On November 13, 2012, at 4:57 pm Eastern Standard Time, every human being on Earth fell over.
It would take months before the statistical data could begin to paint a picture of that day. Sixty percent of all of humanity fell on their faces, while forty percent of the seven billion people in the world landed on their backs. An estimated 283 people died as a direct result of the fall, including 127 construction workers operating in various high-rise buildings, 54 elderly, and 65 people mountaineering throughout the world.
2,400 weddings were interrupted by the simultaneous topplings of entire bridal parties, priests, groomsmen, and all in attendance. Truck drivers’ foreheads hit the dashboard; people sleeping in beds awoke on the floor; and 723 passengers using airplane bathrooms twenty thousand feet in the air collided with the mirrors. A swim meet in Boston featured 4 divers belly flopping at the moment of the fall. Queens, presidents, octogenarians, prisoners, toddlers, doctors, blimp pilots – no one was spared in what journalists coined “The Great Stumble.”
Seismologists found nothing. There had been no great earthquake. No magnetic shift. No meteor. The Earth continued to rotate around the sun. Church participation increased 1,400 percent, 300 Stumble-based religions erupted across the world, and tens of thousands invested in a new pair of shoes. No animals were seen falling on their faces, no decorative plates left their mantels, and no beverages spilled on their own. Only humans tipped over. And no one knows why.
We have a theory, however, based on this fact: immediately after the Great Stumble, at least two people saw green.
United States Army General William S. Rancor fell on his back in the massive parking lot surrounding the Pentagon. His head nearly collided with the bent exhaust pipe of a blue 1994 Ford Ranger pickup truck. His eyeglasses landed above his left shoulder. While lying on the ground, the General stared straight up at the clouds blanketing the sky.
Suddenly the clouds directly above him broke open, parting like fog interrupted by the force of a jet, providing a pie-shaped glimpse of a clear blue day. Next, a hole grew in the blue sky, revealing a smaller black circle of space and stars, as if night were peeking in on the General through a galactic keyhole. Then outer space gave way to an even smaller circle of pure green. The size of the sun in mid-July, the green penetrated the concentric circles of space, sky, and clouds to fire through the General’s eyeball, iris, and pupil.
He reached for his glasses, although there was no need; this green could not be any clearer. The General stared at the green, and the green seemed to stare right back. For the General, green was all at once a primary color and the only color worth ever noticing again.
Then it was gone.
The General looked around, hoping for some understanding eye contact, any sort of opportunity to share what had just happened with another faller. Yet no one was looking up at the sky. Surveying the parking lot, the General could see that he was the last one lying on the ground. People were standing, talking in groups, re-enacting their falls, mouthing things like, “Yes, I also fell.” Everyone was unmistakably oblivious to the green in the sky.
This has happened at least once before. In the bloated journal of a Mr. Ferry, we found the following entry, dated April 12, 1883:
Today a most curious thing happened. I was in a bookstore, perusing a few large collections of African maps, when everyone in the store, perhaps half a dozen in all, sneezed at the exact same time.
Immediately after sneezing, as we said our “Bless you’s,” I felt a flood of light shower upon me. Looking up I saw a portion of the ceiling no longer existed. The clouds parted and gave way to a small yet unmistakable section of blue sky, a rarity for London this time of year. But the sky was not finished, for it soon dissipated as well, swirling away to reveal a smaller pocket of celestial stars and the deepest black of night. The brilliance of the stars that could only be seen on a cold clear country night was now sparkling in my eyes at one in the afternoon. This was not all, however.
The small hollowing of night gave way to a full moon composed entirely of green. I say this only to indicate size and its placement amongst stars and night, for it was certainly not the moon. It lacked any physical features or evidence of dimension; it was simply a circle of pure, magnificent green, a shade of which I had never seen before, and suddenly all the green I had seen before it now seemed to lack authenticity.
The green consumed me for a moment, entering my body through the eyes and warming my insides like a shot of whiskey. I felt like in that moment I could have drifted off into a deep, content sleep.
Without warning or any sort of gradual farewell, the green disappeared and the ceiling returned. I found myself with my eyes glued to the dilapidated plaster, waiting for the molding to provide an explanation. What’s more, I could see that no one else had shared my experience. All eyes were in books, all heads hanging down. A nearby pair of men joked about the coincidence of sneezing at the same time.
