Filling the Void

Jumping the gun a little on Halloween, memories of strange stories shared with old friends inspire this week’s Star Chamber.

Why is it so much fun to exchange stories of the bizarre and unexplained? Why is there an almost cultic appeal of UFO and X-File mysteries in our current age? The answer, we suspect, is not so much in our stars as in our noggins. But that, it turns out, is good enough to terrify.

In the dark, a good imagination can be a bad companion.

Continue reading “Filling the Void”

Losing Over Marbles

by Bill York

May 3rd: This morning I was a bit overwhelmed by the sounds from the bird nest outside my window. I bought a bag of marbles and a slingshot. It seems that I’m not meant to be a sharp shooter as I did not hit a single bird with the marbles. I gave up trying to scare them off and collected the marbles in a glass jar which now sits outside my window. The evening sun which shines through the jar is quite nice.

May 9th: After a few days with little to no birds around, they are back in force and have taken a liking to the marbles. The sparkling marbles have the strongest effect. There were so many birds around the marbles jar this afternoon, I couldn’t get close enough to it to get rid of them. No problem. The squirrels are now intimidated by the birds and stay a safe distance away.

May 21st: More birds than ever now; the neighbors are starting to talk. This afternoon I put the marbles jar in the back seat and drove across town. The birds followed. They seemed to call other birds to join. By the time I reached my destination, the sky was black around my car. I’m not sure whether to be happy or sad. There was no problem with traffic, it seems that drivers around here don’t want to rush into a flock of birds.

June 7th: I bought another jar and some more marbles, that makes 5 jars. There’s one on each corner of the lot and one by the front door. I hardly ever see the sun.

June 21st: The neighbors are complaining about the quantity of bird do on their houses and have called in help from the local animal shelter. The birds don’t respond well to the attempts to make them leave and seem a bit agitated. One person from the shelter was scared off by the birds today. He had never seen so many wild birds in one place. It’s good that nobody got hurt, as the birds can be quite temperamental when disturbed.

July 4th: As I was watching the fireworks tonight I started chewing some gum on the back porch. First one bird flew up to me and landed on my shoulder, then another, then another. Within twenty minutes, I was surrounded by these birds. I’m not sure if they were attracted to the smell of the gum or the chewing sounds. But they sure liked it.

July 17th: A news reporter stopped by to get an exclusive interview about the bird activity near our house. She was very attractive and must have been in her late twenties. Too bad she did not like the birds. We could use some help at feeding time. Rosie (one of the blue jays) and Paul (a black crow) took quite a shine to the her and followed her home. Perhaps I should see if she will join us for dinner some time.

July 18th: The reporter’s story from yesterday appeared in this morning’s paper. She called me the Pied Piper of birds. The phone has been ringing off the hook. I let the machine pick it up and scanned the messages throughout the day. Most of the calls were from neighbors and old friends who wanted to hear inside story. A few calls came from local newspapers too. I even got a call from the Enquirer.

July 19th: Not as many calls today but the messages were more interesting. The police called and asked if I could help train their homing pigeons – the pay sounded good but I wasn’t sure. I also got a call from CBS but I didn’t want to do any more stories.

July 23rd: Steve Davis from the FBI called today, they need 2,000 wild birds for a top secret project. So I’ll talk to Rosie and Paul to see if the birds are interested in travel. I’ve gotten very good at juggling the marbles so the birds will now follow me most anywhere. Chewing gum, walking, and juggling is a bit of a chore but in the park, we’re a big hit.

July 31st: I’m now under oath not to discuss what we are doing with the birds, but I can say this, I’m glad they are on our side!

August 23rd: After weeks of working with the birds, the project is complete. In a few days the new system will be tested. We saw Ginny, the newspaper reporter, walking in the park. Rosie and Paul still like her; they perched on her shoulders.

September 12th: The Iraqi news reported power outages throughout the capital, some problem with birds gathering around the transformers and causing them to overheat. Another article mentioned that the Iraqi air force is no longer able to keep planes out of the restricted zones, birds swarming around the radar antennas make it impossible to observe incoming aircraft.

September 19th: The front page of the Pravda reported blackout conditions of undetermined origin and that many important documents were missing from government offices.

November 2nd: Throughout the world, governments are throwing their hands up in distress. The population of birds in all the major government centers has increased to the point of suffocation. Only Washington DC has been spared the agony of infestation. Major streets have been closed, highways are nearly impassable and air traffic controllers are stuck as a result of the radar interference. International commerce has come to a halt. Doomsday preachers appear by the thousands. Animal rights activists protest the use of force to remove the birds. Social structures are crumbling under the pressures from differing factions.

November 22nd: Four men in black tuxedos arrived today to take me to dinner with the president. Over dinner we talked about the bird problems throughout the world and how he wants to recruit my help. He also talked of how some of his critics want to remove him from office and take over the world by force. The CIA has a theory that there is some militia group in charge of the whole bird invasion and would like to try a counter attack so the US can regain control and come out looking like heroes. Steve gave me a subtle nod as if to say “play along” – so I did.

December 24th: Rosie, Paul, Ginny and I are all quite happy in our new home. The Blue Hill mountains are quite beautiful in winter. I seem to have lost my marbles in the move, but the birds followed us anyway.

The Rewards of the Infinite

September so soon.

With any luck, the approach of May will be just as swift. Still, one has doubts. On the other hand, what with the apocalyptic combinations of El Niño, Global Warming, and the End of the Millenium, perhaps next frame is too distant by far. We beg you to take a moment to read about what may be the biggest environmental issue of all time

Alchemy is never far from the mind of Paracelsus, and this week is no exception.
Q: What’s the parlor game that changed the world?
A: Ask Zeno. You’re halfway there already.
Continue reading “The Rewards of the Infinite”