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by James B Willard

[Corentine] by James B Willard Copyright 20 James B Willard

!mash"ords Edition

Chapter 0# $ore"ord

[Corentine]%s &irst in'arnation (as the Origami !hado"s "ebsite) "as designed to ill*strate an idea introd*'ed in the narrati+e , that the mind 'an pro'ess seemingly *nrelated- disorgani.ed in&ormation into a general *nderstanding o& e+ents that o''*rred in the story/ The passages o& the narrati+e "ere bro0en into small pie'ess'attered a'ross se+eral h*ndred "eb pagesand presented in +ario*s &ormats , some "ere "ritten "ith in+isible te1t- some se'tions "ere hidden in image des'riptors on pages- some se'tions o& the stories "ere 'on+erted to binary or he1ade'imal 'ode- and so on/ The site "as designed as an e1panding "eb o& *nmar0ed lin0s2 the page names "ere 'hosen to help rein&or'e or introd*'e ideas that the narrator "as e1perien'ing/ I 'omposed and p*blished m*si' (as Bro0en0ites) to a''ompany the reading o& the material2 tra'0 names mat'hed

*p "ith page names in the site and "ere intended to e1pand the e1perien'e o& the story by in'orporating m*ltiple types o& media into the "hole "or0/ !ome o& those page ideas ha+e been retained in the !*pplemental 3aterials !e'tion o& the te1t/ Origami !hado"s "as a p*..le that the reader had to reassemble in order to see the 'omplete pi't*re- 4*st as the 'hara'ters in the "or0 "ere attempting to re'ompile their o"n disparate ideas abo*t "hat they remembered as the tr*th/ I%d been &as'inated "ith the idea that yo* 'o*ld ta0e a boo0- tear e+ery page o*t o& it- read the pages in any random order- and at the end- yo*%d still ha+e a good *nderstanding o& "hat the boo0 "as abo*t/ While yo* may ha+e a slightly di&&erent per'eption o& the story than someone "ho read the "or0 in its original &ormat- I lo+e the idea that yo*r o"n per'eption and the blan0s that yo*r *ni5*e imagination &ills in &or yo* are "hat ma0es the story 'omplete/ Isn%t e+ery story *ni5*e &rom reader to reader based on ho" the indi+id*al

imagines it to be and ho" their o"n perspe'ti+e 'olors the "or0- &illing o*t the details "ith the things that they%+e imagined as they play o*t the narrati+e in their mind6 7o"e+er- the presentation o& the story as a design 'on'ept pre'l*ded it &rom appealing to readers "ho "ere interested in the story b*t didn%t "ant to be &or'ed into both dis'o+ering and then reassembling the &ragments o& the narrati+e +ia "eb bro"ser/ [Corentine] is the original story presented in a more 'ongr*o*s &ormat "hile still retaining the elements introd*'ed in its in'arnation as a "ebsite/ I hope that yo*- the reader- en4oy it/ I& yo* do- please tell a &riend abo*t it/ Than0s &or s*pporting independent "riters- artists- and m*si'ians/


What tr*ths- dar0ly- dri+ing li0e nails into the bo1- "ith signed &ate- sealed and deli+ered2 8h- "hat tr*ths shall 'ome- and pass9

$ort*ne- "eary at her "heel- "ea+ing "onders *nseen &or times that &ade on other planes"hilst endlessly "e toils'raping meaning &rom salted soil/

:nearthed9 8t last9 Old treas*res so*ght- "hi'h rise again- to li+e/ 8nd

"ith ea'h in'arnation- her hands torn to the boneshe m*st 'arry onso that the thread may rea'h the loom/

by James B Willard

Be"are the Night/ Be"are the light/

This boo0 is a "or0 o& &i'tion/ Names'hara'ters- pla'es- and in'idents either are the prod*'t o& the a*thor%s imagination or are *sed &i'titio*sly/ 8ny resemblan'e to a't*al e+entslo'ales- organi.ations- or persons- li+ing or dead- is entirely 'oin'idental and beyond the intent o& the a*thor/

Origami !hado"s ; 200< by James B Willard Corentine ; 20 by James B Willard

8ll rights reser+ed- in'l*ding the right to reprod*'e this boo0 or portions thereo& in any &orm "hatsoe+er e1'ept as pro+ided by the :/!/ Copyright =a"/

Re'ommended listening to a''ompany the reading o& the material in this boo0 is a+ailable by sear'hing &or BRO>EN>ITE! in yo*r &a+orite digital m*si' store/ ?lease +isit http#@@hollo"s'ene/'om &or more in&ormation/

On'e :pon 8 Time///

Open the Aoor/ !tep into the =ight/

Though they'll try to mimic what we are, in the core of our souls, writing our very memories for us, they will never be able to replace the truth and the reality as it existed before they've tampered with it. They cannot write our histories for us, our very thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions. There will be no questions. We'll always know the difference between the real and the imagined/

8ttrib*ted to a s0epti' (In rea'tion to the initial press release iss*ed by !yn'hro !ystems abo*t their !yn'hroni'ity Ari+e treatment tests)

Wir stehen immer gerade da+or- der Rand .* &allen- i'h den0e- ihren Balan'ea0t beoba'htend/ !ie hat 8ngst ni'ht- aber i'h bin &Br *ns beide ers'hro'0en gen*g



