What could be a better Valentine’s Week treat than a love (maybe?) story by John Cusick? It comes complete with everything you love about his writing: snappy dialogue, dissolution, and a distinctly though not completely sci-fi trip. Are we mean “trip” on many levels. Surely you remember his “Abandon Changes; A Girl Parts Story,” which shared with us in 2011, and if you haven’t read his novel “Girl Parts,” we recommend you do so right now! His next book, “Cherry Money Baby” is due out later this year.
700 YEARS IN HEAVEN
By John M. Cusick
In school they tell you time is an illusion, but the profs over-complicate it if you ask me. There’s no such thing as before and after, just a big mash of now. “Time” is something our brains make up to help us get from point A to point B. Like the long path up to Stacy Adams’ house. Someone put it there so you wouldn’t walk around the woods in circles, not getting anywhere. Soon as scientists figured that out, they knew you could make time your bitch. You can stretch it and squash it and reshape it. You just need the right drugs and hardware.
Someday we’ll tell our kids about the night we saw our first Quantum Condenser, that’s what my Lou says on the path up to Stacy Adams’ house. Lou’s into the steevy new gear. I tend to wait for the third or fourth gen when shit actually gets good. But I have to admit I’m excited to see a real life QC. Stacy’s family was the first in the boro to get one. Her dad works at Bubble Labs, where they invented the thing.
You think she’ll let us use it? Lou asks.
I shrug. Then I tickle him because he’s obviously so excited. He shoves me away and then pulls me in and we go arms-around-waists, bumping against each other up the path. Me and my Lou.
Up the hill we go Hi Ho, up to Stacy’s big glass house at the top of the town like Mount Olympus (we just did that mod in Ancient History), and when we ring the bell Stacy’s there in her green double-breasted party suit.
Boys, she goes. Party’s in the back. Come on in.
She takes our wraps and leads us down to what I guess you’d call the basement, though it’s got windows on three sides and an amazing view of the town. The party’s pretty steeze. Mostly kids from school. Good music. Everywhere you look there’s the Bubble Labs logo. The girl’s family basically gets every new piece of tech for free.
I get a drink and say hey to a few people and then I wind back to Stacy, who’s easy to find in her green suit.
So how’s it work? I ask.
How’s what work.
You know. The QC.
She smiles because of course she knows what everyone wants to try.
You ever done it? I ask.
I take a sip from my drink. And it’s safe?
I’m here, aren’t I?
What’s it like?
She’s not looking at me. She’s looking at the party, or maybe out the window on the far side of the room. She’s kind of smiling at herself but it’s like her brain’s gone for a little walk without me.
If I could tell you what it’s like there’d be no point.
Okay so the party goes on. People get drunk. I get a little fighty when Lou grinds up on this other mate from the lacrosse team and then he and I are in the corner and he’s rubbing my back and saying Baby you know I’m your mate and I only wanna be with you forever Baby.
Lou. I do love Lou. Even though he can be kind of a dick.
So a lot of the early risers roll out and pretty soon it’s near three and it’s just the committed stragglers sprawled on the floor and the couches and the music’s turned all yellow to match our mood. And it’s around then Stacy stands up and claps her hands and goes So.
Her mate Cassie glances at the stairs. Stacy’s parents are asleep.
Cassie goes, Can we?
Everyone is quiet and just waiting. Cane, ExPlus, no drug could be more exciting or as plain fucking terrifying as what Stacy is suggesting with her sneaky raised eyebrow and sneaky ass smile.
I’ll get it, she says.
Debbie, this girl I’ve got my arm around, looks up at me. You gonna do it?
I don’t know, I say. Stacy did it and she’s fine.
I heard there can be like side effects, says the wart Lou was grinding up on earlier.
It’s been tested, goes Lou. And tested and tested. They wouldn’t put it out there if they weren’t sure it’s safe.
Yeah Mr. Adams let Stacy do it, says Debbie.
But I’m pretty sure Mr. Adams didn’t know his daughter was using the QC. She’s a minor, obvi, and Stacy’s being way too sneakyface about it.