Why did such a curious vision occur, and whom could I dare tell about it? My first thought was to go to Francis, yet I owed him money, and the guilt of my debt would dirty any chance at genuine conversation and thought. My next idea was Matthew, but that dear friend was too busy preparing bank loans that he would immediately dismiss such flighty nonsense. The only other option was my father, but he no longer wanted to hear of any visions or ideas or hypotheses.
I stepped outside onto the narrow Pratt Street and lo; the sky was back to its wonderfully anemic hue. No one was looking up, and not one overheard conversation even mentioned the color green. This was clearly my own hallucination.
Where better for plan creation than the pub? I headed over, found my way into a few mugs, and before I knew it, the day had died and the green never revealed its secrets. I stayed up to watch the sunrise, and its splendor paled in comparison.
Then there was this entry, dated May 18, 1883.
A bicycle on the water. I awoke this morning, having dreamt of an octopus riding a bicycle to across the English Channel to France. Dismissing the octopus as an imaginative extra, I could not shake the rest of the dream, and ruminated over the action for hours. The concept was not entirely new – I once witnessed a bicycle-type craft floating along the shallow end of a pond while at a carnival. This dream called for something quite different.
The English Channel is a tough stretch of water. The journey will most likely take a few hours. Never before has a passion engulfed me so wholly. I need to do this. I must complete this objective. I will construct a water bicycle, sail it across the English Channel, and forever seal myself in the annals of history.
Another entry, dated July 14, 1883:
The water bicycle is finished. It is has two large wheels made not of rubber but wood, with multiple paddles attached to each wheel, and is propelled by my feet, but will slash through the water, with a third smaller wheel serving as a rudder. It took me the better part of two months to build. I had no idea what I was doing, and for the most part still don’t. I will set sail tomorrow, even though this machine of mine lacks any sails to speak of.
Here is the entry for the next day:
Four hours into my bicycling of the English Channel I realized I hadn’t seen a single fish yet. Where were the fish? I knew they existed in these waters; I had witnessed many fish hauled into the Billingsgate Fish Market throughout my lifetime. I even named these fish, wasting afternoons staring into their glassy eyes, wondering about their lives and whether or not, before they were captured and drowned by airing, they had finished their fish novel or opera that had been their lifelong dreams. If that bass hanging over the table, who just had his head chopped off by an hirsute and dirty individual, had never accomplished his ultimate goals, this was truly a pity.
Or at least I think I daydreamed about fish in the past. I no longer had any idea. For a man without and out of shape, I was quite beleaguered from the previous four hours of pedaling through choppy, frigid waters, and to be honest, I very well could be imagining everything.
I confess: I originally believed my twenty-mile excursion across the channel would be similar to a bicycle ride angled slightly uphill. However, this was more akin to racing twenty miles up the side of an avalanche with small sand dunes attached to my feet.
I had no choices anymore. Too far out to turn back, and if I stop, I coast into the depths. The threat to my fragile mortality made it slightly easier to keep my feet pushing the pedals at an irregular, disjointed pace, but it didn’t make it any more pleasant.
At least I dressed for the occasion, wearing a suit whose colors wouldn’t run if soaked, and had an extra pair of socks packed away in my shirt for my arrival. My wool scarf fought for freedom from the neck, hoping to partner up with the wet air in a glorious, scarf-life defining waltz up to the clouds and back to the sea.
All concept of tide or current was lost. I only knew of pedaling and relentless, unpleasant waves. I only knew of frustration, my children’s toy designs having never caught on with the only demographic necessary for success. I only knew of sitting around my flat with my rotund friend Grover, skimming books and moving on from one half-finished toy to the next. I only knew of a hot air balloon, rising from the water before me, towing with it a small island full of wines, cheeses, and baked goods.
A nude Muse lounged next to a sofa and chest of tools. “Here,” she beckoned me. “This is where you were meant to build. Out in the middle of the English Channel. But first we can make love and drink until we forget the cold, scaly shoulders of the schools of sturgeon. No cheese shall be shared with them. “
I opened my mouth to laugh and call out to the mermaid, but the vocal chords within could only strike a dissonant cough. Yet as I slogged toward the Isle Of Sex, Merlot, And Brie, the cable tethered to the balloon snapped, and the island sank, the Muse drowned, and the balloon flew away with the wind, causing the scarf to feel thoroughly snubbed. Sturgeon laughed from below.
