November 27, 2016

ctrl + T (multiple tabs)

(In my creative writing class, one of the assignments was to write a science fiction short story. What follows is the result. The essential scenario here is what would happen if we humans - with our attention spans severely diminished by the internet and other forms of technology - developed teleportation devices. However, the central character's struggles, which are perhaps more glanced at than elaborated upon, are certainly more the focus here than the technology itself. My apologies if it's super depressing.)

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I am in her room again, by her bed, and the red-draped light oppresses my senses and casts her in shades of cherry on her mattress, and I rise to sit with her again, but she fends me off with the eyes of pity. I tell her I forgot the flour for my mother, as an excuse to withdraw for a minute or more, and she tells me I had better come back. I had better come back.

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I pick the cheapest bag of flour, and it freights my hand with the future of a dozen unbaked loaves. The cashier smiles. I fumble through crumpled bills and curse the solitary George Washington.

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I hand the flour to my mother, and she asks where I’m off to next. Back to Natalie’s, I say. She doesn’t want me to go; she wants me to stay and knead the dough and tend to Sadie in her high chair. But I am already raising my hand to my neck, and I press the switch no matter what she says. Don’t make me follow you, I hear her say before I go.

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I switch straight onto Natalie’s bed to avoid the tension of sitting down, and she looks at me with those same pitying eyes that glimmer and grow in the firebrick light. I tell her about my mother. Natalie says she doesn’t think I should be here, no, I should be kneading dough and tending to Sadie. Don’t you want to finish talking? I ask. What’s there to talk about, she says.

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I stand in my kitchen for a moment, but no, the walls are too close and Sadie’s cries are too loud, and I don’t care if I’m the man of this house now; I raise my hand to my neck before my mother can turn to bait me with her helpless gaze.

click

I try to switch into the pub, but the sensors read my age coding, as I knew they would, and I land by the curb outside. I feel sick with the weight of it all. I walk under street lamps and wonder if I should switch to San Francisco again, maybe, to walk in on my father with another woman. Or Omaha, perhaps, to ask Terry if Nebraska is healing his wrists any faster than Oregon was. Terry made the classic mistake, he cut horizontal.

click

Instead I switch to the coast, to a gusty twilight shore, and as with any other place, I don’t want to stay here longer than five minutes. The wind riles up the sand around my feet, and whirling grains of it flog my bare calves. I kneel in penance, I say my thanks for the solitude. I begin to feel awful for leaving, but I fear staying would have made me feel worse. I look out at the shaded pitching sea, and the saltwater

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grinds gelid against me, and I regret leaving even more, I am ready to fade, I imagine floundering and sinking. I look to the shore for the crepuscular animals that might emerge from the gloom to feed on me, if I washed up with the tide. I wonder if there’s any place in this tuneless twisting world where I would want to spend more than five minutes, and I am sickened by the cold, so I switch to

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my kitchen, where the bread smells warm in the oven. I dribble saltwater on the floor and retreat into the bathroom, where I towel myself dry and change clothes and turn on the shower. I stand outside the shower in my dry clothes and hear my mother yell, asking me to come help. I love her, I love Sadie, I do, I want to help them, but this house is so small, and the world is not. I wonder if this house is in truth much bigger than the world, but I cannot dwell on this long enough to care. I call to my mother that I am in the shower, but I am not, I am in

click

Natalie’s room again, where the crimson light is fading to dark nothing, and she is on her bed crying and crying. I am surprised she is still here. She looks up at me with futile eyes, and her eyes ask me to go. I wonder where to go. I look at the texture of the drywall above me, and I remember lying on my back with Natalie on top of me and letting that same texture impress itself upon my eyes until I felt the memory and gravity of the house swilling out the duskiness in my head and replacing it with something pure and lovely. At that moment, perhaps I could have stayed longer than five minutes, perhaps I could have stayed for lives and lives. But I had not. I hadn’t even kissed her goodbye. I regret that all the more now, and her eyes still ask me to leave, and – fuck me, I’m bleeding apart inside, so I obey.

click

The trees waver in the wind, and they will remain on this hill much longer than I will. Maybe I should wait with them; I don’t know where else to go, but I will go somewhere, I will.

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Downtown, maybe, with the leering cars and sandstone buildings, or

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the quarry, with its crumbled walls, or

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anywhere I can bleed inside,

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anywhere I can fade.

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