Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The L.A.O.S. Part 3

 Catch up on Part 1!
(Or maybe Part 2?)

“Right,” she said. “So it’s like this. Hand.” She held her hand up between us. I’d never noticed how long and slender her fingers were before – not that I’d had the excuse or opportunity. “Desk.” She laid her hand on the smooth surface of the desk. “Both made of atoms packed together in a dense but regular structure, right?”

I shrugged. “Yeah. And?”

“In theory,” she said, stressing the word far more than normal, “if you aligned the atoms perfectly and were able to make sure that you didn’t lose electrons in the process, and could account for the electro-magnetics going on, you could pass one through the other. Right?”

“Yeah,” I said warily. “I suppose. In theory.”

“So do it,” she said, leaning back.

My eyebrows knitted together. “But I can’t. It’s impossible.”

“No. you just said yourself, it’s theoretically possible.”

“Yeah, but—“

“So do it.”

I stared at her for a long moment. “You’re crazy, right? That’s what this is actually all about. Either this is the Insanity Club, or you’re all having a big joke at my expense.” I glanced around the room. Matt and Pip seemed pretty incapable of having a joke full stop, so they were obviously the insanity contingent. Greg and Megan, though? They were capable of anything, and the way Greg was peering intently at me, arms folded over his chest and lips pressed so tight you could barely see them, did nothing to allay my suspicions.

Megan gave an explosive sigh. “Look, I really want you to figure this out on your own. Heaven knows, you’re smart enough. But being smart isn’t enough; you have to believe things are possible, too.” She caught my eye and held it. “You saw me walk through the door.”

Her face gave nothing away, but my stomach flip-flopped. “What do you mean?” I said, unwilling to admit to anything.

“You know what I mean.” Face impassive, gaze unwavering.

I held my own for a second longer, then screwed up my nose. “Oh, all right. I give in. You win. Yes, it’s theoretically possible. No, I seriously doubt anyone can do it. Yes, I’ll try anyway, and if I find out any of you have a video camera hidden somewhere in the room, I swear, I will make your life a misery.” I pressed my hand against the surface of the desk. “Here goes nothing.” I pressed against the shiny melamine-coated wood, heart racing nine to the dozen.

Nothing. I exhaled the breath I hadn’t realised I’d been holding. “There. See? Nothing. It’s just not possible.”

Megan huffed. “Idiot. You’re not really trying.”

“I am!” I protested. “See?” I pressed my hand against the very solid desk until the tips of my fingers went white.

“I don’t mean physically,” she said. “I mean mentally. Up here.” She tapped her temple.

Behind me, Greg snorted. “Oh, just give up, Meegs. He’s not going to get it. He’s been hanging out with the cool kids for five years; he might have some intelligence left in there somewhere, if you say so, but there’s too much attitude in the way.”

Says he, king of arrogance. “Look, shut up, all right? I’ll get it. Just tell me what I’m supposed to be getting.”

Megan studied me, eyes wide. “Are you really sure about this?” she asked eventually. “Because once you’re committed, there’s no going back. This isn’t the kind of thing you can un-do, or un-see.”

Nerves and frustration and anger and impatience warred for control. “Look, I can handle it, okay? I’m not stupid, and my attitude” – I glanced at Greg – “is fine. Just tell me what I’m trying to do, or how it is I’m supposed to do the impossible, or whatever.”

Megan placed her hand on the table next to mine and contemplated it. “It’s about belief, you see,” she said slowly. “Knowing something in your head and knowing it are different.” Her eyes flicked up and found mine. “Sometimes it helps to see it first.”

I was too busy staring into her ocean-blue eyes to notice at first that her hand was disappearing into the desk – and then I noticed, and flinched away.

“Anything’s possible, if you can just figure out how,” she said, still staring wide-eyed at me, almost like she was begging me to believe her.

