Nanoprep 2020 Day 8: The Rift
By Robin de Voh on 2020-10-14
Noam hurried to the ferry pier and was glad to see in the distance that the ferry had not yet docked. It was on his way, so he kept up his hurried step. He didn't want to be late for work, and Luap was generally not a fan of tardiness. It had been a while since he'd been able to get to work at all, since the ferry had been out for a few days. Luap couldn't really hold that against him, but when it was going, Noam was expected to be there for their customers.
The rift was temperamental. One day it would simply let everyone through, no issues, and others it would tear ferries and all those on them apart. When that happened, all they could do was wait it out. Usually they managed to recognize that the rift was unstable before anyone got hurt, however.
Noam had been on a ferry that was caught by a "Rift storm", as they called it, and he still wouldn't be able to tell you exactly what happened. Just that the back of the boat was gone all of a sudden and there were a lot of bright lights and noise. When they got to the other side of the rift, the ferry started sinking and they all had to be picked up by the Rift Guard. Think coast guard, but for the rift.
It had been a major find, an interdimensional rift in the harbor of Sydney, at first mostly confusing, until an expedition found a mirrored version of their Earth there. It had had a slightly different history, however, and humanity had flourished, but not as much as on regular Earth. So of course regular Earth, or Earth Alpha as it was called now, had immediately done what humans have always done.
Sure, they offered to work together, sharing their advanced technical prowess with Earth Beta, in exchange for land, labor and rare minerals. After all, since Earth Beta had developed less far, they had mined much less of it, so Earth Alpha could pretend they weren't running out of things and just took it from over there.
Most Alphas didn't go over to Beta very often. The sun shone less bright, the air was less clean, and it was just all-around depressing to most. But Noam had been too interested. It was illegal to settle there unless you were part of a colony plan, but it was possible to work there.
Noam would go there on a Monday, work until Thursday, and then come back. In the meantime he had a small room in a building Luap leased for Alpha workers. Noam didn't make much, since Beta's economy wasn't very big but was fully dependent on Alpha by now, but he enjoyed it. He felt it was enriching his life.
He'd been working there for a few months now, and it had started to feel like he was more comfortable over there than he was over here. He'd even learned their language by now. Well, the mirror version of his own, that is.
Luap was just Paul, basically. But it was a mental challenge to reverse speech and not sound completely dumb. But by this time, when he set foot on the ferry to return to work, it sometimes almost felt like the mirrored version of English was the right version and the regular version was the mirrored one.
There weren't many people on the ferry. Probably still scared. It was the first one out, after all, and you needed either a Colony Pass or a work permit. He had the latter.
The ferry raised its loading ramp and the engines roared as it started moving.
The rift was hard to see, it was like there was a circle of heat just in the harbor, out of nowhere. But Noam had been here often enough that he could make it out clear as day. It had a slight reddish hue if you squinted at it the right way.
The ferry made its way over there and as the front hit the rift it shuddered slightly. Some passengers -- likely those with a Colony Pass -- yelped a bit. But this was normal and Noam sat down on one of the benches to the side of the ferry.
Going through the rift was a special occasion for most, for the first 5 times or so, but for Noam it was like taking a train and looking out the window to see the countryside.
Their Earth slowly dissipated from view, being obscured by an ebb and flow of... Something. Nobody really knew. The red hue was far more evident now, but mingled with more colors to form an almost rainbow-like tapestry as they went deeper into the rift.
Noam knew that when the rainbow-like pattern started to lessen, they had passed the halfway mark. Generally it took about 15 minutes to get through.
When the rainbow pattern was turning red again, Noam stood up. They'd be arriving soon, and he always loved seeing Beta slowly become visible through the walls of the 'something' they were in.
And then the boat shuddered. Not a little. Violently.
A massive roar deafened Noam for a bit and it was as if lightning struck multiple times. He ducked underneath the bench and covered his head under his arms. He grit his teeth and was as ready for whatever was to come as he possibly could.
Then he felt wet. And he felt it creep up his arms and legs, and he opened his eyes.
The ferry was sinking.
"Again," he thought to himself, almost more bored than afraid. He'd been through this once, he knew what to do. Swim away from the boat before it really sinks and takes him with it.
He got up and jumped on the side of the ferry, shouting at everyone else around to follow his lead. Some seemed to pay attention, some did not, but Noam felt like he had done what he needed to do.
He jumped off of the side and into the water, and he swam away as fast as he could.
The ferry sank over a matter of minutes, faster than last time, and Noam could see that half of it was not just missing but fully mangled and twisted. He looked away as he realized there had definitely been people there.
He kept swimming, towards one of the Rift Guard boats that were fast approaching. They picked him up as they approached and gave him a heat blanket to keep him warm. Then they continued picking up people until the boat was much lower in the water than it had been before. They returned to the coast, but Noam could see other boats picking up other people, some of which he recognized.
He arrived to Luap's an hour later, after being debriefed about what had happened. Luap had immediately told him to come to the office and made him a coffee.
"So what happened?" Luap asked as he handed Noam the hot mug.
Noam told him what had happened.
"I hear they're not sure the rift is going to reopen again," Luap said, nodding at the television showing the news behind him.
"I wouldn't be surprised. It was open for what, 6 hours before it closed again?"
"Yeah. It's never been open this short."
"Luap, say they can't ever open it again, and I'm just throwing an idea out there..."
"You can stay."
"You've proven yourself useful and you've picked up the language quite fast. You could pass for a Beta any day now."
"Turn up the news, I want to hear," he said, sitting back, making himself comfortable.
Part of him was hoping the rift would be closed forever.