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Monday, September 21, 2015

Guest Poster: Boris Glikman

Another fine writer who also writes in the genre of Twilight-Zonesque type stories. Please find posted below for your reading enjoyment, Boris Glikman's two short stories: "The Curious Story of Frank" and "Amerika". Both fine tiles I hope you enjoy. Happy Reading!

Russ Huneke

THE CURIOUS STORY OF FRANK AND HIS FRIEND Mr. STIMS, THE HYDROPHOBE anyway, like I was saying, I was sitting comfortably in this nice chair when Mr. Stims told me what he wanted to do with his invention. But please don’t interrupt me again, because I am going to forget what I was saying and won't be able to tell you the whole story of what happened that day.

Let me begin again from the start, as I can’t remember now what I have already told you. My name is Frank. I finished school two years ago. I stay at home most of the time and watch TV. I live with my mum. I like her a lot. She is very smart and knows about everything. So I don’t see what’s wrong with saying, “That’s what my mum told me”, but the other kids used to laugh when I said that and called me a retard, which made me angry. Now I can’t hang out with them any more; my mum tells me I have a bad temper and could hurt them.

My only friend is my next door neighbour, Mr. Stims. I enjoy being with him. I love the brain games that he is so good at inventing. The game I particularly like is the one in which he asks me to guess what he is thinking of at that very moment. It is not an easy game to play at all.

Usually I spend time in his living room, where we drink tea, eat some biscuits and discuss interesting topics. But that day, Mr. Stims invited me into his study and asked me to sit in a comfortable chair beside his desk. He himself sat behind the desk, on which lay writing pads and folders, all neatly organised.

After staring at me in silence with an odd look in his eyes for about a minute, Mr. Stims started talking: “For the past five years, I have been engrossed in a fiendishly difficult task, as you probably have noticed Frank. I no longer need to be secretive about what I do, but I did want to apologise for being evasive and unpredictable in the past.”

He was right. He never told me what he did for a living, but it seemed to me that he was spending much of his time working on some scientific problem. All of his rooms were cluttered with books, whose titles I didn’t understand, and papers that were covered with calculations and formulas in his scribbly handwriting. And his strange ways did confuse me sometimes. I remember once asking him how he would like to be remembered, and it produced an odd reaction from him. He turned first red, then white and only replied that he had great hopes for the future. Another time I told him that even though we don't live far from the ocean, we don’t know much about it, and that there could be big sea monsters and other curious fishes living in its depths. For some reason, he got all agitated and started going on about the chemical properties of water. Then, suddenly, he stopped mid-sentence and started talking about something completely different. But I still find him a fascinating person to be with. He knows so many things and can always answer my questions.

Mr. Stims continued: “You might remember from your school days, my friend, what a polar molecule is. Well, water just happens to be comprised of polar molecules. This fact is the linchpin of my work.“

I did not actually remember anything about those molecules. To tell the truth, I really do not recall much from my school days. I was always surrounded by people brighter than me, which made me afraid to speak up and say what I thought, in case I might say something stupid.  That is why I like Mr. Stims so much. He has never treated me as a fool and is always happy to listen and explain things to me.

“The fact that it is a polar molecule, does that suggest anything to you, Frank?” he asked. Not waiting for my reply, as he usually does, he continued: “I will get straight to the point. For your benefit, I will state it in simplified terms. The water molecule is a charged particle. Charged particles respond to magnetic fields. By creating a magnetic force of appropriate strength and by aligning it in the right direction, we can separate the water molecule into its constituent parts! We can turn liquid water into the gases of hydrogen and oxygen. The theory behind it is of course much more complicated than that, but what I have just stated is my work in a nutshell.”
He stopped talking for a short while, to give me time to understand what he had just said. But to be honest with you, I did not really see the point of it all. I thought it would be much better if you could go the other way and make water out of the invisible gases, so that people everywhere would have enough to drink, especially people who live in the hot deserts.

He went on to say, “The idea sounds simple enough. Let me tell you, putting it into practice was another kettle of fish; the years I have spent trying to create a functional apparatus, attempting to discover the right alignment. Failure followed failure. Many a time I was tempted to throw it all up in the air and just walk away. Only one hope kept me going. I cannot say it was a well-defined sensation, but it was something like…well, that by achieving my goal, all my past deeds would gain the meaning they were lacking.”

I looked closely at Mr. Stims’ face. Sweat had gathered on his forehead and there was a distant look in his eyes, but it quickly disappeared.

He then said, “Let me tell you a little of my past, as it will explain to some degree the present. I was a brilliant university student, majoring in chemistry. I was heading straight for a conventional academic career. But my personality did not sit well with the scholastic surroundings. The claustrophobic atmosphere and the daily routine were stifling my natural creativity; the imperiousness of the professors, the ceaseless competitiveness prevalent amongst the students. Once I left the university, there was no way back. To this day I remain an outsider to the scientific community. You, Frank, are the first person in the world to hear of my achievement.”

Although I was flattered, I still thought it would be better if water was made out of the invisible gases, so that people everywhere would have enough to drink, especially people who live in the hot deserts.

“But what are we waiting for!” he exclaimed. “Actions speak louder than words. Just one minute and I will show you how it works.”

While he was gone, I stretched my legs; they had almost gone to sleep. I also had an itch on my back where a mosquito bit me and I gave it a good scratch. I could not do that while Mr. Stims was in the room. When I am with him, I try to behave properly so he will respect me. I remembered dinnertime was coming soon and wondered what my mum had cooked for me. I hoped it would be fish fingers with mashed potatoes. That’s my most favourite meal in the whole world.

My friend wasn’t gone for long. When he came back, he was carrying a small, shiny box and a full glass of water. I thought it was really thoughtful of him to bring me water, because I was really thirsty. I was about to reach out my hand and say, “Thank you Mr. Stims, it’s really thoughtful of you,” when he put that shiny box over the top of the glass. There was a hissing sound and the water disappeared before my eyes. Well, it didn’t actually disappear straight away. For a second, it looked like the water was cut in half, like a fresh bread roll with a sharp knife, and then both halves vanished. I was a bit miffed, as I really did want to drink that water, but still the sight was so amazing I could not help crying out, “WOW!”

The room filled up with a funny smell, like a cross between rotten eggs and fresh pineapple. Mr. Stims must have noticed me sniffing for he said, “That’s nitrous oxide or laughing gas, as it's commonly known. The oxygen released by the process has combined with the nitrogen in the air. You have to be very careful with nitrous oxide. It messes with your mind.”

