Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Prepping and Scrapbooking for the End of the World

Photographs were well out of fashion even before the lights went out. Sure, there were a few elderly holdouts, the random polaroider or scrapbook enthusiast, who were still stowing away photos like they were out of style - which they were - but, in the end, when the shit hit the - motionless - fan, physical memories disappeared in, and with, the cloud.
If it were safer to scavenge the homes on the mainland Jessica might find more things worth saving, or maybe just something that could trigger a fresh memory. As her desperation grows, she might someday become more willing to take those risks, searching for longer periods of time and in more dangerous areas. For now, it is safe on the island, water locked and accessible by a single path on a surfaced sand bar, exposed only twice each day. 
Perhaps, this is why Jessica loved the drawing so much, why she still loves the drawing…even now.
Time hasn't been able to take this away from her yet, although, it's trying. Inviting the sun to bleach the picture's colors, and conspiring to let water stain the paper's fibers. And most foul, when Jessica isn't looking, time crawls into the drawing's resting spot, flecking edges and massaging its crumbling corners. Jessica knows. She sees the evidence of how well-traveled the artifact has become: a collection of dust at the bottom of the Ziploc she keeps it in, a little more each day. 
One day the drawing will split and shatter and she will have to risk closing her eyes longer and longer, tighter and tighter, to un-jar the memory. 
For now, when she wants to see, when she wants to remember, she still looks at it.

"Miss Jessica! Miss Jessica!," a tiny girl in a pair of oversized jeans and a pink bedazzled shirt gallops to a young woman in a red sundress.
 "I made you this because it's Spring!," the girl exclaimed, waving a stiff piece of construction paper in Jessica's face. The girl's gaped mouth reveals a gummy grin where a few teeth float in space like stars in a washed-out New York City night skyline. Flopping atop the pudgy girl’s round head are a pair of lopsided pigtails; the left side spraying into the unusually cool April afternoon.
"Turn around and let me fix this," Jessica spun the giggling child around, took hold of the askew braid and went to work resetting it. 
"Now," she continued, "when I'm done with this MESS you go clean the mess YOU made!"
"Okaaaay Miss Jessica," the girl responded, squinting her eyes at the gentle tug-of-war being waged against the back of her head. Jessica loved this about her students, the strange mannerisms and built-in behaviors that they all had, or eventually picked-up. Signals and triggers indicating the miraculous moments of change. Jessica was a captain, her ship aptly named, ERIKSON1, and these were the little times where the tailwinds of growth caught the sails and ushered her, and her crew, across the ocean of knowledge toward the land called, "adulthood."
Jessica wrapped off the tip of the weaved hair and gave it one last playful tug, "Now go clean up all those markers, before I tie YOU in a knot!" 
The girl squealed, threw her hands into the air, tossing aside her drawing, and darted wildly toward the scattered pile of markers, safety scissors, and paper scraps. Released from the girl's grasp, the artwork launched into air and fluttered to Jessica's feet.
Glancing, not yet registering what she was looking at, Jessica continued to wade in what the girl had said. Letting her sentence spill into the different cracks in her brain, the meaning behind the phrase was already onto its third or fourth permutation, as thoughts often behave, before Jessica really started looking at her gift.
"...because it's SPRING!" The phrase hung in the air as Jessica lifted the artwork to her face. 
Whether it was in their DNA or part of some prehistoric imprinting process, Jessica didn't know, she just knew what to expect from any child's drawing. The unsteady lines and attempts at symmetry, like haphazard clues, and answers to questions like, "How is she feeling?", "Are there any developmental things going on?", or a common one "Is everything alright at home?" 
The drawing never felt strange, and certainly not indicative or prophetic of anything. Misshapen circle-people closing-in around a tree that is in-turn springing up toward a sun and the girl's name boldly displayed, 'MEKA'. Nothing strange at all. After all, she made this "...because it's Spring." 
It was not until she heard the soft music from the little girl that she felt the first uneasy ping of terror at the center of her spine. There were only a few notes, and while there was some rhythm, the repetition of these few notes veered it further away from anything one might call a song. The biggest similarity is that it felt complete, in Meka's methodic notes Jessica heard finality.
Jessica, frozen, pointedly asked, "What's that song, Meka?"
Barely pulling herself from her task the girl responded, "It's not a song, Miss Jessica."
"What is it?"
"Them. They hum. You'll hear them, too, Miss Jessica."


It wasn't a tree, it was an explosion. And those weren't people.

Meka knew.

Jessica still has the drawing, it is clipped to a refrigerator, well rather, inside a refrigerator. A small Norge, a little bigger than the fridge Jessica used in her dorm room, except, like everything now, this one is much older.
She found it washed up on the shore a few months ago, wearing a mop of seaweed and barnacle five-o'clock shadow. After managing to pull it a safe distance from the current, she dug a hole to obscure it from anyone who might notice her from a distant shoreline. She filled it with the things she needs, like food, and water, but also, books, clippings, menus, the leftovers she has collected from before everything happened, and of course, the drawing.
The fridge is a time capsule, and buried in the dunes just beyond the shore line, near the center of her island, where she spends the evening watching lightning bugs dance, her things are safe.

Safe from them

Whatever they are, they don't like the beach. Meka knew this. It has something to do with the Sun. Maybe with a combination of the salt and heat, life can't take root. Things have trouble growing here, everything except Jessica. 
On that small beach island she is safe. Memories stowed away with food and water. Eventually, she knows, someone will discover what she already has and venture to join her on this oasis. And she can wait.
She isn't alone, she has the drawing and that adulteress, time, to keep her company.  If she blinks her eyes tightly and she stares at the sunset she even has that day to wait with her, she can  feel it slowly fluttering to her feet.

Far off she can hear them humming.

1 Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development describes how a child perceives the world as safe and good.