Thin Crust

The fisherman only got a quick glimpse. Normally the morning light that burst forth from the waves was a panacea; it made fumbling in darkness into a cold boat reeking of dried fish slime worth it. Today, however, something was amiss. It made him fearful. He crooked his neck to check the shoreline of Los Cabos, its jagged teeth just visible. He turned back to watch the horizon line as it wavered unevenly, then set as if stone. It was close, this instant wall, a frozen indigo roadblock spanning as far as he could see. The man looked upwards, squinting, bothered by the shifting umber insistence that all was normal; the sun was coming up just as it always had. There was quiet, too much of it, an unnatural end to the sea’s voice. The man felt this non-noise in his stomach as a dull pain before his head rendered meaning. A cormorant flew past, dipped into the waves; missed its catch. It flew on, black body flapping towards the demarcation, where it slipped silently into nothing. There. Not there. The Fisherman blinked as if willing the vision to dislodge. Soon the fish followed. First, only a few flung their bodies over this horizontal partition, slices of wet muscle absorbed into space. Then a shoal of silvery herring, vomiting themselves into the abyss, soaring between where the sky should be and where the Ocean should have welcomed them into another breath.

The man began to pray. What else was he to do?

“Ave Maria llena eres de gracia…”

He listened now, sharpening all attention to what might be. The remaining waves moved his small boat towards the fleeing fish, the invisible bird. They lapped at the fiberglass, a sound he’d always loved, little warm blankets of noise. He continued to pray and dropped the oars, instead focusing on the back of his hands, hands hewn by fishing hooks and weathering salt and high levels of sun. They shook momentarily.

The seafarers saw it first. They did not have the words to relay what they were seeing. How could one describe there were edges to the Ocean? There was now a place to fall from? This could not be possible. Nor could it be possible that the waves no longer rose and fell. They had died, left behind a hazy mirror. The sky was impossibly still, wispy clouds replaced by cumulus, fat sheep lazing in the blue. As far as anyone knew time was still passing, clocks were still working. They were all still breathing, speaking, no? There was a camaraderie, a brotherhood, on the ships. We are in this together, we are seeing this together. Can we confirm what this is? Was it a continental shift, a new drop off? Was this smear of oblivion some trickery of the light? They picked up headsets and radios; tried to explain, until they would see a ship in front of them dissolve into nothing. Then they would drop the handsets and try in vain to turn around, no longer thrilled with the prospect of learning something new before anyone else. On land the messages were garbled, confusing. Slavic, Icelandic, and Asiatic voices burst forth from the airwaves, straining to be heard, like marbles swirling at the bottom of a barrel. The sea has an end. We are falling off the edge of the earth. Or just, Aggghhhhhhh!! This caused alarm, but not as much as the fact that cell phone coverage was now spotty at best.

The masses were annoyed. What was wrong with the satellites? Millions of swears lifted into the air, a salty brine of languages dipped in confusion and anger. What the hell. Is. Wrong?


No explanation, nothing. This was an outrage. Who did this? Was this ISIS? Were they under attack? Did the tower down the street just fritz out? That was not supposed to happen. They paid a lot for this service, you know. Things like this were not supposed to happen, not for more than three minutes at a time. People bumped into each other on the sidewalks, checking and re-checking, checking again. They held their hands up, hoping for a signal. The fact that everyone was having a problem did not bode well. Not all of them could have missed their payments, however impossibly high they were for such simple tasks as texting and endless perusal of Facebook. They held their devices like dying animals they had devoted their lives to. Please. Please work. My life is on here.