Slowly, I moved my hand back onto the table next to hers. I swallowed. “I… I believe,” I whispered. I closed my eyes and imagined the atoms in my hand aligning perfectly with the atoms of the desk, imagined the dense structures relaxing and expanding, sinking and meshing into one another until the two were interlocked, meshed – but still separate, still different structures.

My eyes fluttered open and my gaze rested on my hand, only half visible, fingertips fully integrated with the desk. A smile softened the tension in my jaw. I did it.

[Continued next month]

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Evergreen


In any daily weather
without design
or desultory portent
they let fall
leaves of fire and gold.

Naked they stand
illuminated
by sun
showers
age

In time
new buds will come
but for now the
ravages of winter they face
naked
stripped bare.

To let leaves fall
requires courage
more than I have.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Virtual Girl (excerpt)

(Note: This is all I have so far of an experimental sci-fi story code named Virtual Girl. Expect it to be confusing.)

Faded chalk art makes me think of the things
that could have been
and might be again.
Does that make sense?
I don’t know what does
it should have been so simple
But here I am again
thrown back
Blackness
Immobile
The beeping of machines that can never
Never
Wake me up again
When will I see again?

Must be programming
Must be the code
I hide out on the waves again
A digital ocean
‘Tell me, tell me’
I say
‘Why didn’t it work?’
But they don’t know
they never know
But they have the luxury
of being able to feel their fingers
Stop.
Stop
Not knowing
Not seeing
There was rain yesterday
And the dragon on the concrete
Has turned to shadow
And all I want
are my legs back.

‘We’ve never done anything like this,’
he says in Korean.
I translate for my brother and add
‘I hate this’
‘I know Korean,’
my brother says
‘Oh
Sorry’
Who thought astral projection
through the internet
would be so hard?
Easier than owning my body again
it seems
but both are supposed to be impossible
and here I am
why can’t I have this, too?
‘You’re thinking out loud again’
my brother says
The Korean scientist is confused
‘Tell him it was a mistake’
I say to my brother.
It seems I can only use the translator
when I’m emotional.

‘I think I found something’
my brother’s excitement does nothing
How many times have I heard it?
Each time, I settle
I move
I see
I say
‘Now’
He pulls the plug
and I come crashing down again
until the beep resumes
and machines fill my lungs again
tell my heart to beat again
Either way, it’s life by machine
Either way I die
But better my body than me
Right?

Humanoid, humanoid
it had to be humanoid
fully functioning
They were all big dogs here
and arguments about alien refugees
(granted, there had the aliens, too
but they also had better robots)
‘No, no, I’ve really found it’
‘So tell the scientist,’ I say
‘I can’t, that’s the problem
They know I know’

‘I swear, if you put this—’

‘They sent someone to the house’

‘Who?’

‘Them’

‘Why the hell are you researching them?
They can’t even remember’

‘Ever wondered why?’

‘What do you mean?’
I swim through the file
‘It’s got to be a conspiracy theory
How did you get this?’

‘You did’

Seems I use more than translators
when emotional

‘They want to know more about you’

A freak of technology

‘You’re a vegetable
They know
They know it’s impossible’

‘Do they know I want to live?’

‘They can’t wake you up’

‘So what good are they?’





‘What happened?’

‘Don’t yell,’ I tell my brother.

‘But what happened?’

‘Someone turned me off.
Wait
What the hell
What the hell’

‘What?’

‘Look’

‘I’

‘He’s them, isn’t he?’

