole! I fumbled in panic as I tried to locate the key hole of the left shackle that handcuffed me. Why couldn’t I find it!?
Calm down, girl. You can do it. Don’t panic.
My slippery paper clip found the spot and I managed to push it in, now swiftly unpicking the damn insides to free my left hand.
Great, now work on your right hand. Focus. Quickly.
BAM! With both hands released from the handcuffs above my head, I lurched my body forward so the swinging shackles would not hit me in the head. Throwing off the bag that blinded me from sight, I gasped at the sudden bright lights. Squeezing my eyes shut, my hands flew to work on the combination lock behind my head. I’d say it’s the toughest lock really because if one combination number is wrong in the sequence, you’ve got to start from scratch. Anyone who’s had a locker would know that.
I cursed when I screwed up and had to try again. I could hear J C hollering at me to "MOVE IT!!!" as I desperately tried to rework the combination lock, moving the dial and making sure I didn’t miss it again in my panic. My andrenaline levels were on a new high. It was only on my second try that I managed to crack the code by touch and throw off the lock and neck brace.
YES!!! You’re half way there girl… c’mon, c’mon…
J C hollered that I had only 20 seconds left when I started to work on the lock on my side, which held the chains around my waist in place. The paper clip felt so slippery (and my hands were trembling!) and it was tricky because I couldn’t grip the metal wire too tight. Dammit. The pins inside that 2nd last lock was jammed and I frantically tried to jag the paper clip inside the keyhole, willing it to behave itself and open up quickly, as women in the audience started screaming. It was taking a bit longer than I was used to and I felt an icy cold blush come over as my nerves froze.
Almost there. Come on girl! Don’t give up now. Work it!!!
I felt it finally click in place and with a huge sigh of relief, I tossed down the lock which must have been acting funny because of the humidity and outside air, which was different in our studio setting. Once it was off, I threw the chains off, accidentally smacking my left hand hard against the heavy shackles swinging above my head in my frenzied flurry. That’s when I started bleeding from the hard impact but I really didn’t feel a thing. Because…
The last lock! Now!!!! Focus!!! Do it!!!
Dammit. 10 seconds. I could hear panic in J C’s voice as he boomed for me to "MOVE! MOVE! MOVE!" and once the final lock snapped open, I freed my legs and swiveled as fast as I could to grab the chains hanging from above to quickly pull myself up and out of the Impalement Cage. I’d just gotten my entire body out when the timer went off at the zero mark and the spikes came crashing down loudly, with an impact that actually made me deaf for a while. Pyrotechnics went off, sending my view into a haze of smoke and hot golden shower works before everything cleared up.
God. That was so frikking close. Was it just a split second? I actually felt the "whoooosh" before it slammed down!
The next thing that happened as I struggled to compose myself… because this 25 year old girl is still very much human and made of imperfect emotions… was that I had to calm down my frazzled nerves and step back into the device that could have killed me to wave to everyone that Magic Babe did it and she’s a-OKAY! I felt weak, my knees were trembling and gosh… there was just so many people staring back at me. The flashes from cameras seem to go on forever and I could hear people screaming my name. I wasn’t sure but I attempted a feeble wave, my body still shaking. Damn, that was just so darn close…
I must have been dazzled by the moment and only snapped back to reality when J C gently prompted me to climb carefully out of the cage, helping me to the front because my legs were still wobbly and weak. Gosh. I think I took a bit to compose myself from all that excitement. It wouldn’t have been very glamorous ending my career and life in front of the 5,000 people watching. Heh! My parents were there too!
After I said my THANK YOUs, I’d barely made it down the long flight of rickety stairs when the Queenies screamed my name and came running to me with bouquets of gorgeous flowers. They looked so proud and happy, I felt like crying and telling them how much I loved them. I managed a hug before I was whisked away for several media interviews, vodcasts, photos and more. It was such a whirl, I vaguely remembered familiar faces smiling at me and hugging them before I was pulled away.
Thank you so much, everyone who came down to support me & those who have taken time to send me well-wishes and congrats. Apologies if I did not respond to you because I was really in the zone… not something I expect everyone to understand but I just don’t want any misconceptions that I’m in any way snooty or aloof *rueful grin*
Anyways, for those who missed South East Asia’s first mega escape: The Impalement Cage, check it out on YouTube. Someone’s posted it and it really amazes me how close it was.
Tonight, yours truly AKA Singapore’s only professional female magician and escape artist truly cheated death… By a split second.