Chapter 01 Co* get all 0inds o& ideas in yo*r head "hen yo* don%t 0no" "hat%s going to happen ne1t/ Co* thin0 yo* 'an sa+e the day- right the "rongs- p*nish the e+ildoers- and yo* thin0 that- i& yo*%re l*'0y- yo*%ll be able to get the girl in the end/ When the ele+ator stopped- I stepped into a sterile room +ery similar to the one I%d le&t 4*st a moment or t"o be&ore/ 8 re'eption des0 "as a'ross &rom the ele+ator- and at it- a sharp loo0ing "oman dressed in bla'0 'lothing sat/ !he "as staring at me as soon as the doors opened- and she didn%t brea0 her ga.e "hile I stepped o*t o& the ele+ator- 5*i'0ly si.ed the room *p- made note o& the pair o& glass doors behind her that appeared to lead to t"o separate hall"ays- and ret*rned my attention to her/ D:m-D I started- *ns*re o& "hat to say to her/ D7i/D

7er ne*tral e1pression didn%t 'hange- b*t she ad4*sted her glasses slightly and brie&ly loo0ed at something behind the &a'ade o& the des0/ I ass*med that there "as a monitor o& some sort embedded in the panel/ I didn%t ha+e time to ponder "hat in&ormation she might be re'ei+ing- be'a*se she spo0e/ DWel'ome ba'0- sir/ We%+e been e1pe'ting yo*/D That really thre" me o&&/ DCo*%re 0idding- right6D I as0ed/ DCo* say that to e+erybody "hen yo* 'at'h them brea0ing into yo*r resear'h 'omple1 don%t yo*6D !he raised an eyebro"/ I noti'ed her eye 'olorthen# bl*e/ It "as a good 'olor &or her/ !he a+oided ans"ering the 5*estion- tho*ghprobably be'a*se it "as a st*pid one/ !he typed something into a 0eypad on the des0 and then ret*rned her &*ll attention to me- 'learing her throat/

DWe 0no" "ho yo*%re loo0ing &or/ We ha+e the ans"ers that yo*%re see0ing/D O& 'o*rse- yo* probably ha+e some 5*estions o& yo*r o"n that need ans"ering/ It%s hard to pinpoint "hen something li0e this really begins/ When did my &ate 'ommen'e6 Was it t"o "ee0s ago- or si1 months ago6 8 year ago- e+en6 Aid it all begin long be&ore that- "hen I &irst met my "i&e (an *nhappy "oman that I%+e no" di+or'ed)6 Aid the a+alan'he o& e+ents begin "hen I "as in high s'hool as I s'ribed lo+e letters and d*bbed 'omp tapes &or pretty girls in an e&&ort to "in their &i'0le a&&e'tions- or e+en earlier- "hen I e1perien'ed my &irst 0iss "ith the m*'h older and more e1perien'ed babysitter behind the blea'hers a&ter a little leag*e baseball game6 I don%t thin0 I "as more than ten years old- then/ Aoes it go ba'0 to the day I "as born- "hen my mother- eight months pregnant- ran a stop sign- "hi'h res*lted in a 'ar 'rash- "hi'h then led to an emergen'y pro'ed*re "here the

do'tors had to ind*'e labor so that they 'o*ld sa+e *s both6 8 person 'o*ld get lost in trying to tra'e it all ba'0- really/ 8 person 'o*ld "rap themsel+es *p in a 'o'oon o& remembering- e+ery little detail- e1amining the min*tiae o& their li&e- digesting it- hoping to emerge on some bright spring day- tri*mphant and trans&ormed- b*t still- I thin0 they%d &ail/ It%s all too big- it%s e1panded too &ar- and it%s 0ind o& li0e o*r &la"ed- h*man 'on'ept o& the *ni+erse/ We 4*st don%t ha+e the psy'hologi'al ma0e*p to grasp the in&inite n*mber o& possibilities that ha+e e1panded o*t o& e+ery little de'ision that ea'h and e+ery one o& *s has made thro*gho*t o*r li+es- e+er sin'e the beginning o& time/ !o let%s go ba'0 to abo*t t"o "ee0s ago/ 8 starting point as good as any other/

The phone had been ringing &or a 'o*ple o& min*tes "hen I &inally ga+e *p on ignoring itthre" a 'o*ple o& the to"els into the batht*band made my "ay to the 0it'hen so that I 'o*ld ans"er it/ D7ello6D D7ey- yo*/D It "as Janine/ D7i- JJ/ What%s *p6D DNothing m*'h/ One o& yo* g*ys 'alled6D It so*nded li0e she "as eating a salad/ Cr*n'hing noises made their "ay thro*gh the phone lineand I remember thin0ing that it "as too early in the morning &or a salad/ DI didn%t- and Cor%s not here/ I tho*ght she might be "ith yo*/ 3aybe she 'alled yo* earlier this morning- be&ore I "o0e *p-D I s*ggested/ DE*ess so/ Co* all right6D she as0ed/ D8h- 4*st a little pl*mbing problem here at the ho*se- not a big deal/ The &loor%s &looded in the