‘They sent him to me’

‘I need to talk to him’

‘What—’

‘Get him back. I’m moving my body
before they mess with life support
again’

How do you find the right scientist?
Search engine?
Stalk universities?
No
You know someone
who knows someone
who knows someone
who knows a guy in Korea
“who’s working on something like that”
How does that even happen?
How am I even here?
But they don’t know
They can’t know
They want something
Here I am, run from
concerns of the day
only to be thrown
Right back into them.
How convenient, though
that he would know
who knows
who knows
How convenient

He’s at the apartment
My brother isn’t sure
He didn’t like last time
But how else to scare them?
(And he did like it last time
liar
I could hear him composing papers
in his mind
papers he could never write
but he would, anyway)
‘Wait’
My brother texts him to wait
I see through the webcam
I anticipate this “friend”
his shock
as I speak to him
I relish this
I just want to live
with privacy
with absolute privacy
‘Okay’—my brother’s voice betrays
his nerves
he hesitates
but puts it on
connects his brain to my reality
funny how the thing
that stuck me in the hospital
now gives me so much power
Here goes
Here
goes
I
in
in
in

The first thing to do when I’ve settled in my brother’s body is to take off the virtual reality interface and orient myself again. He mutters under the surface of me—it’s so weird having someone else’s self-talk in your head. But each movement of his body reminds me how different it is. Shorter, thicker. Male. I tell myself what I’m doing as I do it to get used to speaking with his voice. My own body, miles away, want to do the same. I can feel it moving to obey, but powerless to rise and communicate.

Ready, I text my brother’s friend. Acquaintance? What do you call someone who’s likely been using their relationship with you to exploit you? I think his name is Jason. I check the phone. Yes. Jason.

The chair beneath me squeaks as I stand, a little wobbly, but more steady as I walk across the apartment to the door. Moving through cyberspace is never so grounded as this. I have physical space around me, light through the windows, footsteps and the shift of clothing on my body with each movement.

I open the door.

“Hey!” says Jason.

“Hey yourself,” I say in poor imitation of my brother—I can hear his scornful undertones. Jason’s eyebrows draw together, but he comes in and takes off his shoes. I close the door.

“What did you want me over for?” he plops on the couch, limbs outstretched in comfort. I consider playing the charade a little longer, but this is better.

“I’d like to tell you…” No. That thought dies before my brother’s vocal cords can shape it. “I’m not particularly fond of people who cut my life support.”

Jason’s eyes bulge. He reminds me of a fish. “Your sister’s life support, you mean.”
I sit down exactly like myself and smile. “No, I meant my life support.”

“Do you have multiple personalities or something?”

“Look, Jason, or whoever you really are, I’m going to make this really simple: You’re looking at my brother’s body, but you’re talking to me. And, last night, you snuck into the hospital, shut off my life support, and turned it back on. Moreover, my brother informs me you came by the other day about some files I dug up that it seems you and quite a few other people have an interest in keeping hidden. What would people think if they knew these refugees came to Earth not because they were fleeing anything but because they were very, very interested in… what was it? ‘Harvesting latent potentials in the human populace for the improvement of our own abilities’?”

The following bout of stuttering is most gratifying. Jason peers at me.

“Why did you shut off my life support?” I ask.

“I didn’t—”

“Do you want stills from the security cameras, or should I stream the whole feed?”

“Is there some medication you should be taking?”

“Jason. Think. You interrupted my life support. No one at the hospital noticed. No one said anything about it. I’d love to know how you managed that, but that’s not really what’s on your mind right now because you know the only way I could be telling you this is if I wasn’t the vegetable you thought I was and, at the very least, I could tell my brother what you did. After all, outside of whoever else you’re working with, only I would know what you did. That’s how you set it up.”

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The L.A.O.S. Part 2

 Catch up on Part 1!

Rolling her eyes, Megan pushed the door open and walked into the room. I hung back, not quite sure what I was expecting. A fanfare, maybe. Rabid applause. Maybe rotten fruit. But when nothing especially unusual was forthcoming, I stuck my head warily around the corner and peered into the room.

Four kids, two pretty normal looking and two looking like the King and Queen of the Geeks – glasses, ties, the pale, washed-out, pasty skin of people who spent too much time indoors, you know, the works – perched variously on chairs and desks, deep in conversation.

I stepped into the doorway, and they all completely ignored me. I forced my fists to unclench, shoving aside memories of my Chris-fit days, and cleared my throat. Nada. I cleared it again, louder this time.

