Suddenly Eris burst in on our cabal meeting, carrying a small bag. Pointedly ignoring our “Hail!”s, she strutted up to the table and emptied the bag’s contents for us to behold.
“What’s that crap?”, Daemon asked. For crap it was. A wad of plastic bags, bits of drinking straw, and unidentified flotsom lay limp before us. A chill crept up my spine as Eris pulled out a switchblade, opening it with a sharp snick and grinning like a ninny.
Pulling a couple of straws out of the pile, she fit them together and began drilling little holes along one side, each a couple of inches apart. In the center of the doublestraw, she cut out a notch, ending up with something that looked like this:
Ignoring our desperate cries for further illumination, she pulled two more straws out of the pile and did the same thing to them. Except she put the big notch on the opposite side as the holes this time.She fit the two center notches together, forming a big X with the straws. We noticed that the holes on both pieces all faced the same way and the notches meshed so the cross was completely flat when we looked at it edgewise.
Sealing the joint with a bit of tape, she held up the cross and said: “I’ve decided to give you boys a present today. You want it with mystical bullshit or without?”
“Oh, with!” We cried.
“This cross represents the aneristic illusion. It is the foundation that all of your ideas-about-reality are built on.” Rantin fumbled the cross to me. “Careful there, it’s flimsier than it looks.”
Taking the cross back, she laid it flat on the table, holes up. Pulling a package of birthday candles from the pile, she fit one candle into each of the holes.”These are like your consciousness, burning in the dark.” Each of us nodded sagely, pretending that this amounted to more than a trite cliche. From hard experience, we knew that it’s better to just play along and not to anger her. Particularly when she’s holding a knife.
Reaching into the pile, she pulled out a dry cleaning bag and attached the cross into the opening of it so that the struts held the bag open and the candles were just inside.Raver was suddenly enlightened and yelled “FUN!” He began pulling more straws from the pile, fitting them together as Eris had done.
Carefully gathering up her device, Eris walked into the back yard. She produced a tiny blowtorch and lit it. “Notice how each candle is like a little mind, flickering this way and that, producing a little heat and light. Notice also that all the candles together, even though they do not synchronize their flickers, they do not act in concert with each other, still collectively produce an impressive amount of heat and light.”
Daemon and I held the bag up, dangling it cross-end-down as Eris quickly lit all the birthday candles with the torch. It wasn’t long before the bag was bulging with hot air. We set the contraption on the ground, now standing on its own. The plastic glowed eerily in the night from the candles inside it. Then, just as it lifted off the ground, a crosswind hit it and disaster struck. Some of the candles melted the plastic bag, and the whole thing quickly collapsed.
“That’s the way of it. You never see it coming. Look, I put some of the candles too close to the edge.”
By this time, the rest of the Cabal had formed an impromptu assembly line and in short order we had five fully constructed balloons. Soon all five were flying high in close formation above the city.
They were beautiful, gliding serenely through the night. They had all caught the same current of air, and looked as if they were playing and racing with each other across the sky, moving with surprising speed. It wasn’t long before they were just points of light in the distance, almost like stars. Then, one by one, they winked out.
“Wow,” I said, “That was really cool!”
“Read the Bischoff column today.”
Our balloons had become the talk of the town. They had flown directly over the city, and people noticed them. There had been a flood of UFO reports. Witnesses breathlessly described the invasion, flying in formation, and the sudden vanishing. The airport was consulted, reporting nothing on radar. A few of the witnesses had viewed the balloons with binoculars and telescopes, but all any of them could see was a bright flickering light.
All of the eyewitness accounts were accurate. What they saw is exactly what we saw, too. But most were convinced they saw genuine flying saucers. The expert debunkers were equally implausible, dredging up the same tired old explanations of ball lightning, birds, and mass hysteria.
Suddenly, Eris’ voice crackled in my head. “Laugh at the fools, for they all saw correctly and understood nothing. They are both right and wrong. They looked upon your collective consciousness and, not knowing what they saw, made up a reality of their own devising. Laugh heartily, for this is my gift to you: a small taste of the cosmic joke.
Now you know why the Buddha laughs.”