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  • The first streak of fire I noticed looked like an impossible firework, a man sized spiral of brilliant beams followed by a return to still night. It was beautiful, perhaps a few hundred yards away, and completely mysterious. I started in that direction.

    Walking through the desert in the darkness towards a void where, moments ago, there had just been a supernova, felt magical.

    It took a while to find the source, because it kept moving. I was chasing after fleeting portals, coming closer with each flare but then losing them in the vast nothing into which they faded .

    Then, out of this velvet void: "Hey Rocko! You're a fine gent mate, absolutely tops. Give me a try. Light it up like you do."

    This voice sprang out of nowhere, closer than I had thought, and there they were: five people, dressed in vintage suits, monocles, monsters. Their outlines were barely lit by the stars and my dim light. They had ridiculous accents, a cowboy and a brit, not possibly real. But how to know, when they never spoke otherwise?

    Rocko was in charge, and he didn't have an accent. He had a three wheeled bike, loaded with gear, and it turns out that he was the source of the magic. Brit asked, "Here then Rocko, give it good right? Light me on up." Rocko obliged, fussing around with some sort of cord the man held, who then walked off a few yards and began to spin it around. It erupted into fire, throwing flaming shrapnel in every direction. It was gorgeous.

    Rocko explained to me that this works as follows (although it really must be seen live):
    1) Take a kitchen whisk, and tie a two foot cord to the handle.
    2) Stuff steel wool inside the whisk cage until full
    3) Rub a 9-volt battery on the wool, igniting it to a dull smolder
    4) Hold the end of the cord and spin the whisk as fast as possible, turning the smolder into a blaze

    I asked Rocko how he learned the trick.

    "Right here, four years ago. The same way you just did, brother."

    After a few more spins, he said goodbye, packed up, and biked off into the darkness.

    Photo by estoril
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