Jeremiah, an American preacher, had heard about it and, certain that it was the source for Jesus’ imminent return, mobilised a small ground of followers known as The Chosen to fly to London.
Meanwhile, members of the local rotary club who lost their pets to The Gap and having been ignored by the local council, were planning their next move.
Brian, the club’s president, said, “Mavis, I’m not sure what else we can do.” Mavis, blue-eyed champion of the county’s jam making festival, still mourning her miniature dachshund, had no intention of giving up so easily.
“We should go there. Get as many members together as we can. My Grandson says he’ll make signs for us to hold. I didn’t sit around knitting during the war and I won’t be quiet now.”
Brian acquiesced, knowing it was useless to fight her when she was determined, plus he needed her support during the Christmas pick-a-Santa debates. They all agreed to meet tomorrow.
Jeremiah and The Chosen stepped off the plane the next day at Heathrow, felt the cool mediocrity of the English weather, and knew in his heart that things were going to get a lot hotter.
Armageddon was nigh.
The first challenge for Jeremiah and his Chosen was to find their way from Heathrow to the outer London suburb where The Gap was said to exist and, if he was reading the signs properly, would open soon with The Second Coming. Although it was barely five miles away, there seemed to be no easy route.
They tried for the Heathrow Express, but Jeremiah balked when he realised this one journey alone would cost the entire food budget, and they’d still have to catch another train out of London afterwards.
Michael, the eager acolyte who had been reading the Rough Guide to London said they should all get Oyster cards and Tad, the Chosen whose dad was paying all the data roaming charges on his phone, had access to Google maps and said they should get to Hatton Cross and then ride the 555 to their destination.
Michael went to buy the Oyster Cards, nearly derailing the whole process by refusing to drop the cod English accent he’d adopted from the moment the plane landed, saying “listen old chap, I’ve always been more in touch with my English roots I say, what.”
Oyster cards acquired they marched, like a boy band with too many members, over to the bus stop, where they stood with the airport cargo handlers and locals, while Justin complained that they should’ve caught a cab all along, that Tad’s dad would’ve paid for it anyway.
Jeremiah boarded the bus first, ascended to the upper deck and positioned himself at the front seat. He could see exactly where they were going, and just as he used to as a child sitting at the front of the school bus, he took hold of an imaginary wheel, and steered them towards their destination.
“Do you think they’re from the council?” asked Helen.
“I don’t know,” replied Mavis, regarding the group of well-dressed young men and one slightly older man standing near the edge of The Gap, or where the Gap would be were it to open. Curiously, no-one had ever fallen in if it had opened right where they were – people reported finding themselves displaced several metres upon opening. After that, however, all bets were off.
As the small collection of elderly women and a scattering of men, some holding signs and led by Mavis, crossed the street, Jeremiah greeted them with a warm smile.
“Hi there! Are you here for the Great Awakening?”
“He’s not from the council, Helen,” said Mavis. “It’s worse. He’s from America.”
Unfazed, Jeremiah launched into his story, telling everyone how he and The Chosen had come to be there.
Helen spoke up for their side. “Well, we’re here to bring some attention to -“.
She didn’t get to finish her sentence as The Gap opened, displacing most of the Rotary club to one side and Jeremiah and his group to the other. Only Mavis stood apart from her club, finding herself disconcertingly amongst a crowd of tall young men, who were rapidly taking out their phones to record what they were seeing, and exclaiming loudly as they did so. Jeremiah held a beatific look as he gazed into the dark glittering tear in space about ten feet across, his lips moving.
Mavis, having pushed her way through the men and mumbling to herself, reached into her handbag and with drew a small box, fashioned from an old tin of mints. Inside it was an intricate mechanism, a knitted bundle of ingenuity, which Mavis dropped into the maw.
“Let’s close this thing once and for all,” she declared to no-one.
But the device vanished, and Jeremiah with it.
Jeremiah opened his eyes, feeling soft grass beneath his hands. A slight dew was seeping into his clothes. He stood up in a landscape of gently rolling lush green hills. Nearby, the Gap was there, a space of anti-space. A dark-skinned tattooed man was walking towards him accompanied by dogs, too many dogs to count, of all shapes and sizes.
“English? You come through Rift?” the man asked, pointing to the Gap.
Jeremiah nodded. “Where.. where am I?”
“Niue. Other planet. Rift connects to back Earth, and others. People fall through, sometimes. Mostly, dogs. They are happy here.” He smiled at his charges, who panted back. “I am Loane”.
This place, this other planet whose air smelled of flowers, wasn’t anything he could have imagined. His world, a divinely ordained, Earth-centric universe in which he was personally guided to greet the Saviour’s return, was now but one of many.
Seeing his confusion, Loane said “Don’t worry, it’s good life here. Warm air. Abundance. Rift make it interesting.”
The Rift.. the Gap! He told Loane how he had fallen into the Rift trying to grasp the device that Mavis the Rotary Club woman had thrown into it. They went to the edge of the Rift and peered into the dark to see Mavis’s knotty mechanism doing its steady work. It was casting out strands of fabric across the Rift from the body of the tin, swinging between sides and quickly knitting them together into something far stronger than the sum of its parts, like a robotic spider. Even if the how of it was a mystery, what it was doing was clear – once the opening of the Rift was knitted across, it would tighten and sew it shut.
“Rift must remain open,” Loane said. “Rift is like.. like whale, when coming up to breathe. If closed, universe no more breathes.
We die, slowly.”
“You’re saying not only would I be stranded here, but we all die; Earth, Niue, if that thing manages to close the Rift,” said Jeremiah.
Loane pulled a large folding pen-knife from his pocket. “Good for forest walks,” he said, and made slicing motions. “Cut threads.”
Loane dangled on the edge of the Rift, Jeremiah holding down his legs as he reached to slice the threads attached to the edges of the Rift. The tin machine clattered and complained as each new thread was broken until there was only one left, and it hung twisting about, climbing the one remaining thread towards its attachment point.
Jeremiah cursed Mavis’s ingenuity, as would the Rotary Club when it realised what their treasurer had been doing with the funds she’d been entrusted with.
Loane stretched fruitlessly, trying to reach the last thread. “Have to jump into Rift, cut it,” he said. Jeremiah looked at him expectantly. “Haha. Not me, man. I happy here.”
“Would I end up back on Earth again? Could I return here?” Jeremiah asked.
“It’s possible.. but people leave, no come back.”
Jeremiah thought about his world and all the worlds he would be saving if he could pull this off, and held out his hand for Loane’s knife.
Mavis, the Chosen, and the Rotary Club members were engaged in active debate by the Gap when it shuddered, spitting the still spinning machine onto the pavement, whereupon it shattered.
Their mouths agape they watched as their savior emerged, trailing behind him the smell of spring flowers.