Aliens. Every one of them.
With their green, lopsided hair, blue lips and too-tight pants. I met a man early on, who had chains hanging from the massive holes in his earlobes. Another woman had chains hanging from the door-knocker-looking ring in her nose. They attached to a black velvet choker. It sorta’ reminded me of the bridle of a horse, but I didn’t dare say anything.
This is not my time, after all. I’m the odd woman out here.
I’ll admit it’s a bit breathtaking, this future with its glass towers that scrape the sky and its automobiles that no longer look like automobiles--rather resemble some sort of spacecraft on wheels. When I first set foot out of the lab, they warned me to brace myself, that the world had changed a lot from when I was initially frozen in 1952. And that went without saying. But I had no idea it had changed this much.
Not that I’m complaining. The farther advanced the better. I was never content with my own time anyway. When the esteemed Dr. Ronald Haloran of Haloran Engineering began his highly-publicized experiments regarding cryogenic stasis—better known as suspended animation—I was among the first to volunteer as a lab rat. My mother had just passed, rendering me an orphan. As an only child I had no siblings to stick around for. And at thirty-five I was virtually an old maid, unwed and childless. The eyes of my era saw me as a pitiable creature, a good decade beyond her prime. It was my hope that with time would come progress; that I would find greater solace and acceptance in the arms of the future.
So I signed my life away, and put my fate in the hands of a man I barely knew. At thirty-five you’d think I’d have better sense than that. I was always scolded for my irrationality, and that’s probably why.
“Yo!” I look up to see a young man walking toward me. Another alien. An illuminated rectangle rests in his hands. Most people carry them nowadays. I’ve yet to find an opportunity to ask what they are, but they must be something special, because everyone I’ve met seems quite enamored by them. “Uh, you look kinna’ lost, bruh. Need any, like, directions or anything?”
“Oh, yes, thank you,” I smile warmly. “Do you have any idea where 412 Grenadine is?”
“Uhhh, that’s real specific-like. Can you be more broad, Ma’am?”
“East side? I used to live in an apartment there. The building itself was painted a sickly shade of pink.”
“Oh, yeah. That way,” the man pointed. “Though I think they...tore that place down when I was little. Can’t remember so good.”
“Yeah, I remember when it had that fire in ’49. They almost condemned it then. I’m amazed it held out as long as it did.”
“Uh,” the guy narrowed his bleary eyes. “How...old are you? You look, like, twenty-something.”
“I...” my voice caught. “I guess I don’t really know how to answer that. Biologically I suppose I’m still thirty-five.”
“Biologically? Yo, are you a vampire?”
“No. I’m an experiment.”
“Oh! So you’re more like Frankenstein’s monster. Cool. Cool.”
“I was cryogenically frozen. Do you know what that is?”
“Yeah. I think they did that on Cowboy Bebop.”
“They did that with me. In real life.”
“Woahhh. What year are you from?”
“Can I get a selfie with you? Lady, you’re like a living artifact!”
“Your grandmother was probably alive in nineteen-fifty-two. I wouldn’t exactly call us artifacts.”
“Yeah, but my gramma’s my gramma. You’re...kinda’ hot. Wait,” he paused, his forehead gathering as he attempted to think. It looked like he was quite unpracticed at that. “Dude, I just called someone my gramma’s age hot. Ewww...”
“What’s a selfie, by the way? I’ll gladly agree so long as it’s not vulgar.”
“Nah, man. I just hold my phone out like this, flip the camera to us, and take a pic.”
“Is that what the rectangular bar is? A phone?”
“Yeah. Duuude...you don’t know what a phone is? You got so much to learn. I think you’re gonna’ love it here.”
I laughed a bit.
“I already do.”
The only thing I know for sure is that all the philosophers were wrong. Death is not pleasant nor something to not be feared, death is cold. Dante was right by setting the 9th circle of hell in ice because torment is not burning eternally it is being gnawed by frost’s relentless bite.
The slow thawing was when I regained conciousness. Not some half-assed pediatric conciousness but Jungian conciousness, acute awareness and wisdom. The reverberations of life permeated my body as waves of sensation crawled across my frame. It was like being stabbed over every inch of my body.
As I began my slow journey outward I began to sense more and more. My eyes adjusted to light as if they had been hibernating and needed to relearn how to see. My body began to shiver from the cold as my feeling bagan to return. Torents of sound richotcheted around my brain like bullets colliding isnide of my skull.
It took a few minutes to relize I was not alone. I truly think that for a few minutes I beleived I was the only man alive, blissful minutes. The men who stood around me were tall, but I had no great claim to perception of height because when I looked across the room I saw a drinking glass stand seven feet tall.
“His irises are uneven and they keep unfocusing,” one of the doctors said. But to my untrained ears it sounded like a hoard of racoons clawing through trash,
My sight remained tinged for a few minutes but soon my senses began to dull. The heightened state of conciousness, however, did not leave me.
It was days before I could remember why I had gone into the cryochamber. Peices of the complex puzzle of life formed in my mind and slowly conected. The yound boy who would one day become Adolf Hitler. My mother who carried me a few years to early so that I would have to serve in one of the biggest blood bathes known to man. The mother of a future German soldier who would throw a hand grenade near me in such a precise location that only a few shards hit my frontal lobe leaving me wounded but not dead. The years of trying to find expieremental surgeries to remove the shards and finally my retreat to the cryochamber.
If even one of those peices had been altered slightly, it would have changed my future and subsiquently made a blemish in the overall history of mankind.
I was under constant surveilance, as if I were in the Soviet Union and not the United States of America, in the facility.
I was given a small room, which resembled a hotel with plad curtains and a TV. The TV I was given was like I remmebered: small, boxy and black and white. They told me a lot had changed but if the TV were a symbol for how much things have changed then not much seemed to have shifted. This beleif was soon destroyed as I eyed the mini fridge (that is what I was told it was called.) The shelves were decked with food that I did not recognize.
As I was inspecting my room for clues of what the future meant for me, a doctor entered my room.
“I assume that knocking is a foreign concept in 2019,” I said sarcastically to the doctor. His only response was a shameless chuckle which infuriated me.
“I do apologize for that, but I am very eager to be talking to you. There are only a handful of people who have been frozen for as long as you have and survived.”
“Please get to the point of why you are here I wish to sleep,” I said with a hint of distaste.
“Yes of course. We have given you scheduled times that you may leave with an assistant so that you may begin to familiarze yourself with the world,” the doctor said.
“If this TV is any indication of what this world has become then I will not have to familiarize myself with much,” I responded.
