The Dark Balloon

A weblog by Hao Lian.
A terrible secret guarded by golems.
A note that thanks you for being born, all those years ago.


After Commutative died, the college campus closed down pending further investigation and all the students had to go back home. The parkings lots, the caf├ęs, and the libraries all closed; everything became empty except for the distant sound of police radio chatter and detectives almost-silently shuffling their quiet, detective feet.

John became an outlaw of sorts. Too drunk to remember anything, the party guests could not pinpoint John as the murderer. In fact, John became kind of a hero because he protested the police investigation the loudest for whatever reason. The party guests began to follow John around. When John went to his dormitory, so did the party guests. When John slept, the guests would blow on his eyelashes to scare away the ever growing population of tsetse flies. And when John went to the bathroom, the guests rotated the water and filled the toilet bowl with the utmost care.

His followers amassed around him until naught but a handful had ever seen him. He became a mythical being, whose visage was not as nearly as important as the idea of John. In short, people stopping believing in him and started believing in him. John didn’t know what to do; he was just as scared as the idea of an abstract self as the people were enthralled. He became a nervous, stuttering man; his small band of central followers abandoned John the Concrete entirely in the middle of the nearby forest one day.

When the Disciples—as they called themselves—ransacked his dorm, all they found were props from his short-lived stint as a member of a theater troupe. John had played a bit role in All that Glitters is Not Gold, a play written by John in which the theater troupe ironically explored alternatives to gold as a monetary backing for the new nation of American back in 1524 when Jefferson and Lincoln got together to write a Destitution of Rights. Needless to say, few were attracted by the half-hearted satirical premise, and fewer still enjoyed the historical inaccuracies. The Disciples decided to use the gold crown John wore as Village Man #9 to symbolize John.

People began following the gold crown around. Because the Disciples had not the forethought to plot the crown’s path across the country side from the campus to God knows where, they ended up in the Utah desert where they wandered for days avoiding vultures and Mormons and Mormon vultures that would land on cacti and build little, self-sustaining but creepy vulture communities. One by one, the white garments everybody had bought from nearby chic Target store caught on fire until all that remained of the group were ashes. You could see them because they would dot every mile or so as whatever straggling person would collapse from the exothermic combustion reaction between garment and air.

Meanwhile, John the Concrete strolled through the forest and enjoyed the peace for as long as he could, limited only by his scarce berry-scavenging skills. He vaguely remembered the place and chalked the imperfect memory to the dilapidated condition of the forest, which resembled the college dormitories; the forest looked as if nymphs had struck for better wages months ago and the forest management were too broke to call in for scabs. John the Concrete wrote a book about the forest hoping to attract fixer-uppers. It was called Walden, and it became instantly successful. Despite John’s best efforts, they used the forest to manufacture the pulp needed for the book including the free engraved wood carving of a bird the publisher attached to the back cover of every book as a promotional effort.

The forest disappeared eventually, and people kept on reading about a forest they thought never existed. People said it was an allegory for railroads and infrastructure or something along those lines, something as postmodern and chic as Target. They made pilgrimages to where they thought the forest was, traveling miles outside the college city and circling around the spot, hoping to find something besides the dense car smoke that choked whatever was left of the forest ecosystem.

[(2007 September 16) .]

Abandon your ideas.

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