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Welcome to “Przekrój”!

In case you’re wondering where you are, and especially since you probably can’t pronounce the name of this website, here’s a little help—“Przekrój” (pronounced “p-SHEH-crooy”) is the oldest society and culture magazine in Poland, now available in English.

“Przekrój” Magazine brings English-speaking readers some of the best journalism from across Central and Eastern Europe, in the fields of wellbeing, art, literature, science, ecology, philosophy, psychology, and more. Take a break from the speed and intensity of the daily news and join us!

Inhaling helium from a party balloon might seem like a bit of light fun, but it can take you far away ...
2022-10-25 09:00:00
Read in 2 minutes

“What are you kids doing here?” I asked, frowning.

“There are some party balloons left over, so we’re inhaling helium. You want some?”

“Alright, let’s see.”

I picked up a balloon, brought it to my lips, and gulped a lungful of gas.

“Helium is less dense than air, the vocal folds vibrate faster in the gas,” said one of the kids, who looked like a smartass.

“You’re so skinny,” said another, drawling like a little hooligan. “You better not inhale too much.”

This seemed like more of a cutting remark than a piece of advice, but the next moment I realized it was advice after all. I was already a meter above the ground, and floating higher and higher. The kids, growing smaller and smaller, waved at me from below. One of them shouted in my direction, but I couldn’t hear what, because I was too high.

I took off a moment after dusk, but as I rose, the sun slid back up above the horizon. It was quiet, but a kind of buzz was building in the silence. A large drone was flying clumsily toward me, one of its propellers barely spinning. I reached out and plucked a washing line draped with several items of underwear from the blocked rotor. The rescued machine bowed to me and flew away cheerfully.

And I soared higher.

Suddenly, I caught the characteristic whiff of money. It was a rocket full of billionaires. They sped past without paying me any attention. It wouldn’t have occurred to them that I would attach the washing line draped with underwear to the rear of the fuselage.

Once again, I ascended peacefully. Until suddenly: boom! I’d hit my head on a satellite. I bounced off it, and bang! I smashed into another metal box. A dumpster, in this orbit! I was battered and bruised.

Fortunately, higher up, it was empty. At least, that’s what I thought at first. Then I heard mysterious voices all around me.

“Look!” cried the invisible creatures. “He’s full of helium! Let’s take him with us!”

“But we are the helium nuclei of the solar wind, and his helium is earthly, from the decay of heavy elements. Let’s leave him.”

And they left me.

Just after that, I landed on the moon. And I’ll tell you something: it’s the perfect place to think things over, because nobody bothers you. However, there’s not much else to do there. Soon I was pacing nervously and wondering what was next. All of a sudden, I sensed that someone had their eyes glued to me. Yes! Someone was watching me from Earth through a telescope, and I had nowhere to hide. So I sat down on a moon rock and pretended not to care. And sure enough, I didn’t care anymore. I was growing increasingly calm and indifferent, but the telescopic gaze pulled at me stubbornly, until finally, it sucked me in. In 1.3 seconds, I traveled from the moon to Earth. I fell into the greedy eye of the telescope and whizzed through the complex optical system. For some reason, instead of a photosensitive matrix, as is now the norm––or a bearded old man, as it used to be––there was a bowl of water at the end of the telescope; maybe the device had been prepared for cleaning.

So I plopped into the tub, which was actually rather refreshing. I dashed out of the observatory and, to dry myself off, I sped along the city streets, turning left, then right. It wasn’t long before I came across the group of young helium fans.

“What are you kids doing here?” I asked, frowning. And my voice was absolutely sky-high.

“Le Ballon,” E. Pichot, 1883. Source: Library of Congress/Rawpixel (public domain)
“Le Ballon,” E. Pichot, 1883. Source: Library of Congress/Rawpixel (public domain)

Translated from the Polish by Kate Webster

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