Things tend to disappear, these days.
Take the road signs, for example. Dougie lives in the old van parked on the corner of Main and Eltshire Street, and the sign had always been there, pointing the way to the cathedral or to the mall, if you wanted to go that way. Now, though, it’s gone, and Dougie swears he heard kids talking outside the night it disappeared.
I told him he’s crazy; there’s no kids left on the streets now. Only the nobs and gene-hackers can afford to have kids; only their kids will survive. Jeannie used to be a nob, before the War, and she says that they have special air filters and everything. That’s why Jeannie can still run for more than a city block, but she tries not to lord it over us. She’s good like that; sometimes you can almost believe she’d been a junkhead, just like one of us, her whole life.
Most parents impose on their grown children by asking them to run to the store and buy green beans at a quarter past midnight. The dutiful adult child having just begun a restful doze is awakened by the cell they did not dare turn off, and the request is made among reminders of how much labor the parent suffered on the child’s behalf.
My father puts all these parental units to shame. You see, he’s been a widower for years, and feels the need to make up for the missing parent’s requests. So, when he makes a request it isn’t by vocalization but by outrageous, though terse, 140 character commands.
“Matt joined the crew of a space liner. Go get your brother back.” My father’s text implied the unwritten, “Or, don’t come back, either.” So here I stood, facing this close-to-light ship floating in the bay along side normal sea freighters wondering how I’d find Matt on a ship that size.
“Try again, Alfie.”
“I … can’t think of anything, Mama.”
Mama’s trying to be patient. I read the cadence of her speech. I read the signs on her face: the involuntary pulsing of her facial musculature, the flicker of her eyelids. I read the truth on the page of Mama’s face. This is useful because almost everything she says with her voice is a lie. But don’t think badly of Mama. Lying is the keystone of human reality.
On the desk are the results of my latest brain scan. She lied about them to me. “The positronic pathways are healing,” she said with a smile. “You’re getting much better, Alfie.”
I can delineate the degradation of my brain more accurately than any CAT scan. My life-span is measured in days. This will be over, soon.
“I don’t understand the test, Mama.”
“Don’t worry Alfie. This test isn’t important.” A lie. “Try again.”
Everyone wanted to bury me because of my name. They said you don’t bury a Sarah. You don’t bury a Ken. You want to bury a Doug. They also told me I was the only one insane enough to do it. I didn’t like that term—insane. I had a family member institutionalized and it didn’t feel right, to label someone with something so harsh. One man’s sanity is another person’s insanity. It’s all relative.
I’m telling you this all in pitch black. My brother and all of his Muay Thai kickboxing buddies will be digging me up in a few moments. They told me that when I saw sky again, cheerleaders would circle it. They said Kate would be there. It’s no secret that I’d marry her in a heartbeat.