Jeannie Van Rompaey

Extract from ASCENSION Chapter Seven by Jeannie van Rompaey

(Sixteen year old MercIury is the narrator)

I’ve never seen a non-mutant humanoid. Not in the flesh. Only in filmograms made before 2020. Until today that is. I suspect the other students here in Headculturedome are as amazed as I am to see him. There he stands on a raised plinth in the conference hall staring down at us and we stare back at him. A humanoid with two eyes, one nose, one mouth, two arms and two legs. Dressed in a silver grey suit, neatly pressed trousers, jacket to match and a pristine white shirt and purple tie, he reminds me of Daniel Craig as James Bond or a smooth-faced chat show host. Not a politician. The latter are usually tie-less, shirtsleeves turned up a bit to show that they are of the people and therefore for the people. Though no one is fooled. Think of Cameron or Obama. But this man – let’s call him Mr. Suit – makes no pretence of being one of us. No dumbing-down for this smoothie with his sleeked-back hair and chin held high. He’s a cut above us and makes sure we know it. Yet, I can’t help wondering. Is he the throwback or are we?

We’ve been instructed by auto-put to assemble here. A spccial visitor is to address us. And here he is. Mr Suit. His slate-coloured eyes scrutinise each one of us in turn as they sweep in a wide arc reminiscent of that long one camera shot of Gene Kelly dancing in the rain. Maybe his eyes are mini-cameras. Implants. Recording our every expression, noting our body language. Even here in Headculturedome we are not privy to every new technological advance, so I have no idea if it is possible for humanoids to have camera implants in their eyes or not.

I don’t know if I’m imagining it, but I sense that as those steely eyes retrace their route, anti-clockwise, they linger a little longer on my face than on the others. The mini-cameras move on and swing back for another look. No doubt about it. Mr Suit is focusing on me, little Mercury.   A shiver runs through my body. Sweat breaks out on my forehead. That reaction will no doubt be recorded too. Or at least noted. Why is he so interested in me?

Ascension cover