Some people might have heard of a character called Jenny Everywhere, who is supposed to be an “open source” character originally designed to be used anybody could use in any story you want, unlike, one presumes, Superman or Wonder Woman or whoever which you’d have to get rights to legally use (not that such stops a whole host of fan works, but that’s a grey area). She’s supposed to exist in all possible dimensions (implying fictional worlds as well) and has the power to “shift” between them.
You can find out more about her here, though I don’t endorse all the works posted thereon.
A couple of years ago, I started to write a tale based on what I thought one version of this character might have started out as. After all, when Clark Kent was growing up in Smallville he wasn’t quite Superman and was just discovering his powers and Kryptonian heritage. Bruce Wayne had to go through a lot before he became Batman. Peter Parker wasn’t Spiderman before he got bit by that spider. So how did the Shifter start out?
Lately I’ve been trying to update it, if sadly I’ve been a little too obsessed and letting it get in the way of other stuff, as ever.
For the benefit of those who were requesting it and for the sake of slightly broader publicity, here is a working version of the same. Constructive criticism very welcome, as is any advice on whether I shouldn’t bother wasting my time on such.
There’s also a page on the website TV Tropes for the work, which may be edited by members.
The Genesis of Jenny Everywhere
By Richard […] a.k.a. “The Lyniezian”
[Obligatory notice: The character of Jenny Everywhere is available for use by anyone, with only one condition. This paragraph must be included in any publication involving Jenny Everywhere, in order that others may use this property as they wish. All rights reversed.
‘BBC’, ‘BBC Home Service’ and the Today programme belong to the BBC, and are included for reasons of affectionate parody only.
All other characters, institutions and the story itself belong to the author, and should not be used without permission. Any similarities to real life entities are either coincidental or not intended with offence in mind.]
This isn’t exactly meant to be the absolute origins of Jenny- after all she’s supposed to exist in every possible reality, probably at any point in history as well. Rather, it’s meant to be the story of how one particular Jenny discovers that she is, in fact, a Jenny Everywhere. After all, there must be millions of them, and they have to start somewhere. And her surname isn’t Everywhere to begin with either- it’s sort of a moniker, a general name used to denote the state of being Jenny Everywhere, in this version at least.
And don’t ask where Levendale City is. The real Levendale is a small suburb somewhere in the vicinity of a small town called Yarm. This isn’t it. It’s a lot bigger, for one thing. Like Springfield, it’s everywhere- in fact, just like Jenny. And yet, nowhere.
Levendale City, on a September morning
“Wake up, Jenny!” came a shout from below stairs. It was Jenny’s mother, trying hard to get her up for yet another dreary school day. “It’s half past seven, young lady, and if you do not get up now, you’ll be late!”
“Yeah, OK Mum,” moaned Jenny drearily. “I’ll be up shortly.”
“Shortly’s not good enough! Now!”
The last thing Jenny wanted to do was get up, however: she was having far too much fun dreaming, and just wanted to roll over and doze off so she could continue for just five minutes more. When she dreamed, she could be anything she wanted to be, fly off to distant worlds and have all manner of crazy adventures. But her mother would have none of it, not when there were studies to be done and exams to be passed. Battling airship pirates over the Alps, riding your mammoth across the steppe or trekking though the Amazon searching for the treasures of El Dorado wouldn’t help you pass Geography or Further Maths. As for getting up late, why the heck that woman classed half past seven in the morning as late was beyond Jenny’s comprehension. School didn’t even start until nine, and it was only five minutes up the road.
“You’ve got to be early, got to make a good impression!” she would tell Jenny.
When all it would really mean is standing around the yard in the freezing cold whilst the other girls made fun of crazy Jenny with her silly goggles and scarf, always dreaming of adventures that would never happen; when she should be fawning over some boy-band member, arguing over who was going to win the latest reality TV contest or which shade of foundation was right for you. None of which interested Jenny in the least, any more than learning to solve differential equations so you could pass Further Maths or learning about the drought problems of the Democratic Republic of Muganda. School was just one big drag. Mum, though, didn’t seem to realise any of this. It was like talking to a brick wall.