“Oh. That is not what televisions look like now. We have tried to decorate your room in a manner which fit your time period. Televisions are very large now.” My superiority wavered at this. Up until this point I hadn’t thought much about the advancments of human technology because I had beleived it hadn’t advanced too much.
“Well I guess we will see how I can handle it,” I say incredulously, “Now please leave.”
The doctor swiftly got up and drifted out the door.
The first thing I noticed, when I left the facility, was that cars had advanced so that they looked like sharp wasps instead of fluid worms. They moved faster and vibrant colors splashed across each one. Even the dull greys and browns were glossy and colorful.
The second thing I noticed, as we drove into the suburbs of New Jeresey, was the ammount of people. I was told that we were still leagues away from any actual city, but swarms of people choked the streets. They were all different colors, mixing together like choclate powder in milk. Like ants, they all flowed from there dwellings and recreation centers clogging the world.
We eneded at a park in New Jeresy outside of all city limits. The grass had seemed to dull in the years since I had seen it. The clouds were darker as if they had been pumped with gasoline (I later figured out that was the case).
I envisioned my world, my life in the fold of this gargantuan monster of planet. I was enveloped in the claustrophobic feelings which were created from the sheer ammount of people I had seen.
The park itself seemed so uncomfortably unsanitary that I retreated back to the car. The trees were the only thing which hadn’t changed all too much. They stood like sentinals of time unhindered by its flow.
It reminded of a story I had been told when I was young. It went a little like this, “One day a strong storm swept across a forrest leveling many trees. As one of the trees fell, it landed next to a little fern which had not fallen. The tree, while laying there, asked the fern ‘how is it that I have fallen and you have not?’ The fern responded, ’Dear friend, the wind is proud, for this reason we ferns bow to it whereas you trees stand steadfast. You would not have fallen if you had shown humility.”
I found myself seeing the planet in the same way. The advancments made by human kind were just the steadfast stubborness of the tree and one day soon, I am convicned, we will follow that fate.
The Apathy of Time
A gentle lattice of rain trickles down the carriage’s windows, a living, liquid curtain that distorts the stunning view of Scotland’s pastoral countryside. The West Coast Main Line is outstandingly beautiful, as is typical this time of year, yet my mood is marred by the nagging anxiety that I harbor in the back of my mind, a product of overwhelming uncertainty and the most ghastly fog to which I awoke in London this morning. The whole town reeked of rotted eggs, and something about the air made one feel as though one’s lungs were being crushed in. Not that anyone needs any help feeling that way, as of late. Talk about a year for the rubbish bin. It all started with the destruction of Cairo by fire, followed promptly by the passing of our beloved King George—God rest his soul. Take all that and add it to the Polio epidemic, that dreadful disease running rampant across the Empire—or what’s left of it—ravaging our children, no less. And if that weren’t enough to signal the end of the world, let’s cap it all off with the design and detonation of our first Atomic Bomb; why we’ve decided to follow the example of our wayward cousins across the Atlantic, I’ll never know.
And still, we carry on, as we always do. Be it into the jaws of hell or to the end of life as we know it, that remains to be seen.
“We’re coming up on Glasgow. You might want to start pulling your head out of the clouds,” says my traveling companion, Charles, from his seat beside me. He stands up and grabs the most grotesque-looking tweed briefcase from the storage overhead, something I’d never be caught dead carrying in public.
Charles is the Special Programs Advisor to the Secretary of State for War and, as such, the primary liaison in charge of financing my project. It also so happens we grew up in the East End together, a fact that certainly doesn’t hurt my chances of continued funding, though I’ve never been one to place all my eggs in one basket. This project must be able to stand on its own merit, independent of whatever personal history I may have.
“You look nervous,” he says, leaning on his seat with one arm.
I pull my attention from the window and grab my coat from the back of my own seat. “Perhaps I am,” I admit.
“What’s got you so upset, then?”
I sigh, letting my exhale carry the weight of my anxiety. “I’d be a fool not to know what this extended timeline is doing to you and your office. If we fail today, it may take years to seek out the bugs and rectify our formulas, and I'm guessing you can only divert funds for so long without people asking questions.”
There’s a pause where the only sound comes from the small number of other travelers in the carriage and the steady cachunk, cachunk of the wheels as they pass along the rails.
“Yes, well,” he says with a strained look, clearly concealing the fact that he, too, shares my concerns. “Let’s hope this is a smashing success, then.”
I give a weak smile in response and look back out the window. The stars are just beginning to peek out from behind the rainclouds, despite the fact that it’s barely four o’clock. It gets dreadfully dark up here in the winter—not that London is much better—though there’s something about the heavens at night that have always enchanted me. Most of the rest of the world seems to be perpetually focused on terrestrial matters—taxes, politics, moving borders a foot this way or that—truly something that baffles me to no end. Why would anyone be so engrossed in the matters of this war-torn, plague-ridden planet? Why would anyone be content to remain tethered to our small fleck of a home, our grain of sand in a sea of stars and galaxies? Personally, I find the most solace outside our thin blue atmosphere, up beyond the reach of the insignificant and inconsequential.
Well, in any case, the only ones who seem to agree with me are the Russians, albeit their intentions tend to lean on the viler side, a most unfortunate reality. Though, perhaps the American beast will be wakened at the threat of Russian dominance, as pride-driven as they are. But, the Empire cannot wait upon her prodigal son to stand as defender of the world, not again. We must take our future into our own hands, which is why it’s so crucial that my work succeeds, and that it succeeds quickly.
The train pulls into the station, and a small herd of us are ushered unceremoniously out of the carriage. Pockets of families wish each other well and give their final loving goodbyes, an emotional rabble that peppers the platform with sentimental trifle. I feel a tinge of guilt for seeming so heartless in my thoughts, but held within the frame of what I know we mean to attempt, it all seems rather trivial. Not that I blame them. The people of Glasgow never truly felt the sting of the war like those of us in London did. They never had to rush to cover their windows when the dreaded siren sounded to herald in the Blitz, nor were they forced to watch in dreaded awe as rockets rained down upon helpless civilians faster than the speed of sound itself. So why on Earth would they feel the same level of urgency that’s been so deeply impressed upon me? Why should they feel that same fire to never again become subject to the dominance of fear or any of her allies.
Anyways, the war has passed, and now we’ve turned our swords into plowshares. We fight a war of the mind rather than one of might—a cold war, to quote George Orwell, if you will. Wernher von Braun, the German-American scientist who developed the V-2, now talks about using his tool to send humanity to Mars. It seems mad, right? Using those lethal weapons, the very embodiment of Vengeance itself, to blast something, someone, off this planet, all in the name of science. But a weapon capable of flattening a city in a single strike seemed like fiction, too, before it became fact. And now, our charge, and the charge of any freedom-loving scientist, is to prevent the Red Menace from attempting to reshape the proverbial plow back into a weapon of unimaginable consequence. We must always stay one step ahead, if not more.
