Saturday, September 8, 2018

Fervor: Sandlot (Part X)

I’m standing in front the mirror, staring at myself. I still look like me, but also not really. This isn’t the first time I’m seeing the new me, of course. I got some good hard looks yesterday, soon after Jesimula Utkin rapidly aged me, but I just can’t stop. We discussed it a little, and estimated that I was maybe twenty years old at this point. A part of me feels violated, but I can’t honestly say that I’m upset about the results. I’ve always been mature for my age, so maybe this is my outside finally reflecting my inside. My biggest problem always been people not taking me seriously, and this could solve all that. Then again, she technically stole six years of life that I could have lived. If I’m to die at the age of eighty, I’ll now have only experienced seventy-four years of time. Perhaps later on, once I’m starting to feel self-conscious about my wrinkles, I can call Jesi back, and have her do the same thing in reverse. Hell, is there any reason she can’t just keep doing that for me? If this doesn’t prove that immortality is possible, I don’t know what will. Maybe there’s a limit, I don’t know. I would at least like to live to be two hundred. I guess that’s just an arbitrary choice, though. No, this is all stupid anyway. It was difficult enough to explain why my father, Serkan was only five years older than me. Now I’m meant to be the older one? Then again...
“Paige, we’re going to get you fixed,” Slipstream says to me when I try to start brainstorming over breakfast. There aren’t supposed to be such thing as a bad idea.
“I thought this was a safe space. I don’t need you yelling at me,” I complain.
“She wasn’t yelling,” Hogarth says.
“No, she’s right,” Slipstream says. “I’m sorry, Paige. Your feelings are paramount here, but I want you to understand the ramifications. You can’t go back to high school, so your only option would be to get your equivalency. It may not be right, but employers perceive that to be an inferior education. This is all assuming someone can create for you yet another identity after the first two, because everyone beyond this room, other than your fathers, thinks you’re fourteen.”
“That’s a lot to assume, yes,” I counter, “but it’s not as bad as assuming we can get Jesimula to reverse this. Everyone needs to be prepared for the possibility that this is my life now.”
“Oh,” Slipstream says as she starts to tear her toast into little strips—there’s probably a story behind that behavior. “I’ll get her to reverse what she did. Don’t you worry none ‘bout that.”
“What are you going to do?” Leona asks.
“I’ve already called my tracers. We’re taking a little field trip to Independence. I don’t want you to have to come with us, Paige, but you’ll have to be closeby.”
“No, you can’t involve the tracers,” I say, remembering something Serkan told me back when.
“Why can’t I?”
“It’s the tenth of April.”
“So...?” She doesn’t know why that’s significant, nor should she.
“Serkan starts to run with you today,” I explain. I don’t want to say too much about what I know of these people’s futures, but this is important.
“I thought he was stuck in another dimension,” Slipstream says.
“I’m not talking about that Serkan,” I tell them. “I’m talking about the original Serkan; the one who doesn’t know a thing about time travel yet.”
“Isn’t he still a minor?” Leona asked. “New Gangs are only for adults.”
“The tracer gang makes exceptions for Frenzy winners,” I clarify.
“Is this true?” Leona asks Slipstream.
She doesn’t answer right away, but keeps her eyes on me.
“Slip,” Leona presses.
“Yes,” Slipstream finally says, eyes still on me. “It’s true, even before I met Paige here, we had our eye on Serkie. He’s a force.”
“If he doesn’t go on probation in your gang starting tomorrow,” I begin, “after today’s audition, everything he does after that is ruined. You wanna talk about reversing, this decision could prevent me from ever coming to the 21st century. Jesi releases a virus, Keanu freezes the real Kansas City, dogs and cats living together.”
“I get it,” Slipstream says shortly. “Your father has to join the gang. But the longer we wait...”
The longer we wait, what?” I ask. “The unobtanium in my quantum injector solidifies, and there’s no longer a way to reverse the time polarity? I can wait a few days. History can’t. And remember, just because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean it’s not history.”
Slipstream considers her choices, but ultimately relents. She recognizes what’s top priority here, so she finishes eating, and heads out to the gray district, so she can meet my future father, and close the time loop. We all have to make it to July 17, 2026, which is the day after the ninth annual City Frenzy, before we can stop worrying so much about altering the timeline.
For an hour after Slipstream leaves, I’m once again in front of  the mirror. I’m not just staring at myself anymore, like a creepy ghost-child in a Japanese horror flick, though. Little Brooke the other day discovered a magical closet behind one of the normal bedroom closets that’s the size of a clothing store, maybe even larger. I’m trying out new clothes. This is more than just a safehouse for time travelers. The clothes I normally wear are pretty loose, so they don’t fit too badly, but I still need something better.
I’m currently wearing a cute little blue dress with a daisy pattern when I hear a voice behind me. “That looks perfect on you.”
“Jesimula,” I say with a sneer.
“You can call me Jesi.”
“We’ve decided you need to put me back as I was.”
“Back as you were?” she echoes. “As a scared thirteen-year-old girl in 1972?”
“Not that far back,” I correct with a roll of my eyes.
“I see, so you’re looking for the ideal?”
“I’m asking you to reverse everything that you’ve done to me; nothing more, nothing less.”
“Is that really what you want, or is that what your friends told you that you need?”
I don’t hesitate. “It’s what I want, and it’s what is right. If I want you to change my age, I’ll ask for it, which is what I’m doing right now.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that. It would be unethical for me to send you on this mission as a child. I had to age you up.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but what you did is already unethical. You’ve violated my body, for one, and you haven’t even matured me. I’m still a minor; the difference now is I can pass for an adult. Barely.”