bathroom/ Ao"nstairs neighbors are probably getting a &ree sho"er right abo*t no"/ Why6 Ao I so*nd angry6D DI 'an &eel the "a+es o& yo*r irritation all the "ay o+er here-D she ans"ered/ Janine had the *nner+ing ability to t*ne into the moods o& "home+er she "as tal0ing "ith/ !ometimesshe "as a s*rprisingly per'epti+e 0id/ DAidn%t she lea+e a message &or yo*6D I as0ed/ DNope/D 3ore 'r*n'hing noises/ DJ*st a missed 'all/D Corentine- the third party in 5*estion- "as my girl&riend- "ho%d +anished that morning- tho*gh I didn%t reali.e it at the time/ I *sed to 0id Cor and Janine that they "ere li0e magnets &or ea'h other- opposite ends p*lling themsel+es to"ards a 'ommon 'enter point/ That point ended *p being in Ne" Cor0 City4*st a&ter "e "ere ret*rning &rom o*r tra+els

abroad- "hen "e%d met Janine and 5*i'0ly be'ome &riends/ DIt%s not li0e her to lea+e li0e this-D I said/ DEspe'ially "itho*t "a0ing me *p- or at least lea+ing a note &or me/D 3y girl&riend "as in the habit o& lea+ing notes &or me "hene+er she%d lea+e the ho*se- be'a*se I "as in the habit o& "orrying abo*t her "hene+er she%d go o*t/ !he le&t notes &or hersel&- sometimes- too- 4*st to ma0e s*re that she remembered things that "ere important/ 8s a res*lt- "e had 5*ite a 'olle'tion o& sti'0y notes s'attered thro*gho*t the apartment that "e li+ed in/ DWell- hope &or the best and plan &or the "orst9 I hate to say things li0e that be'a*se they%re o+erly 'li'hF- b*t "hat 'an yo* do6 Co* might ha+e to ma0e yo*r o"n sand"i'h &or l*n'h today- yo* 0no"-D she 'ra'0ed/ DI%m s*re that she%ll 'all or be home soon- tho*gh/ I%ll let yo* get ba'0 to yo*r pl*mbing problem no"/D This "as a 4o0e that Janine li0ed to ma0e at my e1pense- implying that I "o*ldn%t be able to

s*r+i+e &or long "itho*t someone present to ta0e 'are o& me/ Janine%s &eminist leanings "ere a little e1treme- at times- and she%d +oi'ed her s'orn&*l opinion abo*t Coren%s daily sand"i'h ma0ing on se+eral o''asions/ Janine h*ng *p "itho*t "aiting &or a response/ !ometimes I had to remind mysel& that phone eti5*ette had died a long time ago- and e+en tho*gh she "as mat*re &or her age- there "as still someone 4*st past being a teenager trying to gro" *p and be a &*ll,&ledged ad*lt in there/ !he sometimes &orgot that gro"ing *p meant that yo* probably sho*ld say goodbye to end a phone 'on+ersation- or at least "ait &or a response &rom the other party on yo*r lastsome"hat strange and ins*lting- statement/ I "anted to tell her- &re5*ently- to stop r*shing it- b*t I 0ne" that she "o*ld &ig*re it o*t 4*st li0e I had- and probably li0e I had- on'e it "as already too late/ Corentine and I &illed the roles o& big brother and big sister to her- I g*ess/ That "as 'ool/ We

really en4oyed Janine%s 'ompany- and they%d get into (and o*t o&) plenty o& tro*ble together "hile I "o*ld "ander aro*nd the 'ity trying hal&heartedly to shop o*t both o& my no+els and the one &i+e song demo I re'orded a &e" years ba'0 "hen I "as going thro*gh my del*sions o& being a ro'0 star phase/ I 0ne" that it didn%t really matter i& I signed *p "ith a label or &o*nd a p*blisher/ The settlement 'he'0s &rom the di+or'e "ere the one good thing that 'ame o*t o& my past and in periods "hen I "or0ed- I e+en managed to sa+e a signi&i'ant amo*nt o& money *p in +ario*s bond a''o*nts and in+estment pa'0ages- b*t it helped to ha+e the goal/ On the s*b4e't o& the in+estments- I got l*'0y a 'o*ple o& times "ith some pretty big sto'0 trades- p*lled some things o*t o& the mar0et a &e" times be&ore it tan0ed- bo*ght lo" and sold high- and e+en made one or t"o pretty l*'rati+e sports bets/ The interest I "as earning "as eno*gh to s*r+i+e on- most months- on'e the initial l*mp settlement arri+ed/ I "or0ed be'a*se I "as bored- or be'a*se I "as hiding &rom the

memories o& the times be&ore I%d mo+ed to the 'ity- or be'a*se I li0ed to p*nish mysel& "ith pointless lo" paying and degrading 4obs "ith glass 'eilings that no one "or0ing them seemed to be a"are o& b*t me/ I learned to hate '*bi'les be&ore that- e+en- b*t that "as a long time ago "hen I "as li+ing some"here else"hen I "as a +ery di&&erent person- a "orld a"ay and a &oreign li&e that "as merely a pre'*rsor to my '*rrent state/ I "al0ed ba'0 to the bathroom- determined to 'lean *p the mess be&ore it did any more damage to the ho*se/ I thre" e+ery to"el"ash'loth- and nap0in I 'o*ld gather into the pool in the middle o& the &loor/ What I really needed "as a shop +a'/ I "ondered i& any o& my neighbors had one that they%d be "illing to let me borro" &or a 'o*ple o& ho*rs/ While I 'leaned and some time passed- I started thin0ing abo*t the di&&erent reasons Cor might ha+e le&t and "here she might ha+e gone/ It "asn%t li0e her to lea+e "itho*t saying