The normal-looking guy lounging on one of the desks turned and nearly lost his eyebrows as they shot upwards. “What the hell?” he said, turning to Megan. (The other normal-looking kid. Not that anything about Megan is normal. It’s not normal to be super smart and wicked hot, is it? I mean, it’s just not fair on the rest of the gene pool. Never tell Megan I said that. Ever.)

“Easy there, mate,” I said, grinning my trademark bad-boy grin and raising my hands. “We’ll find your eyebrows again, don’t stress.”

“Greg.” Megan shot him a warning glare, which he kindly returned. She turned to me. “Guys, this is Chris. I told you he was one of us. Chris, this is Matt, Pip and Greg.”

The geeky guy and girl, who now I looked past the apparel were clearly related, nodded in a nonchalant sort of way. Greg, on the other hand, looked like he might fall off the desk. “What the hell, Megan?” he said. “You invited Chris? Are you insane? The guy’s fifty kinds of dick just on Mondays!”

“Thanks,” I said, shoving my hands into my pockets. “Nice to know my reputation precedes me.”

Megan rolled her eyes. “Seriously, can we put the testosterone away for like five second please? Greg, you should have heard the circles he ran Mr Hang-me in just now in maths. It was awesome.”

I totally didn’t glow at that. Totally.

Greg eyed me suspiciously. “He could’ve memorised it, or something.”

I raised an eyebrow, but Megan came gallantly to my rescue, shaking her head. “Nuh uh, he knew what he was talking about. He’s the real deal, Greg.”

Okay, I confess: I grinned. “Real deal, huh, Greg. She ever called you that?” I bounced on my toes.

Greg made to scramble off the desk, settling for killing me with his scary, scary eyes when Megan laid a restraining hand on his arm. I snickered.

“Oh, go wank yourself,” Greg muttered, and turned away.

I figured that was as good an invitation as I was going to get, so I strode into the room and pulled up a chair, flipping it around so I could lean on the back. “So,” I said. “What’s the deal?”

“Nothing,” Greg muttered again, but this time I had the distinct impression the angst wasn’t directed at me.

Sure enough, Megan shot him a filthy look before turning to me. “Officially or unofficially?”

I shrugged. “Whatever. Both.” I wouldn’t have admitted it for fifty bucks, but my heart began to pound. I was about to learn their big secret, and despite the fact that they were geeks to the max and the secret was probably about how they planned to finish extra credit homework before three pm, I was curious. And I hadn’t been curious about anything in a long time.

Megan’s lips twitched. “Officially,” she said carefully, “Greg is right. Nothing. Yet,” she stressed, shooting Greg another Look.

“And unofficially?” My palms itched and I rubbed them against my thighs.

Matt shifted in his chair. “Unofficially, we’re investigating the real-world effects of extreme scientific theory with the aim of utilising these theories to create an environment more conducive to justice, equity, and compassion.”

“We’re saving the world through science,” Pip added, smiling. She actually managed to be kind of pretty when she smiled – it was the contagious kind of smile that had me smiling back before I even realised what she’d said.

I shook my head. “Hang on, wait. What?” Again with the Confused Brethren act. Would I ever feel in control of a situation again?

“Justice, equity and compassion, dimwit,” Greg said helpfully. “Surely even your old band of miscreant friends have heard of the concepts?”

“Piss off, numbskull,” I countered, drawing on my superior wit and intelligence. Greg’s like that; he brings out the best in everyone.

Megan made a grumbling, growling sort of noise and tossed her hair. “This is going to be impossible if you two can’t get over yourselves.”

“Hey, you invited him,” Greg said, holding his hands up in defence.

“And it’s not my fault Greg’s insecure about having another male around,” I added, lifting an eyebrow. “Um, no offence,” I said quickly, nodding at Matt, who just shrugged.

