Fiction by Nicholas Johnson

Black Hole

“What’s inside the black hole?” The seven-year-old Grace asked the rest of the breakfast table before taking a sip orange juice.

The adults at the table were caught off guard by the question. Eric, Grace’s father, froze up as he was about to take a bit of his avocado toast. The slice of bread lingered in his hand before his gaping mouth. His eyes shifted to the big casement windows that peered into the sky above lake Michigan. It was as if he’d forgotten, but there it was the roaming portal to oblivion hanging in the sky just beside the sun. The irresistible force of this fissure in the fabric of existence was devouring earth’s life-giving star, slowly draining it from the sky into its eternal gullet.

“Well, no one knows for sure,” Grace’s mother Meridith interjected.

“My teacher says it’s going to suck up the whole world,” Grace said with a dramatic gesture of her hands.

“I was an engineer at a start-up that was trying to design decompression suits that work in the black hole,” Grace’s grandfather said as he took a sip of coffee. There was a lingering silence while the rest of the table stared at him, waiting to finish the story.

“And what happened with that?” Eric finally blurted out.

“Oh, we couldn’t get it to work, and eventually, the investors pulled out.”

“Oh,” Meridith replied disappointedly.

Except for the clattering of silverware and the slurping of coffee, breakfast went on in relative silence. That is until the inquisitive Grace suddenly decided to continue her line of questioning.

“When is it going to suck us up?” she asked.

“Not for a very long time,” Eric answered her reassuringly.

Her grandfather snorted derisively. “Yeah, I remember my father saying that when they discovered the damn thing. I guess it sorta snuck up on us,” he chuckled.

“There are plenty of really smart people all over the world working on it. I’m sure we’ll be ok,” Eric reassured his daughter.

Grace’s grandfather rolled his eyes. “That’s this generation’s answer to everything,”

Eric glared at the old man. “Well, maybe if your generation spent more time figuring out what to do about the imminent cosmic threat and less time thinking about where to get oil, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“Sure, blame your parents,” the older patriarch said with bemusement.

Meridith jumped in to defuse the situation. “I read an article the other day that said there’s a team in India ready to send a manned mission into the black hole. They’ll go in there for a while and tell the rest of us how to live there when they back,” she said, smiling at her daughter.

Eric shrugged, and the family resumed breakfast, turning their backs on the fragmented sky.

***

Nick is a Chicago based writer. His short stories and essays have been featured in publications around the globe. His stories are his attempt to address the sickness called the human condition. He archives his work at: http://www.dimenovelsfromoblivion.com/

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel

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