Nele Ruckelshausen

Rupture [1]

In a near future, an unprecedented global earthquake has ruptured the surface of the planet. As the seismic crevasses become subject of scientific investigation, spiritual exploitation, and limp-handed propaganda efforts by a denationalized government, two unlikely platonic lovers – one a bipolar college dropout, the other an overzealous fine art student – float about an unnamed metropolis of the Western hemisphere in a bubble of scene drugs and sexual exploits. Their nihilist utopia starts to unravel when the dropout abruptly loses their libido, prompting an absurd quarterlife crisis. A digital psychoanalyst in their backpocket, the couple embarks on an epic road trip across the disintegrating European continent in hopes of uncovering the root of their sexual dysfunction in their childhood home. While they battle their minds and each other, a gooey brown slime starts oozing from the cracks, and strange events begin to transpire. Before long, the laws of nature become mere suggestions, and humanity will be forever changed.

A few days earlier, fine lines had begun to wrap themselves around the globe like fissures on a window pane about to burst, creeping outwards from Central Africa to soon cover the entire planet. Despite an abundance of theories, there seemed to be no good explanation for the appearance of the lines. Scientists believed them to be a strange effect of global warming, priests and cult leaders saw them as proof that the end was near, and politicians spoke of an unprecedented terrorist attack. In retrospect, everyone had already begun to lose their minds when on the fourth day the fissures finally ruptured, swallowing a couple million people, cars, trees and the occasional building in their immediate vicinity. The rupture produced a massive global earthquake, or perhaps the other way around, accompanied by a booming, thunder-like noise that seemed to rise from under your feet. The whole thing lasted about six seconds. When the thunder subsided and the ground stopped shaking, the lines had turned into crevasses. Gaping open about one to five meters, they covered the planet in a tightly meshed grid, so that there wasn’t a single intact stretch of land wider than eighty or ninety kilometres. On satellite pictures, the continents looked like broken eggshells.

For a while, nothing really worked. The cracks ran through towns, tracks and freeways with no regard for physical or imagined borders, sometimes slicing entire cities in half. Most infrastructure was disrupted, and transportation of food and medicine became difficult. Underground, thousands of pipelines had been torn apart and wiring destroyed, leaving many communities without electricity or running water. There was a lot of panic and disease, looting and shooting, murder and suicide during that time – the dark abyss of the crevasses naturally lent itself to a timely and poetic death. Of all the cultural factions, religious groups seemed to have the most dramatic reactions to the event, especially for denominations rooted in Christianity. Much was made of the near homonymity of ‘rupture’ and ‘rapture’, and people began to believe that God was waiting for them at the bottom of the pit. Two weeks into the general hysteria, a Christian sect in Eastern Europe – a group of about 250 women and children – jumped to their deaths in a crevasse near the Ilmen Lake, setting off a torrent of copycat mass suicides around the world. News of ritual self-slaughter became something like the weather report for the remaining radio and TV channels. Voluntary and unwilling deaths combined, another million or so people must have died in those first two months after the rupture.

Of course, they immediately began dropping sensors and cameras into the cracks. They lowered down military drones and human expeditions, sometimes both at once, and even a few dogs and monkeys, just to see what would happen. But all devices either came back empty, or they didn’t come back at all. Apart from a few scratches most animals escaped unscathed and reports from scientists and soldiers were equally unremarkable, describing nothing but endless layers of soil. And so, after some weeks of hearing about rock probings and mass suicide, the public interest in the cracks waned. Slowly, the damage that the cracks had caused – collapsed buildings, split highways, broken sewage, and so on – began to appear more important than the cause of the cracks themselves. After all, a gaping nothingness can only hold one’s attention for so long.

It’s April now, and the rupture was eight months ago. The cracks are still there, but they haven’t moved since, perfectly indifferent to what’s going on around them. Geologists, physicians, and environmentalists still spend their every waking hour trying to make sense of them, but the rest of us have begun to patch up earth’s wounds: rebuilding houses and pipelines, improvising much-needed overpasses, and restoring our civil sense of justice and morality. There’s a couple of new cults, and a disconcerting trend of teenagers daring each other to jump over the more narrow crevasses, but for the most part, humanity has returned to remarkable normalcy. It only took us those few months to exhaust ourselves worrying, and begin to accept that we live in a broken world.

Words by Nele Ruckelshausen