I knew he expected me to say how impressed I was and I did say so. He didn’t reply for a while and then he started a long speech. I can only remember bits of it:

“I have great plans, great plans," Mr. Stims said. "Imagine magnifying the strength of this machine a hundredfold, a thousandfold, a millionfold! Look at the map of the world, Frank! Look at how much space is taken up by the oceans. Two thirds of our planet is water. Two thirds! How much land is wasted because of it! So many regions are overpopulated. This leads to stress, stress leads to crime. And on top of that, the world population is growing at a faster and faster rate. What use is ocean water? We certainly cannot drink it. And in any case, many regions that are now ocean used to be land once. We need to reclaim that land. And we need not stop there. The time has come for the oceans to go! We will make them disappear, just like the water in this glass. Certainly, this might cause some climate changes, but they will be easily fixed. And just, land, land everywhere! One great continuous continent! No barriers between countries! The whole world finally united as one, living in peace! Room to plant crops, room for cattle to roam! Spaciousness that, at present, mankind doesn’t even dare to dream of! Whole continents underneath the oceans are just waiting for us to populate them! The potentialities are breathtaking in their scope! Yes, there will be a price to pay. That price will be paid by the ocean inhabitants - but we need not concern ourselves with that. Intelligence arose on land and it is the land dwellers that will rule this planet. And I will go down in history as the man who made it all possible - the new saviour of humanity!”

Mr. Stims was getting very excited. Whenever he gets excited, he walks from one end of the room to the other and waves his arms around. Well, he was certainly doing that; his arms swung like the blades of a windmill and he shouted out, “Liberation from the tyranny of water! The time has come! The possibilities are endless!”

It was all very interesting, but I was getting rather hungry and kept thinking more about the fish fingers with the mashed potatoes. It was then that a terrifying thought startled me so much that I felt like someone punched me in the stomach. I realised that without oceans there would be no more fish, and without fish there would be no more fish fingers for me to eat. Fish fingers really are my most favourite food in the whole world.

I said, "Hey, wait a minute Mr. Stims. I really like fish fingers. You can’t kill all the fish. Give me that shiny thing! I don’t want you to destroy the oceans."

“Fish, shmish,’’ he replied. “Who needs them? They don’t sing, you can’t pat them and they smell terrible.”

He refused to give me the box. A scuffle broke out between us, because I was getting a bit angry about not being able to eat fish fingers any more, all because of his stupid invention. I reached for the gadget and tried to take it away from him; it was then that I accidentally pressed the round red button on its top. What happened next was the strangest thing of all. You know when you blow up a balloon, and then let it go without tying it up and it flies all around the room, letting out air? Well, something similar happened to Mr. Stims. All this vapour started coming out of his eyes, nostrils and mouth and he was getting thinner and thinner and changing in shape before my very eyes. Then he just fell to the floor, or what was left of him, for by now he looked like a gigantic squashed raisin.

"I am very sorry about this, Mr. Stims," I said to him, "but I really do like fish fingers. They are my most favourite food in the whole world."

I then took the box that was lying on the floor and broke it into small pieces. You both know what happened after that.

The two detectives exchanged glances and one of them said, “Looks like it’s going to be a long night for all of us, Frank.”

                            AMERIKA IN THE SKY (IN MEMORIAM)

I remember that day starting off ordinarily enough. There I was playing in the open field not that far from home, the sky azure with nary a cloud blighting its face.

I was alone as usual for my mother didn’t let me play with the other kids. I didn’t really want to play with them anyway. I always knew that I was different and could never relate to them. I could see things that they could not see and understood matters that they had no inkling of. I was way ahead of them; in fact, I believed that I was way ahead of most adults too, although, as my mom had repeatedly told me to do, I kept that view all to myself.

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 and explore complexities and subtleties of the world.

That day the body scored a victory for there I was playing in the open field, in my white shorts, blue T-shirt and a crumpled Panama hat…

The lay of the land is so perfectly flat I can see unencumbered all the way to the horizon. A strange sensation grips me, that the sky is a giant snow globe enveloping me in its grasp, which makes me feel slightly queasy and claustrophobic. I feel trapped in this glass-bowl sky and have a strong urge to smash its walls and break free from its eternal imprisonment.

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 previously seen in the sky, but there it is before me, slowly rising 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. It is slowly getting detached from the crust of the Earth, like an old scab being peeled neatly from a healed wound, without any tearing at the edges.

Could this be that new natural phenomenon of celestial tectonics, in which portions of the sky acquire the properties of Earth’s mantle and exert an irresistible attractive force on any land that they come in contact with? I remember hearing in the news some geologists positing the existence of this process and warning of its consequences. Their concerns, however, were dismissed as alarmist talk, coming from doomsayers with private agendas. By grim irony, America had been one of the most vociferous deniers of these predictions.

And now I’m watching America 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 Mojave Desert, the pine forests.
At first, while the continent is still at a shallow angle in the sky, the American people are enjoying their unique experience, smiling, laughing, some even waving to me down below. They are taking delight in their position in flight. Those cities at the edges of the continent are enthralled by their intimate contact with the sea of blue sky. Californians are especially jubilant at finally being above all others in the most literal sense possible. They are being carried on the privileged port side of the continent, sailing the celestial ocean blue. Some of them are waxing down their surfboards, getting ready to ride the heavenly waves.

This uniquely peculiar positioning of America gives its citizens powers over us just in virtue of their altitude. They are privy to every bit of our existence, looking down, God-like, upon the rest of the world. Our complete exposure to them inevitably leads to a temptation that is too strong for many of its citizens to resist. And so regardless of the consequences and in total disdain of the decorum, they toss things down. All kinds of debris and other unmentionable substances shower upon my head, while I am powerless to retaliate.

As the heavens continue their inexorable turning and the continent rises steeper in the sky, it becomes more and more difficult for the people to maintain their traction upon its surface. The initial wave of fun and mirth gives way to first signs of panic and despair. All the living and non-living things that depended upon gravitation for their stability and viable existence now realise what it is like to have it as an adversary.

If not for the overwhelmingly desperate gravity of the situation, it would be almost comical to observe the way the people are trying to respond to the predicament that they find themselves in. It 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; little bugs struggling against some capricious, unyielding force which is ruining their arduously constructed nest.

The way American people resemble tiny insects produces in me a certain indifference to their fate. This sensation is very similar to that experienced when you look down, from a great height in a plane, at people on the ground. You can’t help but see them as ants and, consequently, their lives and activities assume the same insignificance and triviality as their physical appearance. 

At midday, America reaches the highest point in the sky, hanging precisely upside down. If I felt claustrophobic before and hemmed in by the celestial sphere, those sensations are so much worse now, given that there's a whole continent looming right above my head, threatening to fall and annihilate me together with itself. How long can America remain hovering and defying all the fundamental laws of physics?

