Short Story Saturday: The Fly Ball That Didn’t Come Back Down

Short Story Saturday: The Fly Ball That Didn't Come Back Down - Photo via <a href="">Good Free Photos</a>
Photo via Good Free Photos

Hello everyone! As part of Short Story Saturday, I have posted another short story, this one entitled The Fly Ball That Didn’t Come Back Down. Please enjoy.

An amazing thing happened on August 24, 2019. A fly ball was hit into the air and didn’t fall back down.

It was during an otherwise meaningless game late in the baseball season between the Nauticals and the Kings. Both teams were well out of the playoffs by that point and were merely playing out the string. The game would have been completely forgotten if not for that fateful event that occurred during the third inning.

Home pitcher for the Seattle Nauticals Malachi Wallace threw an inside fastball to the Kansas City King right fielder Wallaby Jones. Jones took a bad cut and lifted the ball straight into the air above catcher Curtis Brown. Higher and higher it ascended until it reached its apex about twenty feet into the air. Mask off, Brown patiently waited for the ball to descend while Jones half-heartedly jogged to first base.

Only, the ball never came back down. It remained floating in the air.

It took nearly a minute for everyone, the players, the fans, all manner of employees at the game, and the like to realize what was happening. A palpable discomfort emerged with every passing second the ball refused to drop.

An event like this takes the human brain a while to process. We can talk of spontaneity, the ability of the mind to adapt, how science is in a constant state of flux all we want, and granted, much of that is true. Yet, whether we’d like to admit it, we all still believe in the so-called immutable rules of this world. One of the most basic is what goes up must come down.

This is why the crowd reacted so slowly to what was evidently taking place. First, they simply stared. Then, there were whispers of denial. Afterward, low murmurs emanated as the throng started to finally understand what was happening. Soon a flurry of possible suppositions and explanations were discussed amongst themselves before they were practically shouted. Their consensus at first seemed that there was nothing to worry about. They had missed the play and didn’t see the ball descend. Or perhaps the ball was caught in a rafter. Or perhaps the ball had disappeared into the crowd. Several astute eyes and pointed fingers corrected such notions. It soon became apparent what was happening.

Brown, still attempting to play the game, looked at his manager pleadingly. His skipper was fixated on the ball so it took a moment for him to realize his catcher was looking toward him for instruction. He eventually replied with a melancholy shrug. There was little he could do. The catcher’s eyes turned towards the home plate umpire. He said nothing. His eyes communicated more than words could ever say.

At that moment, Curtis was not the multi-million dollar catcher who alienated fans with his haughty attitude and lackadaisical play. Nor was he the intimidating giant of a man who had not even five minutes ago cursed at the umpire for calling a third strike on him while he was at bat.  No, he became a little boy begging his proverbial papa, the elderly man standing behind the plate, for help.

There was little he could do. He had seen nothing like this before. No one had. Such a thing had never occurred in history. The umpire apologized to Curtis. He had no reason to. None of this was his fault. It was unfair to expect him to come up with a solution. He had no control over the situation. Yet he did. He sensed Curtis’s fear and apprehension. He wanted so badly to help.

Shortly after, the dugouts, bullpens, the outfield, the infield, and even the crowd descended upon home plate. Roles began to fade. Players were no longer players. Coaches were no longer coaches. Fans were no longer fans. Everyone was just a human being again, witnesses to an incomprehensible event. A mild panic ensued. Half the crowd pushed their way out of the stadium which started more than a couple of fights. Security eventually handled those incidents once they were able to put aside their own fears.

One of the more level-headed players suggested that they continue to play after the conflicts in the crowd had dissipated. Baseball has several provisions where decisions are ultimately left to an umpire’s judgment. Clearly, the ball would have been caught. Just call the batter out and move on. A rational suggestion, perhaps, but it was one that was ignored. Nobody else either wanted to play or allow play with a rawhide Sword of Damocles dangling above their heads.

Player safety was a convenient excuse. There wasn’t any real fear of the ball falling on someone’s head unexpectedly, which perhaps is a legitimate threat but truthfully no one was quite concerned with that. Instead, people’s concerns were mostly centered on the anomaly as anomalies are always feared. After much discussion and several phone calls, the umpires and the field supervisors decided to suspend the game. Shortly afterward, the broadcast intended to be seen broadcast by the team’s local audiences only quickly became a national and worldwide phenomenon.

A vast multitude of media outlets, as well as government agencies, rushed to the stadium in a frantic haste. One side hoped to break the story while the other wanted to provide an explanation and prevent panic. After the proper authorities managed to evacuate the crowd, players, and team staff from the stadium, only authorized personnel remained. This included various branches of the police force and other security personnel, individuals affiliated with Major League Baseball, city officials, physicists along with members of other branches of scientific study, and the various news networks that always get involved when such things occur.

