Author : Beck Dacus

I knew she was weird well before I talked to her. Why? Simple: she tripped.

Nobody walked around without Antrips. These little computers in motors on your knees can predict when you’re unbalanced, and the braces connected to them around your upper and lower legs come into action to stop it. Saves you a ton of embarrassment. Unless you’re Demila.

She was walking to class when she tripped over her shoelace, and she tumbled. Nobody expected that. They had never learned that you’re supposed to help someone get up and pick up their stuff when they fall down, but even if they had, they’d be too confused to remember. So she rose and collected her things on her own, and once everyone snapped out of their trance, they did her the best service they could. They walked away, pretending like it never happened.

I couldn’t do that. I asked her why she didn’t wear them.

“You want me to show you? If you’ve got a car, you can come over to my house after school and see.”

*Gulp.* A girl was inviting me over! Of course teenage, hormone-driven me said yes. So after my last class let out, I jumped in my car, called my parents to tell them where I was going, and almost got a ticket getting to her house.

Once there, she led me into her garage and showed me her setup. It consisted of a big rubber mat, a table with an old-fashioned stereo on it, and these exercise clothes she wore that made me sweaty. When she turned on the music, it came together in my mind. She was one of those kids who loved old stuff. Old songs. Old mats. No Antrips. I could’ve left then with my question seemingly answered, but that’s not how fate ordained it.

“Wanna try?” she asked.

What was I gonna say? “No, bye”? I took her outstretched hand, and she showed me the moves.

Once I learned the basic steps, she told me to try them in tune. I figured it’d be pretty easy– it was a simple rhythm. But something unexpected happened. My Antrips never let me finish.

“Ugh!” I said on the third try. “Stupid things think I’m gonna fall.”

“Take ‘em off,” she said.

I didn’t think she was serious, so I said, “Doesn’t matter. I can just reprogram ‘em real quick–”

“No, Cameron,” she said. “Take ‘em off. Come on. That’s simpler.”

“What? B-but I’ll fall!”

She smiled and shook her head. “I swear you’ll never touch the ground.”

I wasn’t sure how she could promise that, but she had complete power over me. I did what I only usually do when I go to bed at night: I slid off my Antrips. Away from their protective cling, I felt like a newborn fawn. I could barely walk, much less dance, I thought. But the look in Demila’s eyes made me try.

I did a couple of the steps, and stumbled over the last one. Without my Antrips on, I went toward the ground like a brick. But Demila caught me.

“What’d I tell you?” she said, contagiously grinning. She told me to try again, and I obeyed.

In an hour, we were waltzing together. Then we tried out some less ancient songs, until my dad ordered me home over the phone. The next day, I didn’t wear my Antrips to school. Demila and I walked precariously around the halls, ever in danger of tripping and falling with no way to catch ourselves.

But so what? We could catch each other.