She comes back from the next room with the thing, which basically looks like a big freezer on wheels, and isn’t that the way it always is with the latest shit? They got the tech right but no style. Soon someone will come along and rip off Bubble and do their own QC but with a sweet casing. Something you want to have in your living room. Something that doesn’t look like it belongs in your garage.
How does it work? Lou asks.
I don’t really understand the tech part, says Stacy. But basically you press this here, and suddenly it’s like time slows down. Like slows way down. So what would normally be an instant feels like hundreds of years.
Debbie squirms. Who would want that?
Stacy’s smile goes from sneaky to wicked.
Because it feels amazing, she says.
Stacy told me it’s like a seven hundred year orgasm, says Cassie, reaching for Stacy’s hand.
Why does it feel good, asks the nozzle Lou was grinding on.
Stacy goes, Dad says the process that alters the way our brains perceive time? It’s strenuous on the neurons or whatever, so your brain releases mad endorphins.
Like when you’re working out, I say.
Yeah, says Stacy. But it’s even better.
I go, Wait a minute. A seven hundred year cum sounds tite but wouldn’t that turn your brain to, I donno, jelly? I mean what the hell do you think about for seven hundred years?
I donno, says Stacy, getting that Looking Out the Window look again. After it’s over you don’t really remember what you thought about. It’s like your brain snaps back into place and the last thing you remember is stepping into the machine.
Lou’s eyes are so wide it’s like they’re going to shoot out of his skull. He goes, so you live for seven hundred years, and then forget about it.
Lou looks at all of us.
You forget seven lifetimes.
I guess, says Stacy. But when it’s done you’re left with this crazy feeling. I can’t explain it. It’s like you know you’ve had this life changing experience, but you can’t say exactly what it was. It changes you.
I’m too scared, says Debbie.
Lou looks at me. What do you think?
I’m thinking this is like the time we dropped Salvinol. I was scared to try it but it turned out amazing.
Just one thing, I say. What happens if you don’t forget?
What do you mean, says Stacy.
Well I mean, what happens if it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, and you actually remember every second. It seems like that would fuck you up good.
That’s not gonna happen, says Cassie.
I’m doing it, says Lou.
Everyone looks at me like I’m mental. I sit back, probs blushing like crazy.
Someone else go first, I say.
I’ll go first, says Cassie. If Stacy says it’s amazing, it’s amazing.
She slaps Stacy’s ass and steps inside the box. It’s got a glass front so we can see her standing there. She looks psyched but also a little scared, now that the seal is down and she’s trapped inside and the countdown has started.
Stacy kisses her fingertips and presses them to the glass.
A light flashes on top of the machine. There’s a sound like fwump.
And then the door opens.
Stacy goes, how was it?
Cassie’s eyes are open. Hella wide. Her pupils are dilated like black holes. And she is grinning like a crazy person.
Oh my god, she says.
She steps out, and her knees are shaking, and she hugs Stacy, and she’s crying.
Oh my god that was
She trails off.
What’s it like, Lou says. He can’t wait to get in that box the crazy bastard.
I don’t know, Cassie says finally. I know I was just standing in that box. Holy shit I was standing there forever, wasn’t I? I think?
It was like, less than a second to us, says Debbie.
And it felt good, says Lou. You feel good now?
Cassie is smiling and still crying a little and Stacy has her arm around her. Cassie goes, it’s not good exactly. But yes it’s…it’s something.
Lou goes, would you do it again?
Cassie doesn’t even think about it, she just nods.
Stacy smiles her witch smile. See? Told you.
My turn, says Lou. Me next.
You guys wanna go together, Stacy asks.
I guess she can see I’m nervous. Lou smiles at me. I sort of glance at the shit-bag Lou was grinding on, who still looks like he wants to take Lou home. So I go Yeah Okay.
We squeeze into the box together. It smells funny in there. Like something burning.
Ozone, says Lou.
He holds my hand. Stacy works the controls and the clear seal goes across the front and we’re in for it now.
