One-Hundred-and-Sixty Toilet Rolls by Nigel Roth


A few days ago, the outcome of the 2020 US Election was decided.

Winning both the popular vote and the electoral college, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr became the forty-sixth President of the United States of America, or the forty-seventh if we count John Hancock who first held the title.

When the announcement was finally made and we all gave that palpable sigh of relief, even knowing that the tumultuous transition from rabid Republican monster to sense and sensibility will be as tortuous as the crazy incumbent can possibly make it, and despite our tears of joy, I think we all knew we were experiencing one of the strangest days in history.

However, we at least have the ability to cope with strange, after four years of dealing with fallacious rhetoric and bizarre decisions, and we have a process in place that will frame our response to this new madness, however long that takes.

But give a thought, if you will, to the ordinary people of Nuremberg, who awoke on April 14th, 1561, not to a simpleton regime clinging to ethereal notions of fraud like a barnacle to the Titanic, but to a supernatural battle, happening right above their heads, in the dawn sky.

While an angry orange face is now part of our everyday awareness and can be instantly dismissed as human-made, in the middle of the sixteenth century, a burning blood-red-orange sun-face, splitting into two and forming crescents of light, was far less understandable.

And, like the ongoing lunacy that has become the aftermath of the most secure election in American history, it was terrifying because it was completely unprecedented.

While our weird reality continues with the abject rejection of the democratic process by the losing side, the medieval celestial phenomenon evolved quickly, and even more strangely. As pundits lined up to look aghast at the 2020 election fiasco, Nurembergers lined up to watch the sun spawn balls of black matter, which seemed to gather in rows and annoy the orange face, before criss-crossing the sky in linear and curvilinear patterns, and swooping around the sun as if to tease it.

According to the many witnesses, the sky then began to conjure shapes of all sorts.

Just as the soon-departing team at the White House is throwing up the kind of legal challenges and blocks to transition that we all expected of them, people began to notice recognizable objects in the sky; lines, circles, cylinders, spheres, and “blood-red crosses, between which there were blood-red strips, becoming thicker to the rear and in the front”.

What's more, the objects began wrestling each other, as if in an aerial battle for supremacy.

While we are witnessing our own battle between good and evil, so the people of the small German city were perplexed and astonished by the fighting in the sky, which took on epic proportions as the day progressed, when “... the globes, which were first in the sun, flew out to the ones standing on both sides, thereafter, the globes standing outside the sun, in the small and large rods, flew into the sun.

Soon, a large black triangle appeared, hovering above them, and sat there immovably, like an old curmudgeon who doesn't want to leave when the party’s over, or ousted.

The triangle seems to have stayed up in the air for a while before crashing to earth with its supporting globes, which “... became fatigued to such an extent that they all … fell from the sun down upon the earth ‘as if they all burned’ and they then wasted away on the earth with immense smoke.”

I suspect if any sensible person had witnessed this on November 2 this year, they would have been in no doubt about the election result to come, although they may also have run screaming to their basements with canned tuna, bags of pasta, and, at last, those one-hundred-and-sixty toilet rolls.

Many interpretations of the events on that day have been offered over the years, just as the events of the 2020 election will be analysed in perpetuity.

Carl Gustav Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, believed that the spectacle was likely a natural phenomenon, suggesting that the objects seen were described that way because of both military and religious contextualization. Though a perfectly sensible analysis, he seems to have revisited his Calcutta delirium state by adding that "If the [objects] were living organisms, one would think of a swarm of insects rising with the sun, not to fight one another but to mate and celebrate the marriage flight."

Other more coherent experts have suggested that what happened at Nuremberg was the result of a sun dog, a celestial halo caused by the refraction of sunlight by ice crystals in the atmosphere, and others that environmental conditions caused some sort of pollution, rather like those great sunsets we enjoy, while ignoring the fact that they’re the result of pollutants eating away at our precious atmospheric zones.

Of course, many have suggested the obvious explanation, that this was an aerial battle of extraterrestrial beings, who determined that that particular day in the Bavarian city was ripe for an alien visit and a spectral fight in the dawn sky.

And, then there are those who quite sensibly explain the phenomenon as a kind of mass psychogenic illness or hysteria, possibly caused by the hardships that Nuremberg was suffering as a result of trade blockades and a lack of prosperity among its citizens, identifying that “such conditions typically accentuate apocalyptic thought”, and cause the kind of madness among people that lead them to crowd into a confined space without protection during a contagious pandemic to hail a false prophet.

At the time, contemporary interpretations were very different. The general thought was that God was sending a message, primarily about speaking of his work with such “ridicule and discard”, that he was sending those sinful residents of Nuremberg “a frightening punishment on account of [their] ungratefulness”.

This bodes well, because after the last four years, I don’t believe we’ll ever be ungrateful again, and hopefully we’ll “avert His wrath, including the well-deserved punishment,” which we’ll endure to the bitter end.

Whenever that day comes.

Picture Ludovic Charlet

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