fine misty morning rain enveloped Jiva and her brown overallsher
cleaning shift overas she made her way out of the office
building, past the huge semi-circular steel benches, up the steps,
and right down Edward Street. Like a dripping tap, the clerical
workers would never notice her labours unless she ceased; then
the rubbish would begin to pile up around them. She was a verspertine
flower; that was the way it had to be, but not for much longer.
It would be her twenty-first birthday the next dayor rather,
it wouldnt. She could only really celebrate the day itself
on a leap year, when February 29th actually appeared on the calendar.
However, she would be twenty-one at last and she could finally
come out of the dark and start her life. Tonight shed slump
in front of the MultiMed Unit vidscreen and passively absorb any
of the rubbish that it fed to her, but tomorrow she would put
her temporally shifted body clock to good use. She would be legitimate
and Saturday night would be hers for the taking.
had lived in a State Orphanage since a baby. No one would tell
her what had happened to her parents, but she had no memories
of them anyway so perhaps it was for the best. Her maternal grandmother
was Jivas only living relative, but she resided in a nursing
home and child-care was out of the question. The institutionalised
upbringing left Jiva feeling hollow, displaced and otherworldly.
At the age of sixteen she ran away to Brighton. She had pretended
to befriend a boy in the year above her at school and, although
he was a shady character, he helped her to obtain the false ID
that she needed to make her escape. Without ID (false or otherwise)
she couldnt get a job and without a job she would be picked
up by the police, and returned to the orphanage, or else she would
be sucked into a dark and dangerous world. Nocturnal office cleaning
staff were always in demand and shed needed a job that provided
her with as much anonymity as possible, whilst she bided her time.
Jivas parents estate was tied-up in a trust fund,
only to be released on her twenty-first birthday. On that day
she could use her real name, eschew her alter ego, reenter society
and claim what was rightfully hers. Until that time she would
continue to live the life of what she termed: An Invisible.
smiled to herself as she rounded the corner into John Street,
quickly dropping her eyes to the pavement as a few early morning
commuters scurried past on their way to work. They didnt
see her. None of them ever did, she was cloaked to them all. Every
day she would cross the road to walk in front of the Police Station,
getting a perverse thrill from the potential danger, staying in
touch with her emotions. Then she saw him. Alone on the other
side of the road and walking in the same direction was a strikingly
handsome young man, probably not much older than herself, tall
and elegantly dressed. There was something about his clothes,
his gait, his calm demeanour, and a magnetic charm that compelled
her to audaciously cross the road and follow him. Her heartbeat
quickened, as did her step, and as she drew close she noticed
that his hair (collar-length and blonde like hers) seemed to sparkle
like sunlight reflected on the ocean.
gel, she whispered to herself. How strange for a boy;
perhaps hes been to a party.
was only a few feet away now and could see the source of his cranial
display, as tiny bright lights circled about his head. Jiva stopped
and drew back, both fascinated and scared. Suddenly he turned
to face her. They locked eyes for an instant, then he smiled as
if recognising a kindred spirit. She felt an overwhelming surge
of clarity, of destiny, of love and... enlightenment. The world
swam about her and by the time she had recovered, pulled herself
together and refocused on the street, Sparklehead was gone. She
was standing by a chest-height brick wall that held back a grassy
embankment, at the top of which ran an unbroken railing fence
with a hovercar park beyond. Unless hed broken into a sprint,
there was no way he could have reached the road junction in that
short space of time. There were no doorways or side passages in
the unbroken brick wall, and yet there was no sign of him. Another
emotional jolt momentarily took her breath away and she set off
for the safety of home, crossing Carlton Hill.
had changed. She started to notice things that shed never
paid any attention to before, small seemingly insignificant details
that had previously formed the lacklustre veneer of a hitherto
meaningless existence. Seagulls flew over Kingswood and across
the small playing field to the right of her. They circled above,
swooping and squawking like theyd always done, but with
such grace and ease, so at home in the air, the very element that
ancient cosmology had considered one of the four fundamentals
of the universe, commanded by these creatures through genetically
programmed instinct. Jiva was momentarily racked by sickly barbs
of jealousy tearing at the frustration of her lot, but soothing
waves of admiration quickly smothered her resentment and the birds
took up a new place in her heart. Like the gulls, she could taste
the subtle salty tang of the coastal air, fresh and untainted,
before the traffic started to fill it with its filthy emissions.
