RYEBREAD CREATIVE

A blog dedicated to the creative output of R.P. Brown ryebreadcreative@gmail.com

Small Proofs the Earth is Flat

It is impossible to consider the internal processes of Chris Copeland without a knowledge of the events that came to define his early life. When he was just six years old, whilst practicing tying his shoelaces, his best friend Matthew was hit by a car. This instilled a healthy fear of the outside forces at work within the world as well as a subconscious belief in his own destiny. Chris did not remember the surname of his childhood friend.  He was not overly sentimental; at twenty-six he had few close friends and a considered and considerable fear of extremist Muslims.

The second event to shake his early development was when his father disappeared without a trace when he was ten. The police were baffled, the media in a frenzy. Chris considered the latter to be leeches. He was disgusted by his mother’s speeches and her play acting, even more so when years later she would still appear on the local radio.

In his mid-teens, he became obsessed with finding his father and later convinced himself that he had successfully done so. It happened quite by chance, when scrolling through his uncle’s holiday photos. A reflection in a window. There in Mexico, his father taking the photo of his brother, both smiling with the shared knowledge of a conspiracy. He was convinced that his Uncle had smuggled his father out of the country in his van via Calais. He never spoke to him again. Chris, almost a man, had stone set beliefs that when settled, were carried into his later life. He also had a sense of abandonment that drove him to success.

In reality, it drove him to aspire to success. He was quick to blame others and despaired quickly at his failures.

All of this had gathered momentum, a force behind him building like the perfect wave, only to crash as he was hit by a third more powerful defining moment.

As it happens, Chris is lying in bed, restless, scrolling through his phone and thinking of a scuff on his brown shoes. The backlight is scorching his retinas. It keeps him awake and allows him to remain focused on obsessing perfectly.  He is thinking about how in future he will always carry shoe polish. He is thinking about how in future he will see the bigger picture. He is thinking about failure.  Earlier that day, Chris had had an interview. It had not gone well.

He was thinking over and over about the moment he had noticed it. He was reading over his notes about the company, glancing over his examples of management, communication and teamwork. In his peripheral vision, it sneered at him. That scuff. The one that closed another door. Another pothole on the road to his future.

The more he rubbed the blight with his other shoe, the worse it got and then he was spoken to causing him to jump out of his skin. He began to sweat as he laughed it off. He scrambled with his belongings as he followed his host down the hall to the brightly lit conference room. Sympathy and disgust as he then shook hands with the panel. Their blank faces remained unimpressed with his first from St Andrews; his internship with the council did little to move them and his management role at the coffee shop was met with an implied shrug. The less he got the more he stammered, the more he forgot and the more that scuff singed his feet.

“Thank you. We’ll let you know.” As far as Chris was concerned they already had.

Earlier he was furious, now the flame had turned to disappointed ash. He scrolled and scrolled through social media, searching for a connection or a sympathetic pat on the back. He’d been looking at the same feed for some time without any divine inspiration, lost in a familiar sea without a compass. He couldn’t be held by boxsets, novels or comics. It had gotten late anyway. So he scrolled.

He stopped. He clicked. He watched. His mind was opened.

The world was flat, he laughed, his world was anyway. It sounded so ridiculous but yet it rang true. Example after example battered his previously held conceptions.

“Despite high altitudes, all amateur 360° footage from hot-air balloons, drones and planes show a perfectly flat horizon.”

He felt elated, light-headed and giddy. So obvious and yet lied to from birth. Chris Coupland felt free. A new man. Without the third dimension, he felt as though he’d broken the fourth wall, gained a knowledge, an absolute truth that millions of his race had known just a few generations ago.

Chris sat up and looked away from his computer. Spots of light punctuated his vision, flashing then fading until he saw a perfect picture of his room in darkness as it was before. It felt as though something should be fundamentally different. It was the world he had known all his life but his understanding of it was beyond his imagination. His computer hummed, whispering reminders of conspiracy, corruption and wealth. He was staring at a three bedroom flat he still shared in St Andrews, that he could barely afford, thinking of the coffee he sold to the ignorant and the informed alike.

What other lies had they been spoon fed from birth?

He lay back down and closed the lid of his laptop. On his back staring at the ceiling, Copeland’s mind swirled, whilst beneath him for the first time in his existence it was still. There was a distinct lack of motion, no outside forces compelling to round and round and round. His life was his own. The cycle was broken.

