𝗦𝗮𝗺𝗲 𝗢𝗹𝗱 𝗗𝗮𝘄𝗻

𝘣𝘺 𝘌𝘭𝘰𝘪 𝘙𝘰𝘮𝘢𝘯 𝘉𝘦𝘯𝘨𝘰𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘢

We were attending a barbecue at a friend’s house—one of those ‘welcome to our community’ type events.

Beer in hand, I approached a couple of guys standing out front, chatting. They stopped talking and said to me, “Hey, have you ever been to space?”

I thought for a moment, chuckled, and said, “Yeah, maybe a few times when I was in college.” I brought my fingers to my lips to imply that I’d been smoking a joint.

We all laughed.

Then, I asked them, “Have you guys ever been to space?”

“We are in space!” the older man exclaimed. They both guffawed and patted me on the back, “You see, we’re on a planet, in space, circling a star, situated in a solar system which is also moving, making a much larger circle around a huge gravitational sink at the centre of our galaxy.”

“Ah, that’s a good one!” I said, “I get it, I get it!”

“I’m going to grab another beer—want anything?” the other friend asked.

“No thanks, I’m good,” I replied, twirling the bottle to show I had enough to drink.

After his friend left, the old man asked me to walk with him.

“You know,” he said, “the Earth goes through this fuckin’ ‘zone’ every 15,000 years or so. And I’m pretty sure we’re going to be passing through it in our lifetimes!”

I’d thought there was something a little bit off about this guy from the start, but I decided to entertain him.

“Oh, what do you mean exactly?”

“Well, there’s this area in the galaxy, a bubble of antigravity—think of it as an air pocket… You’re flying along at 30,000 feet in a jumbo jet, sipping your whiskey, eating your roasted almonds, and suddenly, BAM! You hit it, and just like that, you drop 15,000 feet!”

The unexpectedly loud ‘bam’ startled me, causing some of my beer to spill out.

We both laughed at this, and he apologized.

“I believe the ancients tried to pass down descriptions of the last time we encountered it, but this knowledge was lost in the annals of time.”

“So, what do you do?” I asked.

“Retired astrophysicist.”

“You don’t say?”

It turned out he lived down the road from us. My wife and I had just moved into a rural area from a slightly less rural area to breed dogs, a lifelong passion.

“I have a stockpile,” he said, with a wink.

“A stockpile?”

“Of food, non-perishables and the like. And I built a bunker too!”


“Now, don’t go around telling everyone,” he chuckled—it was obvious he was a little bit drunk by now, “but if the shit hits the fan, you know, I have enough to share… I want you to know that!”

“Thank you,” I said, “That’s very kind of you to offer, I guess. But here’s hoping it won’t be necessary!”

I smiled and raised my bottle, “Cheers!” I said.

A bit drunk myself, I continued, “Well, I guess people thought Noah was an oddball too… ’til the rains came!”

Immediately I regretted the words that had slipped out of my mouth. But, thankfully, the old man seemed happy with my response… Or maybe he just let it go on account that I was a newbie in town.

“The name’s Higgs,” he said, “Not that Higgs, the other one!”

“Barclay,” I replied, laughing, “Thomas Barclay. Nice to meet you!”

• • •

Years later, on the day the summer sun set at 2PM, I should have known what was about to hit.

It happened fast, yet it seemed to last an eternity. Everything got lifted into the air, at least fifty feet. The bonds between atoms in all solid matter seemed to dissolve momentarily. The effect on my body was like being accelerated to high-G in a matter of seconds, then weightlessness.

How I survived that day, I’m not sure. I chalk it up to providence. But when I woke up, the world around me had been reduced to rubble.

My wife was gone, obliterated by a strange, white-hot snaking wave of energy that had missed me by just a hair—her death the final image emblazoned onto my conscious mind before I had blacked out.

When I woke, there was no roof over my head—the house was gone.

Large chunks of the road in front of our house had been ripped up such that the terrain I had come to know fairly well was now alien to me.