The people are now in their most precarious position, desperately trying to hold onto anything that is firmly rooted in the ground, to blades of grass, to soil itself. Even when some of them lose all grip on land, they still attempt to find some protuberance in the fabric of the sky that they can grab, to save themselves from this disaster, to give themselves just one more instant of life. Their position in the sky, that only hours earlier gave them such superiority, becomes the greatest threat to their survival. They are all equal now, from the highest politician to the lowest drifter. Gravity is the ultimate lecher; all of us are reduced to just our bodies when we enter its realm. It grants no preferences, respects no individuality. Our status, age, whether we are innocent or sinful, famous or obscure is without significance in its domain.

For an instant, it appears to me as if I am the one in the sky, upside down and it is America that is on the ground. America has always been invincible in the past. Surely it is not possible that it is now in this helpless position; surely it must be that it is our land that is suspended in the heavens. And so I cannot help but drop to the ground and hold fast to the tall grass growing in the field, to stop myself from falling. The familiar solidity of the ground reassures and comforts me for an instant, yet, at the same time, it intensifies, by contrast, the bizarreness of the events in the sky and make them seem all the more unreal.

No human eye has ever beheld the sight of a whole continent in the sky. It is entirely possible that what I perceive is the brain’s best attempt to make sense of the data flooding through the senses; to fit the input into familiar categories that it has evolved over millions of years to help it comprehend the ordinary world. Yet, it might not necessarily be an accurate picture of what is really happening out there.

I am torn by two conflicting thoughts that occupy my mind simultaneously and seem equally valid. Is it the case that I am the only one who sees America up high? Could it be that, given my tender years and my particularly unique intellectual make-up, it is my brain alone that does not repudiate this vision, while everyone else rejects it as impossible? Is it up to me to yell out to the whole world, “ America has no visible means of support!”, just like that boy who cried out, “The Emperor has no clothes!” Or is it only this morning that I have caught a glimpse of America in the sky, while the rest of the world saw it a long time ago? How long then has it been going up into the sky and landing on the ground again, without me noticing it?

Or is it indeed the case that America has been going up and down together with the heavens for years and years, without me nor anyone else ever observing it, until today? That would certainly explain why, all this time, America has held such sway and influence over the rest of the world, for its special vantage point would have endowed it with unique and vastly extensive powers.

How must we appear to them? Are they envious of our safe location on the ground or do they look upon us as being immeasurably poorer for not having tasted the mysteries of the sky, for just as depths of the oceans conceal undiscovered secrets, so heights of the sky must contain unknown enigmas that we, down on Earth, can never be privy to? What thoughts must be running through their minds when the vastness of the heavens envelops them? Do all of their past troubles and crises appear utterly trivial to them, compared to what they have to deal with now?

The light is eerie and unnatural, due to the almost total blocking of the Sun by the continent. Some rays are still able to sneak around the edges of the landmass, but the diffracted beams are of completely different hue to normal sunlight. America has always cast a long shadow upon the rest of the world. It is no different now, for the ground is covered by a giant umbra in the shape of the continent. Within it, I can discern the smaller shadows of the people scampering about; once they lived on Earth, now only their silhouettes remain.

A million voices I can hear in the distance, I think they are calling my name. “Save us Boris! ” they cry. My name is amplified a million-fold across the sky and the land, as their screams intermingle with the urgent cries of my mother incessantly calling me back home. But what can I, a young boy, do to help? I am a powerless observer of the catastrophe. All I can do is stand and bear witness to this evil. That is the most I can do, to commit myself to record it in the most vivid detail, so that it will never be forgotten.

Why have I become the focus of their attention? Why isn’t The Lord coming to their rescue? Why are myriads of accusing eyes boring through me with rage? Are they blaming me for their predicament? Am I the one responsible for this disaster?  Or am I the saviour? Are those feelings of premonition foreshadowing my destiny - portents that I’ve sensed my entire life but have always denied and suppressed, never having the courage to admit their authenticity to myself, let alone to others - are they now being validated? I never could face up to the inner voice telling me that truth about myself. Perhaps it is up to me and me alone to save America from destruction?

Just wait till I tell the other kids in school about this. They have always ostracised me and treated me as an eccentric outsider. I have never been able to count on a single person to come to my defence or say a good thing about me. And now a whole continent is putting its faith in me to rescue them. Surely this will change those guys’ opinions of me.

As I look up at the sky, some people hold hands and silently look into each other’s eyes as they fall; others are kissing, hugging and whispering last words of love to each other. Quite a few are engaged in, well, more intimate activities. I look away, not wishing to intrude upon the privacy of their last significant moments together. Mothers are wrapping arms around their children, hoping to shield their offspring from the impact of the earth. Men are writing their final wills and testaments. Some are resigned to their lot; a few, white with anger, are raging against the impending eternity. Many are in denial, pretending that nothing untoward is happening. Others have gone into shock and are paralysed by terror. Not a few rationalise the disaster by saying that man is born a fallen being and that it is the destiny of all of us to fall, sooner or later. Some people see this as a just and deserved punishment from God, while others are begging God to help them.

There are deafening screams of that hysterical despair that only the imminent arrival of death can evoke, and yet, even though those screams pierce my being, I am no closer to understanding their meaning. How can I ever hope to comprehend what the American people are undergoing up there in the sky?

Surrounding each person, as they fall, are pieces of their broken lives. Some try to catch these shards and re-build their lives into more meaningful and happier versions. Others just cannot be bothered, completely ignoring the fragments.

Oh the humanity, dropping from the once secure abode that has turned treacherously against them. But what can one do when one’s whole life has been reduced to just the act of falling? How does one deal with their world becoming upside down? All the survival instincts developed over eons of evolution are now inadequate and irrelevant. All the measures that mankind took to protect itself against the elements and vagaries of fate have become lethal burdens instead. Houses, streets, clothing, electricity, all the trappings of civilisation – none of that defends them from what has befallen them.

The falling people now discover that gravity is the polar opposite of hope, for while hope makes you light, raises you up and frees you from the worldly concerns, gravity brings you down to Earth and crushes you and your dreams.

If I could, I would turn the whole Earth into the cosiest bed for them to land safely on. They then would be tucked in for recuperative sleep, so that when they awoke they would think it was nothing but a horrible dream.

Is this The Rapture America’s theologians have been prophesying the coming of? Why are people falling down instead of rising up then? Why is there suffering instead of bliss? Why are the virtuous being punished?

The only way that this could be The Rapture is if we are the ones who are in the sky. Perhaps religious leaders of America are trying to convince their flocks right now that it is the rest of the world that’s up in the sky and so they the American people are not falling down but are in fact ascending, as The Rapture prophesied. Maybe, citing Psalm 19:1, “The Heavens proclaim the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands”, they are trying to prove that this isn’t the real apocalypse but merely an apocryphal one. Surely, they are reasoning, God would not permit such events to take place in the realm that affirms his majesty.