How long has it been? I pried a hand away from the freezing metal handlebars and pawed my pocket watch out of my inside jacket pocket. Four hours and forty-five minutes.
What did time matter? I originally estimated a triumphant arrival on a sandy French beach within a couple hours: A pleasant Sunday water velocipedal ride across the Channel. A young couple, holding one another in their arms, having just professed a mutual love, would gaze out at the water, wishing the moment frozen in time. Then on the horizon a small figure would appear, gliding across the feverish waters towards the shore. The figure would slowly separate from the fog and gray and his shape would sharpen until it was clear it was a man sitting on a vehicle, pedaling across the oceans to France.
Is this the second coming of Jesus Christ on a tricycle? The thought would certainly cross their mind. It would then become clear that this man is not dressed in an Arabic robe or beard, but a dapper brown suit with a crisp mustache. The couple would rise and frantically scream at the other couples and families lounging on the sand. They would follow the pointing couple’s arms and see this British gentleman strolling into shore. Newspapers would be alerted. Crowds gather along the waterline, espousing cries of wonder and laughing at the transcendent beauty of the event. Parents remind their children to relish the moment, for they would surely never witness such a spectacle the rest of their lives.
Thirty meters, twenty meters, the man pedals with exuberance, the crowd’s cheers silencing the crashing of the waves. Ten meters, five meters, oh, the anticipation! The crowd hoists the smiling gentleman off his perch before he has the chance to dismount himself. They hug him, kiss him, thank him for introducing an irrepressible joy to their lives. A photographer has arrived. He snaps a photo, seen in newspapers around the world the next day.
The man who bicycled across the English Channel is the toast of Europe. His feat is exalted by the Queens and Kings of all nations, who host him at banquets and various affairs of the highest class, where he is surrounded by beautiful women and fancily shaped hedges. Britain’s finest toy shoppe is erected in his name, and children from all over come to play with his toy designs and meet the man who inspired them to follow their dreams and bicycle to the moon and the planets.
Four hours, fifty-eight minutes.
Men had swum this channel before. They have crossed in boats, balloons. This is why bicycling was essential. Original. To cross something can hold significance, self worth. I met a man who crossed the Sahara Desert. He was impressive up to the point that he admitted to riding a camel, and not a giraffe, or wheeled boat.
The currents fought every downward thrust of my foot, and my rudder to handlebar setup was beginning to show its amateur construction. What was I thinking? The truth is I know exactly what I was thinking: Why not? Who’s to stop me? Do something with your life. Live!
I could secure myself a bit of employment should I really desire, but making my mark on the world seemed far more enticing, even if that mark was something as silly as riding a tricycle across the English Channel. A world-class fool is nevertheless world class. Though I may not be bettering the world condition, who’s to say I’m not bettering the world itself, bettering the story of this earth to have a man who dedicated himself to such a pointless, grandiose adventure. I certainly had lofty thoughts in between my attempts to befriend a fish.
…Near five hours and a quarter in I saw the shore. I knew I would make it.
Had the General ever read these entries, he may have had a better idea as to why he abruptly wanted to start World War III by bombing every country considered a possible enemy of the United States.
Perhaps it is better that he hadn’t, because we want the General to succeed. Humanity needs a change, and we at the Society For The Green believe it will take only the most grand of gestures. A global pummeling via rockets falls directly into that category. The sooner this happens, the better.
With our global connections at the highest levels of world power, assisting the General with his mission should continue without interruption. The only possible hiccup involves the other man who saw green that day. He is a scientist from Tacoma, Washington. We have lost track of him in the last few days, but we do know with complete certainty that he is headed for the General this very moment.
Zack Poitras is a writer whose work has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and as a contributing writer to The Onion. Zack is also a member of the comedy group Pangea 3000. His favorite sound is someone biting into something juicy, like a watermelon or something. He is a contributing writer for The Inclusive.
Image courtesy of ye olde Public Domain