Lit Mag Short Fiction

17 Minutes

“Go get ‘em, Chad!”

“We love you!”

“The savior of humanity is here!”

“Chad, Chad, Chad, Chad…”

The entire world was fervently hollering at their TVs. Well, I didn’t know for sure that the “entire world” was watching, but with an event like this, you could be pretty sure that most of the world cared. After all, the life of every person on Earth, the life of the Earth itself, was at stake here. 

It’s still kinda crazy to me that everyone in the world is cheering for my best friend, but after all, Chad is probably the smartest person in the world. Myself, well, I’m not exactly the brightest bulb in the crayon box, but Chad and I still get along. But never mind that. Chad is about to present his first invention to the world. And this isn’t just any old run-of-the-mill invention—I hear that this is the invention that will save humanity. It was only a few years ago back in 2070 when global warming had accelerated at an unprecedented rate; although many scientists are working hard to delay the inevitable death of the Earth itself, it’s not looking good. This so-called death of the Earth is basically when the Earth will get too hot to be inhabitable by people. Seemed kinda egotistical of the human race to pronounce the Earth dead once the human race died off, but whatever I guess. It’s not like we haven’t done more conceited things in history anyways. Ruin seemed unavoidable until Chad showed up. 

I wasn’t there for his birth—I wasn’t alive at the time—but they say that the moment Chad popped out of the womb, a choir of angels descended from the heavens in a shower of a golden light and sang odes of Chad’s future glory, and as they were singing, a faint golden halo could be seen above Chad’s head, and… well, you get the picture. Anyways, Chad and I had been friends since we were babies. We grew up together as neighbors in Boston, spending a lot of our childhood together just wandering around the town. There wasn’t a lot to see though. At least, there weren’t a lot of nice things to see. With all the rising sea levels and whatnot, a lot of buildings and houses were flooded and people got displaced. Some parts of Boston, like the place where Chad and I lived, were fine, but many were underwater, the walls teeming with mold and the wood rotting from exposure to water. Other parts were abandoned for fear of living in a place that would soon become submerged. There were old, dilapidated houses filled with cobwebs and dust you could see from the outside. Not a lot of living space and a lot of displaced people made for a pretty bad combination here in Boston. Also, the Coalition pretty much stopped trying to provide relief to small towns like Boston. It makes sense that after every country in the world banded together to form the Coalition to fight global warming they would devote all their resources to the global effort to find a solution rather than providing relief to their individual countries, but it’s still unfortunate. 

I distinctly remember one conversation Chad and I had. We were both in fifth grade at the time and we were wandering around town like we normally do, when all of a sudden Chad said, “This sucks.” We had just passed by a beggar on the street, and I assumed he was talking about him. 

“Yeah, well there’s not much we can do for him right now.”

“No, I don’t mean just him. I mean the state the world is in right now. Think about our town, and how many people are suffering. Now take that number and multiply it by the hundreds of thousands of towns across the world. God, Cody Jenkins made such a big mistake back then. Like 2021? Something like that. It’s still so crazy to me that he convinced half the Senate to reject the bill that could have literally prevented all of this.” Cody Jenkins. A veteran politician who had too much influence for his own good. When a bill that pledged America to becoming involved with the rest of the world to fight global warming, Jenkins convinced half the Senate that the bill would ruin U.S. businesses, and that they needed to “make America great again” or something stupid like that. And since the U.S. was the world’s biggest polluter, many countries refused to take action if the U.S. wasn’t going to. So, Cody Jenkins basically caused over half the world to not go green. 

“Life just sucks.” Though Chad is a one-in-a-century kind of genius, every great person has their faults. For Chad, he’s a major drama queen. I still remember when he cried over stepping on a Lego. Twice. When I first got to know him, I was never quite sure whether he was being dramatic or he was genuinely sad about something. But over the years, I’ve realized that his eyes always give him away, as they go into an out-of-focus daze. One time when we were younger, I asked him if anything was making him sad, as he was staring off into empty space. He told me that he was sad after seeing my face, and that the empty space he was looking at was probably the one inside my head. Last time I ever asked about his feelings. 

“That’s true. Life does kinda suck. But there are plenty of scientists working to find a solution. I’m sure they’ll figure out something soon.” This was a complete lie. He knew it. I knew it. But what else was there to say? I continued, “It’s not like you can do anything about it right now anyways.” 

