Tomorrow Will Be Late
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Scarlet Monk, the pop star in the following story, really does exist! Not only that but she has just dropped her second album. She is a personal acquaintance and an intensely creative person who also happens to be a very capable teacher, and henceforth a big inspiration for this near future sci-fi fan fiction. Please support this rising star and take time catch up on some fantastic collaborative videos. @scarlet_monk. Enjoy!
EVERYONE REMEMBERS THE PARADES. In a way, that was all there was. So do I, of course, but I was fond of that time for lots of other reasons.
For instance it was August, and summer was unravelling at the seams, and the timing of it all seemed to be uncannily perfect. I was about to start grade nine and girls were bursting in front of me like exotic flowers attached to firecrackers and I was feeling initiated and empowered into a coming of age.
And anyway, when do you see a parade at night? Parades the whole weekend long.
The Celestial Event happened on a weekend, but for some reason everyone agreed to reset the calendar so we didn't count the days. I guess because they weren't days. Either way it all fell together.
“Tomorrow Will Be Late” the posters all over town read. Here's what happened: Due to an unexplained “eclipse wall” — scientists were calling it — our sun wasn't going to be visible — anywhere — for forty-eight hours. The whole world would be dark for two days straight. Then everything would be fine again.
It was fun to live in a time when astronomical scientists were like rock stars and rock stars were like, well, like Scarlet Monk. My favorite. More about her in a second...
With a lost weekend of a heretofore unprecedented calibre coming our way, what was left to do but celebrate? Some people just slept through it all. Like my friend Mack. The whole thing freaked him out a little I could tell and when he finally came out of his house the following day he just talked like nothing had happened. And for him, nothing really had. But it changed others. And not entirely in a good way. I probably lost friends over it, but I don't remember them.
So, the parades. So cool. I'm pretty sure I kept one of those oversized lightpole posters depicting a cornucopia of magnificent end-of-days fun. These parades were happening the world over, and some of the magic of all of that curfew-less reverie in the streets shaped my idea of what music could be, and what art was capable of.
Later, some would call that time The Breakout of The Potentials citing the generational euphemism for those currently in their twenties, and the role that the worldwide young investors group The Potentials played in the the staging of the parades.
Imagine hologram floats stretching the length of a city block, and highly choreographed dancers warping shape in utterly mesmerizing ionized liquid aluminum suits. At the center of it all — as Lady Godiva on Trojan Horseback — Mz. Scarlet Monk.
The most incredible female pop star to date. A singer, a philanthropist, a dancer, an entrepreneur, and a rumored member of The Potentials, she was embraced and lauded the world over. I didn't call myself crazy about her until I saw those parades. Then it was all over. And for a good long while she was the celebrity crush that captured the market-fresh meat of my teenage heart. The kind of crush where, when I practiced kissing on the palm of my hand I thought of her. And I let the fantasy go to that place where I dreamt of what it would be like to marry her and have a house and be a dad. It was never practical, but always flawless.
Right, well, like I said, the Celestial Event brought out some crazy in folks. My aunt Rebecca, who lived out of town at the time, talks about taking note of the ridiculous amount of suicides by people whose skewed belief systems led them to think that, in this prolonged dark, they were in fact weathering the long descent into hell, and simply preferred to not.
But her younger sister, my dear mother Rachel, who, to be fair, had a job at the time that really sucked, decided, along with her best pal Madeline, to heretofore quit her job and hole up in the den in the center of our house and write poems and drink vodka tonics or anything-tonics and watch the parades on TV.
Hanging out with them for an hour or so in those evenings before I took off on my bike made me feel a little embarrassed and kinda nervous, but also oddly grateful. They had been best friends for nearly their whole lives, and workers for all that time, and now it was time to take a break and think, and drink. Mostly drink.
Drink they did. Their loosened laughs pulled smiles down out of the loaded moonless black beyond. They sat in that room with the end table lamps burning and the great comforter TV awash in endless magnified color projecting coverage. Not caring that the dark had caused a bit of an insect outbreak and therefore an elevated spider population, and that their relatively inert bodies became blood banquet in response to such activity. Later they stood around in their undies laughing at one another in the bathroom mirror while they spot-checked with calamine lotion.
I didn't get bitten up too badly, but somehow I felt vaguely jealous.
"JEREMY, YOUR MOTHER HAS REACHED A MOMENT OF RECKONING, and in such moments, one must make art and take joy. At least that's what somebody told me once. Something probably in there about courage too." My mother said to me. Referring to herself in the third person and patting me on the shoulder while she popped popcorn. The lady was making sense, but at the same time, she wasn't. Not to me. I'd never heard her talk like this before. But then again she'd never enjoyed this much time at home.
That's something you'll have to keep in mind about the Celestial Event. Space came closer than it ever had before. In light of something we will never again see in the lifetime of our planet inside its meagre solar system, everything became a pretty even split between fear and exhilaration. It was like knowing you could actually hold your breath for forty-eight hours. But then you had to do it to survive, like everybody else.
It was that very same something about Scarlet Monk that made me feel connected and beyond myself at the same time. I stared into her eyes in this one photo from her album liner notes, and they put me in awe of the world. And with her voice speaking to me in music, it was like she was a kind of protective muse reminding me that the adventure of the near future of my life was about to unfold in all its bounty. And in so being, take me on a journey of incredible scope and feeling.
I was, in short, much like my mother: bulwarked and optimistic.
And it was a good thing, too. Because then I was ready for school. And I was ready for Diana.
Mack of course saw her and liked her first. He always kind of liked her — more than like — to hear him tell it, which became a little problematic when she and I took after one another. Constantly on long bike rides to find a place to kiss.
