The refuting of Newton

The biggest surprise at the symposium had been the Horseman Group’s paper. Their science had, incontrovertibly, they said, been able to draw only one conclusion from years of research. Although raising many questions, rationally, evidentially, there was no doubt about it. There was a big wave hitting the earth directly, and it was going to mean there was no such thing as gravity.

Sir Lionel Horseman commented: ‘Our findings show it – gravity – simply will not work in the way it once did. It’s going to get a bit strange. Sorry.’ Building on the emerging work of von Welle, Hokusai and Lahar, Horseman’s paper meant all accepted views of the earth’s place and motion in the universe had to be revised. Simply, one would have to abandon Newton, Einstein, and, of course, gravity.

Given the significance of this paradigmatic discovery, reaction was curiously mixed. Some embraced the new thinking straight away, ascending off world majestically over the next weeks, dropping encouraging pamphlets, weighted, to the surface. Papers fluttered in their wake, just out of reach. For the majority of humankind, orthodoxy, habit and government-urged caution restricted reaction.

The Horseman Group scientists were, however, unequivocal. ‘The effects will become more and more pronounced,’ stated Sir Lionel, from the Group’s laboratories, in an un-geostationary satellite craft.

Gradually, indeed they did, the effects, become more pronounced. People standing by a fireplace might watch the smoke curl out along the floor. A photo frame from the mantelpiece drifts past noses. In some parts, tea became an impossibility.

For a while, sales of super heavy materials went through the roof. Then the materials began going through roofs, until eventually super heavy materials miners started upping tools and leaving as well.

Willing themselves into a zero gravity state, people found themselves flapping their arms, performing tentative leaps and hops before finding themselves among a rising number of people rejecting gravity, drifting with a smile and shrug, delighted exchanges:
‘What’s up?’
‘Hey, we all are, Jack!’

Many months passed.

One person who refused to believe was Nem. Nem was intelligent. He was inquiring. He had read all the pamphlets dropped by the Uprisers, as they were sometimes mockingly, sometimes reverently referred to. He loved their ideas, but he could not fully commit to them. They were ‘only ideas’, he harangued his partner, Gaude. ‘They’re only words, saying one thing now that other words didn’t. Surely the fact we’re standing here is proof enough?’

‘Yes, yes,’ she would say, forcing a floating foot back to ground, in her affection trying to calm his increasing upset, kissing him tenderly. Soothed, they would nestle in each other’s arms in the sunset, watching little specks of orange and silver rushing up from the horizon across the water like bubbles in a drink.

Although loving Nem deeply, Gaude’s eyes became sadder day by day, seeing things Nem could not or would not. Nem had begun studying the Real Effects of Gravity, an equal and opposite reactionary movement, becoming burdened with books, diagrams, models, driven to prove gravity existed even as near by objects, for years points of reference and comfort, began slowly to detach themselves and drift off into space. Gaude hardly saw Nem, consumed, agitated. She tended their garden with thoughts tumbling.

One day Nem woke and Gaude had gone. Making enquiries in the village, the few remaining people rolled their eyes upwards, he assumed by way of explanation.

Nem found Gaude’s disappearance an affront to centuries established logic. Living alone in the old house, he studied, annotated, experimented. He stood on the roof and cast lumps of metal towards the ground. The lumps hovered annoyingly around the gables at his feet. One afternoon, the tiles around him began peeling away with the beams. The stones of the house itself fell away one by one, until one morning Nem found himself in a field in the open air, only the faint outline of their former home around him.

He sat alone on the cold ground and cried idiot, heavy, earth bound tears of incomprehension.

After a few days Nem recovered enough to move to one of the inland towns, where the collective effects of massed buildings and people created enough pseudo gravitational pull to allow them to continue their old ways. His research continued. Attempts to distract himself by jumping into guilty, loveless tangles with others came to awful ends.

‘Nem would begin persuasive and engaging. Oh! though,’ speaking as eventually they ascended, chatting as they floated, ‘he would become so serious and angry about it!’ ‘He would inevitably start talking about Gaude, and push us away!’ Another, shaking their head as they rose, slow fireworks above rupturing ground, a patchwork quilt having the padding vacuumed out.

One day, Nem was sitting in a pub trying to keep his drink down. A young woman he’d never met before sat near him. They started talking. Nem thought she was very funny. Mabbel, with beautifully still hair and a kind face, thought Nem was quite serious and strange with his grumpy expression, but he seemed nice. They talked for hours and hardly mentioned gravity at all.

Nem and Mabbel started to meet regularly. He spoke about Gaude a few times, and gravity more often. Mabbel would listen, but eventually her silences made him stop talking. Then they would embrace in the silence. Nem found Mabbel soothing to his anxious mind, lost in her animated eyes. Most of all they loved to dance, and they would dart around each other in the parks and fields around the town, leaping and jumping and laughing in the sun.

Many more months passed.

One day Mabbel came to Nem. She could no longer ignore the non pull.

Nem stood rooted to the spot as she told him. She took him dancing. ‘We have this’, Nem said. ‘Yes we do, my sweet,’ said Mabbel. ‘Though I don’t know if this is enough.’

As they danced they found themselves drifting higher and higher, until Nem shouted fearfully and forced himself to the ground.

‘This can’t be right,’ he called to her. Mabbel managed to struggle to the surface. She threw her arms around him. ‘Does it have to be anything?’ she asked, nibbling his earlobe. ‘I don’t know’ he finally said, and burst into tears as she floated backwards, away from him.

Around him, trees uprooted and turned slow majestic cartwheels into space.

What could have been hours later, Nem looked up. Far above him, to his immense surprise, causing a lurch in his stomach, was Mabbel. A tiny dot, she was not moving, hopping from tree to tree, climbing through the sky.

It looked very dangerous. People were calling to Mabbel from the pro gravcraft stations, holding up space equipment, mouthing imprecations. Mabbel was still calling Nem, her hands stretching out for him. Tears streamed across his face, and he reached out his arms uselessly.

A sudden grinding of ground beneath made him stumble. As he fell, he felt a rush of air against his wet face, and realised finally that all around, a deep rumbling spoke of the very core of the planet shifting. Nem’s mind cleared. He stood and danced, giddy exaltation. He jumped and sprang and bounced. Far above him, Mabbel’s hands flew to her mouth.

Nem finally gave one giant leap and shot through the air, looking about briefly to see mountains crumbling and following. He looked towards and through matchstick trees, spinning in the dissipating blue, to the figure of Mabbel getting nearer and nearer, until he bumped into her arms and she caught him and together they spun wildly, with abandon, kissing and tumbling and laughing and spiralling up, up and away.