“Canal, railways, bridges and tunnels are always laid horizontally, often for miles and miles without allowance for curvature.”

Chris wished he could see the sky, stand out in that vast open plane. He wanted to shout up to the moon and laugh with the stars about the jokes the humans told, just like old friends reminiscing about the naivety of school days gone by. In his mind’s eye, he leapt on a train heading towards the World’s End and then on to whatever lay beyond those vast ice walls of the Antarctic. Gravity did not pull him back. It did not exist. Far from anger, he felt all the possibilities in a world that was not now, nor ever had been, dwarfed by the sun.

With a heart filled with hope and Chris Copeland was able to rest.

***

It was some months before Chris felt ready to put his new-found beliefs into the world. Those around him had noticed a certain change in his demeanour but could not place a finger on it. His chin was titled just a notch upward. He no longer wore his contact lenses and with a new jacket alongside a little facial hair, he now had a certain scholarly look he had been lacking since leaving university. In fact, he had applied to return for a masters, in Geography and History.

Part of the reason he had not enlightened his colleagues and friends was the joy of conspiracy. There was a warmth in a secret withheld, a knowledge hoarded and not shared. In some ways, however, Chris could not help himself, he’d taken to muttering to himself, doodling maps on napkins and placing hidden messages in his coffee art. The thing about thoughts are that they want to be physical, to define themselves as truths, and like people, they like be found out, so the world knows just how clever they are.

“That’s awesome, Copeland, what is it?”

His stomach sank as he looked up at Nuala, a regular in the coffee shop and a constant source of flirtation. She was a student, a few years younger, small, cute, smart, bubbly. Chris was never sure if she liked him or if she did it for the extra stamps.

“Hey Nuala, it’s the flat earth on your flat white.”

“The what?” she laughed, eyes sparked in surprise.

He froze like the none existent southern ice cap. If he was wrong, he’d be a laughing stock. If he was right, he would be too. A strong hand clasped his shoulder. His fellow assistant manager stood behind him. Chris ceased up completely.

“Come out with us all tonight and he’ll tell you then” said Matt nonchalantly, “If your free.”

“I’ll make myself free to hear this. Where’re we heading?”

“Not sure yet. Just come here at closing and we’ll see how it goes.”

“Sure, see you guys later then”

There had been no intention of going out, Chris had the early shift. Matt was a force onto himself who wielded positivity like a weapon. So before long he found himself in a pub around the corner with the colleagues that he bored and two girls he barely knew. Nuala and her quiet friend Ella.

Life changing events often roll on from the last until they patter into a new equilibrium. It was on this night that Chris Copeland discovered there was a power in oration, an assurance from self-beliefs and a sexy confidence that ensues. His love flourished like many romances under the supervision of a few drinks too many. Chris’ words were slurred as he furiously debated and destroyed the naysayers.

“The Suez Canal.”

“What the fuck is the Suez Canal?”  Matt asks, rolling his eyes at Nuala. He was beginning to get exasperated, his blood was boiling.

“It’s 100 miles of canal that connects the Mediterranean with the Red Sea, an uninterrupted connection. Do they take into account the world’s curvature? No. The water runs parallel the whole way.”

“Look it’s all relative, gravity curves the water round it.”

“Water fills the space it’s given and flattens out. If it was really that fixed then the fish wouldn’t be able move and if gravity was that strong, how would the birds and insects fly off the ground?”

“Do you know anything about Physics? Mass is directly related to gravity. You’re an absolute moron.”

“Not sure, you’ve refuted my claim though.”

“Because it’s like you’ve got rocks for brains” shouted Matt furiously.

“Cool it, Matt” chided Nuala. “Okay so what about the constellations in the southern hemisphere. They are completely different because you are looking out at a different part of the galaxy.”

“It’s because it’s further from the centre of the surface of the earth. On the edge, you are closer and so you can see more stars.”

“But they are different stars, not more of them.”

“What’s underneath?” came a voice from the corner.

For the first-time Chris looked at the girl Nuala had dragged along. Her glasses extenuated her wide, intelligent eyes. Her blond hair was tied in a plait and hung to the side of her face. She dressed fairly conservatively but fashionably. She was beautiful, suddenly the room was a lot smaller.

