Gravity Lane

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Research facility unleashes a man-made black hole.

Submitted: July 21, 2009

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Submitted: July 21, 2009

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Deny it if you want, but more than likely you are not content with who you are.You can lie to everyone but yourself.The cosmic cards were dealt to you in your absence, without your input.And here you stand overweight, bald, stupid, short and with a horrible complexion.Holding your own dignity hostage you begin the hopeless journey of changing yourself.Unknown to you that the pursuit of this change to satisfy your wounded ego is never-ending, as your ego will never be satisfied.People who are overweight desire to be thinner.Those who are short want to be tall.Bald people want hair.White kids want to be black.The poor desire wealth and the wealthy desire more of it.
Fortunately the opportunist is there to sell weight loss pills, hair in a can, baggy clothes and books on how to make a million dollars overnight (which ironically is accomplished by writing a book about how to make a million dollars overnight).I could go on, but my soap box would rot from beneath me before I finish.My point is that everyone is looking for something they do not have instead of treasuring what they do.
I am Anthony Mayhall, and I have spent the better part of my life trying not to be.My complaint to our cosmic dealer was not as trivial as any of my physical attributes.For me it is more a matter of common fairness and principal.For example, why should I have to spend years in college mounting tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt when a degree offers me no guarantee of employment? Should I not utilize my God given talent at forgery to manufacture a degree?Is it fair for me to endure such hardship when others are born into wealthy families who will never want for anything?
However, Karma has its subtle ways of letting you know when you stray from your life’s path.For me, this was five years federal prison for identity theft.My incarceration was Karmas way of telling me that I am Anthony Mayhall and any attempt not to be would land me in a ten-by-ten concrete room with someone much larger than me and a very loose concept of sexual orientation.
I was released about six months ago.I went in at twenty nine and came out at thirty five with a new perspective on life.Five years and change may not seem like a long time.But it is when they are the five years that normally represent the peak of a man’s life.And I’m sure I don’t have to explain the difficulty of landing steady employment when you have a felony record.See, I never went to college.At least not to be educated, didn’t need to.I had forged my masters’ degree in psychology.But it’s gotten harder to forge transcripts than it used to be.And that’s part of what put me in the position I am in.The best I could manage for honest income was a third shift janitorial gig cleaning up after scientists and graduate students at a research facility.
The building I worked in was an annexed portion of the University Of North Carolina on the other side of town from the main campus.It wasn’t large enough to accommodate separate wings of research.I gathered that it merely became home to whatever was being researched by the university that was popular enough to have funding, but not popular enough to be highlighted on school grounds.The building itself was donated by the federal government several years ago after they didn’t need it any more.
I know what you’re thinking.
You’re thinking I am going to tell you that some super secret military science shit went down in this place, but you would be wrong.One of the guards once told me that they used it to test high energy particle accelerators back in the nineties.
I have no idea what a particle accelerator is.In fact, if you asked me to identify a particle accelerator from a line-up that also included self respect, a decent paycheck and a vagina I would be lost.Because these are all things that I have either never seen, or haven’t seen in so long I forgot what they look like.That’s right, I have no social life.Big surprise for you I’m sure.I was blessed with the gift of gab and have always found it easy to woe women.But my general lack of funds coupled with the odd hours I work make opportunities rare at best.Women intuition is a real bitch for me as well.They can smell a loser from a mile away and I reek of it.
There is however a diamond hidden in the rough terrain of courtship, she goes by the name Lisa.She is nerdy, clumsy and married to her work.But she is also sweet, funny and much hotter than she thinks.
I made my way down the long hallway to the back portion of the building where Lisa works.I gave this area the most attention and it was by far the best manicured.I opened the double doors by pushing my mop and wheeled bucket through.
“Hey Tony” Lisa said as she peered at me through thin framed glasses.
“What’s up Lisa?Pulling another all-nighter?”
“Please, this is the only time I can get any work done”
“I know whatcha mean.I tried cleaning dis place durn da day.But I couldn’t get nutin done, what with all the science people asking my ‘pinion and such” I said in my best southern accent with crossed eyes and goofy smile.
Lisa suppressed a burst of laughter that escaped as a nasally giggle making her long brown bangs fall from behind her ears and over her eyes.
I understand the social complications with this.I am a convicted felon and she is a genius bikini model with a PHD in nano-something.
Lisa was tall for a woman, she came up above my nose and I am over six feet.She was thin where she needed to be, and not so where it counted.She has no idea how beautiful she is.And fortunately for me neither does anyone else because she locks herself up in this lab for the duration of normal human functioning hours.My crush on her goes beyond her looks however.She has ambition, intellect and humor.I only have two out of the three, you can figure out which is which.
