“The headband?” Adam said. “That’s not a ring, and besides, I just lost it. I can’t find it anywhere.”

“The line between fact and fiction is thinner than you think. When it comes to stories, we need to ask not ‘Is it true or false?’ but rather ‘How much of it is true?’ It is very hard to draw the line where fact ends and legend begins, but that line is somewhere. Instead of a ring, there could be a headband. Instead of something you take on and off, that something could become part of you. Like I said, you did not lose it. It is now part of you, like your arm, leg, or liver.”

“Really?” Adam said.

“Why don’t you stand in front of that mirror and will yourself into disappearing.”

Adam did as the stranger commanded. He looked into the mirror and concentrated. He saw his reflection vanish. He did not believe it.

“This is a trick,” Adam said.

“It’s no trick. Look at your hands.”

Adam looked at his hands and they were not there. He screamed and then looked again, and once again he saw his reflection and his hands.

“You panicked and lost focus,” the man told him. “I guess you were scared. Concentrate this time.”

Adam once again looked at the mirror and concentrated. He made himself invisible. He could see nothing of himself. After about five minutes, he had to relax and he reappeared once more.

Adam was stunned. This was beyond imagination. He did not know what to think about this.

“How? Why?” he asked his mentor.

“Well, how do you lift your arm? Explain the process in scientific terms.”

Adam replied, “I just lift my arm and the nerve impulses move the arm.”

“So when you make yourself invisible, the nerve impulses change the wavelengths of light that can go through your body. It looks like you just explained it.”

Adam looked at his mentor and said, “That’s not really an explanation.”

“It was no worse than yours for how you move your arm. None of us know how we do the things we do at a high level of detail. The only difference is that you can do something others cannot. However, maybe you can figure it out someday.”

Adam asked, “Could I become a king by my own hand like Gyges?”

His mentor smiled and said, “I think you could do something even greater.”

Adam looked at his mentor and said, “What will we do now?”


“Why don’t you try to disappear again?”

Adam concentrated and vanished. He asked his mentor how his clothes were invisible too. He read H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man and remarked that we could still see Griffin’s clothes even though he was invisible. His mentor told him that while Griffin was invisible, he could make himself invisible, and that was the difference.

“Look, let me show you.”

The older man threw some ketchup on Adam while standing in front of the mirror. For a moment, the ketchup revealed his location but quickly disappeared. Adam was as impressed as he was dumbfounded.

“Yuck,” Adam said as he revealed himself. His mentor gave him a clean shirt.

“In fact, if you were actually invisible as an essential condition of your existence, you would not be able to see, for light must be blocked by the retina in your eye for you to see anything.”

Adam now had more questions than he had words to express them. As if he knew what he was thinking, his mentor smiled and said, “You have more questions for me than you could ever ask, and most I could not begin to answer. You must learn on your own: about your abilities, about the world around you, about everything.”

Adam made himself disappear again.

His mentor said, “You know you can’t go home again.”

Adam once again panicked and reappeared. He did not know how he could face his parents, but he also did not know how he could get on without them. Where would he eat? Where would he sleep? What would he do? Was this all just some prank to get him in beaucoup trouble? He looked agape at his mentor.

As if the older man already know what he was thinking, he said, “You have the power of a god. You can sneak into anywhere and steal any money you need. You can always find a place to sleep in if you have enough cash. You can smash a cash register with a sledgehammer and take the money as soon as store closes and everybody leaves. If somebody suspects you of anything, you can just disappear. Just don’t tell anybody about it, okay?”

Adam said, “But that’s not right!”

His mentor replied, “That’s what Plato thought, too. He believed if man had the Ring of Gyges, he would act unjustly. Well, so what? This is the real world. What matters is power, not justice, not ‘right and wrong’ as your mother understands it. In the words of Aleister Crowley, a British guy, ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.’ I wish I had learned that when I was your age.”

“Well, where do I start?” Adam replied.

“This hotel room is paid until Tuesday. By that time, you must check out. There is $200 under the tissue box on the nightstand to get you started. If I were you, I would get out of this ghastly winter and get on a plane to a place like Southern California or Florida and make your way there; you can easily catch a cab from here. In addition, the Ice Capades are in town this week and they are staying at this hotel. Those ladies are very beautiful and I’m sure you would love to give them a look.”

Adam blushed when his mentor said this. However, he knew his mentor was right. He was worried that his mentor was an agent of Satan, but if he was, then so what, for perhaps Satan was—at least for him—the good guy. All the prayers to Jesus had never given him a gift like this. Neither his mentor nor Satan alike would have demanded that he not look at beautiful women or even admit he had a penchant for doing so (the sin of lust). The fact he had such a penchant might mean he was predestined to spend eternity in Hell no matter what he did. (A possibility often discussed in church, even though such ideas were rejected by the pastor and the majority of the laymen.) If it was Satan, not God, who had chosen him, he really had no choice, and at this point, his life was more fun and exciting than it had ever been.

