3:9: “Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrows”, by N.K. Jemisin

3:9: “Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrows”, by N.K. Jemisin

The alarm clock buzzed at seven, right after reality rolled over. Helen tapped the snooze button for ten more minutes. When the alarm went off again, she believed for a moment that a man was in the room creeping toward her. She sat up ready to lash out with nails and fists and feet, then memory returned and she chuckled to herself. A dream. Habit. Too bad.

———•———

BLOGSTER login: Welcome, TwenWen!

[Thursday, ??? feels like 10 p.m.]

Hel, you had the rapist dream too? Thought I was the only sicko! Y’know, back in college psych they said those kinds of dreams are a representation of your subconscious yearning to be rescued from your out-of-control situation. (That, or you want a penis. ^_-) Usually I try to keep mine going awhile, see if he actually manages to score. Never does. Figures; even my Freudian fantasy rapists are pissant schmucks.

In browsing news, surprise! There’s yet another spec-thread running among the BumBloggity brats. “The government did it” version 2,563,741. Wish they’d get back to aliens or God; those are more fun.

BTW, gang, meet SapphoJuice (his blog). He’s in a snowy reality. Has a studio, poor guy.

Hey, anybody heard from MadHadder lately?

———•———

Life, post-prolif: she climbed up from the futon and shuffled across the room, her feet chuffing along the tatami-matted floor. When she reached the kitchen she took care to yank the fridge door open so that the glass bottles would rattle and clink. Noise made the apartment seem less empty. Then she slapped onto the counter the items that would comprise her breakfast: a cup of yogurt and a cellophaned packet of grilled fish. She rummaged awhile for the stay-fresh drink box of chai tea concentrate; she knew where it was, but rummaging helped to kill time. The milk was as fusty as ever. Irrationally she always retained the vague hope that if she got up soon enough after the rollover, it would taste fresher. Mixing it with the chai covered the not-quite-sour taste, so she microwaved that for three minutes and then used that to wash the fish down.

Chewing, she paused and grinned to herself as she felt a bone prick the inside of her cheek. She’d eaten the packet of fish seven times lately without finding it. The bone was always there, but tiny and easy to miss. Finding it made her feel lucky.

It was going to be another beautiful day in infinity.

———•———

BLOGSTER login: Welcome, SapphoJuice!

[Cinco de myass, the year 2 bajillion and 2]

SPINNYSPINNYSPINNY

Hi, all. Thanks for the warm greetings. My daily routine includes two hours of spinning around in my desk chair. My mom never used to let me do it before, so…whee!

Yes, Marguille, your guess as to the origin of my username is correct; I am indeed a squealing Herbert fanboy (sorry, Conty, not a lesbian =P). Only got Children Of in my studio, though. Sucks donkey balls. Big hairy fat ones.

Ah, c’mon, Twen, specthreading is fun and oh so good for you. Granted, it’s pretty much a complete waste to wonder how and why the quantum proliferation occurred because we can’t do dick to fix it…. And granted, the BumBloggers do seem to have the same arguments over and over (and over and over) again…but hey, there’s comfort in the routine. Right? Right? ::listens to crickets::

Hel: wow, Japan? You must have been quite the adventurer, before.

———•———

Jogging; she loved it. The rhythmic pounding of the hardpack under her sneakers. The mantra of her breathing. She would never have taken up jogging if there’d still been people around to watch her, maybe point and laugh at the jiggly big-boned sistah trying to be FloJo. Before the prolif she’d only just begun to shed her self-consciousness around the Japanese. They rarely stared when she could see them, and her students had gotten used to her by then, but on the street she’d always felt the pressure of the neighbors’ gazes against her back, skittering away from her peripheral vision when she turned. The days of Sambo dolls at the corner store were mostly over, but not a lot of Japanese had seen black people anywhere except on television. My parents must’ve felt the same during grad school in Des Moines, she’d always told herself to put things in perspective. It hadn’t helped much.

Now, free from the pressure of those gazes, she could run. She was fit and strong and free.

Around her the barren, cracked desert stretched unbroken for as far as the eye could see.

———•———

BLOGSTER login: Welcome, KT!