How horribly ironic this psalm appears now; it is as if the Universe had conspired to repudiate it as comprehensively as possible and the sky, that has always been thought to be a heavenly domain, is now revealed to be base and corrupt, a source of evil and pain. And if this passage of The Holy Book has been reneged, does that imply that all of the Book is now invalid and no longer holds true? 

Or is this the second fall from grace? Perhaps the death of the Messiah was not enough to atone for the original sin and America, being another of God’s beloved children, needed to be sacrificed too?

I recall watching on the news, a long time ago, that horrific footage of American people  jumping out of burning skyscrapers. If their attempts to save themselves by leaping from buildings a hundred storeys high seemed tragically futile then, how much infinitely more futile and tragic are their attempts to save themselves now, jumping off America that is positioned thousands of storeys up in the sky.

It’s the children I feel for the most. All their childhood they have dreamed that persistent nightmare of endless falling that all children dream. How many times have they woken up with a start or a scream from such a nightmare, only to be comforted by their mothers with a hug and a reassuring word. Now I can see them desperately begging their mothers to embrace them and tell them that this falling is just that same old bad dream. How they yearn for that moment of awakening, when all the inextricable troubles and horrors that were confronting you dissolve, in an instant, into inconsequential shadows and gossamer threads and terror is replaced by a wave of relief washing over you as you realise that you are safely in the comfort of your bed, and a young day, pregnant with promise, opportunity and discovery is awaiting you.

My anguish over the plight of the falling is so extreme that I can feel another being coalescing and hovering beside me; a being identical to me in every respect except that it is made entirely of pain, for there is not enough room in my body to contain all that sorrow. Yet, my despair is intermixed with an odd sense of envy. The plummeting people possess the ultimate freedom, the intensity of which I will never get to experience. Death throes have become the purest and most authentic life experience for them, for only on the brink of annihilation does life shed the frumpy dress that she wears during the day of our existence and stands before us in all her natural, radiant glory. Now they can savour life as it truly is, free of all the grime that besmirches its true visage. Perhaps upside-down life is life as it should really be led, for it is only then that the dross and delusions of everyday life fall away, and just the essentials of existence remain.

All the delusions that once kept the American people warm and secure at night, the delusions that sustained them throughout their daily struggles and helped them through their darkest times are now destroyed: the delusion that one is special and unique; the delusion that one is destined for greatness; the delusion that one is a genius whom the world doesn’t appreciate; the delusion that one will find a soul mate meant just for them and whose love will save them; the delusion that one is above the laws of humanity and deserves to be treated differently; the delusion that a lucky break will come to one in the end; the delusion that somewhere some person, angel or god is working on one’s behalf, trying to help one with one’s journey through life; the delusion that one is protected by fate and special luck from bad things happening to them; the delusion that there will come a day when one will begin to live happily ever after; the delusion that one will find meaning in one’s tribulations and that one’s struggles will be justified in retrospect; the delusion that it all will turn out well in the future; the delusion that one alone, out of the multitude in the present world and throughout the course of history, will be spared from death; the delusion that one does not have any delusions.

There are kids putting on the Superman costumes, believing that they will be endowed with the powers of flight, while some of the teenagers cannot suppress their competitive streaks and are racing to determine who can fall the fastest and hit the ground first and hardest. Young ladies, dressed in bikinis, are performing synchronised falling routines, to give beauty and grace to their descent. Young men, to show that they are not scared,  are somersaulting and twisting their bodies, as if jumping off a diving board. A small ensemble of dignified gentlemen wearing formal evening dress are playing “Closer My God to Thee” with elegant aloofness. One man in particular strikes me in the relaxed attitude that he adopts: lounging on a deck chair with a can of beer in one hand, cigarette in another, as if he is a spectator in a front row seat, watching a once-in-a-lifetime extravaganza of an apocalypse.

It doesn’t take long for an apocalyptic sect to spring up in the upside-down America. Rapid conversions take place, with the new believers donning transparently blue garments woven from the sky’s fibres. These clothes apparently will allow them to merge with the heavens and attain immortality. So many people take up this new faith that wide expanses of America become monochrome azure, especially in the southern regions.

America, once the creator of dreams, has become the dream destroyer. Special extermination squads are searching out for dreams to annihilate so that if America can’t have them, no one else will either. All over incinerators are erected and thick clouds of smoke discharge from them, comprising of dreams reduced to their base elements: deep yearnings, burning ambitions, ineffable hunches rumbling just below the conscious mind, half-remembered childhood premonitions.

As if to make up for their existence being cut short, some people age in a highly accelerated rate, which enables them to cram the rest of their lives into the last few instants of being. One infant turns into a boy, then a teenager, then a grown man, and finally a greybeard in a matter of seconds.  Weddings take place and are then consummated. I hear babies crying, I watch them grow, they'll learn secrets of the sky I'll never know. Parents teach their children the facts of life, how to act politely, how to tie their shoelaces. Boys turn into adolescents, have their first shave and diffidently ask girls out for a first date. I see friends shaking hands, saying, “How do you do?”, they're really saying, "Goodbye to you", and I think to myself what a horrible world.

I no longer know what to believe. The vision that is confronting me has no stable, constant form but keeps changing incessantly, like a kaleidoscope with infinitely many pieces. The bizarreness of what I am seeing makes me wonder whether this is not an optical trick that Nature has played upon me, a mirage of sorts, similar to fata morgana, where whole buildings appear suspended in mid-air. Perhaps a particular interplay of light, shadow and dust up in the atmosphere today has produced this infernal illusion, and America is still on the ground, safe and well, and everything is as it should be in the world.

Could it be that all those lives depend solely upon me, upon how my senses perceive reality?  What a terrible dilemma to be in, millions of lives at stake, all contingent upon whether or not I interpret it to be an optical illusion! Perhaps, if I just believe strongly enough that it’s a trick of the eye, then they all will be safely back on Earth.

What if, indeed, America has always been a mirage, without any reality or substance to it?  Or was America just a fictional construct representing the Promised Land on which we could pin our aspirations for a utopian existence? Was it an archetypal symbol of an all-powerful, all-good Leader that humanity could look up? Could America have been a mass delusion assuming a corporeal form, as they often do in times of crisis and hysteria? Is it really possible that a country like America could have ever existed; a country that was omnipotent and beneficent, that always came to the rescue and saved the rest of the world from the enemies of mankind? Or what if, all along, America has been my own, very cherished delusion that gave me sustenance and identity, an invention of my own overactive imagination? That would certainly explain why I’ve always felt an uncannily powerful personal affinity with it and why I’m feeling such grief in seeing it being destroyed. These questions arise fleetingly in my mind and then dissipate away.

