A thin line of light appears on the horizon. It reaches halfway up the sky. It is like the light that seeps through the edge of a door not set flush with the doorway. It is like some celestial mistake; off by millimetres.
Everyone can see it. A man stands in the Outback looking for gold and he finds it, not beneath his feet but in the sky. Workers on a freight vessel crowd along the railings, pointing and shouting; and even the dolphins see it where they surge ahead before the ship. People in cities see it, except for when their view is obscured by a billboard or a sky-scraper. Poor people see it; rich people see it. What is it?
It is a thin line of light upon the horizon. Like a crack in the sky except it is perfectly straight. Like a perfectly straight crack in the sky, like a seam. And the citizens evaluate it. Some say it is aliens, others say it is God. People on different sides of the planet compare photographs and try to triangulate its position.
It is moving, they say, there is more than one beam of light, the say. There is not; but we will let them hold onto this comforting belief a while longer.
It is not visible from space, they say. It is caused by a particular type of particle they say. An as-yet-undiscovered cloud of somethings in the upper atmosphere. It is a refraction of the light of the sun. It is like a rainbow. It is nothing that we understand, but we will. We’ve got our best men (and some women too) devoted to figuring it out.
One country thinks they’ve found it and they send fighter jets that spiral into the ocean. What was the last thing they saw as they approached that beam of light in the sky? Nothing. Suddenly: it was behind them. They send research boats into the ocean. They perform all types of radio-spectroscopy. They align aerials and antennae and point them at the thing.
It gives off no readings and no radiation. They cannot reach it. They cannot hear it. But they can see it and worse–so can Everyone. And Everyone wants answers. What is the light in the sky? Where did it come from? The sky is falling, some believe. This is only the first crack: soon there will be others.
A church begins to worship the line. A mad man leads the church and makes up almost everything he says. The line is the face of God, he tells his worshippers. The line is a sign. That part, at least, he is correct about.
And then? There is some international incident. A bomb goes off. There is an election. Another election. A political controversy. There is riots on the streets and the entire time the line is visible upon the horizon; but they are not fighting about the line, they have–in this moment–forgotten it.
And so too does the rest of the world become accustomed to just having it there. Another thing we are yet to understand. It is just like a rainbow, they decide. And we all listen because it’s the closest thing we have to an explanation that makes sense. Sometimes there is a news story about it, but they become oddities and jokes.
Human history continues to unfold, with that mysterious line on the horizon. People shop, people fight, the Church of the Line fractures and three others spring up, each more obscure in their beliefs than the first. They do not receive so many new members any more. The line, it seems, has lost its allure.
And yet, the line remains.
This post was originally published as “07122020“.