But that resolved once Melissa latched onto him and he finally had somebody to go with who was not a shit player at video games.
Mom was like a child who enjoys repetition but still longs for the new-and-improved. I’m pretty sure that’s a contradiction we all share.
School wasn't that hard. In fact I kinda liked it more than ever. Our fantastic new literature instructor used black eyeliner like my aunt Rebecca, which is to say intensely. And she was fascinated by what we each did over the course of the Celestial Event, so she had us working on our own personal science fiction epics all the time.
We did more writing than reading which met with some protest, but not from me. In my story we had learned to harness gravity in such a way as to manage a reel on our orbit with that of our closest planetary neighbor. When we were together enough to terraform the now adjacent rock, we had thereby birthed a true sister planet.
On top of all that, everyone on the initial planet lived in one absolute and enormous city-structure. It was mostly after a dream I had that felt hyper-real. I started to call it 'VURreal' since I wasn't sure yet if I wanted to incorporate a virtual reality aspect. But I had an idea that was where it was all headed.
I almost had a sister once. So it felt good to build one on paper, even in planetary form.
Plus I wanted to have Diana in it somehow. Or just give the story to her, like as a birthday present or something, once I was finished. But the beginning was always my favorite part:
“I chased her to the runway. Miles from the Arcology. It was night, and when I finally slowed and turned back, the complex was incredible. Scintillating and massive in its argent blue. Radio tower spindles beat a blinking path astride the impression of a paved curve.
She kept running. Wind whipped at our hair and the frenzy in the silhouette was beautiful. I had never been out this far before. Hard to believe home was tucked into one of those cobalt corners of stylized steel that loomed like a frozen storm at the horizon. And so too when I turned again there was another storm right in front of me. A storm of mourning for her father's recently destroyed space vessel, and with it, his life. His six-year term on the one man mission to repair and update the remaining energy-comm sats was almost complete. And then he became an element of fire and spectrum and everything was different for both of us.”
Mack's story was basically the outline of a business plan. In it, he gets to join The Potentials and makes his fortune building and tuning rocket-powered space pageants or something. A whole moon as an amusement ride.
I could have laughed when I read it, but he'd just make a face. Besides, I was one to talk. My far-flung conjecture was, with current technology, more impossible than impractical. But that was sort of the point, I thought.
In any case, we really gave a shit, so we all got A's.
Diana wrote something brilliant and Garden-of-Eden-esque that I only remember the opening line for. Mostly because she memorized it too and stole it from herself to use again in a later poem:
‘I see the moons
before the sun-
little bitten cookies
with neat star-crumbles
at one sunken edge.
It will be
the picture I take
to rescue myself here
on the first day
Mom loved it. She adored Diana and asked for that poem constantly. Mom was like a child who enjoys repetition but still longs for the new-and-improved. I’m pretty sure that’s a contradiction we all share.
A LITTLE LATER ON I GOT EXCITED FOR THE NEW SCARLET MONK RECORD, but what really gave me a hard-on around then was my first love letter from Diana, which came while she was away on break visiting her dad. Man it was racy. She almost went overboard, talking about how thinking of me masturbating turns her on. About how hot it was that time in the North Woods when she showed me how to go down on her and I made her come twice.
All it took was this set of five sheets of lavender paper to make me miss her so bad I caught headaches that went down into my scrotum.
She was quiet too, in her own way, and never went on like this. Even her handwriting was different from that of our collected passed notes. I'd swear sometimes I was standing stalk-still in the dust for how fast girls could change.
Mack caught a first whiff of this when Melissa snubbed him because she thought he had something for her sister. Chances are he did, but who knows if it wasn’t just Melissa's insecurity talking.
Then one day I come home and Mom says "We're moving, start packing." and soon enough we moved and that was that. She had grown tired of not working, but found another job instantly once she looked, and where we moved wasn't too far away from where we'd been, and it was nicer.
Diana even visited me there once or twice. I thought about asking her to marry me, but every time I really looked into her eyes for any length of time I saw something drift.
Have you ever tried to stop a wave from rolling back? Exactly.
It was a short while past the anniversary of the Celestial Event and the day before my birthday when she told me she probably wouldn't call me again.
But before that there were minor celebrations and lots of remixed footage and replayed broadcasts of Tomorrow Will Be Late festivities. And Mom tried to get me to read my sci-fi story aloud, and joked that she should quit her job again. And Madeline even stayed the weekend and laughed her eight-pitch-loony-bin-laugh while her new urban lumberjack boyfriend, who was younger than he looked and smoked cigars wrapped in red paper, taught me about five different card games, which I taught later to Mack of course, but he only really ever liked and got good at one of them. Naturally it’s the one where you have to knock the cards out of your opponent's hand.
SCHOOL WAS STILL OUT FOR JUST A NANO-SECOND LONGER when I stayed up almost the whole night one time. I stood naked in front of the mirror listening to Scarlet Monk and staring myself down.
I didn't move, and took a long look at my whole body. Everyone else was moving at light speed and here, if I was changing, it seemed way to slow to tell.
But I charged myself up a little bit. Like a battery. Trying to not think of anything in particular, and trying too to not reach out for the muse, but to let her just come and wash over me, and maybe tell me the future a little bit, and remind me that I'm really lucky, and that I'm whole — I'm a whole person who, even in the small amount of life I've lived up to now, has seen and done some remarkable things. And that there are so many incredible things left to do.
This feeling of what is possible when you listen and relax — it just gets bigger.
And also, most importantly, that love is the best celestial event there is. I suppose I knew it all along, but I felt the parade of my heart march on in triumph for the time when I would have a family of my own.
And then it finally hits me that next year will be 2040, and even if I never feel this way again, there's no reason I have now to stop smiling.