I don’t really understand exactly what it is she does here.I just know that she floats in a sea of computers and odd looking robot arms sealed in glass.She punches a keyboard and stares at monitors trying to look at things that are very, very small.
It has taken me six months to get to the point I am with Lisa.Where she feels comfortable being with me present and unsupervised.She used to have one of the guards hang around during my shift.But who can blame her.When most people hear I am a felon they immediately think I am going to rob or murder them the first chance I get.It usually gets worse when what they have heard is coupled with what they see when they meet me.Without the knowledge of me being an ex-con, I am merely a thin, tallish pale-skinned guy with thick black hair (that is always carefully unkempt) and an ever present boyish grin.Add the ex-con variable to the equation and I become a skinny lumbering monster with a creepy smile. They fail to realize that my variety of crime, identity theft, is only for the spineless.What started as a friendly hello with Lisa slowly grew into late night conversations while she worked.It never seemed to distract her while we talked.As if her work was second nature to her.My shift was nine hours long but it only took me four to complete it.More and more of the remaining five hours have been spent in her lab as the months past.
“Hey I got a question for you” I said as I rolled the mop bucket across the floor.
“Shoot” she said
“I heard this place used to house particle accelerators”
“It did.Back in the nineties”
“What the hell does a particle accelerator do?”You see what I am doing here?I am baiting her to talk about something that could be lengthy.
“Well, just as the name implies….it accelerates particles”
Epic fail.
“Funny, I worked that bit out for myself.But how does it work?And to what end?”
“Taking an interest in advanced physics are we?” Lisa asked while shooting me a look over her glasses.She turns and heads toward one of the glass sealed robotic arms and starts manipulating the controls.
‘In a nut shell, an accelerator takes electrically charged particles and slams them into each other with an enormous amount of force.Researchers then study the effects of the resulting energy released from the impact, how the particles change and things like that”
“Was that like some super secret military shit at the time?’ I ask
“Not really.It was more for energy research.But some other facilities came about with better equipment and more funding, so this one got shut down”
“Does that have anything to do with your research?The particle accelerators I mean.”
“I told you before, I am a nanotech engineer.I make small things smaller” She said as she started punching away at one of the keyboards in an oh-so-cute hunt and peck fashion.
“What exactly are you making smaller”
She spun around in her chair and grinned at me.“Come here, I’ll show you.”
I leaned my mop against the wall and rolled up in the nearest wheeled chair beside her.
She smelled like lemons and lilac.
She punched a few more keys on the keyboard, manipulated a large round dial then pointed to the monitor in front of us.
“See that little guy right there?”A insect looking robotic figure consisting of an oval body with several primitive appendages slowly moved across the screen toward a somewhat smaller and slightly more complex robot.
“These are nanites. See that tiny glass plate dish in the center of the sealed glass box?The one that looks like it has a drop of green goo on it?” as she points to our right.“There are billions of these in there, a swarm if you will.That green drop is a gel that allows us to transmit chemical commands.Without it they are exposed and helpless.We are watching them through an electron microscope mounted above the dish.”
“What are they doing?”
“Well, the larger one is making a smaller and more sophisticated version of itself.And when the smaller one is complete it will make an even smaller version of itself.This cycle will continue until we hit a snag”
“What kind of snag?”
“If the cycle continues uninterrupted, then it may get so small that we cannot see it anymore, at least not with our current technology.Or it could get so small that the current nanite cannot find or produce particles small enough to make a smaller robot that functions properly”
“So how small are these little guys?”
“These two you see on the screen are about .008 nano-meters”
“Uhhh”
“A nano-meter is on-billionth of a meter” she says as she rolls her eyes jokingly.
“What your telling me is I am looking at a robot that is eight one-thousandths of one-billionth of a meter?”
“I know, exciting isn’t it?”
“Oh sure, very exciting” I say in an over convincing tone.
She laughs as she places her hand on my arm.I can’t tell if she is starting to flirt.She is such a nerd she probably has no idea what she’s doing.
“What’s the purpose of this?What can something so small accomplish?”
“Anything we tell it to.Imagine billions of these programmed correctly and injected into a living organism, a human for example, it could prevent that human from ever getting sick or even aging.The possibilities are limitless.But we are along way off from anything like that.”
“I guess that’s pretty cool.”
A monitor starts beeping on the other side of the room.She casually approaches it to investigate.
“Huh, that’s weird.” She says
“What is it?”
“There’s a disturbance in the nanites environment, some kind of air pressure fluctuation.It’s probably just a leak somewhere which means I will have to flush and sterilize the system before it causes any damage.That’s what they get for sending us used equipment.”
Another alarm screeches from the other side of the room.
“Shit!” she snaps.“I have to get back to work Tony.Maybe I can tell you more tomorrow?” she says with a raised eyebrow.