Von Braun purposes to build a platform in our planet’s orbit, a space station that we might use to launch ourselves to the Moon and beyond. The Russians and the Americans may soon accomplish such a feat, but we must be prepared, as the British Nation, to dominate well beyond the influence of Ares. That is where my research comes into play. The journey to realms beyond our inner Solar System may take a considerable amount of time, time that our physiology and biology do not allow. Therefore, the use of cryogenics is key to success when suggesting an expedition farther than the Asteroid Belt.
Today, I will be taking a frozen nap, as it were, just for a month, long enough to chemically analyze my cellular response and measure the aging process while I’m under. I could indeed have someone else take my spot, but I wouldn’t dare trust anyone else. Not with how close we are. If my test is successful, we could be sending people to the outer reaches of our Solar System in a matter of years. And the possibilities from there are endless.
The journey to the research facility just beyond the outskirts of Glasgow is uneventful, if not comfortable, in the unmarked government vehicle. Charles and I exchange no more than a few small words about the passing weather, and by the time we’ve arrived, my mind is quite thoroughly focused on the upcoming test. We pass quickly through the security checkpoints and end up within the familiar walls of my laboratory, which I’ve been using for a host of research experiments these past several years.
My assistants have ensured that everything is waiting and ready ahead of our arrival, and after everyone has settled into the viewing area, I give a few brief words describing the demonstration, then settle into the cryogenic chamber. It’s all rather quick, compared to the seven hour journey here from London, but I prefer it that way. I’m sure I should be nervous as one of my assistants closes the top to the chamber, but honestly, I’m too tired and too mentally strained to be nervous.
There’s a hiss as nitrous fills the chamber, and within moments my vision goes dark.
“Doctor Martin, sir, can you hear me? Can you hear my voice?”
I groan and open my eyes, only to have them instantly overwhelmed by a flood of light. Has the test run its course? Has it already been a month? It feels like only a few seconds have passed, not anywhere near the planned twenty-nine days. Regardless of how long it's been, I’m shivering uncontrollably, and I notice that my skin is an unrecognizable shade of purple.
It takes several minutes of blinking and rubbing before I can make out the blurred image of two figures standing in front of me. One of them is a rather tall woman with dark hair and a slender form, the other a sturdily built man with a cleanly shaved head and a thin layer of scruff on his face. Neither of them appear to be members of my research team, nor do they appear, well, for lack of a better word…normal. They have the strangest clothing on, though they do seem to be official looking—what with sidearms strapped to their chests and wearing what could technically pass as business attire.
“Who are you? Why did the test stop?” I grumble, shocked by the trembling roughness of my own voice. A slew of physicians appear at my side and begin fussing around my body, but I beat them off, and they retreat behind the man with the scruff.
“Doctor Martin, I’m Agent Ford and this is Agent Knight. We're with Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service, and we’re here to debrief you and make sure that you’re doing okay,” the woman says carefully, as if speaking to a young child that’s just been injured. Her tone is laced with a hint of, what is it…pity?
“Debrief me? Are you with Charles? Did he send you? I need to start running analysis right away—”
I make a move to stand up, but Agent Knight holds out his hand authoritatively, and I pause.
“Sir, I think you should take it slow,” Agent Ford says with an intentional dose of serenity in her voice. “There are a few things we need to tell you that might come as quite a shock.”
I take notice of the laboratory for the first time since waking up, and my blood instantly chills about ten degrees. The whole room is a wreck—bottles and beakers smashed everywhere, bullet holes riddling the walls, light fixtures hanging precariously from the ceiling, and skeletons, everywhere. Bodies upon bodies, obviously left abandoned for decades, if not more. And among them, over in the viewing area, is Charles’ trademark tweed briefcase, popped open and hanging by one hinge next to one of the bodies. My chest clenches as panic threatens to overcome me.
“What happened? What’s going on?”
Agent Ford furrows her brow in sympathy and takes a step forward, offering out her hand.
“You’ve been asleep for more than sixty-five years, sir. It’s the year twenty-nineteen.”
I look around at the bustling morning crowds mulling about Buchanan Street, all headed into unfamiliar shops or dining in any number of foreign-inspired restaurants. Much of what I see is a strange conglomerate of futuristic architecture, a city I’d hardly recognize if it weren’t for the familiar icons such as St Mary’s, Central Station, or the City Chambers. In spite of the madness happening in my life right now, though, I have to admit the smells pull my mind away from it all, tantalizing my appetite, and I realize that I’m insufferably hungry. I mean, why shouldn’t I be? I haven’t eaten in over half a century.
“You wouldn’t mind if we popped into one of those little caffs, do you?” I ask, taking every effort to keep the drool in my mouth.
Agent Ford smiles and nods. “Don’t worry, sir. That’s why we’re here.”
I put my hands in my jacket, temporarily consoled, and look across the way at an old-style church tucked between two towering residential blocks. It’s almost comically out of place, but admittedly soothing for some reason, as if it were placed there just for me, reminding me that even things wizened by time still have their place in this unfamiliar modern era.
“What happened?” I ask Agent Ford earnestly. “With the lab, that is. What went wrong?”
Agent Ford seems reluctant to answer, but eventually she caves in—despite a warning look from Agent Knight. “Your program was quite the black operation, Doctor Martin. As it happens, your friend Charles Baker was the only one in the government who knew about it. The day of your demonstration, there were several undercover Soviet agents present that took advantage of his secretive trip to witness your project, and they assassinated him, along with everyone else present. With no record of where he went or what his undisclosed plans were, his disappearance remained a mystery until just recently.”
“How did you find out, then? How did you find me?” I ask, still struggling to process everything she’s saying.
“The Russians recently declassified a batch of documents from the fifties—from your time, I mean. One of them was a set of hypothetical simulations that involved the assasination of high-level targets on British soil. Turns out, one of the simulations was based on an actual event, the one I’ve been describing to you. We ran it by the Russian Consulate, and while they didn’t explicitly acknowledge their involvement, it was clear we were on the right track with our speculations.”
“Russian Consulate? Are the Soviets friends, then?”
“Friends? Oh, no. Not exactly,” she chuckles. “But let’s say we’re in-between tensions at the moment.”
I nod, confused, but unwilling to press it further.