The moment those words left my mouth, it seemed as if something clicked in Chad’s brain. “What if there was something I could do?” Chad’s eyes suddenly lit up, and he had a strange glint in his pupils, as if he were a mad scientist about to create his latest invention. “What if I became a scientist? I could study hard, go to college, become a scientist, and save the planet!” And so, he did. 

Everyone knew that Chad was a genius—he skipped two grades and still scored perfect marks on every test. Whenever anybody had a question, Chad was the guy to ask. It was no surprise when he ended up going to New Harvard, a college that opened up recently after the old Harvard was flooded. I never really cared too much about my grades—with all the chaos going on in the world, neither did the teachers—and just went to the local community college. 

Chad and I lived right next door, so we still saw each other whenever we were on break, and we still spent a lot of time together, since neither of us had any other friends that lived nearby. Every time I saw him he rattled on about his ideas to save the world, and I had fun listening. One day we were talking about the new government-issued AC suits. Basically, it was starting to get too hot for people to survive outside for more than a couple minutes, so the government issued an exclusive group of people these AC suits that were essentially just big air-conditioned metal casings to wear over your body. Chad was one of these select few because of his progress at New Harvard to revolutionize the way humanity fought global warming. In fact, he received multiple of them for his family, but since he received a few extra he decided to give one to me. I told him that the suits would undoubtedly help him with his dating game, since girls would no longer be able to see his face. I would not receive my suit for another week.

So this continued for a few more years until graduation. I would drift aimlessly through my classes while Chad excelled and made more and more progress in his invention that would save mankind. Once we graduated, Chad—with the total support of the Coalition as he was now humanity’s last hope—immediately founded a research lab devoted completely to his research. After a few years of uneventful news, Chad was ready to unveil his project. 

And so, that brings us to the present, where the entire world was hollering at their screens. However, before Chad revealed his creation, someone was to give a speech, and who else but Cody Jenkins, the man who got the world into this mess in the first place. It was basically just a long apology to the world. All this stuff about how “bigly sorry he was” and something about “covfefe.” Call me cynical, but the apology seemed more like a political move than sincere repentance, but whatever. After that, Chad was more than ready to display his masterpiece in front of the crowd gathered at his lab, Chad Labs, and the world. Simply by looking around, you could tell Chad Labs had lots of support—the buildings themselves were awe-inspiring. Marble pillars, golden trims, towering skyscrapers—the Olympians of old would fit right in. 

“Everyone, I have kept you all waiting for a long time, and for good reason. I could not help but perfect this instrument because I- we at Chad Labs could not bear notion if our machine were to fail, if there were some variable unaccounted for, as this machine bears the hopes and dreams of not just me, not just Chad Labs, but everyone one of us living on this planet. So, without further ado, I am honored to present to all of you, the long-awaited Solar-Powered Apparatuses Confirming Earth’s Future And New Survival, also known as, the SPACE FANS.” And with a wave of his hand, the red velvet curtain behind Chad fell to the ground, revealing the magnificent invention behind it: A series of giant fans strapped to rockets and solar panels. “These SPACE FANS will make the journey into space and, powered by the sun itself, they will cool down our Earth.” 

Of course! I exclaimed to myself. I was astonished at Chad’s genius. How had no one thought of this before? Naturally, the solution to Earth’s impending doom would be to suspend giant fans in space and point them at the Earth! Cheers broke out everywhere, creating a continuous roar from the crowd. 

Then, a scientist came out from behind Chad. “Our team has done the calculations several times. We have come to the conclusion that, with the SPACE FANS, the death of the Earth has been delayed by 17 entire minutes.” 

The once-exuberant cheers from the crowd were gone. In its stead was a bout of absolute silence. And then, shattering the silence like it was thin glass, some muffled sniffles broke out, then tears streamed down people’s faces, and then the cheers came. Like a calm before the storm, the silence gave way to a cacophony of ovation. And it was glorious. 

I couldn’t help feeling proud of my best friend. Yet as I looked over at him, his eyes had a dazed look in them. But he had done what he had set out to do: he had saved the world, hadn’t he? 

Well, I’ll check out how he’s doing later. For now, I’m gonna enjoy my newly saved 17 minutes.

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