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The Cult Aloft

A Ffynche History

of

Aeronautic Adventure

Part IV.  The Failure of Winged Flight in Daylight

Try though the Marlowes certainly did, a daytime winged aircraft was never successful. 

 

CoFIC’s Home-4-Bedtime machines were eventually given away to children. While a strong young man could hover a foot above the ground, and navigate with gentle leaning movements, marketing had been aimed at the wives of men regularly late home from the pub. 

 

The recipients of these expensive presents in the launch year of 1929 proved incapable of either the exertion or fine balance required for aeronautical control. Several cases of inebriated men found in ditches, tangled in wire and machinery, reached the national newspapers.

A child begs a drunken man for his machine

Experimentation with daytime rocket power was also unsuccessful. The prototype BlasterCult I, developed in early 1947, achieved extraordinary speeds and power, but never rose more than a foot off the surface.

 

The machine served some use at ground level, clearing holes in hedges, and laying guidance trails of silage-gas in an effort to control wayward compost-heap migrations.

BlasterCult I: A compost heap (foreground left) awaits the creation of a gateway in Cobbit’s Piece, by Bottom End

The ill-fated Parabolic Suction Canon, demonstrated successfully in public only once, required that the 'passenger' lay prone, head down on a sloping roof 23 feet above the ground. Arms and legs were to be held together, in an exact line with the device, itself exactly 513 yards away.

 

The suction force developed by the canon could be focused in a curvilinear vortex for objects near the ground, but when powered up to tackle the weight of even a slender human, tended also to suck in less dense material from a much greater range and at very high speeds.

Early experiments with quadrupedal domestic animals generated a much higher flight path, but the creatures could not maintain a correct flight attitude. Each had to carry a parachute in case they strayed out of the parabolic tunnel.

 

The problem was not discovered until the Marlowes had equipped trained pigeons with cameras, capable of capturing in-flight postural control.

In a famous photograph from 1947, the Marlowes’ pet cat Fluffy was found incapable of maintaining a disciplined aerodynamic posture, and there were complaints from the public about the pressures imposed by her training regime.

In response to the outcry, the Marlowes bowed to popular demand, and determined that henceforth, experiments should only be carried out on humans.

Cult devotees Tommy and Mrs Spatchcock volunteered their 16-year-old daughter Betty for the canon’s ultimate test. She was successfully pulled off the cowshed roof in Parsons Paddock, and maintained perfect posture on re-entry on the other side of the village before a small crowd.

Splayed hind legs sent Fluffy off course

The machine also successfully slowed her landing with its complex spring mechanisms. But as photographs taken by pigeons clearly illustrate, the canon was also sucking in part of a cumulus cloud formation.

The Parabolic Suction Canon: note the cumulo-nimbus intrusion

Betty vowed never to repeat the experiment, and returned to her chiropractic studies. No other families were prepared to volunteer their children. The project inspired a brief fad for copycat 'parabolic canon propulsion' systems, in which humans were actually flung out of launch tubes rather than being sucked into them. 'Nothing but a cheap trick', the Marlowes told reporters for The Morning Horn’s technical supplement of 1950. 

 

A more promising breakthrough was achieved in the mid 1950s, described by the inventors as 'cosmic worping'. But once again, it was too dangerous for regular use. The Marlowe discovery was theoretically profound however, and required a temporary inversion of the space-time continuum.

 

Merlin and his son Silas surmised that if they could not ascend the heavens during daylight hours, then, as the doomed canon’s cloud-suction had hinted, perhaps there was a method of bringing the sky closer to earth.

 

The older Marlowe had longed to view the clouds from above, and in his old age, forced Silas to read Einstein from the standpoint of Cult lore.

Silas was already straying into the territory of the new physics. He had started construction of the first of his orgone accelerators and lasers, and was working on large-scale sonic oscillators -- intended originally for city-wide broadcasting of early minimalist music composed by 'hep' communities in the San Francisco docklands.

Silas travelled to California to demonstrate his Mk4 orgone accelerator to Cassidy and Kerouac

The intention of the beatniks had been to encourage citizens to 'get with the scene'. But early tests suggested that only small children were affected. (The full effects were later revealed in the flower-power period of the late 1960s, and the regional pursuit of Maslovian self-actualisation by that new generation.)

But by combining his new orgone lasers with the sonic oscillation, and by directing their beams vertically upwards, Silas calculated, the cloud layer should contract and shrink, bringing it closer to the ground.

Sonic Oscillator in Golden Gate Park 1955

The results were spectacular, and old Merlin was to achieve his lifelong wish. On an especially cloudy day in January 1953, a small group of Cult members assembled at the summit of Hawkins Hill with a set of step-ladders.

 

Silas had assembled a stack of charged tractor batteries adequate for a 30-second trial of the system. His sonic oscillator then broadcasted a repeated phrase from a Gregorian chant at quarter-speed, a recording later released on the Marlowephone label that later inspired the New York Hypnotic School.

 

After several additional pulses from the orgone lasers, the cloud-layer contracted, becoming an extremely dense vortex around a small central hole through which a shaft of sunlight penetrated.

Merlin scrambled up the step-ladder, put his head through the gap, and let out a cry of joy. Unfortunately he dropped his camera in the excitement, so we only have a picture from beneath the cloud layer, taken by the quick-witted Wulfran Netherworp.

The old man described a vast amphitheatre of dazzling cloud-tops around him.

 

'It was like a huge bowl of white porridge spinning around me,' he reported after the batteries expired and the clouds sprang back into place.

Merlin looks out above the clouds

The effect appears to have extended for a radius of 20 miles, and might have been more widely remarked upon were it not for the generally low character of the area, and the regional habit of looking mostly on the floor, for things of interest.

 

A handful of shepherds on high ground near Great Chesterford, who claimed they had briefly 'paddled in clouds', had become the laughing-stock of the village. Their reputations were partially restored when Silas visited, looking for witnesses, blaming 'unusual meteorological conditions for the time of year'.

 

Silas concluded that his system may have come close to a full quantum anti-matter inversion event, a potential risk to the sentient abilities of his much-loved heap cultures. He should continue no further.

 

Nevertheless, he had fulfilled his father’s greatest wish, and that would have to count as success enough --  until Cult science advanced far enough to temper the power of orgonic oscillation.

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