“Sure thing, looking forward to it”
About an hour later I finish up my shift.As the sun rises I make my way down the street to catch the bus that will take me to my cramped, yet dank and shitty apartment.I start thinking about my chances with Lisa.I was building up to ask her out, but I had my doubts.I truly believe that under a different set of circumstances I would have a more that good shot at dating her.We are close enough in age and even though she is stunning, I am no eye sore myself.Especially since I spent every moment I could working out while in prison.We share a sense of dry humor.She is lonely, I am horny.All of the crucial elements of a lasting relationship are there.But the fact that I am an irrefutable loser is an overwhelming variable in this equation.Listen to me, all of this science mumbo is rubbing off on me.I have noticed that the more time I spend with Lisa, the more she seems to grasp that I am not a threat.I simply got caught up in the wrong thing and have since paid the five year fine.
Maybe I do have a chance.
I made a horrible time of trying to get some sleep that night.I have historically been haunted by terrible dreams.Not nightmares in the sense of monsters and ghosts.More like dreams of anxiety and paranoia.My most regrettable and most recurring dream is one in which I am late for a job interview for a high paying and very respectable position.However I cannot seem to make it there on time.I am constantly stopped by someone in need help, or my car breaks down.Sometimes in the dream I even get stuck in a pit of tar that encumbers my movement until I finally give up and lay motionless in the sticky black pool.
Tonight’s dream was a variation on this one.Except instead of a job interview it was a date with Lisa.I had to pass through several gates, each guarded by my father.When I would approach the gate he would ask for “verification”.At some gates this verification was in the form of a college degree.At others he would ask for the title to my car.Every time I was asked for something I could not produce and was sent to a different gate.This went on endlessly.
The next evening I came into work with a spring in my step despite the bad nights rest.The possibility of spending time with Lisa made coming to work a treat.I quickly started on the front part of the facility and like Mr. Clean on a caffeine high I scrubbed and disinfected my way toward Lisa.As I entered her lab I found a more stressed, almost panicked version of the genius bikini model than I usually find.Lisa was sprinting from monitor to monitor.Punching keys and adjusting knobs before darting to another station.Alarms beckoned and red lights flashed.
“What’s going on?” I ask
“Tony, I’m sorry.But I just can’t talk right now” She said without looking up from a screen.
“Is everything okay?” I pushed
“No Tony, everything is not okay.I am about to lose 4 years of work!”
“Should I get some help?Is there someone I can call for you?”
“I have already called for help.But until they get here I am on my own”
“Look, just tell me what to do.There has to be something.”
“Remember where I showed you the nanites yesterday, the screen over there.” Her hands were occupied so she pointed with her head.“Use the round dial to move the scope around, spin it left to zoom in and right to zoom out.Find a bot, any bot and follow it.Tell me where the hell they are going.”
I dropped everything and ran to the monitor attached to the electron microscope.As I fumbled around with the dial I quickly grew accustomed to the control.I could pan and zoom using the dial alone and that was all I needed.Yesterday you couldn’t point the microscope in any direction without spotting nanites.Now there seemed to be none.I scanned the Petri dish systematically, using the “X” and “Y” graph positions that were on the screen as a point of reference.
“Talk to me Tony, what do you see!?”
“Nothing, I see nothing!Where did they all go!?”
At that moment the double doors flew open and a group of five or more scientists with a horrible case of bed-head came running into the room.
“Lisa!” The oldest one said.“I could barely understand you on the phone, what’s happened?What did you do!”
“I didn’t do anything Dr. Williams.I came in a few hours ago to do a volume assessment on the nanites and they were gone!There was a pressure disturbance last night, but I resolved it before I left.Now I cannot find a single bot on the scope manually.I am trying to get a reading from the nanites dish but there is nothing.The spawning fluid is gone, the bots, everything!Its like something is in there swallowing everything whole!”
“That’s impossible.” Dr. Williams scoffed.“The environment is contained in a vacuum nothing could get in there without us knowing.”
“Found one!” I shouted
Immediately Lisa and the others sprinted toward me.Lisa shoved me out of the chair and took command of the dial.The others barely noticed me and watched the monitor intently as I pulled myself from the floor.
A lone bot lay immobile against the bare dish, its tiny appendages twitching sadly on the glass bottom.Slowly it started to slide backwards, as if it was being pulled by an unseen force.Lisa masterfully spun the dial to zoom out and followed the bots movements with the scope.We all watched without saying a word.
The bots speed increased, moving faster and faster.Lisa zoomed out more to compensate for the speed.The bot was moving so fast at this point that the scopes panning speed could barely keep up.
Finally it stopped.Slamming against an invisible wall.
At least we thought it had.
