Just another day at the office. I’m a reporter at a tiny newspaper in North Dakota where nothing exciting ever happens. Last week our front page story was about three new dachshunds at the local shelter. What I wouldn’t give for something real to report on, information that could do our readers some good. Instead I have to call the mayor for her opinion on what color the new water tower should be.
My friend Grace is in Europe testing some top-secret new form of transportation. We were roommates in college and have remained dear friends. I should write her email to —
It was like the world gasped. My heart stopped. How? What happened? I couldn’t have imagined it because the entire newsroom is in an uproar. One girl is running outside but it may not be safe. What? How can it be 86 degrees, it was negative 27 an hour ago. We’re all running for the doors now and intro the blisteringly impossible heat. Six feet of snow is melting before our eyes. Our editor James is shouting at me to find out what this is, to get the scoop. Finally a big story, one where I can tell the subscribers what matters.
My first task will be to check the internet and see how wide-spread the effect is. I can’t stop reading the posts. It seems the entire world felt the gasp and no one’s weather is what it should be. The sun is high as though it were midafternoon but in South America there are reports of complete darkness. It’s almost as though the Earth suddenly tilted ninety degrees. If I put that in the paper I’ll be the laughingstock of the journalism community. I can write the story with plenty of quotes and personal stories but won’t publish my suppositions yet.
Story done and sent for editing and layout I think now would be the perfect time to ask Grace if she’s heard anything. The sun does not seem to have moved in the last six hours which is terribly disconcerting. What if I were right? If the Earth now had a spin which caused time to cease. If what was the Southern Hemisphere was now the side of eternal night? This entire planet could soon fail to support life. The “North” would be too hot and the “South” too cold. Only here, within maybe forty-five degrees of the equator on the day side could we live. The survivors from the entire planet crammed into a quarter of the space. There are reports of thousands more dying with every passing hour. Can anything be done?
Grace wrote back. They were testing a ship for interstellar travel. They don’t know exactly where the calculations went wrong but it was the spatial displacement device. They accidentally blinked the earth out for a moment and tilted it on her side. Only by finding the problem can they find a way to set things right. One scientist wanted to simply do the same thing three more times but it is too unpredictable and dangerous. One mistake has changed the fates of us all. Grace tells me not to publish this yet to prevent panic as long as possible while they seek solutions.
It has been two days without another message from Switzerland. Millions are fleeing the worst affected areas to seek refuge. Even our town’s population has grown ten-fold. We have no more space; the Civic Center is filled with the injured and the streets with tents and people. The James and Red rivers rose fifty feet already, claiming homes, land, and lives with hideous speed. It grows harder to remain hopeful with no news but death and loss. How can we —
Finally! Another gasp of displacement. The sun has moved several degrees. Maybe. Just maybe. We’ll be okay. A message from Grace. She says they plan to shift the Earth back a few degrees at a time over the next day. We stand in the streets watching as each shift tilts us closer to home as we knew it. No matter how well this goes though the drive must be dismantled. The deaths of millions cannot be undone. We will be set back hundreds of years by the losses.
Returned to our proper place, the world will always tremble at the Great Tilt. To begin again rebuilding entire societies with tools worn from long use and destruction. The only good to come is the new cooperation of people and nations. An age of peace and hope after three thousand-year days of despair.