LXX

A smattering of indecisive chatter rings out from the bell tower one fine Winter evening, drowning out the silence normally reserved for a night of much less consequence. For you see, tonight marks the eighth installment of the emperor’s “Don’t Take Anything from My Collection of Gold-Plated Leaves” series. Subjects from across the land have been gathered at the pavilion for a briefing on the various forms of gold-plated leaves and the splendor that’s possible in this world–if they have faith in the system.

Installment nine, entitled: “Making Your Own Damn Collection” will center on inspiring the masses to develop worthwhile hobbies–worthwhile to them, at least–that will allow them to feel an affinity with their supreme and charismatic ruler.

LXIX

Bungled briefings mar the otherwise immaculate symposium on the births of movements–good and bad–that shape the fabric of humanity, whether we like it or not. The keynote speakers are all on point, but they suffer from the lack of proper introductions, each one needing to compensate for the audience’s initial waning interest. Some choose to spout florid rhetoric to achieve a more instant rapport, those people persons who view human connection as the pinnacle of existence. The others would rather not be bothered to amend their speeches, and dive headfirst into the material. The emcee was chosen by lottery, the first–and likely only–time that such a choice will be left to the gods.

LXVIII

When faced with an eternity of waiting in line at the grand auto parts pavilion, any sane person must conclude that a good book is a valuable commodity in the fight against boredom. Any text will provide images to limit the onslaught of entropy, detailing an almost limitless number of wonders within its pages, marked by one of many distinct voices. One faced with the proposition of reading a new book may ultimately crumble under the breadth of choices; who among us can choose between the history of debit cards and recent case studies in Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Even more difficult is the choice between Jane Eyre and a manual concerning the erroneous consumption of toothpaste. You may approach the choice by enlisting the aid of an avid reader–pick their brain and hope they have suggestions based upon what they know about you. Ultimately, you just met them in this line, and they won’t make a better choice for you than you would after sufficient exploration of a public library. It’s too bad you’re stuck waiting here, and all you have in your clutches is a trifold pamphlet describing the acquisition and treatment of genital warts.

LXVI

The orange contraband is burning holes in our collective pockets; we’ll need to stop our traveling and find inconspicuous places to drop it all. A hospital, chiropractor’s office, traveling circus or really any other healthcare establishment would cover our asses sufficiently. Once free of the encumbrance, we’ll need to choose where to go next for the good of the outfit. Of course, splitting up will be necessary, likely into seven or eight groups. Going down our separate routes, we should think about formulating our distinct fight songs and coats of arms–at least working ideas of them–so we may stave off insanity on our long journeys and be prepared for a quick upstart upon our arrivals. We may seem uninvited to these new places, so we must remind ourselves that familiarity breeds contempt, pledging to never get too comfortable, even though many of us will likely spend the remainders of our lives in these environments. Sleep with one eye open–both, if possible. You should already have received a dossier informing you of this and several other urgent matters critical to your survival. Heed these words and always remember your place among the all-time leaders and inspirations for change–and sometimes jubilant dancing, if the mood strikes.

LXV

A light bulb on one of our 50-foot ceilings burnt out, and only 40-foot ladders are readily available. Why we didn’t invest in a 50-foot ladder from the start still eludes me, but you know how things can end up going. We’re going to have to make a special order; I wouldn’t be surprised to see it taking at least a week to get here, since it’s a custom job. We’re actually ordering a 51-foot ladder, so it won’t be too much of a stretch to get up there. That extra foot will be very valuable indeed, which is why it will take so long to construct. They’ll have to make a new template that’s a foot longer, costing us an extra 40% over the MSRP. But it will all be absolutely worth it. In the meantime, we’ll have to rely solely on the 38 other bulbs up there to light our exhibit on the folly of string cheese.

LXIV

The lights are switching on and off at an astonishing rate, giving the more sensitive among us a difficult time of it, sending them running and tumbling in all directions. Some don’t have the off switch it takes to stop flailing after sufficient exposure to such an infernal stimulus, and meet their untimely deaths. Right before passing, they enter a trance where they see every color imaginable, forming a pattern that’s tiled with images of themselves throughout their lives. Most of them are nostalgic, though some present challenges to keep them busy, were they to continue on with their lives, allowing them to feel a bit less urgent before their final moment eclipses them.