Instead it was now moving very, very slowly.Becoming contorted and twisted into an irregular shape.
Lisa panned the scope out further hoping to find the root of this mysterious force
Finally she panned back to the bot.Slowly the little guy was becoming dimmer, and more difficult to see, as if someone was turning off the light it reflected, until finally, it disappeared completely.
“Oh my God!” Lisa gasp as she slapped her hand over her mouth and shot up from her chair.
“Dear Lord.Is that what I think it is” Dr. Williams asked to no one inparticular.
“What, what is it?” I scanned the screen not understanding what I was looking at.Dr. Williams had moved to the glassed area where the bots were and with his face and palms pressed against it, glared as hard as he could into the dish.
Lisa looked up at me.“It’s a black hole”.
“A black hole?!” I laughed.“Like in the movies?”
“Except very, very small.”
“Okay, so no biggie right?”
“Oh yeah, biggie.It’s getting larger.And unless we can remove everything from beyond its affect, it will never stop.”
“Look, the dish, everyone look at this!” said Dr. Williams shouted.
The tiny glass plate which once housed the bots and their fluid has vanished.I suspect we would have heard this happening if it would not have been sealed in a glass vacuum casing.
“It’s grown dense enough to effect large objects.The dish is gone” one of Dr. Williams entourage said.
“It’s going to continue at an exponential rate.” Lisa said in a worried tone. “Something this small is going to grow faster than we can contain it.”
“I don’t understand how this happened.Someone tell me what’s going on!”I yelled.
“There’s no time” Said Lisa.“It may already be too late.If it can affect something as large as the glass plate than it may be able to absorb any other loose particles that are within the case.
“Impossible” claimed Dr. Williams as he spun around to face us with his back to the glass casing “The environment within this case is a vacuum.There was nothing in there but the dish.No oxygen molecules, nothing.If this anomaly remains contained within this vacuum than everything will be fine.In fact, this could be the greatest scientific sample in history”
“Dr. Williams” Lisa said quietly.
“Yes”
“Behind you”
Dr. Williams spun back to face the glass as we all turned our attention to it.The glass was now flexing inward.The subtle sound of cracking could be heard.
“Everyone, get out of the building, NOW!” Dr. Williams yelled.
At once everyone shot for the door.I was the last one out.As the doubled door swayed to a shut behind me I could hear the glass giving way and shattering under the force of the tiny black hole.We all ran down the hallway toward the main entrance.
“In there anyone else in the bulding!?”I yelled up to Lisa.
“I don’t think so” she answered as she crashed through another set of double doors.“Me you and the guard are usually the only ones here this late.”
Just as Lisa said that the security guard came tearing out of his office.“What the hell’s going on!?”
A horrible noise erupted from behind us.The crunching sounds of metal, masonry and glass becoming joined at a molecular level are louder than you can imagine.
“Get the hell out of here!” Dr. Williams yelled to the guard as he motioned his hand in a swatting pattern.
The guards focus went behind us as his eyes got wide in direct proportion with his mouth.We all blew past him without stopping as he stared into the long hallway, frozen.Still last, I finally made it to the main doors.I turned around to face where the guard was, about fifty feet down the hall.For the first time I saw what we were running from and what held the guard captive.
A swirling vortex loomed beyond us.
Computers, desks, chairs, anything not bolted down was being snatched out of place and pulled toward a black nothingness.Twisted and deformed each one would swirl closer and closer, growing red with heat before disappearing.Closer toward the monster, doors were being ripped from their hinges and further still the very stone that made up the building was being pulled apart and ingested into the beasts belly.
“Doug, we have to go!Snap out of it!” I yelled to the guard.
And at that instant Doug was gone.Pulled from his feet and hurled toward the black hole by its invisible force.He was yanked from his spot so violently that the force of it alone surely killed him.I hope he didn’t suffer much.
A smooth, soft arm latched around my shoulders and chest from behind and pulled me backwards.
“What the fuck are you doing!?We have to go now!” Lisa yelled as she spun me around.
“Where Lisa, where are we going to go?You saw what happened to Doug”
“I just need some time.Some time to think.I can figure this out.”
She grabbed my hand and pulled me into a run across the street and away from the building.I could hear the structure being reduced to nothing as we ran.The streets were empty.I don’t know what time it was, but the sun wasn’t up yet.So most civilized types were still in bed.But still, I thought of the people who lived in the apartment buildings that scattered the blocks.Hopefully the noise will wake them up and they can get out in time.I didn’t see anything I could do for them.
“Where are you taking me?” I yelled
“My car, we need to make a gap, buy some time.”
She let go of my hand and reached into her lab coat pocket and produced a set of keys on a sponge bob key chain.