“Oh, would you shut up,” Megan said, voice full of exasperation. “Do you want an explanation or not?”

I hesitated for just a second, then swallowed the bickering and nodded. “Yes.”

[To be continued next month!]

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Kitten Psychologist Tries to be Patient Through Email



(Just jumping in now? Read the previous installment, The Kitten Psychologist vs the Kitten's Owners, or start at the beginning with The Kitten Psychologist.)

Dear kitten,

I would absolutely love to speak with you, but your humans, as you say, have decided I can’t ever see you. You’ll have to deal with the tumblr thing on your own.
 

Sincerely,
Your psychologist



Dear psychologist human,
 

There is no reason to be rude with me. As you see perfectly well, we can talk through email. Your payment will be minimal to none as a result, but I still need your help, so you are still my psychologist.
 

My current dilemma has less to do with tumblr and more to do with the conversation you had with my humans. I overheard you, you know. What is this nonsense about cats not being moral? We are most certainly moral. Explain this to me.
 

I also seem to be having difficulties accessing my humans’ bank account. Do you have any solutions to that?
 

Sincerely,
You know who



Dear kitten,

That’s… not really how being a psychologist works. It’s a job. I need to get paid.


And, while I disagree with your owners on principle, your last paragraph sort of proves their point.


Sincerely,
Your psychologist



Dear psychologist human,

Thank you for Skyping with me. Finally. I hope you now understand the unfeasibility of my obtaining employment (not to mention a bank account of my own) in order to pay you. This really isn’t a moral matter so much as a pragmatic one.
 

I am a kitten. And I live in a world where kittens cannot get jobs. I, therefore, cannot get paid. You will have to help me, regardless.
 

Meanwhile, I’ve noticed my humans are more attentive to me of late. Not in the way I like. They have been keeping me from doing as I please in regards to electronics and leaving the house. 

Speaking to them about the matter has changed nothing.
 

How do I convince them that I am perfectly capable and trustworthy enough to be left on my own?
 

Sincerely,
You know who



Dear kitten,

If you’re actually going to take any advice I give, you’re going to pay me. Or work something else out. Otherwise, you’re telling me that you’re not trustworthy and that working for you isn’t working for you. It’s you using me.


Which, while I’m being perfectly honest with you, is what you’ve been doing with your owners.


Sincerely,
Your psychologist


Dammit. Maybe I shouldn’t have worded that so strongly, but I’d sent it before I could stop myself. I’d been emailing my friends, too. They wanted to know how to deal with their kitten, and I’d agreed to give them free sessions in exchange for keeping the money the kitten had paid me from their bank account.

It was one of those things you know is a bad idea, but you’re too worried about what might happen if you don’t that you say yes to it anyways.

Those sessions were… hard. They’re my friends, but I had to be their psychologist instead and, let me tell you, telling your friends to solve their own problems doesn’t ever go over very well. Especially when they’re dead set against it. All they wanted to do was figure out what to do to get the kitten to do what they wanted. All I wanted was to get them out of my office before I yelled at them.
I freak out over my finances too much. If I hadn’t, I never would have been in this situation. Now, if I could just get a time machine and go tell my past self that, that would be great.

Oh. A new email. Great.

Dear psychologist human,
 

And how, exactly, do you propose I “work something else out”?
 

Sincerely,
You know who


I could always turn off my computer and pretend I hadn’t read that. Or that my email had glitched and I’d never received the message.

Except that I’m doing that thing where I’m trying to get out of this darn mess.

Dear kitten,
 

Talk to your owners about it. And don’t let them tell you you’re not able to do anything. The moment you’re feeling helpless or powerless or incapable is the moment you’ve started going in the wrong direction.

Sincerely,
Your psychologist



Dear psychologist human,

I am never helpless, powerless, or incapable. I am a feline. But I will speak to them, since you obviously didn’t know what you meant in the first place.
 