“Hurry up Jenny! Get dressed! I made you some toast, your favourite, and there’s some tea in the pot waiting for you to pour it out! It’s twenty five to eight! You have no alarm clock or something?”
It was no use arguing. Begrudgingly, she dragged herself out of bed.
[Warning: contains some slightly strong language and one arguable racial slur. Apologies to the BBC who own the Today programme- this is meant as affectionate parody, I hold no rights to it.]
The faint strains of John Whatshisname roasting another politician for breakfast could be heard coming from the radio downstairs, whilst in the distance the low hum of a zeppelin and the odd whoosh of early morning traffic punctuated the silence, but this would hardly motivate Jenny to do anything other than flop back onto the bed and return to her reverie. As per her usual solution to the problem, she reached up to the shelf and picked out a cartridge at random from the pile, too tired and bleary-eyed to care which one, leaving the rest to clatter to the floor. Loading the cartridge into the player with a satisfying ‘click!’ the noise of a funky beat and slap bass soon drowned out the background. Jenny splashed some water on her face, changed out of her nightdress and threw on a few clothes: off-white blouse, dark blue sweater dark blue slacks, bomber jacket- and of course her trademark aviator goggles and scarf. (Since Mum had insisted the green-and-purple Levendale United one was not to be worn except on match days, a perhaps more appropriate silk scarf had to suffice.) A quick check in the mirror and it was off to face the day. The B**** Squad would probably still be wondering what top matched what skirt or ensuring their eyeliner was applied just so, no doubt, she mused.
Several minutes later, Jenny clumped down the stairs nonchalantly just as Sister Belinda Snodgrass was just summing up her thought for the day and handing over to the weather forecast. Mum had by this point gone outside to hang the washing outside, leaving Dad sat at the table, munching on toast whilst mulling over the copy of the Morning Post spread out of the table in front of him, mumbling something about the “bloody Japs” entering Outer Mongolia, briefly looking up at his daughter and uttering a casual “Morning, Jenny” before returning his gaze to the newspaper. After a few moments, he added that there might be some tea left in the pot and that Jenny could help herself, which sitting down at the table, she did, along with some toast. Having cooled down too much, the toast lacked that warm, just-done feel but still went nicely spread with butter. Mmm. Her thoughts then wandered, and in her mind’s eye she was flying high in the skies above Mongolia, one of the bombers of the Imperial Japanese air force in her sights, fingers at the trigger ready to fire. But before she could her father’s voice brought her crashing back down to earth, not Mongolia but a kitchen table in England.
“So… penny for them young lady?” he inquired. Jenny took a while to collect her thoughts, before replying:
“Oh, erm… I imagined I was fighting the Japanese. Silly really…”
“Well,” he chuckled, “with you at the front I’m sure they’d not even be able to hold Manchuria! But if you want to do something about it, you know, you do have to stop just dreaming and work at it…”
“You’re beginning to sound like her,” exclaimed Jenny, gesturing towards the back window.
“Never mind,”, replied he consolingly. “Friday today, and it’s the big match tomorrow, eh?”
“Yeah,” she replied. (Going to the football with her Dad was probably amongst the other of the few other real-life pleasures she had; the fact that she was a girl made no difference even though he insisted it was very much a “man’s game” and she’d never yet persuaded him to go along with her to one of the women’s matches.) “Cranchester without a chance I’ll bet. Got to be three-nil at least…”
“Don’t bet on it, now they’ve got Jefferson back in-”
At which point Mum had just opened the back door, looking worn out and none too pleased. Looking at Dad with that stare, she scolded him:
“You should be encouraging your daughter in her studies, not talking about silly games!”