goodbye- and as I said to Janine- I e1pe'ted some sort o& note on the re&rigerator or the bathroom mirror or something/ I "ondered i& I had missed the note be'a*se I%d been distra'ted by the o+er&lo"ing sin0/ I headed ba'0 into the 0it'hen to 'he'0/ Nothing o*t o& the ordinary there/ 8s I%d tho*ght- she hadn%t le&t a note/ I e+en got do"n and loo0ed beneath the re&rigerator- in 'ase it had &allen onto the &loor and someho" gotten "edged beneath it/ DThis is silly-D I said to mysel&- standing *p/ I pi'0ed *p the phone and 'alled Janine ba'0/ It rang three times be&ore she ans"ered/ D!omething told me that it "o*ld be yo* again-D she said- her +oi'e 'learer than the last time that "e tal0ed/ !he m*st ha+e &inished eating that salad/

DCeah- *m-D I hesitated- then 'ommitted/ DWhy do thin0 she%d lea+e li0e that6 It%s bothering me G a lot more than it probably sho*ld- b*t something doesn%t &eel right/ It%s not li0e her at all to "ander o&& some"here li0e this- "itho*t "a0ing me &irst- "itho*t 'alling at some point/D DIt 'o*ld be anything- really/ Co*ld be ?3!e+en/ 3aybe she doesn%t "ant to be &o*nd9D !he "as 0idding again- I 0ne"- b*t something abo*t the "hole sit*ation had me &eeling *neasy- so that made it "orse/ DI hope that%s not the 'ase/ I "as thin0ing ho" it%s possible that she "ent ba'0 home or something/ 3aybe it happened too &ast &or her to say anything- to say goodbye/ 3aybe she remembered her past and she &orgot her present/ What%s that 'alled6 8 &*g*e state6D DI don%t 0no"/ I don%t thin0 so/ Aon%t be a pessimist/ !he%s probably o*t pi'0ing *p some gro'eries or something/ 7a+e yo* tried "al0ing do"n to the do'0s6 Co* 0no" ho" she lo+es to &eed the g*lls do"n there/D

DI ha+e a bad &eeling- Janine/D D!top being inse'*re/ !he lo+es yo*/ Co* don%t lea+e people "itho*t saying a "ord "hen yo* tr*ly lo+e them *nless yo* plan on 'oming ba'0/D DThe do'0s so*nd good/ Ao yo* "ant to 'ome "ith me6D I as0ed- hoping her *n'anny abilities to r*n into people that she 0ne" e+ery"here she "ent "o*ld 'ome in handy/ DWhat abo*t yo*r pl*mbing problems6D she as0ed/ I shr*gged/ D:nless yo*%+e got a shop +a' at yo*r pla'e yo* 'an bring by- the to"els are doing a pretty good 4ob o& soa0ing *p the pond-D I ans"ered/ D3aybe I 'an 'at'h a 'o*ple o& &ish and 0eep them in the batht*b/D I tried to be lighthearted- too/

D!orry- no shop +a'/ 8 trip to the do'0s does so*nd li0e a ni'e di+ersion- tho*gh/ I%m ta0ing it easy today- any"ay/ I got a &at pay'he'0 &rom a distr*sting ho*se"i&e "hen I ga+e her some in'riminating photos this morning/ !er+es the g*y right- tho*gh- pompo*s pig that he is-D she told me- r*nning a "hole range o& tones &rom happiness to disg*st in a &e" short senten'es/ I made a mental note not to get on Janine%s bad side- or e+en on one o& her &riend%s bad sides/ !he "or0ed &reelan'e as a pri+ate in+estigator*s*ally spying on people s*spe'ted o& ha+ing a&&airs/ Jealo*sy generated impressi+e pay'he'0s/ DIt%s good to see that yo*%re *sing yo*r 4ob s0ills &or "hat%s right and good- Janine-D I said/ DEi+e me H0 min*tes to "or0 on this a bit more- and I%ll meet yo* at the 'orner/D D!ar'asm noted and ignored-D she replied/ DAon%t &orget to grab something to &eed the g*lls "ith/D

DO0ay- see yo* in a bit/D DBye9D she e1'laimed- so*nding e1'ited- and to my s*rprise- ending the 'on+ersation appropriately/ 8s i& she 0ne" "hat I "as thin0ing bet"een o*r 'alls9 3y *neasy &eeling &aded a little/

DAo yo* e+er "onder "hat happens to *s "hen "e die6D Rolling o+er to &a'e her in the dim light o& early morning- I as0ed her "hat bro*ght the s*b4e't *p/ DI don%t 0no"/ I "as 4*st "ondering it/ I "as almost asleep "hen the tho*ght 'ame to me again# "hat happens "hen I die6 That%s "hat I "as thin0ing abo*t all day yesterday/D DThat%s a pretty hea+y thing to be thin0ing abo*t at &o*r in the morning- don%t yo* thin06 Is that "hat all strange girls do instead o& 'o*nting sheep6D !he 0ne" that I "as 4o0ing "ith her/ DWell- that/ 3oreo+er- "e do 'omple1 physi's e5*ations "hen "e%re really stressed o*t in order to get o*r ner+es settled/ Who needs beer "hen yo*%+e got !'hrIdinger%s 'at playing 'ards in yo*r head "ith the 3ad 7atter and the 3ar'h 7are6D