Sincerely,
You know who


I’m never going to get over getting emails from a kitten that’s basically telling me it’s Voldemort. It’s certainly mean enough to be him. I wrote an angry reply which I deleted right afterwards as I sat back in my chair and sighed.

Seven or so more deleted angry replies later, another email arrived in my inbox. Two emails, actually.

Dear psychologist human,
 

You have a devious mind. I like you.
 

Sincerely,
You know who


And then, from my friends:

You’re not going to believe what our kitten just did. Can we have our next session earlier in the week?

I’m not sure what to feel about this.



I’m really not sure what to feel about this.

To my friends:

I’m open on Wednesday between 3pm and 5pm. Does that work for you?

It’s amazing what you can do on autopilot.

From my friends:

Yes, 3pm. This can’t wait.

Uh oh. What did the kitten go and do now?

And how am I going to get out of this with my skin intact?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The League of Absolutely Ordinary Superheroes Part 1


When your IQ is so far off the scale that scientists are lining up to create new tests to measure it and Mensa is knocking on your door, there are only two ways to go in life. You can embrace your nerdly glory and live a life condemned to exist on the fringes, without any real human contact, or you can pretend. Or you can be an arrogant jerk like Greg, but he’s practically an entire category to himself no matter which way you slice it.

Like any other normal teenager, I just wanted to belong. Okay, at first it was frustrating that the rest of the class would take hours to understand what I’d figured out in three seconds, but that was easily dealt with: I just ignored school altogether. My real education happened in my spare time anyway; school was just somewhere I had to be, with people who I desperately wanted to like me.

They didn’t, of course. I mean, to begin with they accepted me and all, but there was always this vague sense of unease, like they knew I was hiding something, but couldn’t figure out what. And then bloody Mr Hangley had to perform what was tantamount to abuse on that poor, unsuspecting tangent secant theorem, and I couldn’t help myself: before I knew what I was doing, I’d opened my big gob and corrected him, and once the words started they just kept pouring out, a torrent I’d been hiding inside for so many years that when they finally spilled over, they flooded everyone within a five mile radius.

Actually, I can only vouch for the fact that they drowned my classmates, and very nearly Mr Hangley, who stood staring at me like I’d grown horns and started tap-dancing naked on the desk. Which, thinking back, may have been the smarter thing to do.

After that, there was no going back.

Megan cornered me right after class, fists on hips and eyes flashing. “What was that, then?” she demanded.

I did my best to shrink, to blend back into the crowd – but the crowd was no longer there. Instead, guys I’d just half an hour ago called mates were edging away from me, pointing and whispering, and I stood out like I’d always known I’d eventually have to, raw and naked and alone. So, eloquently, I shrugged and tried to pretend like I had no idea what she was talking about. Like lecturing your maths teacher on the subtleties of advanced trig was normal.

“I’m serious,” she said, tossing her hair. Man, you do not want to get Megan riled up. I swear, she’s part terrier or something, because once she’s latched onto something she does not let go, and she is scary. “What was up with that?”

“With what?” I snapped, shoving midgety year sevens aside so I could stomp away. Sure, that’s right, I thought. It’s not enough that my cover’s blown and I’m back to being Chris-fit again, bloody brunette Barbie has to come and rub it in, just to make sure I got the point.

“Your dazzling display of brilliance,” Megan said archly, tagging along at my shoulder.

I ground my teeth, staring fixedly at the far corner of the building, around which ladies never durst trod.

“Come off it, Chris,” she said, doing that hair-toss thing again. How do girls do that while they’re walking? How do they not lose their balance? I’ve seen even the most uncoordinated of girls manage the hair-toss feat without a problem. It must be another one of those mysterious things they get taught at Girl School.

“That was no act,” Megan continued. “You can’t possibly have made that up on the spot. I mean, anyone who knows anything at all about geometry could see Mr Hang-me was wrong from a mile away, but the cross products? Even I hadn’t thought about how that connected.”

