Friday, November 16, 2007

L.B. in Newport 1: School's Out

As it happens, Rhode Island is the only American state where Catholics make up a majority of the population, so the first thing we noticed was the missing children. One minute everything was as normal as things get here, and the next every elementary school classroom had no children, only piles of clothing. Later on, it was calculated that between three and five percent of the adults also disappeared, but that was later. When it happened, it was the children everybody noticed.

My wife and I are childless, so ordinarily it would have taken a while for us to notice, but my wife works for a children's literacy group, and she happened to be in an elementary school handing out books and prizes. She was looking at a little red-headed girl with glasses, and in the blink of an eye, the girl was gone, leaving behind her clothes, her glasses, and a couple of plastic hair clips. There was a momentary breath of wind that scattered some papers around the room, and a dozen sets of small clothing whirled around and down to the floor, then nothing. Later on, after I heard her story, I decided the wind was caused by the air in the room rushing in to fill a dozen child-shaped pockets of vacuum.

It being a Tuesday morning, I was asleep, with our two pet basenjis lying next to me in bed. I was awakened by a ringing telephone. I disentangled myself from the blanket and the two dogs and answered the phone. It was my wife, and she was frantic. The teachers and administrators at the school were in a state of panic. Every child in the school had vanished at the same time, leaving their clothes behind. My wife had seen one disappear, so she knew they hadn't suddenly all stripped down to the buff and run off. They had vanished into thin air. I told my wife I was driving to the school to pick her up, and she should meet me at the front door. I got dressed in record time, and since I didn't want to leave the dogs alone in the house, I put their leashes on and brought them with me.

I've heard that in some parts of the country, the roads were rendered practically impassable by cars and trucks that had become driverless during the Event and had crashed, but that's not the way it was in Newport. It's been established that at the time of the Event, Newport had a total population of about thirty thousand people, of whom maybe 5000 disappeared. Four-fifths of them were children, and of the remaining thousand, only fourteen were driving vehicles when the Event occurred at 10:32 AM. Seven of the suddenly driverless vehicles had passengers remaining who were able to take control of them without suffering any accident, three had passengers who were unable to do anything before the vehicles crashed, and the other four were empty when they crashed. None of the seven crashed vehicles were going over thirty miles an hour, five of them were going under twenty, and all of them hit either parked vehicles, guard rails, or decorative shrubs. One road was closed to traffic for an hour while a crashed car was towed away; in the other six cases, traffic was able to get by the crashed cars.

Driving from my house to the elementary school, I didn't come across any of the crashed cars, though I did have to pull over to let a paramedic truck go past. It took me five minutes to reach the school, and my wife was waiting on the sidewalk. The dogs were very pleased to see her (as they always are), and she was still busy greeting and petting them when I pulled away from the school. When the dogs had settled down, she reached over and took my hand in hers.


Anonymous said...

A very thoughtful look at some of the "less" affected sections of the United States (one of the only countries that seems to exist in the LBverse). What impact WOULD the Event have on devout Catholics, assuming they even exist here? Or would they be but unthinking recepients of Nicholas Mount St. Helen's scientific explaining away? What happens when these people find out Pope John-Paul-Tyler Tippicanoe has also disappeared?

wintermute said...

I thought it was established that The Event happened at 1 or 2 in the morning, EST?

Ecks said...

I love the writing style. It's plain yet engaging. I can hear this as a real person talking about a real thing. I think I would sit and listen to that person.

The only quibble I have, and it's a quibble, is the bit about the child shaped pockets of air collapsing. It's a good description as far as it goes, but the tone doesn't fit with the rest of it. It sounds like a little bubble of omniscient narrator voice jumping out the mouth of a real person who's otherwise talking about real events. It's too sci-fi clever. I feel like if this narrator tried to figure it out at all, he'd say something more like. "My thinking is that wind was all the air filling in where those kids left from." Or something like that (you know the voice of the guy better than I, obviously).

Anyway, good to see someone really living up to the "real true people" part of right behind.

Johnny Pez said...

Well, the narrator is a sci-fi geek (as will become clear in subsequent posts), so naturally he uses sci-fi language.

I disdain L&J's use of Mary-Sue characters; I'm going for full-bore author insertion here. This is me and my wife in the Left Behind verse. Think of these as Johnny Pez blog posts from Left Behind.

Btw, is wintermute right? Has a consensus been established about when the Event took place, or am I free to speculate? Or does it matter?

Ecks said...

Heck, your character, do as you see best. It just jarred out at me a bit.

Not sure if wintermute is right. The lead characters were on a plane at the time, and didn't seem to be asleep, but who knows where that plane was.

Oh, and I recall that the book describes some parking lot jammed up with cars, where they had to unload them with a crane. Had to be lots of people driving the cars, or they'd all be stashed out the way, and you wouldn't need a crane to get them out (just a brick through the window so you could get them into neutral and push... heck you could do that anyway).

In short, don't worry about it.

Rhoadan said...

This comment from an earlier Left Behind post suggests that it would have been about midnight EST. Dunno how definitive that is.

The opening of the book takes place in the middle of the night in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. IIRC, almost the only people awake initially are the flight crew.

Johnny Pez said...

Since there doesn't seem to be a consensus, and since I'd have to do major revisions of the posts if the Event were moved back in time to the small hours of the morning, then for purposes of this story I'll keep the time of the Event at 10:32 AM Eastern Time. The time of year, btw, is late April.

Rhoadan said...

Well, unless the characters in "3,000 Miles from Graceland" are in Alaska or Hawaii (seems unlikely), I'd say the stories aren't tracking the book chronology that closely.

Geds said...

Oh, well it's a good thing I read Rhoadan's post after answering Rhoadan's question in that new thread...