The scope of the tragedy is so all-encompassing that even the fictional characters of American culture are affected by it. There goes Homer Simpson, stopping in mid-air and asking for directions, confused as to which way is down. Superman is tumbling too, powerless to stop his rapid descent; his power of flight having been destroyed together with America itself. Amongst all the falling rubble, I can make out Dorothy’s house spinning wildly, looking in vain for the Land of Oz to alight upon.

All the television sets are still working as they drop, even though they are unplugged. To stop the population from panicking, every live broadcast of the disaster is taken off the air and many people are lying on their plummeting couches and watching the regular television programs.

Falling is such a leisurely activity; one doesn’t have to do anything. One just needs to relax and let the inertia carry them along. Yet some of the people just cannot accept and surrender to the laws of gravitation. Instead they are striving to overpower the senselessness of falling and to fill it with activity and meaning, for even gravity cannot conquer man’s thirst to go on living.

The historians and current affairs experts are analysing the events even as they are falling, looking for their causes, and trying to determine what repercussions there will be for America and the rest of the world when the continent crashes to the ground. It appears that they believe that by explaining the factors that brought about America’s downfall and by establishing the exact time-line of the disaster, they can somehow make themselves immune to it. Or perhaps they believe that through their words and diagrams, they can disempower the catastrophe and intellectualise it away.  

The business tycoons see this as a unique opportunity to put their entrepreneurial skills into practice; some are attaching advertising billboards to the clouds, while others try to re-arrange the stars to spell out the slogan “Coca-Cola Takes You Higher!”  Hollywood is able to maintain its veneer of glitter and glamour, for even the pull of gravity cannot make it reveal its true visage. The Mouseketeers are singing the “Mickey Mouse March” in perfect unison and pitch. The Vegas showgirls are smiling broadly and performing their high kicks and other dance routines - no cataclysm can wipe those grins from their faces.

Even now, the relentless self-mythologising that America is so famous for has not ceased and the movie directors are engrossed with creating their own interpretations of the calamity that has befallen their land. Steven Spielberg is making it into a big blockbuster disaster movie, albeit one with a happy ending; the Coen Brothers are able to transform the annihilation into a quirky comedy; Ron Howard turns it into a gentle, feel-good love story while Michael Moore’s documentary exposes the omnipotent global organisations that allegedly conspired to destroy America.

To gain a better understanding of the causes of the catastrophe, the President of the United States gives an executive order to establish a Commission that will investigate the crime that has been perpetrated against America. The commission is given unrestricted investigating powers and is directed to evaluate all the evidence and present a complete report to the American people. The first task that the commission sets itself is to recreate the exact sequence of events that led to the disaster, as well as a complete full-scale reconstruction of the catastrophe itself.

With both Hollywood and the government reconstructing the fall of America, I find it difficult to determine whether what I’m seeing is genuine destruction taking place or its re-enactment.    

The madness of bureaucracy does not cease and hotly debated issues continue to consume the legislative body of America. The dispute about health care reform still rages unabated, with committees and sub-committees holding sessions debating which particular system to adopt, while all around them the country is breaking into pieces.

The Federal Government’s biggest concern appears to be whether the banks would be able to maintain their profit margins and whether the car companies will be able to continue their production in this new, free-fall environment. Consequently, the government devotes all of the relief efforts to the financial institutions and to the motor industries, while the people continue their helpless plunge.

The politicians of America are still engaged in their petty disputes, tossing heated words upon one another, oblivious to their rapid descent. They are passing motions, censuring, making character attacks. Ordinary people, too, are preoccupied with such concerns as not being able to use up their retirement funds.

It seems utterly ridiculous. Those actions are so trivial and senseless, pregnant with their own contradictions, given the situation they are in. And then a realisation strikes me – aren’t we ourselves, down here on earth, all in exactly the same situation? Aren’t we also nearing our own oblivion, each day closer to hitting the ground? Yet, we go on doing exactly the same foolish things, wasting our lives on the same meaningless activities.

Morbid curiosity compels me to observe what happens to the people when they strike the ground. But instead of their bodies looming larger and larger in my field of vision as they approach Earth’s surface, they become fainter and smaller still, until disappearing from sight altogether. They then re-appear; only they are no longer their corporeal three-dimensional selves but instead have turned into life-sized monochrome cardboard cutouts. Even those enterprising few that managed to strap on a parachute also turn into cutouts, with a cardboard silhouette of the parachute attached to their cardboard shoulders.

As I watch these cardboard figures approach the ground, another transformation takes place, with the cutouts changing into small photos of those same people. These snapshots now shower upon me like torrential rain.

Still, I cannot help but stick my bony kid arms out in the hope of catching at least some of the people, but only manage to catch the photos. Although in a daze, I instinctively glance at them and see in these snapshots the lost souls as they appeared in happier times, with their families, friends, pets; the way that they like to be remembered, and not how they looked in their desperate final moments. But although their lips are smiling, I can definitely discern a look of piercing admonition that the eyes of the dead often possess, beseeching us to explain why they were allowed to suffer so much and not be helped. There is also perhaps a shade of wistful sadness at not being a part of the living world any longer.

I turn one of the photos around, to see if any last words have been scrawled on its back and find four lines of verse printed in neat, childlike handwriting:
                          In the mighty nation girt by two giant seas,
                        Constitution of Laws becomes a piece of paper.
                        Its people too will float to the ground as such,
                        The country’s zenith being their nadir.

Every other photo that I pick up has exactly the same inscription written on its back. The handwriting varies but the words remain the same. Obviously this is the final message that the American people wanted to convey to the rest of the world.
I know I have read something similar to this before, something in my memory resonates with these words. Yes, now I remember, it is a quatrain from the Book of Prophecies written by that renowned medieval seer. This particular verse has long been considered to be indecipherably cryptic. Now it makes perfect sense and I understand why this grotesque metamorphosis is taking place.  Didn’t one of America’s past presidents, not that long ago, dismiss their Constitution as being just a scrap of paper? And when the Constitution turns to paper, aren’t its citizens next?

I shake the photos furiously, trying to bring them back to life and make them three-dimensional again. Alas, they dissolve into a sticky fluid that drips down from my hands in tear-shaped drops. Are these tears the final lament for the lost America? Yet when I lick some of the liquid from my fingers, it tastes like Diet Coke. 

Not only have the people of America become papery, their money too turns into worthless scraps of paper and I do not even bother to pick up the greenbacks that land at my feet. The US dollar, once the leading currency in the world, reveals its true nature to be nothing more than a piece of paper dyed green.  Nevertheless, some of the falling have their arms full of cash and other possessions, hoping that these things will save them or soften their impact.

