the girl in the sky Originally written by GS Jackson, November 1995 © 2002 - 2007 LOL Entertainment Group, LLC Tonight is the night, Michael Jeffs thought. He sat up on his elbows, laying on his stomach, and his body stretched out across his bed. His face was up next to the pane of his bedroom window. His breathing left a little fogged place that would disappear when he breathed in. Tonight I'll find out. The tiny blots of different colored lights above him in the sky looked beautiful. Some were yellow. Some white. Some were a deep blue. Bringing his binoculars up to his eyes, they accidentally clanged against the pane. Michael froze. His heart started beating fast. He wasn't supposed to be up this late. If mom comes in here, I'm dead. But the apartment remained quiet. Not a sound from his mother's room. He breathed out slowly. But how can you sleep when you're not sleepy? He had slept most of the day already. Today had been declared another oxygen day. All businesses and schools were closed down. All the television stations were off the air. People were encouraged to simply sleep during oxygen days. No moving around, working, or activity of any kind. Michael didn't know why. I'll ask mom tomorrow, he thought. He overheard someone at school say if you didn't sleep during an oxygen day, you would die. Anyway, the guy he overheard didn't like Michael much so he was probably just saying it to scare him. But Michael wasn't afraid. He scooted back a little from the window, tightening his bed sheets against his legs. Slowly, he brought the binoculars up. Tonight before I fall asleep, I'll look at the clock. But I'll do it kind of gently. Subconsciously even. That way I won't actually wake up. Then I’ll be able to remember the exact time I went to sleep. There were the tops of the trees almost hanging upside down but at an angle. Just below them was a view of the top apartment of the complex. All the windows of it were dark. But he had in the past spied Dawn coming out to sit on her patio, now and then looking upward in Michael's direction. But tonight the patio was empty. Michael sighed disappointedly. He called her Dawn, but it wasn't her name. Her side of the colony received the sun first. The morning always began on her side. So he thought a fitting name would be Dawn. He had watched her for three months now. It was an accident how he found her. He was leisurely searching the other sides of the colony. When looking at the right side, in a park, he had saw people jogging, kids swimming, and in the same lake but on a different edge, people sat fishing. And suddenly he became bored, and whirled his binoculars to a gray cement building piercing out from the trees. That’s when he saw her. She was standing on her patio, leaning against the guard rail, and looking down on the people below her complex. She had a notepad and a pen. She would write a little, bite the end of her pen, and then write again. She had dark brown, shoulder length hair. He loved her tiny black eye brows. Then there were her chocolate eyes. Not to forget her gentle bronze skin. Often, like the first time he had seen her, she wore sleeveless shirts showing her bare, graceful arms Sometimes he blushed and looked away if she would stare up in his direction. It was like she was looking right at him. One day, I'll meet her. Michael suddenly yawned. He pulled down his binoculars and looked past his feet at the digital clock. 10:45. He turned back toward the window and tried to look at the ground through the tree branches crowding in front of his apartment complex, but they were too thick. He breathed out hard and fogged up a bigger place on his window, then he held his breath to see how long the fogged up place would stay. His face was almost blue when the spot had almost evaporated. Finally, he couldn’t hold it anymore and blew out a big huff of air, and the window clouded up again. One day, I'll run away from here. I'll go somewhere and become rich and powerful. Then everybody will be sorry. They won't make fun of me then. Michael yawned again. Then I'll go over to her side. One day, I'll meet her. "Michael..." a voice said. A hand gently shook his shoulder. He was asleep on his folded arms, binoculars below his elbow, and his brown hair pressed against the window pane.