The physicists, atmospheric scientists, and other like-minded individuals, after much cajoling, were granted first access to the ball so that they may study it and perhaps provide an explanation. Using long ladders provided by the fire trucks that were brought in, these men and women analyzed the ball along with its surrounding troposphere. Each of them was very careful. All assumed that the slightest touch would bring the ball down.

They performed every analysis possible without actually making contact with the well-stitched rawhide sphere floating in the air. Despite their efforts, though, which included but was not limited to dropping other balls next to it from the same height, all investigations proved inconclusive. There was no reason why the ball remained in the air.

The lack of conclusive answers was incredibly frustrating for all involved but no more than for John Lincoln, the owner of the Seattle Nauticals. While those men and women of science performed their experiments, he was engaged in a heated discussion with baseball officials. Commissioner Rodney Manfield had almost immediately after the event declared all games in Seattle would be indefinitely moved to a neutral location until either the ball fell or the field was deemed safe to play. Most agreed with his decision.

John Lincoln did not. He had a business to run. Lost home games meant lost revenue. This along with his generally dour disposition compelled him to take action. When the guards were distracted by a minor incident with reporters, he took that opportunity to dash past security and scamper past a scientist who had just descended from one of the ladders. The man of science was caught metaphorically flat-footed and didn’t realize what was happening. Therefore, he made no effort to stop the team owner from ascending until it was too late.

Lincoln ignored yells and screams. He ignored security who was right on his heels. He ignored the fact that he would be in serious trouble for doing any of this. Rationality had escaped him. His mind contained but one thought. Pull it down and end the madness. When he reached the top of the ladder, he reached until his arm could extend no further. His fingertips and then the rest of his hand were barely able to clutch it. With a smug smile on his face, the team owner’s muscles contorted and strained as he pulled with all his might.

The ball refused to budge.

Out of sheer desperation, Lincoln leaped off the ladder still gripping the ball to the horror of those in pursuit and the folks watching from below. Everyone braced for a nasty collision with the ground.

John Lincoln did not fall.

The ball stubbornly stayed in the air. Lincoln dangled from it. Both knuckles were white as he clutched the ball with manic desperation.

For a moment, there was nothing but silence. Then, rationality of sorts returned as the fire chief on the ground commanded his crew to move the ladder beneath the hanging man. He was the first to regain his senses. His men, waking from their trance upon his barked orders, did as instructed. John was euphoric when his feet once again touched the infield grass.

Seeing a man dangling from a baseball only increased the manic frenzy amongst the ravenous news correspondents. Such a sight was sure to cause panic among the populace. Panic equaled interest. Interest led to clicks and sales. Sales lead to revenue. Being first meant a chance to make the most money.

Reporters and news personnel literally trampled each other, then, to get to the right location for their cameras to report the incident as it occurred. To accommodate a large number of people all after the same thing in a relatively small place required civility. Unfortunately, it was sorely lacking.

Ambulances were called to rush the injured away to receive medical treatment. The police and other emergency personnel did all they could to pacify the pandemonium. Very little of it worked. Chaos, then, served as a backdrop to numerous additional attempts to bring down the ball. There was a strange belief by officials that bringing it back to earth would calm the masses. Any notion of continuing to analyze why such an anomaly happened was immediately abandoned when the first reporter was crushed beneath his colleague’s feet.

Nets were used. Followed by clamps and pulleys. All manner of tools were used to try and bring that ball down. Nothing worked. Then everyone suddenly believed that the ball should be destroyed, that by doing that the problem would be over. Sharp tools were stabbed into it. Fire from a flamethrower was shot over it. A sharpshooter climbed atop the ladder, drew a pistol, and fired a bullet at it from point-blank range. The ball obstinately remained intact. It was impervious. Failure did nothing to calm the populace.

Slowly and reluctantly it was determined there was little anyone could do. The police and other emergency personnel moved to disperse all who had gathered. It was an arduous battle but a battle they eventually won. However, not before cameras were set up in order so that all Internet-accessible devices throughout the globe had access to view the ball twenty-four hours a day via online streams. Security was then set up along the perimeter of the stadium and only those with special permission were allowed entrance. Tests were still done periodically as were attempts to destroy the ball. Still, the amount of activity within the stadium decreased dramatically in the days afterward. Outside the stadium, though, things had just begun.

The panic was not isolated to the stadium. Any sport that required any sort of ball flight was immediately postponed. This meant not only was baseball season delayed indefinitely so too were football, soccer, and rugby. Basketball, though indoors, suffered the same fate. As too was hockey even though it uses a puck. After all, it’s better safe than sorry. In other words, the vast majority of sports were shelved until further notice.

Even playing catch was outlawed. Throwing things in the air was banned. Any activities related to objects in the air were forbidden.

