Recall Chronicles, Volume II – Shadow of the Hare –Chapter One
The café was down a couple of side streets, in an area of Dallas I hadn’t visited for decades. As soon as I sat down I saw her and I couldn’t help but stare. It had to be Jenda. I saw her looking at me and so I slid down off the bar stool and walked over to her table.
“You’re Jenda Swain,” I said, smiling and hoping she’d say, “And you’re Malia Poole!” But she didn’t. I hadn’t seen her in almost ninety years and it was clear she’d been taking the age prophylaxis, the miracle drug Chulel that kept everyone young in our 22nd-century world. Almost everyone. She was giving me that look—that what-the-zujo-is-an-old-woman-like-you-doing-in-my-world look—followed by the averted eyes.
“Of course you don’t remember.” I pulled out a chair and sat across from her. “Nobody remembers much of anything anymore.” I looked down at my wrinkled, age-splotched hands and then up into her smooth, fresh face. It was hard to believe I was two years younger than Jenda. “I idolized you and your boyfriend, you know. Such temerity. The things you did…” I was hoping to elicit some of those things from her or perhaps startle myself into recalling what some of them were.
She said nothing, glancing around the café as if to offer an apology for my presence. For my existence.
A memory suddenly came to me, a full-color portrait of Jenda as she was in high school. Not this business-suited twit, but a passionate firebrand of a girl. An artist?
“Do you still paint?” I wasn’t giving up. “You always had your mom’s gift for art.”
Jenda was clearly embarrassed and growing quietly angry. But I thought I detected the old passion under the surface. Come on Jenda—show me some of the old spunk.
She avoided my gaze. “I think you must have made some mistake.” Her tone was flat, dismissive. “You may know my name, but you clearly don’t know me.”
Her face flushed slightly. Was that a glimmer of recognition in her eyes? Leaning forward, I looked into those eyes. “You need to ask more questions,” I said. I pushed my chair back and rose to go. “You’re the one who doesn’t know who Jenda Swain is.”
My tears began to fall as soon as I was out on the street. I felt betrayed. Damn these disconnected memories! I have more memories than most people these days, but there’s that one year from high school—the period when I’m sure I knew Jenda best—that’s always been a blank. At least until recently. It’s cruelly ironic that now I’ve reached an age when normal memories start to fade, these submerged ones begin to wash up like shards of sea glass on a beach. I write them down, cataloging them like curios of uncertain provenance.
After I left the café, I couldn’t stop thinking about Jenda. She felt like a key to something. I may not remember a lot about her, but I do know that up-tight little prude with the pressed lapels isn’t the girl I knew in high school. I’m pretty sure that back then she was a passionate Vintagonist. Something had happened to her, something very different from what has happened to me.
Vintagonists—just so you know—are people who cherish and preserve old things, not as things in themselves but as links to our past, reminders of shared experiences, repositories of our stories. In the late 2020s and into the ‘30s, the movement was popular among young people like me and like Jenda Swain. While the corporations pushed us toward high consumption of infinitely recyclable short-cycle goods, Vintagonists celebrated antiques, vintage things, and so-called mementos. To signal our rebellion, we wore badly mended clothes salvaged from the recycle bins, dyed our hair in shades of sepia, and adorned ourselves with relics like lockets and pendants. I still wear one of those, although mine has a more personal significance. We fed one another’s rebelliousness in frequent meetings and acts of protest that employed poems and songs and art. The movement dissipated after a while but never went away. Its roots ran deep.
Almost a century later, I feel once again the pull of the old ideas, a riptide tugging at my foundations. I’d found a place where I could have lived out the rest of my days in peace without having to deal with the outside world, but instead here I am, walking around in the corporate fantasyland where everyone is young—young and cheerful and bright. But I find it’s a flat white brightness—no spark, no color. People stare at me—like Jenda did—and then they don’t see me at all. I disappear. I don’t belong in their world and so they white me out.