“I don’t know but I’d like to.”

“Hell?”

“It could be”, Matt leaned in closer. “But what I want to know is what’s really above. During the cold war, both the Americans and the Soviets constantly fired nuclear weapons into the sky. The world is surrounded by this layer called the firmament. You know what they were looking for?”

“What?”

“Paradise.”

“Paradise”

***

A romance sparked, both attracted to the other for their strong beliefs and philosophical tendencies. Ella who’d studied theology went on to become an Anglican priest. Chris, with the love and support of his partner, went on to open his own coffee place with a distinct political persuasion with nightly guest speakers. A hub for the community called ‘Flat White.’

They were married about a year. He lectured part time about the fundamentals of the Flat Earth, writing several academically dismissed books. She made several television appearances on Sunday morning shows discussing the evils of abortion, same-sex couples and the follies of the ever left and disillusioned millennials. ‘Generation Naïve’ as she duped them, developed a popular meme from the time she called Jesus her homeboy.

At first the idea of the media spotlight repulsed Chris, he was often asked to appear on local radio but the memories of his mother initially prevented him from the wireless. Ella understood his early trauma and he spent long nights cuddled into her, discussing the tragic events. He wept and she thought of him as broken, praying to God for him and often gave him a wide berth for his short temper. Eventually he felt ready and asked the important question. Is there a fee involved?

By the time, they were thirty, the couple were well known faces. The café, the church and their sermons became a pilgrimage. Day and daily they dealt with death threats. They both spent hours on end in heated twitter arguments. Well known astronomers and other moralists fought for a chance to go up against the Copelands, some ruining their daytime television careers in the process.

Then on Question Time, a billionaire called Heinz with a private space enterprise, started an online petition to put him into space. It reached a million signatures. Chris released a statement on social media.

“I am sure the left-wing establishment would like nothing more than to put me on a rocket and blast me straight into the firmament. Problem solved. The opposition will not remain silent. What are they really hiding up there?”

His phone was always on silent, the number of notifications was often overwhelming but that night he could feel the hate pulsating from his phone. Then the rebuke from the man himself.

“If the rocket exploded surely you have proven your point and my reputation and the future of commercial space travel lies in ruins?”

Was he right? Was it a trap? What was the fear that gripped his stomach?

He swiped away jabs at his integrity, some questioned his sincerity. He was accused of being an acrophobic coward, shared and shared again online, he was even more of a laughing stock. He could even see cracks developing in the minds of the true believers. Taking his cue from his wife, as he often did, he went for a walk as she suggested.

He walked and watched the people of the flat world. He saw them stagger along on one direction, towards their maker. Few seemed to ever look left or right; fewer still seemed to see the people who walked alongside them and the fewest of all saw the strings that pulled them forward or the track determined not by God but man. It was a grey world this plane, for they all believed in the t at the end, the one that made it a planet. It emphasized their insignificance and their inability to control the cosmos. It was not random, it was designed and those with the knowledge controlled everything. The Freemasons. NASA. The Russians. They all had their hand in the pie of life.

Suddenly he was struck, pushed to the ground by a momentum, a force beyond his control. In the gutter, he saw two wheels fly by. Chris Coupland hated cyclists and their nonsense about green energy, nothing but unaccountable nuisances.

“Eat gravity, dickhead” shouted the man on the bicycle as he drove off at speed.

He stood up, he could not sit by and listen to the misery and the lies. He wanted the world to see the hope in the skies above. The false idol of science had a vice grip on the hearts of the people. It had no moral code but its own.  Those who cried fake news, who undermined the will of the people, their time had come. He would not be afraid as he propelled towards the truth, no matter the madness, no matter what death awaited him. This was his purpose. God had sent him a message. He would not lie in the road like his childhood friend. He would not shirk his responsibility like his father. He would lead the crusade against science fiction.

Chris Copeland would go to space.

***

Oh God, Oh God, Oh God. His world was spinning again. As he sat stateside in the centrifuge, Chris tried not to think about what forces were acting upon him. They certainly weren’t of his making.

