Jane liked being called Jane. She liked that it could be used as slang for girl. She giggled when she thought of the people in her life saying “Hi girl!” “Happy birthday girl!” “Girl! It’s been too long!” “You can’t leave me girl! I love you!” ect. This made Jane laugh because she wasn’t a girl. She wasn’t human at all. She was from a planet called Jelnox, a planet of prosperity and no surprises. This was because, around the time that humans were burying cats with their kings, the inhabitants of Jelnox figured out how to step in and out of possibilities.
It’s a simple procedure if you understand how you bend the universe just by being alive. If you don’t, then you can only really imagine it hypothetically. Imagine you can’t figure out where to go to lunch and you flip a coin. It lands on heads so you go to restaurant A instead B. Humanity has evolved far enough to think that the potential energy of the coin coming up tails might create an alternative reality where we go to restaurant B instead. Jane’s people figured out that you can bypass the coin all together if you simply focus enough on either outcome, step into that possibility, and live it out. This discovery had allowed the ruling bodies of Jane’s world to see what different laws and actions would work out best, return to their original reality (which they called Life Prime), and enact them. This meant Jelnox had very few of the big problems that plagued other civilizations. It also meant the only Jelnoxians who took chances where in the counterculture
They were called Primers. At first it was a mocking name, but later they began to take it as a badge of honor. Primers wanted to take risks and live only one life with consequences fully intact. They were mostly left alone by the mainstream, seeing as they were made up mostly of artists and philosophers who didn’t have much influence on the day to day happenings.
Jane belonged to a different mindset. She thought people who stayed in Life Prime were making things unnecessarily difficult for themselves and were probably just after attention. She could also see the point that a world without risk really took the fun out of living. So she decided the best way to live would be to be the only one who was able to step in and out possibilities. That way she could avoid her own mistakes while enjoying everyone else’s. Luckily for her, a satellite from Earth was discovered somewhat close to Jelnox.
By the most liberal estimates, the people of Earth wouldn’t be able to reach Jelnox for almost 5000 years. Still, it was decided by the governing body that it would be prudent to check a possibility where they sent a crew to Earth now and see how things turned out. At that time however, a Primer movement was growing in the new generation. The movement was pushing for a new science where experiments were conducted in Life Prime. Seeing as the council had already checked a possibility where they didn’t give the Primer movement a chance (which winded up getting them in a very ugly civil war) they agreed that this expedition could take place solely in Life Prime. Seeing her chance, Jane volunteered to work on the ship and made her way to Earth. No sooner had they gotten there than Jane went A.W.O.L and ended up as Earth’s first illegal Jelnoxian.
The rest of the exhibition, afraid of having to face the consequences for one of their own leaving the group, told the governing body that Jane had died heroically saving one of them from the savage inhabitants of Earth. They went on to suggest that Jelnox should not attempt to make contact with Earth, as it was inhabited with horrible creatures with a new found taste of Jelnoxian blood. This lie would severely complicate matters 5120 years later during first contact, but that’s a long way off.
It took Jane a little while to adjust to Earth. Her people looked enough like humans that she didn’t have much trouble blending in, but she didn’t have any papers to get a job or prove she was supposed to be there. But with her wits and ability to jump possibilities, she didn’t make all that many mistakes. She figured out how to buy an I.D. and got a job that paid under the table for a while. Soon she had established herself enough that she felt ready to really take advantage of her life on Earth.
At first she tried different professions. She was a waitress in Life Prime, so she tried a possibility where she was a cook. When she didn’t like how much she burnt her hands, she jumped back and tried washing dishes. She soon realized that she didn’t like any part of the food industry and tried a reality where she went to school. She found she liked school and tried different majors. There, between a possibility where she studied chemistry and a possibility where she studied journalism, she found out about hedonism and tried a few possibilities living in vice. She was particularly good at this, seeing as soon as the fun was over, she could jump to a possibility where it wasn’t.