“I don’t see it that way. Don’t you want to know what the mission is?”
“It doesn’t matter, because I’m not doing a single thing for you.” I know it’s dumb as soon as I say it it, because I obviously have no choice. Jesi is here on behalf of her own agenda, and it’s irrelevant what anyone else wants. I dart my eyes toward the exit, but she’s blocked it.
She almost frowns when she notices, but does not doubt her plan. She sprays some sort of odorless, tasteless something in my face. Then she creates a bubble around me, and disappears. I expect everything around me to start changing, but it doesn’t. I’m stuck in the bubble for about twice as long as the clinic was last time, and when it finally dissipates, and lets me out, I see that the closet is still just as it was before. It must exist in some other dimension, because I seriously doubt Jesi created a bubble for me that didn’t do anything. I cautiously walk over towards the door, and open it up.
Before me is a darkened and empty hallway. On the opposite wall, however, is a bright light. At first I think it’s just a lamp, or something, but then my eyes adjust, and I can see the truth. It’s the sun. It’s the sun as viewed from space. I step closer and admire the view. Yeah, I’m definitely in the future. I can’t tell whether I’m in a ship, a space station, or something I can’t even comprehend, but the sunlight illuminates a few structures to the side of me that all look exactly the same. I suspect that I’m just in another one of whatever they are. Oh, and there’s also a little planet below called Earth.
I can hear what sounds like sand being sifted to the side of me as the lights inside the hallway turn on. I look over and see a figure forcing itself out of the wall; or more like part of the wall is becoming something else. Tiny little pieces come together to form the general shape of a human being, and eventually rearrange themselves into more and more detail. In the end, there’s a person standing there. “Our sensors indicate that an entity has suddenly appeared in this sector. What is your designation?” she asks of me.
“Paige Reaver-Demir.”
“Species.”
“Human.”
“Species of human.”
“Uhh...regular?”
“You are short for a regular human.”
Not really. “Am I?”
“You clothes, anatomy, and wonderment in your surroundings better resemble the average teenage human girl from early 21st century.”
I don’t say anything.
She lifts her head to examine me from a slightly different angle. “Right. Well, you are not authorized to be on the bubble. I can return you to anywhere on Earth that you would like.”
“Um, does Kansas City still exist?” I ask, knowing whatever this thing is, she already has the whole woman out of time thing figured out about me anyway.
“It most certainly does,” she replies. Then she starts walking down the hallway, expecting me to follow her.
We board a small ship, and drop down to Earth. I ask to land on the edge of civilization. I don’t tell her this, but I want to do some recon before I run into anyone else. Jesi wants me here, and she’s not a good person, which means I shouldn’t be here. I could hardly ask her to let me go to, like, a moon of Jupiter, or something, though. The only thing I can do is investigate.
“Wait,” I stop the sand entity before she takes off. “This may sound strange, but—”
“It’s April 10, 3117, by your calendar.” she interrupts.
“Oh. Thank you.”
“What the hell am I doing here?” I ask out loud after the sand creature flies away.
“You’re helping me build this fire,” a young man answers from several meters away.
Startled. “What?”
He stands from his crouch and draws closer, but not threateningly. “My parents put me in this program that teaches you how to do things the way people used to. Maybe you know how to start a fire with nothing but these tiny pieces of wood?”
I look down at his fire, and at the box of matches he’s holding. “How did you know I would be here?”
“I didn’t,” he says, laughing. “You just fell from the sky, like an angel, right on top of my solo lot. I was going to ask how you knew I would be here.”
If all Jesi wants me to do is help this poor kid light a fire, then I guess it can’t be too bad. Then again, this could start a fire that ravages the entire continent, for all I know. I decide to risk it. I step over and take the matches from him, and prepare to light the fire. “What the hell is this?”
“It’s my woodpile,” he says, like I’m the stupid one.
“Where’s your tinder?”
“My what?”
“Have you been trying to light these big sticks and logs?”
“Bigger sticks, bigger fire,” he starts off confidently, but clearly starts questioning his own logic by the end of the last word.
“Oh, dear. Let’s go get some bark. You got a knife?”
“Yeah.”
I have him shave tinder strips off the bark, then place the remaining pieces of top to act as kindling, so we can get the fire going. “Start small, and let it grow. You can’t just light the whole thing at once.” I pull a log off, and toss it across his camp lot. “This one is wet, it’s useless.” I continue the lessons, as needed, until we have a pretty good fire going that will be able to sustain itself for a good long time. “Did they teach you anything, or just throw you into the deep end on day one?”
“They threw us into the deep end on the second day,” he says.
I laugh, but realize that he isn’t. I think that his instructors literally threw him into a pool of water. Science and humans had both presumably advanced so much that people weren’t even swimming anymore. Not knowing how to light a fire from a match is one thing, but swimming should be an essential skill in any time period.
We watch our creation for a few minutes, at which point I abruptly turn around. “Kay, byeee.”
“Wait, can’t you stay?” he begs. “I’m supposed to make mores.”
“You mean s’mores?”
“See? I still need you.”
I suppose I won’t be able to get home until Jesi shows up, and sends me back through one of her sliding bubbles. “I guess I can stay a little while longer, Smalls.”
“My name is Asuk. I told you.”
“You’re killin’ me, Smalls. We make s’mores, but then I have to go.”
“Great.”
I help him with his cute little history project, then I proceed to stay with him for almost an entire year.

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