How cute.I love Sponge Bob.An image of us watching cartoons together on a Saturday morning as we recouped from a night of doing the monkey dance flashed in my mind.
It made me sad to think it would probably never happen.Obstructed by either by infinite loserdom or the pull an infinitely powerful black hole, I just can’t win.
Lisa captured the key for her car between her thumb and index finger.She rounded the vehicle and flung open the drivers door, inserting the key in the ignition before she was completely inside the car.
“Get in!” she yelled and the passenger door unlocked.
I jumped into the passenger seat as Lisa flung the car into gear and floored it.The tiny four cylinder hatchback screamed as the tires lost traction.Lisa flogged the poor car for all it was worth and we tore down the street and toward the highway.
I turned in my seat to look behind us.The research building was gone as well as most of the neighboring buildings.I could see people pouring onto the streets in their pajamas.Some ran to their cars parked on the streets to flee.Other froze at the sight.I didn’t want to watch any more, but I fear their fates were the same as Doug’s.
“Where are Dr. Williams and the others?”I asked as the deafening noise behind us began to fade.
“I don’t know.I turned around to get you, and when we started running for the car they were gone.I assume they just keep running”
“Thank you” I said.“You didn’t have to come back for me.”
“Don’t thank me yet.I may have only delayed the inevitable.This thing is not going to stop.I don’t know if it will be possible to contain it.It’s already too big and it’s becoming more dense at an exponential rate”
The car bottomed out as we speed up the ramp and onto the empty highway.I wondered how much time we would have before the highway was bottlenecked with people trying to escape.
Lisa fishes a cell phone out of her pocket and dials a number.
“William’s not answering” she mumbles as she begins dialing another number.
“Who are you calling?” I ask
“Dr. Turnbeaugh, he was my fathers’ best friend and a physicist at the university.He needs to know what has happened.Maybe he can help”
“Ted” she yells into the phone. “Thank God you answered, this is Lisa.I’m sorry to wake you but there has been an accident.”
Lisa begins an explanation of what had occurred, using several words that exceed my strict three syllable maximum to describe the event.As her conversation continues her mood goes from dire panic to gloomy stoicism.
“I see” she says into the phone.“You do the same.And give Renee my love” as she closes the phone and tosses it into the console.
“Well, what did he say?” I asked.
Using a shaky hand she situates her glasses on her nose.“He said if what I have told him is true, then unfortunately there is nothing that can be done but wait.He said that in a best case scenario the hole will continue become more dense and eventually consume everything.Worst case scenario is that is starts releasing massive amount of energy from its core that will eventually consume everything.”
“I’m still waiting for the part with the good news” I said.
She did not respond.
This was not good enough for me, so I pressed on.“I’m sorry, but you mean to tell me that this is it?Everything, including us, is on the verge of being sucked into a black hole that was created in your lab?And there is nothing that anybody in the entire world can do to avert this?
Her lips began to curl up and her eyes swelled as several tears began to flow down her cheeks.“Yes, that is what I’m telling you”
Normally my gift of words would shine brightly as a moment like this.A distraught woman is usually an easy fix for me.But given the news I just got hit with, you will excuse me if I do lend comforting words right now.Instead I sat in the passenger seat to organize my own emotions.
After some time I felt I needed a more detailed explanation.If this is how I am going out, I want to know as much as I can.
“So what’s your theory, how did this happen?” I asked.
It took her a moment to respond, but eventually said “I’m pretty sure I know exactly how this happened.Remember we were talking the other night about the particle accelerators the government used to test at the facility?”
“Yeah, I remember”
“Well, it’s been theorized for some time now that particle accelerators could potentially create tiny black holes, so small that they would be dwarfed by even the smallest of molecules.These would be harmless, way too small to have any affect on anything around them and never capable of absorbing anything.They would quickly just wink out of existence.”
“Okay, so obviously it didn’t just wink out.It got bigger.But how is that possible if you say that nothing is small enough to be absorbed by a black hole so tiny.”
“The bots, it has to be the bots.I think that some of the bots had evolved down a path that we didn’t follow.We wouldn’t even be able to if they had gotten that small.There must have been some that were so small they were taken into the black hole.Then the black hole got strong enough the take in larger and larger bots until it was strong enough to affect anything and everything.”
“So then this thing will just keep growing and growing?”
“It doesn’t grow Tony.It just becomes more and more dense.And the denser it becomes the greater the area and mass it can effect”
“So what can we do?” I asked
“I..I just don’t know.I cannot think of anything that is going to halt it.You can’t destroy it.You can only remove anything that it will absorb.That would have been easier if it remained in the vacuum.But it had become strong enough to pull the glass in.At that point, without any preparation for it, it was probably too late.”
“What about the government?Surely they have something or someone that can figure this out.’
