Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Daily Story 35: Proof of Concept

I'm still shaking and disoriented from the accident in the lab.

The bus is hot and stuffy; I don't really know why I got on. There's a man in the back with a wild beard and nervous twitch staring at me, giggling quietly to himself, and it hits me that if someone were to strike up a conversation with the two of us, I would be the one that came off as crazy.

The problem with this scenario is that I'm not a scientist. I'm in way over my head, and I don't really have any clue how to proceed. I'm dizzy and a little nauseous, and my skin tingles - it makes it hard to think clearly. I rest my head against the disgusting glass and look out at the city as it goes by, the people wearing too-bright outfits and talking on cell phones huge like bricks.

I try to take stock, but there's so little that I have. No electronics allowed in the lab, so I don't have my computer or phone. My credit cards are worthless, and my paper money looks fake. What does that leave? The clothes on my back. A bus transfer from this current trip, now seeming like a waste of my only old dollar bills.

I signal for a stop, looking around at the old neighborhood. It's quiet, the kids are in school for another hour. The bus hisses as the doors slide open, and I walk out with one last glance at the man in the back. He nods knowingly at me, like we're in this together. The bus spews out a dark cloud and rumbles on its way, leaving me to walk the last few blocks to my parent's house.

As soon as I see it I know why I got on the bus. I know what I have to do.

If this hadn't been an accident I could have made a list of things to accomplish, but as it is I have just this one goal. As I said, I'm not a scientist; I have limited options, limited imagination. So, step one: confirm my goal is even realistic. I reach my parent's house and it's just like I remember, the personalized mailbox hanging crooked by the door and the bougainvillea slowly overtaking the windows.

The key is right where it always was, under a smooth rock. The door creaks open and I smell them again, smell my old home... I don't even know what it is, some strange combination of mom's cooking, and the laundry detergent we used, and the guinea pigs. It smells like heaven.

I step into my old bedroom, carefully climbing over the clothes and toys. My brother's bed is next to mine and I feel tears welling up as I look at the sheets, still rumpled from him tossing and turning. Images of his funeral swim through my head, but I take a deep breath and focus. Marcus comes later. For now, I'm still on step one. Find something unique.

The mug he made in art class is lying on a shelf. That hideous little thing, warped and fragile. The handle is so small that even a child couldn't reasonably hold on to it in the normal way, and there's a hole near the bottom of the mug so even if you wanted to you could never drink out of it. Still, I had kept it and it traveled with me to college in my box of miscellaneous junk. My senior year it had fallen out of my window and broken on the sidewalk below, nearly hitting my English teacher who had already made it clear he didn't like me.

I take it, leaving everything else as it is. I lock the door, replace the key, and head for the nearby field that, this morning, had been a grocery store. Prying a jagged stone loose from the dirt I smash the mug, beat on it until it's little more than powder.

Nothing happens. The universe continues, unconcerned, and now I know the future can be changed. Time for step two.