Jamie Vu

Contact occurred unexpectedly. I had been heading for the originally mapped coordinates. My target was a young man named Jamie Vu. I planned to land shortly after midnight during deep delta-wave sleep before it segued into the REM stage, which would provide cover for me should he awaken during the transfer process.

“….so I’m sorry, Mr. Vu, but I just couldn’t get my homework done…” The pimpled girl in front of me tore a little bloody piece of skin off of her left ring finger cuticle.  

“Ah…ah…well…” I ran through all my collected data but came up with nothing; her face appeared nowhere in my files. “Ah…ah…well, don’t worry about it,” I said.

What on earth happened? How did I get here? Was it through the ceiling? I planned to land at his bedroom. How long have I been standing here?

“Really? You’re not mad?” Her eyes were large, round, and downturned. Not lazy nor duplicitous, just very unintelligent. That’s good. She doesn’t notice something is wrong.

“Ah, no, not mad. Just, ah, finish it tonight, okay?”

“Yes, Mr. Vu! I’ll finish it all tonight!” She hugged her blue, red, and pink spiral notebooks and ran away, her stained maroon and yellow plaid skirt flapping around. Her parents don’t wash her clothes often.

I wiped my forehead, feeling for the first time Jamie’s flesh. I was shaking and this new head of mine was beginning to pound. How did I get here? Have I been here long?

I looked around. I was in the classroom with twenty desks, thirteen of which had filthy words carved into them that I had learned in case I needed them. I had never seen this place in my life. I sat down on one of them and rested my head on my knees. Perhaps blood flow had been interrupted during transfer.

After a few minutes I got up. There was still business to be done, so I began, with legs a little cold and shaky, to tour the school.

Much of it started to feel familiar now from my research. Two floors, fifteen classrooms, library with seven hundred fourteen books, music room, one hundred fifty-three students. I passed by the gym and decided to look inside; from what I could tell, the activities performed within seemed to be of most importance.

“Whad’ya think of Tony’s homerun last night? That boy’s a natural!”

“Huh?” There was a man with unshaven jowls. I didn’t know what he was talking about.

“Come on, Vu, drop the books for once and hit the gym, will ya?”

Suddenly, everything started to look like a film.

This has happened before. I know it. This isn’t even possible, but this has happened before.

“Come on, Vu, drop the books for once and hit the gym, will ya?”

He had been wearing that same sweatshirt, and holding that same ball. And he had been talking about Tony’s homerun. I know it’s not possible this has happened before, but it did. Did I dream it? Did I see it in a movie? Because I knew what he was going to say.

“Come on, Vu, drop the books for once and hit the gym, will ya?”

“Ah..ah…Maybe next time.” I knew what I was going to say because I said that the last time, as well. 

He suddenly blew his whistle and  I jumped backwards.

“Wake up, Vu! You look like you’re on drugs. Ha! You’re the last one I woulda guessed.”

“Ah, I, maybe we can go next time.”

“Yeah, right.” He threw the ball off to the side and walked away.

The gym’s scuffed floor bore the traces of a basketball court, and twenty-year-old championship banners decorated the walls. I noticed a caged clock. By a stroke of fortune, it was the end of the day.

By now I fully recognized where I was. I knew Jamie’s car would be parked forty-eight spaces back from the light post by the stairs. A brown station wagon, rusted left rear bumper.

On my way out, I bumped into two of the other teachers; one taught mathematics, the other science. I already knew their faces and tattoos. They were laughing.

“Nope, I’m done at two thirty and not a second later!” the math one said.

“Not me,” said our other companion. “I’m a much better teacher than you. I work until two thirty-one!”

“Ahaha!”

“What about you, Jamie? Lemme guess—you probably burn the midnight oil.”

I didn’t answer right away, but looked up and saw the heavy, overcast sky beginning to descend on me. “It’s the end of the world,” I said, with a feeling of doom. Pleasant doom. I hadn’t known that doom could be pleasant. But there it was.

When the clouds lifted, we were still walking, but they had moved on to discussing a student who had punched a special ed teacher in the back of the head at lunch.

I didn’t find driving to be particularly difficult. I drove randomly, about four miles, taking a turn at that corner, or through that lot. I passed by a department store and had the idea to try some shopping. Being in the flesh had given me an urge to give myself a little character distinct from the real Vu.

I pushed the double glass doors open to be welcomed by one thousand forty-two fluorescent bulbs reflecting onto two thousand five hundred sixty-two tiles, nine percent of which were cracked. 

Boom!—suddenly a bomb went off in my stomach and the fumes rushed up my esophagus, buzzing in my ears and clouding my eyes, blood pouring out of my ankles. I’m dying! I’m going to collapse!

I staggered over to a table. I was shorting out and would soon lose consciousness. My hands were ice cold and I couldn’t feel my feet. I can’t hold on! I’m losing this!

I held the edge of the table with my head down and when I was able to see for just a moment I ran for the door. I went off to the side and slid down the wall. I didn’t know if I would faint or throw up. I hung my head and eventually I began to calm down a little. I was afraid to drive, but there was no other option. I sat in the car for about half an hour.

When I got home, I laid down on Jamie’s bed. I was exhausted and drained. This was earth life? Why did we waste our time researching this? To be in pain, to be tired… to smell foul smells, like the metallic odor I tasted and smelled right then. I thought I’d try a shower.

I didn’t know how good it would feel, water soaking my hair, running down my face, my body. There was a window in the shower and I pulled the curtain outside. I could see trees and sky. The sun flashed alternating diagonals through the trees onto the pink shower tiles. So this is what the star looks like here, so faint, and yet so

My mouth began to fill with water and I started to cough. I spit and spit but it continued to fill. Bubbled liquid poured out and I began to gag. I tried to open the window for air but my mouth still filled up. The sun stabbed my pupils over and over; my limbs were rubber and I fell, heaving and choking. I’m going to drown!