While the Jeloxian ability to jump possibilities was a great advantage to have, it wasn’t without danger. While you could jump from Life Prime to possibility A and continue to different possibilities from there, you had to go back the way you came. Trying to jump from possibility B to Life Prime for example, would cause you to fall out of all realities and simply cease existing altogether. This hazard stopped most Jelnoxians from moving onto a new possibility without first going back to Life Prime. Jane kept to this at first, but after a few years on Earth she got impatient. She would be in a relationship in possibility A, meet someone she liked better, and jump right into a reality where they were together instead of going all the way back to Life Prime and starting over. Then, while in that reality, she would realize that this person was only fun at parties and she wanted to go right to a possibility where she had a career. Intoxicated by being the only creature on Earth that could really live consequence free, Jane went on a bit of a reality bender. She came down from it in an apartment she and her girlfriend Barbara rented in Atlanta, in possibility Q.
She was sitting in her kitchen, not wanting to go to her current job and thinking about whether or not it was time to head back to Life Prime. She liked where she was well enough, but Barbara had been talking about getting married and Jane had just been married two possibilities ago. The thought of redoing wedding preparation was enough to make her think it was time to go. She planned the trip back over her morning coffee.
“First back to playing bass.” she thought, “Then married to Penny, freelance photographer, dating David….”
No, that wasn’t right. She hadn’t dated David in much longer than that. Marsha must have been after David. No, Marsha was before David but after she had tried writing copy and after getting her BA in…
Jane laughed, she had been useless without drinking her coffee since she had been a barista way back in possibility D, or maybe F. She drank her coffee and got a notepad and pen. She wrote down “Barbra -> bass playing -> photographer->”
She stopped there. She couldn’t have wanted to play bass right after she tried to be a photographer. She had met David through a class on photography and she didn’t date David while playing in the band. Right?
When Barbara walked into the kitchen from her run a half an hour later, Jane hadn’t made any progress. Barbara kissed Jane on the cheek and looked down at the scribbled mess of a list that was now on its eighth draft.
“Who’s David?” Barbra asked teasingly.
“A boy I dated before I realized I liked girls.” Jane said, not sure if that was right. Had she tried a life with David after it hadn’t worked out with Tiffany?
“Well,” Barbra said heading into the bathroom to take a shower. “Glad you figured it out.”
As Jane heard the shower turn on she looked at the paper and her vision dimmed. She felt claustrophobic. How long had she been in this possibility? She pulled out her phone and looked at the date. She couldn’t believe what she saw.
“Fifteen years?” she said out loud to the empty kitchen. She didn’t think it was possible. She thought back on the New Year’s parties. She couldn’t have been to fifteen of them since she’d last been in Prime Life. She didn’t even want to think about how old that made her.
“You okay?” Jane heard from behind her. Barbra had come out of the shower and seen her staring at the list. If Jane looked as bad as she felt, she resembled a perturbed corpse.
“Yes.” Jane said with a dry throat. “Just, remembered I forgot.”
She didn’t clarify what she had forgotten and went back to looking at the list. “Barbara -> bass playing -> Krishna –> photographer–> med school.” Had she ever gone to med school? She remembered talking about it to someone. Becky? Had Becky gone to med school? How many people had she dated? It was becoming more jumbled. She felt Barbara’s hand on her head.
“You’re sick.” she said moving the list from Jane’s view, “Go to bed and I’ll make you some tea.”
Jane didn’t have the strength to argue. She let Barbra move her to the bedroom and laid dow. She stayed there the rest of the day trying to make sense of her life. By the time Barbara came to bed, she had given up.
It was 3:00 A.M. the next day when she decided that lying in bed wasn’t going to make her sleep or stop sweating. She got out of bed quietly and moved to the window. She looked out at the view.
She liked Atlanta, she had stayed here for a good amount of her time on Earth despite what possibility she was living. She felt like, at least for the moment, she could move passed the thought of not being able to go back to Prime Life and weigh her other options. She had only realized she couldn’t remember how to get back when she was thinking about leaving Barbara. Maybe she should just jump ahead to another possibility and scrap the whole idea of a Life Prime. But then what? Find a new place to live? Grow older? What if she was able to work out her timeline later? Wouldn’t adding another possibility just complicate the way back?
She looked at Barbara sleeping. She never considered living with someone and having consequences she couldn’t just make go away by jumping. How did people live like this? Maybe she should just risk jumping back and see how far back she could get. She had been the one who was bored on a planet with no risk.
She looked outside at Atlanta, and then she closed her eyes and thought about where she wanted to be. Everything went dark.