Now I understand why the Ancients, in all their wisdom that has been scorned by modern science, divided the Universe into four elements: Earth, Fire, Air and Water. They knew that each element is a separate realm that is completely distinct from and eternally inimical to the others. One just has to accept that the sky is an alien domain where inexplicable, beyond belief, events take place. The sky is a foreign country, people do things differently there. For far too long we have taken air, and by implication the sky, for granted as an intangible, invisible substance and now it is coming back with a vengeance, wreaking havoc upon America that is unfortunate enough to have been caught up in its clutches.

I feel like this is a personal duel between America and me, to determine who would crack first. For the first time in my life my mind is on the verge of packing up and calling it a day. It cannot take it any more; it just has no strength left to process the fantastical sensations deluging it. Yet, I force myself to continue watching for it is my duty to do so.

The extreme mental strain of the situation forces me to face something that my defence mechanisms have been trying very hard to suppress all this time. No, I can no longer deny it and have to be honest with myself. I have to admit that a few years ago I did write a short story titled “Amerika in the Sky” (with “Amerika” deliberately misspelled to stress the fictional nature of the story). From a very early age, I was always scribbling stories with fantastical settings and bizarre happenings; in my mind I was a child prodigy, a kind of a literary Mozart, except that, until just a year ago, I never shared my writings with anyone, they were my own secret domain. The idea for this story came to me in a dream and it described a situation very similar to the one happening right now, with America being attached to the heavens, then turning upside down and breaking into pieces with people falling down. And now I am paralysed with fear that it is my story that acted as a kind of a spur, causing reality to mimic its fanciful events. A similar thing has happened before, when a book called “The Wreck of the Titan”, was published 14 years before the Titanic disaster and described, in detail that was remarkably similar to the real occurrence, the sinking of an ocean liner. Perhaps my story also planted a prophetic seed in the fabric of reality, like a seed that is needed for crystals to grow around. Maybe some yet-to-be events are so deeply imbued with potentiality that only a little kick, like imagining them or describing them in writing, is all that is needed for them to actualise and burst into the real world. But how could I even imagine that such an outlandish, completely surreal scenario, one that contravenes the deepest laws of physics, could ever come true? Yet, surely, my American friends, the very friends who are falling right now, have to share some of the blame for this calamity, for they read “Amerika in the Sky” with pleasure, shared it with others, talked and wrote about it, lauded and applauded it. Heck, it even got published in an American magazine! They, therefore, reinforced the strength of the potentiality of America’s fall, and it was then only a short step from the fall being real in their minds to it assuming a solid form. 

As the continent remains at the apex of the sky, buildings' foundations start to loosen, roots of plants are no longer able to cling to the soil; the mighty rivers empty their banks in a downpour of unprecedented proportions. Mountains too begin to disentangle themselves from their foundations: there go the Rockies, followed closely behind by Mt Rainier and Mt McKinley. What a sight it is of these titans that once towered haughtily above the rest of the land. Now they are twirling unceremoniously, like pebbles tossed into a river from a bridge. The bunkers built into the mountains, in which the elite sought safety, are popping out of their hiding places, like heated popcorn, and plummeting down too.

There go Mt Rushmore’s gargantuan busts; their granite eyes are shut tight, for they cannot bear to watch what has become of their country. A land that they put so much effort into creating, developing and preserving the unity of has been broken into myriad fragments. The Statue of Liberty is falling disrobed, the torch extinguished, bewilderment and anxiety etched deeply upon her once proud face. Lady Justice is following not far behind. The sword has dropped from her right hand; the scales, unable to maintain any balance, are seesawing wildly in her left hand and the blindfold has come off the face. But what is the point of her seeing clearly now, how can an evil of this magnitude ever be avenged?

Those quintessential American characteristics - eternal optimism, justice and opportunity for all - are on their way down. Plunging next to them are the shattered pieces of the Great American dream, intermingled with fragments of dreams of glory, wealth and happiness.

Even at this desperate time, the pursuit of fame and fortune is too irresistible for many of the people and they battle against one other as they try to catch up with and grab the pieces all for themselves. Hordes of these Americ-ants swarm all over each dream crumb, scuffling amongst themselves for a taste of it, just like ants teeming over drops of strawberry jam.

One scrap of the American dream ends up dropping right at my feet. I pick it up immediately, hoping that it will endow me with the confident “can-do” spirit that the people of this land are so famous for. Yet, on its descent, the dream fragment has become, like the people, just another useless scrap of paper, devoid of any potency or vitality.

“Fast food” used to be the perfect symbol of American life. Before it was food that was easily disposed with. Now values, dreams, people, the country itself have become disposable too.

After all the signs of civilisation and life vanish, the ground itself begins to give way and disintegrate. The earth slowly loses its compactness and adhesiveness, first dripping down in small spurts and then in great lumps. Here and there, the liquid magma substratum is peeking through the locations where the entire continental crust has come off. Land that for billions of years worked hand in hand with gravity realises what it is like to be in opposition to it. Only now will America reveal its true nature, free of all pretences, just as people lose their facade and expose their real selves during the times of crises.

All my life I have been entranced by America, that inexhaustible source of influence, entertainment, invention, humour, innovation and creativity, and wanted to understand whence came its boundless talents. That’s why I harboured a secret wish to grab America by its legs, turn it upside down and give it a good shake, so that all the secrets stashed in its hidden pockets would come tumbling down at my feet. And now no more secrets remain; all the deep and eternal, ancient and modern mysteries are revealed with the uprooting of the soil. All the closets have opened up and divulged their carefully concealed stories, except that the question of who was behind the Kennedy Assassination still remains unresolved; with the destruction of America disappears the final hope of ever determining the truth behind this hideous enigma.

The body of America is twitching in its death throes. Some outer sections of the carcass have not as yet received the message that the end has come and are still displaying signs of life, just like a dead dinosaur’s claws that continue to move while the nerve signals rush from the brain to inform them that it is all over.

As the continent continues to break up, it becomes a terrifying melting pot. A colossal downpour of bodies, concrete, trees, mud, water, cars, houses, rock, soil all mixed together into a horrible blend threatens to engulf the world below and destroy our lives too. Eerily, I keep hearing disembodied laughing emanating from the falling deluge. It seems that in the turbulence of the maelstrom, the laugh tracks have become detached from the sitcoms and they provide a bitterly ironic soundtrack to the catastrophe.

I run around, picking up the debris, trying to salvage what I can. Is it up to me to rebuild this country from all the bits and pieces that are descending and covering me from head to toe? But attempting to put it all together again would surely be a futile task, like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle that has innumerably many pieces.