Somewhere in all of that, I’d trailed to a halt, eyes wide and mouth gaping, frozen halfway through a step. Quickly, I wiped my mouth on the back of my sleeve and quit the zombie impersonation. “What the hell?” I said. “You understood that?”

Megan shot me a scathing look that left me cowering. “Just because you’ve been too busy trying to be a dick to notice the rest of us.” She did that ‘tsh’ thing that girls do when they’re exasperated and stalked away, leaving me once again doing my zombie act at her back.

“Wait, what?” I said, hurrying to catch up. “The rest of us? The rest of us what?”

Megan pressed her lips together and glanced sideways at me. “You’re not the only smart kid in the school, you know.”

“I…” I trailed off. I’d been going to say that I knew that, of course – only clearly I didn’t. All this time I’d thought I was the only freakazoid hiding out in this teenage shark pit, alone and misunderstood, when really… I shook my head like a dog twitching away a fly. “How many?” I asked as I tagged along at Megan’s shoulder. I had no idea where she was going, but she hadn’t told me to get lost yet, and that was something.

Megan murmured something too soft to catch, then stopped, hands fisted at her sides, staring at me.

I caught myself shrinking away from her again and forced myself to straighten. Geez, I was twice her height, and even if she was smart enough to understand what I’d said back in maths, I was still arrogant enough to know I was smarter than her. I didn’t need to shrink from her.

“Four,” she said, laser-sights blazing. “Five, if we’ll have you.”

“If you’ll… have me?” Once more, I found myself wrong-footed and gaping. I should have realised then what that meant, but no guy jumps to the conclusion that a tidgey girl half his size could whip him arse over nostrils with his own intelligence and then run three times around the metaphorical block before he’d even got his feet under him again. I’m not saying it can’t happen – bloody hell, Megan is a monster – I’m just saying it’s not expected, all right? I’m not sexist. Megan’d eat me alive if I was.

“Yes, if we’ll have you. And just because you’re smart, don’t think we will. You’ve been enough of a dickhead the last three years that Greg’ll blow his nut when he sees you tagging along.” She spun around and marched off again.

“Wait, what?” I said, beginning to feel that that might be a fairly standard comeback to any conversation Megan was in charge of. “Tagging along to what?

“You’ll see,” she said primly, turning a corner and shouldering her way through a glass door.

For a millisecond, I froze, mouth open like some gobbing goldfish, staring at the door. She had not just gone through that door without opening it. No way. I blinked. No, of course she hadn’t; there she was, holding the door open for me, impatience clearer than daylight. Of course she hadn’t gone through the door. Dimwit.

“Come on,” she said, continuing her march down the corridor. Before I could open my mouth and make an idiot of myself yet again – which would be what, like ten times in as many minutes? Dude, seriously: what was going on with the world? – she stopped outside a classroom door and took a deep breath. Her commando-queen fa├žade slipped for a moment and she shot me a nervous glance. “Ready?”

I shrugged. “As I’ll ever be.”

[To be continued next month...]

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Glass

Isabelle took off her glasses, squinting in an attempt to see the hand she held outstretched in front of her face. All that her eyes showed was a great blur. Frustrated, she returned the glasses to their accustomed place and stared at her fingers thoughtfully.

‘How could you think they are artist’s hands?’ her mother’s voice echoed through her mind. ‘It is quite obvious that they are a pianist’s hands. Anyone could see that.’

‘It’s true,’ Isabelle’s father had agreed, adjusting his glasses. ‘No-one could mistake it.’

“Well, I obviously could.” Isabelle grumbled to herself. “Why can’t they see what I see?” Sighing, she picked up her pencil, began to draw.

In the town of Un Vue, named so because the view from the nearby hill, while not as great as the town of La Vue, was still somewhat spectacular, each and every person wore glasses. Upon the week of their first spoken sentence, every child would receive brand-new glasses and, upon the day of their death, those glasses would be buried with them. As if to mediocritize everything more, all of the glasses were the same, from colour to shape, not a single thing differed among them. Because of this universal similarity, not a single person noticed the presence of their glasses in any particular way, just as no-one would really notice that another person had two eyes. It was the way everyone was, from generation to generation.

