The beginnings of Arjie’s protesting answer was cut off by a sharp command from Gary. The fifty-two-year-old senior engineer at Crasob Engineering touched Jane’s arm, motioned for her to sit down, a silent command. He grabbed a nearby chair, pulled it directly in front of Jane. Sat, leaned forward, and spoke to Jane like a doctor giving a grave diagnosis to a patient.
“Jane — we hardly use the drafting board anymore.” He motioned to one of the devices that looked to Jane like a television. “Sometimes we find a minor mistake on a vellum we’ve already submitted to IDOT, or the city, we’ll just make the correction on the plot, instead of re-plotting. All of our drawings, most everything we do, is done on CAD.” Gary smiled. “Based on what you’ve said so far this morning, you probably don’t know what CAD is.”Jane shook her heard, her face looking like a student about to admit she hadn’t done her homework. Gary nodded. “It stands for computer assisted drafting. Or design, some call it. Like I said, it’s all done on computers now.”
Jane squinted as if in pain. “Computers?” She spread her arms wide. “You mean those big things, like at colleges or the Pentagon?”
“Not hardly.” Gary and Jane turned to the sound of Arjie’s voice. He held a device similar to what Jane had showed them this morning, what he had called a laptop. “This little guy’s got all the power we need.”
Jane Summers stood up suddenly, ran her fingers back over her scalp as she walked past Gary and Arjie. “This — can’t be — ” She threw her arms into the air, turned to her friends dramatically, her hair looking as wild as the desperation in her voice. “How can the world that I remember be — so different — than the world that you say — actually is?”
Gary remained seated, his round face only betraying a hint of concern. Arjie, standing and leaning on a desk behind Gary’s chair, studied Jane’s face a long moment before replying.
“You’re serious. This isn’t some kinda practical joke. You’re — scared, Jane. I’ve never seen you scared — ”
“Me neither,” Gary interjected.
“Right. You wouldn’t even know how to fake being afraid, Jane. But everything about you, how you look, the way you’re talking — it’s clear something pretty dramatic has happened.”
Jane Summers waited for Arjie to finish speaking. Her lower lip then lifted, pushing her upper lip into a grin that seemed to flare her nostrils, inflate her cheeks, widen her eyes. Her grin seemed genuine yet somehow perverse, as if she were about to tell a joke she didn’t find amusing. “So what you’re telling me,” she began, lifting an empty palm up in Arjie’s direction, “is that I’m from — I don’t know, some alien world, another dimension maybe — where almost everything is the same, except where I come from we don’t have these little computers, or phones that don’t have no cords.”
“Or cars.” Gary sounded almost apologetic.
Jane pointed her palm down at Gary. “That’s right, because we have Unirail, which you don’t have.” She raised her hands in the air again. “So, is that it? Am I from outer space? Is that what you’re telling me?”
Gary rose from his chair. “I’m not sure what to tell you, Jane.” His face softened. “Except — I think you should take the rest of the day off.”