Wednesday, May 16, 2007

If We All Get Together

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

The old question ran something like, "If all the Chinese got together and jumped at the same time, could they move the Earth? Even half an inch?"

Semantically, the question needed revamping. Their empire stretched around the globe now and the Chinese would all be jumping in different directions, canceling each other out. Nevertheless, the scenario intrigued me. Why hadn’t somebody tested this thing yet? I sent out the call as a young (virile) graduate student, inviting everyone to come around to the Western Hemisphere on August 3rd and have a jump at noon, Pacific Time. The choice of hemisphere was only reasonable, as South America was the poorest continent, we couldn’t expect all of those people to come up with the traveling money. Besides, I lived in North America and since I came up with the idea and got the whole thing moving, why should I have to go anywhere?

My roommate, Joliver sent out the info-virus, raining it down on the anti-inertial hubs in the hope of spreading it far and wide.

Came the day, a good thirty-thousand people joined in for the jump. A respectable amount for a couple of guys sharing a tube in the vast sewers below Washington Pacific University (It was the PU in WPU, we always said), but hardly enough when you consider the twelve-billion Earthlings who were "too busy" to participate.

A lot of those who lent a foot offered to give it another go next year.

"Forget that," I said. "How about next month?" I had to make my mark fast, before I was out in the real world. I didn’t want to work for a living or anything. Less than a thousand people showed up from that other hemisphere so most everybody agreed. They’d be around anyway and the process would be over before it interfered with lunch.

After wrapping up for the day, I pulled dear old Joliver aside.

"We need to punch up our copy for the next info-virus," I said. "And make the thing more contagious!"

"I’m already on it," Joliver said. "I’m working on a test that involves head-scratching so I can get some funding from a shampoo manufacturer."

"Excellent! We need better synchronization as well. I could see just from our little group that those jumps were all over the place. We won’t move a sofa with that."

By the time September 3rd rolled around, a couple of stories surfaced of people scratching themselves bald and bloody. Joliver already spent the money from Real Poo’s parent company, so we weren’t terribly concerned. Across the Americas, seven point two million people jumped at noon. Seismographs picked us up and so did the newsertainment bots. There would always be those who stood in the way of progress, however. Reports came in of hundreds of thousands of people in the Eastern Hemisphere who’d gotten wind of our noble experiment and jumped right back, dampening our effect. To my chagrin, many of the jumpers resided in China.

I dedicated the next four weeks to refining the message for our next try, while Joliver, at my suggestion, tailored his latest virus to strike deeper in the brain, associating itself with the undeniable appetites for food and sex.

Of course, there hadn’t been an October 3rd for nine and/or forty-two years, when the Time Pirates attacked, so the next big jump occurred on the 4th. With three billion people in on the fun this time, the west coast sort of spilled into the ocean but luckily Joliver and I had jumped in Idaho, anticipating just such an issue.

The next info-virus mainly told people not to call the authorities when they saw us. Just for kicks, it also created a loose confederation of borderless nations under our control that we named The Tomathan/Joliver Empire. Our mission statement read: "To Be Corrupted Absolutely." Funding poured in after that.

November 3rd’s Sun stood high in the sky and we took no chances. The whole of the human race as well as a bunch of chimps (and one Gila monster, don’t ask me how that happened) jumped under our flag and on our side of the world. Everyone kept a decent distance from major fault lines (All those deaths the previous month cost us precious jumping mass) and just to be safe, everyone held something heavy. We also made sure that people dropped lots of stuff from great heights. I really wanted to get it right this time. Who knew science took so long?

We leapt. You know that feeling when you’ve come down a staircase and you think you’re on the floor, but there’s still one more step? Twelve billion people all got that feeling at the same time. We moved the Earth not half an inch, but a full six and a half inches! A deafening cheer went up.

Shortly after we loosened our grips a little on the minds of humanity, a few of our subjects called in to let us know that since the Earth had been jostled from its orbit, we should get some warm coats and head for Brazil where, if mankind huddled around us, Joliver and I might be the last ones to die.

I chewed on that for a moment. Joliver, soaked in champagne, was already shivering.

"In retrospect," I said, scratching my head, "I guess this was kinda stupid."

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