“I doubt it Tony.Maybe if there was some sort of warning.But at the rate this is going.In a few hours there may be nothing left.”
“So let’s just keep driving!” I exclaimed.“We can’t be expected to save everyone.We will just keep going until we’re far enough away from it.”
“I don’t think you get it.” Lisa explained “When I say nothing left I mean nothing, no Earth, no Moon, no Mars, nothing.”
“Maybe the government will figure something out.Somebody has to know a way around this.”I said.
“Maybe.I don’t know Tony.I just don’t see how”
We drove in silence for what seemed like hours, but it could have been minutes.Time seemed as if it couldn’t make up its mind.I thought the clock on the dashboard was broke because it read 1:51am every time I looked at it.Then what seemed like moments later it read 3:15am.As the early morning hours wore past we spotted several cars, all of them heading toward the way we came.Eerily, we never saw any car lights come up from behind.For all I knew the pull of the black hole was inches from tugging us into its relentless grasp.I decided to try the radio, looking for emergency broadcasts or coverage on the anomaly.
The local Charlotte station was off the air.
I tried the Salisbury station.The first one I tried was broadcasting.It was apparent the DJ was reciting directly from a written document as his tone was flat and non-believing.We had tuned in the middle of the broadcast.
“……artment of pubic safety has issued the following warning for Mecklenburg County and the surrounding areas.As of 12:30am, Eastern Standard Time, a rare meteorological event was identified over the downtown Charlotte area.The event can produce tornado force winds as well as electrical storms.A voluntary evacuation has been issued and all major highways leading into the greater Charlotte area have been closed to inbound traffic to allow for evacuating parties.”
Another station was covering the traffic situation via helicopter.
“And here is our eye in the sky, John, with the latest traffic update.”
“Northbound I-85 as well as northbound I-77 is in absolute gridlock between thesplit all the way to the Poplar Tent exit in Concord Adam.Despite the fact NCDOT has opened all lanes of traffic for evacuees.”
“Have you been able to get a good look at the weather formation that’s behind all of this John?”
“My pilot was instructed by the FAA not to occupy any air space south or east of the 85/77 split.However, the sun is beginning to rise and we should be able to capture a glimpse of it over the horizon.I’m going to ask the pilot to swing us around and take me back to the split.”
Adam, the DJ, spent a moment reviewing the same message, verbatim, that we heard on the previous station.Until someone had silently alerted to him that John was back on the line.
“So tell me John.What can you see of the storm?”
“Uh,…Adam, I am no weatherman, but this isn’t like any storm I have ever seen.My view of the southeast part of the downtown area appears to be obscured by….”
An awkward moment passes.
“John, are you still with us.Can you describe what you see?Are storm clouds too thick to get a clear view?”
“Adam, it…it appears that…..I can’t describe this.The entire portion of the downtown area is…..it’s gone!Some kind of huge disturbance has completely consumed it.Everything Adam!It’s all gone.There’s just….There’s just nothing there!”
“John, I appreciate a practical joke as much as the next DJ.But don’t you think…”
“Dammit Adam listen to me!There is no storm!Damn the FAA, we are going in for a closer look”
No one spoke over the air for a few moments.Only the background noise of helicopter rotors spinning until”
“Adam, I have never seen anything like it, iiiiiiiii…..”
Suddenly any sound that was being transmitted from the helicopter was locked up.Not silent, just trapped in an endless loop in time where the last sound wave that came from the helicopter would go on indefinitely.
The radio station severed the connection to the helicopter.
“Sorry folks, eye in the sky John Gauhn seems to be having some technical difficulties.Hang tight, and will be right back with more coverage.”The DJ announced in a shaky voice.
I cut the radio off.
Deep inside I had hoped that some branch of the government, perhaps even the military would be able to contain this.Despite what Lisa had told me, surely someone could repair what had happened.I watched as the sun broke through the horizon to my right.Its light reflecting from the open rolling hills made for a warm, pleasant effect as an orange glow spread across the small vegetation.The rays produced long shadows due to its shallow angle.
“That’s nice.” I said in a subdued voice without looking at Lisa.
“What’s that?”
“The sunrise.I see it all the time when I leave work.But I never appreciate it anymore.You see something everyday and it loses its magic.”
Lisa’s silence told me she was looking at the sunrise to.Without warning she stands on the brakes.The tires of her tiny car scream in protest as they scramble for traction.The car settles and she flings the door open and walks to stand in front of the still running car and stares at the sun in silence.
“Lisa, what is it?What’s wrong?” I yell as I move out of the car to meet her in front of it.
She stands in silence looking past me, over my shoulder.Tears well up in her eyes and stream down her cheeks as she collapses on her knees and begins sobbing.