It was some years since he’d made the commitment to be the first civilian in space. If he was honest with himself, Chris had never thought it would happen. The technology wouldn’t be there; the masters would never allow it; he would fail the medicals. But it was; they did and he didn’t. Now he was convinced he would die. He would not survive this. He would not see thirty-five. Ella was pregnant with their first.

He did it for her, he wanted the mother of his child to be proud. He wanted to be a stronger man, a man of his word, for the baby.

The spinning stopped, his knuckles were white. Chris began to laugh maniacally as the simulation reached its destination. He opened his eyes to see a vision of the earth as though the pod was in orbit. What wonderful smoke and mirrors. He could see why the world was taken by the story, it was all very artistic. Slowly he came back to earth.

“I’d say you’re all ready for the real thing, Copeland”

Still spaced, Chris looked up at his trainer.  “I’m sorry?”

“Still not quite with us? Tomorrow’s the big day are you feeling nervous?”

What if he became one of the disappeared? Like his father? Surely, they would understand. He did not want that for his child. He did not want him or her to be an only child.

“You know” Chris answered, “During the Soviet Era, the communists used to fly the orthodox church leaders up to the stratosphere and ask them to point to heaven. They would just smile at the atheists and point beyond the clouds.”

Chris could hear the scientists scoff.

“Two Christians will never pilot a plane together in anticipation of the rapture.”

That night, Chris tossed and turned and whirled violently around, waking up upside down on the wrong side of the bed. He dreamt that the world split down the middle as airline carriers crashed all around him. He was afraid to look at what lay beneath.

Chris felt that same sense of dread as he ascended the stairs to the aircraft that would take him out of the world as he knew it. Was he to come back down from Mount Sinai with a message from the heavens? Were they ready for the people to know the truth? Or were these his last steps?  One small step into the cabin. The pilot clapped him on the back.

“I know you have a lot riding on this but trust me, your pride is worth the sacrifice to see something like this.”

“What was the price for yours?”

The pilot just smiled at him.

“I’m a big fan of your wife, Mr Copeland. Not many left like her, a proper woman who you can respect.”

“Thank you” muttered Chris, slightly taken aback. He then noticed around the man’s neck a small silver cross and then felt relieved. He was among kin, the partially enlightened.

“You should take a trip over our side of the pond. I’m sure my wife would love to host a group from your church.”

“That’s mighty fine of you, I’d speak with the co-pilot, he is on the committee. Don’t know how he finds the time for it.”

At this point, Chris felt a movement in his bladder as he relieved himself in his Maximum Absorbency Garment, which he wore under his Intra Vehicular Activity Suit. At least if that rapture came while they were all on board, he would be taken with them, leaving the shuttle to crash on the heathens below. You could never really trust large private corporations to consider safety concerns over the financial.

“Time to buckle up partner.”

“If the Earth was spinning to the east at over 1000mph, helicopters and hot-air balloons could hover over the surface of the Earth and wait for their destinations to come to them.

It was this belief that had defined his adult character, his singular path to success, his commercial career. It was this he thought of and held desperately to as he heard the count from ten. Final seconds in his life ticking by, thousands of thoughts and memories surged through his brain, flowing from his soul and as the count reached five, Ella and his unborn child appear vividly before him. He quietly thanked God for these blessings and prayed it would not be long until they joined him in the gates of heaven. He would have to wait now until they came to them.

Lift off.

It was less noisy than he expected. He had been imagining this moment for weeks, expected a large deafening explosion as the fires of hell attempted to swallow his beliefs and plunge him downward. He anticipated that Doubt would take his hand and attempt to lead him away from the heavens. Instead he rose, not in the hands of angels but in the spacecraft as it made its way to the atmosphere. He opened his eyes and looked out.

“Flights from Sydney to Santiago cannot fly over Antarctica because it is ‘too cold’. Instead they fly back into the Northern Hemisphere. The only reasonable explanation for this ludicrous detour is that the North is in fact the centre of the Earth.”

The world below him was getting smaller and smaller as he travelled miles and miles further away from his home. Towards the unknown. The world was big enough, with its diverse races, religions and species, why did they insist that there was more out there? Didn’t we all have quite enough? The resources we could all share, the evils we could all unite against, the danger in this small yet vast frontier were real and severe. The babble as communication and understanding breaks down, fires without lights in the darkness. The infantisation of Western Culture. Those without God who cannot see. Why seek more? There are no comforts like those closest to you and your own.

