I’ve recently been fascinated by global news and couldn’t resist putting the alarming phenomena into perspective in the brief sketch below, my first attempt at science fiction. I hurry to post it—before it can be disproven by subsequent events—or even worse, proven prophetic.
BAD TO WORSE
News stories of these recent weeks had been horrifying: about the earth’s core stopping and possibly reversing its rotation, about inexplicable solar eruptions, and about a crowd of asteroids threatening our planet. Like a good disaster-buff, I kept those stories on my news feed. My attention was rewarded with remarkable scientific discoveries.
By late February, astronomers were reporting solar flares creating a ginormous vortex off the surface of the sun. Geologists were meanwhile wondering what the effects would be of a stationary planetary core, which they calculated would happen in another month. If it started rotating in the opposite direction, I figured it would cause a reversal of Earth’s poles, probably with significant rearrangement of land masses and, I suspected, a change in the length of day. In fact, geologists were now tracking changes in the Earth’s surface rotation rate and seasonal tilt.
On the solstice in March, scientists declared that the core had indeed stopped rotating in the usual direction, and a few days later they announced that it was starting to move in reverse, the Earth now in internal retrograde. Earthquakes had already started in mid-February, first the huge one in Turkey and Syria, and soon hundreds of them around the globe, like the Earth was shuddering. At the same time, the poles switched in early April, immediately throwing the world’s weather into drastic confusion. Along with many quake-induced tsunamis, the melting, shattering, and scattering of the polar icesheets brought apocalyptic destruction to coastal communities. There was no time or means to cope with or calculate human casualties.
While we long-suffering humans tried to cope with the ubiquitous chaos of earthquakes which were growing alarmingly in magnitude, overhead our star kept flaring up around its surface, like flames waving into space. I expected that the flares would soon show a pattern, which AI detected on my birthday near the end of April—roughly a circle about three times the diameter of the Earth. In early May, that circle began to bulge on the sun’s surface, a slow swelling over the course of a few months, while I watched closely the video reportage of the condition of our celestial body.
Those next few months were more than busy enough with basically futile global disaster-recovery efforts, and most survivors had no time to worry about our Sun acting up. While helping every day with my disaster-relief cohort—to the extent of my octogenarian ability—I checked my news feed often for solar system updates, feeling like Akhenaten in communion with the Aten. Our Sun was now found to be increasing in brightness, noticeably hotter on exposed skin—when one wasn’t drenched in arbitrary storms. There was probably no connection, but the many Unidentified Aerial Phenomena that began being noticed (and shot down) already in February became even more numerous over the next months. All we needed now was to piss off the aliens and have them retaliate. And more meteors kept falling to earth, many ejected with the Sun’s flares, blowing out huge craters and killing millions.
My news feed died with the Internet in late June, a casualty of an electron burst from the sun which fried telecommunications everywhere, including most cell-phone towers. No TV, but there was still radio, if anyone had one. Fortunately, I did and through the near-hysterical remnants of NPR’s Morning Edition learned of increasing tectonic activity opening deep fissures across the Middle East and along Africa’s rift valley. That geological pressure in Indonesia and the Andes was causing more earthquakes and volcanoes, and meteors kept impacting in heavily populated areas. Earth was becoming an inimical habitat for humanity!
Shortly after I lost electricity and water in my old adobe house, a meteor strike nearby brought it crumbling down. I’d fortunately run outside and watched in safety while it collapsed. Salvaging what little I could, I took shelter in a still-standing corner of a nearby school, sharing the space with several traumatized young students. However, we had nothing else to share, and each day we foraged in the ruins for anything edible. Potable water was a critical need, rarely met except for catching rainwater, that often fouled. Totally cut off from any newscasts or social communications, I had no idea what was going on outside of our miserable refuge, either on the Earth or up in the Heavens. However, the glaring, inflamed Sun told me that momentous things were transpiring up there.
In my foraging one day, I found a half-collapsed, metal-framed factory where about a dozen workers were trying to survive. They had a working radio (powered by a small generator), and I was advised by frantic NPR correspondents that the bulge on the sun’s surface had erupted and was ejecting a planet-sized ball of flaming gaseous matter into space—like Athena springing from the brow of Zeus. Scientists projected its trajectory away from Earth but toward Venus, thought its monstrous speed and paths of planetary rotation could easily shoot it close by Jupiter.
In spite of this supposedly good news, the morale of us few local survivors bottomed out. I explained to the starving workers that even without a direct collision, the Earth was going to get jerked around dramatically by this new mass at play in the solar system. Orbits of all the planets would probably change, as well as distances from the Sun as the system tries to find a new equilibrium. And even if the new mass doesn’t collide with anything, it would probably enter an extended orbit around the Sun like a comet, returning regularly to wreak havoc on the planets and then only at some time in a future epoch settle into an obedient planetary orbit.
With this less than optimistic expectation, lethally inclement weather, starvation, thirst, and advanced age, I will lay my helpless head down in the rubble, leaving the savage future to others of my species who might survive this end of the Earth as we’ve known it.