Six trailer homes - four above ground and two underneath - were stacked out in the wilderness of mildew and pine trees that stretched through what used to be either Mississippi or Alabama.
Virginia didn’t know which of them she lived in. The only indications were the rusted blue highway signs she or her brother Early would find from time to time in the creeks. Early was in one of the underground trailers, to be closer to the screaming fast fiber optic cables that were the reason their mom had stacked everything out there.
Virginia was watching a screen, grey and gold and green, it showed light frequencies invisible to the human eye, but entirely visible to the quiet drones she was piloting.
The screen flickered. She looked back to the stairs where the worn out symbol of a cartoon figure being hit in the eyes with laser beams was plastered over an arrow pointing down, and some black and yellow trim marked “CAUTION.”
“Early! I’m losing my signal!” She shouted. Virginia Carson was 13 years old and didn’t know she smelled like dried onions. Her hair was a mess and her hand-me-down NASA T-shirt was older than she was.
She did not know what NASA was. She could, however, picture her brother down in the basement. She pictured Early Carson in the little gap where you could stand in the middle of the wires and machines, a single gap where all the buttons and toggles were lined up against one old metal span.
The gap reminded her of what she thought the inside of Early’s brain looked like, a mass of fragile, interconnected things, with a gap right in the middle, an empty spot where something should have taken root.
Virginia understood - and Early did not - that , because of that space, or whatever it was - Early did not see things the way that she did. Nor did Early see things the way that his father did. (Virginia wasn’t sure that Burl was, in fact, HER father) and Early certainly didn’t see things the way that his father’s other children saw things, whenever they’d come by to visit.
Virginia remembered sitting at the fold out table with Georgia and Burl as she’d pulled foil-wrapped sweet potatoes from the electric stove, when Georgia Carson was surrounded by beer cans with a space in the middle for her dirty plate.
“It’s because he got the shots.” She’d said. Virginia had imagined Early in the path of a gun, bullets hitting his weird little head, at first, and later, she’d thought of the little thick empty glasses Burl left around the house.
Georgia went on about the shots quite a bit to Early, and Burl, and Burl’s kids, and anyone else who’d listen. The shots were why Early was the way he was, part of a sinister secret society plot to damage the brains of infants.
She had never been able to explain what, exactly, the powers that be stood to gain from millions of young men and women like Early.
He did love computers. She wondered if somewhere there were millions of computers run by kids like Early.
“EARLY!” She shouted again, waving her thin fingers through the tingling electric field that controlled the drone.
“I know, Ginny!” Early shouted up from the hole. There was a moment of silence, the screen flickering, the little electric noises from the field filling with static, and then everything resolved, a different screen now, a changed vista. Red and yellow heat lines in three dimensions, radiating from an engine, an engine moving, flickering on and off.
“They’re near trees.” Virginia said, looping her hand around something invisible, locking in some routine. Trees were the worst, they thwarted all the eyes in the sky.
Which was why mother and grandmother had planted so many. Virginia watched the car make a sharp turn, she’d decided it was a car, now, for sure. Small and loud, and probably reeking of ethanol, like Burl.
“Boom.” She said, jabbing her finger. The heat signatures got big and bright, flickered and faded, and then nothing. The feed was gone. She picked up the warm bottle of Mega Dew off the couch arm, the one that had been chewed on by possums, and went to see what Burl was digging up for food.