Jetpack Blues (short story)

                Dazzling green the soft farm land below. Jenn brings one of her winged gloves, brimming with buzzing sensors to her eyes to pull out the crust that was last night’s loving gift to the morning. She stops following the fast moving traffic to stare for a moment at this green gunk. Where does it come from, she wonders, what purpose does it have, she wonders.

                Instead of giving any big answers the universe shoves another in transit jet pack commuter in front of Jenn. Jenn stops looking at the gunk and frantically waves her hand in the STOP STOP pattern that should break her just before she hits this man… Good! Just in time Jenn stops and she feels a wry smile come to her face, a smile that used to grace her high school year book but one her coworkers have never sees. The idiot is on his cell phone shouting to a friend about yesterday’s 0-0 Manchester match. If this was something worth being killed for, at least one of the teams should have scored…

                Jenn knows she’s probably at fault, but the nonchalance of the football fan irritates her. She is still not sure that he has seen her, even now, now that if she wanted to she could grab the fellows gleaming brown shoe. She wishes she had chewing gum to put on his shoe, at least one day he’d be aware that Jenn had existed, even if she would never have a name

                Oh well, back to commuting. Jenn feels just the slightest tinge of regret that she’s lost the gunk from her eyes, she hadn’t finished examining it. Whatever, she thinks, let me get to work. She looks straight now, following the man since he still remained in her lane. Suddenly and from nowhere, Jenn gets back that wry smile: why wish something? Why not act? She takes a big stick of Juicy Fruit from her pocket and just munches on it. She can feel it getting to be just the right size, the right wetness, the maximum stickiness… she puts it on her finger and begins reaching it towards the man’s shoe. Her grin breaks into a full on smile, luminous, another sun brightening the ground flying by below her. She has just about put it on his shoe when her smile breaks, the second sun robbed from the world below and, if there had been music, it has abruptly stopped. She puts the gum into a piece of paper in her pocket, thinking something like ‘it’s stupid to do that’ but that’s not the full emotion. No, there is something closer to fear, but that’s not the right word either. What is for sure is that somewhere in history the little girl that Jenn was has the slightest shiver as she imagines who she might become.

                Walking through the sprawling lobby, hundreds of people bumping heads together as they chatter on cellphones while trying to make sure the iris scanners see them. There is this unholy buzz as loud megaphones tell employees to please hurry and please not litter and the masses indulge the artificial warmth of the voice by yelling ever louder into their cellphone. What in a picture would be assumed to have the quietness of a library, in reality rivals a rock concert.

                Some are like Jenn, not yelling into their phones, but they are the rarities. Don’t take these few as paragons of good manners in a screeching world, they are just lost in a different way. Jenn has her phone some three inches away from her eyes, with her head wildly careened upwards in an attempt to have one eye available for the scanner. She is playing “UFO Stadium Returns” where she is madly trying to use an entire cities anti aircraft batteries to knock out the giant stadium, which hold tight is actually a UFO at the center of the city. Jenn is awesome at this game, she currently has the highest score in her vicinity and there is a whisper in her ear piece that soon she’ll be on the next level soon she’ll be on the next level and new things will be on the next level and she will be the first to see them.

                Then, out of nowhere the heavy elbow of a tall, barrel chested man in an ill-fitting connects with the side of Jenn’s head and she goes down to the floor in a loving tribute to early ragtime physics engines.

                The loudspeaker adds to its litany of demands to “Not Step On The Young Women And Please Help Her” but everyone is so lost in their world, so used to ignoring the damned thing with its squawking that nobody bothers to help Jenn, nobody even really notices. Their feet just go unconsciously around her, not hurting her, not helping her, let this adult figure things out.

                With a bit of a daze Jenn sits up. Her head is spinning and for a reason she can’t really imagine she remembers the time that she ate an entire bowl of honey as a child. She was in her grandmother’s garden, brimming with flowers and colors and movement. Every leaf whispering secrets of adventure and wonder to a child that is more nymph than human. Spring stepping through ruby red tomatoes and emerald green leaves, she shadows two playing puppies as they amicably munch each others throats, Jenn’s animated shadow being a third player in the play fighting.

                Jenn hears a shout from Grandma to be of some help and she sprints over, lunging over a bush, flying over pebbles, breaking land speed records she is flying, flying like she has a jet pack. She sees her target approach, puts on a burst of speed and then, with a one footed leap like a miniature Russian ballerina she glides through the air, breaking the sound barrier, to come to a sudden and perfect stop directly in front of her Grandma.

