It had been a long day, and he had thought he’d seen everything, but he had never seen stars dance before. Oh, call it what you want, but she had written it with certainty. She said it was possible - to see them dance - if you "just turn the world upside down." Turn the world upside down, end over end, top over bottom, whichever one gave you the needed perspective. She was an enigma to most, even before the world stood eerily still - always with her hand clutching that heart shaped locket at her breast. But to him she represented something that he had lost, something the world had lost. It had been a long day, not because of a heart shaped locket or what it represented, but because of that girl who he had met 6 months previous. The girl who he had learned today…died.
She wasn’t his to love, well not in the traditional sense anyway, and besides he had only met her once. But she was his to mourn, in fact he was certain that anyone who had met her, even once, now felt the same loss that he did and mourned her as well. He had lost before, it was certainly no stranger to him, nor was the grief that always hungrily waited close by in the wake of loss. But this was different, that heart shaped locket and that chance encounter made it different. So he mourned…and grieved, the loss of what most anyone would think to be a complete stranger. A stranger because most of the world that he was taught to understand came with definitions. Definitions that the world he now lived in excused.
It had been called the Vestige. It wasn’t an official title and probably would not be remembered in any history book as such, assuming that there is someone left to write a history book anyway. No, it had been called the Vestige by those who remained. And those who remained can be classified very simply as – A Gapper - which he, Jackson Deck was - the Forlorn, which she Lacy, the girl who Jackson had learned died was - and the Peremptory, those that rule at the other end of the destruction that they have created. The Peremptory had no issues with the Forlorn, they were described as such because their death was imminent. It was the Gapper’s that frightened the Peremptory – and because of this, they were hunted.
It had been 28 years since the Vestige. Jackson knew this because he was born just 10 minutes after its arrival. Jackson was the youngest of four children. Both Jackson’s parents were Heli- seismologists, they studied the sun and its oscillations. Jackson’s parents had begun to notice wave patterns that did not seem to be celestial in origin. The waves that they had studied appeared to be manipulated by earthly means, which meant that someone or something here on earth had created them. Both his parents had begun to speak out on these waves, both to colleagues and the government as well. At first everyone reacted with a great deal of interest, but it wasn’t until the Vestige that his parents worst fears were realized.
In an overpopulated world where resources are scarce and those resources knew no allegiance to money or power. In a world where any $20 dollar an hour janitor could flip a light switch or water a dying lawn while he sat in front of his 60 inch television…in that world of gluttonous waste, changes had to be made. And those with power, money and authority, had to make sure that their preservation continued.
The Peremptory…must not perish from the face of the earth.
Decades upon decades of “cloud seeding” and “vapor trails” made sure that those waves detected by Jackson’s parents would erupt, causing billions of deaths to those not wanted or needed, therefore unprepared for the Vestige’s eventual destruction. But what wasn’t aware to anyone - wanted, needed or otherwise, was the Gappers.
Everyone that Jackson knew was a Forlorn. The Forlorn were those alive and ignorant to any dangers at the time of the Vestige. The Peremptory had established their failsafe’s - they knew the Vestige was coming. They had planned for this. De-population, a manageable society – A new world, sustainable, at least for the near future. A plan put in place many years before the Vestige, a plan that only they would control. They reconciled their evil with “warnings’ and “we told you so.” They created their holocaust on the excuse that extinction, at least their definition of it, was by far a greater evil. But they did not plan for the Gappers.
Jackson was a Gapper – A gapper is someone who was born within the thirty-day period after the Vestige. He wasn’t sure how many people were Gappers. Jackson had learned that on average worldwide, prior to the Vestige, about 385,000 babies were born per day. That means there could be around 11 million Gappers. For reasons neither of his parents could answer and with no explanation provided from the Peremptory - Gappers were children in utero, but born before the first 30-day period after the Vestige. For whatever reasons those children – in that time period – were protected from the devastation of the Vestige.
11 million possibly willing to fight against the Peremptory.
Lacy Ellis was a Forlorn, just 36 years old - born 8 years before the Vestige. Lacy Ellis was a fighter, it was something Jackson had noticed in her from the moment he had met her. He had also noticed how beautiful she was. In a world where beauty was very difficult to recognize, he had seen it in her. When he met her, she had told him she was a Forlorn, and that her life would very soon be ending. But he couldn’t see that. He didn’t want to see that. Because what he did see in Lacy Ellis was strength, beauty and reason. Reason being the most attractive quality in a world that had none.
