The Londis Singularity

Posted: December 7, 2010 in Sci-Fi, Short Stories, Space

The Londis Singularity

It first appeared behind the bread bin next to the jam and rice. No-one was ever sure why it originated there out of everywhere on the planet to choose from, but start there it did. Indeed, if it had been caused as wildly speculated in later weeks by experiments conducted in the Large Hadron Collider as part of their Black Hole research, then it would have made more sense to have occurred in Switzerland. But no, this particular quantum singularity appeared amidst the frozen peas of Londis General Store, Harrow, at about 09:58 on what until then had been an unremarkable Tuesday morning.

The first thing the shopkeeper had heard was an unusual fizzing sound, barely audible above the normal hubbub of the shop and the old transistor radio he kept on the back shelf next to the dusty ginger wine bottles. Waiting until the shop was quiet, he paced the aisles half expecting to see a bottle of coke exploded on the floor. What he did see defied the logic of anything he’d previously thought possible in his long and interesting life. There, in the bread tray, crusty white rolls were elongating themselves into floury exclamation marks before disappearing into a spot of nothingness, reminiscent of a space-ship jumping to warp-speed. The fizzing noise was supplemented with a plopping sound as each roll was sucked in. Quickly, only a few bread crumbs remained in the grease-paper tray to follow them in soon after.

The shopkeeper reached his hand towards the nothingness spot but quickly thought better of it. It looked like a dog’s shaven anus, circular in shape and slightly starfish but with a centre blacker than any black he’d ever seen. As the last bread roll was sucked in he noticed the glass jam jars nearby begin to lean in towards the singularity. He’d never taken LSD himself, but he’d heard stories from one of his regular customers and was sure that he too must be having some sort of hallucination. Perhaps food poisoning? As he returned to the counter to fetch the broom, he thought back through the morning’s events to see if anything he’d eaten or touched could be responsible. There had been that milk at breakfast which he’d thought had smelt on the turn, and he knew the sweets had been way past their sell by date…

Returning with the broom and just to be safe, he carefully moved back the jam jars with the bristled head and their leaning stopped, the lettering on the labels returning to their normal font, seemingly out of range of the phenomenon’s pull.

The shopkeeper didn’t know whether to be relieved or worried by this, as it only served to validate it in his eyes. Surely an hallucination was preferable? Visibly shaking, he put down the broom and closed his fingers round the first thing that came to hand on the shelf: a packet of easy-cook Pilau rice. As he aimed the packet, his nerves were such that the dry rice shook like marracas. Unsure whether he was going to make things better or worse but in desperate need of an answer he tossed the rice into the centre of the swirling black anus. The packet hung there on the tiny event horizon as if held between two magnets, then ripped apart spilling the rice grains into a maelstrom of a thousand stars twinkling against the black void, before stretching towards the pin-prick and sucking in out of sight with that now familiar plop.

With a sharp intake of breath the shopkeeper fell back against the shelf causing the whole plastic row to collapse around him. In horror he stumbled back, rolling his feet on upturned cans unable to gain traction. It was starting to move! More than this, it was moving faster and faster, picking up speed and heading towards him.

The small Black Hole, no bigger than a sparkling thumbnail whipped across the aisle, narrowly missing his left ear, and sucking in a variety of condiments and sauces as it went in a straight line, leaving a hole no bigger than a bullet in the refrigerator causing a plastic carton of milk to belch its white tears onto the floor. It exited the shop via a picture of the Hindu elephant god Ganesh that hung on the back wall. As it passed through Ganesh’s trunk the whole face became contorted, sucked-in at the centre offering up to the shopkeeper a final godly look of bewilderment. The shopkeeper remained rooted to the spot, broom in hand, looking back from the painting across his grocery store at the very precise havoc left behind. Neither he nor Ganesh had any answers.

From the street, above the sound of the radio and falling cans he could hear car horns and the grating spark of metal on metal. Dropping the broom he ran to the window just in time to see the black hole ping through a bookmaker’s window and out the other side before ricocheting through the side-door panel of a blue special needs school bus, always in one unstoppable straight line. It melted through everything, a cosmic knife through human butter leaving a perfectly cauterized hole with slightly bendy edges in its wake.

Within an hour, it was on the radio, first the local traffic news before going national, and then finally global. The Black Hole was ripping across the face of the planet without care for anything in its path, always moving at a fixed chest height and in a seemingly proscribed orbit.

Dumbfounded, the shopkeeper sat on his stool, riveted to the radio, totally oblivious to any customers tapping on the counter. His wife had made him a sweet tea for shock and he took periodic sips with breaks in the news.

It was being reported that scientists had confirmed it was indeed a miniature Black Hole, cause unknown but very much real. Most interestingly they said that it was not moving but totally stationary. The shopkeeper turned to his wife, asking how then had it passed through the shop and his god’s trunk, and had just been measured travelling at a steady twenty-seven thousand miles per hour?

The wife shrugged her shoulders and continued to sweep up the debris, cussing under her breath.

The rolling news bulletin quickly answered for him. IT wasn’t moving, WE were moving. The Black Hole was a fixed point in space and time, it was the Earth itself which was spinning around it, and with the earth rotating once every twenty-four hours at a head-spinning twenty-seven thousand mph, the Black Hole was acting like a massive bench saw of infinite gravity power, slicing through and sucking-in anything in its direct line as we rotated through it.

A customer waved his hand in front of the shopkeeper trying to pay for a pack of Digestive biscuits, but his eyes remained transfixed by the voice coming out of the radio…

“Breaking news: We’re getting word of an unprecedented emergency meeting of world governments at the United Nations in New York to try to plot the expected course of the singularity, with a view to warning those in its path  over this initial twenty-four hour period. Perhaps thankfully, early indications are that the orbit of the Black Hole will give it maximum transit over our oceans… but reports are already coming in from Chile of many casualties…”

The shopkeeper looked at his watch seeing a quarter past three, so by his calculations in exactly sixteen hours time the thing would be back in here sucking its way through his food aisles like a tramp on chips. He thought he’d better clear a space across the singularities previous route and also to make sure that the shop was empty of customers at least an hour before, Looking over his shoulder at his empty cash register he mentally corrected himself to close the shop ten minutes before.

As days turned into weeks, then months turned into years, there was no sign of the Black Hole dissipating or changing course, but neither was it getting any larger. People gradually became accustomed to its appearance at a set daily time, much as one might expect a train to pass through a station, or a clock to mark time with a bell at the same hour each day. Of course, the authorities in each of the countries it passed through had made careful provision to ensure its daily passage was safe and unhindered, but even the shopkeeper himself had become blasé to the police cordon which ran in a straight line from his bread bin to the milk refrigerator, with Ganesh having beaten a dignified retreat from the wall. At first people had crowded the shop to see the wormhole pass through at 09:58 each morning, regular as clockwork, but now two years later, it wasn’t uncommon for the shop to even be completely empty round ten. What had once been a fantastical spectacle was now merely tolerated as a bit of a pain in the arse.

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