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The Essay
Show #247
A Habsburg Redux
David Gunn

On November 22, 1740, Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI was tagging weasels in the woods near his castle in Menschenfresserstadt when he was surprised -- and flattened -- by a freak meteor shower. With his death, the male line of the imperial Habsburgs dynasty ended. That's the conventional story. Recently, however, an historical revisionist offered statistical analyses that suggests a different ending to the empirical emperor.

Last January, an English scout troop was camping at the base of Pökelnasegletscher, the famous "pickle-nose glacier" of German lieder that migrates down to the Rhine River from Mount Matratze in the Alps every 19th winter. The scouts were out of their tents working on their snow angel merit badges when another freak meteor shower suddenly pummeled the glacier, causing it to calve. A great splinter of ice the size of the Albert Hall crashed down on and obliterated the campsite. Stupefied but unharmed, all but one of the scouts scattered into the nearby woods. Clementania Habb, the token physicist of the troop, had noticed that the ice hadn't fallen straight down; rather it had effected a kind of elongated figure eight in its descent, a gravitational anomaly that was unique to an Algonquin Hole in flux. And when Clementania got close enough to smell the super-oxygenated allotropes that permeated the surrounding atmosphere, she knew intuitively that something similar had happened to her great great great great great granddad two hundred fifty-nine and a half years ago -- she glanced at her topographic map -- on this very spot!

As Clementania briefly glowed with bastard Habsburg blood pride, a widget of weasels -- that's around 25 to a ferretologist -- erupted from the brush behind her and darted towards her erstwhile camp. Not anticipating a theater-sized block of ice would block their path, they all ran lemminglike smack into it. But then, a curious thing happened. Instead of staggering around with third degree concussions, the weasels floated up into the air. As their frantic pawing for purchase initiated equally frenetic inside out and backward spins, they began also to fade in and out of focus. And then, poof!, they vanished. Clementania instantly recognized the classic Algonquin Hole characteristic. Without hesitation, she strapped on her adobe hat -- scant protection indeed from an eccentric phenomenon of the space-time continuum that was barely acknowledged, much less understood, by the scientific community, but she didn't have time to whip up a nano-nuclear buffering device -- waved good-bye to her astonished scoutmates, and leapt into the parcel of space previously occupied by the weasels. The ensuing acoustic event sounded like two opposing forces -- one, a hundred and eighteen pounds of human flesh and bones; the other, a big block of ice-cold hydrogen oxide -- colliding, and Clementania, the less immovable of the two, slumped to the ground. Deleterious cranial discombobulation was averted thanks to the adobe hat but, as she gazed dazedly skyward, she noted that she wasn't out of the woods yet. Another massive ice mass had sheared off of the glacier and was rocketing down towards her. Shocked that an elongated figure eight could move so fast but still too stunned to stir, Clementania awaited yet another ignominious end to the royal Habsburg line.

(Not yet, Clementania, not yet.) Suddenly, the ground beneath her trembled and gave way, and then she fell into the same Algonquin Hole that had disappeared Charles VI a quarter of a millennium earlier. (For, according to the revisionist historian upon whose hypothesis the bulk of this chapter is predicated, the meteorettes that peppered the ancestral Habsburgher were really extensions of a temporal fold in the space-time continuum, and as they bore down on the adobehatless monarch, they pushed him out of one cosmos and into another. The revisionary further postulated that the adjunct universe -- or universes; simultaneous existence in two or more was theoretically possible -- almost certainly occurred at a different time in the continuum. Asked to substantiate his supposition, the metaphysicist said simply, "Wwwwwwwwww!")

Time passed like fruit cocktail moves around a banquet table: mysteriously and in a heavy syrup. When the interior universe ceased spinning and the transcendental goo drained from her subconsciousness, Clementania found herself kneeling on the seat cushion of a plush velveteen chair, her face pushing into an antimacassar on the head rest. When she was confident that no large chunks of ice were poised to come crashing down on her, she turned around, doffed her adobe hat and examined her surroundings. She was in a small, murky room. The murk was coming from a window through which streamed an eerie blue-black light. Apart from the chair she was clinging to, appointments were pretty meager. The floor was linoleum lath with a lazy pimiento motif. One end of the room was dominated by a locular table of indeterminate exterior dimensions on which was perched a telephone. At the other end lurked a stairway that appeared to lead both up and in. Midway between the two ends sat a door from which there arose a plume of smoke that smelled vaguely of Anbesol.

Then the telephone rang. At first, Clementania didn't know what to do, but after it rang a persistent 29 more times, she decided to answer it. She had gotten up and was within half a stride of the multi-compartmentalized table when the door was suddenly flung open. A man in a cedar pants-suit stood gawking at her in amazement. "What the? Howíd you get in here? Who are you? Donít answer that phone!" he said in one breath. Clementania gawked back. It was a man she thoroughly recognized, though she knew him only through paintings in history books as well as the family album. "You're ... you're Charles VI, a Habsburg, arenít you?" The man paused just for a beat, long enough for the phone to stop ringing. Then he responded, "Who? No, my name's ... um, it's Kinkajoul. But who in blazes are you?"

Noticing for the first time the garland of ears around his neck, Clementania momentarily lost her focus, and she instantly began to slip out of the present time continuum. Impulsively, Kinkajoul grabbed her. "No, wait; donít go," he said, yanking her back to his version of reality. "We need to talk." As soon as she had regained temporal stability, he led her over to the velveteen chair and plopped her down in it. "All right," he said. "I have a confession to make."

And we confess that it will have to wait for another episode, for this one, the 247th of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, has already gone way over its allotted essay timeframe, and we'll have to make up the difference somewhere else, possibly by limiting the protests of incredulity which are now poised on the lips of Kalvos.