“Talk to me Lisa! What is it?” as I squat down to her and hold her by the shoulders.
She reaches out to me and buries her face deep inside my chest.I hold her for a moment, curled up in front of me, clinging to me like a lonely kitten.Finally, she peels herself away from me.She sits on her knees on the hard asphalt and puts her hands in her lap with her head hung low as if she was ashamed to look at me.
I softly tug on her chin with my hand, urging her to look up at me.Reluctantly she complied
“You wanna talk to me?” I said.
I was between her, and the sun.Most of her was cast in my shadow but for a small strip of light that dashed across her swollen green eyes, the combination making them seem electric.
God she was beautiful.
She looked past me again back to the sun and pointed in that direction.I turned to look.
“Do you see it?” She asked
I scanned the horizon and found nothing out of sorts.The lack of discovery was apparent on my face.
“Look at the shadows from the plants.”
Each shadow arched and oscillated toward the south.As if the light that created the shadow was gently being tugged upon.I looked in the direction the shadows pointed.What I saw was not a giant hole of emptiness.It was not a void in space or matter, nothing that dramatic.Instead what I saw on the horizon, just now becoming clear in the rising sun was the hole’s affect of everything around it.The sky, the road the landscape, everything that meet at the horizon to my south was being twisted and distorted down to a central point that I could not see as it was past the curve of the earth.
“We’re almost out of time” Lisa quietly said.Soon it will suck out the oxygen, the atmosphere, and then start breaking the earth into pieces until it’s all gone.There’s nothing we can do……nothing we can….nothin.”She drifted away into her own mind as she stared into the inevitable.
I could feel my fight or flight response kick in.I had to get us out of here.I couldn’t bear to look at the anomaly for another moment without caving in on myself like Lisa had.
“Get back in the car Lisa.I’ll drive”
She didn’t move so I grabbed her under the arms and pulled her to her feet.“Snap out of it!”I yelled as I shook her “I need you here!”
She finally tore her eyes away to look back at me.
“You okay?” I ask.
She forced out a nod.
“Stay with me okay.Get in the car”
I helped her into the passenger seat then got behind the wheel of her car.
“There’s no need to run anymore Tony” She said in a far too calm voice as I put on my seatbelt (I futile gesture but I am a creature of habit).
“Maybe, but I am not going to just lie where we are and wait for it either.”
“Where are we going?”
“I don’t know.I’ll figure it out when I get there”
I had no idea where I was going.I just wanted to keep moving.I wanted to dig a deep hole to stick my head in, find a bomb shelter, something that represented viable cover.But my logic told me that it would serve no purpose in the end.I told her I didn’t want to wait for it.But no matter what actions I took, we would still be just waiting for it whether we knew it or not.
“How much time do we have?”I asked Lisa abruptly.
“Hard to say, not much though.”She was still in shock, but seemed to be fighting her way out of it.“A normal sized black hole would take much, much longer to grow exponentially like ours has.I mean millions of years.But the smaller it is, the faster it grows.”
“What will happen when we run out of places to run?” I timidly asked.
“Eventually we will be trapped in its event horizon” My silence told her I didn’t know what the hell that was.“The event horizon is a point close enough to the center of the black hole where the gravity is strong enough, that no matter how fast you can travel or how hard you can push away, you will not be able to escape its pull.This is the point that even light will not escape.Picture an imaginary line that is around the center, pass this line, and you can not escape.”
“Doug, the guard?”I said.
“Yes, that was the event horizon”
“It was so violent.It was like the front half of his body was being pulled away from the back half.” I stopped, realizing I was only going to make her draw back up discussing such details.
“That’s exactly how it works” She said after a short pause.“If your feet are closer to the center than your head when you cross the horizon, the gravitational pull on your feet would be stronger than at your head.Each molecule is being stretched and distorted.”
I wanted to ask if Doug suffered, if we are going to suffer.But I could not bring myself to do it.At any moment I feared she would break down again.What shocked me most however, is that I had not.I was looking at my imminent death.One that could occur in the next moment, in a few hours or maybe a few days.
I then realized that I had lived my entire life under these circumstances.I have always been an unknown distance in time from an unavoidable death.
We all have.
It also occurred to me how precious life is and how we all, as humans, take it for granted every day.You get mad when you’re served the wrong food at a restaurant yet other people in the world would kill for that much food.Your find yourself upset that you don’t have the car you want or the house you want, or maybe you didn’t get the promotion you wanted.Others spend their last days in the hospital dying of cancer wondering why they didn’t do more with their life.No matter what you accomplish in life, be it financial or intellectual, eventually will not matter.We will all die one day, and the rest of the universe will continue to chug along like we were never here.
