More random crap! This is the opening to a spec fic piece that has dogged me for a while, but never completely taken form.
Dr. Brouse said, “Don’t bring any baggage.” At first I took it as a metaphor, but it’s literal, too. My luggage is a six-inch cubed, padded steel shipping case. It looks like it’s made of a shiny metal quilt and it smells of industrial newness.
New everything, starting tomorrow at 6 am.
That’s only eight hours away and I’m already down to the bare minimum. I’ve given away my furniture, books, dishes, stereo, computer. Everything that’s worth anything. I’m down to the clothes on my back, plus one last clean set, two boxes of sentimental crap, a sleeping bag, and a container of yogurt in the fridge. If I can keep it down, I plan to eat that before AIF picks me up in the morning.
The steel case sits in the middle of the empty living room next to the boxes. I look through the photo albums, trying to decide what to put in the case. Mom and Dad and Ryan and I at Yellowstone, with a geyser blowing smoke against a cloudless blue sky behind us. Chipmunks, lots of pictures of chipmunks from our trip to Yellowstone. Studio portraits that make my family look like victims of a Sears catalog fashion crime spree. I settle on the picture from my sixth grade year, before Ryan and I turned into sullen teenagers, but after Mom stopped wearing that goofy blond wig. I also pick out a couple of Polaroids, even though they’re already fading from a lack of fix stop. For all I know, when I open the box in five years, I’ll just have ghost pictures. That’s all they are now, I guess.
I spend some time crying. I’m not even sure for what. I’m not really leaving anything behind. I have some friends, some of whom might be sad when they don’t hear from me, when I literally drop off the face of the earth. That said, nobody’s going to break down crying when I don’t show up.
I manage a nap, almost two hours, and wake up scared of the dark like I haven’t been since I was a kid. I go around the apartment, turning all the lights on, wishing it were morning already. Wishing I weren’t alone. Wishing it weren’t too late and too forbidden to go out to a bar and bring home a stranger, but it is. The bars are all closed and it’s against official protocol to risk that exposure before stasis.
Looking through the boxes, I settle on the obvious: my mother and father’s wedding rings. I used to think I would get married and wear my mother’s ring, but now it’s just something to rattle around in a box for five years. There are also bronzed baby booties, but there’s only room in the case for one. I pick Ryan’s. Even though it’s a little dirty, I take off the t-shirt I’m wearing and wrap the bootie and the rings in it. I close the case, turn the latch and notice the plaque riveted under the handle.
0000013, it says. I’m the thirteenth passenger and I wonder why. A little finger of superstition pokes at me. Lucky 13. After I think about it for a moment, though, it’s probably just that my name is Mariann Eddy. 13 out of 40 passengers.
That’s going to change in a couple hours. After AIF picks me up, I’ll never be Mariann Eddy again. I’ll be Passenger 13, and then after that I’ll be Eva. It’s what I picked—my middle name. Dr. Brouse encouraged it. He said, “You’ll be starting over in a way few people ever will. I want you to leave your old life behind.” I do, too.
At 5:45, I’m dressed in the last pair of clean clothes I own. I carry the other stuff down to the curb. It’s strange seeing those boxes and my sleeping bag sitting next to the trash can, but before I can think about how scary that is, a white van turns down the street and flashes its lights. Along one side is a discrete logo for Agricultural Investment in the Future: the I in AIF is a slender tree with a tuft of leaves at the top. I go back into the house and grab my purse and my steel case. I leave the apartment key on the kitchen counter for the landlord and turn out the lights as I go.
Standing on the porch, I realize I’m not done. I take my lip gloss out of my purse and put some on. From my wallet, I take my AIF ID card. Then I walk down to the curb, lift the lid off the trash can, and toss my purse into it. Wallet, cell phone, everything.
As I cross the street to the van, I swing the steel case for Passenger 13 in one hand, like a kid. The van driver leans across to open the door and the dome light comes on like a beacon. I’m light as a feather. Good-bye, Mariann Eddy.