The first person one should call would be the scientist. They did, all the important people anyway. He answered the phone diligently for about an hour, at which point he got sick of saying I don’t know anything yet so pinched out the cord from the back of the phone. Think man. He’d presented his thesis to the board six months ago, written it up. Scientific American had done a piece on it. Everyone agreed it had gone well, even though it couldn’t be proved. Dark Matter was one of those things, it might not even exist. Einstein thought it did, so everyone else thought the possibility was there too. His mother had liked the article, although she hadn’t understood most of it. He thought this might have been the case with many. They nodded in the right places and asked a few questions but really it had flown right over them, thought bubbles bursting into droplets of stale air. The scientist scratched at his beard, which he had grown during an ironic bet but later began to like. He looked like a dapper young homeless man, in his thin coat and scruffy face. It suited him. Made people stare into his blue eyes, avoiding a good look at his unkempt accoutrement. It threw them off, which he found useful. He didn’t like to be packaged. He’d done that himself, and now he was without a family, a hobby, a habit. He was a man consumed. This might prove itself to be a good thing. Perhaps it was meant to be, this consumption. He could give back, make it all worth it. He checked the Hubble, thankfully still in contact, and began typing v = H0D  into the keyboard. The Scientist added more numbers, then plugged the phone back in. He made a call to a seismologist, a friend. He confirmed, they too had been doing some testing. The friend asked had he heard about Utah? No, he had not. No time for Utah, the friend said. The Earth is only two miles down. What, the scientist said. You heard me, the friend said. The scientist hung up the phone. The Earth was flat.

Bryce Canyon was as beautiful as Utah could get, and the couple were going all the way up to Rainbow Ridge. With a name like that, something good was bound to happen, some spark could be lit. The couple were happy. At least, they told themselves they were fairly happy, and the more recent painful events were just a momentary blip on the relationship scale. They would go and see some natural beauty like they used to when they had been more romantically inclined. She had recently found religion. He had not. This was only one of the sticking points. They were going to shelve it for this early morning hike, and they were first in the park, first to drive to the very top. Parking off the beaten path, they hiked up, holding hands. She thought this might be forcing it, he was trying too hard, and it impaired her maneuvering of the trail. But she liked the warmth and roughness of his working hand holding her manicured one. They could do this. Everything would be alright. The couple burst through the last few trees and exhaled, stunned by the beauty before them. The amphitheater of golden red rock was eerie beauty: swaths of ochre, strokes of fir green. The Park pamphlet had said breathtaking and magnificent and he immediately felt those were inadequate platitudes. He turned his head to tell her, pausing to consider small wisps of hair dancing around the edges of her shoulders. She was still so very beautiful. He meant to say this, but paused, puzzled. She frowned, her face crumpling inwards as she pointed one lanky finger forward. Their personal viewfinder was burning up at the edges. The scene before them eroded, like the aluminum in an Etch-A-Sketch, shaken by the almighty. This is what she thought anyway.

God is loosening his hold. God is planning something for me, at this moment. I knew it. I knew it.

He just thought What the fuck?!

It was now an empty blackness, past their rocky perch. The sun still shone behind them, casting a glow over the shimmering nothingness. She made as if to touch it and he shouted at her, alarmed. She turned and smiled at him, and then pitched herself in.

A flint-spark, then a cold space. Tiny flecks of light all around her. The cold was momentary, replaced with an awareness that she shared molecules with every one of these stars. She’d known this, heard it in the messages: she was one of Gods’ special spirit children. One day they would rise into his realm, first. She was chosen for this. These thoughts peeled away as conscious thought departed, replaced with a practical freedom that involved nothing of one’s previous patterns. There was light, there was motion, there was a community of cells that fit together, and all previous confines gave way to a subtle warmth, an arching beam. She was consumed by something larger.

The scientist focused on his computer now, sifting through the options in his head, prioritizing them in a matter of seconds. He punched his fingers into the keyboard and pulled up the Hubble view. The picture was fading already, reaching the outskirts. It blinked into darkness, a shifting inkiness, like a wet towel had been thrown over the telescopic eye. It strained for light, finding tiny bits. He scrutinized the screen, but there was nothing there. He was imagining the light, if there was any. He must be. Surly this was what he’d known could happen, if the expansion of space could accelerate…hadn’t it all been in the article? The discrepancy in measurements, the acoustic oscillatory data collected from near and distant galaxies? It could happen. It was very unlikely to only consume half of a planet, but hey, this was really quite unknown stuff here. Who’s to say, really. Odd, for sure. But a definite maybe. The math didn’t support it, but it had never occurred to anyone to apply it this way, so, yeah. The scientist linked his tower signal to his computer. If anyone was listening, he would let them know what he thought. He keyed in his most powerful telescope and directed it into the void.

