Note: Dale Innis’s “Meaties” is the original story from which “The Digital Divide” attempts to build. “The Digital Divide” represents one possible continuation – out of an infinite number of possibilities to be written by the same number of writers – to Dale Innis’s “Meaties.”
Kennedy bolted out of bed. Stormy night. Stormy dreams. A misty recollection of winged creatures swept over her. Some wore feathered hair and made funny hats. Some brandished purple nails and made rude noises. Her eyebrows lifted in mild amusement. And perhaps most odd, somewhere from the corners of her mind echoed the lilting of a musical dragon. Kennedy snorted lightly, incredulous that in the dark of what was still night by her count, she could see the phantom image of the scaly fellow. He appeared to be on the ground, even when the other winged creatures floated and dissolved into sparkling light. Odd, that a dragon would be anchored to the earth…or wherever they were, she thought. Odd that the fellow (she assumed) would sing. Much less, lilt. Even less, be in her dreams. As for the others, well…
Kennedy shrugged her shoulders and her eyebrows, and momentarily wondered if she had eaten ice cream far too late before going to bed. She couldn’t remember and was too tired to care, and instead gave into fatigue and eased her torso back, catching her body weight on an arm and hand that was stretched out behind her. From the corner of her eye, she sensed a green hue that pulsed from the night table. She turned and studied the pulsing digital numbers. “3:00 a.m.” She frowned and absentmindedly played with the front tie of her favorite cotton lounging pajamas. By any cultural measure, Kennedy should not be awake. It simply was not the way of the world at this hour, to be awake with a numb mind. During the day, that’s another story. When she donned a suit and her white collar persona then – alright, then – it was culturally acceptable to be mindlessly awake…just of a different sort. Numb to creativity. Numb to spontaneaity. Numb to impulsive expression. Numb to play and delight and surprise in the new of every new day. A numbness born from being tethered to the unchanging gravity of 9-5 24/7, from being a perpetual flesh and bone spoke in the wheel of progress. But progress to what end, to what intention, she often asked herself. Until she stopped asking because she had yet to provide an answer. It simply was not to be found in her work-related emails, no matter how many times she mindlessly clicked through them.
And so it goes. Molded by this all too familiar state of mental energy, her behavior went on auto-pilot. Kennedy scooted back onto the bed, rested her rib cage on pillows propped up against the headboard, flopped fingers with purple-lacquered tips around the cool wafer disk that was her laptop, and cradled it over her pretzeled legs. Taz – a meowing, wiley, tabby cat – lazily raised his head from his curled position on the windowsill and eyed the silver casing with no small amount of contempt. When the latch popped and the laptop opened, Taz put his head back on his tail and sighed. Curious creature, she thought, as she clicked mindlessly through work-related emails. 300, 400 important work emails scrolled past her senses, filling them with absolutely nothing at all. Nearly 24/7. Scrolling nothingness. And then a burst of sparkling light emanated from the screen. Was Outlook crashing? She peered closer not recognizing a slow-motion supernova that rushed to the edge of the casing. Taz lifted his head, his eyes pulled back in irritation, and hissed a rude noise, just as Kennedy’s eyes widened and a gasp escaped her lips. There was something else… The toolbar. No longer Outlook…now, Inlook. The word and the toolbar expanded and morphed, pushing and blurring into the supernova, dissolving into floating sparkling light until it spread out beyond the edges of the laptop and surged over into the stillness of the 3:00 a.m. hour, flooding the window in her bedroom.
Kennedy blinked. She blinked again at the two blinking eyes that looked curiously at her. They didn’t belong to Taz, who was suddenly nowhere to be found. But in all honesty, Kennedy wasn’t looking for Taz. She was captivated by this blinking face, this animated man, gazing at her from within her bedroom window. He smiled…just as the inside of her mind smiled because surely she realized with relief she must be dreaming. “Yeah, that’s it,” she breathed to herself, her voice echoing that of a deeper, masculine voice that suddenly rumbled gently in the night air. They smiled again…the animated man and Kennedy… together…at each other. “Oh silly dream,” she said aloud, layering her voice with his, but the word “dream” collided with a masculine voice that had murmured “meat-ality”. Oh silly meatality?
He forced his gaze from Kennedy to the night table and the bed. She lurched internally, feeling no small amount of unseen fabric bend and shift to accommodate his interest.
He studied the clock that pulsed out a countdown to compartmentalization…the daily ritual of being the suit, manifesting the label and not the person. He shifted his focus to the silver laptop now bloated from the reappearance of now 400-450 important work-related emails, all of which inspired little to nothing. He landed his glance on her purple nails – smiled softly with her – and wondered how she had convinced herself that this attempt at individuality, at cultural defiance could free her spirit.
Kennedy lurched from the force of his thoughts. And yet, despite the fact that she felt so strangely exposed, he seemed genuinely nice.
“I am,” he murmured. “I’m also free from the rules that shape Meatality.” He held his gaze gently with Kennedy’s, whose eyes shifted suddenly to someone over his shoulder who had morphed into a Mermaid-Butterfly creature that wore a leather tophat with feathers around its brim. The mermaid tail floated lazily with the butterfly wings, which magnificently changed colors and softly sparkled with purple bling as they flapped gracefully through the air. Out of nowhere, the dragon snorted. A dark smoke that was filled with firery laughter erupted from his nostrils when he whispered, “Why would you wear wings with that? Are you confused? And more importantly, don’t you know what bling says about you?” Silent agreement permeated from beings within the window…from those Kennedy could see, and even from those she couldn’t but could sense around the edges. Silent agreement from all. Except from him. His eyes still held Kennedy’s. Calmly, confidently he held her gaze, but suddenly his eyes were etched in quiet disappointment. Startled that she could hear and sense so much of the workings of this world, she muttered absentmindedly, “This has to be my imagination.” But her voice and his voice spoke the words simultaneously and both with hushed surprise.
Or was it?
His eyes clenched. Kennedy listened to the digital alarm bleating the rise of a new day of sameness. She bent her knuckles to study her purple nailtips. Saddened, she bent her view to study the wingless Mermaid. He must have read her thoughts…yes, she laughed somewhat painfully inside with him, because she knew he had. They were imagining together, afterall, weren’t they. Yet, he had felt her sadness, just as she had felt his. But then her smile made its way back to her lips. The Mermaid – lackluster without its uniqueness – gasped with delight as color-changing, softly blinging butterfly wings silently attached themselves to his spine. Inspite of the dragon and the permeating judgement. Inspite of a creeping culture of conformity. The Mermaid subtlely, nervously tipped its feathered hat.
He smiled knowingly to the mermaid and softly back to Kennedy, all the while ignoring the dragon whose nostrils flared. Kennedy’s eyes glistened, her mind ignoring the bleating clock and the mindless work emails. Instead, she put fingers to her head and softly saluted…unhooking her presence, but not her heart, from the conversation that percolated around the blinging wings. She turned and padded into the bathroom. Taz meowed softly and curled around her ankles while she rummaged through a cosmetics bag. Kennedy plucked out a sparkly purple nailpolish. She smiled and sat on the bathroom rug next to Taz.
She hummed a gentle, lilting song. And began painting her nails.