"Michael," the voice said again. His eyes opened slowly and he saw his mother. A woman with blonde hair put up in a bun, still very young except for the lines under her eyes. She wore pink pajamas. Michael had bought them for her birthday last year with money he had earned from working at her office. Suddenly realizing how he was laying, Michael jumped up on his hands and knees and scrambled down into his bed. "It's no use now. You were up last night looking through the window again, weren't you?" His body stopped and looked up. "Yes, ma'm." "Michael, you're only hurting yourself. I just don't want you to get around me cranky because you didn't get enough rest. Do you want me to take those binoculars away?" "No." He wanted to say it louder and with more conviction, but he knew it would let on what his fondness was. Then she would be able to manipulate him by giving or taking away his binoculars. He loved those binoculars. His mother had once said they were his father's. She leaned over and kissed him on the top of his head. "You're breakfast is ready." She turned to leave. "Mom?" "Yes?" He threw his legs off the side of the bed and sat up. "Why do we have oxygen days?" She paused to think and then shrugged her shoulders. "Has something to do with a build up of carbon dioxide inside the colony or something like that. I think they drain the air supply a little so they can purify it. But I'm not sure. I'm just guessing. Ask your teacher when you get to school." Michael let out a grunt. "Yeah right." "Are you having problems with your teachers again?" His mother was very concerned with the way his teachers treated him. It used to upset her, and Michael didn't want to upset her anymore. "No." "Are you sure? If they are treating you bad, tell me." "No, I promise. They're fine." "Alright. Come on. You're breakfast is getting cold." And she left the room, leaving his bedroom door open. At the end of the hall, he saw the kitchen lights and smelled the butter and toast. Michael slapped his forehead lightly. I forgot to look at the clock to see the exact time I went to sleep! He stood up and began walking toward the bathroom. Oh well. There's tonight. At the start, Michael sat alone on the train to school. Then two stops after getting on, a man in a gray colony uniform sat beside him for a little while, but then he got off two stops after that. Michael and the few kids who lived at his apartment complex went the furthermost distance to get to the middle school at the other end of their side of the colony. When he graduated to the ninth grade, he would only have to go two stops from his apartment to get to the high school. He only had two more years. He could hardly wait. That meant he wouldn't have to get up so darned early. When the train wasnâ€™t waiting at a station, the train tunnel was very dark except for the occasional red or green light that would streak by to mark the tracks it hovered on. The yellow lights overhead inside the
train made Michael's skin look orangish or even brownish. Almost like I have a tan or something, he remarked. The train began to jerk a little, and slowly it stopped at the Ferguson station. The darkness disappeared and the walkways and people of the Ferguson station rushing busily about appeared in his window. Michael tensed up. A lot of kids from his class would be getting on. Most of them didn't like him. He quickly decided to just stare out the window and count the lights as that blazed by. Maybe he would think about his binoculars or about Dawn or about both. The doors opened, and the kids crammed in noisily. They were laughing and pushing and talking. The younger ones ran to their seats first. Then when the older ones arrived, they would just push the younger ones out of their way and sit where they pleased. The first and second graders would then have to triple up on seats or stand up holding on to the handrails. Yet, Michael noticed some of the little kids were beginning to develop spunk. Some were resisting. They would refuse to budge by kicking and biting or they would simply cry. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't. Michael had compassion for two third graders and told them they could sit with him. They bounced in and oddly enough sat quietly. Michael went back to starring out the window at the blackness of the tunnel. He remembered when he was in the third grade, from Ferguson station on, he had always been forced to stand. "Isn't that Michael Jeffs sitting in front of us?" a voice said. Two of Michael's classmates had chosen to sit in the seat behind him. Michael gripped his book bag and slid down in his seat a little wishing so much he would just suddenly disappear. "Yeah, that creep." Michael began repeating what his mother had told him to think when people began making fun of him. Only the ignorant ridicule. Only the ignorant ridicule. "He's a freak you know. He has no father. What kid has no father?" "Clone children don't." Only the ignorant ridicule. Only the ignorant ridicule. "I heard his mother was a stowaway. She's not even supposed to be here. My father said that she almost jeopardized the entire colony. If she would have had twins or something, the whole balance would be thrown off. Families could starve. The