More Human than Human
Janessika runs to her room and slams the door. Her dolls shake on her mantle and then stop. The sound booms throughout the house, asserting her young teen angst for her whole family. She's alone.
She's just like millions of little humans embarking on their second largest growth phase, puberty. Except, unlike infancy, her individuality grows. She's not a girl, not yet a woman.
But who is she?
As human teens create identities apart from their families, they float, unmoored, as they try to build a new social life around their peers and are desperate for their approval.
Twelve-year-old Janessika stares into her wall of mirrors and traces her facial features. Who is this girl?
She grabs her hair and tousles it. She pops open her lunch box and inside is the makeup she's swiped from her mom and her friends' moms. She puts on lipstick and stares at herself in the mirror. Her eyebrows furrow. She puckers her lips, bigger and bigger still.
The silence of the room creeps around her. She walks to her holowall, her only friend through teenage nights, and enters her top secret passcode: 1234. The wall flickers on. 32 messages of today's gossip glow in her super secret friend group, the #KewlKidz, encouraging her to click.
Sarita from her homeroom entices their friends with a picture of her amazed face to watch a video: “Check it out!”
“Alexis, play video” Janessika demands.
She collapses into a pile of pillows on her bed and moves the video from the wall to the ceiling with a point of her finger.
The video shows a normal day at a mall. 3D-billboards bounce before customers. Hologram muscle men flex shirtless in front of a fitness supply store. Three teens fight over who will crawl into the full-body massage tube at Brookstone. A three-story tall art piece shimmers and radiates different colors corresponding to the songs that play in the background.
Janessika's eyes dart around the video. She knows there must be something important, all the other girls in her school loved it.
But where is it?
What is it?
She primes her mind to share in their ecstasy.
The angle of the video is of a person who is walking through the mall. He walks up behind locks of blonde hair. A teen girl turns to the camera and smiles bashfully.
That kind smile warms Janessika.
So simple, so sweet.
“Who is she?!” Janessika yearns to know.
The smile grows wider and her cheeks redden. She turns and a whip of blond tresses bounces behind her. The girl runs to the giant art piece, stops and looks back. The camera and Janessika have followed her. The mystery girl takes a deep breath, closes her eyes, opens her mouth and sings.
What is that sound?
What is that heavenly perfection?
The sweet voice grows louder. Janessika lays still, entranced by this girl. As she sings, the art piece behind her changes color in waves rolling out from her blonde bob. A crowd gathers to gawk and record this girl.
The singer opens her eyes and shakes to see the crowd around her. Tears trickle down her face as she finishes the last notes. A roar of applause breaks out from the thousands gathered.
But she bolts!
She runs and disappears.
The last image is of her rounding a giant fountain, she turns for a moment and the audience can see her sweet face flushed red.
The video ends with a message asking for the identity of this elusive chanteuse.
Janessika replays the video. She taps the hologram to pause this girl's smile and practices it. She tilts her head to the side, widens her eyes, melts her face and pulls the right corner of her mouth up. She turns on the camera in the holowall and reverses it to see her face. The contrast between her and this girl is jarring, but she perseveres, attempting to perfect the pose. After a minute, she swipes away her face and double taps to play the video again.
She watches it five more times. Each time, she pauses at a different place and studies this girl. The way her smile sparkles as she sings. The way her long lower eyelashes bounce off her cheeks as she squints. The way her long tan arms cross and her hands hug her elbows. The way her breasts bounce as she bends her knees in time.
Janessika grabs the video and writes a little message “Calling all detectives, we gotta find this girl!”
She tosses this message into the clusters of her different friend groups: her soccer teammates, her summer theater friends, her cousins.
One of them will find her!