The masses were taking it in now, the seriousness of it. News from around the world showed shot after shot of the anti-matter, until the satellites blinked out. Children were sent outside to play and told not to worry. They did worry but kept themselves occupied until they were allowed to know more. The west coast of North America was seemingly gone; with it any real estate hierarchy. A few had discerned that the Edge bisected the Earth neatly, cleaved it right in two. That was the rumour, and it spread. If family was close, they went to them, offered their sweating bodies and worried frowns to each other as comfort. If family was in China, Australia, Japan, most of Russia, places like Indonesia and Alaska, well, there was no hope.

There wasn’t the panic one might expect. It was as if this Edge, this Dark exuded a calm peace, a vibrational healing. Of course, this didn’t work on everybody (just like some are repulsed by the smell of lavender). A few ran about with home made signs of doom, shouted from the tops of courtyard spaces. Some smashed windows and made to take things, but then realized there wasn’t much point to that after all, if they couldn’t even get Netflix. The ones with guns and ammunition were quite vindicated and felt this was the moment they had planned for all along, why hadn’t anyone listened to them. But after hunkering down in safe-houses and bunkers they too, forgot what really the point of it all was. Maybe they should just talk with each other for awhile. Just, speak of things. And this is what they did. They laid hands on shoulders and talked of ideas they thought important, things that were beauty incarnate and what was the craziest thing that ever happened to them? Some traveled to remote places to be with those who had no family. Those in the remotest of locations stayed there, happy to be away from others, somewhat oblivious to the whole hoo-ha except for the feeling of peace. It was a nice day on the mountain, they thought, and just went about things.

The scientist spoke into his computer, staring into it with his best stern/serious face.

and I have been proposing this scenario for years, this kind of thing could happen at any time, really. We are at the mercy of the forces of nature. I do not think this is the time to panic, however, this is the time for the world to come together. To build our new future…

He had always wanted to give a speech like this. An important one, where he would be recognized as a leader, a mind of great expansiveness, a person of authority.

The scientist realized he had paused and should continue to pull out as many words of substance as he could muster.

a future in which we pool our resources, support the remaining population with innovation

A blip on the screen next to him. The scientist remembered to excuse himself.

One moment

He turned his full attention to the telescopic screen. There was something in the darkness. At first, he opened his eyes widely, blinking away any haziness. No, there was something. Not just a blip or an eye fuzz. He moved his face closer to the screen. No need, it was coming to him. The black was acquiring a magenta edge, a dark nebulous color. The scientist fumbled inside his desk drawer for a magnifying glass but found only useless office supplies. He took the stapler out and gripped it tightly, releasing a tiny shard of metal to the floor. He pushed it again. It felt right to dispense staples, to waste them.

Plink. Plink, Plink.

Slowly, he could see a mound of pink in the distance, flanked by two bits of white. The mound moved closer, acquired a ridged edge, like whale bones. The darkness lightened, soft shades of purple coming into focus. The scientist remembered his colleague had borrowed the magnifying glass and threw himself towards her desk to fetch it, flinging the stapler across the room. He yanked open a drawer and there it was, the reliable stick and orb. He ran back and bent over his screen, placing the glass over the left edge and then the right, searching. He forgot all about those that might be watching him, those who were in fact watching him with breath held in their throats. What was it he was seeing? Why was he not telling them?

The scientist sat back in his chair.

Huh, he said.

He walked with measured steps back to his colleague’s desk. Rummaging through the drawers he found a compact mirror. He sat down in her chair; held the mirror up to his mouth, inspecting his back teeth, the molars. He focused on the uvula, something he never thought much about except that it was an exceptional name for a bodily part. He ran one finger along the back of his mouth, feeling at the ridges, noting their pointy contours. He lowered the mirror, slowly placing it on the desk, and cocked his head to one side. He pushed himself upright, and went back to his computer, brows furrowed as he scratched at his beard. The screen came sharply into focus, the white mounds definitive. As the swinging pink lump propelled itself forward, the scientist collected the bits of information, drew parallels, slotted the new formula together in his mind. He smiled. This was something he had not prepared for, a possibility that never came up. Then he laughed as one unburdened. He laughed until tears streamed from his face, and he put his hands to these tears and wiped but kept at it, hooting as he’d not done in years. The masses, those who were watching, took this as a good sign, and smiled, patted each other on the back. They did not fear the shadow that crept across the room.

First appeared in The Walrus magazine, March of 2017