[Saturdayish, The House That Time Forgot]

Fighting the lonelies. Everybody still out there? Conty? Guille? Hel? Twen? (Hi, Sapp.) I haven’t heard from MadHadder either. What if the silence got him?

Don’t want to think about that. Topic change. Did you know Mr. Hissyfit keeps going through the rollovers, too? I guess cats do think.

Sappjuice, it sounds like you’re living in Fimbulwinter (sp?). I’ve got grassy plain. It’s boring, but at least I know it can’t kill me. You have my e-sympathies.

———•———

She liked best the fact that the day started over after about ten hours. Incomplete reality, incomplete time. She’d stayed awake to watch the rollover numerous times, but for a phenomenon that should’ve been a string-theorist’s wet dream, it was singularly unimpressive. Like watching a security camera video loop: dull scene, flicker, resume dull scene. Though once the flicker passed there was grilled fish and stale milk in her fridge again, and her alarm clock buzzed to declare that 7:00 a.m. had returned. Only her mind remained the same.

She usually went to bed a few hours after the second alarm. That gave her time to print out the latest novella making the rounds in cyberspace, read it in the bath, and maybe work on her own would-be masterpieces. It didn’t bother her that the poems she wrote erased themselves every rollover. If she wanted to keep them, she posted them online where the mingling of so many minds kept time linear. But doing that exposed the fragile words to the scrutiny of others, and sometimes it was better to just let them vanish.

She decided to post the latest one to share with her friends. The new boy wasn’t a friend, not yet, but maybe he had friend-potential.

———•———

BLOGSTER login: Welcome, Marguille!

[Sunday, 5 Marguille’sMonth, 2 years A.P., 2 a.m.]

I agree with Twen; specthredding is evil. But I can’t help it; been reading the Bumwankers stuff (I know, I know). my vote has always been for the government theory. $87 bil. for an “emergency fund”? Shyeah. Probly only took half that to build some knd of new super-weapon, or hotwire a particle acelerator. “I know! Let’s shoot some protons at the terrorists! Yeah! Oops, we bro,ke the universe!”

But seriously…I keep thinking that somewhere out there, normal reality still exists. no, scratch that — I know it exists, because it’s possible. Fun with quantum theory! ‘Course, that means oblivion exists too. (This is what we get for letting that guy Shröedinger experiment on his cat. Should’ve sicked PETA on him.)

SappJuice, don’t feel bad about your studio. Hel’s Japanese apartment’s probably half the size of yours. (What do you call half a studio? A closet? ::ducks rotten tomatoes from Japan::) Anyway, it’s not like the rest of us are so much better off. What difference does a few square feet make when they’re the same square feet every damn day?

———•———

She got the email just before she would’ve gone to bed. The ding from her computer surprised her. Weblogs worked, as did other forms of public communication. Direct, private contact was impossible. Individual-to-individual relays — instant messaging, email — worked, but were always iffy. Most people just didn’t bother to try; too disappointing. And then there were the rumors.

But she read the email anyway.

“To: Hel

From: SapphoJuice

Subject: Hi

Helen (seems so weird to say your full name),

Hope you get this. I read the poem you posted in your blog. I just wanted to say…it wasn’t beautiful, but it did move me. Made me remember the way things used to be, and made me realize I don’t really mind that the old world is gone. I got put in a garbage can by football players *every day* during my freshman year. My mom always used to tell me I’d never amount to anything. How could I miss that? Anyway.

I guess the only thing that bothers me now is the silence. And sometimes I don’t even mind that, but sometimes the snow just gets to me. Why the hell couldn’t my pocket universe have formed around an *interesting* environment? I could dig an endless beach, maybe an endless forest. No, I get snow. It’s so quiet. It never stops falling. I can’t go out far without losing the apartment in the haze. Sometimes I want to just keep walking into the white, who cares? Then I read your poem.

Sappy (yeah, I know)”

She sat at her computer savoring the newness of the moment.

———•———

BLOGSTER login: Welcome, KT!

[Ohwhocares? Someday, somewhen]

Mr. Hissyfit got out. I tried to catch him but he just ran straight away into the grass. I keep going out to call for him, but he must be too far away to hear me.

