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     The Other Side of the Median, p.1

       Kenny Jackson / Fantasy / Science Fiction
The Other Side of the Median
“The Other Side of the Median”
By Kenny Jackson
Copyright 2015 Kenny Jackson, all rights reserved


Table of Contents
Title Page
The Story
More Stories and Contact Information


Jaime Marquez woke early, before even the red, first moon finished lighting his field. (He was Chizo, expecting a son) Waiting for him at the breakfast table was a great pile of meat-sausage and his wife. Alejandra had risen an hour earlier to bake the sausages, singing all the while. In singing, she did not chance waking Jaime. Her loud voice in the kitchen was less than a whisper in the bedroom. Jaime wolfed the sausage and patted his wife’s pregnant belly. Carefully, he lifted the hoe from its horizontal repose on the stand in the locked tool-room. It was investigated by sight and touch for any sign of crack or weakness. Jaime waxed the head of the hoe. Alejandra waved as her husband walked to the far end of their field. Only when Jaime disappeared over the horizon did she close the curtain and go back inside.
The shining head of the hoe flashed up and down in Jaime’s untiring hand. Against it, the hard and rocky earth gave easily. Jaime stopped only to rest the hoe and prevent future defect; soon his son would be born and the shaman was greedy. To the hoeing, Jaime sang happily.

One for my so-on
This for hoe the breaker

A second for my so-on
This for hoe the breaker

To the planting, Jaime sang less happily.

One for my so-on
This for hoe the breaker
This for spade the digger
This for hoe the breaker

A second for my so-on…

To the harvesting, Jaime sang less happily still.

One for my so-on
This for hoe the breaker
This for spade the digger
This for hoe the breaker
This for scythe the reaper
This for hoe the breaker
This for spade the digger
This for hoe the breaker

A second for my so-on…


But Jaime was not planting or reaping. He sang happily. Today, only the hoe’s wage went to the toolowner. Perhaps Jaime sang too happily. In his hoeing, he missed a rock (the rock was in a patch of ground set aside for the hoe). He tripped on the rock and tumbled forward. The head of the hoe rang as it knocked against Jaime’s head.
Jaime sat up in the dust. The hoe did not look as if it had been hurt. This was lucky, though Jaime did feel he had damaged the inside of his skull. He asked himself questions.
“What is my name?”
“Jaime is my name.”
“What is my caste?”
“Chizo is my caste.”
Telling himself the inside of his skull must not be too damaged, Jaime returned to hoeing and did not stop until he heard Alejandra calling for supper.
Waiting for him at the supper table was his mother, his sister and her husband, Alejandra, and an enormous plate of meat-burgers on vegetable-buns. Jaime ate the burgers and talked with his family of the earth and the weather and their purchases from the catalog. The catalog came to Jaime’s house also, as it came to all houses, but he and Alejandra had not ordered anything since they had begun trying for a child. Still, the house was filled with more things from the catalog than Jaime could picture at once – though only one of them worked.
On the first day of each new season, the catalog appeared outside every door. Jaime had heard of women and children waiting for the catalog, staying up all night. But he had never heard of anyone seeing it arrive. In the moment you blinked or turned away or went to the bathroom, that is when the catalog arrived. Alejandra’s sister said that the catalog’s coming made you blink or sneeze or need to use the bathroom. Jaime did not care or know enough to disagree with his sister-in-law.
Each page of the catalog showed a single, magnificent, incomprehensible item bordered by an endless array of meaningless symbols. On the reverse side of a page, printed very large in the middle, were only a handful of meaningless symbols. A person ordered by tearing out the treasures they desired, sealing them in an envelope, and placing the envelope outside on the ground, where they had found the catalog. The envelope departed as the catalog arrived. One month later the torn-out items appeared on the doorstep in the same way.
Most everyone Jaime knew thought the items were paid for by the disappearance of crops. Jaime agreed. Ever since he and his wife had stopped tearing out catalog pages and leaving them in envelopes, none of his crops had disappeared.
The magnificent things that came from the catalog, except for one, did not work. As decoration they functioned admirably, but because of the mede, which succeeded in more than prettiness, they were thought of as beautiful failures. Still, new wonders appeared in each season’s catalog. No one could say a thing did not work until someone bought and tried it, so family and friends gathered together to decide who would purchase what.
The meat-burgers in their bellies, Jaime’s family made languidly for the living room and switched on the mede. It was a smooth log of burnished wood with a rounded-square mouth and one tiny glowing circle of an eye. They sat listening to the whistling hum and closed their eyes, each at his own pace. In the darkness of their heads, Jaime’s wife, mother, sister, and brother-in-law, in short bursts, looked all across their world. Famines starved, lottery tickets paid out, children died, the home team won. The mede’s song brought the images, showing how good they had it, then how bad they had it, then how good, on and on. Wake up tomorrow so you will; wake up tomorrow so you will not. Open your eyes and the pictures disappear, replaced by the world around you. Close them again and the sights return, recalled by the wail of the mede.
No member of the family could escape the piped, waking dreams. A person walking past the mede-ed living room, blinking, in that instant saw the burning down of an apartment building or the pinning of a medal. But seldom did any wish escape from the favorite and almost only entertainment.
On the day of Jaime’s injury, which he mistook as a head injury to his last moment of having ever lived in the stone house carved by his father’s father, the images he saw on the undersides of his eyelids were different. He saw great halls of glass suspended from nothing in the night, revolving round a circle of unbearable brightness. He did not see any of the three moons. Jaime saw, clothed in immaculate suits-and-ties, a monstrous race with an incorrect number of limbs. He did not see people as he knew people – people in the image of his family and neighbors.
Cracking an eye, Jaime peeked at his family. They sat calmly, eyes shut, not seeing the disturbing visions he saw. Jaime abruptly left and tried polishing his hoe for the morning’s work. An imbalance of the ears was causing Jaime to hear the mede’s tune one and a half intervals sharper than intended. He blamed his head injury.
Jaime shunned the new, repellant sounds and sights of the mede in favor of wringing every cent from his crop so that he would have the money to bribe the shaman on his son’s behalf. In defiance of the almanac’s prediction and the sweat of his brow, Jaime’s farming succeeded less. Flashing the hoe up and down in the field, he would realize that instead of singing field-songs he had been mulling the mede’s changed, hideous air. Jaime began to test his brain regularly against the mede for the return of rightful sounds and pictures - more and more regularly until he listened every bit as much as the rest of the family, who, especially his wife, welcomed Jaime’s return to nightly custom. Secretly, even from herself, Alejandra had been blaming the crops’ disappointments on Jaime’s neglect of the family ritual.
As Jaime stayed up later and later listening to the mede, until just when he went to bed no one could say, Alejandra reversed her opinion. She had to shake her husband awake even after the bright, second moon had risen. The fieldwork did not get finished on time so that Alejandra, then her mother-in-law, then her sister-in-law and her sister-in-law’s husband (after they finished at their own farm) all had to work in the Marquez field to make up for Jaime’s shortcoming. On the day Jaime explained to her his insanity, Alejandra realized he had stopped doing any work at all some time ago.
“My husband is dead,” she told herself, “In exchange for him I have got an invalid.”
Jaime decided two things.