“I’ll have you know that football is not some ‘silly game’! It’s the Beautiful Game! And it’s something we take very seriously here, if you don’t mind…”
“Studies are still more important, and Jenny is starting her A-levels, so she needs to focus!”
“Mum…” interjected Jenny.
“Less of that young lady! This is no joke, you know! This is the rest of your life you are talking about, so you need to knuckle down! No more football, and no more silly dreams! Finish your breakfast and get ready! What have you got on today?”
“Double maths, biology, some film about Japanese knotweed…”
“You see,” joked Dad, “even the Jap plants are out to get us. They take over Asia whilst their plants are busy taking over Brit-”
“You stay out of this,” scolded his wife.
It was a pity, thought Jenny, that knotweed wasn’t like a real evil plant, grabbing you by the ankle with its tendrils and dragging you down into the depths like in the movies. Then, at least Biology might be worth staying awake for, rather than drifting off and thinking about riding across the plains on your trusty steed or shooting down Japanese bombers. But alas, it was not to be.
“…beep, beeeeep!” went the radio, signalling the hour. “You’re listening to the Today programme on the BBC Home Service…”
“See?” said Mum. Eight o’clock already! Get a move on! And take those silly goggles off before you go!” Jenny reluctantly wolfed down the rest of her toast, downed the mug of tea, got up, grabbed her books and shoved them into the satchel (along with portable cartridge player and a few tapes from the former pile) before hurrying out of the door, slamming it angrily behind her… still wearing her goggles.
“Hey, Jenny!” called a voice from behind her. “Wait up!”
Jenny turned around to see the source of the voice, a small girl with messy, mid-length blonde hair, pretty but with the lack of personal grooming which would make the Bitch Squad turn their faces in disgust, dressed in a loose T-shirt (yea, even in this weather), jacket and jeans, backpack slung over her shoulder and wheeling a bike beside her.
“Oh… hi Leelee,” she replied. “Bloody heck, not like you to be up this early!”
Leah “Leelee” Jones was probably the closest thing Jenny had to a friend, even though she was still only a fourth-former and could be intensely annoying at times. Not so much of the cling-to-you-like-a-limpet-and-don’t-leave-you-alone kind of annoying as she used to be when she’d first joined secondary school and started hanging around Jenny because she was “really cool”, but still overbearing and silly with a sense of priorities even Jenny felt worrying. Like, for example, she’d be nowhere to be seen for three days and then suddenly she’d show up for school one morning, asking Jenny a ton of questions about what adventures she’d dreamed up this time and begging her to go hang around in the park with her because she didn’t feel like going to school that day. Never mind that there were studies to do and things to be learned, and a mother to give you what-for if you so much as slipped behind an inch. (Not that Leelee’s uncle and sole guardian could care less, despite the concerned and pleading letters from Levendale West Academy that popped onto his doormat on a weekly basis, the most they could do since truancy laws were a thing of the past, a thing even Jenny’s Dad dismissed as “bloody Libertarian nonsense”.) Even when she did go to school, it was usually straggling in two minutes after the bell had called students in for registration, so to see Leelee up at a mere ten past eight was little short of a miracle.
“Well, I dunno, don’t think I could sleep or something, like,” was how she explained it. “Uncle Joe got drunk again and he started snoring like a pig so I thought I’d nip out without him noticing.” She giggled uncontrollably.
“Is that the only reason you’re up?” asked Jenny.
“I think so,” replied Leelee. “Maybe there was something on first period that was interesting, can’t remember…”
The girl was impossible. One minute she couldn’t care less about school, the next raring to get there because something caught her fancy that day? Make your bleeping mind up, lass!
“Hmmm,” remarked Jenny in snarking tone. “’Interesting’ and ‘first period’ aren’t exactly the sort of terms I’d put together. Do enlighten me…”
“I mean, what have you got on that’s so interesting?”
“Dunno, history I think. Sounded interesting yesterday.”
