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The Essay
Show #111
The Klegmore Tokamak
David Gunn
Thirty years ago, on a frigid, blue-black morning in Klegmore, Northwest Territories, Canada, a dozen Eskimos were seated around a table in an old mining shack, their hands and arms gesticulating rapidly in the Athabaskan dialect reserved for rituals and Native American operetta. They wore ceremonial walrus bag robes and adobe hats, their whiskers were trimmed to resemble crop circles, and all clenched rubber earthworms between their teeth. Occasionally, a gesticulator would hold up three fingers, and in a single simultaneous motion, the others would remove their worms, grab a beaker of thawed limeade concentrate, take a sip, then replace the latexical annelids in their mouths. A kerosene space heater provided scant warmth to the shack, and the vapors from the exhalations of those in the group who chose to breath created billows of citrus-scented clouds which repeatedly obscured the digital activities. Brilliant blue-black light streamed in through the window, bathing the interior of the shack in an eerie, filtered luminescence that refuted the entire wave hypothesis of incandescence by a factor of two. The sky was the color of obstreperous fungi that begin to thrive on the surface of a potpie left alone in the closet for a week. A thermometer affixed to the windowpane registered a temperature too low for Celsius, but just right for safe fusion energy experiments, which in fact was the purpose of the meeting. The door opened suddenly, and a tall, gaunt figure entered. Except for the titanium jerkin he wore, he could have been a fur trader working the Arctic suburbs. He closed the door -- which, despite its rickety appearance, sealed with a satisfying hermetical hiss -- and placed his bag on the table. Eagerly the Eskimos opened it and withdrew the Tupperware equivalent of a tokamak. It consisted of a jelly doughnut-shaped vacuum chamber, 270 superconducting magnetic coils that resembled the intake manifold on a souped-up '54 Hudson Wingback, innumerable leather coils that induced reverse equilibrium in plasma currents, a blanketing material of liquid lithium arranged in six-inch strips, and a sterile plastic bag filled with dozens of deuterium and tritium isotopes. The design of the tokamak, or toroidal magnetic chamber, had been copied from a Princeton University schematic and smuggled into Bolivia, where the unit had been reproduced at a fraction of the original cost. And now, a year later, here it was, ready for reassembly by this odd collection of fogdog-dogged northernmost North Americans. If you were to ask them why they were doing it, they might respond in a flurry of hand-waving that would make as little sense as this, the 112th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, this portion of which is brought to you in spite of the Air Force's attempt to downplay this weekend's 199th anniversary of the Alien Enemies Act, a congressional rubric mirroring the country's paranoia towards paranormality of the day by defining all extraterrestrials as enemies, a decree that went unchallenged until the popular television show, Mork and Mindy, universally reversed alien ill will.

Meanwhile, back in the Klegmore mining shack, all eyes and even a few noses were riveted on the fur trader as he fitted scores of tab As into slot Bs, folded on numerous dotted lines, and made great progress until he came to an enigmatic reference to le flambeau oriange, a puzzling Bolivian paraphrase that defied translation. Oh, if only he could bump himself 30 years and 4,500 kilometers into the future and latch onto this radiophonic signal, he could surely gain important data nuggets from the implacable sonic utterances soon to come from Kalvos.

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