The sun kept appearing and disappearing randomly, and when it was there, it glowed bright purple, puking red flashes of plasma energy every couple of seconds.

What looked like a fiery, angry volcano was erupting near the horizon, belching sparks and ash from a mountainous crater that wasn’t there moments ago.

The sun set again and darkness returned. Thankfully, the volcanic eruptions provided enough light for me to make out some rough shapes.

Unable to get back on my feet, I clawed my way up an embankment and rolled myself off the edge, plummeting several feet.

Next to where my body came to a sudden stop was a metallic hatch.

I gathered up enough of my remaining strength to tap on it. To my surprise, I heard Higgs’ voice from behind it!

“Higgs! It’s me, Tom—Tom Barclay!” I managed to say.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the cataclysm had somehow picked up Higgs’ property, about a mile and half down the road and deposited the entire plot right next to ours.

“For Christ’s sake, Tom, how the hell did you get here?” I heard Higgs’ voice say before I blacked out again.

• • •

Higgs saved my life.

I was grateful for that, even though sometimes the thought did cross my mind that I would’ve been better off dead, seeing as I had no idea what had become of the world out there.

In addition to his store of food and supplies, Higgs had acquired the skills of a field medic. He mended my broken bones, provided me with morphine for the pain, and gave me life-saving antibiotics.

All through the fevers that wracked my body, Higgs would speak to me, and as I fell in and out of consciousness, I’d pick up on a few things he said here and there about how the floods had receded and the volcanoes had stopped erupting.

Despite setbacks, Higgs kept looking after me and nursed me back to health with beef stock, which eventually morphed into canned beans and a starch—either rice or powdered mashed potatoes, each stockpiled in abundance in a small room just off the main bunker.

One day, Higgs said, “Seems like radiation levels are normalizing up there. How about we go up and take a quick peek?”

My heart began to race.

After a year and a bit, most of my wounds and broken bones had healed, and I was going to have a chance to finally look up at the sky again!

Higgs climbed up first with his Geiger counter and various instruments to measure air quality.

Satisfied, and with a whoosh of positive air pressure, he opened the heavy, metal hatch of the bunker and crawled out.

What he must’ve experienced was momentary blindness, because it took him a while to motion for me to come up.

I climbed the ladder, poked my head through the opening, and immediately the brightness overwhelmed me.

Higgs grabbed my hand, and I felt the strength of this seemingly old man as he pulled me up without making a sound.

“Hoooo-ly shit,” he said.

We both looked at the terrain in disbelief.

“What the fuck?” I was able to mutter.

The scene was hard to describe. Whereas we had been living a thousand or so miles inland, at a thousand feet of altitude, we were now looking upon the shore of a vast ocean at our doorstep. The sun was rising—or maybe setting, we had no idea, really—just over the horizon, which Higgs’s compass indicated as due south.

“The pole-shift...” said Higgs.

“The what?”

“Nevermind,” muttered Higgs, “Would you look at that!”

“It’s a new dawn,” he added with a tinge of hope in his voice.

I’m not sure why, but I was overcome with a sudden, uncontrollable wave of emotion.

Poor old Higgs, to whom I owed my life, certainly didn’t deserve it, but I became irate. Unable to direct the anger to any source, I lashed out at him.

“No, it’s not a new dawn,” I exclaimed, “it’s the same bloody sun, the same stupid rock we’re riding through space! The shit’s just gonna go another cycle, and in 15,000 years, we’ll be right back here, at this god-forsaken, demonic point in the universe!”

Higgs said nothing. He just looked at me and then back at the world turned upside down.

“Please, Higgs,” I continued—emphasizing each word—“as long as it’s the same sun, it’ll be the same old dawn…”

The same old fucking dawn!

Eloi Roman Bengochea was born in Vanuatu but now resides in Hamilton, Ontario. His recent anthology, Rebels and Exiles: An Anthology of Dystopian Sci-Fi has been published by Planetesimal Press, publishers of Granfalloon, Speculative Fiction Zine.

Speculative fiction & POETRY ZINE