My mind quickly drifts to the flood of distractions vying for my attention, and I turn my head from side to side in an effort to soak everything in.
“So, tell me, Agent Ford, what did I miss? What’s the world been up to while I’ve been frozen away in the middle of Scotland?”
“Aha, not much, probably,” she says with an infectious smile. “You missed the Vietnam War, the Troubles in Ireland, the War in Iraq, Afghanistan, the dissolution of almost every British colony and territory, the rise of international terrorism, the destruction of our environment, Brexit.”
“Brexit?” I ask, confused.
“Nevermind. Don’t worry about that.”
“And of course,” Agent Knight cuts in, speaking for the first time, “England hasn’t medalled in the World Cup since hosting it in 1966.”
“Excuse me,” Agent Ford says, her face awash with disapproval, “but the women took bronze in 2015.”
“Ah, there’s a women’s World Cup, then?” I say, surprised.
Agent Ford nods and nudges Agent Knight in the side. “Sure is, and I have to say, our girls are playing much better than the guys right now.”
I concede a small chuckle, but internally, my stomach rejects the thought of laughing at anything Agent Ford has just said. Discouragement runs rampant inside my heart, and I scramble to recover the pieces of my spirit that are crumbling before my eyes. What kind of world did I wake up to? Perhaps it was naive of me, but I would have expected there to be huge strides forward in democracy, in unity, the end of war, the birth of human exploration on a cosmic scale. What I see now is frankly rather apathetic, superficial even, a demonstration of humanity at its most basal form. I give credit to the inhabitants of Earth for not annihilating themselves with atomic weapons, but it seems they’ve done everything short of it.
We turn into a cafe, and Agent Ford tells us to find a seat while she gets breakfast for us, something that dramatically halts my downward emotional spiral. There’s a mix of all sorts of smells in the air, and I can almost taste the sausage, the eggs and beans, a side of tomatoes, toast, and—most importantly—tea. A few minutes later, Agent Ford returns to our table and plops what looks like a glazed turd down in front of me.
“What in the hell is this?” I say, affronted by the gingham paper-wrapped ‘breakfast’ before me.
“It’s a donut,” she explains, oblivious to my offense as she takes a bite of her own turd.
“A donut? Where’s the sausage? Where’s the tea?”
Agent Ford looks up from her donut and wipes her mouth with a paper napkin. “Oh, I could get some tea if you want.”
She begins to stand but I wave her off and grab the pastry with sad disappointment. “No, no, it’s too late. What has happened to your generation? What happened to the sanctity of a proper British meal? This makes me feel like I’m back in Ethiopia getting my tinned rations, except instead of the Italians, I’m battling indigestion.”
Agent Knight actually chuckles a little, and Agent Ford gives an apologetic shrug. “It’s an American thing, I think.”
I scoff. “Makes sense. Leave it to the Americans to find a way to ruin even a good meal.” As we eat, my curiosity begins to get the better of me, and I gain the confidence to ask more questions, despite my initial discouragement. “What about space travel? Have we made it to Mars? Farther?”
“Well, we made it to the Moon,” Agent Ford says. “The Americans, that is. We haven’t quite made it there ourselves. Though I heard there might be some cooperation for a possible return, and we might even get to Mars within the next decade or two.”
With that, I fall silent and keep to myself for the remainder of the meal.
My work was supposed to enable the human race to break the bonds keeping us on Earth. The whole reason I went under in the first place was to advance science in the hope that future generations might use it to better themselves. To know, now, that it was all in vain, that humanity chose a path completely foreign to my reasoning, well, it puts me in a very bad place, indeed.
After World War II, humanity swore to unify, to never again let any issue come between us. Sure, it wasn’t long before that vision of utopia faded, but there was at least the hope of globalized harmony. From what I see, though, that hope has shifted, or become lost in the noise of everyday life. We could have probably gone further in science and in exploration, but we’ve watered down our dreams with things like ICBMs, politics, Keeping up with the Kardashians, and something called kale chips, I believe.
Still, I guess the world didn’t end, as I might have predicted before going under. No matter how bad things seem to get, Earth keeps spinning. We overcome. We adapt. We thrive. Because that’s what we do. Because we far prefer evolution, however small, to its alternative.
The Good Old Days
Pain was first, the feeling and then the word. It turns out the body comes back before the mind, so my body hurt and my eyes really hurt, but I didn’t have words for it.
And now I am naked in a metal box.
I feel like a kid must feel, discovering their body and the words for things at the same time: hand, hair, arm, palm. I run my hand through the hair on my arm down to my palm. Everything feels cold.
I open the door of the thing I’m in and step in water. It’s freezing, and I remember: they froze me. You have to, Jack, the men said. We’ll come every day, they said as the cold blast hit.
The room is huge, cluttered. Boxes equipment and stuff. I cough as my lungs adjust to the air, or it maybe it’s the dust. There’s a locker nearby, with a checked shirt and pants. They must be mine, they feel right. There’s also a pair of shoes and a wallet, with a State of Pennsylvania Driver’s License. Jack Zielinski.
No one is here to talk to this Jack Zielinski, so I start walking.
The sun hurts. The blue sky hurts more and I don’t know why, but it’s wrong. I walk a while. My legs feel strange, and I cough, and I walk. I half see some buildings and people, but I can only focus on the voice I keep hearing in my head. Zielinski! the man calls. Hey, Zielinski! and I can’t see him, but I feel it, and then I say, “Yeah?” and grin and know that’s me, that I’m Jack Zielinski, and then I can look around and see. I can start to take things in.
An old colored woman looks at me with fear, and as she ducks around me on the sidewalk I think, Well that makes sense, but I realize I had said “Yeah” out loud and I’m grinning like a crazy bastard. I laugh.
There weren’t this many cars or people before. Some buildings look familiar and more don’t, and they hadn’t been this tall. There’s this huge black tower above everything. I wonder how much steel it took to build it, and then I know what’s wrong with the sky. Where am I? I panic a little and look all over the place, and there’s a newspaper box. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The sky’s too clear. There’s no smoke. There should be smoke from the mills.
Hey, Zielinski! my boss calls again in my head. I grin and say, Yeah? I’m at the blast furnace.
So this is Pittsburgh. Do they even still have the steel mills? I look closer at the Post-Gazette. July 17, 2019.
The docs put me under in 1952.
It’s the only way. You have to, Jack, the men said. They wore white coats. We’ll come every day, they said as the cold blast hit.
Over sixty years.
I’m goddamn hungry. I see a food cart way up ahead. I start to run, but my legs wobble and I cough, so I just walk as fast as I can and pull out the wallet as I go. There’s a five.