Leelee was clearly bored with this line of conversation, and after a short pause changed the subject.
“So, tell me about your adventures again Jenny! Pleeease?”
“Not now Leelee. I keep telling you I’m not a storyteller. Can’t we just talk about something normal for a change, like how United are going to thrash Cranchester three nil tomorrow…”
“Foot-bore! Foot-bore!” chanted Leelee mockingly.
“You should come to the match tomorrow with me and Dad, you might like it.”
“You know I don’t like football! Come on Jenny, tell me about your adventures…”
Sometimes Jenny wished Leelee might actually start being interested in fashion, pop music and boys like most other girls her age. At least she might stop reverting back to behaving like a six-year-old, not the 14 she actually was. Maybe in one of her better moods, she might make some lad’s ideal Manic Pixie Dream Girl, fun-loving, crazy and demanding as she was. But then again, if she were any different she’d not be the Leelee Jenny actually liked anymore, just another member of the herd, leaving her with nothing but herself and her dreams to shield her from this dreary world.
“Oh, all right then,” she said with a sigh, going on to relate last night’s dream involving shootouts with gangsters in a run-down part of some American city. And charging the Mongol hordes astride a mammoth. And walking on the Moon.
It was about twenty-to-nine by the time the two girls finally reached the imposing gates of Levendale West Academy. (Mum would not have been pleased with such tardiness.) Students could be seen milling around both inside and out, mucking around and being hounded down by the exasperated teacher-on-duty, or chatting about the upcoming weekend.
“Once more unto the breach dear friend, once more…” said Jenny to a puzzled Leelee. “Oh, come on, you are doing Henry V in English this year? You know, Shakespeare?”
“Meh, English is bo-ring,” replied Leelee dismissively. “Who wants to know about some old king talking in thees and thous instead of flying your airship through the mountains, you know like you, Jen? Or maybe riding round the park scaring off the ducks like me?”
And getting wolf-whistled and cat-called by all the perverts on the benches by the fountain, which you wouldn’t even think about would you Leelee? thought Jenny. Anyway, who wouldn’t want to be stirred up to battle by that rousing speech, stiffen up the sinews, summon up the blood and all that? (That speech was one of the few bits that actually made Shakespeare, and English lessons in general worthwhile, in her eyes.)
Never mind that, though, as no sooner had they reached the yard, than Charlotte’s Posse descended upon them, perfectly manicured claws ready to sink in. Charlotte Mitchell was probably Alpha B**** of the worst brigade of the B**** Squad, period.
“Look at them,” she shouted out at them, ostensibly addressing her loyal followers. “Where you off this time, Amy Johnson? Australia? America? Cloud Cuckoo Land? You can take Leelee right back home whilst you’re at it!”
“Go fly a kite, Charlie,” Jenny shouted back. “In fact, go take a long kite-surf off a short pier. At least then you might get some real excitement before the waves take you. Except you can’t, that’d make your mascara run, I’ll bet.”
“Oooh, feisty!” mocked Charlotte. “And did you just call me Charlie? You know that’s Not My Name, don’t you? It’s Charlotte and don’t you forget it…” The Posse gathered round, closing in for the kill. Not before Jenny had one last trick up her sleeve, though:
“Well… that probably because you’re a right one, eh?”
“Give it a rest, Charlotte Mitchell!” shouted a male voice. It belonged to Mr. James, head of Maths and the teacher on duty that morning. “Leave poor Jenny alone for once. I know she’s a bit… odd, but that’s no excuse for you to go around harassing her! Besides, you should be setting an example for the younger students, like our Leah here.” (Jenny grimaced at the teacher’s insinuations, but was secretly relieved at the same time.)
“Sorry sir,” replied Charlotte with mock sincerity. “We didn’t mean to be nasty, did we girls?
“No, Charlotte,” replied the Posse in unison. “How would we do a thing like that?” And so on.
