12/18/12

Collision Error
By Kayla Al-Shamma-Jones


Nobody—save for the overly flirtatious mailman—seemed to notice when Jenna started falling.  I don’t mean that the ground opened up and began swallowing her whole, as if a pool of burping-swirling quicksand had opened up under her hand-me-down Skechers .  No, that’s not it at all—what happened to Jenna Barker is much more treacherous than that.  In the video game world they call it a “collision error” because objects start to pass right through you, almost as if everything (except you) has turned into some kind of hologram; everything looks and seems real, but as soon as you touch something, the jig is up! and you pass right through it.  Most of the time you (the player) won’t notice it for a while, but then it happens:  you’re running around in the game, trying to kill zombies or rescue a damsel or something like that, when bam! you trip and you fall, but instead of landing flat on your face you go right through the (holographic) ground and you fall
and you fall
straight through the crust of the earth and all the way through the planet’s red-hot center until there you are—
floating, completely and forever alone,
in space. 

Usually the only way to fix this sort of thing is to restart your game, but poor Jenna didn’t have that option so she just had to live with it.

Thankfully for Jenna the whole process happened slowly, at the rate of just a few inches a day, so she had time to try and figure out what the fuck to do.  But even though Jenna was one of those (annoying) straight-A girls, the best thing she could come up with was to ask her friends or (gulp) maybe even her teachers—but that was a bit of a problem because (like I said) nobody seemed to notice Jenna’s plight—or Jenna herself—at all, save for the mailman.  When she went to school that Wednesday, half of her shins had fallen through and she was significantly shorter than she’d been on Monday, but even then, her best friend Elly didn't notice; she just passed right by poor Jenna in the hallway before the morning bell.  The day went by and Jenna went from desk to lousy desk and nobody said a word to her.  Jenna knew she should say something, or cry out for help, but she didn’t want people to think she was crazy

(“Women and children should only speak when spoken to”, Father had told her when she was three and making too much noise at the supermarket),

so she went along with it and tried to be as normal as possible, which worked because nobody addressed her or even looked at her her at all that day, not even once, even though by lunchtime half her legs were gone.  Then there was cheer practice, which was depressing because of course Jenna couldn’t do most of the exercises during warm-ups or really participate at all; all she could do was stand there and flail her arms around which made her feel like an idiot.  The only person who spoke to her all day was the mailman, who was standing on the porch when the school bus dropped her off that afternoon.
“What the heck’s happening to you, Jenna?” he asked as she wobbled up to the front door.
“I don’t know.”
“It’s like you’re slipping through the cracks.”
Jenna looked down and noticed all the hairline cracks in the sidewalk and imagined all those tiny skittering bugs deep down in there and tried not to think about what it would be like if she continued falling and her head got stuck down there.  Would the bugs and worms crawl all over her eyeballs and nest in her hair and poop on her blouse? 
“Should I take you to a doctor?  I have a guy, real good, named Dr. Felp…I’ll give you a ride.”
Jenna knew that a doctor couldn’t help her, plus she didn’t want to go anywhere with the mailman, even if his offer was genuine and he was only a little creepy, so she just nodded and mumbled her thanks before walking-tottering past him and shutting the door.
When she got inside she did what all teenage girls do when they’ve had a rough day: she went to her bedroom and flopped on the bed.  Or, rather, she tried—but she couldn’t hoist herself up onto the bed because her legs were stuck.  She gripped the edge of her bed and pulled and wriggled and twisted until all her veins popped blue-purple against her porcelain skin, but it was no use.  Exhausted, she slumped over and decided that she’d just have to weep standing up.
But all that struggling must’ve done something because then she started to fall much more quickly, just like you do in video games. 
Down
down
down she went.
The whole earth rushed past her: she tumbled right past all those bugs and worms and went straight through the earth’s crust, then she slipped through an ocean of oil and passed through the sunshine-bright molten core (Jenna was thankful that it didn’t hurt—she actually didn’t feel the heat at all).   Then she did it all in reverse and fell through the sky somewhere around rural China and continued falling until she plummeted through the atmosphere and finally came to a rest somewhere in outer space—Jenna didn’t know where she was because she always fell asleep when her parents took her and her stupid sister to the observatory.  Nope, she was lost
and alone
            in outer space, and all she could do was float there,
                        and stare down at the big blue marble beneath her,
limp as a forgotten doll,
            and wonder why nobody noticed
when she started falling through the
cracks.


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Kayla Al-Shamma-Jones was a pretty weird kid, which is why she’s now a writer. Long ago she studied literature at the University of California at Davis and is now a full-time author of dark, disturbing, and fantastical fiction. She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA with her fabulous husband Orion and her two cats.


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