You okay, he says.
And no I’m really not. I am scared as shit.
Sort of not, I say.
He squeezes my hand.
I love you so much.
And suddenly there is no one I’d rather spend a seven hundred year orgasm with than my mate Lou. Lou oh Lou.
The machine goes fwwwuU—
The next thing I know it’s like the world has been filled up with see-through jelly. I’m suspended in it and it’s gently rising, lifting me up to Jesus. I want to turn and see my friends through the seal but I can’t move. All I can see is half of Lou’s face because I was starting to look away when it hit. And it does feel good. It does feel a little like coming I guess. And actually the longer it lasts the better and better it seems to feel, but under this feeling is the rising panic of holy shit I am in this box pressed against Lou, crammed against with Lou, looking at Lou for seven hundred years, seven hundred years, seven hundred years, seven hundred years seven hundred years seven hundred years seven hundred years seven hundred years seven hundred years seven hundred years seven hundred years seven hundred years seven hundred years seven hundred years seven hundred
How was it? Stacy asks.
My knees go slack and I am on the floor, my face inches from the Adams’ plush carpet.
Something does something to something.
My brain is having trouble catching up, matching words to things, because I guess it hasn’t had anything to think about for the last seven hundred years even though I can’t remember what the fuck happened. Something…Debbie…does something…touches…to something…my shoulder.
You okay, she goes.
I look around. Lou?
Lou is lying next to me smiling and he’s been crying too. He leans over and kisses my forehead. He looks past me at Stacy. That was incredible, he goes.
We sit together on the couch, and I’m trying to get my head together. Cassie is there. She takes my hand.
It’s sort of… she goes
Yeah, I say.
It’s hard to explain, even to myself. Stacy was right. I remember nothing. And I do have a general good impression but that’s only the endorphins draining out of my system and I’m already feeling a little raw, like coming down from a powerful drug. And there’s this sense of something absolutely fucking massive inside of me. Something massive and invisible. But I can feel it there. Oh how I can feel the enormity of it. Seven centuries of thought.
I am a blind man before the Grand Canyon.
Lou is holding my other hand, and we’re not looking at each other. I turn back to Cassie and we talk about it a little more, just in that circular way that never really arrives at conclusions. Debbie goes eventually, and so does the shit-nozzle, and when he comes out he and Lou talk about the craziness of it all, and for some reason I’m not as jealous as I should be. Maybe it’s just brain fatigue.
Around sunrise the party breaks up and me and Lou are the last to go and we help Stacy clean up, and none of us is really saying anything because we’re all just so exhausted.
We hug Stacy goodbye and trek down the path through these woods and the path I can’t help but think is just long enough to be pretty but if it were any longer it would be exhausting. And we are exhausted.
We get to the end and Lou turns to me and says, so back to my place?
The plan was I’d crash at his after the party.
I think I’ll go home, I say.
Yeah I think so.
The moment I say it I feel relieved.I can tell Lou is a little relieved, too.
See you on Monday Baby, he says, and we give each other little nothing kisses on the cheek.
I walk the rest of the way home and I’m so glad it’s dark in my house and dark in my room because I am so exhausted and I feel so washed out which I know is part hangover but it’s part something else, too. I pull off my clothes and climb into bed and I’m lying there. I turn my head and there’s a picture of Lou and me. Mates. Lou and me on our trip to the Grand Canyon. It’s right behind us and we’re waving at the camera.
I love Lou but
I lay the picture face down. I’m not mad at him. That’s not the feeling. As I fall asleep I even say goodnight to him like I always do, and wish him good dreams. But I know he feels the same way, right at that moment, in his bed across town. It’s just. We’re just done.
I was so down to spend a lifetime with you.
But not seven.
That’s too much.
John M. Cusick is the author of “Girl Parts” and the forthcoming “Cherry Money Baby” (Candlewick Press, 2013). John is also a kids and teen fiction agent with Greenhouse Literary and Managing Fiction Editor at Armchair/Shotgun magazine. He lives in Brooklyn.