Thirteen Minutes by Scott Wilson

Thirteen minutes, that’s how long it took for the world to have a “mass cleansing”. The “Event” had killed more people than the Black death, AIDS and World War II combined. 

Jack had been in his back garden, hanging his washing out to dry upon his long clothesline that ran the length of his garden. It was a beautiful sunny day and he was glad that he had taken the day off work to enjoy it. After he had hung the sheets he planned to grab a beer and read a book, maybe even throw a steak on the barbeque. 

He was reaching up to the line, clipping on a shirt when the sun moved in the sky. It seemed to Jack that it dropped like a ball to the floor. It didn’t go completely out of view, but it had certainly lowered itself. Still holding to the line Jack stared at the light in the sky, the sun had never been that lower before. Even when it set in the evening it would be in another part of the garden almost out of view. 

Then something extraordinary happened… his feet lifted from the floor, slow at first then noticeably faster. He gripped the line tight wondering who the hell was in his garden lifting him up. He strained his head around to see that nobody was there, it was an invisible man. That was when he heard a scream and a cry, he looked ahead the see his neighbour Shelly and her young kid floating up in the air. The mother was screaming as she desperately tried to reach for the floating child and she made arm movements as if she were trying to swim through the air. It would have been comical if it had not been so terrifying. He watched as they both went up to the clouds, not with a gentle float like you see inside the space stations, this was more like a helium balloon that lifted faster the higher it went. Jack saw in the distance other people and small animals also raising up one or two thinking it’s was fun were as the others all hollowed in fear. 

He gripped the line tighter by putting his arms around it. He then felt a stronger pull as if the invisible man were on his back trying to yank him off and with this, larger and heavier items began to lift. His garden chair was the first to rise quickly followed by the table and then his barbeque. He began to let out short sharp yells of fear that sounded like a small yapping dog. 

The air was filled with more screams and cries and he looked around to see cars with people and families floating up from the earth to the sky. He saw a flock of bird’s weave between two small cars.

Then the pull became stronger and his arms lost their grip. He snatched up the line with both hands and held tight, he could feel the nylon digging into his palms. Even larger things were now lifting to the sky. He saw a horse box that was still attached to its pickup bump into a long bus, but instead of the expected explosion they just seemed to knock each other away like two moving snooker balls. 

Jack didn’t know what was happening and he gripped tighter as tiles from his roof began to lift and shoot to the heavens like bullets from a gun. Trees moaned and creaked as they took the strain of the pull, some of the smaller ones had already been lifted and had shot up. 

Jack couldn’t see any people in the sky now, they had all gone up and out of view. It was now large rocks and masonry that lifted and in the distance he saw a mobile home spinning as it went up to the clouds like Dorothy on her way to Oz. 

There was another strong pull and Jack was sure that he would lose his grip. The line was really hurting him now and his finger were feeling numb, then he was lifted, head down with his feet in the air. He was still holding tight and looked back to see that the fence that the rear of the clothesline had been attached to had been pulled free and was in the air like a kite. Now the line was flat against his body he was able to wrap his legs around it and get a better grip with his arms. There was a “Twang” 

As the cord was pulled tight and Jack looked at the line in front of him that was fastened to the house. He begged and pleaded for it to hold as he was shaking from left to right like he was attached to a giant fishing line that a shark was yanking. He could feel himself start to slide down the line and it squeaked as his sweaty hands were pulled down the long cord. 

The pulling seemed to ease, but it was too late. He was yanked free of the line. 

He screamed and yelled as he rose six foot and then eight, his ears popped like he was taking off in a jumbo jet, then the next thing he knew he was falling to the ground, fast. He landed on the grass with a thud and a snap that was later to be identified as a broken wrist. The fence panel landed only a few feet from him and it stuck in the ground at an angle like a fallen gravestone. Jack rolled on his back and looked to the sky above. 

“everything that goes up must come down” his science teacher had once said and he remembered those words as he saw trucks, cars, trees and people fall from the sky. The noises were horrifying. It reminded Jack of large hailstones hitting his cars roof. There were crashes and bashes and distant explosions as everything that had lifted fell to earth. Jack got to his feet and ran in to his house barely escaping the barrage of falling rocks and roof tiles.

Everything from solar flares, frapping gases, and tectonic plates to the act of god were blamed for the disaster. A satellite in space had recoded the imagine of the earth shifting from its axis before slowly correcting itself. 

20-25 million had died from the Black death with AIDS causing 22 million and World war II 16 million. 

Nearly 2 billion had died from the “Thirteen-minute Event”. 

World leaders joined forces to try and improve the health of the planet for those thirteen minutes where gravity was taken away were simply a show to what could be if we allow it to die. It reminded us who was in charge. 

As for Jack, he never got his barbequed steak, but he did help to invent magnetic shoes that would glide along the soon to be installed metal paths and roads.

Published in Issue #13

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