Stupid cat. Stupid goddamn cat. I can’t stop crying.

———•———

She emailed SapphoJuice back and told him that she had only feared the silence once. That had been right after the prolif, when she’d still been adjusting. She’d started running and hadn’t stopped; just put her head down and cranked her arms like pistons and hauled ass as fast as her legs would take her, as far as her lungs could fuel. When she’d looked around the apartment was gone, swallowed into the cracked-earth landscape. Instant panic. The apartment was only a fragment of reality, but it was her fragment of reality, her only connection to the other incomplete miniverses that now made up existence. Even before the prolif she had been happiest there.

She could admit that, now, to him. But back on the day she’d run too far she’d been in a panic, her grip on sanity slipping by cogs. It had taken the threat of true isolation, of wandering lost through endless wastelands until thirst or exposure killed her, to make her see the apartment as haven and not prison. So half-blinded by tears she had run back, thanking God that her shoes were cheap. One of them had an uneven sole which scuffed a little crescent-shaped mark into the dusty soil. The moon had led her home.

———•———

BLOGSTER login: Welcome Conty!

RED ALERT

[Day 975 (yeah right I actually keep count in my head)]

KT no more kidding. Fight it. Don’t think about the damn cat. Go out and run — you can go pretty far from your house in the grass, can’t you? Eat something.

Hell, eat everything; it’s not like it won’t come back at rollover.

Talk to us.

———•———

The emails she sent didn’t always go through. More than once she had to send them again when they bounced or, more often, simply never got a response. She saw the bounce histories in his attachments and knew that he’d had to send his multiple times, too. Just another day post-prolif.

She did not tell the others about the private correspondence, and neither did he. She knew what her friends would have said. It became something special, secret, a little titillating. As the days passed her dreams changed. Now the man creeping about her room had a face and a much less sinister demeanor. Now he looked like a skinny, geeky teenager, whose shy smile was for her alone.

———•———

BLOGSTER login: Welcome, Marguille!

[Jan. 37 errordate errortime 12:5g0k p.m.]

SILENCE.

You guys want to chat? I need some facetime. I think KT’s gone.

———•———

Over the exchanges she shared her life story with him. Growing up less than middle-class, trying to act less than upper-class. The teasing in elementary school because she “talked proper” and couldn’t dance. Her first boyfriend, a white boy — she’d been too guilt-ridden to bring him home to meet her parents, and they’d broken up because of her shame. Her next boyfriend, the one she’d almost married until she found out he was cheating on her. Graduating college and feeling the isolation grow in her life. Few friends, none of them local. No lovers. She’d always been an only child, a lonely child; she was used to it. The prospect of a couple of years in Japan hadn’t seemed all that daunting because what difference did it make, after all?

He told her about himself. Second generation American-born Chinese, too free-spirited for the rigidly traditional family into which he’d been born, too shy to face the world without the shield of a book. No girlfriends; the girls he’d liked had been more interested in jocks and red-blooded rich boys. Never brave enough to venture far from home, the internet had become his realm, and in it he thrived. He was a Big Name Fan in certain circles, known for his biting wit and brutal honesty. The prolif had barely slowed him down.

She worried about what might happen as the clandestine exchanges continued, but never mentioned her fears to him. She’d begun to enjoy herself too much; the “incoming mail” chime was enough to make her heart race with excitement. She had to force herself out for her daily runs.

It helped that the more they talked, the more reliable the relaying became. Pretty soon messages were going through after only two or three tries, and not bouncing at all.

———•———

IRC session start: Sun? MarEMBJune datetime error

*** marguille sets mode: +o TwenWen Conty Helen sappjuice

> Log set and active! TwenWen logging!

<marguille> dunno why you’re logging, twen. it’s judst a chat.

<TwenWen> Not just a chat. MadHadder and KT’s memorial service.

* Conty sighs.

* Helen observes a moment of silence.

<marguille> ditto. y’know…I herd more spec the other day.

* Conty groans.

* Helen sighs.

* TwenWen waits for Marguille’s spec…and waits…and waits.

