Hopefully this chapter will stand alone, but for those who would like to read the first part, you may do so here.
And so my second guess proved right:
the Earth was spinning further from the sun,
spinning away from its warmth and light,
spinning out into eternal darkness
like an unrepentant sinner from Gran's Book of Old.
I wonder as I write, will this survive?
Is it feasible this tale may yet be told?
Now that the Earth has slipped its tether,
burst the bonds of gravity, flown
its orbit to career through space beyond control,
what does the future hold for it or us
but all eternity in some deep freeze?
And yet I should have realised...
nothing happened in our unexpected situation
but the unexpected:
the light and warmth came back... fainter, it was true;
the warmth came back like a dim memory of warmth,
a trace of what had been, the way that light
seemed but a shadow of what light had been.
Penumbra might have been a better word for it.
But even so, slower than I've time to mimic, warmth
and light slid back beneath some cosmic door,
possessing maybe just a quarter of their former power.
But hardly had Gran time to praise the Lord
than they began to fade again.
Gran sank back in her chair, trying hard
to hide her disappointment. Then:
We're playing fast and loose with God, she said.
I could not disagree. It seemed to me
that Earth was on a different orbit, was set upon
a longer, flatter, more frightening ellipse
than we had known before. If so, I reasoned then,
although we now were further from the sun,
we would swing in again, become
uncomfortably close ... too close, perhaps.
But then a greater fear emerged: what if
our new ellipse was an eccentric one?
The sun not at its centre. One side of our orbit --
or one end -- was closer than the other to the sun?
And we were yet to make it's close acquaintance
on the other side? What could have caused
this outsize wobble of the solar system?
I think I know , said Gran. Of course
you do! sang every one in unison. Let's hear
it then. What gave? Smiles all round, you may
be sure. Then:- Last we heard before that telly
closed its eye for the last time, said Gran,
was that some super comet thing was due to pass
by Earth! Maybe it knocked us sideways, eh?
That killed the smiles. We all got back to thinking
what if our new orbit was unstable? What if...
and a hundred more what ifs... you can imagine.
You've more chance in a slowly sinking ship,
said Gran, than one that's plummeting.
And then the strangest thing:
while we were huddled round our makeshift fires,
outside in the fields and on the hills
fires were breaking out spontaneously.
Trees bursting into flame. Grass singeing.
Pools and rivers boiling dry.
Cracks appearing, crackles everywhere.
Pylons melting though their wires still sang --
and loudly too, that we could hear.
And still we shivered in our almost dark.
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