                Grandma has that grin that only Grandma’s can have, that one that says I see your mischievousness, know that it’s a problem, but it’s not my problem today, today I just want to shower love on this little nymph. Grandma meets Jenn’s eyes with utmost seriousness, then whispers to her “I need your help for a very, very important task, a task that you can’t tell anyone else about. Can you do that for me?” Jenn meets Grandma’s eyes, the perfect green of her eyes a little miniature planet floating in a brimming universe. Grandma looks away for a second, muttering “I Don’t know, I don’t know…” which has Jenn break her silence and in a high voice close to euphoria or tears saying “Grandma I can do it, I won’t tell anyone, what is it, what is it?” Grandma stops her shuffling and pulls Jenn’s ear next to her old lips and the heat of her voice makes Jenn shiver with intensity. “Jennifer,” she loudly whispers, “I need you to move all the honey from this pot, which is Auntie Mary’s, and put it into this one, which can belong to just you and me. Now, if anyone else knows we have this honey, we will have to share, but if we can keep it a secret it will be just for you and me. Can you do that?” With solemn eyes Jenn nods her head up and down. The honey would be theirs, all theirs.

Jenn shakes her head, waking herself from her daydream. It has the feel of a color movie losing its lustre as a window opens, slowly bleaching the films colors into a sepia mess before the cold light of daytime takes away all the shapes. Jenn shakes her head again, as if to get the memory of the honey memory back. Instinct is a stronger force and sets her to standing up in the entry lobby, still some slow pokes meandering around Jenn on the ground. Her eye gets scanned and Jenn somehow finds herself at her desk.

Her computer is buzzing in front of her. She pores over satellite photos of the outside of a ruptured space station. She, and every other employee, will go over the same images, make unique judgement calls, then their calls will be put together and their consensus used in the insurance case that the owners of the space station had filed suit over. So far, she has logged over 1,000 hours on this case, yet she has only gone through ten percent of the total images.

As her waking mind looks at the screen, her unwaking mind fills her brain. The flash of memory from her childhood has shaken her. There was that feel of so many colours for a moment, is that the way things really used to be? Is that what she used to see and feel and smell? Is that something that she has lost?

Isn’t this life a good life? It hasn’t given her perfect happiness, which is another way of saying it hasn’t given her perfect unhappiness, which is a real way of saying that it has given her some amount of real happiness. Yet, what about the colours? When had she made the decision that the colours weren’t important anymore? When it the last time she went through a day and saw anything but the ever vibrant green of the over abundant nature, the red mud of the farmers paths, then the varying shimmering silver greys of the sterile high tech universe? What does violet look like anymore? What does it smell like? For a moment Jenn tries to imagine, yet, the only way she can imagine violet is a hexadecimal color swatch rather than some just bloomed flower, nibbled by an incandescent hummingbird. Where has violet gone? She wants it back. What happened, was it just some mirage of the past, an innocent imagining of childhood? Was it ever there? She wants to wake up! Or, maybe go to sleep.

Suddenly, Jenn stands up. Her waking mind suddenly finds itself melded to her unwaking mind, like two branches interlocking to hide the blinding sunlight and offer a quick chance for a moment of clarity. With a grace that reminisces of those ballerina bounds of her childhood Jenn abandons her desk. She races outside as a daemon, a lightning storm flashing in her mind providing an incredible amount of light into every corner of her mind but never with enough frequency to ever know what she is seeing. There is the feeling of a ball falling from the top of the slide, she’s not sure where it will go, she’s definitely sure she can’t stop it.

Jenn is outside now, likely the loudspeaker makes a note of her departure. She abandons her jetpack and goes out the service entrance. Soon, she is away from the sterile grays of modernity and finds herself under the heavy scent of nature. By herself on the ground, on a small path with many jetpack commuters as dots flying above her, she sits down on the ground. She rubs her hands in the dirt and it feels delicious and she smiles, smiles that big smile from before, the before before, the before was was and now remembers to become what she isn’t but should be. She takes the mud and rubs it on her face and it feels good too. She has started giggling, a mad women, she would be locked up if someone saw her, how dare an adult take the carefree nature of a child. She lays her head back and feels the ground below her, every little pebble, every poking strain of grass. She cranes her head back and looks at the big blue sky, that blue sky, so big she feels lost in it, so big that she feels like she is levitating. When she shuts her eyes again, so tightly, ­­so lost in the euphony of the real world around her, all she can see is violet.

 

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