1. The new world of the untuned mede was a better world than his own.
2. He would go there.

Jaime tried everything at once. In the hope of crossing the distance between worlds in his dreams, he slept on the couch with the mede turned up loud. Trying to open in himself a resonant bridge, Jaime invented a new, stepless phylum of dance concerned only with vibrating the entire body at the pitch of the music. For over a month, he stumbled the house blind-folded, never leaving earshot of the eternally singing mede, making a mess of the floor and himself as he ate barehanded the scraps of food the family happened to leave. Jaime finally removed the blindfold only when the scraps disappeared he began to starve.
The family got Alejandra to the doctor’s house just in time. Healthy, and with a full head of hair, the baby boy was born. While Alejandra lay insensible on the delivery table, Jaime’s mother filled in the birth certificate: Alejandro Marquez.
“Alejandro for my miraculous daughter-in-law,” she told the nurse. “Marquez for my husband.”
A prick of sadness polluted in a small way the otherwise entirely happy occasion (Jaime’s family had long since stopped counting his effective abandonment a sadness). The family had not farmed well enough. Shaman Garcia turned his nose up at the bribe and little Alejandro was baptized a Chizo. Never in the boy’s life would he be permitted to own tools.
Unblindfolded, Jaime found himself untransported. The disappearance of his family, and afterwards (depending on the member) their forgetfulness or disdain, forced Jaime to feed himself. He grew vegetables in a small patch at the back of the house, fitting prunings and waterings around his many attempts to reach across space.
As Jaime planted, watered, and fertilized his garden, he hummed. Without thinking about it, he hummed the tunes of the mede, as heard by his own imbalanced ear. The plants grew strange and tall. Jaime fed himself on what they bore, and the molecules of his body were, over time, replaced by those raised on the song of a dimension not his own, until one last day, despairing the failure of his endless plans, sitting in the bathroom, Jaime Marquez expelled the last true molecule of what had been his dimension and stopped having ever existed there.

~|~ ~|~ ~|~ ~|~

Juan Marquez, son of Jaime Marquez and Juanita Marquez, wore an immaculate suit-and-tie, like everyone. Also like everyone, he worked as a lawyer, squeezing extra pennies from the ironclad wills of his parents and the parents of those who paid him money he used to hire other lawyers to squeeze extra pennies from the ironclad wills of his parents.
Two hundred years before Juan was born, it had been a fad, universally popular, to write one’s will to require that the bulk of an inheritance be passed down through the beneficiary’s own will, which in turn must be written the same way. Beneficiaries received only enough inheritance to keep them slightly above subsistence level; the rest of an inheritance remained invested, compiling interest so that after two hundred years every family was astoundingly wealthy, and, equally, astoundingly incapable of accessing that wealth.
One Tuesday, while attending a legal conference on Station Six, “Techniques for the Redefinition of Subsistence,” Juan Marquez had a chance run in with his cousin Tito. They agreed to meet for drinks at the end of the day.
“Some conference,” said Juan.
“Far too optimistic, in my opinion,” said Tito.
“You’d be the one to know,” said Juan. “Couldn’t afford to study law on Station Five myself, never mind Six.”
“A lawyer’s more than the name on his diploma,” said Tito.
“But it helps,” said Juan. “I’d pay to have it framed professionally if my diploma was from Six, I can tell you that much.”
“A good school helps, I admit.” said Tito “Though I daresay my practice is in no better shape than yours.”
“Which is hot stuff by no means,” said Juan. “At least going to Station Six you had every opportunity. Uncle Vasquez didn’t skimp like my dear old.”
“Not that it made any difference,” said Tito.
“The difference is your pa cared enough to save up,” said Juan. “Mine burned money moving us around and himself out of work every time he woke up with a funny feeling. Two, three, nine, seven - name a Station, we lived there. I guess it doesn’t affect me now, except how I remember him. Still,” Juan said, “I’m jealous.”

###


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