“No excuses girls. Any more of this and you’ll be spending lunchtime in detention. I can still do that, you know. Now get out of my sight!”
Off went the Posse, dejected.
“Thanks, sir,” said Jenny to the teacher begrudgingly.
“Don’t think this is scot-free for you though Miss Bainbridge,” said James, using her actual last name. “We want you solving integrals, not breaking the air speed record in 1934,” he continued, glancing at the strange pair of vintage aviator goggles atop her head. (Jenny sighed.) “And as for you Leah… a good effort for once, but do try to turn up for lessons, not just registration? I don’t want to have to be writing to your uncle yet again, do I?”
“It’s Leelee, and… no sir,” replied Leelee, trying to wriggle out of the situation. Mr. James was not finished, though.
“Good. Now registration is at nine sharp, remember?”
“And class is at two on the dot, don’t be late.”
“…yes.. sir…” she mumbled.
Mr. James’ attention was suddenly distracted by a group of first-form boys attacking each other with spitballs.
“Can’t we go to the park instead Jen?” pleaded Leelee, somewhat put off the whole school lark by the previous events.
“No,” replied Jenny.
“The shopping centre?”
“Up the cycleway to the airport?”
“Pictures? Grenadier Mary and the Great Zombie Massacre of 1987* is on this aft-”
“NO! I don’t care what you uncle says Leelee, but my Mum will kill me if I miss school again!”
“Pfft, suit yourself,” said Leelee, mounting her bike as if to make off back through the gate before Mr. James collared her.
“Oh no you don’t Leah, put it in the shed and lock it away,” he scolded.
Jenny let out a long and exasperated sigh. If only I could disappear from this shithole…
Perhaps, it turned out, she could…
In our next episode, the school day drags on and on, Jenny gains an unwanted admirer of the male sort… and Leelee, watch out for that bus…
* Some people will be able to spot the reference I made there…
1. Jenny’s dreams are actually a manifestation of her ability to read the thoughts of her other selves in other universes- these portray adventures other Jennies are actually having. Apart from perhaps the fighter pilot one, which is probably just wandering thoughts inspired by her dad’s commenting on the newspaper.
2. Amy Johnson was a real-life aviatrix who set a number of long distance records and was eventually killed in World War 2 whilst serving as an auxiliary pilot.
3. A “Manic Pixie Dream Girl”, for those who don’t know, is a kind of romantic fantasy figure, basically a crazy, free-spirited girl who shakes up the boring male protagonist’s life. Whether Leelee would actually make a good one is left to the reader to decide.
4. Lest anyone get any hints from this story that might seem to suggest such, Leelee is not interested in girls either, in any particularly sexual way. Nor is Jenny in either girls or boys in quite that way. This isn’t meant to be a lesbian romance story or a “straight” one either, and I certainly don’t want any “Rule 34” in years to come (remember the characters’ ages). [EDIT: I’m not saying that kind of story is necessarily a bad thing, albeit at the time I first wrote this my religious sensibilities got in the way, plus I worried exactly how creepy it might seem to some for a thirtysomething man to write about potentially underaged teenage lesbians. But, if anyone feels up to writing that kind of story, Jenny is an open source character, so you can of course write your own. Just not using any of my original characters.]
Charlotte is probably interested in boys (as are the members of her Posse), but clearly would not be interested in either Jenny or Leelee.
5. School attendance in this world is intended as a matter for the parents alone to decide, not the state. Hence the state can legally do nothing about it. Nor can they keep kids for after-school detention, only at lunchtimes (hence what Mr. James says).
6. Levendale is also partly inspired by a certain village called Leven, probably in East Yorkshire, the author visited as a kid. Certain readers may be familiar with it. Also, the River Leven which is a tributary of the Tees.
7. The narrative is very much sympathetic to Jenny’s in-story point of view, and as such may not reflect the author’s actual opinions.