There are between six and nine hundred muscles in the human body, depending on the classification system used, and by December 1999 Zane Zeitman had memorized the names, locations and functions of each one of them. He kept his little project a secret because he didn't want people to think, once again, that he was trying to be a know-it-all. He wasn't. The truth was that he had done it largely so that he wouldn't fall asleep in class. Dozing off in there inevitably got him in trouble, making life less pleasant. At thirteen years old, Zane had concluded that one of the keys to happiness was getting adults to leave you alone.
So in his computer class, he studied the muscles in his legs and feet. Learn the name of it. Find and flex it. Learn to use it better. In science, he concentrated on identifying, locating, and manipulating each of the muscles of his torso. In Texas history, he worked in detail on his hands and arms.
But he saved the human face with its fascinating more than forty muscles for English class. While keeping an ear out for the necessary tidbits on literature, he contemplated the subtle upper lip movements caused by the zygomaticus minor and amused himself by focusing on the changes that he could make in the area between his eyebrows by learning to exercise his procerus muscle. No question, the muscles in his face were absolutely the most interesting ones to learn to maneuver. He tackled them in English, obviously, because during English he was the most bored.
While Zane struggled to flex his orbicularis oculi, a small but industrious segment of the world's population was spending much of its time confronting the possibility of chaos and doom. These computer programmers, mostly aging geeks who knew machine code and legacy programming languages like Fortran, Basic and C, found themselves hired by companies the world over to fight small personal battles with ancient (that would be 1950 through 1980) software. Their mission? To see that computers, and all the myriad of utilities, finances, government records, shipping, and communications largely run by these machines, would not all come to a grinding halt because decades ago well-meaning programmers just like themselves had told computers that years only had two digits.
As the year 1999 neared its end, another segment of the world’s population wrote increasingly horrific articles about this villain, dubbed Y2K, telling of confused computers leading to the end of modern society as we knew it. As the end of December approached, security forces the world over went quietly on the highest of alerts. Just in case.
Prince's 1982 hit "1999" ($) was rereleased again in time for year’s end, and at least seven other recording artists did timely covers of the song, leaving much of the world’s population singing that they personally intended to start partying like it was 1999. It was an exciting time to be alive, this end of a millennium.
But wait. It wasn't actually the end of the millennium, and everyone past the age of four knew it. Because the Gregorian calendar, based on a perceived date for Christ's birth and now in common usage the world over, had begun with the year one, not the year zero, everyone knew that December 31, 2000, not 1999, would mark the real end of the millennium. And no one cared. December 31, 1999, was the big day. It was the day on which the odometer turned over, the day on which all the nines rolled into zeroes. It was the day that everyone cared about. It was the day on which the world might end. It was the day on which everyone wanted to be somewhere safe. Or somewhere special. Or both.
Genre – Speculative Fiction
Rating – PG13 (occasional crude language & main character is gay)
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