DEreat- an opi*m ind*'ed tea party%s 4*st "hat yo* need/ Eo ba'0 to sleep9D I insisted- ma0ing one last +aliant e&&ort at a+oiding a 'on+ersation pertaining to the a&terli&ebe'a*se I 0ne" that a 'on+ersation li0e that "o*ld ine+itably lead to a 'on+ersation abo*t god- and that meant that &*rther hopes &or sleep "ere to be abandoned/ DI "ant to 0no"9D she demanded- 0i'0ing her &eet beneath the 'o+ers/ I 0ne" that she "o*ldn%t drop the s*b4e't *ntil I ans"ered or at least played along "ith her &or a "hile- so begr*dgingly- I responded/ DI thin0 that "hen yo* die then that%s the end/ That there%s nothing le&t- and that "hene+er yo* &eel li0e there might be something else o*t there- yo*%re 4*st tri'0ing yo*rsel& into a''epting that there is an end to e+erythingand no one "ants to a''ept that the end really is &inal/D DWhy do yo* thin0 that so many people belie+e in god- then6D !he as0ed- and I rolled my eyes/

It "as probably a good thing that the room "as dar0 and she 'o*ldn%t see me doing it/ D?eople need to belie+e in something- don%t they6 They ha+e to &ind "ays to loo0 &or"ard to the &*t*re- &or "hate+er reason/ They 'an%t s*r+i+e "itho*t ha+ing the hope that something better is going to 'ome/ It%s one o& the great mysteries that "e thin0 that "ay- isn%t it6D I as0ed- shr*gging my sho*lders in the dar0ness/ DWhat abo*t yo*6 What do yo* thin0 happens "hen yo* die- sin'e yo* bro*ght it *p6D DElad yo* as0ed-D she said/ I 'o*ld &eel her nodding her head- as i& she "ere a genie granting a "ish/ DI thin0 that there has to be something else o*t there a&ter "e die- that "e ha+e to go on someho"/ I don%t 0no" i& "e retain o*r 'ons'io*sness or identity- really- b*t I do thin0 that part o& *s "ill go on/ We all be'ome ghosts- someho"- to someone/D D=i0e memories6 =i0e people "ho "ill remember *s6 That%s not the same-D I

'o*ntered- &eeling dra"n into the arg*ment and a bit 'heated by her ans"er/ DWhat o& me "ill yo* remember "hen I%m gone &rom this pla'e6D she as0ed/

Chapter 02 I "asn%t as 'lose to Janine as Coren "as- so I &elt the need to tal0 abo*t anything and e+erything "hene+er a strange silent moment o''*rred bet"een *s/ I "asn%t *sed to hanging o*t "ith her on a one,to,one basis- and the distan'e bet"een o*r ages only reminded me that I "as getting older and more o*t o& to*'h "ith "hat "as going on in pop '*lt*re/ Not that I really missed pop '*lt*re/ 7o"e+er- I did hate &eeling old/ We stopped at a posh little 'a&e on one o& the streets near the do'0s/ It "as one o& those 0inds o& pla'es that tried to 'apt*re the &eeling o& a E*ropean bistro- b*t &ailed miserably be'a*se it "as so ob+io*sly an e&&ort on the part o& the designers and employees to be'ome some 0ind o& hot go,to spot &or the so'ial elite "ho "ere %in the 0no"%/ Nobody admired or &ell &or it e1'ept &or the people admiring and &alling &or it- 'reating a little so'ial 'ir'le o& nobodies "ho all "anted to be some"here

else/ Well- "e "ere there- too- b*t "e both li0ed 'o&&ee- and o& 'o*rse- as 'riti's o& the e&&ort- pre'l*ded &rom the 'li5*e/ It "as li0e a &*neral- I tho*ght- and e+eryone had arri+ed in his or her bla'0est bla'0s"hispering amongst themsel+es in h*shed tones o+er m*ted- generi' 4a../ !trangely- they played lang*age lesson tapes on a loop in the bathrooms- b*t I "as ne+er s*re 4*st ho" many people spent eno*gh time in the bathrooms to learn anything/ 8ime.,+o*s prendre *n sand"i'h dFli'ie*16 D3aybe they ha+e good sand"i'hes-D Janine said- tossing a s*gar '*be into her mo*th/ !and"i'hes "ere a hot s*b4e't &or Janine that day/ DI don%t thin0 yo*%re s*pposed to eat those-D I remar0ed- indi'ating the small dish o& s*gar '*bes on the table she%d been pi'0ing at/