Balls were one thing, but the greater fear was that a plane would fly into the air and never come back to the ground. A moratorium was placed on anything related to aeronautics or aerospace. Flights were canceled. Aerial travel in general was grounded. Only essential flights such as those shipping food products and other vital imports and exports were allowed air transportation and only under strict supervision. Such action had a dire effect on the economy especially for places that relied on tourism or other “non-essential” activities.

The fly ball incident, as it became to be known, only happened once in human history. Yet this one incident managed to change how people behaved worldwide. A gloomy pall metaphorically encompassed the earth. No peace could be found. The populace demanded a solution or at least an explanation as to why it occurred.

A committee of the world’s greatest thinkers was formed to discover one. Surely, the world’s smartest individuals would be able to solve the issue. Several hypotheses and theories were posited. Some were rational. Most were inane. None of them adequately explained what had occurred or what was occurring. That’s because, despite the authoritativeness of those postulates that were delivered, nobody knew how this could happen. Nobody knew how this could be explained. Nobody understood what was going on.

This didn’t prevent the topic from becoming the forefront of all news and media shows, however, whether online or on cable. It was as if all other activity on the planet had stopped. Regardless of the show, regardless of its political leanings, regardless of the host, someone else was always to blame.

It happened due to climate change, some claimed. Others believed it was just a change in barometric pressure. Political parties blamed their opponent’s policies for all the sense that made. Some were convinced that it was God or some other deity or simply the universe playing a trick on humanity. The more extreme believed it was a sign that the end was near.

With no solution ascertained by these supposed intellectuals, the populace took to the streets to find answers. Global riots commenced, most fiercely in places most impacted by the grounding of air travel. Homes were burned, streets were destroyed, and mayhem ensued. People from all over were taking their frustrations out on random strangers, victimizing the innocent without care. How toppling over cars and looting buildings leads to solutions remains a mystery but it is what the populace decided was the best course of action. Sane thinking left long ago.

There was no consideration. Civility was dead. People divided into tribes to blame others and to justify their actions. The cost both in terms of finances and in terms of lives ruined was almost unimaginable.

Then on September 7th, 2019, the ball fell harmlessly to the ground.

Individuals watching the stream were the first to notice and were elated that their vigil rewarded them by allowing them to witness something live that most would see only in a replay. Accompanying chat rooms worldwide similarly metaphorically went ablaze when the ball plummeted to the ground. The second coming would have difficulty equaling the excitement felt that day.

It did not take long for word to spread. The web pages that provided streams of the ball were hammered with traffic from people throughout the planet rushing to see what had happened. A great multitude of sites crashed under the weight of this rapidly intensified activity. Everyone wanted to know what had happened and, more importantly, what had caused the ball to fall.

No explanation was discovered. There was no one trying to bring the ball down at the time. The night was calm. The temperature was mild, not too hot and not too cold, much like it was the previous days. Nothing collided with it. It was as if the ball had a mind of its own and decided it was time to come back down.

The media went wild once again. There was still a lot of handwringing despite the lack of understanding or maybe because of it. The reasons for why the ball stayed in the air were posited as the reason for its descent. Political parties still blamed each other using the same reasons as before. Many religious leaders still believed the end was near. More studies were conducted. The air where the ball had resided was again inspected thoroughly. Many experiments were performed.

They found nothing out of the ordinary. The ball felt and acted like a regulation-sized baseball in every way. All analysis showed it was normal whose only blemishes were its few nicks and scratches consistent with being hit with a baseball bat. To the disappointment of all, no conclusion was ever reached. There was no explanation for the phenomenon

Then it was decided that there should be yet another attempt to destroy the ball. The chosen method of destruction was a car crusher. This time, the efforts were met with an immediate and overwhelming success.

Baseball was used as the proverbial canary in a gold mine to see if life could return to normal. People were uneasy the first week of games when the season resumed. Almost every fly ball was met with a sigh of relief when it returned to the earth, from the announcers, the crowd, and the players themselves, including the batter, the one who normally would be disappointed with a fly ball out.

After the first week of games, the general public was more or less satisfied that gravity was working as intended. Flights were eventually resumed and aerial travel returned to normal. Gradually, the incident faded from public consciousness. The chaos of the riots was cleansed in due time and though the impact of them would linger, people slowly moved on. In a few short years, it seemed as if the incident never even happened.

I’ve been to hundreds of baseball games, though none nearly as memorable as the one I attended that fateful August day. I was eight. It was my first game. My father took me. It was one of many memories we shared over the years. Now I attend games with my son. I love every moment. Well, almost every moment, if I’m being honest. I wish he wouldn’t laugh at me every time I breathe a sigh of relief whenever a fly ball returns to earth.

If you enjoyed this story, then perhaps you’d be interested in reading more by pressing the “short story” tag below or clicking this(short story) link or this(genre and tags) link or this(story list) link. I would also urge you to share this story with others and comment below. Please check out my books page as well by pressing here. Thank you for reading my story.


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