Sunday, July 31, 2016

Lone Star, Lost Star by Lou Antonelli

Lou Antonelli's character tells of the day Texas disappeared, and what happened after.

I was standing almost smack dab in the middle of State Line Avenue, looking across the street at the Baptist bookstore - where I had parked - with a six pack of Coors in my hand, when Texas disappeared.

I am quite familiar with what happened, yes.

If I hadn't had to wait for a car to pass, I would have already been on the Texas side of the street when it happened. I hold the record for the person who was closest to Texas who didn't disappear with it.

I was so shocked I almost fell into the abyss, but the enormous thunderclap that accompanied its disappearance as the vacuum collapsed knocked me backwards flat on my ass. I clutched the ground face down as the wind rushed in to fill the empty space. The beer went flying and one can rolled towards the car that had just passed me.

The driver came to a tire-squealing stop. The car was buffeted as the wind rushed past into the space where Texas had been. I lay as flat as I could and clutched the asphalt.

After what seemed like forever - but was really only a couple of minutes - the wind subsided. The driver looked shocked as he exited the passenger side. He looked over his roof and then looked at me.

"What the fuck just happened?" he asked.

People were streaming out of the shopping plaza on the Arkansas side of the street, including the liquor store I had just left, and rushing to the edge of the vast empty space.

As we found out later, everything that had been Texas was gone down to a depth of 150 feet below sea level.

Texarkana sits at 300 feet above sea level. Severed pipes that had run under State Line Avenue poured water over the edge of the 450 foot cliff. Clouds began to roil into the skies over the vast emptiness.

I looked at the man with the car. "I have no idea, but I don't see anything on the far side."

Indeed Texas was gone, all the way from Texarkana - where we stood - west to El Paso, from Brownsville in the south to Amarillo in the north.

We quickly learned from people whose cell phones, iPads and such were on a network that still worked that Texas had indeed simply vanished. The astronauts on the space station showed everyone an empty silhouette at the bottom of the United States where Texas had been.

The tornado sirens began to wail. An Arkansas state trooper drove up.

"Everyone head east, the Gulf of Mexico is rushing in."

Because of the distance we all had time to flee, but we all saw the video later, as the waters rushed in. Thankfully, the cliffs acted as a buffer and damage to surrounding states was minimal.

My home was gone. I had lived in an apartment in New Boston 20 miles inside Texas. But I was lucky. I didn't lose any family members. I'd only moved to Texas two years ago and was still single, and the rest of my family lived in Iowa. They were all safe.





I was taken to a refugee camp in Little Rock, where the government housed a number of former Texans who'd been out of the state at the time of the vanishing act. I heard a lot of interesting stories there. One woman had been the copilot for Delta Airlines flight from Memphis to Dallas, and they saw the whole state vanish out from underneath them somewhere between Texarkana and Dallas. They turned around.

"By the grace of God, the Texarkana Regional Airport is on the Arkansas side," she said. "We made it with ounces of fuel to spare."

Indeed dozens of planes made emergency landings in Texarkana and Hope, Arkansas. The same story was repeated in all adjacent states. Some aircraft were never seen again.

One man told me he was driving from Hugo, Oklahoma, to Paris, and he was a half-mile from the Red River when he saw the bridge pitch forward and disappear as a giant mist rose up into the air. He and the other drivers stopped and saw the Red River had turned into a waterfall on the Oklahoma side, descending down a cliff onto the wreckage of the half a bridge that lay beneath.

"I looked over and saw there was this fellow, he'd been fishing on a concrete embankment next to the boat ramp," he said. "He just stood there, pop-eyed, his fishing line dangling in the air."

That was close but I still held the record as the person nearest to Texas when it disappeared - the fisherman hadn't been in the middle of the river, now had he? Since I had been literally standing next to the state line in the middle of the street in Texarkana at the time it happened, the authorities were especially interested in my testimony.

Problem was, I really had nothing to tell them - and my story was the same as for everyone else who actually had Texas in sight at the time it vanished.

"I was just looking to cross the street and trying not get my ass run over," I said. "It's a total accident I hadn't already crossed by then. I didn't hear anything unusual, I didn't see anything unusual, it was like a special effect in a movie - it disappeared without a sound."

Like a lot of Texas ex-pats, after a while I found myself drawn to the shores of the new Gulf of Texico, staring and wondering what had happened. The tsunami that rushed in after the state vanished did much to crumble the cliffs where the state boundary had been, and the waves had begun to create a normal shoreline.

When I returned to Texarkana years later I found the liquor store where I bought my beer that day was now a beachfront bar with a beautiful view. I sat down at a patio table and had a cold beer while I watched the sun set in the west where Texas used to be.



It has become trite over the years to say this, but it is as true with me as it is with anyone else - the shock of the event changed my life.

I was as stunned as anyone. I mean, what could possibly be the meaning of making some 268,000 square miles of land and 28 million people disappear?

It was obvious there had been some great intelligence at work. Some people suggested it was an act of God. Others said it was a secret government project. It was too vast to comprehend. But someone - or something - had done some planning.

At the time it vanished, Texas hosted almost 1,000 oil and gas wells. Not a drop or bubble was later seen floating in the Gulf of Texico, and inspection showed every single one had been plugged with a variation of ferrocement that used titanium instead of iron.

Because of my distinction as the man in the Middle of the Street, the Texas Vanishing became a large part of my life. I decided to make the best of my close brush with death by going back to college and earning a degree in government. As of now I've been on the federal payroll for over 20 years.