extra carbon dioxide from extra bodies could deplete our oxygen supply and we could die." "No, no. That's not what I heard. I heard he's not human at all. I heard he really is a clone, but he's a test model of a new kind that is supposed to really feel and think and learn. An artificially intelligent clone or something." There was a pause in the conversation like the voices were contemplating what had been just said. "He's just an experiment, huh?" The voice laughed. "What a freak." The blackness outside the tunnel isn't so bad, Michael thought as he gazed out. At least it's peaceful. At least it's quiet. Pete came in with a packet of hand towels for the dispenser. It was his last bathroom in the Ford station scheduled to be sanitized. It appeared empty. None of the bathroom urinals were being used. Then he
noticed one bathroom stall had it's door shut. Pete leaned over slightly and saw shoes. He walked back out and took a mop from his cart. I'll mop around the urinals first, then I'll do the stalls. He had cleaned these sinks last night so he wasn't going to do them again until tomorrow. That was his rotation. One morning, do the sinks. One morning, do the floors. Then repeat. Pete began to scrub the floor. But then he heard a noise. A strange noise. It was quiet at first, then suddenly it became louder. Then it would muffle. Pete stopped to listen. It was coming from the shut stall. Pete stood the mop against the wall and walked up to it. It was a whimpering. Maybe even a crying. "Hello?" There was no answer. But Pete could still hear gentle sobbing. "Hello? My name is Pete. Are you okay in there?" He leaned over to look at the shoes underneath the stall door a little closer, but whoever was sitting in the stall must have noticed, and they quickly slipped their feet upward hiding them from view. It didnâ€™t matter. Pete had seen enough to notice the shoes were smaller than a man's and were fashionable. Something a teenager might wear. "I know you're in there. You can't hide. I also know you're crying. Maybe I can help." The shoes slowly came back down to the floor. "What was your name again?" a soft voice asked. "Pete. My name is Pete. And yours?" "That's not important." The stall sniffled. "Well, excuse me." Pete said sarcastically. He leaned back against the sinks trying to peek in-between the crack where the door hinged, but he couldn't make anyone out. "Can I ask why you're crying?" Pete heard the toilet paper roll rattle a little, and then the soft tear as it was ripped. Then the stall blew it's nose. "I'm tired of people making fun of me." Pete turned around and looked in the mirror at himself. He began to straighten his navy blue custodian hat. "Why are they making fun of you?" He rubbed his hand across his chin to feel the scrap of his white whiskers coming up from his dark brown skin. "I don't know." the stall shot back. "Is it something you did?" "No." "Maybe they're jealous." "Of what?" Pete turned back around and rested against the white sink counter. "You." "No." "You never know." The stall blew it's nose again. "They say I'm a freak because I have no father. They say I'm a clone." There was a pause, and the gentle crying began again. Then finally a gentle broken voice said, "They think Iâ€™m a mistake."
"Do you think you were a mistake?" "That's a stupid question," the stall responded angrily. "No, it's not." "No, I'm not a mistake! I'm living, aren't I?" "Good. That's right. Never forget that." A man in a silver environment suit rushed inside to one of the urinals. He bobbed up and down on his feet as he fiddled with opening his fly. When finally it opened, he sighed gently as he relieved himself. Pete remained quiet as did the person in the stall. The man turned, noticed Pete standing there, and nodded. "Good morning, sir," Pete said. "Good morning." the man replied back. He shook and fastened his crotch and walked out quickly. "How do you find out if you're a clone?" the stall asked. The voice shaking. Pete smiled. "If you're a clone, you don't have to ask. You're genetically programmed to know." The stall went silent for a moment. "You're a clone, aren't you?" Pete smiled broader. "Yes, I am. All of us janitorial types usually are. They can't allow human genetic roulette to do mundane tasks. Heaven forbid we should have delusions of grandeur." "Do you ever wish you were human?" "No." Pete shook his head. "Because we're not programmed to wish." The stall was persistent. "But if you could wish, would you wish to be human?" Pete shrugged his shoulders. "You don't understand. I don't know what you mean when you say `wish'." The stall went quiet. "Don't you need to be in school?" Pete asked. "It's way past eight o'clock." "I'm not going to school." "Then what are you going to do?" "I'm going to run away." Pete almost laughed, but stopped himself. "Where are you going to run to? You're in a colony. We're nearly thirty light years away from earth. You've never even stepped on the surface of a round planet. You've lived in an upward curved environment for so long you would puke if you landed on a round planet." "I didn't say I wanted to go to earth! I just said I was running away." "And I'm saying, where are you going to run to? Where is there to go?"