Some of the light beams refract through the dropping water, leading to colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky, showing on the faces of the people falling by. This effect adds an incongruously cheery, multi-hued aspect to the grey, amorphous sludge of devastation coming from above.  

Thankfully, some clouds appear and block these scenes of chaos, but then they quickly disperse. Again, I'm unable look away from the largest catastrophe ever witnessed by the human eye. But what right do I have to observe the deaths of others; 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? What right do I have to continue living, while millions are defeated by the irremediable evil of extinction?

Is it just America falling or is it all of mankind? I feel like I am the odd one out, stubbornly holding my ground and remaining ludicrously motionless. How tempting it is to join the plunge, to become one with the deluge! The avalanche is calling out to me with all its might, it is so persuasive in its roar. Let me fall too! I want to plummet together with them!

Oh the horror, the horror of it all! Surely this day will live forever in infamy! Where are You, God? In You they trusted! Don’t You have a special relationship with this land? Haven’t You always protected and looked after it?  I ask only one thing of You and I will never ask anything of You again - expunge from the fabric of spacetime the moment when America became attached to the celestial sphere.  But God, who sees everything, remains silent and does nothing.

A young mind should never have experienced such absolute evil. Yet here I am, drinking it all in, still heedless of my mother calling me to immediately return home.

Such an unimaginable occurrence! And yet, despite of it being utterly inconceivable, it is nonetheless occurring. Indeed, there is even a certain inevitability about it, just like the slow uprooting and the plunge of a mighty tree that has been weakened by age or storms.

Maybe it was meant to be this way and some good will come out of it. Perhaps it was necessary to throw this country up into the air and let it shatter into a billion pieces, so that, when all the intermingled fragments of the cities, forests, rivers and mountains settle back on the ground, a better arrangement of America will emerge. I cling to this faint straw of hope, trying to use it as ballast in my mind’s turmoil of despair.

But my sanity can no longer endure the relentless onslaught upon the senses, and I can distinctly feel my inner self separate into two halves. One part is an idealistic child that I was before this day, a child that would never accept that such horrors could take place, a child whose mind would refuse to accept what his eyes see. The other part is a strange, unfamiliar being that I know not at all. It is he who perceives this hideous tragedy, for the person that I have always known myself to be cannot be a part of this occurrence.

A new, terrifying thought seizes me: what if the sky has become a mirror and what I am seeing is, in fact, my own country? Could it be that we are the Americans, we are the ones undergoing these tribulations? Is America a distorted image of my own land? Are the happenings in the heavens a deformed reflection of our own actions and lives?

If the sky has turned into a reflective surface, then I should be able to recognise in it the land features surrounding me. Yet, when I look up, all I can see is an image of my own face, magnified grotesquely, staring back at me with a sneer. The birthmark to the right of my upper lip looks just like an odiously black anti-Sun. But the face in the sky is not of my present child self; rather it is the face of me as an adolescent, as a middle-aged man, as an elderly greybeard. Obviously everything in the sky is subject to rapid aging this accursed day. In desperation, I scrutinise the giant eyes for a sign of support and wait for the vast face to speak words that will explain the meaning of what is occurring. But its eyes remain stubbornly cold and no sound emanates from its lips.

After an interminable span of time, the continent begins to move away from the zenith. The Sun re-emerges in the sky, whole and wholesome, able to shine again. For a moment the sky seems to be empty and blue again, with its innocence intact, the way it was early this morning. But morning was a million griefs, a million irreparable lives ago; morning took place in another epoch altogether, when things like this could not be envisaged.

A fortunate few have managed to survive the near total destruction of the landscape of North America and are approaching the horizon and security of the ground again. Thank goodness that they will be able to descend safely and be lauded as heroes; survivors of the most horrific journey that any human being has ever had to undergo.

Alas, that is not to be, for when this god-forsaken continent reaches the horizon, it collides sharply with the stubborn ground that is already there. Before my terrified eyes a cataclysm, even worse than the one I witnessed earlier in the day, starts to unfold. A relentless process takes place as 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. Those remaining alive, who I thought would be the lucky survivors, are crushed to dust. The process creates a horrible grinding noise, like a million fingernails scraping together across a gigantic blackboard, and it resounds across the span of the land.

I cannot help but rush to their aid, to try to save at least some lives. But after a few steps I halt, for I recall that the horizon is just an illusory point in the distance that keeps receding further and further as you walk towards it, and so I will never be able to reach the doomed ones.

By now, more than half the continent has been ground into fine powder. The major metropolises of the United States, the founts of so much knowledge, art, music and creative energy are pulverised into nothingness. Icy pieces of Alaska intermingle with the glassy shards of New York City and with bits of Los Angeles tinsel. Would it ever be possible to reconstruct America from these clouds of dust?  Cities, civilisations, entire countries have been rebuilt from ruins before, but this is annihilation on a scale from which there's no coming back. The land of endless possibilities, a country that once offered so much opportunity to everyone, is now itself bereft of any future prospects.

Well, there goes the New World, I think wistfully. America, I hardly knew you! I never did get to visit you. I was going to fulfil my destiny there, make it my home, for I knew America was the only place where my unique faculties would be fully recognised and appreciated.

No longer will we have America in our lives. It is gone in the most terrible fashion, right before my very eyes. And yet, its ashes 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 progressing the way America once did, and we will be able to state 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. For a long time, the heavens were stained red with the blood of the hapless victims; clouds had a bone-white aspect to their coloration, and fragments of the final despairing screams continued to resonate through the sky. The sky had become a death trap, a mass grave of singular proportions, its mysterious beauty forever blighted by the destruction it had wrought upon the millions. Now we could see that, instead of being a fantastical wonderland, the sky was a place where reality assumed its harshest, most pitiless form, a place where destiny was reduced to just one option, and you were compelled to follow that option unequivocally, a place in which you were given only one path to tread.

Death itself was not able to watch so much pain and carnage and was inconsolable, crying the rain down that day. It could not bring itself to accept what had happened and tried to refuse entry to the millions of new arrivals knocking on its door and asking to be let in, for it did not foresee their coming and strenuously denied playing any role in their demise.

Never before had so many died at the same time, in full view of the rest of humanity; all the previous catastrophes were trivialised by comparison. Nothing would ever make the world regain its lost innocence and America, whose ceaseless creativity once brought the world so much entertainment and pleasure, now became the cause of humanity’s greatest sorrow.

This was an event unique in the absoluteness of its tragedy. Nothing in it could have been construed as having any positive features, unlike the things going on down on the ground which always possess both good and bad aspects. With this singular occurrence, there was no angle that could provide an alternative perspective; it was an incontrovertible and unambiguous catastrophe of unparalleled proportions.

