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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #220
Saint Vitus' Envelope
David Gunn

Sergeant Major Balthasar Babcock, senior administrative officer of the Royal Fusileers Battalion at Lorry Upon Kent, sat in his office behind a squat wooden desk that looked like an out-of-kilter Rubik's cube. In his in basket lay a rabbit ears antenna, 26 pipe cleaners tied together in the shape of a blue moon, and a single envelope. He held the envelope up to the light, trying to discern its contents. It was a standard #46 white linen envelope with a decorative frieze made from some fur-bearing animal whose pedigree escaped him. Its mucilage smelled vaguely of kapok, awakening in him unsettling memories of growing up on his mum's pillow plantation in British West Kenya. He held the envelope high overhead and let go of it. The envelope briefly flouted the ninth law of gravity and rose to the ceiling before languorously effecting a crazed figure eight descent to the floor. Balthasar picked it up, held it to his ear and listened. Very definitely, it ticked, though hesitantly, like an auto parts store time clock on Quaaludes. Gingerly, he sucked on the southeast corner of the envelope. The old kapok anamnesis was violently superseded by one of dancing. He was a young man, scarcely 20 years old, fresh out of Cyril Parkinson Academy, where he studied the famed founder's eponymous law, viz. "work expands to fill the time available for its completion." Long a staple of English economics, the axiom had gradually been embraced and adopted by government-funded institutions the world over. One in particular, the Bristol Badger Society, a hoary old fraternity of retired British hecklers with no perceivable function save its own existence, caught the attention of Balthasar, and he made the group his focus of study during second term. In the course of his research, he discovered that at one time in the insurmountable past, its members threw dance parties so notoriously excessive as to discombobulate the fundamental constants of subatomic processes. While the dances were said to be primitive and pantomimic, they were conspicuously not about crops, war, initiation, religion or courtship. Rather, they dealt with metaphysic constructs that refuted the basic nature of the space-time continuum. It was said, though never proved, that the dancers often wavered in and out of focus between two uncertain realities, sometimes vanishing for good. Balthasar had submitted two papers on the Society and was working on a third based on anecdotal information when he received the invitation. Embossed on a small, white linen card that smelled vaguely of tango, it read Your Attendance Is Requested at the 625th Annual Bristol Badger Society's Fancy Dress Ball for Social Irregulars, Tuesday the 23rd, 8pm, at Saint Vitus Seminary, Slurry Crossing, Essex. Balthasar didnít know how he got the invitation, but he was keen to go, no matter that it was already 7pm on the 23rd and he had a previous engagement with a hedgehog. He quickly canceled it, donned his burnoose, and lit out for Slurry Crossing.

He arrived at Saint Vitus a little past nine, fashionably late. The ball was already in full swing, with scores of irregular people swaying energetically to the music. Balthsar listened. In fact, there wasn't any music. And they didn't dance so much as then hopped and jerked about in the oddest imaginable paroxysms. Their motions appeared random and disjointed. He thought they were involuntary until he saw three people clustered together effecting identical movements. As they thrust their legs up over their heads in a kind of grotesque fandango, the three began to waver between substance and incorporeality. And then they vanished. Uneasily, Balthasar watched as the spastic terpsichoreans disappeared one by one from the dance floor until the entire Seminary was empty. Absent-mindedly, as if searching for some configuration of reality to hang his hat on, he touched the invitation that he still clutched in his hand to his lips.

Instantly, Balthasar awoke from his reverie. The corner of the #46 white envelope was still in his mouth, however excessive slaver brought on by the memories had gummed it nearly beyond recognition. In addition, the envelope no longer ticked, it smelled not of kapok but of his own oral digestive fluids, the frieze had been reduced to a few wisps of nondescript hair, but worst of all, he had somehow in his subliminal excitement sucked out and eaten the contents. Such was the power of his memory of the 625th annual Saint Vitus Dance.

Memory can be a powerful tool, much like an 18-inch electronic auger, or an envelope hermetically sealed with kapok, or even Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, this 220th episode, for instance, which is itself a kind of musical envelope, whose contents will now be revealed to our listening audient by Kalvos.