PRACTICAL PHYSICS

ANDY GOLLA

 
 

According to the reports, somewhere between 11:59 and midnight the whole world “crumbled” or “deflated” or “erupted in a catastrophic seismic event, causing the Earth’s tectonic plates to shift and spit out the core on all four sides.” The way we understood it, the world went flat, like a cracker. Magma in the sky everywhere. All those bodies in the streets. Marty, my new neighbor, asked me if this was the end, and, to be honest, I didn’t know how to answer. But after a few days, numerous online articles, and a joint press conference by the President, Prime Minister, a couple Dictators, and some change, we decided, well, we’re all in this together, aren’t we? And that’s when somebody said it: What happened to the other side of the world? What about China, for instance—where are those guys? The President flashed his five-dollar smile all over the television and said we didn’t have to worry about Reds anymore. This is God’s doing, my mother whispered. Because of our culture—he’s trying to say we lack depth as a people. We’re superficial. Flat. It wasn’t long before special interest groups started forming, advocates of “our missing companions.” What if gravity doesn’t work the same way anymore? they said. What if we’re on top, and they’re on the bottom, and they’re literally hanging on for dear life? Shouldn’t we help them? Don’t we have an obligation? Bill, from Accounting, was of the opinion: To those damn North Koreans? Fuck ’em. Trish, the ex-librarian, argued: But, like, what about Tibet? The top economists of the day worked feverishly, trying to stay ahead of the curve. How will this impact the economy? they asked. Is it better without them? If half of the world’s money disappears overnight, does it make you richer or poorer? I’m feeling a little richer, I think, said Marty. He had taken to selling lemonade, condoms, and rechargeable flashlights from a ramshackle stand in his front yard.
 
Everywhere, in those days, it was hot. Sex was terrible. Cities mixed up, and ships kept getting lost at sea, turning up in the wrong port entirely. We gave up on planes after a Malaysian Airlines flight flew off into the sunset—literally, just zipped off the side of the earth and hung there for a couple of days, roasting. Finally, someone said: Maybe we just dig a hole and see what we find? Yeah, someone else said, a hole! And no one really had a better idea, so we started digging. The first hole took two years, since half our engineers went missing, along with half our contractors, half our technicians, and half our grave-diggers. We hit the ocean, and though the flooding subsided after a few days, California was lost in the process. Our second hole didn’t fare much better. Nor the third. Nor the twelfth, fourteenth, fifty-third, or seventy-second.
 
I began to think maybe we had this all mixed up. Maybe we assumed, I told anyone who would listen, that the Earth went flat when it didn’t—what if half of it was just gone, if we couldn’t find anyone to rescue because there was no one left at all? What then? I stopped working—it’s not as if anyone showed up anyway—and instead spent my days in front of the television flipping coins, measuring out the odds that this next hole would be the last hole. That there’d be a festival. Flip. Polynesian food. Flip. Koala bears. Flip. And you. Because I didn’t want the whole world, you see, I didn’t want half of it. I just wanted you sitting here beside me. Thigh brushing mine. Calling out: Heads. Tails.

 

 
 

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