Alice Makes Plans

Alice went about her morning routine — a work morning like any other over 17 immutable years, a process that demanded complete attention but little consciousness, in a strange but innate division of the human being. She normally enjoyed that split. But the tension remained this morning, and she was reminded of that fateful morning months before when she had decided to act — to call Gary about the disturbing burns on Andrew’s monitor. Of course, the natural thing to assume this morning is that she would complete the cycle: Gary, there’s a sign; Gary, there’s an alien intelligence seeking to communicate with me. But those of you who think you know Alice — what do you suppose? Will she assess the risk too high? Will she turn to Reggie? Will she succumb to a still burning love for Gary?

I hope you’re not foolish enough to subscribe to that false hope; I hope there’s not some sort of racial tension as you read on. You’re not secretly rooting for the white guy? Oh sure, I made him the protagonist and gave him a love interest and suggested that he was becoming more than himself. But there’s something about razor-sharp situations like this: they bring out the best and the worst in all of us. There is no sense looking to a color code: we all decode to frail beings swept up in the cement-hard winds of a tornado.

Alice knew by lunchtime that she needed to act to break the mounting pressure behind her forehead. She hadn’t many options. She printed out the email and deleted the electronic copy — on the hope that it wouldn’t be backed up onto tape. She formulated a plan, laid it out in her mind, and got back to work. She thought, that’s done. She could only shake her head when, a couple hours later, directly before a meeting, she blurted out to the assembled parties, apropos nothing: “I’m engaged to be married.” Four unconscious hours later it was time to go by the school and get Andrew from after-school care.