D!and"i'hes6 7a+en%t 0illed me yet-D she saidloo0ing aro*nd &or a men*/ DNot "hat I meant-D I said- lighting a 'igarette/ D8ny"ay- I 'an%t sha0e the &eeling that this has something to do "ith her amnesia-D I 'ontin*ed/ DI ne+er tho*ght abo*t that/ Was it something that 'ame *p o&ten6D she as0ed- leaning ba'0 in her 'hair/ !he p*t her arms behind her head and s5*inted her le&t eye- loo0ing *p at the 'eiling &or some reason/ We didn%t tal0 abo*t the problem "ith Janine +ery o&ten/ It "as something that "e 0ept to o*rsel+es- not "anting to ma0e things "eird "ith o*r &riends"ho might not *nderstand/ Janine 0ne" more than most abo*t it- and I don%t 0no" ho" m*'h o& it "as dis'*ssed "hen I "asn%t aro*nd/ DO&ten eno*gh/ It "as something she "as e+en see0ing treatment &or-D I said/ D!o maybe she had a brea0thro*gh/ Or maybe she had a

relapse and &orgot e+erything again- in'l*ding *s/D DI don%t 0no" abo*t that-D Janine said/ D?eople don%t 4*st %relapse%- &or no reason- into some "eird memory state "here they &orget e+erything/D DE1a'tly/ I don%t thin0 it%s possible- either/ 8nd I%+e done some thin0ing on the s*b4e't/D D7mm/ Well- let%s 'onsider the &a't that she ob+io*sly has some sort o& past- some"here/ ?eople aren%t 4*st blan0 slates that 'an be programmed to tal0- "al0- and intera't "ith other people on'e they%re ad*lts/ !o she%s de&initely got a pla'e to go ba'0 to i& she%s had a s*dden brea0thro*gh and remember e+erything- b*t I still don%t thin0 that she%d &orget all o& her %ne"% memories i& that happened/D D7ey- "here%d yo* 'ome *p "ith that idea6D I as0ed her- leaning &or"ard/ DThe blan0 slates

thing- I mean/ Be'a*se Cor and I tal0ed abo*t it on'e/ Aid she say something to yo*6D D:m- no/ I don%t remember her mentioning itany"ay-D she ans"ered a little de&ensi+ely/ DI "as 4*st thin0ing that o*r memories are "hat ma0e *s "ho "e are- yo* 0no"6 I "as thin0ing that it%s probably pretty ro*gh "hen yo* don%t 0no" "ho yo* are- at least not &or more than abo*t si1 months at a time or "hate+er/ That%s "hen yo* met- right- abo*t si1 months ago6D D!omething li0e that-D I replied/ D8bo*t that/D D8bo*t "hat6D D7o" yo* met/ That%s the part I don%t really *nderstand/D DWhat%s not to *nderstand6D I as0ed her- ta0ing a sip o& my 'o&&ee/ DCo* don%t thin0 that it%s pretty "eird that she 4*st sho"ed *p in yo*r ho*se one day6 With no

memories o& ho" she got there6 In the batht*b o& all pla'es6D I la*ghed/ DO& 'o*rse I thin0 that%s "eird/ !he said hersel& that she de'ided to ta0e a bath- so that it "o*ld help her thin0/D D8nd that%s not "eird6 I& I "o0e *p in a stranger%s ho*se "itho*t a 'l*e as to ho" I got there or "hat my past "as- I do*bt that I%d de'ide to ta0e a bath straight o&&-D Janine rationali.ed/ DWhat abo*t the rest o& it6D DWhat abo*t it6 We started tal0ing abo*t things/ We really hit it o&&/ We spent some time together- I o&&ered her my 'o*'h- and she ne+er *sed it/ 8ren%t yo* too yo*ng to be tal0ing abo*t this 0ind o& thing6D I 4o0ed&eeling a little bit *n'om&ortable "hen 'on&ronted "ith the tho*ght that Janine might thin0 "e%d r*shed into things/ ?eople hoo0 *p "ith strangers all the time- don%t they6 8t the time- on'e the initial strangeness o& ho" Cor

had arri+ed in the &irst pla'e had "orn o&&- I didn%t mind her being there at all- and &elt that "e%d had a real 'onne'tion &rom the start/ 3aybe I "as 4*st ready &or it- b*t that%s all it e+er is- right6 DI%m J/ I%m not st*pid/D D8ny"ay- things "ere a"esome/ 8s yo* 0no""e did some tra+eling together/D DCeah- yo* tal0 abo*t it all the time/ !he doestoo/D This "ith an eye roll/ DThose "ere great times-D I said- re&le'ting/ 3y mind started to "ander/ Janine interr*pted my tho*ghts- tho*gh/ DCeah- b*t "hat abo*t no"6 Co* g*ys are a"&*lly preo''*pied "ith yo*r tra+els/ 8nd yo* still ha+en%t ans"ered my 5*estion/D DCes I did9D I insisted/ DNot really/D 8nother s*gar '*be into her mo*th- along "ith a bored loo0 o& resignation/

DWhat%s "ith yo*6D I as0ed/ DCo*%re gi+ing me the nth degree here/ What abo*t yo*6 Eot a boy&riend these days6D I 'he'0ed my "at'h'hanging the s*b4e't/ !he made a strange &a'e at me and res*med &idgeting "ith the s*gar '*bes/ DWhat- are yo* interested in the position6D !he as0ed "ith a serio*s e1pression on her &a'e/ I la*ghed/ DI%m gonna tell her that yo* as0ed-D she "arnedmisinterpreting my 5*ery/ DEo ahead/ !he%s probably '*rio*s abo*t yo*too/D I "ent "ith it/ DWell- I don%t-D she stated/ DI%+e been r*nning aro*nd "ith this g*y- Aa+id- b*t it%s de&initely not serio*s/D DWhy not6D