The day that he had met Lacy he had noticed the way she had protected that heart shaped locket that hung from her neck. He could tell that to her the locket held more meaning than a piece of jewelry should, even to a young woman of 36 years. He watched her as her hand constantly cupped the apex of the object - held and then released. Only to be held once more, as if she wasn’t entirely certain from one moment to the next if it still existed. He was fascinated by everything that he saw in her, but his interest in the locket was the most intriguing because she made her concern for it obvious. He understood her time was short – she had made that clear. At 36 years young, Lacy Ellis had already lived longer than most Forlorn should, but Lacy represented something that he had never experienced before – hope.
As Jackson laid his head down on that day of meeting, he could remember his parents telling him that there were 10 times more stars in the night sky than grains of sand in the world's deserts and beaches. It was a phenomenon that was unfamiliar to him, unfamiliar to all born after the Vestige. Along with the demise of the Forlorn, so too was the demise of the sunset. Sleep knew no hour of day - sleep was for the tired - which Jackson was.
So, as he continued to listen to Lacy speak, Jackson laid down his head. He was amazed at the comfort that her words and voice provided to him. He could recall the feelings of love he had felt for his parents, for his brothers and sister, but this was different. This must have been what his parents felt, because he had known no relationship like it in his 28 years. So he slept – and dreamt of stars - and for the first time in many years – his sleep was content.
When Jackson woke Lacy was gone.
As content as his sleep was, his awakening was frantic. His search for her upon awakening slowly turned to dread as he realized that she was nowhere to be found. And even more terrifying than that slow wave of dread was the fact that left in her absence was that heart shaped locket – and a letter. Jackson lived in a world where love is painful because loss is constant. But he was not ready to lose her, and the shaking in his hands as he opened the letter told him so.
Our meeting was not by chance. I am the daughter of Michael Ellis, former Commandant of the United States Marine Corps. My father and your parents led the resistance against the Peremptory until their death. The resistance Jackson is real!
What you don’t know is that you have been followed, protected, throughout your life by the resistance. Jackson - you are the elder. The oldest living Gapper and as such the eventual leader of the resistance. Your place has been established by us amongst them.
They have been told of your coming. You Jackson are the savior that they have been expecting.
Inside the locket is a micro-chip that contains all the information that you need to know. I have guarded this locket with my life since I was 16 years old. Now it is yours. As my time is ending – yours is becoming.
Remember when I spoke of the stars? They dance Jackson, as certain as they exist, they dance. You just need to be in that place – as it exists as well.
These are the coordinates Jackson – your parents taught you of them – do you remember?
-54.0000 Lat –70.0000 Long
Leave now! You will have help along the way. I see it in you Jackson – I can feel it. Do not mourn for me because I can rest now, my duty is complete. I love you Jackson, I love what you will become. If not for a different time.
Jackson pulled a matchbook left behind in the envelope – with tears in his eyes- he struck a match.
It took Jackson 6 months to reach his destination. The furthest point south on the continents of the former America’s. Jackson did have help along the way – the resistance was real!
He did remember his parents speaking of this place and he understood now why they had spoke of it so often and with such regard. They knew he would take his place amongst them here. They also knew that he would need help in locating all the Gappers – information the microchip contained. But what he did not understand until he arrived was what Lacy had meant – that stars could dance?
It wasn’t until he arrived. It wasn’t until he stood in the one place on earth where night fell for just 1 hour of the day – that he remembered her certainty – that stars could dance. As he stood there at the water’s edge of Cape Horn and looked up at the night sky for the very first time – he saw them. They were as amazing as his parents had told him they were!
But it wasn’t until he finally looked out at the water that he understood what Lacy meant. As he watched the ripple of waves pass before him, he could see the reflections of the stars above – dance amongst them. “Just turn the world upside down” he thought, as a tear slowly left his eye.
At that very moment Jackson Deck found the purpose that had always been searching him out. He grabbed at the locket that now hung from his neck – holding it as she once had. He learned of her death just today, and as she made promises to him – and kept – he made one to her.
It was time to dance.