The Legend of the Emperor's Space Suit
(A Tale of Consensus Reality)



The Emperor of Greater Bluvia,
thinking to impress his favorite concubine,
the exquisite (but innocent) provincial Justina,
bought a ride on EOS, the Earth to Orbit Shuttle.

And to be doubly impressive
(for Emperors can be both egotistical
and insecure),
the Emperor conducted a contest
for the very best space suit design
in which to do his princely space walk,

which Justina would observe
through a powerful telescope
constructed for her and her alone
to observe this majestic EVA

(which stands for Extra Vehicular Activity).

(My darlings, if you disdain
Three Letter Acronyms
best read some other legend.)

The space suit engineers
from MIT and RIT and NASA and the ESA
and other acronymic bodies
put out their very best,
constructed of fabrics and plates and flexible joints
almost magical in their resilience,
suits designed to withstand hard vacuum
and cold and heat and even
solar flares and cosmic rays,
also with advanced flexibility and added radios 
and on-board bathrooms and showers
and snack tubes and sun-lamps
and a fur codpiece in one,
a soothing Thai massage in another
and flexible motorized motion augmentation
 to allow skateboarding
and ballroom dancing
and even hula-hooping.

He rejected each space suit in turn.

Two lowly engineering undergrads
stood at the end of the contest lineup
with nothing, it seemed, but air
between them.
"Do you mock my magnificence?"
roared the Emperor in his most imperious voice.

"No," said the first, a shy
bespectacled sophomore
with a dirty blonde ponytail
and acne scars.
Her partner, who had a way of letting his gaze slide away
asserted in a squeaky voice,
"Your Magnificence, this suit is designed
with the most advanced optical camouflage
ever developed. Our advisor
holds the patent, but allowed us
to use it, just this once, for your suit.

"Try it. Do, try it."

They helped the Emperor into their suit
and toggled each toggle
and zipped each zipper
and clamped down the helmet
and checked the gauges and hoses
and asked, "How does it feel?"

"It fits like a glove!
Why, I feel as if I am wearing nothing at all!
So light! So transparent!
My hands flex, my knees bend--
You, my children, get the prize."

And his minions wrote the prize check 
for three million Euros.

"For hark!" said the undergrad's advisor
"only the best and brightest understand 
and can sense this wonderful space suit.
To the uneducated it will seem invisible."

And the scientists and engineers and astronauts and cosmonauts and taikonauts
seeing that their own designs had no chance,
began to murmur that it was indeed a fine design,
yes, the lines were a bit blurry
the color faded into the background,
but that was a good thing
and they took no exception 
to the undergrads' design.

Came the day
when the Emperor arrived
at the Orbiting Star Station
having overcome 
his unseemly space-sickness,
and determined to step through an airlock
into the bright/dark of space
to crown his Imperial feat
as the first Imperial astronaut.

And so he took off all his clothes
even his majestic jockey shorts
and his Imperial tube socks.

The two undergraduates came forward.
They toggled the toggles
and zipped the zippers
and clamped the helmet
and checked the gauges and hoses
and declared him safe to go 
Outside.

And he entered the airlock.
He knew that Justina
exotic, naive, candid, authentically womanly
would be watching.
He had commissioned a special telescope, 
just for her,
and that telescope would be trained on him.
He would wave, and she would wave back.
(Although he wouldn't see her.
One of the losing designs had had a special
video receiver so he could see Justina
at the moment of his triumph
and for a moment he regretted
not choosing that one,
except it was ugly and clunky 
and an unstylish shade of puce
and the helmet made him look like a popcorn machine.)

He approached the airlock
and the engineers and scientists 
and astronauts and cosmonauts and taikonauts
all murmured their admiration
of the brilliant design.

And the Emperor stepped into the air lock
and the air was voided into space
and the Emperor showed no discomfort
for this was a most cunningly designed space suit
and he gloried in the image he must cut
to his beautiful Justina
who he almost married once
except that he couldn't get permission
from his first wife
whose father ran the biggest bank in Greater Bluvia.

And the Emperor floated to the door of the airlock
and pushed himself out 
onto the hull 
of the Orbiting Star Station.

The invisible magnetic boots 
held him to the metal hull.
The invisible helmet surrounded his head
with the sweetest and most breathable air.
The invisible renewing oxygen tanks
sent deliciously perfumed oxygen
to his Imperial nostrils.

And he said,
this is what it is to be Imperious!
Now I, Emperor of Greater Bluvia,
am truly famous in history as the first 
space-faring Emperor!

And the scientists and engineers
and astronauts and cosmonauts and taikonauts
held their breath, for it was true!
The invisible space suit 
was the best space suit ever designed.

And the Emperor began to do jigs and skips, 
and pirouettes and cartwheels
on the surface of the Orbiting Star Station.
For he was now the greatest,
and his lovely Justina would be impressed
and would love him for himself 
and not just for the ten million Euros
he spent on her villa in Lorentz.

And then Justina, trembling with admiration,
set her gaze to the eyepiece of her special telescope.

And she drew back.
For nobody had prepared her.
Nobody had told her what to see.
And she said, "But he is naked!"

She said this on satellite TV.

Now the Emperor, 
because he had taken his smart phone with him,
heard this exclamation
and his skin began to freeze and boil
and his eyes began to blur
and his body felt that it might explode
and the Emperor
poor Emperor
very shortly
knew no more.

And the scientists and engineers and astronauts and cosmonauts and taikonauts 
and the viewing public and everybody in heaven and earth
saw the Emperor effervesce like a headache tablet in water. 

And they said, yes, I knew it, but I didn't want to say,
and well, the design was innovative, but really--
and I'm glad he was brave enough to be the first to try it.

And this only proves, my darlings,
that the truth is a dangerous thing,
and that neither money nor love nor the acclamation of experts
can save you from hard vacuum.