Big Change, ch. 6: Michael Williams

Monitoring: Michael Williams
Madison, Wisconsin, USA

3:20 p.m. Central Standard Time
Thursday, January 2, 2014
21:20 Coordinated Universal Time
Thursday, January 2, 2014

Fast forward—

This is Michael’s first experience driving a car, and technically, he’s not old enough for a permit. However, he doesn’t think he’ll get caught, and he has plenty of experience to draw on. It’s just not his experience.

He does have to worry about crashing into a tree because he can’t maintain his focus on the road, though. The standard phrase is “lost in thought,” but this doesn’t adequately cover the phenomenon as Michael is experiencing it now. Memory, he decides, is like a whitewater river. Remembrance has a certain direction to it, with one thought leading to another and then to a third. Like the river, it comes up from beneath, without any notice at all, and threatens to pull you under if you are unwary. Smells are the worst perpetrators, but then Michael thinks that he remembers (hah!) reading that the sense of smell was strongly linked to memory. Continue reading

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Big Change, ch. 5: Ananya Sharma

Monitoring: Ananya Sharma
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

9:45 p.m. India Standard Time
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
16:15 Coordinated Universal Time
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Rewind—

This morning, Ananya thought that she would go into business someday, or maybe a sport of some kind. Her future was vague as far as the details went: she would attend university, get good grades, and go to whichever company was most determined to recruit her, at least as long as it was run by Indians and properly supported local workers. Or maybe she would do well on a rifle shooting team and become a professional, like Anjali Bhagwat. If that didn’t happen, then it was still a sure thing that she would at least find a good company to work for, so beyond that there was no reason to think about backup plans.

Then, on the way home from school, her plans for the future were irreparably destroyed. There was no doubt in her mind about the knowledge which had lit up within her on the bus. If it was not divine revelation then it was close enough that the difference had to be academic. No sooner had she gotten home than she consulted one of her books and ran off again to the local Mahesh Hardware Store for supplies. Continue reading

Big Change, ch. 4: Simon Martin

Monitoring: Simon Martin
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

4:05 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
Wednesday, December 31st, 2013
21:05 Coordinated Universal Time
Wednesday, December 31st, 2013

Meanwhile—

Simon learned at least three things that morning: the ambulance response time in Toronto is five minutes; “syncope” is the technical term for a fainting spell; and something awful is going to happen to at least a small piece of Toronto at some point in the future. Continue reading

Big Change, ch. 3: Noam Sitz

Monitoring: Noam Sitz
Haifa, Haifa District, Israel

6:35 p.m. Israel Standard Time
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
16:35 Coordinated Universal Time
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Meanwhile—

This is death: the country that every person is traveling to, one second at a time. Like an event horizon, it is a boundary past which no one returns from. There is no place for them to return from.

Death is very much on Noam’s mind right now, and it colors everything that he sees. Out of the corner of his eye is the nurse, standing beside the door like the destroying angel. Her eyes, he thinks, are the brown of graveyard earth, and her painted fingernails the blue of heaven. She says nothing to him, but, uncharacteristically, both for herself and for a destroying angel, she is willing to give him a few moments more. Continue reading

Big Change, ch. 2: Hannah Johnson

With thanks to Alexander Wales for permission to use an idea of his.

Monitoring: Hannah Johnson
Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA

11:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
16:30 Coordinated Universal Time
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Meanwhile—

A thousand kilometers away, Hannah Johnson is experiencing her own revelation.

Someone else might laugh at the absurdity of her situation: she has a magic trick, something to show at parties. If moneymaking were on their mind, the first thing on their list would be children’s birthday parties, maybe followed by “Vegas?” with the question mark really big, because how would someone go about pulling off a whole magic show around just one trick. Maybe if she were already one-half of Penn and Teller, but at the end of the day it’s just a gimmick. There may be someone out there with laser eyeballs and bulletproof skin, and what she has is a conversation opener. Continue reading

Big Change, ch. 1: Simon Martin

“End, begin, all the same. Big change. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.” 
The Dark Crystal
, directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz.

Monitoring: Simon Martin
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

8:35 a.m. Eastern Standard Time
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
13:35 Coordinated Universal Time
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

It is December 31st. #1 on the Best Seller List is Sycamore Row, by John Grisham; it is “about race and inheritance.” In Egypt, the interim government seizes the assets of Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including the ousted president. The vice-president of separatist party Bloc Quebecois announces her resignation. A visitor to Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Ontario finds cash strewn across the graves. Continue reading