The sign says “Hot dog $3, Sausage $5, Pop/Water $2.”
It’s ridiculous. “Seriously, a hot dog costs three bucks?”
The vendor scowls. “That a problem, buddy?”
It is, but I gotta eat. “We could’ve eaten for a week on that,” I tell him, handing over my five. “Gimme a dog and a water.”
“Whatever you say, buddy.”
I understand the cost a lot more once he hands me the bottle. It’s clear like glass but flexible, and I couldn’t break it if I tried. It must cost a fortune. I down half the bottle immediately to try to do something about that damn cough—so much for the benefits of clean air—and sit down on a low wall at the end of a little park. The dog is good and hot, but I barely taste it because I’m asking myself what I meant. We could’ve eaten for a week on that.
With something in my belly I sit and think, and watch. Lotta Steeler stuff around, and a couple things of the Pirates, so that’s still the same. Lotta people in t-shirts and shorts, some in suits, that there’s a nice suit like I could never afford, that’s—
I almost spit out my water. That’s a colored guy wearing that suit. And the one in that suit, over there, is a woman. What the hell kind of a man lets his wife walk around wearing a suit?
Wife. We. I have a wife. I have a wife. And I don’t know her name.
I’m crying now. This place… what the hell is this place? A bright red hat catches my eye: “Make America Great Again.” You said it, pal. This woman pushing a stroller looks at me like she pities me, and I start to feel angry, but the stroller, that nose—Angie. My wife’s name is Angie, and—
I start running again, and my legs wobble and I cough, but I don’t care because I’ve got to find a phone booth. KE3-154. I’ve got to call KE3-154. But I can’t find a phone booth anywhere, and even if I could would they be there? I keep running and I remember Mercy Hospital. She was going to have the baby in Mercy Hospital.
I stop and I scream. “Where is Mercy Hospital!” I cough and when I catch my breath enough I scream again. “Where is Mercy Hospital!” This lady looks really afraid of me—I must look awful—but she points down the street and I run and stumble and hack up my lungs till I’m in the lobby and right up to the desk.
The receptionist points at the lady behind me and says something about a line, but I cut her off. “I need a birth record!”
“Sir! There is a line of people here…”
“I need a birth record! Angie Zielinski’s baby!”
“Sir, it is entirely inappropriate to ask for private medical information. HIPAA laws prohibit me from—”
I pound the desk. “Angie Zielinski!”
She eyes me, and then she slowly picks up what must be a phone. “One moment sir…”
While her call’s going through I look around. There’s a family sitting in some chairs, and a doctor approaching takes of his mask—her mask, it’s another goddamn woman. How did—
They wore masks. And I remember now, all of it.
Do you want to kill Angie? We don’t know what you’ve got, they said, or where it came from, the Russians maybe, but we’ve never seen anything so contagious. We know it’s already killed half your shift and the other half is locked away till they die. Cryogenic freezing sounds crazy, but if the experiment works we’ll thaw you and be standing right there with a cure. And you’ll be a hero.
It’s the only way—otherwise you’ll just keep coughing and be dead by tomorrow. You have to, Jack, the men said. They wore white coats and masks. We’ll come every day, they said as the cold blast hit.
But where were they when I woke up?
The woman behind me coughs.
Sixty-Seven Light Years
The government was asking to cryogenically freeze bodies for scientific purposes. They didn't answer any questions about it and I wouldn't have volunteered if I didn't need the cash. $5,000 in the name of science. It’d be done by the end of the year.
Earlier that summer, a man we all called King came home for break from Harvard and he was working on a sermon. We were down in Mister Sydney's basement and had seven candles drawn for light and cockroaches scattered up from underneath the floorboards.
"Stardust" by Louis Armstrong flickered dust and spun through fading light from the windows and spun on the record player like the orbit of a flying saucer.
King said that most people lived an entire lifetime as though only they existed in this world, using their brothers and sisters selfishly and for their own gains and prosper. But gravitational pull is final and inexorable, a law of the universe, that is, what goes up must come down and each shall reap what they sow and whoever was the first shall later become last. Finally, he said that the breath of life is the outward concern for others. "We must reach beyond humanity," he said, "and reach up. Way up, for the God of the universe, whose purpose changeth not."
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison was published the day after Easter Sunday and when I read it, it struck through me like the eternity of grace in one fleeting second of space. I saw change coming at the speed of light and regretted not being a part of its making.
I came out from the cold with my teeth chipping and grinding away furiously at my own teeth. It was New Year's Eve and near midnight and I walked down the way.
A gray Ford sedan pulled up by the sidewalk and the driver put it in park and rolled down the window. He looked to be a hundred years old. "You call for an Uber son?"
I said, What, and he said to hop on in, "It’s fixing to storm. Come on before I lose all my heat coming out the window."
When I got in the car I thanked him and he said that I was surely welcome and he was humming some gospel song and I asked him how he’d describe America today.
"Divided," he said.
"That’s exactly what I said. Broken as the heart of a bastard child."
"Circles" by Post Malone vibrated through the radio speakers and the song seeped into my skin, stealing away my senses, and I told him I've missed so much over the years and looked outside the window as the driver spoke and I saw, black men on the side of the road getting beaten and choked by policemen, the same as I saw in Georgia in the thirties when I was a child, and my driver told me that’s just how it goes even these days, and there were homeless on the sides of the street like an army of ghosts and they asked for help, some of them did, and recieved it not, and there were thousands of cockroaches roaming across the road and I saw money on fire and I saw people fleeing from a dark wrath in the sky like a terrible biblical exile and before my eyes it rained the ruins of mankind. The driver said that’s just the future and he said it's been one hell of a year and asked me if I had any plans for the one coming but he didn't let me speak. "Yup," he said, "Been one hell of a year, one hell of a year I tell ya."
He said you know how racist this country is, that they voted for a known criminal to be President who had no business running in the first place and he got their vote just because they were so sick of a black man in charge of the free world they didn’t care who replaced him. They’d had voted for anybody.
"Is this the year 2019?"
"Goddamn," I said
"Yup, you said it son, this president now," he said, "has broken the law in more ways you can count and they tried to get him for it but he’s above it all. It’d be like trying the devil. Well, good luck with that, I say. He’s gone as far as promising to take every last Mexican from here and then building a wall making it impossible for any immigration to occur."
I tried to speak but could not. I come from all over across the Atlantic, Germany and Ireland and Scotland and France and Spain, and I only ever got here because my ancestors risked it all to get me here, hundreds of years ago and they did it for me.