As the Cabinet Undersecretary in the Interior Department for the Texas Mystery, I've been constantly called upon to comment on theories and explanations as well as purported evidence. Nothing has ever been proven to have remained on Earth that had been in Texas beforehand. Whatever happened, the state its entirety and all its people and contents disappeared - we knew not where.

Until we received your message a few days ago.

Now, you know to some extent what happened yourselves - it's obvious. Someone or something transported Texas in its entirety up to a depth of 150 feet to planet Gliese 667 Cc. Texas was dropped into an enormous ocean to become a new continent where you all have lived for the past 25 years. You don't know how or why this was done, but it didn't take very long for your folks at the McDonald Observatory to scan the skies and figure out where you were and where Earth is in your firmament.

And so you've sent us your message, to let us know where you are and to open communications in whatever form may be possible.

I am answering as a representative of the United States, which has been asked by the United Nations to make a formal response.

I have concealed a crucial piece of information up until now. When I took my current position, I was made privy to an astounding government secret - shortly after the Texas Vanishing, a powerful alien race contacted the United States government to apologize for abducting the state.

You see, while you don't know who or what transported you, I do. I also know why.

The old and wise race explained that, despite all the promise humanity held for the future, its scientific divination of our future history showed that we were careening towards disaster. Specifically, United States was heading towards a civil war as open hostilities were envisioned between what had become an essentially semi-autonomous province and the federal government.

Texas and the much of the United States were heading in different directions culturally and politically. The aliens said a secessionist war between Texas and United States was inevitable, and such a conflict would not only destroy the United States, but start a larger conflagration that would destroy the world.

They never said how they knew this with such certainty; it was easy to read between the lines to determine that they could see forward in time. They didn't like what they saw for us, and to prevent such a disaster, they did what they felt was the only humane thing to do.

Just as someone might relocate a wandering animal back to the wild for its own good, they decided that Texas - which was founded and had survived as a freewheeling frontier society - needed to return to that status.

Using technology completely beyond our understanding, they transported Texas intact to another planet. They didn't tell us at the time that it was the planet we knew as Gliese 667 Cc - which was habitable, but possessed no life of any kind, animal or vegetable.

Of course, now that we got your message, we know where you went. It was a radical solution, but one that worked.

It appears you have done well for yourselves and thrived. With Texas gone, the critical mass for a potential reactionary conflict in the United States was eliminated. The dystopian future that once seemed so inevitable for Earth has been avoided.

This leads up to my reply to your request to establish relations. Since what we've called The Texas Vanishing, many things have improved here. One practical benefit was that the lowering of the sea level caused by the increase of the ocean's cumulative surface volume by 268,000 square miles gave us the time and breathing room to prevent global coastline flooding while the nations of the world brought greenhouse emissions under control.

That cooperation as well as cooperation in many other spheres came about because of the humbling example of what happened to you. While the public doesn't know happened to Texas, people feel it was a sign of some kind that mankind should mend its ways. The humility, understanding and cooperation that has proliferated in the 25 years since you were relocated have produced a world culture that now holds hope for the future.

The leaders of the U.S. agree there is no reason to let people know why you were relocated. We will keep our knowledge of the ancient race's role secret.

Hundreds of years ago dissidents and the disaffected struck out for the frontier to live in the way they wanted to. But in the 21st-century Earth became too small, and that possibility was no longer feasible. The wise elder race gave us a pause and breathing room by transporting you so far away.

We have no desire for formal relations now with Planet Texas (and yes we agree that's an obvious name to bestow on your new home).

Your planet is 23 light-years from Earth. I know it took you 18 months to build a sufficiently powerful transmitter to bridge the distance of space, but there is still is no way to conquer time.

I was a young man when Texas vanished; 25 years later I'm middle-aged, and by the time you get this message, I will probably be dead. So this is my one chance to explain how we feel.

Enjoy your freedom and independence. For our part, we see what happened as a blessing.

The poet Robert Frost once wrote that "Good fences make good neighbors."

That also goes for light years.

Enjoy your future; we wish nothing but the best for you.

But we don't want you back.

8 comments:

  1. Funny, imaginative and oddly believable. Also seems like a prologue to something longer, I'd want to read it based on this.

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  2. Playful and serious, fanciful and intelligent. I agree with Ashley, I'd love to see the ideas progressed into a longer narrative. many thanks,
    Ceinwen

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  3. A very interesting tale with a warning and possible solution for us. If we are lucky.
    Fascinating idea
    Mike McC

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  4. This is something we might hear on Bill Maher. Politically funny and perhaps the unresolved wishes of the author. I suspect this writer might have a future as a political satirist. Well done.

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  5. Excellently thought out, witty, and massively entertaining with its pre-Renaissance concept highlighted with CGI-like images. But for me it reads more like an article in a political satirical magazine than a piece of fiction - a more developed personal drama might do the trick? The UK equivalent might be the disappearance of Yorkshire!
    B r o o k e

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  6. Sending a State to another planet is certainly an intriguing idea. Perhaps, a long, long time ago, uninhabited planet earth was used as a dumping ground for other inhabited planets to send states or countries they wanted to get rid of. That could explain why our little planet earth is as weird as it is.

    This story opens many unique thought paths. Well done, Lou Antonelli. Perhaps you'll consider expanding it into a novel. (You could just as easily use it as the basis for a new religion.) If you do nothing more with it, it stands alone and is just fine. But I can't help but see it as packed with potential for further development.

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  7. What an excellent and delightful idea. I wonder if any alien races will read this and get ideas. I sort of hope not because I live on the Alabama/Tennessee state line and I think they might end up going too.

    All kidding aside this was a marvelous concept.

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  8. This is a delightful work! I enjoyed it from start to finish. It was very well written with an easy flow and most thought provoking. I've stood on that street as well.

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