Rip

I

Thad decided that it was far too early in the morning to be awake. He ought to just go back to bed. If people were meant to be awake at six in the morning, coffee would never have been invented – Thad hated the black, vile liquid, but he needed it at times like this. He thought this because, on this particular morning, while Thad had been getting up to read the morning paper, his kitchen table had disappeared.

Well, not exactly. Parts of it were still there, but the middle section, the centre, was gone.

Vanished.

As a result, the remainder of the table had collapsed upon itself, spilling coffee everywhere.

The oddest thing was that Thad couldn't find his coffee mug. He could find his coffee – it was laying in puddles all over the floor – but he couldn't find the mug.

Thad was up at six in the morning on this particular Thursday to go attend a job interview, and he was not in the mood to have bits of his furniture disappear, especially at this ungodly hour.

After inspecting the remains of his table for a final time, and cursing to himself – almost half of the tabletop was, in fact, missing – he poured another cup of coffee, now in a Styrofoam cup – the mug had been his only one, which made the realization that it was gone such an unpleasant one. Now carrying a fresh cup of steaming, liquefied tar, Thad went back into his room to get dressed, and left his apartment for the interview.

II

Four hours later, Thad arrived back from the job interview, only to discover that the rest of his table was gone. He was in a bad mood as it was, because the interview had not gone well, and now this happened. It wasn't even noon yet.

This was not turning out to be a good day.

Thad walked around the kitchen, looking behind the fridge, in the closet, in his bedroom, hoping to discover the pieces of his table. They were gone.

However, the coffee was still there.

Rather, the remains of the coffee. The liquid itself had dried up.

Sidestepping the spot where the table (had) sat, Thad went straight to the phone, and called the only person he could think of talking to in a situation like this – Bernard.

Bernard was in his late twenties, just a few years older than Thad. He had been married once – divorced now – and seemed rather knowledgeable on a multitude of subjects. Bernard claimed there to be a correlation between the two.

He lived two floors above Thad, and had been since before Thad had moved in, almost three years back. He had met Bernard shortly thereafter. When they had met, he had been taking his garbage out to the dumpster. Bernard had been in the dumpster.

He had told Thad that sometimes people threw away valuable items, and that he intended to find them. Such was the mentality of Bernard.

When Thad called Bernard, he didn't tell him about the table. He only told him that something had happened, and it seemed rather urgent and important. Bernard said he'd be right there.

Several minutes later, the door opened, and Bernard walked in, carrying a red dog leash. He was no doubt expecting Thad to ask why he was holding a leash, so Thad didn't.

"What seems to be the problem?" Bernard wrapped the leash up, slowly, looking at Thad in an expectant sort of way. When Thad still didn't ask about the dog leash, Bernard pocketed it with an air of disappointment.

As a response, Thad motioned around the kitchen. "What do you think?"

"I think you need to clean this coffee up off the floor before it stains your linoleum."

Thad couldn't tell if he was serious or not. "What about my kitchen table? Notice anything different regarding that?"

Bernard looked around for several minutes, letting his eyes slowly methodically, cover ever detail. After inspecting the entire kitchen, his eyes began to steadily work their way back to fix themselves on Thad. "Why, my dear Thaddeus, you've gotten rid of it."

Thad nodded his head furiously. "Yes – exactly – except I haven't – it's vanished!" He proceeded to explain to Bernard the ordeal that had happened that morning, and his discovery when he arrived home. Bernard listened to this story patiently, nodding his head in a wise, knowing manner occasionally, until Thad was finished.

"How did the interview go?"

This took Thad by surprise. "Beg your pardon?"

Bernard repeated himself.

"Why does that even matter?" Sometimes Bernard severely exasperated Thad.

Bernard's response was a sullen expression. "I was just making conversation. But, regarding your current situation – I suppose it is quite a predicament, as very few tables offer 'spontaneous disappearance' as a feature – I must first ask: Have you inspected the area in which your table originally sat?"

Thad replied that he had, briefly.

"What did you discover?"

Nothing.

"I expected as much." Bernard picked up a fork from the kitchen sink. It was encrusted with the remains of some meal that Thad had eaten a number of weeks ago. He pointed to a spot in the air above the floor. "Is this where the table had been?"

Thad answered, "More or less."

"We will now see if my theory is correct. How fond are you of this fork, Thaddeus?"

Thad hadn't been able to scrape off whatever was stuck on it for some time now, so not very.

Bernard nodded in approval, and tossed the fork. It disappeared.

Thad stared at the point where it had vanished.

Bernard nodded in approval again.

Thad stared at the point where Bernard had been standing. He had vanished.

Except he hadn't. Thad turned to look behind him, and saw Bernard striding to his front door.

"Thank you for the demonstration, Thaddeus. I'll be back shortly. If you don't mind, I have a fair amount of information regarding this phenomenon that I must digest, post haste."

