THE GREAT PAUSE
by Matthew Rudnicki
The Great Pause came without much notice, though no one was truly surprised.
Across the world, the people – already half asleep – carried themselves home and shook the dust from their sheets, preparing for the dreaming they’d agreed to ages ago.
The threat that drew them homeward was real, though they could not agree on its exact degree of danger. To those searching for meaning, tidings of anarchy and ascension alike were abound, the airwaves a swirling vortex of contradictory data and direction. Those in anger could easily feed their rage while those in hope could fuel their prayers. Those who grew ill took little solace in the messages of solidarity offered, and those who cared for the dying found little to soothe their weariness. Others found relief in the chaos, eager to honor the long-dormant urgings of service that coursed through them. Others, still, found peace in simply stopping, their frantic lives mercifully ground to a halt. There was a voice offered for every longing and the threat meant something different to everyone it encountered, yet it was enough to corral the people back to the quarters they deemed worthy of their rest. It is there they settled, readying for a pause so long in its coming, and so sudden in its arrival.
Families of every manner coalesced in tiny apartments as all were thrust into states of temporary permanence, some experiencing the throes of relief, others the verge of panic. The tension in many homes was severe at first, and the grips of fear were felt by many, but as The Pause deepened, so too did their surrender. Soon all were in comfort, regardless of the conditions of their confines, and in this ensuing peace they began to drift towards a deep, hypnotic slumber. The Great Pause conceded to none, not the billionaires on their yachts nor the vagrants in their allies, and in what seemed an instant, the industries ceased. The traffic vanished and the valleys choked with smog began to clear. The skies became bright with stars even over the most crowded cities, and the people’s gaze trained upwards, even as their lids grew heavy. In short time, all were asleep, and as the noise of the world subsided, the promise of our dreams beckoned.
It was in this quiescent state that we left the planet for a time and slept amongst the stars. The swift abandonment of obligatory behaviors had managed to degrade the very foundations of our physical homes, crumbling the cement bindings between Earth and architecture, and freeing us from the suggestions of gravity. It was as if the universal recalibration of priority had shifted the very nature of physics. Dwellings of every shape and size broke free of the terrain they were fastened to, and every inhabited structure on Earth slowly creaked off the ground, hovering – for a time – just an inch or two above land. As the people descended deeper into their slumber, their homes began to lift towards the sky, trails of dust and debris falling in their wake. As each newly-christened vessel passed through the atmosphere, a generous coat of ozone was draped around it, hermetically sealing all habitats from the cold void of space. Every human on the planet journeyed upward in perfect unison, a species in tow as the landscape grew distant. The Earth’s curvature came into focus, and eventually, the ever-pregnant fullness of her unadultered shape.
The people floated in space, warm, entranced, and tucked into their homes, an endless fleet of ships drifting above the great waters far below. They began to draw towards one another, like clumps of mercury spilled from a broken thermometer, and formed a great chain of vessels that wrapped around the Earth, fanning out towards the cosmos and slowly spinning like the rings of Saturn. All of humanity was contained within this precious disc.
As they orbited the Earth, they slept. And as they slept, they dreamed. And as they dreamed, they grew closer, for their dreams began to overlap and their visions became shared. A deep resonance was felt in the hearts of all people, as they moved in and out of each other’s imaginations, for every pass through the collective vision was the threading of another burly rope in the great net of their projection. An Envisioning was underway, one whose viability was intimately dependent on the participation of all.
Over time, as the Earth grew back her forests, so too did we rewild, our hair growing freely across our bodies and our musk gently bellowing in the confines of our vessels. As the Earth cleansed her oceans, we too cried freely and lovingly after centuries of restraint. As the Earth purged our toxins from its land and air, so too did we purge, healing the ills of the past from our unified field. Soon, we could remember all we had lost, and the first stirrings were felt in space. It was time to wake and restore our ancient ways.
A new future was dreamed of, and the dream was held equally by all, for all had shared a longing for a world untethered by the direction of the past and bountiful enough to hold all in its abundance. When the last soul agreed to this collective vision, the disc ceased to spin independent of the Earth’s rotation, and began to move in perfect harmony with the planet below.
The Earth, rested and whole, called us home. The chain of humanity that had stretched across space began to descend through the atmosphere and each vessel returned to its point of origin. Every home and habitat, complete with rousing dreamers within, approached the ground and exhaled as their full weight was placed upon the Earth once more. As the dust grew still and the people rose from their slumber, a knowing was shared by all. The world was different, they all felt, and a great work had begun. They walked outside and drew giant breaths, and across the land the people yearned to see each other once again.