Author : Bob Newbell
I remember the day things started disappearing. I was driving into work listening to the news on the satellite radio. Astronomers had observed that a galaxy called MACS0647-JD could no longer be detected. It was one of the most distant objects known, over 13 billion light-years away. A cloud of dust or some such thing, it was speculated, had become interposed between Earth and MACS0647-JD. It made sense. Thirteen billion light-years is plenty of space for something to eclipse a galaxy. But that turned out to be only the beginning.
Over the following week, more astronomical objects started disappearing. There was no consistent pattern of location or distance that could be detected. A quasar billions of light-years from Earth vanished the same day two of Jupiter’s moons went missing.
“They’re gone! They’re gone!” my wife had screamed over my cell phone. I had the news pulled up on my computer at work. The “they” my wife was referring to were Portugal, France, and Spain. That area of southwestern Europe and everything and everyone in it had ceased to exist. There was no trace of the missing countries under the ocean and no signs of destruction. The sea and land now formed a coastline with the territory where France had bordered Europe as if that had always been the normal geography of the continent.
Science could provide no explanation let alone a remedy. The Andromeda galaxy winked out of existence. The planet Venus was there one moment and gone the next. A large section of the Midwest disappeared leaving the United States truncated. People were terrified, but civilization held together. Indeed, wars and disputes between nations came to a grinding halt in the face of the catastrophe as governments worked together as never before to find some way to deal with the existential nightmare.
Then, the Moon disappeared. That’s when civilization collapsed. Rioting broke out across what remained of an oddly abbreviated Earth with countries, mountain ranges, deserts, and seas missing, the expected gaps obliterated by the apposing sides of the wounds inexplicably abutting each other instantaneously. Somehow, even the disappearance of Earth’s own territory didn’t seem to affect what remained of the human race like the vanishing of the reassuring light in the night sky.
My wife and I have barricaded ourselves in our house. I have to fire a warning shot every few hours when someone tries to break in. We’ve had no electricity or running water for days. Too much of the power and water infrastructure gone for them to remain operable, I assume. We’ve broken apart our furniture and burned it in the fireplace to keep warm since the Sun vanished three days ago. She sits by the fire night and day — if those terms even mean anything in a sunless world — praying. And crying.
As for me, I find myself looking up through the skylight in the attic. I don’t know why. The stars and planets and galaxies are all gone. The skylight could be painted black and the view would be no different. But I keep going up there and looking out and wondering what we did to deserve this.
“Ready for lunch?” asked the alien of his companion.
“Yeah. Just powering down my computer.”
“Weren’t you running some big sim application on that?”
“Yeah. Haven’t done anything with it for a really long time. Just left it up running. I really need to get a new computer. This one takes forever to close programs and power down.”
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