Chuck Tries Not to Fall Off the Earth

What goes down must come up... or something like that.

What goes down must come up… or something like that.

Chuck stared up at the asphalt of the schoolyard basketball court, his neck straining slightly as he considered Dave’s request. On one hand, he’d always enjoyed playing basketball. Sure, he wasn’t exactly the best at it—in fact, he’d once killed a man during a horrible alley-oop accident, which the press casually deemed “New York’s ‘Alley Oops’”—but it was always so much fun. On the other hand, however, there was the ever-present risk that Chuck might unintentionally jump up, or rather down, while playing and find himself floating through the sky toward the sun. He always found it so hard to remember that the world was now upside down, and that gravity came and went at the slightest of separation. He also found it hard to remember which brand of mustard he liked best, but that wasn’t nearly as important.

“I’m not sure,” Chuck said, glancing over at Dave. His hair was standing on end, as if it were reaching down toward the sky, shirt halfway up his chest. Chuck hated that about the new world, hated the fact that he perpetually suffered a bad hair day, hated the fact that everyone could see his comparatively engorged belly at almost all times. Sure, he could’ve scotch taped his clothes so that they didn’t tumble down toward his face, but it wasn’t exactly easy to find a non-looted convenience store these days. As a result, his fashion struggles remained amongst his least favorite parts of the new world, aside, of course, from the perpetual risk of falling off the planet and plummeting down into the unending sky.

“What are you not sure about?” Dave said, throwing his basketball against the ground in an attempt to bounce it. It returned to his hand with slightly more velocity than he’d tossed it with.

“I mean,” Chuck began, “the world’s upside down. Gravity is all fucked up. Playing basketball doesn’t seem like something we can do anymore.” Chuck glanced over at the swing set to the right of them, its chain wrapped around its top, seat hanging limply down toward the sky. “I don’t even understand how it will work. Won’t the ball fly off into space the moment we toss it at the basket?”

Dave sighed. “I know, the world’s different. Things are weird. But why do we have to stop doing everything that was normal? Can’t we just pretend? We can get another basketball for each shot, there’s still a bunch in the gym over there.”

Chuck turned his head back toward Dave, staring at his dangling hair. He was pointing toward the elementary school’s entrance a few yards away, although Chuck had no idea how he could see it. Dave had been nearly blind since he’d met him two decades prior, and was far worse off now. At least he’d been able to wear glasses in the past, which only marginally made up for his utterly atrocious vision. Even still, Chuck had watched him walk into poles on more than once occasion. That admittedly rare occasion turned significantly more common once gravity decided it no longer wanted to compensate for the slightest of leaps. No, he’d lost his glasses on the very first day of the global change, Chuck watching as they spiraled off toward the heavens and disappeared into the clouds. Now he relied on Chuck to keep him from hitting everything imaginable, to keep him from tumbling over and disappearing down into the sky. Still, maybe he was right. Maybe a little bit of familiarity would be good for them both.

“All right,” Chuck sighed, “fine. We’ll play a quick game of horse. No getting into it, no blocking, no real movement. I will shoot a shot and you try to do the same with a second ball. We won’t jump, we won’t risk falling off the planet.”

“Deal,” Dave said, turning toward Chuck so that their chests pointed at one another. “You go first.” He lowered the basketball to his belly and shoved it forward, checking it to Chuck with a single bounce. He lunged forward and grabbed at it, catching the ball at the peak of its bounce and immediately losing his footing.

“Oh fuck,” Chuck shouted, glancing down at his feet. They were no longer planted firmly up on the ground, but were instead flailing violently in the search of what they’d just lost. “God dammit!”

Chuck closed his eyes as he tumbled down into the sky, the air rushing past his face as he fell. Although he wasn’t exactly pleased with what he’d just done, he would’ve been lying to himself if he pretended to be surprised. For whatever reason, even before gravity went on a partial strike and the world decided that up would be down, he’d always suspected he’d probably die while on his way to space.

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