D=i&e%s not all abo*t ha+ing boy&riends and girl&riends or being in+ol+ed/ 8t least-D she pa*sed- probably "orried that she%d step on my toes abo*t the &a't that I "as a't*ally +ery in+ol+ed in a relationship and +ery m*'h in lo+e/ D8t least not &or me/ Besides- I 'an%t see the point o& being in lo+e/D DAoes there ha+e to be a point6D I as0ed her/ D!eems li0e there sho*ld be/ It 'an%t 4*st be a series o& good times leading to a series o& horrible times/ I mean- "hy bother6 E+erything ends badly/D DThat%s almost al"ays tr*e-D I agreed/ DB*t "hen yo*%re in lo+e- yo* reali.e that there are e1'eptions to e+ery r*le/D D:ntil it ends-D she pointed o*t/ DBadly/D D8ny"ays- little Nina- I "as 4*st "ondering- no big deal/ 7o" abo*t that sand"i'h6D

DI%ll &lag do"n a "aiter-D she said- "a+ing her arm in the air/ I ignored the &a't that she "as being r*de to the "ait sta&& and 'onsidered her perspe'ti+e/ It "as one that I *nderstood 5*ite "ell- b*t I "as s*rprised that someone "ho "asn%t e+en old eno*gh to legally order beer "o*ld be so 4aded/ I "ondered i& something had b*rned her e1perien'e or i& she "as 4*st e1'eptionally analyti'al o& the "hole pro'ess/ Either "ay- it made me appre'iate her more/ We ordered l*n'h and another ro*nd o& 'o&&ees- and I as0ed Janine i& she had any &amily in the 'ity/ I "as ma0ing small tal0 again- a+oiding the perpet*al h*m o& dread in the ba'0 o& my mind/ DNo- not really/ I%m not really 'lose to anyone-D she e1plained/ D3y parents- they%re both dead/ Well- my adopted parents/ 3y real parents are strangers that I%+e ne+er met/ 8 'o*ple o& 0ids &rom s'hool and I 0ind o& &ormed a little gro*p that loo0ed o*t &or ea'h other &or a "hile/ We

got eman'ipated- yo* 0no"- so "e 'o*ld drop o*t- get 4obs- that 0ind o& thing/D I nodded/ I%d heard o& eman'ipation be&ore and 0ne" that Janine had le&t high s'hool early to ma0e a go at li&e on her o"n/ DI "as r*nning a"ay &rom the &oster home that I ended *p in a&ter 3om died/ That "as &o*r years ago2 I "as only K- b*t it "as already getting hard to hide the &a't that I "as a lot more ad+an'ed intelle't*ally than most o& my peers/D This- she stated "itho*t 'on'eit- "as 4*st a matter o& &a't/ DI%+e been 0ind o& "andering aro*nd &or the last year or t"otho*gh/ =ast year- I &elt the *rge to 'ome *p to the Big City/ I "as only a state a"ay- r*nning odd 4obs- so I &ig*red there%d be no shortage o& l*'rati+e opport*nities doing e+en more odd 4obs on'e I got here/ I also "as ban0ing that no one "o*ld 0no" me and that no one "o*ld 'are/ This 'ity is a 'ra.y pla'e "here 'ra.y things happen e+ery day/ !omething as harmless and *ninteresting as some random

0id%s past 4*st gets "ashed a"ay in the torrent o& bad ne"s and h*man interest tidbits and 'redit 'ard bills- yo* 0no"6D I loo0ed a"ay &rom her- &o'*sing on the &loor/ Belie+e me- 0id- I 0no"- I tho*ght/ D3aybe it%s &ate that yo* be'ame &riends "ith *s-D I said- hoping to lighten the mood "ith "hat I 'onsidered a 4o0e/ D3aybe it is-D she said- not 4o0ing aro*nd at all/ D3aybe I 'an help yo* &ind Cor today- and yo* g*ys 'an help me &ind "hate+er it is that I%m loo0ing &or tomorro"- or "hate+er it is that I%+e been missing &or so long that I don%t e+en 0no" "hat it isL or "here to begin loo0ing &or it/D Inside- "e%re all sear'hing &or something or someone/ We%re all loo0ing &or a 'onne'tion2 e+eryone%s see0ing a satis&ying ans"er/ D3aybe it%s going to be one o& those days-D she added- signaling her desire to end o& the 'on+ersation right as the &ood arri+ed/

3aybe it "o*ld be/

DOr they "o*ld ha+e b*rned yo* at the sta0e &or "it'h'ra&t and heresy-D I interr*pted/ DThey 'o*ld ha+e tried that- b*t yo* 0no" "here I%m going "ith this/ Eoing &ar eno*gh ba'0 in time- I 'an 'reate a b*rning b*sh or generate a booming +oi'e &rom the hea+ens2 any n*mber o& so,'alled mira'les "o*ld be possible/ What an'ient man "o*ld interpret as di+ine +isitation is a mere gimmi'0- no more than a 'heap parlor tri'0- to *s/D DEreat- so "hat yo*%re really implying is that Jes*s "as a time tra+eler- and all o& the rest o& the 3a4or ?rophets thro*gho*t man%s history "ere in on the s'am- too/D D8nything%s possible- b*t I do*bt it/ 3aybetho*gh/ ?re+io*s generations o& man ha+e *sed the name o& god in asso'iation "ith 'on'epts that e1tended beyond their s'ope o& their '*rrent le+els o& 0no"ledge- beyond their 'omprehension o& theoreti'al appli'ation at the time/ =oo0 at any history boo0/ Co* 'an plot o*t h*manity%s in'reasing distan'e &rom the