I screamed over and over. “I’m going to drown!”

I was on my knees, struggling to slide open the shower door as water blinded me and fireworks exploded in my eyes.

I wasted him!

“I’m going to drown!”

I wasted Jamie Vu!

When I came to, I lay half out of the shower, the floor flooding as the shower continued to run.

After I managed to shut off the shower and throw down some towels, I crawled to the bedroom and lay down to calm myself down and think.

Earlier, when I was leaving school with the two other teachers, I had learned that there was a dinner that evening for some of the teachers, including Mr. Vu. When I got there and sat down with them, I tried to keep up with the conversation, but my head still hurt from the shower incident. I barely understood them, anyway. I focused mainly on my food; this was the first time I had ever eaten.

They were talking about movies. I expected this would happen. But they were talking about specific movies they had recently seen, whereas I had studied film techniques. I had believed, erroneously, that that would be enough to carry me through conversation. I was tasting a potato.

“It is not Morocco, sir, it is Monaco!”

Suddenly I couldn’t swallow and my stomach muscles began to rhythmically contract upwards.

It’s happening again! I’m going to throw up and pass out right here across the table! I wiped my forehead and excused myself from the group on the pretext that I needed air. I dropped my napkin but didn’t care. I ran as fast as I could till I got outside and fell onto a smoker’s bench. I was shorting out once again. My vision began to shrink. That’s what it is! It’s like an iris wipe! I held on while the darkness covered my eyes and ears completely and my heart pumped as I—

Soupy orange stars dripped down my eyeballs until they cleared and I was able to see again a little bit. Hearing returned slowly. My heart was still pounding and I couldn’t stop shaking.

I had an iris wipe…

As much as I didn’t want to do it, I was going to have to get this checked out and see if there was any physical damage done to Vu.

They scheduled an ambulatory electroencephalogram. It didn’t bother me at all when they glued the electrodes to my scalp. Wires trailed down into a box which I persuaded them to let me carry.

For three days, I felt like myself. I didn’t even mind when I had my attacks because the wires were recording my brain waves. I would simply copy the data and store it for myself to study later on.

The night before my appointment, I watched the sun go below the horizon. A little pink cloud moved slowly across the sky towards Venus, which flickered pale green. But all I cared about was the pink cloud. The whole secret of the universe, the meaning of life, was contained in that little cloud. How didn’t I see this before? I had visited Venus innumerable times. What was Venus, anyway? I had ranged lightyears upon lightyears from one end of the universe to the other. And yet, here it was all along, inside the pink cloud, a humble cloud, a solemn cloud. And I was the only one who knew.

When I returned to myself, I would never stop searching for it. Should I share it? Would they even believe me?

The next day, I waited for the doctor. He knocked once, came in, and slid across the room on a wheeled stool.

“Alright, Mr. Vu, we had a clear reading on epileptic activity in the mesial temporal lobe region of your brain. I’m going to write you a prescription, and we’re going to see how we do. No more of that space-cadet business anymore, I hope!”

He tore off the paper and handed it to me.

 “We should call you ‘jamais vu,’” he said, “s’il vous plaît, heh heh!”

I filled the prescription right away. I walked out of the pharmacy and looked at my blue shield-shaped tablets. If I take this, if I take this, will I be able to go home? But more importantly:

…Will I ever see my pink cloud again?


Note: Jamais vu is a type of partial seizure. Meaning “never seen,” it is the opposite of the more commonly known deja vu, which means “already seen.”

18 thoughts on “Jamie Vu

  1. Somewhere between Quantum Leap and Steppenwolf. Excellent. You might consider pulling all the passivity from the opening. You can do it and the confusion tone will hit harder when it lands.
    You asked about who is Lanham, and I couldn’t find the comment again – Richard A Lanham, “Revising Prose”. If you only read the first 20 pages you’ll be at least 4 times better at self editing.
    Pink cloud. I like it, and any number of your subconscious trigger word choices. I thought I was having flashbacks.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Transcendental travel by epilepsy? The Cosmic Grand Mall of grand mal?

    A little bit of Duke in there, visions and sensations drifting in and slipping away.

    Good to see a *mostly* non-biographical, full fiction story. “On the road again…”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My target was a young man named Jamie Vu. I headed for the originally mapped coordinates when contact occurred unexpectedly. etc etc etc. Then you can fumble. I know when is a throwaway but we have a power adverb so there it is.
    The pimpled girl in front of me tore a little bloody piece of skin off of her left ring finger cuticle. Pure gold.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes it’s very glaring now. Things are not very unexpected if I tell you. “Okay, I’m going to kill you in your sleep. Can you turn over and go back to sleep?”

      I’m glad you brought that sentence up. I wrote that specifically with you in mind. I was going to mention that her nail still had some little chips of blue glitter nail polish with tiny gold flecks in it that she bought at the local dollar store, but I thought that might be overkill.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. A great story.

    The name Jamie Vu I thought of deja vu immediately especially when the character recalled being there before.

    The pimply girl line was a brilliant piece of writing.

    And for some reason the 153 students in the school reminded me of the 153 fishes caught by Peter, Andrew, James and John when they followed Christ’s advice about where they should cast their nets.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am starting to think that that line will be remembered along with others like “To be or not to be,” “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

      I’m glad you caught one of the Vu siblings. They’re real things.

      153 fishes… hmm, I forgot about that number. Maybe that’s what the cloud was trying to say.

      Liked by 1 person

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