But this death will include the death of every living creature on this planet, and eventually, according to Lisa, the entire solar system.But would it stop there.Even if it took millions, billions of years?Does that matter?Wouldn’t everything end eventually anyway?
Another thing that surprised me was the apparent lack of panic among the population.We had been on the road for over seven hours, according to the dash clock that is.We had stopped for gas around four am near the Virginia border at a twenty-four hour truck stop.There was hardly mention of anything peculiar happening to the South.We had passed through a score of small towns on our pointless journey as well.Nothing seemed out of sorts at all.Traffic was at a normal flow for a Saturday morning.
“Why is there not sheer panic?”I asked Lisa.“Does nobody understand what’s been happening?”
She mulled that over for a moment.
“Could be it’s being covered up” like you could cover up a giant hole of nothing.“But more likely, is that everyone that knows about it is in it.Think about it.By the time you where close enough to actually see it with your own eyes, so that you could tell someone else what it is, you would be gone.”
“I see what you mean” I said
“Nobody will have time to warn anyone else.Charlotte is long gone.Anyone trying to reach someone in the Charlotte area by phone, or otherwise, would simply think there is a black out, or phone problems.Not enough time has passed to raise any attention.Not enough time will pass.”
I didn’t know what to say to this.
“Tony”
“Yes”
“Get off at the next exit, okay?”
“Sure, are you hungry?Do you need the bathroom?”
“Yes and yes” she said with a sincere smile.
“But after that, don’t get back on the highway.I don’t want to spend anymore time running”
I pressed my lips together and nodded in agreement.
As I reflect on that moment, I realize now that I witness Lisa transgress through all of the stages of the dying.From denial, all the way up to acceptance.Myself however, I think I passed them all and went straight to acceptance.But that may have happened long before the black hole incident.
Were we into a very rural area once again, the exit read Carson.At the top of the ramp on the right was a gas station.Across the street from that was small, old looking restaurant.“Carson Family Restaurant “ read in blue letters across the shingled awning that was erected in front of the ancient A-frame building.
“Breakfast?” I asked as I pulled into a vacant parking space.
“Mmmmm” she said with wide eyes.
We didn’t talk about the black hole anymore.Instead, we enjoyed our breakfast, knowing it was going to be the last we would ever enjoy.Something happens when you accept death.All of the stresses of the world are lifted from your shoulders.You senses are overwhelmed with the stimulus of the world.The smell of a table that was just wiped down with windex.The small particles of dust you can see floating in the air when the sun comes through the window at just the right angle.The way another persons hand feels inside your own.
It was the best meal I had ever eaten.I cannot remember what I ate.
About an hour later, as we walked out of the restaurant and made our way back to Lisa’s car something to the south caught our attention.A dim grayness had appears that had no definite line where the sky transitioned from blue to gray.The further you looked south, the dimmer the sky became.It had attracted the attention of a few people.But no panic had evolved from it yet.
“We should get moving” I said to Lisa as we got into her car.
“I wish I could tell them.Tell them to go home and be with their families.Call the people you care about that you haven’t talked to because of some stupid fight…..wait Tony.Back the car up.”
I didn’t ask, I backup into another vacant spot in front of the restaurant while Lisa dug through her ash tray and which produced a few quarters.
“I’ll be right back.”She said as she quickly climbed out of the passenger seat and jogged over to the old payphone near the corner of the building.
I watched as the light slowly got eaten away and the sky became more and more dim. It was attracting a frightened crowd.
Ten minutes had passed, it seemed, until I was distracted by the passenger door flying open.Lisa’s eyes were swollen from tears.Before her door had latched shut she was inches from my face.Before I could react her lips had met mine and we where engaged in a deep, longing kiss.
What black hole?
To my disappointment she detached from me and moved back into her own set without saying anything.
I didn’t say anything either in fear of ruining the moment.So precious few where left, I didn’t dare mess up this one.
I pulled the car to the edge of the parking lot and after a pause I turned to her.
“Left or right?” I asked
“Mmm, right”
With that I turned right and we headed further into the country side.Without thinking about it we didn’t bother to put on our seat belts.
About ten miles down the empty country highway we spotted a lonely dirt road to the right.Thick beautiful green bushes with blue flowers stood guard on either side.As I slowed down I saw a rusted street sign that read “Gravity Lane”.As we traversed the pothole laden dirt path, it became more and more of a struggle for Lisa’s small hatchback.Eventually we had to abandon it and continue on foot, which was fine.It was a beautiful morning and we held hands the whole way.Eventually the path ended, and opened up into a large green pasture spotted with the occasional bovine enjoying its morning grass.To the left was a small hill, and at the peak of the hill were two ancient oaks resting beside each other.As we came closer, we realized there was a large hammock stretched between the two.


© Copyright 2017 Rojoryu. All rights reserved.

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