The driver said in this past year a billionaire sex offender, who had molested thousands of underage girls, finally hung himself in jail but maybe he was killed and the people who might be behind it is downright scarry, and said that the sex offender used to run with the current president and he ran with a former president too. "The former president I mentioned, well, when he was still in office, a staff of scientists briefed him on the status of extra-terrestrial activity and by the time they finished their report and left, the President of the United States hung his head with horror in his eyes, rested it upon the desk right there in the oval office and wept," and he told me there's dark things going on that we don't know about, and I said, You mean like the nature of God, and he said, "No, not like the nature of God," and then he told me that God died in 1966. He told me about Vietnam and Civil Rights and how when they killed Martin Luther King, Jr. it was like killing Christ without redemption. "Mama Nature is fixing to tell us all," he said. "Been a long time coming. But hell, what do you expect?"
I thought I needed that money back then but I should have turned it down and stayed where I was meant to be, and fought for change instead of watching and waiting on it. Could I have made a difference? No, probably not. Could I have tried, yes, I should have tried. I’ll have to live with that for the rest of my life. My heart felt scorched, my body was as a dried-up earth. "I don't know," I said, "I didn't expect this."
"Mama Nature will have her way, she ain’t nobody’s bitch." He finally told me that he don't know how far gone I've been but that I ain't missed much and he called me son at the end of the sentence and we drove on down the way some and the shadow of dawn blazed crimson and bright-flame orange as the sun emerged across the horizon, burning in the sky the color of blood, like the soul of a vengeful deity on fire.
Letters from the Future
My Dearest Anne,
I made it. They tell me you died in 1980. In my mind that is nearly 30 years from now. In reality it is nearly 40 years ago. It is difficult to keep it all straight. I wish you were here.
Who else can I speak to about the future and the in-between world we had no intention of discovering? They assigned me a friend to speak to, they call him a therapist. It helps. A little. It was his idea to write to some of my old colleagues and family. So here we are.
And where are we? It’s still Chicago, the same where just a different when. I wish you could see it! It’s nothing like we imagined, but it is still magnificent. No flying automobiles or visits from outer space. Really, everything just got faster. There are more cars, people don’t really share them anymore. And this fascination with miniaturized contraptions that light up: cell phones and computers and monitors, they call them. It is the culmination of the work of some of my colleagues and incredible to see, why just the power sources alone would be beyond the imaginations of most of our research team.
There is more. So much more. I cannot bear to put it into this first letter. Call this an experiment, an attempt to steady my constitution and bring down my heart rate so I can function. I must function. I must warn them of the in-between. When I learned of your passing I was devastated, but now I wonder, yes, I know, it is for the best.
In sincerity of heart,
Denton Marshall, Project Leader;
Albert Einstein, Co-Chair;
Wolfgang Pauli, Special Consultant;
Robert Ettinger, Special Consultant;
and the rest of the Advanced Research Team at the University of Chicago;
In 1950, after the great victory over communism, our honorable congress established a secret committee and an abundance of funding following the scientific breakthroughs of Drs. Pauli and Ettinger. We were tasked with sending a man to the future through the process of cryogenic freezing, for science, discovery, and research. And to beat the Russians, who were pursuing the same and who did steal some of our research, as you all know. Or knew. You are gone now. I am here. We did succeed. To a point.
I would like to report to you about the future. However, there is a more pressing matter, and as this letter is to dead men, I presume you will have the patience to wait until my next correspondence to learn all about the wonders of nanotechnology, lasers, and Uber. I have delayed long enough. To the point:
I vaguely recall the discussions (a la lectures) of Dr. Pauli and Dr. Einstein regarding the potential of parallel universes and the possibility of the cryogenically frozen body not being a strong enough vessel to contain the metaphysical being. It sounded like theoretical hogwash at the time. I fully anticipated sleeping, then waking to the future. Or dying, if our math was wrong. Dying would have been preferable.
I did sleep. For a time. I cannot say how long. And then I awoke to blackness. Not just dark, which is empty, but blackness, a physical thing like a mist, but impenetrable. It more than surrounded me, it was inside of me as well, and I was part of it, like a patch in a greater quilt, I belonged to this blackness. It had a sound, like the distant humming of a bomber flying high above. It was mechanical, I’m sure of it, but it was aware, conscious, feeling. It found me in itself, as if I were a parasite occupying a small area on a greater being, an irritant but not a threat. I was inspected by it. I could not see, though my eyes were open, there simply was no light in that place, but I know what I felt. It moved me around, jostling me to several positions, like a boy getting a good look at an army man toy. Just like on the outside, it also observed me on the inside. My organs were pushed around, my skin bubbled, my very bones were embraced. The pain was exquisite, maddening, and I was powerless. I could not make a sound, though I screamed myself hoarse. I don’t believe there was air or space, there was just the blackness. I felt that even if I could board a plane or dirigible and fly higher than any airship has ever gone I would still not see a space that this creature was occupying. I would still be within the creature. It did not occupy space, it filled every bit of its universe.
There is more. So much more. I will tell you, but I cannot bear it just now. My therapist, a Dr. Lazowski, is coaching me along. I get upset, you see, and his team administers an injection, some calming agent.
We were right to be afraid, boys. Very right, indeed.
To: James Davies
You were right. We shouldn’t have. You told me God intended a man’s lifetime, and it should not be stretched beyond respect. God is real. I know this, now. And so is his antithesis. I think I met the latter. There is no hope.
it was supposed to be a suicide.
suspended in ice, abandoned in the facility's basement, among the spiders and old medical files. it was the end, in those last blinking moments, eyes fluttering shut, surrendering to the cold. to escape the mundanity of it all, the expectations. there were too many of them, this was the only way to let them go.
it had passed like a dreamless sleep, empty except for a slight silver thread weaving through your mind. your lifeforce, barely there. you had kept willing it to be cut, for the shadows to finally triumph, but it had defiantly stood, alone.
something had gone terribly wrong.
you're awake again.
there's a calender near the corner, parallel to the carpeted stairs. it looks fairly recent, fresh. clashes with the surrounding basement.
it's open to august 14, 2019, underneath a tacky picture of a beach, a red umbrella and bright teal waves.