He prayed that he would have the strength for what lay beneath it all.

“Though many have claimed to see the horizon curve in airline carriers, this is in fact an illusion caused by the curvature of the windows.”

A lurch as the rocket broke away from its wings. Chris Copeland closed his eyes. He wondered had a truly honest man reached the stars? It was such a corrupt world.

He could feel that unknown force acting upon him again as it crept into his stomach and latched on to his fears. Tears streamed his eyes. When the pressure subsided, he opened them again.  For the first time, he saw.

He saw there below him without a shadow of a doubt the sphere that he called home. He saw an orb. Something three dimensional. Undoubtable that he saw the world was not flat. He saw he had been a fool. He knew it would not be the last time and he smiled. For it was beautiful, a real art of craftsmanship. The world sailed beneath him, the clouds danced and drew the most wonderful illustrations on the bright bold blue of the oceans. No words or thoughts came to him then. He just absorbed truly at peace.

He saw the bigger picture.

For two hours, he sailed and felt as though he was listening to all the whisperings of the earth. He truly believed if he had opened his mouth, he would be speaking in tongues because at that moment he heard every man, woman and child below, their voices raised up in chorus. There were no coincidences, each and every one of us were connected.

He saw God.

He looked upon him in a different light, not a God of absolutes or judgements, but one who bonded with love and tied oneself to his fellow man. He knew that he had been wrong and felt not guilt but a wave of acceptance and repentance. His soul was warm, he had passed beyond himself, beyond the Earth. Out of body, out of mind.

He saw many small proofs. Unseen before. He knew them now as truths.

As he descended Chris, felt gravity’s hold on him again. He could no longer denounce its existence and realised its worth. For a world with weight equally held on all shoulders, was one of responsibility for its collective upkeep. After all these years, he realised he had attempted to take the easy road just as his father had. Expectation, driven to demand, had left him impatient. He had chosen fame over function. Words over knowledge.

***

Chris Copeland did not speak for three days. When he first began to utter words again they were merely functional. He spent hours on end in Ella’s church, praying as if seeking for solace.

He was never more attentive to his wife and she found him an easy listener when she spoke about her fears of birth, parenthood and her fear of what world their child would live in. Chris comforted her with small, occasional wise phrases, much like a greeting card. Ella began to worry for her husband. He would not speak to her about his trip.

His followers still came around to the café and some still spoke but slowly it all began to die away and the business faced hardship. Ella pleaded with him to rally his flock but he had no answers.

On one bright sunny day, he found himself beside the river Tay, he should have been getting home but he was lingering. Chris watched the sun as it disappeared beneath the horizon. He knew it would be rising somewhere else and soon it would return. The cycle. The dreary cycle. The energy and lust for life he found in space had dissipated quickly, drained by the realisation that he had never really been good at anything except convincing the populace of untruths. Was it politics that awaited him? More work in the media? Worthless, his life was worthless.

His wife no longer admired him, he could tell. The child she carried would have the same useless genes and so would the one after that. Perhaps a campaign for sterilisation was his calling. Chris grimaced.

He looked at the River Tay flowing into the ocean and recalled one of the many ‘proofs’ he had pedalled.

“Rivers run down to sea-level finding the easiest course, if Earth were truly a spinning ball then many of these rivers would be impossibly flowing uphill.”

Months of research and he could still not understand the physics of it all but what is seen cannot be denied. He skimmed a rock across the surface and watched as it defied gravity and then plummeted. What was his easiest course? Where should he flow? What was beyond his understanding, could it still be denied?

All his senses, his very nature, spoke against this spinning top on which he balanced. It undermined his credibility, his superiority and authority. So logic demanded it all be ignored. A crack in a man’s belief, is a vulnerability in his armour and a blemish on his dignity. His fellow man would take what he had worked so hard to build. He could not allow it.

The devil does ingenious things, he convinces us all he is not there at all.  Cheap deceptions. That’s all he had seen, all their technologies, all their money spent on parlour tricks. It was a cunning rouse, they had almost convinced even him, king of the sceptics, torch bearer of truth, but another lie is all it was.

He turned his back then. Cloaked in his delusions, he walked the familiar path home, head down against the chilling wind. Important again, contented at last.

 

 

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