The fall of America disrupted the very fabric of society. It wasn’t just a small “hole in the stocking” that could be darned and become invisible. Instead it was a big, ugly tear that threatened to grow larger and larger, and bring down the very foundations of the civilisation that mankind had taken thousands of years to build.

The world gasped, the world cried, the world mourned, and then it went on living. For a long time afterwards, all our activities seemed frivolous by comparison with what had transpired above. A disaster like that raised the question of the value of human life. When the entire continent was destroyed, not only did the lives of the fallen become insignificant, but our lives too lost their meaning. America may only have loomed over the world for a dozen or so hours, but the trauma of its demise has continued to hover above us ever since, threatening to crush us with its enormity.

“Where was God while America was being destroyed?” we asked. Did God look the other way and ignore what went on that day? Or was God Himself paralysed with fear at what He witnessed and could do nothing to help the victims? Was this event such an unexpected aberration of the natural order of the universe that not even He foresaw it coming? Was this His will being done or was this done against His will? Was God predestined to do this to America or could He have chosen not to do it?

Time itself stopped in the face of such tragedy and then tottered on uncertainly, in a punch-drunk manner, the way we staggered around in a daze down on Earth. And so we could not tell if days or years have passed by, for Time trudged forward erratically, sometimes taking steps back, as it too tried to reverse the flow of the events and return back to the innocent happiness of the past.

Eventually, we regained our composure, our sanity, our humour, our joie de vivre; we were able to laugh, love, smile and hope again, but we would never recover our ability to dream, for America was the source of all our dreams.

We realised that like the Sun, the Moon and the seas, so the continents too are compelled to rise and fall. We could not delude ourselves into believing that senseless tragedies like that only happened in America. We had to accept that one day our land too would be thrust into that same bottomless pit in the sky. We recognised that the redness of the sunsets and the whiteness of the clouds, whose colours we always took for granted and indeed were enchanted by, were actually a harbinger of the fate that awaited all mankind, a forewarning of the blood and bones that would fill the sky.

Ships were forbidden from approaching the ugly gash of a gigantic scar that laid across half of the Western Hemisphere and reached into the very flesh of the Earth, like a third-degree burn, with skin and underlying tissue destroyed. That, however, didn’t stop the morbid sightseers from taking chartered flights over what once was a mighty country, to gawk at what became known as Ground Absolute Zero. There was talk of constructing a memorial or even of re-building America itself, but how does one rebuild an entire continent?

The tattered advertisement signs that continued to cling tenaciously to the clouds were the only remaining physical evidence that there once was a spot that for one brief, shining moment was known as America with the lot. We were the last generation to have America as a vital part of our lives. Our descendants will never believe that such a land could have ever existed and will scoff at our accounts of it as just myths and fairy tales.

Naturally, given such an irrefutable and immeasurably tragic event, plethora of conspiracy theories arose denying that it had ever occurred and that instead America was “playing possum”, just like its native marsupial. These deniers pointed out that Americans have always been masters of simulation  – one only needed to look at Hollywood, that pinnacle of artifice. It was entirely possible, one theory claimed, that the American government staged destruction of their own continent so that it could assume dictatorial powers. Another conspiracy theory went further and insisted that this was America’s ultimate gambit, to feign annihilation of their land, so as to evoke the world’s unreserved sympathy and support, which would then be utilised to extend American hegemony upon the Earth. Others alleged that they had evidence that a secret NASA experiment had gone terribly out of control and instead of launching just a shuttle, all of American continent got propelled into the sky. The most outlandish claim was that the annihilation of America was indeed authentic, but that it was perpetrated deliberately by the military-industrial complex, as the only way they saw to save America, both from its external and internal foes, was to destroy it.

The philosophers debated endlessly about the nature of this event and what meaning such a tragedy could possibly have. Eventually, two opposing schools of thought emerged: one that claimed that this event had infinite meaning and one that claimed that this event had no meaning at all. In either case, the catastrophe could be analysed forever and still its true sense would not be determined. This gave philosophers of both camps immense satisfaction, for they could now occupy themselves with this dilemma till the end of their days.

Historians too analysed exhaustively all aspects of the catastrophe, studying its causes and publishing a vast number of weighty tomes which recounted in finest detail everything that took place in the sky that day. The underlying intention of their work appeared to be that their erudite words would nullify the cataclysmic changes that the disaster had wrought upon the collective consciousness of mankind and would restore the dignity of human life.

I’m no longer the small boy that I was back then. No, I was not a small boy ever again, for the suffering I witnessed and felt in my very bones that day turned me irrevocably into a man. I understood that life itself, whether up in the sky or down on Earth, is an act of falling; each hour we are closer to hitting the ground, the soil waiting to receive us when we make the final impact. What I saw that day exposed the absurdity of trying to impart meaning to our lives whilst we are in free fall towards our doom. When one witnesses life reduced to its last moments, the ultimate futility of our actions becomes patently clear.

I realised why one is destined to be forever alone, for we all just pass each other momentarily on our descent and then continue along our divergent trajectories. The most you can hope for is a fleeting contact with another being. But I also understood, after watching America in the sky, that just as falling while holding onto someone is unwieldy, with less manoeuvring and freedom of action possible, so it is much more graceful to live your life by yourself, without anyone else in it. Your life then is dependent upon you alone and is not affected by every movement and weight of the other person. And so I have stayed alone in this world, without a friend, an offspring or a soul mate, alone and graceful in my flight down to the ground.  

That day I lived through the most authentic experience of my life, the reality of reality hitting me with full force and making me shed forever my youthful illusions. Yet at the same time, I still find it hard it to convince myself that it was not some phantasm created by the overactive mind of a precocious child.

For years, I could feel the presence of millions of spectral figures hovering just above ground. Every time that I look up to the sky, I still can see and hear it all again: the chaos, the destruction, America writhing in its final death throes, a thousand lives being cut short with each passing second.

I felt that I was given the responsibility of living out all the curtailed lifetimes, that it was up to me to accomplish all the deeds left undone, to give voice to all the words left unsaid. The fallen had entrusted me all their talents, all their aptitudes, all their special and unique gifts that were lost together with America. This was my inheritance, my destiny, the price I had to pay for having witnessed America’s fall. By watching their deaths, I had entered into a covenant to complete living lives cut short and to fulfil millions of unfulfilled dreams and ambitions. And so now I no longer live for myself, but only for them. I am living out their existence.

In the end however, what I have written is only a clumsy depiction. Words that I used to convey what I saw and felt that day were created and defined in a world in which America still existed. Words like “tragedy”,  “fear”,  “life”, and “death” have since become bloodless beings that lost their life-force together with America itself. And so I will speak no more, except in that most authentic, most profound language of all – absolute silence.