"That's for me to know." The stall door latch clicked, and the door swung inward, and Michael stepped out. He looked Pete in the eyes accusingly. Pete could see the redness from crying in Michael's eyes. "Thanks." Michael paused and made a scowl. "Thanks for nothing." Then he went out. The stairway leading up to the apartment was clear, but any second someone could pop out and spot him so Michael hurried up the steps. He pressed his hand against the door to unlock it. The black panel his palm pressed against flashed white, and the door unlatched. Michael rushed inside and leaned back against the door, shutting it, trying to catch his breath. The lights above him came on automatically. He looked around and saw no signs that his mom was still in the apartment. Just get my binoculars, some clothes, maybe some food, and get out. Michael turned and quietly ran down the hall to his room. It was still in a mess like he had left it. The bed was unmade. Papers were scattered across his desk. "Hello, Michael." He froze. Then he recognized the voice as his computer. It sat at attention on the table at the foot of his bed. The screen flashing family pictures of him and his mother. The screen saver was his mother’s idea. "Turn off." Michael commanded heading for his closet. "Are you sure? Please answer yes or no." "Yes." The screen went blank and the power light went out. Michael found a blue duffle bag on the top shelf. He tugged at it, and it fell between his hands. He picked it up, went to his clothes chest, and pulled out pants, underwear, socks, and T-shirts stuffing all of them inside. When he had all he thought he could tote, he took another quick glance around the room. Is there anything else? He moved over to his bed and took the binoculars that were partially hidden by the white bed sheets. Suddenly he paused and thought for a moment. Finally, Michael lowered his bag to the floor and squeezed up to the window. A nearby sun lit the entire colony now. If he looked straight, he could see his side of the colony green and plush, an occasional gray cement structure jutting above the tree line, and the green land moving out towards the round metallic hub on the horizon. The sides curved slightly upward until they tapered off and there was a transparent glass gap. You wouldn’t even notice the glass if it didn’t reflect back images of the interior of the colony. The glass rounded upward to the next plate of land. This land was just as green. Having just as many buildings sticking up from out of the undergrowth. Accept for this land was upside down slanting to the right. Another gap of glass at the very top of the colony lead up to the edge of a second emerald strip of land arching to Michael's left and downward. Upside down and angling to the left. A final glass tract connected to Michael's side. From the outside, in space, it was all a gigantic cylinder, holding three wide green stripes, equally spaced by seas of glass. In the center, in the sky, hung in limbo, were tiny puffy white clouds. Used mostly for decoration. Sometimes they would emit a light rain if enough soil irrigation evaporated. And though the colony was lit brightly and shined, the glass expanses left the black of space to look out into. Stars were even visible. If seen from the outside, in space, the colony was all a gigantic cylinder, holding three wide green stripes, equally spaced by seas of glass. Michael lifted the binoculars to his eyes, focusing on the land to the right in the sky where Dawn lived. He was so trained to the place, he found her apartment almost immediately. Her windows remained dark, and again, she wasn't on the patio. "I'm coming to see you, Dawn." he said aloud.
"I don't think so," a voice said behind him. Michael jumped and whirled around to see his mother standing in the doorway, wearing a red business suit and a very angry expression. "What are you doing home?! You're supposed to be in school right now!" "I don't know." Michael nudged his leg at his duffle bag trying to push it under his bed, but the motion attracted his mother's attention. "What is that?" "What is what?" She stomped up into his face, leaned over, and threw the book bag on his bed. "This! Don't try to be coy with me, young man! What are you doing?" Michael swallowed hard. He was shaking now. "Nothing." "Were you about to leave?" Her eyes grew moist. "Huh?" He said nothing. "You were about to leave, weren't you?" He didn't respond for a minute, afraid of what to say, but then reluctantly he nodded. Two streams, full and wet, came rolling down her cheeks. "Why, baby? Why would you leave me?" She snatched him to her, hugging him as tightly as she could. She buried her face in the top of his head, tears flowing harsh and strong. He sank his head into her breast. He began to cry, too. "I didn't mean to hurt you, mom..." His voice broke and he couldn't talk anymore. They stood and wept against each other. "Why? Am I not a good mother? I'll try harder." "No, that's not it." "Am I too harsh? Do I not spend enough time with you?" "No." "Do I demand too much of you? Do I take you for granted?" "No, mom. It's not any of that." She lifted his chin with her hand and put his eyes in hers. "Then what?" He sniffed in a big breath. "I'm a failure." Then he drew himself snug to her, his face on her shoulder. His tears leaving a dark damp spot on the top of her sleeve. "A failure?" She chuckled through her gasps of breath. "Baby, you are far from a failure. " She rubbed his head gently.