Thad did mind, as he still didn't know, in the least, what was causing things in his apartment to disappear, and he tried to tell Bernard this, but Bernard was already gone.

Wondering what this meant for him, Thad wandered back into the kitchen. Making sure to fully avoid the spot in which now three of his household possessions had disappeared into, he opened the fridge and pulled out a Chinese take-out box of indeterminable age. Thad pulled a chair up in front of the place where his table once sat, opened the take-out box, and began to toss balls of cold food into the air, watching them vanish.

III

An hour passed, and Thad had exhausted his ammunition – all of the leftover food in his fridge. Besides, watching food disappear in mid-air wasn't as entertaining anymore.

Thad leaned back in the chair, tossed an empty container that some two-week-old chicken had been in – he didn't watch it disappear, but knew that it had because he didn't hear it hit the ground – and closed his eyes just in time to have Bernard come rushing in through the front door, shouting that he had figured it out.

"Get up, my friend, Thaddeus! Up, up! I have a final demonstration to show you!" Bernard was bouncing around, much like an excited dog that was about to go to the bathroom on the rug. Thad had an urge to lay newspaper down around him, but resisted, thinking that Bernard either wouldn't notice it, or wouldn't see what was funny. Good humour was wasted on him, especially when he got like this.

"Now, Thaddeus, you have seen three objects disappear in the middle of empty space, am I correct? First the table, then the coffee mug – albeit, you didn't see this, per se – and finally my fork – by that, I mean your fork, my apologies. I have one last example to show you, and this will hopefully prove my theory – if it does not, I'm not sure what would be left to show you. Now, observe as I take this-" Bernard removed the dog leash that he had been holding earlier from his pocket, and uncoiled it. "-an ordinary dog's leash – Would you like to know why I have a dog leash on my person?"

Thad's response was a firm, agitated one. "No."

Again, Bernard showed visible signs of disappointment, but he pushed on. "Very well, very well. Now, this dog's leash is, as you can see, between five and six feet long, yes? – Yes – Now, the space in question is located…. Here, yes?" Without waiting for, or even expecting, an answer, Bernard tossed a Styrofoam cup into an area of the kitchen, and watched it vanish. "Yes. Observe what happens when-" Bernard took one end of the leash in one hand apiece, took a breath, and continued. "-When I throw this end of the dog leash into the space."

Bernard wound back his left arm, and tossed that side of the dog leash at the area he had just thrown the Styrofoam cup. The entire leash promptly vanished.

"Now, Thaddeus, did you see what happened?"

Yeah, of course. It disappeared.

"No! To you, it appeared to vanish, but look!" Bernard held up his right hand, to show Thad. It was red and raw. This obviously made Bernard very excited, but Thad couldn't see why this was such a big deal. It was rope burn.

"Exactly, rope burn! But how? The leash was in my hand, I hadn't pulled it at all!" Thad gave Bernard another blank stare. For the first time, Bernard showed signs of agitation. He took a breath, and started to explain what this meant to Thad in a slow voice, placing extra effort on clear enunciation. "You see, Thaddeus, rope burn would imply that the leash was pulled from my hand. You clearly saw that the leash vanished, correct? Well, no, it didn't. The leash was pulled from my hand at an incredibly rapid speed – fast enough that it appeared to simply vanish to our eyes."

Thad asked what this meant.

"It means, my dear friend, that you are in very grave danger. What you have in this kitchen of yours is a tear in space. A rip in the material of the universe. Everything going through this rip is being dumped out at random points anywhere in the universe. This is a very dangerous situation, as the rip is not in empty space – there is no such thing as empty space on a planet with an atmosphere – oxygen is everywhere. This rip is subsequently sucking up every cubic inch of gas on our planet, one molecule at a time."

Thad stared at Bernard.

Bernard continued, undeterred. "Every second that this rip continues to exist, it grows larger."

Thad cut Bernard off. "How do you know this?"

Bernard looked at Thad. "Excuse me?"

"Do you have any actual evidence to support this claim? Maybe there's no danger at all. I can't think of any reason why this seems logical enough to worry about."

Bernard looked at his still-red hand, and back at Thad. "Thaddeus, how can you not accept this?"

Thad sat back down in the chair, and looked up to meet Bernard's gaze. "It's not a matter of accepting something or not; you have no scientific proof – this entire situation makes no sense, and your explanation makes even less sense. It's purely fantasy and magic."

"Alright then. I'll check back on you later on this evening, and we'll see whether or not my 'magic' is correct or not." Bernard looked at his hand again, blew on it, and walked out of

Thad's apartment, leaving the door open.

Thad stood up as well, and went to the doorway. He was hungry, and needed to do something to take his mind off of everything that had happened so far. It was a little past noon, and he hadn't eaten yet. Thad always had difficulties dealing with rips in space on an empty stomach. He walked through the door, without looking back at the empty space in the kitchen, and closed the door to his apartment.

