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Kintsukuroi of the Lucky Few

by Holly Schofield

1054 words

You couldn’t help it. I know you couldn’t. You just had to do it. I jerked back when my temple exploded in pain, and blood flowed into my eyes and mouth, salty and warm. The other kids were screaming and sirens roared but you smiled into my eyes and I felt your essence and your touch. You pulled me from the rubble of the classroom and caressed my cheek, your opal alien eyes and the touch of your long rubbery arms around me wistful and sad, even as you held a dull-hued implement to my scalp and injected your gift.

Even now, I trust you, member of the Lucan species, invader, interferer in our lives, knitter of my skull. Trust you not to be as cruel as the world around me. Even when the news sites blamed you and your kind and said you were the cause of the explosion at school when I knew it was the white kid in Twelfth Grade, that guy with the ratty baseball cap, even then I trusted you. Even when they blamed you for the Climate Hungers and the New New War and all those corrupt politicians in all those countries. And when Rainey, my best friend since First Grade, said I’d been hypnotized, brainwashed, ruined, and then she sat four rows away from me the whole next year and switched to a different session of Band Camp, still I kept trusting you.

Rainey hadn’t seen what I’d seen, inside my head as shiny bright fluids flowed from you to me—a world without closed borders, runaway climate horrors, withheld medicine. A might-be, could-be future. And, each night as I cried myself through a whole box of tissue, I promised myself, hell, I promised you, wherever you’d gone, that I’d keep that long view, that amazingly hopeful view alive.

How could Rainey know any better? She doesn’t have a golden bloom arcing across one temple and down over an ear like me, like the teenagers I found online, the ones gifted by the Lucans too. We named ourselves the Lucky Few and set up secure chat rooms and talked and talked and talked. About how your visit here, all seven hundred of you, had amped up thousands of teens’ brains. We pooled our knowledge and I learned about ventromedial prefrontal cortices and how you’d basically OD’d us on very specific neurotransmitter uptake chemicals. We all became brain experts. Juarez even convinced his geneticist mom to do some scientific trials.

Now, as the New New War rages everywhere and most of Oregon is evacuated and I can smell wildfire smoke here in Seattle even in my sleep, we talk about how the world is headed down a path that no one wants, no one intends, but no one can seem to stop.

Except us lucky few.

One of my new friends in Japan explains it really well. Kintsukuroi. When a vase is broken, the cracks get repaired with flashy bits of gold. Don’t hide the damage, turn it into artwork, make it better than before. I think that’s what you were trying to do, make us better, give us the gut-wrenching gift of knowing just how awful future Earth will be if we don’t hit the brakes, get rational about climate change, get reasonable about human rights, wake up to our responsibilities.

You tried to give us hope, with your inserted visions of a better future, a greener one, a post-capitalism circular economy, a sustainable population. A world where no one is sick or hungry or homeless.

I know you meant well. I know there must be reasons you didn’t inject your golden gooey gel into mature forty-year-olds who have more developed coping skills than us teenagers, or to babies who could adapt quicker. Hormones, and physiology, and a dozen reasons why you expected teenagers’ brains to work better for your treatment. I totally do trust you thought we were the right demographic.

But your motivations don’t matter.

You’re breaking us.

Day by day, we’re losing Lucky Few who can’t limit their forward-sight to only the good outcomes, the happy futures where kindness and balloons and rainbows shower down on all the world for ever and ever. Instead, no matter how they fight it, their minds receive continual streams of awfulness. Last month, in Chennai, Priyaa drank rat poison when she couldn’t stop looping through the internal sight of EMPs wiping out all services in Tamil Nadu and the hospitals trying to function without electricity or computers. On Tuesday, Eric drove his motorcycle into a brick wall rather than face endless images of starving children orphaned on NYC streets.

Maybe you just didn’t know that human teenagers’ brains work differently than adults, and the visions all hit me super hard in my still-growing heart, my center, my core being. Seeing another pandemic, another wrongly elected official, another habitat destroyed, is as soul-wrenching as if it happened directly to me myself. I didn’t sleep for 36 hours after brain-streaming a sped-up clip of climate refugees being turned away at a border.

I guess you didn’t know humans’ potential for cruelty.

Anyway, what I wanted to tell you, three years later, is we’re going to make that optimistic wonderful world happen. I’m accepted into college for Political Science with an Environmental Studies minor. I’ve blown off my school friends who only want to play video games and party. All the other Lucky Few are heading along similar paths.

So your plan worked. We will make the world good AF, you’ll see.

But then, then we’ll do more than that. We’ll figure out interstellar space travel. And we’vll follow your path right back to the cold stars you came from.

Not because we want to explore. Not because we want to thank you in person. A worse reason, an awful reason, one that resonates more with the kind of people we humans currently are. Us Lucky Few are going to make you suffer for what you did.

On some days, days when the air is clear enough to breathe and the latest vaccine is helping curb the latest virus, I think you just wanted to help our struggling species reach our potential.

On other days, I think that you maybe did know that revenge is a much stronger emotion than hope.

Holly Schofield travels through time at the rate of one second per second, oscillating between the alternate realities of city and country life. Her speculative fiction has appeared in many publications including Analog, Lightspeed, and Escape Pod, is used in university curricula, and has been translated into multiple languages. Find her at hollyschofield.wordpress.com.

Issue 34

December 2021

3LBE 34

Front & Back cover art by Rew X