Adam told his mentor, “I am afraid.”

His mentor replied, “Of course you are. Fear is almost all you know. You have made almost all of your decisions based on what was the lesser fear, such as weighing the fear of me against the fear of your mother when you got in my car. Anything you do not based in fear is what you call ‘sin.’ It is time for you to do a lot more ‘sinning.’”

Adam laughed when his mentor told him this, as if Lucifer’s light had shown him the truth.

“I am leaving now. Why don’t you watch some TV while you think about your next move?”

As his mentor was leaving, Adam turned to him and said, “Who are you really?”

His mentor looked back and said with a smile, “I am a friend who is closer than a brother,” and left.


Adam disappeared again. His powers were still with him. It wasn’t a trick. He turned on the TV, but could not follow the shows on account of his excitement. The possibilities for him were now endless. He thought about going to the mall, but he realized it was Sunday and it was closing early, so he didn’t. He decided to walk around the hotel for a while while invisible. He walked into the men’s room down the hall and looked in the mirror, and sure enough, his reflection was not there. He could not see his hands, either. He saw a man at the sink next to him; he looked at this man but he was not acknowledged. He turned on the faucet and the man jumped and said, “Shit!” He then left.

Adam left the restroom and walked down the hall. His powers really did seem real. He extended his middle finger at a man he who walked past him, but he was ignored. Then he knew it was time to do something more daring. He saw a swinging door marked “Employees Only” that led to the kitchen. He thought for a minute, waited for the door to stop swinging, and bolted through. He stood in the corner and all the people were working in the kitchen shouting orders in some shop lingo he could barely decipher. Nobody noticed him until a dishwasher bumped into him and then fell down. Adam fell down too, but he was still concentrating, so he was able to maintain his invisibility. The dishwasher yelled “Watch what you’re doing, jeez!” to a fry cook nearby. “What the fuck you talkin’ about?” the fry cook yelled back. Adam got up and resolved to be more careful. Nobody noticed him at all; the reality finally dawned on him and he smiled. He spied a chocolate pie on the corner. He moved toward it and, making sure nobody was looking, he copped it. He went back out the door and into his room and ate it. He remembered the time he bought a Snickers bar in the corner store with his allowance money. His mother would have ordered his father to beat the tar out of him if she found out. He felt a sense of gratitude that those days were behind him, accompanied by a sense of unease that those days might return.

After that, he thought he might take up his mentor’s suggestion that he go check out the skaters and maybe get a glimpse of them without their leotards, but he had no idea where they were in that hotel and he was a little tired at this point. Instead, he just walked into the ladies’ room down the hall and saw a woman putting on her makeup. He looked up her skirt and then went back to his room. He wasn’t sure why he was so tired, but then it came to him: making himself disappear required the exertion of effort. He went to sleep.


The next morning, he got up. It was already too late for school if he wanted to go. He still had his powers. This excited him. He found the cash right where his mentor promised. He decided to take a shower and brush his teeth as always. His mentor left him with some clothes. (How did this guy think of everything?) He put the cash in his pocket and closed the door, but forgot the key. Oh no! He couldn’t get back in! In anger, he kicked the door and kept doing it. A security man asked if he could help and Adam bolted. The security man took after him but he quickly disappeared. “Stupid punk,” the security man said as he walked away and said something on a walkie-talkie.

He decided to go eat breakfast in the hotel lobby, which was free per all the advertising he saw. He reappeared, got a plate, and got some eggs and bacon. He thought about what he would do next. Since he was locked out of his room, there was no point going back there; he thought about going home for a bit, but banished those thoughts from his mind. He decided to take his mentor’s advice and go to the airport. He asked a hotel employee where he could get a taxi and she pointed him to the correct place; he got in the cab and said “airport.” After he disembarked and gave the cabbie a ten, he was expecting change, but then the cabbie just drove off with a big smile on his face. Adam instinctively felt ripped off, but then felt good about it; he thought about how easy it was for money to make people happy as he walked toward the door.

The Albany airport was the biggest, most bewildering place he had ever been. He thought he might go to the information desk and ask them something, but what? Where his flight was? He had no ticket; what would he tell them? “Where is the nearest plane to L.A.?” How would that go down? No: he had to figure that out on his own. He followed the sign to “domestics.” When he got there, he looked on the big electronic signboard for flights to L.A., and he found one on Eastern Airlines two hours from now.

Then he went to the help desk and asked them about that specific Eastern Airlines flight. The woman who worked there smiled at him and pointed to the specific gate and asked him if he checked his baggage. After a second, he just said “yes.”


He then disappeared and followed the signs to the gate. Some people bumped into him and he was a bit startled, but nobody actually noticed he was there. At the other side of the gate was the entrance to the plane. He walked onto that as well. He came to a fork in the path. One ramp said “Coach” and the other said “First Class.”

Adam chose First Class.

And so it began…


For all installments of “The Ring of Gyges,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1