Image by Rosa SeeyahOnce again, I thank Australian author Boris Glikman for sharing this epic short, quirky, science fiction story with my readers!
I recall that day starting off ordinarily enough; there I was playing in the open field not that far from home, the sky azure with hardly a cloud blighting its face.
I was alone as usual, for my mother didn’t let me play with the other kids. I never really wanted to play with them anyway. I always knew I was different, I could see things that they could not and understood matters that they had no inkling of.
This disparity between my physical and mental development did cause me problems; there was always the inner conflict between the body’s desire to be a child, carefree and frivolous, and the mind’s desire to think deep thoughts, explore complexities and subtleties of the world, create abstruse theories.
That day the body scored a victory for there I was playing in the open field…
The lay of the land is so perfectly flat I can see unencumbered all the way to the horizon.
As the day proceeds, the heavens rotate slowly on their axis. Towards mid-morning something very odd catches my eye on the eastern horizon. It is something that I have never seen in the sky before but there it is before me, arising slowly from beneath the edge of the earth.
By some process, the continent of North America has become attached to the celestial sphere at the place where land and heavens meet and is slowly getting unravelled from the crust of the Earth.
America is now being carried along by the turning of the heavens. I can clearly see its unmistakable shape and the features of the land: the whiteness of Alaska, the mighty rivers, the mountain chains, the major cities, the wheat fields, the pine forests, the Mojave Desert.
At first, while the continent is still at a shallow angle in the sky, the North American people seem to be enjoying their unique experience, smiling, laughing, some even waving to me down below.
As the heavens continue their inexorable turning and the continent slowly approaches the celestial zenith, the fun and the mirth turns to panic and despair.
At midday the continent reaches the highest point in the sky, hanging precisely upside down and the Sun is eclipsed. Some rays are still able to sneak around the frayed edges of the landmass, but the diffracted beams are of a different hue to natural sunlight and create an eerily muted illumination.
The view from down below looks like a disturbed anthill on a gigantic scale, with millions of Americ-ants scurrying frantically in random directions, trying to save their colony from some uncouth hooligan poking at it with a stick. If not for the desperate gravity of the situation, it would be almost comical to observe the way that they are trying to cope with the catastrophe that has befallen them.
The people are now in their most precarious position, desperately trying to grab anything that is firmly rooted in the ground, to blades of grass, to soil itself. Even when they completely lose all grip on land, still they attempt to find some protuberance in the fabric of the sky that they can hold onto, to give themselves just one more instant of life.
Some of the people hold hands as they fall, others are kissing and hugging, while others still are engaged in more intimate activities. I look away, not wishing to intrude upon the privacy of their last significant moments together.
As the continent remains in the apex of the sky, buildings’ foundations start to loosen, roots of plants are no longer able to cling to the soil; the once mighty rivers empty their banks in cataclysmic downpour of unprecedented proportions.
After all the signs of civilisation and life – buildings, forests, houses – disappear, the ground itself begins to give way and disintegrate. The earth slowly loses its compactness and adhesiveness, dripping down in small spurts at first and then in great lumps. Here and there, the liquid magma substratum is peeking through the locations where the entire continental crust fallen off.
As the whole continent continues to break up, a colossal downpour of bodies, concrete, trees, mud, water, cars, houses, rock, soil all mixed up together into a terrible blend, threatens to engulf the world below and destroy our lives too.
Thankfully, some clouds appear and block these scenes of suffering and chaos, but then they quickly disperse and again I am unable to look away.
But what right do I have to look, God-like, upon the numberless agonies? Who am I, a small boy, to watch scenes of suffering so terrifying that even Death itself turns its bony face away in fright?
After an interminable span of time, the continent begins to move away from the zenith. The Sun re-appears in the sky, whole and wholesome, able to shine again. For a moment it seems to me that the sky is empty and blue, with its innocence intact, just the way it appeared early this morning. But morning happened a million irreparable lives ago, in that innocent era when things like this could not be envisaged.
A fortunate few have managed to somehow survive the nearly total destruction of the landscape of North America and they are approaching the horizon and security of the ground again. Thank goodness they now will be able to land safely and be lauded as heroes.
Alas, my hopes are proven to be woefully inaccurate. For when this ill-fated continent reaches the horizon again, it collides sharply with the unyielding ground that is already there. Two continents attempt to occupy the same location at the same time and one of them has to lose out.
Northern Canada and Alaska are the first to go. Bit by bit they are torn apart as the stationary earth refuses to shift and stands firm its ground and those remaining alive, that I thought would be the lucky survivors, are crushed to dust. A horrible grinding noise is created that resounds across the span of the land, like a million fingernails scraping together across an inconceivably large blackboard.
I cannot help but rush to their aid, to try to save at least some lives. Suddenly I halt as I remember that the horizon is an illusory point in the distance that keeps receding further and further as you walk towards it and so I would never be able to reach the doomed ones.
By now, more than half the continent has been ground into fine powder as the merciless process continues without ceasing. The major metropolises of the United States, the founts of so much knowledge, art, music and creative energy are being pulverised into nothingness.
Icy pieces of Alaska intermingle with the glassy shards of New York City and with bits of tinsel of Los Angeles. Would it ever be possible to reconstruct America from these clouds of dust? Civilisations, cities, entire countries have been rebuilt from ruins before, but this is annihilation on a thoroughly unmitigated scale, from which there’s surely no coming back.
“Well, there goes the New World. ” I think wistfully. “ No longer will we have America in our lives. It is all gone in the cruelest fashion, right before my very eyes. And yet, its ashes and dust will settle all over the world, infusing every cell of the remaining planet. Forever more, it will provide fertilisation for the world to go on growing and progressing the way America once did and we will be able to say proudly that we now all have a little bit of America in our very souls.”
Many years have now passed since the day we lost America.
The world gasped, the world cried, the world mourned, and then it went on living. For a long time afterwards, all our activities down on earth seemed insignificant and frivolous by comparison with what transpired up above.
Ships were forbidden from approaching the ugly scar that lay across what was once the New World. However, that didn’t stop the morbid sightseers from making their way there to gawk at what became known as Ground Absolute Zero or taking chartered flights over what was once a mighty country, bustling with life.
Every time that I look up, I see it all again: the chaos, the panic, the destruction, America writhing in its death throes, a thousand lives being cut short with each passing minute.
In the end, however, what I have written is only a crude and clumsy depiction. Words that I have used to convey what I saw and felt that day are now impotent, bloodless beings that have lost their vital life-force together with America. And so I will speak no more, except in that most authentic and most profound language of all – absolute silence.