The birds, that until this morning had previously been no more
than a source of mild irritation, inspired a newfound sense of
freedom in her.
synapses fired into new territory as the floodgates opened on
under-utilised corridors, her mind making an analogous leap from
Megabyte to Gigabyte hard drive)
followed the birds flight, taking her off her usual route,
and climbed up Sussex Street. Walking past the beautiful little
gardens in front of the terraced houses opposite the primary school,
Jiva was transported by the simple beauty of their contents. The
fine rain had abated and even the simplest of flowers were revealed
in all their fulgent glory by the dazzling sunlight of dawn. The
hue and saturation of the petals bewitched her, natures
skilful chromatics orchestrated through such magnificent pigmentation.
Her boldness knew no bounds as she turned off the pavement and
strode into one of the gardens. She was drawn by the perfect veined
symmetry of individual leaves, instantly visualising their passage
from embryonic cotyledon to photosynthetic masterpiece.
dizzying sensation heralded a vast shift of perspective, as Jiva
envisaged a verdant global biomass from the grasslands of Australia
to the mangroves of Bangladesh, the Boreal forest of Canada and
the taiga in Russia, the steamy tropical Amazonian rainforests,
and immense agricultural monocultures. A lush panoply of vegetation
burst onto the Earths canvas. A gentle breeze stirred the
glistening foliage. She drew a sharp breath and ran from the garden.
The twinkling reflections of the sun had brought her back down
to earth for an instant, reminding her of the moment that her
world had altered.
was it about that chance meeting with Sparklehead? What had happened
to her? Was this what it was like to fall in love? Could it happen
that quickly? Would she see him again? What was she doing taking
such foolish risks? Why would she risk losing her invisibility?
Why did Sparklehead pick her? Why her? Successive grenades of
questions exploded in her mind, as she struggled to ignore the
persistence of increasingly profound revelations and concentrate
on the task of getting home.
fled back down the hill, almost tumbling over as she ran down
the steep incline, and raced around the turning into Sussex Street.
She almost cannoned into someone as he walked off the concrete
steps from his house and onto the pavement in front of her. She
dashed across the road and into the lobby of Richmond Heights.
Arriving at the twelfth floor she rushed from the lift, thrust
the keycard into the lock of her front door, almost fell into
the dormapod, and leant back on the door to close it with a crash,
panting heavily and shaking with a mixture of elation and fear.
Shed almost blown it back there; what if someone had seen
her and challenged her for trespassing on private property? Shakily
she filled a glass from the tap and swallowed the soothing water.
Her tongue relayed a complex analysis of tastesnot that
she could name themranging from chlorine and mineral salts,
to nitrates, pesticides and bacteria. She sat down heavily on
the purple chaise longue, rested her head on the padded wall cushioning
and swung her legs up, kicking off her shoes in the process. She
looked around the dormapod. Richmond Heights was one of the last
of the old blocks of flats to be updated. It had been totally
gutted ten years previously and it had taken five years for the
work to be completed, but it had some of the most modern facilities.
Jivas apartment measured nine by seven feet, but despite
its cell-like quality it was home. Her bed was above her on a
mezzanine-style space-saving balcony and being on the top floor
it had a small window in the ceiling, through which she could
watch the stars at night when she wasnt working. Above her
feet was a wall-mounted MultiMed Unit vidscreen, with surround-sound
acoustics. There was a tiny kitchenette opposite the door, with
a shower cubicle and washbasin adjacent to that. The other wall
was covered with ingenious storage units, which, despite easy
access and uncanny capacity, still required constant tidying and
reorganisation. The simple familiarity of her surroundings helped
to calm her down and Jiva programmed the MultiMed Unit with some
relaxing mood music, closing her eyes for a moment.
Jivas brain her neurones were evolving. Action potentials
leapt the synaptic clefts in ever-increasing numbers, as neurotransmitter-containing
vesicles poured from the pre-synaptic membranes of the axons.
