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AMERIKA IN THE SKY (IN MEMORIAM)

August 29, 2014

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 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.

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; we 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.

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 never having tasted the mysteries of the sky? 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?

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?

Or is this instead 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?

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?

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.

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

My anguish over their plight 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.

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 have courage, 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.

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 America is still on the ground, safe and well, and everything is as it should be in the world. Perhaps a particular interplay of light, shadow and dust up in the atmosphere today has produced this infernal illusion.

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 to? 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 just my own delusion, an invention of my own overactive imagination? That would certainly explain why I’ve always felt an uncannily powerful personal affinity with it. 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 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 and the snapshots 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 the prophecy has come to pass. 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.

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.

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. Perhaps only now will America reveal its true nature, free of all pretences, just as people lose their facade and expose their real selves during times of crises.

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 solving a jigsaw puzzle that has innumerably many pieces.

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.

Some of the light beams refract through the dropping water, leading to colours of the rainbow 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. 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. 

Death itself was not able to watch so much pain and carnage on that day. It could not bring itself to accept 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. 

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? 

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 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 become 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. 

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. 

Every time that I look up, I 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. Sometimes, I feel that all those lost, unspent years fell upon my shoulders and that I was given the responsibility of living out all the curtailed lifetimes. 

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. 

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16 Comments
  1. You are are gifted conceptualist. This is Franz Kafka meets Stephen Baxter! You could expand this into a whole novel.

    • Thank you Doug for taking the time to read this story and for your feedback on it. I might have mentioned before that Kafka is a big influence on my work but I haven’t read any Stephen Baxter before.

      A short version (due to time constraints) of this story has also been performed on an Australian radio program.

      You can listen to it on YouTube at the link below. It’s a 10 minute clip. You don’t need to actually watch it as it’s just one image.

      I think the radio host’s reading adds an extra dimension to the story. He even adds a musical accompaniment!

      I would like to tell you more about this story Doug, but I prefer to do so via Facebook’s personal message, so please take a look there.

      • Wow! What a nice credit!

        • I assume you are referrring to the radio recording Doug. Yeah, the host does a great job and he actually has performed some of my other stories too. I hope the accent wasn’t a problem.

        • So would you agree Doug that this story uses a “leaping” style?

          • It’s not leaping poetry as such but it’s very surreal and imaginative and thoughtful with lots of surprises.

  2. Your story reminded me of Baxter’s Manifold: Origin.

    • I am not familiar with his work at all. If you could elaborate on how my story reminded you of Manifold:Origin, I’d appreciate that Doug.

      • There’s a summary on Wikipedia under Stephen Baxter…

        • Oh I had a look at Wikipedia of course, both at his article and at the article about that book, but I was still curious about the connection that you see between my story and that book.

  3. I’m extremely impressed, Boris.

    • thank you for taking the time to read it Pam, appreciate it. If you had the chance to listen to it being read out on radio, I hope the accent wasn’t too much of a problem.

  4. Beautiful and powerful writing, Boris. America as a modern day Atlantis, I love it.

    • Thank you Almost Iowa for taking the time to read it and for your thoughts on it. I have been working on this story since 2008 and the final version will be about 3 times the length of the story posted here.

      A short version (due to time constraints) of this story has also been performed on an Australian radio program.

      You can listen to it on YouTube at the link below. It’s a 10 minute clip. You don’t need to actually watch it as it’s just one image.

      I think the radio host’s reading adds an extra dimension to the story. He even adds a musical accompaniment!

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  1. Amerika in the Sky (In Memoriam) – a new passage to commemorate a new stage in American history. | Boris' Corner

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