Joanne reached for the cereal on the shelf, and that is when the entire world changed.

“Why are you just standing there?” her husband, Ray, asked. “What’s wrong?”

What was wrong was the universe. A wave, later called by the few moving scientists, a static wave, reached the Earth. This particular wave did not affect megastructures like stars. Only smaller, living structures, like people.

One after the other, most of the seven billion humans on Earth froze. A man strangling another man, gang rivals, froze in a knot. A woman stepping naked from her shower froze. The president, frowning at a lawyer from behind his desk, froze in the frown. The world became a collection of statues.

David walked down the street amazed at what he saw. The sidewalk near his apartment was scattered with unmoving humans. The cars remained where they were. In the ice cream shop where he was going, two customers waited in a line before the counter where a woman in white stood, mouth open, hands gesturing. David was one of about 10,000 humans missed by the wave, anomalies, protective substances, luck.

He had been doing nothing special, just hanging out at the park, sitting on a bench, watching the people—especially the women—walking by. Then they froze. He stood. He walked up to a man in shorts and a R-shirt, a runner, who was frozen in mid-stride.

“Why are you like that?” he asked. He knew something huge had happened, because everybody else in the park was frozen, too. “What’s going on?”

But there was no answer, of course.

Joanne still thought, however. Her brain was not frozen. She screamed internally. She tried desperately to move, but couldn’t. Ray, not affected, put his hand on her back. She felt it, but couldn’t respond.

Ray called 911, but no answer, of course. He left a message. Voice mail hadn’t been affected.

In time, he walked around his complex. Statues; statues everywhere. An elderly woman who always walked her little black dog came rushing out of her condo.

“What?” she said.

“I don’t know,” Ray answered. “I don’t know at all.”

Two wild turkeys stood still in a nearby yard. Even animals and birds and bugs and microbes were frozen. This was bad for flying birds and insects who fell to the ground. It was also bad for those in airplanes.

“I don’t know what to do,” Ray told the old woman. “We’ve got to eat.”

And then the next big worry. His wife would starve to death. Everybody would starve to death.

“My dog’s not moving,” she said, crying. “What will we do?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Ray said. “I have to check on my wife.”

Joanne was still reaching for the cereal. He turned on the TV.

That was working. CNN people were still behind their desks frozen. Shows that had been pre-programmed played as normal. Finally, on the local channel, a reporter spoke into the camera.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do. I’m the only one moving in the studio. There is no information coming out of Washington or anywhere on what’s going on. Just the one scientist who reported about the static wave. Apparently, they knew about these waves in theory, but had never seen one. Nobody, the scientist tells us, knows what happens next. I will stay here, and have something to eat out of the break room refrigerator. Food, I think, is still okay. The equipment seems to be working. If you are moving, send me an email. We need to work together on this.”

David walked cautiously around the ice cream parlor counter. He took a plastic spoon and scooped Rocky Road and Double Chocolate mounds into a cup. He looked around. Nobody stopped him. He walked out of the store.

He felt a little guilty, but it was survival time. The grocery store, the restaurants, even the clothing stores might be free from then on. In fact, he thought of a menswear store in his neighborhood and a sweater he wanted. Too expensive. Now free. This wave thing could be all right in a way. Would the people start rotting? Would there be disease? Too early to tell. He walked down the sidewalk, around the static people, in and out. One old man in a suit was in his way. He pushed him, and the man fell to the concrete, body still in his statue position. His face didn’t change. David thought about lifting him up again, and did. The old man stood as before, arms at his side. “Sorry,” David said. He wasn’t sure if the old man could hear.

He could. Frustrated, the old man wanted to punch the young man in the sweatshirt, University of Life. He recognized him from the park. If he ever recovered from this stiffness…

David got a new wardrobe from the best stores, new pants, new shirts, even a new suit. He was set and carried everything in bags from one of the stores. Next, dinner. Freeman’s Buffet was open. The customers held spoons, “talked” (or at least had their mouths open), stood in line at the buffet. The food was even warm since the heat still worked. David got a plate and scooped a bit of this and that down the line. He had to work around the diners standing, but the help behind the food stood still and said nothing. Of course. His plate full, he walked to an empty table and began eating. It was scary, a little, because he was stealing food, but none of the people moved, and nobody said anything. Of course. He just had to get over that morals thing. This could be an alright life.