As the transmitters detached from the post-synaptic receptors
of the target dendrites, each tiny molecule underwent reuptake
into the delivering neurones axons. Unlike the normal human
brain nothing was wasted, there was no enzymatic degradation or
diffusion into the surrounding extracellular fluid. Every drop
of neurotransmitter was gathered by the proliferating transporter
proteins on the axon terminals and repackaged in fresh vesicles
ready for the next impulse. Action potentials flowed like never
before, as the availability of neurotransmitter rapidly multiplied,
boosting her brain activity dramatically.
was enveloped by the music, revelling in the tones and harmonics
of the individual instruments, the high and low pitch frequencies,
the subtly changing standing waves, the blend of captivating notes
and melodies. The mastery of the composition filled her with joy,
transcending the relatively simple surround-sound speaker system
of the MultiMed Unit and lifting her spirits. She was almost twenty-one,
her life was about to enter a new and exciting phase, and she
could cast off the cloak of her ersatz lifestyle and become a
real person at last. She laughed out loud as she tugged off her
grubby damp overalls and flung them into a corner in an act of
rebellion (against the fastidious weekly ritual of carefully folding
them, placing them in her dormapods laundry bag and dropping
them into the chute at the end of the hallway). She changed the
music to a cutting-edge dance groove, turned up the volume and
stepped into the shower cubicle. As the narrow-gauge showerhead
sent rivulets of warm water cascading over her body, Jiva felt
more alive than ever before. Her super-charged minds-eye
propelled her on an aquatic journey, along streams and rivers,
into lakes and oceans. Primordial soup blended with amniotic fluid,
as the path of her ancestral evolution was replayed, experiencing
embryological development, from cell division to gills and on,
down a constantly forking path. The genetic memories of the human
racebequeathed to her at conceptiongave way to auto-hypnotic
regression and another surprise. A glimpse of two faces, one male,
one female, seemingly enormous as they leant over and looked down
at her, radiating affection. Her parents. Instinctively, she reached
up and bumped the fingers of her outstretched hands on the plastic
ceiling of the shower cubicle. Opening her eyes she felt a sense
of closure, that the one big question had been answered. She felt
neither remorse or loss, nor guilt at the absence of those emotional
reactions. As she turned off the shower and bathed in the thermal
air jets of its drying system, she kept those images in her mind.
Thank you, she whispered into the balmy air. Thank
you, for giving me life.
stepped from the shower, shedding the memories like a snakeskin,
allowing the face of her new loveher true loveto fill
her thoughts. She ached to be with Sparklehead. She threw on her
soft dressing gown and flipped down a head-height panel in the
storage area. A backlit mirror, with frosted border, illuminated
her face as she reached for a jar of liposomic moisturiser. She
smiled at her own reflection. For a moment she considered applying
some of the other sparse contents of the make-up station, but
she had eschewed cosmetics for years, apart from occasional application
for fun, and concentrated on the moisturiser. Replacing the jar,
she closed the panel and turned to the kitchenette to prepare
something to eat.
simple meal of steamed rice and vegetables, followed by some fruit,
had seemed like a banquet, and a combination of the food, the
end of her working week, and the sleepless anticipation of the
previous few days, had exhausted her. Jiva climbed the steps up
to her balcony bed and closed the skylight against the mid-morning
sun. She switched off the MultiMed Unit from a secondary control
panel above the bed and glanced at the LED clock mounted in it.
She was asleep in seconds.
dreams were filled with strange visions. At first she was running,
out of breath and terrified, as figures from her childhood chased
her with giant butterfly nets through the grey dawn of a spectral
city. Then it was night and she was back cleaning the endless
offices in infinite, thankless repetition. She found a door that
shed never seen before and succumbed to its irresistible
lure. The instant she opened it she was sucked through and catapulted
back out into the night, falling from the building, her screams
pushed back down her throat by the sudden wind rush. She closed
her eyes against the rapidly approaching ground... But was caught.
Peering between half-opened eyelids she found herself in the arms
of Sparklehead. He smiled, set her down on the ground and brought
out a birthday cake from behind his back. She blew out all twenty-one
candles in one puff, laughing together as they watched the displaced
flames fly off down the road, regroup, and return to circle about
her head, emulating her suitors cranial display. Sparklehead
leant forward and she raised her face to meet his lips. The energy
from that kiss sent Jiva flying up above the rooftops and out
into space, with Sparklehead at her side.
dreams spilled onto the screen of her sleeping mind as she travelled
the universe, slipping between the confines of time and space.