67 years, then. enough for the world that you once knew to have died.
what does it look like, then? has it blossomed, or withered away?
it's all beyond the stairs.
the facility is dead, like you should be. there's a sign plastered to the frosty storefront windows, backward from your perspective. for lease, it says.
the door handle's stuck, unfamiliar to being opened. it takes several twists and turns to open up into the muggy summer night.
the world is not dead. it is very much alive.
gone are the neat houses, with their even coats of paint in pastel colors. gone are the lush front lawns, filled with children laughing and screaming and playing tag. gone are the croons of a radio filled with hazy static, paired with the squeak of a rocking chair.
gone is the gossip, the lies, the pressure.
it has been replaced with something wonderful.
elongated towers, like black gloves, composed of metal. streaming arcs of neon lights, everywhere. they dot the buildings, the streets, the people.
the people are so new, so beautiful. like they want to be seen. dramatic marks on their faces, flared tops and tight pants.
messages, advertisements, they're overwhelming in a sugary way, announcing strangers, in all different respects. people with names i don't recognize, or buried deep in my memory. things, improved upon through the stretches of years. ideas, new and refreshing, refusing to conform.
you might miss what you once had, there are things that you'll never forget, that are rooted in your existence.
the bundle of irises shoved in the desk drawer. the dock that jutted out into the stream, burbling like whispers, flowing like hours of conversation. the red silk scarf, angry words clustered together into fabric.
they're gone now, scattered in the wind. they've turned to dust. that was your intention. you wanted nothing of yourself left.
but you've been given a second chance. a chance to live again.
underneath the shimmer of the lights, pressing against your skin, you realize suicide was not what you wanted, after all.
what you wanted was this.
Not in 1952 Anymore
Hollywood Blvd. looks different than I remember. There are stars on the ground with names of people I don’t recognize, except for a few from my time. I read the one I am standing on, Pitbull. I wonder what this dog has done to be on a star. So much has changed.
I look around, everyone is staring at these rectangles in their hands that irradiate. They all seem so enamored by them. One person was nearly run over by a vehicle because he refused to look up. No one stops to say hello, no one makes eye contact or asks how you are doing. They just pass you by, and heaven forbid you smile at them and tell them to have a lovely day. They look at you like you are a martian who just landed from outer space speaking in an alien tongue. When did humanity become so robotic?
I agreed to be cryogenically frozen because I hoped for progress and change, yet, here I stand in the middle of a foreign Hollywood Blvd where all basic decency ceases to exist. Fifty plus years have passed and in some ways, the world seems to have regressed.
I was even told the President is an orange man who likes to grab women’s private areas, and children are being kept in cages. Quite frankly, I’m not sure how to feel about 2019 or about the future in general.
I walk dejected, wondering if I made the right decision when a man bumps into me and yells, “watch it!” I’m taken aback, but before I can apologize, two rather diverse looking women come to my aid.
“You watch it,” says the tall, beautiful African American woman. She is dressed in pants that stop well before her knees and a rather revealing blouse. I blush.
“Yeah, you bumped into her you jerk. Apologize,” interjects the hypnotizing, brown-eyed Spanish-looking woman dressed in a skin-tight dress that accentuates her hour-glass figure. There are names for women who dressed like this in my time, but I am too ashamed to utter the words.
The man scoffs and mutters, “damn feminists,” under his breath as he walks away.
“You okay?” asks the brown-eyed beauty. “Yes, I am fine. Thank you,” I respond in awe of the manner they spoke to a man. “I’m Madison,” says the African American woman, “and this is Rachelle.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” I say, “my name is Anne.”
“Nice to meet you, Anne. You look a little lost. Are you headed to a costume party somewhere or a character on the strip?” asks Madison. I furl my eyebrows until I realize they are pointing out my apparel. I did not get the opportunity to modernize my wardrobe and am still wearing my polka-dotted dress and black heels. I smile awkwardly.
“No actually, I was, um,” I pause in an attempt to form the words that explain my situation. “I am not from this time,” I say. The looks on their faces tell me that was not the right way to phrase it. “I apologize, I meant to say, I was cryogenically frozen in 1952 and just woke up in 2019.” Their faces begin to ease. “Oh, Dr. Greenberg’s experiment,” Madison says excitedly, "I was reading about that in my biology class at Standford. I’m shocked you made it without injury. You’ll have to tell us more about it.”
“Madison here is a huge nerd. She’s studying to be a biochemist,” teases Rachelle. Madison hits Rachelle in the arm with her elbow in a joking manner and says, “Says the soon to be Harvard graduate in psychotherapy.”
My eyes widen in awe. “You are able to go to college?” I ask. Their eyebrows furl in curiosity but quickly soften in understanding. “Women can do all sorts of things these days, including going to college,” says Madison.
“Oh?” I say, “I always wanted to study science but back then it was a rarity for women to attend college. My mother forced me to marry right after high school,” I say.
They raise their brows, “Married? where’s your husband?” Rachelle asks rather abruptly. Madison elbows her again and gives her a “you cannot just ask that” look.
“It is quite alright.” I say, “Yes, I was married. He died in an accident, just before I turned 35. Although I didn’t love him, with him and my parents gone, I felt there was nothing for me in 1952, which is why I agreed to be frozen. If I could not study science, I thought I could be a part of it.”
"Well," says Madison, "It's still not too late. Here, why don't you come with us, and we'll show you the ropes."
"Ropes?" I question.
"She means we'll help you get settled and teach you everything you need to know," Rachelle says.
"But first," Madison says pulling out her rectangular object, "let's take a selfie to commemorate this moment, shall we?"
"What is that object, and what is a selfie?" I ask. They giggle and ask me to smile as a flash goes off and captures our images. I look at it mesmerizingly. "Is this a modern camera then?" I ask.
"It's a camera, a phone, and a computer all in one," Madison says.
I blink profusely as my brain tries to adjust to this newfound information and technology.
Rachelle swings her hand over my shoulder and around my neck. "You have much to learn young Padawan."
"What is a Padawan?" I ask.
They laugh. "Just come on. First stop, shopping," Madison says.
Shopping. Finally, something I understand.
As we walk towards the shops, I wonder if perhaps I have misjudged 2019 and that there is more good than bad. If women can become scientists, I cannot wait to discover what else we can do.
Suddenly the future is not looking so dim.
Fruits of the Spirit
When did the words "excuse me" become vile curse words? I just said "excuse me" as I bumped into a woman's child. She whips around and starts spewing and spitting. As I back away in fear, others walk by looking at a little laminated box held in their hands. No one stops nor even looks.
I volunteered to be put into cryogenic hibernation in 1954, but never thought humanity would dissolve this rapidly. Only 65 years later, does the true nature of humanity show in dark contrast. "Yes sir, excuse me, thank you" are precursors to an argument or fight. Curse words that would have ostracized me are considered friendly greetings. Cleavage, tatoos, lack of modesty, layers of makeup - nothing is left to the imagination. I fear that these images will be with me for the remainder of my life.
