Sputnik had nothing on quantum entanglement, not even in the winter of 1958. Poodle skirts? The Cold War? Credit cards? Elvis the Pelvis? None were as important as Jump Time—at least, not to Louise Johnson they weren't. Especially not with twenty days until Christmas, the existence of storefronts with flagrant No Colored Allowed signs, and a list of family members as long the Anacostia River.
Even at seventy-four, Louise can very clearly remember this date—December 5, 1958. With the usual wind whipping her distasteful dress around her knees and the gray sky appearing to be as foreboding as any other Friday, it should've been difficult to separate that specific day from the previous and subsequent ones. But how special it was! Of course, this day was never to be spoken of by the masses or read about in history books. It would mark the first event of many that would not make history that December.
It would mark the day Louise met Connie Anne Williams, quantum physicst extraordinaire.
Louise was already familiar with Connie Anne Williams, obsessive bibliophile. Connie Anne Williams, storyteller. Connie Anne Williams, scientific (fiction) journalist. Each of Connie's personas shared the entirety's quality of gorging on words and novels faster than they could be written. She was a ruthless predator for good stories, and her hunting ground was the Honor Public Library for Colored People. That was how Louise had always remembered Connie—an aspiring author-in-training who would grow to break the boundaries of science fiction faster than the speed of light.
By the winter of eighth grade, Connie Anne had already written and edited two full-length novels with no white leads and plots so elaborate that the fabric of reality seemed like nothing more than a story itself. Even with the ability to jump through space and time, Louise was impressed by her friend's persistence and patience. This fact, however, should not be as surprising as it now seems. Everything Connie did (and still does at the ever youthful age of seventy-three, mind you) was immensely impressive:
(1) Connie Anne Williams, obsessive bibliophile. This one had spent three months repeatedly asking her parents to please, please buy her Have Space Suit— Will Travel, even though those same parents regarded science fiction as pure testosterone. She then proceeded to trade in her hot-off-the-press copy of Breakfast at Tiffany's, which her mother assumed would satisfy her infinitely curious brain, for that same glossy Heinlein paperback to keep in her own private library. Never had Louise seen someone take a beating and still contain such mirth in their eyes.
(2) Connie Anne Williams, storyteller. October 1956, Halloween night. All it took was one artfully crafted story straight from Connie's tongue for Patricia Morris to find herself by Louise's side for the rest of the night. Seeing this, the raconteuse continued to mystify their candy-hunting party with tales of a bone king until Patricia refused to continue any longer unless she was holding someone's hand. Louise often went back to that night just to hear the eerie words flow from Connie's mouth and feel Patricia's sweaty palm in her own. It was electrifying to hear her describe the horrors creativity had carved onto her frontal lobe.
(3) Connie Anne Williams, science (fiction) journalist. September 1954. The very first time Louise met the accomplished Miss Williams was at Honor Library. Connie'd been no more than ten years old, though her long lanky legs and neatly parted hair caused her to appear no younger than twelve. When Louise's mother asked her what she was up to, she'd replied with something about writing dull science essays. But when eleven-year-old Louise herself shyly asked again, Connie'd stared her straight in the eyes over the top of her father's "borrowed" reading glasses and said, "Why I'm writing an argumentative essay on why my parents should let me read that Planet Stories magazine over there, even though I've already read it three times over."
YOU ARE READING
Dialogue Concerning the Imminent ApocalypseScience Fiction
[2018 WATTYS WINNER] Louise Johnson was an African American teen living on the brink of the Space Race. Her hobbies included studying the twinkling night sky, ignoring her racist classmates, equally fantasizing about both killing and kissing Patric...