Actually he did not so much fall off as let go. The world had been moving so quickly lately and Neville was finding it almost impossible to keep up.
It hadn’t always been that way. There had been a time when keeping up was not a problem. A time when the world was moving at a nice, leisurely speed and a gentle walk had been sufficient. But then the world began to get faster. Suddenly Neville found himself jogging, and then running. His cheeks became flushed and his lungs panted and puffed as they struggled to get the air he needed to maintain his pace.
Still faster and faster the world went. Neville’s life was a dash, a hundred metre sprint. There was no way he could keep this going. As his legs turned to jelly and collapsed under him, Neville grasped in desperation for something to hold on to. A tree, a stick, a small crack in the footpath. He dug his fingernails in and gripped tightly as the world dragged him along, his hair flying wildly behind him and his legs kicking loosely at the air. His whole body strained and tears began to well in his eyes as the wind rushed against his face.
Slowly, surely, he could feel his grip loosening, could sense the strength departing from his fingers. He couldn’t hold on much longer. Any second now and the strain would be too much. His arms would break. His fingers would be ripped off. His whole body would snap into two. The pain was unbearable. Something had to give.
Neville let go.
For a couple of seconds he lay, breathing slowly. Letting the strength flow back into his body. Waiting for the feeling to return to his arms. Then he looked up and saw the world spinning away, disappearing into the darkness of space. Neville was seized with panic. He leapt up and began chasing after the world. Trying to catch up with it again so he could get back on board. But he was too slow. Soon the world was nothing but a tiny dot, no bigger than a golf ball.
Neville stopped and watched as the world diminished into a pinhole of blue and then vanished. He was alone. All around him was nothingness. Neville shivered. He wasn’t used to such quiet. It felt strange and slightly unnerving. What could it mean? How should he feel? What was he to do?
Neville looked around. High above, the lights of the stars twinkled. To his left, a comet flashed past. To his right, a sudden blaze of brightness flared, a distant supernova. It was a beautiful sight. An everlasting silent night.
Suddenly Neville was overcome by a feeling of peace. No more desperately rushing to keep up. No more frantically clinging on for dear life. Neville didn’t need the world anymore. He was free.
He looked around and noticed a stream of lights gliding past. Asteroids, some glowing like small planets, others seemingly no bigger than a teapot. Suddenly Neville had an idea. He would find himself an asteroid and make it his home. One that was not too big or too small, just comfortable. Then he could start again, from scratch. He would fashion for himself a new world. A world that worked exactly the way he wanted it to. And then, at last, he could get down to the important business of just being Neville.
Neville scanned the asteroid field, carefully trying to discern which would be the best asteroid to choose. Many of them rushed past like speeding racehorses in an intergalactic derby. Neville didn’t want an asteroid that moved fast. He wanted a slow one. One that gave him time to do all the things he wanted to do. Finally he spotted the right one. It looked to be about the size of a large house and it dawdled sluggishly across the sky like a lazy, sleepwalking pony.
Neville walked quickly towards the asteroid and climbed aboard. It was perfect. Maybe slightly bigger than it had appeared from a distance, but not by too much. There was enough space to play a football match but no risk of having to run too far to get the ball. It might have been cold and rocky and barren, but after the helter and skelter of his previous life Neville found it strangely appealing. This was just the place to start creating his new world.
First things first. Neville would need a country and countries need borders. Using his heel, he marked out a series of lines on the dusty surface. A couple of straight lines on one side and a couple of twisty, windy lines on the other. When he was finished, the lines enclosed a space about eighty metres by fifty metres. Outside the lines was foreign territory, distant and unknown. But inside the lines was Neville’s country, the place he was proud to call his new home.
Now onto the next thing. Everyone knows that countries need a name. Neville decided to call his country Bolivia. It was a place he’d always wanted to visit. Now he could finally say that he had.
Having achieved so much in barely a couple of minutes, Neville sat down to consider his position. Here he was, the ruler of his own country. He could do anything he wanted. So what should he do next? Neville thought about all the other things a country needed to have. A capital, a language, a flag. A culture, an economy, a national tree. It seemed like there were an awful lot of decisions he was going to have to make.
Suddenly Neville felt hopelessly out of his depth. This was not how it was meant to be. He didn’t want to have to take all of this responsibility. He wanted to be an average guy, to stand back and let somebody else make the big decisions. He was happy to be one of the ruled, not one of the rulers.
Neville knew what he had to do. His country needed a leader, and in this brave new democratic world there was only one way to properly select one. Have an election.
Neville cast a secret ballot, carefully tallied the result and then loudly announced that the new President of Bolivia was the large rock twenty-seven metres to his left. Neville pledged allegiance to the rock and then left it to get on with the difficult matter of running the country while he began creating his new future.
His new future lasted exactly thirty-seven seconds. President Rock? It lacked a certain something. Neville couldn’t see it doing any of the things presidents are supposed to do. Attending functions or making speeches. Organising policy at both a national and international level. As a head of state, his rock was sadly inadequate.
At that moment, Neville came to a sad realisation. Much as he’d come to love Bolivia and feel comfortable and welcome there, he knew that it was never going to be the sort of world he had hoped it could be. It was time to move on.
After saying a fond farewell to the President, Neville climbed off the asteroid and trudged away into the inky blackness of the universe. In search of a better place for a Neville. In search of somewhere to call his home.
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