IV

Thad didn't come back until it was almost six in the evening. He had spent most of his time at a bar, downing beers, and then at a small diner, where he had a burger, and then stayed until they kicked him out. He had no real desire to come 'home' and deal with the hole in his kitchen. Whether it was a tear in the fabric of the universe or not, it made things disappear, and Thad didn't like it.

The first thing that he noticed, before he had even entered his apartment, was that his wooden door had a large dent in it. The second thing that he noticed was that there was a note taped at about eye-level. It was written in Bernard's messy scrawl.

"Thaddeus,
I don't know if you'll get this, or if you're still alive or not for that matter. If you're reading this, then let me first apologise for kicking your door in. I was coming by to check on you, only to discover your door locked, and you not responding to me. I panicked and kicked the door in to make sure that you were okay. I couldn't find you, and I decided that you have either been sucked into the rip, and are most likely dead, or you went out for the night. If it's the latter, again sorry. If it's consolation, I think I broke my foot kicking the door down.

Bernard."

Thad sighed and tore the note off of the door. It was stuck on with duct tape, and ripped some paint off with it. Thad tried to unlock the door, and found that it wouldn't lock or unlock.

The door was open. Bernard had broken the lock when he kicked the door in, which Thad should have expected, except, whether it was due to the stress he had dealt with that day, the beers he had drank a few hours before, or a combination of both, he was having difficulty thinking clearly.

Thad stumbled into the apartment, and left the door open. It wouldn't even close at this point, so there wasn't much reason to bother closing it – illusion of privacy meant nothing these days, anyway.

Immediately in front of him lay the kitchen. Immediately in front of him lay nothing – or, rather, supposedly a rip in space. Scientific babble that Bernard had spit out at him. What mattered to Thad, however, was that immediately in front of him, his table used to sit, until this morning. Until this morning, life had been relatively normal. Sure, it wasn't great, but if things got boring, Bernard always would make it more entertaining, and most of the time, bearable. Then this invisible hole in his kitchen came and ruined it all.

Thad had a strong, uncontrollable desire to find out what was behind – or in – or on the other side of – that hole. Maybe he'd find his table, and his mug, and his fork. He even missed that fork. He only had a few forks to begin with. He shouldn't have let Bernard use it.

Maybe on the other side of that hole would be a city – a town of people who had been sucked into wormholes all over the world. Maybe he'd be shrunk down into an air molecule.

Maybe there'd be nothing there. Maybe.

Thad began to walk towards his kitchen, eyes fixated on the empty spot where his table once sat.

Maybe he'd be killed.

Bernard seemed to believe that this rip was bad news. It could kill everything, according to Bernard. Bernard said that it was sucking every molecule of gas in the atmosphere into it.

Maybe Bernard was right.

Thad stopped walking, and looked around him. He was only a few feet away from the hole, he thought. He could probably reach out and touch it.

Thad knew he was drunk. He had drunk a lot of beers at the bar. Bernard's words were echoing through his head. It probably would be a bad idea to walk into the hole, but Thad wanted to know what was in it so badly. Besides, if Bernard was right, then the atmosphere would be gone soon anyways. That would be bad. Worse than if he went through the rip right now and died.

It was at that moment that Bernard decided to walk into the apartment.

He yelled something at Thad, but Thad didn't hear him.

He turned to Bernard. "What?"

"What are you doing?"

Thad shrugged. "I wanted to see what was on the other side of the hole."

"After what I told you? How can you be serious?" Bernard was walking towards Thad.

Yeah.

"Do you want that table back that badly? I'll buy you another table, if you need it."

And the fork. And the mug. "No, it's not that. I just want to know what's there."

Bernard took another step towards Thad. Thad took a step back. "You'll either be crushed to the size of an atom, or ejected into the vacuum of space."

Thad thought back to the table disappearing – the job interview – the coffee mug – the fork – the thought of every gas in the atmosphere being sucked away. "If what you told me was true, the outcome's not good whether I stay here or not."

Bernard stepped closer to Thad. "I could be wrong. Think about this before you do anything. You're drunk, I can tell. You should sit down." Thad took a step back-

V

-and gasped for breath, clutching his chest. It felt like he had just been squeezed through a straw. He looked around, and was shocked by what he saw. The scenery had drastically changed. What had been his squalor apartment was now a barren landscape. Everywhere he looked was red-brown desert. In the distance, Thad saw sharp-peaked, towering mountains.

He was surprised to find that he could actually breathe, though the air seemed to be making him light-headed.

Thad looked up and gasped again. There was a large sun hanging in the cloudless sky, and to the left of it, taking up most of the sky, was an even larger, grey-green planet with a thin ring around it. Looking up, shielding his eyes from the sun, Thad began to realise how hot it was.

He looked around again, and saw, a few feet away from him, the remains of a table. His table. Nearby it was the white coffee mug he had lost, and littering the barren, rocky wasteland were small chunks of food.

Thad sighed, and sat down on the hot ground, staring off into the alien landscape.