from Portal Collective

I’ve told my portal story from 2012, in which I found out my destiny to be a portal keeper. I’ve also told my story of The American Dream in 2008, when I encountered Harlan Emil Gruber’s portals for the first time. But I have another portal story from Rights Of Passage in 2011, which is perhaps the strangest of them all.


We staggered away from the Black Rock Bijou, shaken by the compelling illusion. After the warmth and familiarity of that place, the flat desert was cold, dark, and alien.

The fungal towers of the Temple of Transition floated on the horizon, and weird cultures of blinking lights dotted the expanse between here and there.

by Scott London

We began walking. Dorien, Rain Doll, my brother, and I sipped from our waning water supplies and scouted for a place to get warm.

We were clad in the dark. We were nearly transparent to the pinpoints of laser light radiating from the absurdity field. Laughter came through us more than from us. We were the punchline and the joke and the teller and the listener.

We came upon a field of embers, like the footprint of a dragon, still glowing from some burn that had crumbled hours ago. The coals shed enough light to see dimly. Dozens of people huddled around the massive radiator. It was like a rest area in an adventure game. The music from the electroluminescent boom box vehicle parked nearby set the right mood of a way station on a weird quest.

It was a gathering of cold people in the dark by a fire, a moment with a 50,000-year legacy. But we felt the sting of realism. We could really use some sweatpants, we mused, and that set us off laughing again.

We couldn’t stay by the dwindling fire forever. We moved on. It was cold again, and we regretted it, but we moved on, anyway. The Temple still hung there, seemingly no closer. We disappeared into the black gap between.

And then we saw the glow. Purple points of light swum into view ahead of us. As we drew closer, the structure materialized, a dark star sitting on the playa, its points glowing softly. There were stairs leading up into its center.

by Mr. Science

We climbed in, and it enveloped us like a womb. The whole structure hummed and throbbed and rocked us gently. “Oh yes,” I whispered. “Yeah.”

We curled up on the floor. I sank immediately into a trance. I would stay here for a thousand years, I thought to myself. Or at least until the sun comes up.

When I heard strange voices outside so soon after we arrived, I was angry. I wanted them gone. They were going to violate the beautiful space we’d found. I prepared myself to lose this great feeling I had only just gotten. But, to my relief, the newcomers climbed up, and they were respectful and quiet once they saw us. One of them began handing us Tarot cards. Mine was the 7 of Cups, a card about having many choices to make.

As I considered what to do, whether to sit up all the way or stay curled up on the floor, red light flooded into the portal. I startled and sat up, and I could not believe what I saw.

An astronaut in a silver suit peered into the portal, his helmet illuminated with red light. “Can I come up?” he asked, and others said yes. So he did. Another astronaut followed him in.

They took out a deck of cards, and they began to perform illusions. Seven or so cold, human voyagers were treated to a show by two astronaut magicians aboard a humming, purple star floating above a vast desert in the middle of the night.

Between tricks, the Tarot reader asked one of the magicians to pull a card. He drew The Magician, of course.

One of the others who climbed in after us volunteered to do a trick. “Have you seen The Four Robbers?” he asked the astronauts. They all laughed knowingly, sharing initiate knowledge. This dark star was full of magicians! He launched into a long story about highway robbery, and the four jacks all appeared in atop the deck at the end.

by Scott London

When the show was over, the astronauts prepared to leave. We had our encore, and it was time for the enchantments to wear off.

“What’s the worst part about being a magician?” Rain Doll asked before they left.

The first astronaut sighed, ready with the answer: “Knowing the tricks.”

About the author: Jon Mitchell

Jon Mitchell

, a.k.a. Argus, was publisher of the Burning Man Journal, the Jackrabbit Speaks newsletter, and the Burning Man website from 2016 to 2019. He joined the Comm Team as a volunteer in 2010 and as year-round staff in 2014. He co-wrote a big story about spending 24 hours at the Temple of Juno in 2012. His first Burn was in 2008.

3 Comments on “Astronauts