It had all started with goofing off in the schoolyard. She could still remember her friend showing her how the ball just would not fall to the ground. At that one spot, near a tree, the laws of physics had somehow given up. She had moved her hand over the spot and could feel it, the moment when the gravity had stopped pulling on her, but the next time she tried, it was gone.
Then the incidents started to multiply and scientists flocked to places with such anomalies. In the beginning, they were small and short in duration, but that changed. Soon, images and movies turned up on the web, of people floating in the air, as if they were surfing invisible waves. Scientists did their measurements and calculations and could not come up with any explanation. The only thing for sure was that something was messing up the gravitation at the anomaly points.
After a period of calm, larger and different occurrences of the phenomenon took place. They appeared randomly, making the gravitational force fluctuate wildly, from lows to incredible highs. They were often compared to ripples on the lake surface that appeared when a stone hit the water, except that these ripples were not spreading outwards, but inwards, condensing to a point, when they would disappear. People called them “waves”.
When the first big wave hit the Earth, it happened in a secluded area, so no one realized what was going on. The next two big waves were more apparent. One flattened the suburban area of a large city, the other destroyed a small coastal town. People started paying attention. She remembered different theories that appeared. Some said a botched military experiment was to blame. The others accused aliens, time travelers and who knows what. Again, others proposed that the solar system had simply drifted into a bad neighborhood. The reasons did not matter. On that, she could agree with her parents, who were on one of the first teams that tried to deal with the consequences.
When a big wave starts, it is important to measure the area it affects, the direction in which the anomaly moves and the speed. People must evacuate before the wave builds up. If you are in the area hit by the wave, you need to move, quickly and in the right direction. The early-warning system worked as well as it could, and in most cases prevented massive casualties. But the anomalies were getting less and less predictable, with less and less time to warn people.
So, it came to this point, the moment at which she stands in the middle of a deserted street and listens to the creaking and rumbling of a wave crashing everything on its way. The only other person on the street is an old man polishing his car. She looks around, panic rising in her stomach, trying to figure out which way to go. She sees the tips of the distant trees moving, bending, as if a storm is coming, except there is no wind. North, she needs to move north.
Suddenly, two young men and a small girl appear out of nowhere. She can see they have been on the road for days, just like her. They are exhausted and frightened. One of the guys reminds her of her high school crush. They notice the old man and his car.
“You need to come with us,” they say, but the old man shakes his head stubbornly and fights them off. As if awakened from a dream, she shouts:
“Wait for me!”
They leave the old man behind and she sees through the back window of the car that he is waving them goodbye.
Outside the city, they pick up speed. There are other cars on the road, all heading north, taking the mountain road, hoping that they can escape the wave before it loops on itself and closes them in. She looks at the little girl that hardly moves, to the guy on the passenger seat who is introducing himself and his friend, as if that mattered, but something else draws her attention. They are already high in the mountains and she glimpses the other side, where something makes the treetops restless.
“Look how pretty it is here,” she says comfortingly to the little girl and takes out the phone. Her mom picks up and answers with a shaky voice.
“Mom,” she interrupts the questions from the other end of the line. “Mom, I think I’m closed in. It doesn’t look good.”
“We are on it,” her mom says. “You know that they never close completely, we are trying to calculate the exit point. You just need to keep moving.”
“I think it’s too late.”
“No!” her mom screams. “Don’t you give up on me! Do you hear?”
“Mom, if you ever meet those aliens that are doing this, tell them they are really breaking up the party.”
“Just keep on moving! I’ll find that exit point.”
“I will, I’ll keep on moving,” she promises. “Mom?”
“I love you.”
The other end is silent, until her mother whispers:
“I love you, too.”
The car stops. From the edge of the road that ends in precipice, they see how the wave is crushing the mountain on the other side. Suddenly, everyone seems calm, as if it was not too important. The guy that is driving turns his head and looks at them questioningly. They understand what he wants to ask and nod.
“Let’s ride it,” she says.
So, he backs up, accelerates and drives the car off the cliff. For a moment, before the wave reaches them, they are floating freely, finally released from the shackles of gravity.