"But you don't go to school with me. You don't hear what everybody says about me. They talk behind my back. They say it to my face. They laugh at me. No one associates with me. No one likes me. Why, mom? I'm no different than anyone else. What am I doing wrong?" "What do they say about you?" "I'm too embarrassed to tell you. I'm ashamed to tell you." "Do they talk about me, too?" Michael paused. "Yes." Then he cried harder. It was all spilling out. Why he had never told her until now the truth to why he cried. It was because of what he didn’t know. He felt condemned by a past he knew nothing about. By a father he never knew. By a mother who never spoke about it. Slowly, his crying lessened and he looked up. "Mom. Am I a clone?" She saw the fear in his eyes when he said it. "Wouldn't you think if you were a clone, you would know it?" "But I overheard these guys talking and saying I was a new kind of clone that feels and thinks on my own. So I figured that I wouldn't know if I was or not. So am I?" She kissed him on the forehead and smiled. "No. You're are not a clone. You're human. You're my son. I bore you through my womb." "Then why don't I have a father?" "He died." "I know. You've already told me that before. But why did he die? What was he doing?" His mother released him, walked to the other side of his bedroom and stared at the wall. "He didn't actually die in the physical sense. He died in my heart when he left us." "So my father's alive? Where is he? Is he on the colony?" "No." She shook her head and turned around. "I don’t know. I don’t care." Her face was grave. "Don't get your hopes up about him. He left us Michael. He wants nothing to do with us." "Why though? Why did he leave? Was he a spy? Was he a marine or something?" "No." Barry was completely puzzled. "Then why did he leave? He wouldn't have just abandoned us for no good reason, would he?" His mother stood silently looking at him. "Would he?" Little tears trickled to the corners of her mouth. "He would. He did. He just didn't love us, I guess." Michael stood stunned. He remembered all the teasing he had got for not having a father. Being the butt of all the jokes at school. Being called a freak. Sometimes the only thing that had given him hope was imagining what had happened to his father. He died in an explosion trying to save a family. He died protecting the colony. Imagining what his father was like. He’s probably real, real smart. Probably very generous and brave. But now there was this truth before Michael. His father was nothing. All that his
father had been to him was only what Michael had dreamed up and associated to him. His father was nothing. But then Michael realized, I don’t need a father. So what? I’ve never had one before. And Michael’s father died to him at that moment. "I love you, mom." "I love you, too, with all my heart." They stood apart and smiled at each other. "I promise you, I'll never leave you like that." he said. She smiled. She rubbed her fingers across her eyes to wipe away the tears. She reached out and grabbed his hand. "By the way. Who’s Dawn?" "What?" "When I came in, you said you were going to see Dawn. Who's Dawn?" "Come here." He motioned her over with his hand. She came near to him and he gave her his binoculars. "Look up there at that building up on the right that's sticking out from the trees." His mother put them up to her eyes and looked. "I don't see anything. Wait. I see a girl on a patio." His eyes lit up. "You do?" Michael asked enthusiastically. "Yeah. And she's very pretty." "She is?" She pulled the binoculars down. "Is that Dawn?" Michael nodded. Then he took the binoculars and looked up himself. He began to smile. "I'm going to call into work sick." "Can you do that?" "Watch me." "Does that mean I can stay out of school today?" "Yes." They both went quiet, and finally, Michael put down his binoculars. "Would you like to meet her?" his mom asked. Michael suddenly looked nervous. "Today?" "Yeah. Why not?" He thought about it for a moment and then shook his head. "She's my girl in the sky. I'd much rather imagine who she is than actually know. Because once I meet her, she’ll never be the girl in the sky anymore. She won’t be Dawn. She’ll be Peggy or Alice or whatever her name is." "So you never want to meet her?"
Michael shrugged his shoulders, and he looked up in Dawnâ€™s direction. "But I do meet her - every night."
Published on Jul 14, 2009