"Air" by Zach Yontz
By the time they passed the third of the Air Laws, it was too late. The First Air Law had been to appease the zealous environmentalist constituents, and it was filled with vague wording and confusing backtracking, the kind of document people read and feel badly about themselves for not being able to understand. All of the lawmakers patted each other on the back with pride, knowing this artifice would serve to stymie opposition to their true goals, obfuscating it in the meandering verbiage of law speak. Business(es) went on as usual.
The Second Air Law came about when legal scholars on the other side of the debate trudged through the First Air Law and realized, when it came down to it, that it was bullshit, more or less. This is what they said in the newspapers. THIS IS BULLSHIT it said, with pictures of them holding the First Air Law, some ripping it in half, others spitting on it in disdain. The lawmakers convened under the auspices of the legal scholars and they drafted a new set of laws for the Air, going step by step, line by line, making sure it was all there. The legal scholars nodded their scholarly heads; a few even donning 17th century wigs to show their authority and the gravity of the matter. Yes they said, this will do, this is much better. The law makers nodded and crossed their fingers behind their backs. Once the legal scholars left, they filled the paper with several addendums, in effect repealing all of the steps of the Second Air Law and leaving it naked and bare, useless really. They buried it in the legal system and the legal scholars, lacking any real power (they were not lawmakers for a reason, after all) foundered helplessly in the press, which was leery of printing BULLSHIT again, seeing the fervor it had caused the first time among parents who didn’t want their children to see a word they didn’t know and couldn’t possibly, at their tender ages, understand.
All was well and good in the land of law makers and truthfully, the law scholars were happy too, being able to fight a fight that was good in their minds and the minds of many others. Everyone needs someone to fight, someone needs to be David and someone Goliath; it’s the way of the world, one could say. The public cried out to the lawmakers Fix us! and the legal scholars cried out to the lawmakers Fix them! So it went for many months, years even. People became complacent, other issues were raised, such as the Water Taxation Act and the Ford/Toyota Peace Accord, which in all truth was a landmark case that in any other time would have been worthy of all the praise it garnered, but when the air started falling, well, it just didn’t seem as important.
At first it was hardly noticeable, the air falling down out of the sky in little sheets that shimmered in the sun, flitting here and there, brushing a face. It was not uncommon for lovers lying in the park with their eyes closed to think their partner had kissed them on the legs or stomach or arms or face as the air lazily wound its way to the ground, giving the grass and asphalt a slightly fragile feeling. A scientist in northern Scandinavia was the first to notice the falling of the air and report it in the journal Ozone Opining, a rather small journal that did not have much of an impact factor on the academic community. He, the scientist, Sven Garkanvitch, reported in his article “The Falling Particles; or It’s Hard to Breathe Here,” that he had observed an air patch that was probably the size of a compact car fall from the sky and crush three birds which had been flying underneath it. He provided pictures of the birds, which looked as if they had been crushed under glass.
It was not until the Great Breaking that notice was taken by the leading scientists, law makers, and legal scholars, as well as the public, except for those who were notoriously called crackpots and were certainly not to be trusted, except that in this case they were. The air over Luxembourg broke free of its moorings and rushed to the ground with the sound of a vacuum, or a million vacuums, it should be noted. No one survived. A patch of sky, about the size of Luxembourg, opened up, revealing the great nothingness of space at all times; no blue, no sun, just stars and stars and stars. Researchers walked over the crushed buildings and corpses and cars, counting the dead, feeling the brittleness of air underneath their feet.
The law makers tried desperately to complete the Third Air Law in time, attempting to make right all of their wrongs with a strongly worded document with no addendums or obfuscations attached. It was all done in great haste with the best scientists and scholars, the best writers of prose, the most research and insight. It was passed nearly immediately to the joy of all involved, who were certain that their failures would be reversed by the strength of their words, which left no room for error or misinterpretation. The world rejoiced, sure that while Luxembourg had been a great disaster, it would only serve as a lesson and not become the norm.
On the day after the passage of the Third Air Law, the air fell out over Maine, New Hampshire, and parts of Vermont, splintering great pines and mountains, erasing the Old Man in the Mountain for good, finishing off the work of years of erosion. The law makers stared at their document and their pens, the legal scholars shuffled their sad feet, the scientists all shot themselves in the chests and heads for their failures. Two days later Australia was crushed into the map.
In Rhode Island, a girl lifted her umbrella to the sky, looked to the sun, cried, smiled.