Last year I left for Spain to spend time with old friends. When I got back I realized that my face was gone.
No. Really. It was gone…
I didn’t expect it to be my whole face. Everyone knows that Valkyrie ComNet’s teleporters take something, but it’s never anything big. Usually it depends on how far. Maybe a finger, or the top of your mouth, but never a whole face. In order to leave we must sacrifice something. That was how it was when I was a kid. My dad would whimper impatiently, reiterating with colorful words there was no money to travel. As I got older, I realized he was just stingy. Only when I was as old as him did I discover why. My mind labored on my wage, how much I earned. Could I afford to go? What would it cost? Now I understand. To travel is sacrifice.
When I go to the TELflat complex, I go an hour early. It doesn’t matter to me how early exactly; as long as it’s an hour. My seat, right in between the travel gift shop and the duty free boutiques, helps me see clearly. (Maybe I can learn to listen now.) Everyone glows like a firefly, listlessly hovering, dynamically eye-catching. Some are dressed in their best, which they wear like armor against the world. The others? They‘re slobs, just like me. Most who pass me by are veteran ‘porters. Missing arms, augmented internal organs, and reconditioned eyes, constitute their badge of honor. They stumble and lurch, those that step off the platform. Their new bodies adjust to what was taken from them moments before, and their contorted bones and seeping sores seem less burdensome in the presence of friends and family. Sadly, less and less do their relatives recognize them.
There’s no need to lose sleep over something like the workings of ‘porters (that’s just a waste of time), but I, while going out to get my coffee from Java-the-Hut, think about my old face. Stepping off into darkness and my sudden, jarring moment where I realized it was all gone taught me that all moments and meetings are precious. They say that, in the age of air travel, the sacrifice was sustained by those that served the traveler. These thankless people once saw us, took us in, and showed us the way. Everything cost something. For them, it was their joy. Today, we sacrifice. And it is painful. In the early morning, when the air is wet and damp, I feel the rails around my condo. Bumps made of putty lead me onward, tactile Sherpas teaching me to experience the world anew.
This is how they saw it back then, those people, and less travel for it. Now we live closer. But like an ancient rite, we must step into the wormhole, see their pain, eventually. Now, we know the cost of serving another, but I don’t think the people think about it like I do. If only they knew the horror as I did. No one would travel at all.