I can feel a tear fall down my cheek. We had just begun to heal after the horrors of WWII. It is why I volunteered for the cryogenic experiment. I had such hope and excitement for the future. I now feel shame and disgust.
In an effort to determine what caused such degredation, I look for a book store. Many of the books would have never been allowed to see the light of day. The books in the children's section teach variations of sexual orientations. In bright colors and simple drawings, they describe tolerance and acceptance of various behaviors that would have had someone jailed or worse in 1954. I knew about sex from being born on a farm, but no one discussed it or glorified it until you were discussing marriage - between a man and a woman. Sure these different sexual desires existed in 1954. The horrors of WWII brought so many things to light, but we shielded the children. What happened to innocence? I do see a section on Dr. Seuss and smile as I remember many of those books - a small hope that naivety still exists?
I decided to listen in on conversations as I pretended to look at different books. Then I silently walked down the street listening. Finally, I stopped and sat on a bench near the street.
Such hypocrisy, such greed, such pride, such laziness, such lust, such envy, such anger, such obesity, such selfishness... more than 7 deadly sins. Someone killed God. I started crying.
A young man sits next to me and takes his hearing aids out of his ears. "Are you ok?" he asks.
I look at the genuine concern in his face. The deadly sins existed before humanity put words to them, and they will exist until the last human draws their final breath, but so will the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. Maybe it's me who lacks the last one.
I turn to the young gentleman and said, "Thank you for your concern, I was lost, but I think I just found my way." I extended my hand to shake his, and he seemed a little surprised at the gesture, but did respond by shaking my hand back.
I continued my walk down the street and continued to look up.
I could hear hushed voices around me and remember feeling excruciating pain on every inch of my body. My lungs almost exploded inside my chest and I remember letting out a cry, or maybe a whimper that escaped my parched lips. My eyelids felt heavy and as if they were glued shut, the darkness scared me. When I opened them, the light pierced through and all I saw was white. The touch jolted me in an instant and a voice that said “Rose”, sent me into momentary panic and disarray. “Welcome back!”, said the calm voice and I remember the owner of that voice gently placing a pair of shades on me to help me with the bright light. I could focus better. The lady said she was a doctor. Never seen a female doctor in my life time.
The UFOs over D.C. was the last crazy thing I heard before I signed the documents agreeing to be cryogenically frozen. The fact that I am in 2019 is next! A bad marriage and need for funds drove me to this sacrifice in the name of science. The program was not approved then by the US Government and it wasn’t until 1962, or so I hear from my doctors. They don’t even have me on record as the first person frozen! No family, meant my body remained abandoned here in the facility owing to legal troubles and poor management. I don’t know what pained more in the days that followed, my body or my mind. I wasn’t briefed on anything, just let go after a week of physical rehabilitation. They told me they do not have funding for covering further medical expenses and I was asked to leave.
The reception area looked different from when I walked in here the first time. I saw computers and laptops being used by my doctors and was amazed by those and they seem to have one of those at the reception too. Then there are other things like the hairstyles and attire. They all looked so different and interesting. I think I might have stared at the receptionist too long as she looked irritated. “Door is that way”, she said curtly. I opened the glass door and stepped out. I closed it again and stepped back and looked nervously at the receptionist. The look on her face made me reach for the door again.
The overcast skies made it a dull day outside and better on my eyes. There were people of every color, some in coats, some in shorts thronging the streets of New York City that day. So many women were out and about, looking important. Men and women in all different shades. Change is good, or so I thought.
A smartly dressed man caught my eye. He seemed to be in conversation with nobody. He looked at me and said something staring at me top to toe. I smiled and wanted to tell him how crazy I was feeling. He pushed me away and pointed at a white object on his ear. I was a little hurt and blinded by it maybe that I didn’t see where I was headed. The honk of the car whose headlights stopped inches from my thighs, gave my until recently frozen heart a fright, that it almost popped out of my throat. Growing up I adored cars and seeing one so gleamy I was lost for a bit I think, when another horn made me double up. The driver seemed agitated as I tried to tell him why I was amazed at how his car looked. He shouted some profanities I haven’t heard before. I crossed the road fast and turned back to look at the building I have occupied for these past sixty-six years. It was very different from what I remember it to be. The old name board has been replaced by giant TV screens. The last time I saw a screen that big was in a movie theater. They were all in color, I remembered back in the day they were so rare.
I stopped a young man and asked him what the rectangular thing in his hand was that he was scratching on and he gave me the weirdest look and said that’s his phone. Before I was frozen, rotary phones were a thing. They seem to have found a way to make it work without a chord! I didn’t quite get how scratching at it worked though.
The clouds broke apart, thunder rung out. Rain! I sang my favorite song “Singin’ in the rain”, also was the last movie I saw before deciding to be frozen. I was feeling proud that I memorized the song , so I flapped my hands out and tried to take a few steps from the song. A little girl smiled at me as I waved at her. She was sweet and her Mom smiled at my dancing. I felt happy and so I danced even more. I twirled like the ballet dancers in the Rockettes company all while singing loud, disregarding the pain in my knees. I didn’t see the man with the coffee cup. I spilled it all over him and he was angered. “Mad woman!”, He screamed. I tried giving him the cup but he didn’t care. The cup said Starbucks and the shape of the cup was nothing like I have ever seen before. It smelled of vanilla bean and it made me hungry. I could read “Starbucks” on a screen not far away. There was a huge line of people standing outside the shop unfazed by rain, just like me and I wondered what they were waiting for. “So what do we get here at StAAAARbucks”, I asked the lady in front of me, smiling hoping to strike a conversation.
She answered without taking eyes off her phone, “Coffee, what else does everyone come here for!”.
“Is it that special?”, I enquired smiling while peeking to see the phone, for I wanted to know what was so interesting that everyone was looking at their’s so intently.
“It’s just easy”, said the lady moving away, blocking the screen from my view, without even looking at my face even once.
The TV on the wall spoke about some shooting at school and how the numbers are appalling this year. The lady asked looking at me finally, “What? You haven’t seen that? it's in the news these days, every other day for years.” I tried to tell her where I was coming from and how everything looked different to me. She must have thought I am crazy and looked away.
I wondered why no-one was interested in holding a conversation with a stranger anymore, or is it that I have become one to the world now? Maybe change isn’t so good after all.
I realized standing there that all I had now was money and myself. A listening ear was not something I could buy. The frost bitten, shriveled skin on my hands and face were giving way to new healthy skin. Heal I shall from inside-out. Maybe one day I shall write about my life and people shall read it off those screens they seem to like so much.
“I shall be heard, I promise”, said me, to myself.