Chapter 1 - An Experiment in Physics

Xyzab at the Sandwich Tree

Xyzab scrambled up the last few yards to the top of Tee Hill. Seria came running up close behind. They were out of breath, hot, and sweaty. The hike up the hill was tiring but fun. As they stood in the shadow of God's Golfball, they were spared the hot needles raining down from the sun. A cool wind came up from the valley and swept around them, leaving the faint fragrance of flowers. The fields of Dafoodle flowers in the valley shimmered in colors of red, purple, and gold.

Xyzab was glad that school was over. Xyzab did not like school. The last class just would not finish. Professor Improbable had been droning on about levers and torques. It had seemed like it would never end.

He leaned back against God's Golfball. It rocked a little as it adjusted to his weight. It was a huge boulder that had balanced on a small rock for all of known Ubble history. It was said that God had placed the ball there when he created the world. It was prophesied that the end of the world would begin the day he started playing golf. Xyzab did not believe in such superstitions. He turned around and pushed God's Golfball with all his strength. It rocked dangerously - as if it would roll off its tiny support.

“Stop it, Xy! You’re going to knock it over,” Seria said.

Xyzab ignored her and pushed it again. He knew that it could never be knocked off. Xyzab had tried this many, many times before. It would always rock and come back to rest no matter how hard he pushed. Each time it oscillated a while before coming to a stop.

To take Xyzab’s mind off the boulder, Seria said, “Wasn't Professor Improbable's class wonderful today?”

“Nooh, Ria!” said Xyzab, turning to look at her, “I was so confused. He kept on talking about torque, and force, and fulcrums. It was hard to keep my eyes open.”

“It was quite simple, actually,” Seria said animatedly. She liked science. And she liked to talk about it. “What do you think you do when you open a door? You apply torque! The further you hold the door from the hinge, the less force you need to apply.”

“So torque is the same thing as force! Why was he confusing the two?” said Xyzab, scratching his round head.

“Nooh! Torque’s a vector. It’s measured by multiplying the lever arm into the force."

“Now you’re confusing me. What’s a lever arm doing on a door?”

“Hmmm... Maybe I’m giving you the wrong example,” said Seria. She bent her head down, her long hair falling around it like a curtain, and went around in a little circle, deep in thought.

Xyzab looked around. He saw a small grove of white trees down the hill on the other side of God's Golfball. His stomach grumbled. He rubbed his belly and asked, “There’re some sandwich trees over there. Do you want one?”

“Mhhmm...Hmmm. Yesh,” mumbled Seria looking up, her forehead still creased as she followed Xyzab to the grove.

Most of the leaves of the trees had turned completely white in the sun. The next generation of fresh leaves was starting to sprout, dotting the whites with shades of deep blue. Seeing them approach, the trees bent their branches lower down to offer them sandwiches. Seria plucked a rye sandwich with cucumber and tomatoes, while Xyzab chose a white bread sandwich with mango, olives and garlic. They thanked the trees and walked back to the summit, eating the sandwiches.

“You should try this sandwich. It’s delicious!” said Xyzab, chomping on it. He caught the olives that were getting squeezed out with each bite and popped them back into his mouth.

She wrinkled her nose. “Mangoes and olives and garlic! Yewwww! Only you can eat that combination.”

Xyzab shrugged and finished his sandwich. His hands were sticky with mango juice and olive oil. He wiped them on his trousers, leaving oily yellow stains. Bringing them to his nose, he sniffed. His hands still had the pungent odor of garlic and olives, mixed in with the sweet smell of mangoes; but at least they weren't sticky anymore.

Ria with the catfly flowers

Xyzab took a drink of water from a bottle in his backpack and sat down next to Seria on the grass. She was talking to the tiny catfly wildflowers growing near the base of the rocks. She poured some water from her bottle onto the dry ground around them. The wildflowers smiled, thanking her. She sat back and started singing softly. It was an old Ubble song celebrating the colors of the world. The catfly flowers swayed to her rhythm.

Singing came naturally to Seria since she was part Nobble. Nobbles were nomadic Ubbles, a tribe of traveling musicians who kept a record of the history of Ubbles in songs. They passed from village to village, learning new stories and making up songs about them. Seria's father had settled down in Scrabble village after falling in love with her mother on one such visit.

Seria stopped singing and got up abruptly. She ran back into the grove, thrashing in the underbrush below the sandwich trees looking for something. The pinkberry bushes made small sounds of protest.

Xyzab called after her, “What’re you searching for?”

“Here it is!” she said, lifting a long straight branch from a small nook between two sandwich trees. It was twice as tall as her. Seria pulled off the small twigs and dry leaves still attached to it as she came back. Her long dress was ripped in a couple of places but she didn’t seem to notice.

“A stick?”

“This is not a stick. This is a lever!” she said.

She came to a small boulder next to God’s Golfball and said, “Come here, Xy. Try pushing this with your hands.”

He shrugged as he walked towards her. Seria was in one of her enlightened states. She would not rest until she enlightened him too. At such times, it was best to humor her, so he put his shoulder against the boulder and pushed. It did not budge.

“So?” asked Xyzab.

Two headed slub

Seria wedged the stick under the boulder and put a small stone under it. Then she pressed the stick down with all her strength. There was a sucking sound. The boulder rolled off a few hands from its spot. The ground underneath was crawling with two-headed slubs. Seeing the sun for the first time, they scurried about trying to find shade. Xyzab and Seria backed away from the slubs. They were slimy creatures.

That's what a lever can do. It amplified my strength by multiplying it with the length of the stick. The small stone that I put under the stick acted as the fulcrum,” she said, her face flushed with the satisfaction of an experiment well done.

Xyzab’s eyes started twinkling with the beginning of an idea. “That was great! Maybe we can move God's Golfball using the lever. Imagine the surprise on everyone’s faces when they see it out of its place.”

Seria's face lost its flush. “Xy, that could be dangerous.”

“Nooh! We’ll just move it a bit.” He grabbed the stick and ran towards the boulder.

Seria followed him, trying a different tack. “Xy, It won’t work. God’s Golfball is too big.”

“Well, then, there’s no harm in trying.”

He wedged the stick between God's Golfball and the small rock supporting it, and pushed the stick down. God’s Golfball rocked a bit before settling back in its position. He moved around the rock, found another spot, and tried again. This time he pressed down the stick with the entire weight of his body. The stick went down fast and he lost his balance as his feet came off the ground.

God’s Golfball did not just rock this time. It rolled over, crashing down from the rock cluster. Seria managed to dive away in time to avoid being crushed. God’s Golfball continued rolling on, crushing small stones, flowerbeds, and the bushes in its path. It gathered speed as it descended. By the time it reached the sandwich trees, it was going very fast. It knocked over several trees, continuing faster downhill, bouncing with a thunderous ferocity. It cleared a path all the way down, leaving behind a cloud of dust that obscured it, as it grew smaller and smaller. The loud noises of destruction dissipated and the sad croaks and groans of the broken trees became audible.

God's golfball on the move.

Seria was on her back, dazed, staring at the receding dust trail.

Xyzab sat on the ground in shock. He hadn't expected it to roll all the way down the hill. The other boulder had only moved a few hands. God's Golfball was going straight towards the village. He was in serious trouble!

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