THE TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
It was noon and every booth was full. Nobody was in a hurry to leave the air-conditioned diner. The rise and fall of buzzing cicadas outside signaled it was the high season. Residents in the small town earned enough money during the summer months to support their families all year.
Every conversation suddenly silenced when a thundering “Thud…BOOM!” sounded in the distance. Every eye turned toward the chalk painted windows. “Thud…BOOM!” It came again. There was no smoke in the distance and there were no highways or railroads for at least fifty miles. Several men started walking quickly towards the door. “Thud…BOOM!!”
(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)
The tourists and summer had gone and the cicadas were noisily chirping. It had been a good year. They always gathered at the small diner to share the joy. Wanda Persimmon, Mayor and resident United Methodist Pastor, led the small congregation in a prayer. “We have received the gifts of the Earth and with our hard work we turned a tidy profit. For this we give thanks. Let us pray…”
The walls of the tiny diner shook and glasses full of fresh lemonade fell. Sixteen year old Molly, wide-eyed, grabbed Bill’s hand across the table. One-year-old Hermione cried in her rocking child chair. Old Mrs. Easter grabbed the sundae that was about to slide off the table. As one, the townspeople got up and peered through the cracked, chalk painted windows advertising this year’s summer discounts.
Wanda, tall, paunchy, with short grey hair, took a deep breath and opened the door. She looked up and down the street. The cicadas had stopped their singing. “Nothing that I can see. Rob, why don’t you take Sylvia with ya and walk around a bit? Check out the street aways.”
After only walking a block, Sylvia called out and pointed to what appeared to be a buckling of the street. “What’s that?”
Everyone now gathered around the odd formation in the middle of the street. Their prized cobblestones appeared to have formed a small hillock. Some boys kicked at the stones, only to see them fall away like cardboard.
“Bert, there’s no sewer or water system under there, is there?” asked Mayor Wanda.
“Ah, no. Doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said as he picked up a cardboard stone.
Seven-year-old Audrey Tucker, pointed to the sky and yelled, “Look! The sky is bending, too!” Everyone looked up. “There’s a crack!”
Even though it was still in the afternoon, there appeared to be a tear in the heavens and people could see stars appearing in a darkening sky.
Bert said, “I don’t get it. The sun is still shining and we see stars.”
The International Space Station shook as if it were a surfboard dancing on Hawaii’s Sea. Things crashed into the wall facing Earth. Spoons, wrenches, toiletries, instruments that were moments ago weightless crashed into the steel wall. The astronauts hurtled into the portside windows, forming awkward positions with each other like splayed spiders, arms and legs intertwined.
“Pardon me, Commandant,” said one of the Russian Cosmonauts. “I did not mean to…ah grab your, ah…”
They all struggled to disentangle themselves from each other and from the instruments used to measure infrared and temperature variations of the stars.
“Alright, alright. Let’s get a handle on this,” said the American Captain, Alexis Werner, as he took hold of a wrench and cast off untethered lab equipment. He looked out the window and declared, “We are still orbiting the Earth, so Earth still has force pulling us. Gravity is working. Kind of. The windows are not going up and down so the space station is not rotating and causing its own gravity. Can anyone come up with how we can suddenly have gravity up here?”
“I don’t see that we are speeding up, but obviously I can’t be sure of the data. We’ll need to check the instruments…wherever they are,” said Dimitri Georgi, Russian Cosmonaut.
“Oh My God! Do you see what I see?” yelled Captain Werner. He pointed out the porthole facing opposite Earth.
Out of the blackness of space between the Earth and Moon came a white, glowing opening. Then a rupture down the middle of the moon appeared, as if the moon itself was splitting, fracturing.
Just as suddenly, the astronauts and cosmonauts were thrown on the opposite side of the space station, along with the toiletries, spoons, and precious measuring instruments. Everyone had bruises and cuts and everyone tried to control her or his terror.
“This can’t be happening,” screamed Alvin White, scientist emeritus. “All the laws of physics… Recalculate!”
In Paris, in New York City, in Dusseldorf, in Lima, all around the globe at the same time, an aerial acrobatic extravaganza was taking place. Unidentifiable Aerial Phenomenona danced across the skies, morphing at times into colorful balloons, then cloudlike ovals, flashing the colors of the rainbow. They scurried from horizon to horizon and back again. Cloaked in magnetic substances, shielded from sound barriers, light barriers, breaking in and out of dimensions of physical and spiritual reality, if “reality” is the word for it. Newly created digital cameras, now owned by the great majority of humans, seemed to be made for just such an occurrence. Many were thinking were they here to save us or were they there to capture the moment, too?
Presidents, Premieres, Dictators, Supreme Leaders all had their cell phones out calling their military, their scientists and their mothers. The knowledge they had been depending on was flitting around and dancing in the clouds. Earth did not seem to be solid, much less could the stars in the sky be counted on to remain where they had just been.
This was more than bleached coral reefs, or 98 degree ocean water, or plastic pollution clogging the waterways, or the burning skin of the homeless, or the lives of children, or hedge fund losses. This was serious.