Bloom by Kathy Stevenson

photo of pink roses

“Softly softly” (image via Flickr user Bernard Spragg)

She had been waiting nearly a year for her pass to the Repository, or the Repo as most people called it. The line was long, as all lines were now, but it was moving. Her senses yearned toward the building itself, as it housed so much that she had almost forgotten. People her daughter’s age had lost nearly all of those memories because they had been so young when these things had disappeared.

The disappearance had been gradual. In the day-to-day, one thing slipped away, then another, but it was never enough at one time to cause true alarm. It was more of an erosion, grain-by-grain of something solid that had always been there. One day you noticed something was half-gone, then it was not there.

She felt the nearly imperceptible pulse of someone trying to scan her, but couldn’t tell who it was. She made her mind bloom, and the scanner stopped. Her daughter had taught her how to do this. Not many people her age had mastered blooming – most didn’t even try. She sometimes wished she had never had the scanner chip implanted, but her daughter had been adamant. At her age, she would become completely out of touch. Her daughter loved her too much to let that happen. It seemed a small price to pay to give in to her daughter that once.

Hey, lady I’m scanning you.

Spoken words, guttural, from a young man next to her. The sound of his real voice startled her. Most people just scanned.

You.

She looked at him and instinctively clutched her handbag. She had brought the bag out of habit, although she would be asked to check it at the Repository. No one carried handbags anymore, except the really wealthy. Or women her age who felt they couldn’t be expected to give up everything.

Anyway, there was nothing to put in a bag now. Money was no longer coined or printed, everything done with scanners. All transactions blipped through the air or the ether, or whatever it was that surrounded them.

Can I have your space for the Repo? I’ll pay you for it.

She considered.

He tapped his head to indicate that he wanted to scan her.

She released her blooming block, and let his thoughts enter hers.

I never been in there yet.

That’s not my problem. I’ve been waiting for this.

She blocked him. She felt no guilt. She who had always done for others, but no more.

People did sell their spaces. It took a long time to get in. This was discouraged. She wasn’t even sure you could do it, since there were scanners set up to discourage a free market.

What will be in the Repository: an entire room of books, as in the old libraries – the smell of which she craved on some primal level. A flower garden with roses and lilac bushes. Greenhouses with real grass, and lemon, lime, and orange trees. These were all things she thought she still remembered. Or maybe she just remembered the memory of them.

Kathy Stevenson‘s essays and short stories have appeared in a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and literary journals including The New York Times, Clapboard House, Chicago Tribune, Red Rock Review, Philadelphia Inquirer, The Writer, South Boston Literary Gazette, and many other publications. She has a recent MFA from Bennington, and lives just north of Chicago.

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