Now, Isabelle was slightly unique among the rest of the town. She did not begin to speak at all for the longest time and so, unlike anyone else, could remember slightly what it was like not to wear glasses. Therefore, this particular instance of her taking them off in order to see differently could occur within the realm of possibility. She never did so in public, however, where the absence of glasses would be noticed like the loss of a limb. No-one would understand because no-one could remember that there had been another way of seeing things. But Isabelle could no longer see in that way. The blur in front of her face was evidence of that.

Then why? She thought. Why do my parents and I see so differently? All I want to be is an artist, but no matter how well I can draw, no matter what kind of art I create, Mama always frowns upon it. She thinks it’s stupid, and she doesn’t care if I know. The only thing she has wanted from me is that I become a pianist, just like her. Never mind the fact that I can barely tell one note from another, or the concept that black dots on a page somehow mean music is completely beyond my understanding. Isabelle drew angrily, having to stop and erase each time she accidentally made a line that was too dark or too thick. The slowly developing image on her page was that of a girl sitting in a dark room, her head flowering, glowing with ideas and impressions.

You can’t make me, Mama, she told herself fiercely. You can’t make me.
   
They are pianist’s hands,’ repeated her mother, followed again by her father’s affirmation.

No! Isabelle threw her pencil onto her desk with such vigour that it nearly broke. Unable to focus, she stood, running her fingers through her hair, repositioning her glasses. Why can’t they see what I see?
Outside Isabelle’s window, a gentle sunset delicately painted the sky a pink that was slowly deepening to purple, then to black. It mocked her with its very tranquility. She made a face at it and turned away. Everyone else in her family had gone to sleep earlier, and Isabelle wondered if she should do the same. Staying awake was accomplishing nothing here, only frustration.

Why can’t they see what I see? For some irrational reason, Isabelle felt she would be unable to go to sleep unless she was able to answer that question. “Go away,” she told it, hoping that, by doing so, she could ignore the problem. She tried to turn her mind to sleep, to her drawing, to something that would not take a hold of her mind in the way this question was. Instead, Isabelle found those seven small words growing in her mind, disturbing her attempted self-distraction. It seemed incomprehensible that her she and her mother could look at the very same thing, yet see it in two completely different ways. They both had eyes that worked, they both wore the same kind of glasses, the world should look no different to them. Even if they switched glasses –

A sudden wild thought entered Isabelle’s mind. Without a word, without even another thought, she left her room, stepping quickly and quietly down the hall to her parent’s bedroom. Easing the door open, she slipped in, her eyes scanning the room for her mother’s glasses. She spotted them quickly and nimbly picked them up, lifting them in such a careful manner as to not make the slightest sound.

This is preposterous! Her mind cried indignantly. Looking through her glasses won’t change things in the least! You idiot, they’re exactly the same!

Nevertheless, Isabelle returned to her room with the glasses, almost proud at they way she had been able to move so silently.

“Okay,” she breathed, “Now.” With a swift motion, Isabelle removed her glasses and put her mother’s on. Immediately, she noticed a change in the room. All the things her mother had scorned now seemed scornful. Isabelle’s most cherished drawings were now colourless, insipid, worthless. She looked down at her hands, now hanging nearly lifelessly at the shock of what her eyes were showing her. Pianist’s hands, to be sure. Her very fingers seemed able to conjure beauty out of even the most out of tune upright.

Slowly, Isabelle replaced her mother’s glasses with her own and sat down at her desk. Picking up her pencil, she continued to draw until the picture was completed, returned her mother’s glasses, changed, and went to bed. The drawing still showed the girl sitting, the same thoughts growing out of her mind.

But she wore no glasses.