Acritical

by Pierce Nahigyan

Willard checked the readings again. The seismograph didn’t show signs of misuse, nothing faulty in the connecting cables. The room was a stable temperature; sometimes humidity or a shift to hot or cold could make the spectrometer spit out glitchy analyses – it was an old machine. He checked, he double-checked, every instrument, everything that had an electric pulse, a daily report, ink and needles, but no, again, just as before, everything was fine, the values were acritical. Then he turned around and stared at his bookshelf again.

The bottom shelf was slanted, the middle shelf was in disarray and most of the top shelf’s binders, encyclopedias, and almanacs were opened up and bent piled on the floor. He’d seen them fall. He’d felt the floor move.

He took a moment to calm himself down. There was a clear dichotomy between what he’d seen/felt and what the machines were telling him, and he was afraid – because he’d always been a little bit paranoid – that his grip on reality was slipping. The books had fallen; he’d seen them fall and grabbed the back of his chair for support. The machines behind him, that were built to evaluate just such occurrences, were giving him a strict no sell.

He rubbed his temples. He decided to open the window. He’d spent all night on watch and the walls were closing in on him. It could have been the bookshelf settling, he allowed, or maybe the building was built by idiots and their handiwork was finally coming apart. Willard opened the window and breathed in. He realized it was very cold. Very cold. Colder than it should have been; in fact, it burned his throat, what little air he managed to swallow. He stared out at what a few hours ago was the dark, halogen-lit shadows of the parking lot and what was now the dark, massive northern hemisphere. He stuck his head out the window and looked up. Silhouetted among the brilliant stars of the Milky Way was a thick, saucer-shaped silhouette, and what looked like, leading down from the shadow to the Seismology building’s ramparts, a tugboat chain.

Willard turned from the chain back down to the dark blue curve of the Earth, identified North America’s northeastern seaboard, and paled, as a horrendous rumble echoed up to the stratosphere and Maine tumbled into the Atlantic. He stared out into the cold and saw other buildings on chains flying silently up from the clouds, their bricks twinkling with frost, and other men in their windows staring out, some with readouts still clutched in their hands and unspooling in the wind. He heard the awful rumble continue, and more continent crashed into the sea.

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