<TwenWen>…lagged?

<marguille> this one sounds like it’s from the eggheads who did this. here it is: decoherence. when things in a quantum state are coupled to thuings outside that state, both systems collapse. no lag, 2-finger-typing lots, sorry.

<Conty> Yeah, that’s egghead all right

* Helen wishes she had a nickel for every egghead spec…but where would she put them all?

*** sappjuice changes topic to “The Egghead Pyramid Scheme!”

*TwenWen giggles.

<marguille> seriously… you heard abut HafCafLatay?

<marguille> she got email from her MOM.

<marguille> as soon as she read it…poof. none of her blogfriends ever heard fm her again.

<Conty> WTF does that have to do with incoherence???

* TwenWen says, “DEcoherence. And I can use other big words, like ‘marmalade’.”

<Conty> Whatever. Still WTF

<sappjuice> There’s spec that *we’re* in a quantum state, y’know, each of us. Endless partial variations on the same world, same time…

<Conty> What, so if we ever have contact with somebody in another reality, we’ll disappear?

* marguille is typing.

<marguille> the eggheds say it matters if the connection is strong or weajk. the stronger the coupling, the faster the collapse. weak couplings last a long time, maybe even stabilize. vbut with really strong couplings the collapse is nearly instant.

<TwenWen> Ooh, coupling! Wink wink nudge nudge say no more.

<TwenWen> Seriously…you’re saying coupling = personal ties? Coupling *to other people*?

<marguille> yep. we’re already weakly connected, or we wouldn’t be able to talk like this. but strong connections are emotional. HafCaf found her mom and…silence. Both of ‘em.

<marguille> sucks, don’t it.

<Conty> Ohdamn.

<sappjuice> Huh?

<Conty> I forgot, rollover’s about to

*** Conty has been disconnected.

<marguille> Fuck.

<TwenWen> Um, I rollover in 10 mins.

<sappjuice> Maybe we should cut this short, then. Nice seeing everybody face to face, so to speak.

* Helen agrees.

* marguille sighs and waves.

<marguille> back to blogdom then. Toodles.

*** marguille has logged off.

*** TwenWen has stopped logging.

*** TwenWen has logged off.

<sappjuice> So it’s just you and me. Wanna email?

<Helen> Yeah.

*** Helen has logged off.

*** sappjuice has logged off.

Session Close: Mon? Time? Deeeeeeeechgkl#@ ^^^^

———•———

Just spec, she told herself over the next few days. Too many people had expected a more dramatic apocalypse; now they cried wolf at every shadow. Some of their theories sounded right, but most were cockamamie — like Guille’s implication that friendship, family, love, could be the reason that some people just disappeared. That would mean the only people still alive across the proliferated realities were those whose ties to the world had been weak from the beginning.

Those who’d lived alone. Those who’d been socially isolated. Not the completely disconnected ones; people without ‘net access would’ve gone stark raving within days after the prolif. But the loosely-connected ones, who interacted with others only when they had to, or through a screen. Those who’d maintained just enough connection to keep them sane, then. Just enough connection to keep them alive, now.

Just spec, she thought again as the alarm clock buzzed. She hadn’t slept in two rollovers. Not me.

New habit. She sat up and reached over to her laptop, which rested on a low table beside the futon, and tapped its touchpad to wake it up. It chimed as the screen lit; she had mail.

“Helen,

I know this is risky, stupid, cheesy, whatever. But I can’t help myself. I’ve never met you and never will, but…some things you can feel no matter what. They used to say this was all just pheromones, but that’s crap. I’ve never smelled you and I only have my imagination to tell me what you look like. But I have to say this because it’s true.

I love you.

I wish oh shit I didn’t believe it but it’s true”

No sig. Not even a period at the end of the last sentence. He’d had enough time to send, but not to finish first.

Not me, her mind whispered, and not him. Please, not him.

And as the walls of her tiny apartment began to warp and the barren landscape beyond her window vanished, she had time to click on the bookmark for her blog’s “update” form and type a single line.

“The way out, or the end? Sapp’s gone to see. I’m going too.”

She hit “post” as reality folded into silence.



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