took only furtive glances at the other women on this flight. Women
in tight see-through dresses and shiny and fashionable boots, women
attached to handsome and bronzed and powerful men or women travelling
alone as they were powerful and wealthy in their own right. Nancy
felt so devastatingly out of place. Her body was the only imperfect
one, and she hid it with a long sleeved and one-piece dress that
was only slightly transparent, transparent just enough to reveal
the color of her pale and young and subterranean skin.
could feel the eyes of the other women studying her, as if to say,
"what is a subterranean girl like that doing on a flight like
the men too, were of a different ilk than those she knew back home
in Lower, Lower Michigan. Their skin was the color of some dear
bronze, their implanted eyes mirrored and twinkling, their hair
platinum or gold and their teeth whiter than a sheet of paper.
closed her eyes. Maybe she wouldn't feel so awkward if she couldn't
see anyone else. She was good at pretending, and she would pretend
she was on this flight all alone.
eyes squeezed shut, she thought about her destiny, she thought about
solitary interlude was short-lived. The last person to board the
ship had the seat next to hers, and she sat next to Nancy as she
spoke irritatingly into the clear and plastic cellular headset attached
to her left ear.
be back in a fucking week and a half, and this shit better be cleared
up when I get back."
opened her eyes and took in the woman. She was wearing a skintight
see-through dress that only hid the areola of her breasts and the
region of her vagina. The woman's skin was colored nearly copper
and her hair was a long and luminous silver. And the eyes. Nancy
had only seen eyes like that on television. They were expensive
eyes. No one else on the flight had eyes like quite like this woman's.
The eyes were meshed as if each pupil was made up of countless prisms.
woman sat next to Nancy and made a face while complaining into her
you know it," she said to someone far, far away, "I always
sit next to a subterranean, at least this one had the sense to clean
herself up before she came above."
had been warned before her ascent - before she surfaced at the Winnipeg
Exchange - warned of the crassness of the ones who lived above.
didn't take the woman's remarks personally; she was remarkably well
adjusted for a girl just barely adolescent. The woman was beautiful,
and Nancy couldn't take her eyes off of her.
I'll ask Destiny to make me look like her," Nancy mused, staring
at the woman and her very, very smooth stomach and her long and
polished and well manicured nails.
that would be silly, Nancy decided. She would look devastatingly
out of place in her subterranean world of cavernous cities defined
by large and looming shadows and the shifting and pulsing glow of
the Above people looked like that, and the Above never came below,
unless it was on a screen.
know what I'm going to wish for this time," the woman continued
into her phone, removing one of her eyes and polishing it with the
fog of her breath. Nancy peered cautiously into the empty socket.
She expected flesh and bone to be garishly displayed out of the
naked orifice but no; she saw blazing circuits and wires and no
signs of raw or wounded tissue.
Nancy thought to herself, that woman really is beautiful as the
woman crossed and uncrossed her legs several times. She was wearing
thigh high crocodile-skin boots with long and metallic spiked heels.
kids are driving me nuts, my husband too, they all whine so damn
much. They want to stay on the Hudson Bay, but everyone who is anyone
is going to the Isle of Skye, that's your job, by the way, while
I'm gone, list the Churchill Villa and find me a realtor in Scotland
heard the rumble of the ship's motor, she felt the craft taxi on
the runway and she looked out the window and gave a timid smile
towards the blue Manitoba sky soaring over the gently swaying palm
trees. She looked towards the clouds, whiter than she last remembered,
clouds she would soon be interrupting.
woman next to her kept on talking, and the timbre and tone of her
voice matched all the other passengers on the ship, people with
scowling faces talking into headsets or to their partners, the collected
voices forming a sort of whining harmony.
