Author : Steven Holland
“Mr. Coleman, I already know everything you will teach; therefore, I’m going to ignore you and read about time travel and reincarnation.”
Jamie Faulkner was 17, beautiful, and knew it – but didn’t seem to care. She possessed a lean, athletic body, blonde hair, and intensely blue eyes.
Gordon Coleman gave her a bemused smile, his way of granting permission. Everyone knew about Jamie Faulkner. She read professional scientific papers and graduate level textbooks – items demanded and granted from her bewildered parents. Jamie could have been at college with a full scholarship, but she had steadfastly refused to skip any grade.
She had no friends and wanted none. Last year she sent Jimmy Forsythe to the hospital with three broken fingers and a cracked collarbone; he had tried a little too hard to play the dominating seducer with her in the hallway. The year before that, she and Beth Bailey exchanged unpleasant words. Beth was found two hours later in the girl’s locker room, sobbing hysterically. Later, rumors circulated that Mrs. Bailey was taking her to a psychiatrist in Biloxi.
As the months progressed, Jamie read unobtrusively in the back of the classroom. Occasionally, she would close her current book, slump over in apparent defeat, and rest her chin on thin, folded arms. On those days she watched Mr. Coleman, her eyes moving over his body whenever he paced, centering on his face when he stopped. Gordon chose not to notice. Young Jamie Faulkner unnerved him; her eyes were too knowing for someone her age.
One day three months into the school year, Jamie closed her book, The Physics of the Impossible, and slid it off the desk. Jamie laid her head flat on the desk. When the dismissal bell rang, she remained, motionless. Several minutes after everyone else had left, Gordon tentatively approached her.
“Miss Faulkner, are you all right?”
Jamie raised her head. Her eyes contained the deepest despair Gordon had ever seen.
“What’s the purpose of being the most popular girl in school… or curing cancer… or winning the Women’s State Basketball Championship?”
Gordon pursed his lips, uncertain of the direction of this conversation. “Fulfillment maybe?”
“What’s the purpose of an etch-a-sketch that shakes itself every 10 seconds? What if I want to die and stay dead?”
“You… seem to feel that life is meaningless.” he answered slowly, in a worried tone.
“I want out.” she stated with a dead flatness. “Maybe the science is broken; maybe the religion is broken. Maybe I have to build a machine that can destroy time. Nothing else works – not even becoming president and initiating a global nuclear holocaust.”
“I don’t think life on Earth was meant to be lived more than once. At least, not the same life. I’m going to build that machine Gordon. No more pleasure lives. No more passive learning lives. It’s time to get serious.”
“Stop. Tell me something meaningful.”
Gordon had been slowing backing away, but Jamie’s pleading look of despair stopped him. She looked old and tired.
“Miss… Jamie… I don’t know if success for you is a good thing, but sometimes the craziest hope is better than none.”
She let out a small sigh. “Thanks. You’ve never phrased it like that before.” She rose and walked listlessly to the door. Pausing, she turned. “I love you Gordon.”
The next day Jamie missed class. By lunchtime, the entire school had heard. Jamie Faulkner had committed suicide. Gordon Coleman sat in his office, staring numbly at the wall, trying to create sense from senselessness.
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows