The Stay an Anticipation Lottery-Part 1 / Joe Bruce

“Can I tell you something strange?” he asked.


“I feel more alone now that I met you than when I was anticipating you.”

An hour earlier, John stood at the bay window, watching the shuttle dock with the space station port, his heart pounding impatiently because he knew the assigned love of his life sat inside waiting to meet him with equal anxious yearning. They’d both drawn identical numbers in the Fall Sweepstakes Love Lottery, which was no small coincidence considering the anomalies in their personality data inventories. The irradiating brilliance of Earth’s electrical grid glowed below like a neon computer chip covering every square inch of the planet, now that quiet and effective mass transit systems, digital billboards, and high rise housing developments full of cozy modular domestic units had supplanted the last deserts and tropical rainforests. Yes, these days destiny was an everyday event, and John awaited his. He could “smell” her now.

Literally this was true. He took out her scent paper from his pocket and placed it on his nose, to inhale her soft skin sweat smell as he gazed at the vast euphoria of mankind below. They would meet any second now. Would she sanctify an alien intelligence like his, let alone his semi-humanoid appearance? Sure, there was a handsome actor under this television make-up, but a skeptical first impression must be taken into account. Latex induced wrinkles and blue skin. This was a premonition of disaster if it weren’t for his bulging muscles. John liked to navelgaze about the nature of his own simulation.

“There you are,” she said. In all his musings she’d snuck up right behind him. John could vaguely see the reflection of a female silhouette in the window.

“I’m afraid to turn around,” he admitted. Honesty. The quality that predates our conniving. You must be vulnerable at all costs.

“Never turn around,” she said ironically. “That will be us. I’ll always stand behind you, whispering in your ear.”

“Part of me would like that arrangement,” said John.

He felt a hand on his shoulder. “I don’t think I would.”

Time to turn around. This was a time when the implicit bias of the Love Lottery didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. This was eyes meeting eyes. Thank you destiny. Thank you to the vast globe of electronic human yearning below. The confines of the room, the seamless lines of space station design, the furniture bolted to the floor, John’s silver jumpsuit, his sideburns and neck tension, all the breathable particles of air flooding around them through the ventilation system, it all was like the image on a film negative that used to come with photos when they were developed at the photo section at Walgreens before digital technology took over cellular phones. John was about to begin his magic dance, hesitant movement. A lonely operatic soprano began to sing an aria as he began to turn.

Her name was Heather, with hair and skin, human. The only way to describe the way she looked at him was straightforward. She was frank. Hazel eyes, freckles on her cheekbones, and a half-smile. “Look at you,” he said and then, turning to the side again and raising his arm in a gesture of open expansion, he added, “look at us. The universe is our oyster. When do we burst off at light-speed into the unknown?”

“Now you’re exaggerating,” said Heather. She was right. All that awaited them was a brief honeymoon stint in station domestic pod six and then it was off to the moon rock mines for the next six months.

With her comment, John ached at the edge of his psyche. He liked to dream and he hoped she’d share his dreams. He didn’t know anything about her except her Lottery profile. Age: 26. Profession: Laborer. Education: The Academy for Rapid Decompression. Her attempt at a joke?

“I grew up with my parents in a tall building, but from the window you couldn’t see the ground or the sky,” she’d tell him later. “My dad used to drink his coffee with his hands. My mom pretended she had a cat even though they all went extinct before she was born. A picture of one, an actual picture she inherited from her grandmother, was enough for her to savor the delusion.”

Pillow-talk in the years to come, but for now the two stood hand-in-hand looking out the window. “The Lottery worked for us, didn’t it?” asked Jacob. “Why’d you decide to buy a ticket?”

“Human guys weren’t much for meeting,” said Heather. “And I wanted to get off the planet.”

“Now you’re off, now you’re here,” said Jacob.

“Have you been up here long?” she asked.

“Only a year, actually,” said Jacob. “I was Earth raised too, like you. My family had its own pod in the sky.” This was common, what the both of them were doing (him now and her in the future), to refer to their domestic units so often, because even though it had been the natural order of housing for more than a generation, the honeycombesque quality of the housing blocks somehow never felt right, so many people who grew up in little squares always referred to their little squares as pivotal components of their autobiography.

“Were there a lot of other hybrids like you around?”

The identity of hybrids should not be inferred. One hundred years earlier, first contact happened briefly and widely in the form of a spore dropped through the atmosphere that exploded and sent massive quantities of little spores blending with little babies who grew up blue and who tolerated zero gravity much better than their pure counterparts. Heather was not a hybrid. And hybrids were not called human, even though they basically were human.

“Some, but I always hung out mostly with humans.”

He said this with an air of melancholy, the creases of his brain-heart-spine cringing and hollowing him with a sense of doom. Just his past, it was just his past, something not a single person could accurately convey, but instead get an amplified pang of solitude after the telling. John felt this solitude more now that he was with Heather than when he was actually by himself anticipating her.

He wished she could always stay an anticipation. That would be a better version of the lottery. So he told her.

“Me too,” she said.

This gave John an idea.