How István Created Skating

István’s history is a frequent tale told late in a night’s drinking. This is a version from the archives of the New Corvinus University Anthropology Department. 

There is no final version, but most use the elements in the text below. Other versions are longer and more detailed, depending on the audience and the teller’s skill.

Link to audio: TBD

Quiet now, while I talk! Stuff your mouths with your bottles – I speak of István.

This White Lake, once called Budapest, is the war’s toxic waste, boiling hot, repelling magnets, making diamonds from air. We are stuck behind an embargo, smuggling diamonds to live.  

István beachcombs for diamonds. It’s a grim life. Only so many diamonds worth smuggling. Someone always gets up earlier. 

There are unreachable diamonds: on Gellért Island, around Margitsziget where the manók dance with witches. They shine at dawn, make rainbows at sunset. Some have names: the Dandelion, the Clown, Kilimanjaro. 

One day, István slides on a puddle and falls. He thinks of skating. 

István goes to One Hour Shoes and asks old Lecso about printing magnetic skates to cross the Lake. 

About the suicide this is, Lecso says nothing. About the job, Lecso says, “I can print, but not design. Fly an aerostat. Ask Finland’s artificials.” 

István tries his aerostat each morning, and some days it crests the jamming. He spends his meager coin on design time. How long? Long enough that his wife leaves him. Who is this wife, who endures a beachcomber’s life, but now calls him crazy and stupid? No one remembers her name. 

István returns to One Hour Shoes, plans in bracelet for working skates. Lecso prints the skates, and agrees to squire István at dawn.

The Lake is misty this morning. They throw out magnets to see how long they float and tune the skates. While István slept, Lecso crafted a launch, a charged grid over carbon planks. They assemble it at the Lake’s edge. István triggers the skates. They float. He wobbles, nearly falls. His heart races. Remember your first time on the Lake? 

He skips, jumps, lands on hot wet air. He seems to stop but he gets smaller. Mist hides him. “Not dead yet!” he cries.

Lecso waits half an hour. He has telemetry, knows the sensor isn’t boiling. 

István returns, skating strongly, runs on shore, falls over, laughing. He opens his pack to show giant diamonds. He hands Lecso a fist-sized one from the top of the pile. 

“For your work,” he says. “The rest, to assay!”

The next day, there’s a small crowd, and no mist. All see him go, go farther, all the way to Gellért Island. István returns holding the Clown’s big white head. A glory, a defilement, ninety carats in that one stone. All applaud him, half chase him to the assay hoping to mug him. 

This day, lines as never before outside One Hour Shoes, to print skates. Thugs and thieves are either also in line, or too amazed to rob it. István drinks, and trysts, all day and half the night. He’s interviewed on a feed. It’s his moment. 

The third day, István finds a hundred of people with skates like his. He feels pride. He leaps, and skates, to huge cheers from the shore. Another tries, another, another. Some stay up, some don’t.

As newbies spread out, István returns. There’s a loud crack. He falls, lost forever. István’s wife, who left, has shot him. No one knows why. Maybe just for being wrong.

The crowd draws back. She stands alone on the shore. 

Now — a wail from the east, like a fury seeking vengeance. She turns around. 

The drone hits her in the sternum. Another point would have split her in two, but her ribcage’s shattering takes the impact. Her corpse folds across the drone’s cowling. The drone rises, carrying her, until it stalls, lets her fall. The Lake takes her ardently, erupting in spray and rainbows. The crowd cheers.

By nightfall, there’s identical lasered graffiti everywhere. Guns and their owners thrown in the Lake. Which is why we all carry knives now. 

Good line to end on. But –  

The next morning, a beachcomber finds a diamond like no other. A center mass with five branches, left- and right-most curling toward each other.

Not a salute, not a curse. Neither shaka nor mudra, and not OK.

István’s Hand. The one we skaters all wear. 

Now drink to István! Huzzah!