Crystal Ascent

Art by Norman E. Masters

"'The memstim is delicate enough to pinpoint
the memory you want. What is the event?'"


by Janet Fox

Melvin Judd sat in his elasti-chair beside the view window and tuned in a sunset over the Rockies. As the sun descended, edging the clouds with scrolls of luminous pale gold, he found himself drifting into a mood of sentimental reverie. His eyes took on a vacant look as he thought about his first dance, and of course the girl he had gone with, Francie Gillis. She had hair like long, fine cornsilk, and eyes as shy as a fawn's They had danced among the flowers, their movements together so sure and graceful, they might have been a single dancer, bodies acutely aware of themselves and one another. He remembered that they had paused on her doorstep and he had kissed her, then she had fled shyly away.

"Ah, young love," he thought. "If only I could be that young again."

He stopped in mid-thought. Of course he could go back; it required only a simple vid-phone call. An attractive female android answered. "Recreation Inc. At your service night and day."

"Send a technician to Complex 974, Apartment 62449B," he ordered, then snapped off the phone and sat back to wait. A few minutes later the buzzer sounded, and Melvin let in a tall man in a technician's white uniform. He carried a small white enamel case which opened upon the involved circuitry of a Memory Stimulation Device. There were, first, several forms to be filled out.

"What time would you like recreated?"

"May of 1962. I'm not sure of the exact date. I remember that it was about the middle of the month."

"Close enough. The memstim is delicate enough to pinpoint the memory you want. What is the event?"

"My first formal dance."

"Acknowledged; now just sit here and I'll attach you to the memstim. Just relax. You won't feel a thing. You'll go quietly to sleep. You'll relive your experience in detail. Watch the flashing light on the machine. That's it. Easy, easy..."

Well, I guess I'll have to knock. Wouldn't Mom have had a fit if I'd told her I didn't want to go. Come on, old Francie, get your buck teeth on out here and let's get this drag over with before I throw up all over the street. There's nothing to be nervous about.

"Hello, Mr. Gillis. Is Francie ready?"

I know he's probably a low-grade moron or something but he shouldn't always have to be hanging around the house in his undershorts. Thank God, here comes Francie, making an entrance like some kind of movie star. Boy, that dress she's wearing sticks out funny and empty looking in front. Guess it'd help if she had a little more -- and that reminds me, I don't exactly look too fetching in this little number Mom made for me out of one of Dad's old suits. Oh yeah, gotta hand over the flowers I bought her. Maybe I'm supposed to pin em on or something. What if I put my hand in the wrong place -- hell, you can put em on yourself.

I wish Mrs. Gillis would shut up with her, "Isn't that sweet!" Come on, Dummy, let's get out of here.

"Mama is awful excited about the dance."

"Yeah, so is my Mom."

"They don't get to go to dances any more."

And they are damn lucky if you ask me. I could be hanging around the drug store right this minute or doing something else interesting. I wish I could think of something dashing to say. How about, "You sure are beautiful in the moonlight." Oh God no. She'd think I was some kind of idiot. She might even think I liked her or something.

The school gym is all decorated up for the dance. There's a bunch of paper flowers all over, but they've kind of wilted. All the lights are off to give it atmosphere, but all I can think of is the smell downstairs in the lockers after practice -- whew. Now for the first dance, and I don't know how too well. Mom tried to teach me one night last week. Am I glad the other kids don't know about that. It isn't too bad out here on the dance floor except we just can't seem... to... get... together. Come on, go my way, you clumsy cow.

There, that's over, but it's only the first one. People can't kid me that they get any fun out of a farce like this, everybody smiling and making funny remarks. If she giggles up into my face once more... those braces... ugh. So here I go for the next one. It's so hot in here. I wish I didn't sweat so much. I wonder about what they're always saying on the deodorant commercials. Could I? Why not, it's my lucky day.

The night air tastes good after that stuffy gym. If I was just alone now, but I have to take Miss America home. She says the most brilliant things. I guess I'm not so brilliant myself. If she just didn't jump onto everything I say.

"Here we are. I'll walk you to the door, I guess."

"I had such a nice time, Melvin."

She's waiting with her face tipped up. Do I have to? O well. God, I forgot about those braces. Like kissing a railroad trestle. But she's going in and I'm free, I'm free, I'm free, I'm --

Melvin Judd awoke with the feeling that he had been running very hard to escape something. He blinked his eyes and looked around warily. Nothing in the comfortable apartment looked the least bit menacing, so he breathed more deeply and relaxed back into his chair.

The technician was closing up the memstim with a bored air. Melvin suddenly got briskly up from the chair, reached into his pocket and withdrew from his wallet three yellow strips, and after thinking a moment, added a blue one to the pile he handed to the technician. "That one's for you."

"Thank you, sir."

"That's all right. I'm the one who's thankful."

After the whitecoated man had left, Melvin Judd dressed in his most stylish black tunic and tights, and went out to the Sky-Bubble Night Club where he danced the tom-tom with a topless waitress until three A.M.

[submitted for publication circa 1970, scheduled for the unpublished NO-EYED MONSTER #20]

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