Star of Destiny? I go every year, you know, they call it the doorstep
of God, but who knows, you never remember what you asked for when
you come back. It's just there, like it was part of you even before
had given a lot of thought about what she would wish for when she
did finally make it to the Star of Destiny. She had won the trip
via a lottery. Every year, someone from Lower, Lower Michigan won
a trip, all expenses paid, to the Star of Destiny. And once there,
one gave a quick and silent and sincere prayer and whatever one
prayed for would be granted.
thing was, the thing is, the Star of Destiny is as close as one
get to God, God can hear prayers clearly from the Star of Destiny,
and God never turns anyone away.
least that's what Nancy heard.
that's what everyone in the world - above and below - believed.
I'm asking for new kids this time, and a husband, a whole new fucking
family. Why? Well Abigail can't dance to save her life and Chandler
is soooo freaking weird. What thirteen-year-old boy that you know
can't hold a conversation without looking someone in the eye? And
he spends HOURS in the shower. So I'm gonna have them replaced.
And Bill? Well, you know, his phallic enhancements didn't really
do the trick
the lottery winners came back and sometimes they didn't. Nancy's
family hugged her tightly as they drove her to the elevators. Her
mother sobbed in fear and joy. She wanted a better life for her
daughter, a life better than the shadowy and dusty toil that would
certainly befall a subterranean girl, but she was afraid Nancy might
not come back. And her father, he was proud of her, proud of her
courage, proud that a girl so young would leave her family so easily;
a family she had never spent a night without.
wanted to grow up and become a writer. She would ask for talent,
maybe, maybe a wealth of ideas that would stay with her until she
became an old woman. She would let her writing take her above the
ground, and put her in a villa along the Hudson Bay, or maybe the
told her mother that she would come back, she'd see her soon. She
didn't want to leave her family.
she didn't want to be a subterranean forever, either.
woman next to her was silenced by the ship's thrusters that engaged
the moment the craft was airborne. Nancy watched the ground beneath
her slip away and soon the blue sky was replaced by blackness and
by stars that danced across the window like images of falling snow
she had seen on those old movies from a long ago world that seemed
so calm and simple.
saw the Earth below only briefly, a quick glance above a world she
had only known from below.
trip to Destiny took about three hours but it felt like forever
to Nancy. The people flying with her, they were so rude and miserable,
it seemed. They barked commands at the attendants and complained
constantly - the drinks weren't blue enough or the seats didn't
vibrate hard or gently enough and never in the right places. The
whining and complaining wore on Nancy; she had never heard such
talk before. The people below didn't care about the color of their
drinks and what good is a vibrating chair anyway?
ship floated onto Destiny gently, and it was far from a star. It
was, it is, more like an asteroid or meteor that enjoys an irregular
orbit around the solar system.
ship came equipped with a giant dome that shot out of its top and
opened up like a transparent circus tent, providing a breathable
atmosphere for the passengers of the ship.
followed the woman who sat next to her, the woman who did not speak
to her once for the entire three-hour trip. Nancy watched the woman
deftly walk out of the ship's hatch and onto the smooth and ice-like
surface of Destiny, she heard the woman's heels go clack-clack on
the blemish free surface.
woman, like all the passengers, walked some distance from the ship.
followed her, but not too closely.
woman looked up into the sky full of stars. Her gaze moved in a
furious arch until after a moment, it seemed to settle on a certain
cluster of stars.
saw it too, a pattern of stars that looked like her mother's face.
woman knelt on the porcelain-like surface of Destiny and bowed her
turned away and saw the thirty-odd passengers do likewise.
followed suit. She still hadn't decided what she would ask for,
as Destiny was nothing like she expected. She closed her eyes and
thought about all of her wishes. She wanted to be a writer, she
wanted to be beautiful but in a more genuine way than the other
women on her flight. She wanted to live in a castle in the world
then she thought of the world above, and if the world above was
anything like the people on this trip, well, she wanted nothing
to do with it.
closed her eyes and said in a voice just barely a whisper:
want to be happy."
then she felt a warmness erupt at the base of her stomach and splash
across her face, the warmness opening her eyes.
image of her mother was gone, gone from the stars, and she couldn't
remember seeing anything there to begin with.
it was true; she couldn't remember what she asked for. She numbly
followed the other passengers back on the ship, passengers already
complaining about the trip back home.