Sparklehead showed her realities beyond imagination. A single
lifeform as immense as a galaxy, whose body stretched beyond the
horizon, with symbiotic macro-organisms that would play out the
millennia of their lives without ever knowing of their hosts
existence. A colony composed of a trillion sentient quantum creatures,
with an inconceivably short lifespan, suspended high above what
they thought of as an immense ocean, but was, in fact, the eye
of a Fltachian pygmy mouse, the colony just a speck on its eyelash.
Probiotic architecture formed great spiralling towers, feeding
on the corrosive acidic gases of a young planet. A catalogue of
fantasies played on in Jivas head.
her synapses formed anastamoses, doing away with neurotransmission,
forming an unbroken pathway throughout the fused cerebral hemispheres.
The accompanying synaesthesia would have been inconceivably disorientating,
but mercifully the energy required by the process maintained her
in a state of unbroken sleep.
awoke, feeling heavy and disorientated. She could hear voices,
but they seemed out of place and unrecognisable, sentences disjointed,
content personal. At first she thought it was her own MultiMed
Unit, and then that she might be hearing someone elses.
It didnt sound right, though. No! She was hearing her neighbours,
several of them, simultaneously. She started to surface a little
more, began to concentrate. Not voices, not out loud. Some were
getting ready to go out, staccato words and phrases jumping from
money, to who they would be meeting, what they would be doing,
what theyd done earlier. Others were getting ready for bed,
free-forming reflections and ideas about the day that had been
and what theyd do tomorrow. Not voices... thoughts!
the wave front of consciousness crashed onto the shores of her
waking mind, she telekinetically opened the blind on the skylight
and moonlight flooded into the dormapod. Jiva was undergoing another
metamorphosis. Her DNA was being manipulated into new forms and
patterns, biological scaffold that that was converting her organic
construct into the molecular equivalent of pixels. Only a few
nanometres in diameter, each pixel then set about its own conversion
on an atomic level. She was transcending her Earthly eyrie.
had slept for over twelve hours. As she lay watching the clouds
float in front of the moon, she was unconcerned by the emerald
glow on the ceiling; an unearthly light that was emanating from
her own body. She now knew that her nature was synonymous with
the spaces between conversational sentences, the moments before
falling asleep, and the hiatus of a post office queue. That she
was living in the free fall of peace at the end of a moving song
at a live concert, before the applause broke the spell, like being
touched by the passing shadow of an aeroplane.
marvelled at the things that form the indiscernible fabric of
human lifeso taken for granted that their cessation would
wreak havocand yet given not a moments thought, no
more so than we might concede our conscious thoughts to be buffeted
by the deep, dark machinations of those legions of involuntary
reflexes. She saw how we would be overwhelmed by the constantly
shifting Venn Diagrams of personal space, as our physical
and emotional proximities merge and interact, were it not for
the selective titration of that waking deluge, permitting mere
droplets to impact on our canvas of awareness. Little wonder that
hermits, ascetics, gurus, philosophers and artists, all need a
varying amount of respite. To consider, for even a moment, the
lack of impact that the average life might have on the greater
scale of thingssuch limitless perspectivewould that
not surely provide a glimpse of the sweetest madness? It would
take courage to got that far. To stop accepting that all is as
we are taught to think that it is, to slip sideways, to dodge
the raindrops, to step outside of time, to tip-toe between the
atoms, to embrace those unseen, unspoken invisibles.
reached the obvious conclusion, that she had been sought out by
Sparklehead, that she had something more in common with him than
nearly everyone else on Earth, that she had always been destined
to join him. Her birth on 29th February was no coincidence. It
was a consequence of the arcane energy force of her invisible
existence exerting itself on both her conception and her birthalready
knowing the future-echo of the death of her parents, who themselves
were merely earthly conduits for her creation. She understood
that the inter-reality lifestyle of the Invisibles was so sub-atomically
surreal that their kind could only conceive by seeding on host
planets. She realised that shed spent these past twenty-one
years camouflaged in human form, merging day-to-day life, leading
an existence of innate uniformity, and leaving not the slightest
ripple in her wake. She vaguely became aware of the twinkling
particles about her cranial orbit; her peripheral vision broke
into crystalline fragmentation and she began to enter space-time
foam. Jiva smiled widely and held out her right hand, as if to
11.59.59pm on February 28th finally became 00.00.00 on March 1stJiva
vanished from this world.