The Fleet Ones

After the enhancements, life began to speed up, and even in dreams, what it meant to be human changed.

It’s a fine time to be born with feet all over your body, though it does increase parental workload with so many little socks to wash, dry, and sort.

In adult life, except during ceremonial occasions, only some of those feet will be designated for shoes.

The multipedal move through the world in a combination of cartwheels, leaps, hops, and crisscross circumnavigations; it’s speculated that because of their momentum, time slows down for them, so they experience more actual life.

Some people even claim they move as fast as money itself, but that’s impossible, of course, since nothing human can approach that velocity.

My sisters would never let me play with them when we were little because I couldn’t keep up. Now they’re in great demand, scuttling along the sides of buildings as they deliver packages through the windows, and leaping from station to station, track to track in the subway.

Mother used to hold me on her lap and gently stroke my two little feet, reassuring me that I was special in my own way, but still I’d cry and ask why I had to be born so limited.

“The Holy Trinity of Amazon, FedEx, and UPS” — and here she’d half-close her eyes as she moved her fingers through the air with the sign of the sacred dollar — “use algorithms for the number of runners to genetically engineer; we mustn’t question their ways. And look, just like you, I’ve got only two feet, yet you can see that I have a lovely, happy life.”  

But she’d been born before the enhancements, so that didn’t count. I never mentioned this since I knew she was just trying to make me feel better.

Each night in my dreams I commit the federal-ecclesiastic crime of taking the family hand-axe that hangs from a peg on the garage wall and cleaving off my sisters’ feet, all except for that one central pair rooting each of them to the ground.  

My cuts are so swift and clean that the stumps seal over bloodlessly right before my eyes. Then I attach their severed feet all over my body; they suction themselves right on as though they’d been designed to unite with my flesh.  

But the strange thing is that I never Accelerate; unlike Real-me, Dream-me is happy to remain on the ground wiggling those multitudes of toes. In fact, instead of ascending the heights, she collapses into a low, prone, caterpillar-like position, from which she gazes up at her sisters, who stand there bewildered, blinking.

“Let me take you on a tour through the sensations of Slow-World,” she tells them. “There’s so much you’ve been missing.” 

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Claire J. Bateman

Claire J. Bateman

Claire Bateman is the author of eight collections of poetry, prose poetry and flash fiction, most recently SCAPE (New Issue, Kalamazoo), and the forthcoming collection WONDERS OF THE INVISIBLE WORLD. She has received two Pushcart awards and a NEA grant, and is the poetry editor of Weekly Hubris. Her stories in The Fabulist are part of "The Pillow Museum," a chapbook of fabulist flash fiction that is seeking a home. You can find Claire at pw.org/directory/writers/claire_bateman. She is also a visual artist — some of her work can be seen at instagram.com/clairejbateman/

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