I began making my way back toward my sister Leticia’s habitat. I knew she’d organized an event for the following night at her place. She’d told me that Jenda’s high school boyfriend Montagne would be there. I hadn’t seen him in, what? Almost ninety years? Maybe Montagne would have some answers. The only thing was for me to decide if I wanted to ask the questions.
I’m a refugee here, uncertain about what comes next, uncertain, too, about some of what went before, especially during that blank period, sometime around the age of fifteen. The past, for me, has generally been constructed from old novels; I adore historical novels. But with these strange memories drifting back, I feel it’s time to reconstruct my own past, my personal history, and to find out just how much I can recall.
Here’s another PREVIEW – read by the author!
Book III – Flight of the Owl – coming in October 2016!
Recall Chronicles, Volume I – Way of the Serpent – Chapter One
The café was down a couple of side streets, in an area of Dallas Jenda never went to, but she thought she might have been to the café once before. She couldn’t remember. Without looking at the menu, she ordered a grilled cheese sandwich with fried potatoes and sweet tea. It was plain food, but she liked it. She was halfway through her meal, savoring the anonymity afforded by this out-of-the-way eatery as much as the greasy food, when she noticed the woman who had turned on her stool at the café’s counter to stare.
The woman was old. That in itself was disturbing. Nobody got old anymore, not since Chulel – the drug that prevented aging – had come on the market a hundred years ago. Jenda, at 111, was as fresh and vigorous as she had been in 2035 when, at the age of 22, she had received her first annual Chulel treatment. Jenda’s grandmother was 165, but appeared no older than she had when she began taking Chulel in her mid-sixties. What was this old woman doing in Jenda’s world?
Jenda turned away, but she could still feel the woman’s dark eyes boring into her, probing. Jenda couldn’t help herself; she looked again. When the woman saw her looking, she smiled.
“Zujo!” Jenda swore, quickly returning her attention to her unfinished sandwich. It was too late. Taking the look as an invitation, the woman dropped down from her counter stool and shuffled over to Jenda’s table.
“You’re Jenda Swain,” she said, cocking her head to one side and narrowing her eyes. “God, you look the same as you did in high school.”
“Excuse me?” Jenda sat up straighter and used her best business voice.
“Of course you don’t remember,” the woman said, dragging out the chair across from Jenda and sitting down heavily. “Nobody remembers much of anything anymore.” She shrugged and looked down at her hands. Jenda looked, too. The woman’s hands were wrinkled, misshapen, and covered in brown and red splotches. “I remember you, though,” she continued, looking up into Jenda’s face. “My god, you were a firebrand back then. I idolized you and your boyfriend, you know. Such temerity! The things you did…” The woman refused to turn away. “Do you still paint? You always had your mom’s gift for art.”
“I think you must have made some mistake,” Jenda said quietly, fighting to modulate her voice against the tightening in her throat. “You may know my name, but you clearly don’t know me. Nothing you are saying makes any sense at all.” Jenda felt her cheeks warm as she flashed on an image of herself with an easel and paintbrush. Her last bite of sandwich seemed to have lodged somewhere near the base of her esophagus. “Now, would you please go on your way? Leave me alone.” Jenda blinked, shuttering herself away from this intrusive presence.
The woman’s face clouded and she leaned forward, looking Jenda squarely in the eye. “You need to ask more questions.” She spoke the words clearly and forcefully. Then she pushed her chair away from the table with a loud scraping noise. As she leaned over to pick up the leather bag she had dropped under the chair, the pendant around her neck clanked on the table top. It was an old fashioned timepiece, the kind with a round face with numbers and moving hands. Jenda reflexively reached up to grasp her own necklace, a cluster of plexiform flowers in the latest style from her favorite recyclables boutique. The woman took in a deep breath, as if rising from the chair had taxed her strength. She looked at Jenda again. “You’re the one who doesn’t know who Jenda Swain is.” Her voice was gentle, maybe sad. Then she turned and walked out the front door.