Ray turned off the TV. Two reporters on different channels still moved. They stayed inside the studios, however. All they could do was talk. The one scientist covered the same information again and again, then disappeared from the on-air program. He had Skyped in his information. Static wave, sure. Unknown affects. Sure. All Ray knew was that he didn’t want to go outside. He wanted to stay with Joanne.

He slept.

The next morning, Joanne still hadn’t moved, reaching for the cereal. He gave up and went outside just for something to do. None of the people had moved a step. It was like living in a movie put on hold. That’s it: like living in a movie put on hold. He had no one to tell, though. Inside the condo again, he worried about Joanne eating. She might be starving to death. They all might be starving to death. He could get food from the refrigerator. He could even cook it in the stove. But Joanne; how could he feed her? He had to find a way.

David saw one policeman, in uniform, but the cop was leaving a hardware store with two paper bags filled with tools. They saw each other, David with his bags of clothes, the policeman with his bags of tools. They nodded and passed each other on the sidewalk. David wanted to go back to his apartment, a studio. He wanted to lie down and sleep. This freeze thing was just too cool.

No change that night. The scientist on TV was depressed. “This is the end of humanity,” he said. The reporters hadn’t reappeared on their stations. No news. Nothing. Ray hadn’t thought of any way to feed his wife. If he put food in her mouth, she wouldn’t swallow. If he emptied a glass of water in her mouth, she wouldn’t swallow. A doctor might know a way, but they—of course—were static too. Operations in the hospital were stopped midway, chests open, brains exposed. More casualties. But then, 6,999,999,990 people were dying all over the planet. Those having sex were naked statues. Those bleeding bled but didn’t react. Ray would just stay with Joanne until it was too late, days, then he would decide what to do. Find the other movers and help each other? Prepare for death? He didn’t have a plan.

He slept.

The next morning, Joanne hadn’t moved a bit. Reaching for the cereal. He got himself lunch, bologna from the refrigerator, two slices of bread, mustard from the refrigerator, potato chips from a bag. He stood at the kitchen counter and took a bite of the sandwich. It was then he noticed a change in Joanne.

Her face, her beloved face, tensed a slight bit, but enough that her husband, who knew that face better than anything else in life, saw. He kissed her lips, and for the first time in his adult life, he cried. An hour later, he thought he saw her fingers, outstretched for the cereal box, relaxed a bit.

And so it was around the world. All the statues, the people standing in rooms, sitting, running, dancing, kicking, began to change. It took three days, but the billions returned to normal movement. David walked around the park. The people were like in slow-mo. But first, their voices.

“Help. Help me. I can’t move”.

“I’m starving. Get me food.”

“What happened? What?”

He rushed back to his apartment.

Joanne’s first words, hard to distinguished, mumbled, were: “Ray, where are you? Ray?”

David turned on his TV after he went outside again, this time meaning to rob a sports store: a jersey, shoes, and so on. The news broadcasters were the same as before the static wave. A scientist, not the one scientist of before, was talking.

“We still don’t understand what happened. There was no indication of any sort that the wave was coming. Before, the idea of a static wave was theoretical. It was in the literature, but nobody took it seriously. A physicist named Robert Bogutski thought of it on his own and was laughed at, frankly. Now, we have to look a lot more closely. We don’t know if this is going to happen again, for example. The static wave may return tomorrow. It may never return. We just don’t know.”

David was disappointed. He’d grown to like the idea of the stores being open to him, whatever he wanted. He had thought about visiting the big mall on the other side of town, but had to figure out a way. Walking seemed out of the question, especially the walk back. A grocery cart loaded with stuff was a good point, and he’d planned to take one from the grocery a few blocks away. But he’d blown it. Why hadn’t he stolen a car? Why hadn’t he gone from cash register to cash register taking bills? A bank? He had thought he had plenty of time. Now, the chance was over.

Still, as he tried on a pair of expensive pants he’d gotten from a high fashion store, he’d done okay. There was a pile of goods on the hardwood. He’d come out on top. He wanted to walk in the park again and talk to people about their experiences. This could come out okay, in a small way.

Millions of people died, mostly those traveling, cars rushing on the Interstate, plane passengers. A zillion robberies, too, as movers who had been in gangs searched the unmoving for diamond rings, cash, whatever. The Earth would take a long while to recover, but recover it would. Unless another static wave came.

“At least then,” Ray told Joanne, “we will be more prepared. Maybe.”

“Just hold me, touch me,” Joanne said. “I could feel your touch even if I couldn’t move.  Tell me you love me. I could hear.”

“Of course,” Ray said. “Next time. But next time, I might be a statue, too.”

The world moved again.