The Tyranny of Gravity

Olivier Breuleux
on July 24, 2016

Ever since he fell on his head at the age of three months, Doctor Van Gekkeman harboured the most profound of hatred for the force of gravity. One could hardly blame him: gravity was the most perfidious force in all of Creation. Lucifer incarnate. It kept all life chained to the ground and away from the heavens where it belonged, like a gnarled root closing on a diver's ankle and keeping him from the surface until he drowned.

O Gravity, the good Doctor cried, his heart laden with suffering, his ire righteous, Avast!

Ye murderer, who pulls innocent climbers to their crushing deaths! Avast!

Ye thief, who steals the leaves from the trees so that they must spend the winter naked! Avast!

Ye plunderer, who takes the water from the heavenly mountains and makes it rot at the bottom of infernal wells! Avast!

Ye tyrant, against whom we toil! How dare ye keep us from reaching the stars and the heavens above? Avast! Avast! Avast!

Such were Doctor Van Gekkeman's dark thoughts as he contemplated the tragic reality of gravity, a nefarious daemon hell-bent on destroying everything that wasn't solidly anchored to the ground, and could not rest until it had annihilated all life in the Universe.

Something has to be done, Van Gekkeman thought bravely, for he was a free spirit, a man of impeccable principles. He refused to submit to his nemesis like the rest of his peers. No, he would fight this injustice. He would stand up against it. He would rise above it. He would purge it from the world.


Doctor Van Gekkeman was tenacious, perspicacious and assiduous in his studies, and it is at the young age of seventeen that he stepped on the podium to present his doctoral thesis to those who would afterwards become his peers. At that time his frail body, his greasy hair and his parsimonious mustache still betrayed the awkwardness of adolescence, and the audience asked themselves what this boy was doing there. But as soon as Balthazar van Gekkeman's powerful and confident voice echoed in the auditorium, expounding with precision and eloquence a theory which was going to change the world, their preconceptions vanished and everyone was blinded by the exceptional brilliance of his intellect.

His thesis revolutionized science through the audacious demonstration that just as real numbers in mathematics were complemented by imaginary numbers, the real part of the periodic table was also mirrored by an imaginary part that contained a wide selection of new elements which, in conjunction with real elements, allowed in principle for the existence of any technology imaginable.

The good Doctor was particularly interested in the densifying properties of seismodium, a rare imaginary metal, although it became increasingly common as everyone became aware that imaginary metals existed just as much as real ones. At that point most scientists were only thinking of the most trivial applications of seismodium: barometric spectroscopy, the lubrification of solar clocks, the remagnetization of leukocytes as a cure to paraplegia, to only name the most obvious examples. However, necessity being the mother of invention, Van Gekkeman was the only man to intuit that this element was, in fact, the key in Man's eternal struggle against gravity.

Indeed, if one placed seismodium in a carbon bath and amplified its valence using an oscilloscope, it was possible to densificate carbon at a sub-atomic level in order to obtain a substance so dense that nothing could penetrate it, not even the perfidious gravitons that carried the outrageous pull of the gravitational force.

That discovery plunged Doctor Van Gekkeman into a state of manic activity. He requisitioned an enormous quantity of seismodium—enough to lubrify a solar clock at a precision equal to one second per light year—and then he cranked his oscilloscope and prayed for his calculations to be exact.

And exact they were! Shrouded in the antigravity cloak that he had made, Van Gekkeman rose into the air like a majestic eagle, although featherless, and glided toward the seat of the Order of Science. He landed on the cornice of the highest tower of the Castle of Science. The young scientists who at that moment were sciencing in the park looked up from their beakers, barometers and other spectroscopic instruments, and they were all awed by the page of History that was being written before them with the crayon of Science.

The Chiefs of Science, who oversaw scientific progress through statistically significant bureaucracy, saw clearly the immeasurable potential of this revolutionary technology. Thanks to antigravity, people would be able to fly from a nation to another as swiftly and gracefully as swallows. Large vessels would ascend toward the Moon to explore its hidden face, or toward Mars or the innumerable stars of the Milky Way.

Everyone agreed to give Doctor Van Gekkeman a second Medal of Science for his invaluable services, but the good Doctor refused, for he considered that his work was not yet done. Indeed, despite everyone's noble efforts to imagine it, seismodium remained elusive, and as long as that would remain true its applications would be limited by the Fifth Law of Thermodynamics (which regulated the free market).

“But where can we find more seismodium?” asked anxiously Doctor Brutus van Simpeleman, Head Honcho of Science, a rotund man whose scant orange hair only survived in a thin band along his nape. Van Gekkeman answered confidently that because of seismodium's self-densification and immense weight there would be large deposits of it at the center of the Earth. It would thus suffice, in principle, to dig straight through. Doctor Van Simpeleman, who was a great friend to Doctor Van Gekkeman, accepted with alacrity to finance a great drilling operation. He had absolute trust in his former pupil's intuition and despite that close relationship and having heard of Van Gekkeman's most intimate phobias, he was far from divining what his true intentions were.


Thanks to a few of Van Gekkeman's latest inventions, notably the balance drill and the protonic magnet that attracted soil and rock instead of metal, the drilling proceeded rapidly. An immense tunnel was going to connect the humble city of Diepdam to the molten seismodium that lurked inside the Earth's very core, the key to humanity's emancipation.

Finally, a smouldering Friday of July 1871, the undulating piston at the peak of the drilling wave sent a signal to the ground through binocular fiber. The drilling was finished. Van Simpeleman rubbed his hands together: “Finally, we can start sucking in the seismodium!” The excitement was palpable. It is at that moment that Van Gekkeman's unsteady hands connected an anti-suction vacuum to the piston. The attentive reader surely noticed that this is a double negative, and that an anti-suction vacuum is in fact an immense syringe, made to inject chimiological products.

It is thus that right under the noses of Van Simpleman and the other Chiefs of Science, Doctor Van Gekkeman started injecting into the Earth's core an alloy of molecular cobalt and helicoidal zinc, which through an autocatalytic sub-nuclear reaction could perform iron fusion, the byproduct of which is carbon and seismodium.

The world immediately felt a bit lighter, but it is only a few minutes later that Van Simpeleman, moticing that his rotundity had a smaller influence on the length of his stride, finally figured out what was truly happening.

“Van Gekkeman,” he said in a little voice (as the air was now as light as helium) “what are you doing?” To which the good Doctor answered: “I am breaking the chains that keep Man from the Heavens.”

“Madness! Pure madness!” said Doctor Van Simpeleman. Panicked, he leaped towards the syringe's controls in order to stop the process. Alas, as trillions of tons of cobalt were being injected into the Earth's core every second, the maleficent hold of gravity withered. Van Simpeleman overshot and he floated far away like an impeccably dressed balloon.

Under Van Gekkeman's approving gaze, the trees ripped themselves out from the ground, their roots finally breathing the same pure air as the animals. Kangaroos jumped to the moon, unshackled. The mountains rose to the Heavens, larger than ever, splendid and regal.

Seeing all this beauty come to fruition, Van Simpeleman, floating in the air, finally understood his pupil's prescient vision. His mouth carved itself into a beatific smile, and everywhere on the planet men, women and children jumped in the air and were delighted to see that they were not falling back.

At last humanity ascended toward the stars that they were destined to inhabit, and Van Gekkeman rose along, eyes blurred by tears of joy, proud of having severed the ignominous ties that kept the world together.

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