by Fred H Schuetz

Some time ago, during one of those blind nights between the years, searching in a place you cannot know for reasons you don't want to know, almost missing it hidden as it was beneath a heap of junk like some pocket watch without hands that weighed it down and an inch-thick layer of powdery dust, I discovered an old musty manuscript. It was extremely difficult to decipher - the ink faded to a pale purple and in some places washed off the crumpling paper as if hot tears had fallen on it; thus "-affiter" was all I could make of its author's name - and so, since ancient Greek is not precisely my forte, I hope you won't mind if I paraphrase the legible parts:


First you must determine the size and shape of your spacecraft for that decides the amount of material and labor you will expend, and also because you must abide by the laws of aerodynamics since at least part of your flight will take you through atmosphere. Best make some drawings to be sure of your computations before you set out to work.

Collect a bunch of wire clotheshangers, straighten them, and then tie them together in a loose framework. The frame is not really needed but it will help you to visualize your construct and eventually make necessary adjustments. It will also make work easier mounting the shell of your craft. Get together as many tincans as you can find, cut them open and hammer them into flat sheets. Never mind they are soiled and badsmelling - just beat the material until it is smooth and shiny. The harder and longer you bang away the better because the hammer's impacts will realign the magnetic flux within the sheets.

For mounting, set the sheets edge to edge and join them with a good solder. Work carefully to make the shell absolutely gastight - just a tiny leak and your ship would blow apart when least expected, leaving you stranded in free fall. Also, you must not allow the sheets to overlap, nor should you glue them together with quicksetting cement for this would interrupt the flow of the current with the result that the ship would never get off the ground. So, if you do not know how to solder you must enlist the aid of a friend who can do it for you.

Continue working until the shell is complete. You may give it a paint job if you like, just to improve its appearance, but that is not really necessary. What you must do, though, is coat its entire external surface well with icinglass, again to ensure airtightness. You will have determined the location of the hatch and its size. Bevel its edge slightly outward and the rim of the cover inward, for it must be inserted from the inside. This way, air pressure will jam the cover against the hatch's edge. You must work extremely carefully to fit the cover neatly in place.

Now turn your attention to the ship's interior. You may put in some flooring for extra sturdiness, but make sure not to use any insulating material for an unimpeded circulation of electric current between your body and the ship's shell must prevail. For the same reason you may not wear rubber-soled shoes. Don't be afraid of the electricity as the shell will function as a Faraday cage, which means that not even the strongest current will harm you while you are within the ship.

You could face the inside of the ship with some material appealing to you to cover up the lattice framework if you like, but again, this is not necessary. In fact, you can turn it to good use by fastening your operating equipment to it so the latter won't come off the floor and float around the ship's interior once you are in free fall.

You need a battery to generate power. To that effect line up a number of empty bottles - your body weight will determine the number required - which you must fill with white vinegar diluted with an acid fruit juice (try orange juice.) Then cap them with the glass bases of burned out light bulbs. Seal the bases in place with icinglass, but before you do that you must place a stack of coins wrapped in tinfoil - alternate dimes and pennies - within each bottle. Connect the stacks to the lamp bases with the thinnest copper wire available. Fasten the wires with solder in such a manner that one strand will connect the coins to one contact point of the lamp base and another the second point to the tinfoil wrapping. Form a looped connection by fixing additional wire to the protruding ends of the lamp bases and stringing it from bottle to bottle. Use more wire to connect your battery to the ship's shell. Now you can take care of the ship's interior lighting. You will want a rather dim light the better to see what is outside, so a bicycle light mounted to any surface will do fine.

For the ship's drive you need an old LP record. Hunt up one of those outdated, now almost inavailable, shellac records even though that will shoot your expenses to way beyond the amount of $ 14.95 assessed in the manuscript. Just how far I could not begin to guess. But no matter: without it your ship won't fly. Mount the record to the forward end of your ship in such a way that it can spin freely. To make it spin it must be mounted on the axle of a motor. You will probably not want to vandalize your record player, so best obtain one of those used in electrical toys. Connect the motor to the battery and check if it works satisfactorily. The record must attain a speed of at least 3,000 RPM. If it does not revolve at the stipulated speed it is not hooked up correctly, or the proportion of the vinegar to juice is not right and you must correct it, if necessary by substituting lemon juice for the orange juice.

Fashion a frame resembling a picture frame, but deep enough for mounting a bathroom mirror with a sheet of plate glass spaced two inches behind it. Make the assembly absolutely gastight by sealing the joints with icinglass, then mount it to the ship's wall in such a way that it remains between you and the ship's drive, approximately a foot and a half in front of the latter. This construction will be your viewscreen, but to make it work you must fix a solid glass rod to its rear whose tip almost but not quite touches the record. For steering you will need a cue stick consisting simply of a glass tube with a diameter of one inch, also approximetely one and a half foot long. Make it gastight by sealing coins to its ends with icinglass. One coin must be copper, the other tin. Your body's electrical polarity will determine which end you should hold in your hand. Touch the screen with one hand while pointing the cue stick with the other. The ship will always travel in the direction you point and the screen will show that section of space beyond its shell.

The manuscript vaguely mentions a "mapping equipment" for navigation, inferring though not outrightly specifying such outmoded instruments as sextant, caliper and compass. Evidently it was written long before the era of electronics. Since the ship operates on d.c power, I feel you are best served if you take along a laptop with cartographic software installed. If you are lucky enough to obtain self-teaching software, eventually you will be able to travel wherever you desire.

A ship such as described here cannot offer much in the way of comfort. What you can do to make it easier for you is to anchor a light deck chair to the flooring where you may sit down at least. You must, however, make sure to maintain firm body contact with the ship's shell at all times. Remains the gas that must be trapped inside both the glass tube and the screen, for without it the ship cannot function and all your work would be in vain. The problem is, however, that I find myself unable to render its name in English. So, for what it's worth I'll reflect the original Greek term with modern letters here:

The word is Enteronaielos.

Copywrite by Fred H Schuetz, 2005