This is part 3 of a short story cut into shorter sections. To see part 1 and follow the entire story, click here.
The Earth wondered how the people would deal with the approaching meteor. He suspected they would recycle one of their Hollywood clichés and shoot a missile at it. The people, of course, had the same idea. Within hours of the meteor’s discovery, a swarm of satellites started buzzing around the Earth like gnats on a spring day. China talked to England. Canada made a conference call to Turkey. NASA turned its telescopes to the heavens and told everyone the end was near unless they acted fast.
The people acted fast. Their leaders started pressing buttons and unlocking doors, uncovering weapons hidden long ago like eggs in the Easter grass.
“If we can split an atom,” the people thought, “surely we can split a meteor.”
But given the choice between fight and flight, the Earth wasn't sure picking a fight with the meteor was the best idea. "Flight," he thought, "might be a better option."
Afraid for his own future, the Earth began to formulate a plan.
For years the Earth had walked lazily around the sun, turning the corners gently to keep the people from losing their balance. But what if he sped up a bit?
"If I start running now," he thought, "I can just get out of the stupid meteor’s way. I could be halfway across the solar system by the time it arrives. If I’m 186 million miles ahead of schedule, hiding safely on the other side of the universe, I won’t even have to brush shoulders with it when it passes!”
The Earth knew that speeding up would require everyone – including himself – to adapt to a new schedule. The change would be hard for the people. Traditionally, even slow changes that obviously needed to happen (like evolution and equality) had been difficult for them.
Adjusting to a new way of life wouldn’t be easy for him, either. But what choice did he have? The facts of his existence were conspiring against him. He couldn’t continue on his current course and still survive.
And so, before the people could launch their missiles at the sky, the Earth took a deep breath and started to speed up. Faster and faster he ran. The faster he ran, the faster the days flew by. They passed with quickening speed until a single week was little more than a blur of sunrises and sunsets.
The roosters were the first to realize that the days were passing more quickly. Their cock-a-doodle-doos were hardly done before the sun was high in the mid-day sky. The people felt it, too. They noticed that the evening news was barely over before the morning show began. An alarm clock company even went out of business when its customers complained their clocks wouldn’t stay set. What the disgruntled clock holders didn’t realize was that their clocks worked perfectly, ticking away sixty seconds every minute of a 24 hour day. It was the days, hurried by the Earth’s new schedule, that were wrong.
The Earth didn’t care. It felt good to take control of his own future.
He sped straight through summer and practically skipped fall. The long trip that usually took a lazy year to complete was done in a matter of weeks. Birds, confused by the strobing sunsets, flew south for the winter only to find their homes under four feet of snow. Children were equally surprised when spring break started three days before Christmas.
The children loved the new schedule. They had hardly finished one birthday before the next one began. Girls celebrated their sweet sixteen with Barbie Doll cakes and Dora the Explorer parties. Boys were old enough to buy beer before their voices changed.
The rapid succession of birthdays made parents worry that their babies were growing up too fast. Their concern, however, wasn’t only for their children. A woman in Iowa had just graduated from college, gotten married, and was expecting the birth of her first child when she became eligible for a senior-citizen movie discount. Millions of women like her were equally unprepared to grow old gracefully.
Anxiety levels also rose among college students who complained they didn’t have enough time to study for exams. Pulling an all-nighter was practically pointless. The sun came up before they could finish a second cup of coffee. And when fraternity boys partied all night on Friday with plans of sleeping late on Saturday, it was sometimes Monday morning before they woke up and wondered where the weekend had gone – which wasn’t very different from the way things had always been.
College students weren’t the only ones with hurried schedules. A chapter of PA (Procrastinators Anonymous) contemplated disbanding when its members complained they could no longer find time in their newly-busy schedules for the monthly meetings. The president put off making a decision until more members could be present for a vote.
Even Santa’s elves were disgruntled. Unable to keep up with their new production schedule, the doll division threatened to strike.
The future was simply coming before the people were prepared for it. Before the Earth began his sprint toward safety, both the quick and the careful could order their lives because they knew what words like “next week,” “next month,” and “next year” meant. Like “one pound” and “four meters,” the meanings of “one minute” and “four days” were constant. This predictability not only helped sell thousands of calendars at Christmas, it also gave the people an illusion of control.
But now “tomorrow” was like a menstrual cycle -- reliable, but unpredictable. The people always knew it was coming, but they didn’t know exactly when it would get there or how long it would stay.
Across the globe, petitions were signed asking the Earth to slow down. Concerned citizens gathered at community centers and organized anti-Earth demonstrations. Unlike the great protests of the past, however, the people marched without knowing where to go. Since City Hall couldn’t solve their problem, the people wandered aimlessly, hoping the Earth would hear them yell.
At a march in Oregon, an environmentalist who had once fought to save the rainforests led a group in chanting “stop the world, I wanna get off!” At a rally in Atlanta, a construction worker carried a shovel, but he never followed through with his threats to dig a hole.
It didn’t take long, however, before the people realized that there wasn’t anything anybody could do to make the Earth slow down.
Activists couldn’t boycott anyone.
Armies couldn’t attack anyone.
Police couldn’t arrest anyone.
Lawyers couldn’t sue anyone.
Men couldn’t threaten anyone.
Women couldn’t manipulate anyone.
The AARP, whose membership had recently doubled, printed an informative pamphlet, but nobody had time to read it.
In the chaos, confusion, and frustration, the meteor was temporarily forgotten.
To Be Continued...
To read part 4, click here.