traditional de&inition o& god as s'ien'es and te'hnology has gro"n at e1ponential rates/ 8nd time tra+el- "hile the s*b4e't o& m*'h spe'*lation- is still a long "ay o&&/ 3aybe god%s really 4*st "hate+er remains that is *n0no"n/ In my head- then- that means that god 'an e1ist inside o& the mystery o& "hate+er it is that happens to *s "hen "e die/D D8s al"ays- yo* ma0e a good point s*pporting yo*r 'ase-D I said to her- 0no"ing that she "o*ld lea+e the 'on+ersation as the +i'torio*s party2 she "o*ld not be 'on+in'ed o& any other ideas presented to her to the 'ontrary o& her statements and belie&s/// at least not *ntil an e5*ally po"er&*l 'on'ept introd*'ed itsel& into her &lo" o& logi'/ I didn%t plan on 'hanging anything abo*t "hat she "as saying- and didn%t really e+en &eel 'apable o& 'ompelling s*'h a 'hange in paradigm/ It "as entertaining and en4oyable to ha+e someone to tal0 to things li0e that abo*t "itho*t the ris0 o& br*ised egos and 'r*mpled &eelings/

DB*t I 4*st 'an%t b*y into it-D I added/ DCo* really 'an lie there and tell me that yo* thin0 that e+erything yo* end*re thro*gho*t yo*r li&e- all o& the good things and all o& the bad things- 'ome to a pointless ending6 Or that there is an end point/// yo*r last breath- &or e1ample- and a&ter that o''*rs- it%s a big blan0 spa'e &illed "ith nothingness6 That there%s not one single thing that happens on the other sidenothing beyond *s- beyond the here and no"6D !he 5*estioned/ D!*re I 'an-D I started- Di& all yo*%re saying is that there%s an opposite &or e+erything/ I& li&e%s positi+e- then death%s got to be negati+e/ It%s 4*st "ords and labels/ =oo0- all I%m really pointing o*t is this# i& the grass isn%t green- it%s another 'olorL be'a*se it has to be/ We ha+e to 'reate a name &or e+erything2 "e need to label ea'h and e+ery 'on'ept "e%+e e+er imagined/ It m*st be 'alled something , and the 'on'ept o& an a&terli&e is 4*st the same thing on a more 'ompli'ated le+el/ That%s no

grand design at "or0- no pro+iden'e2 death%s 4*st the "ay it is/ J*st be'a*se yo* die- it doesn%t mean that something else happens to ta0e the pla'e o& yo*r li&e/// o*tside o& the &a't that yo* ret*rn to the earth and all o& yo*r atoms are in'orporated- e+ent*ally- into other li&e/ I thin0 it%s the h*man 'ondition to see0 and &ind pro+iden'e "here+er there is a mystery- be'a*se "e all "ant ans"ers to e+erything that "e "onder abo*t2 "e "ant a happy ending and sol*tion that seems appropriate and re"arding a&ter "e toil thro*gh this li&e- only to rea'h the end o& ittoppling o+er the edge into nothingness/D D?retty morbid o& yo*/D D?retty realisti'- I%d say/D DToppling o+er the edge into nothingness6 It so*nds morbid2 gothi'- e+en- at least to me-D she la*ghed a little- p*lling at a strand o& her hair/ DI thin0 that yo*%re mis*nderstanding my idea that there%s something o*t there- that o*r basi' energy goes on a&ter the li&e that "e%re

li+ing no" 'eases/ Co*%re loo0ing at "hat I%m saying &rom a biased and de&iant standpoint/ Co*%re seeing it as a 'ase &or a de&inable god"hen I%m 4*st e1pressing that god 'an be anything bigger than "e are- anything that 'an happen to *s that is beyond o*r 'omprehension- e+en i& that means that god is 4*st the label that "e pla'e on e+ents that 'ontin*e to o''*r at a point a&ter o*r deaths/ 8ll li&e that 'ontin*es a&ter o*r deaths is 'ertainly something more po"er&*l than "e are/D DO& 'o*rse9D I responded/ DThere are tons o& things that are beyond *s- beyond the here and the no"- b*t do they really matter6 This here and this no" is all "e really li+e in- isn%t it6 On'e "e%re dead- the game is o+er- and there%s no more M*s% to see "hat happens- no more M*s% &or anything to matter to/D DB*t don%t yo* see6 I%m proo&- yo*%re proo&- in the &lesh- that there are things that e1tend beyond the here and no"- and I 0no" that the

lo+e that I &eel &or yo*- "ith e+erything inside o& me- is not something that 'an be physi'ally meas*redL it%s both o& those- i& nothing elsethat pro+e that there is al"ays something more than "hat "e are that e1ists o*tside o& and beyond "here "e '*rrently are/D !he p*t her arms aro*nd me- mo+ed *p 'loser to my &a'eand 0issed me on my ne'0/ DThe &*t*re lo+es yo*- yo* 0no"/ It%s all o& the here and no" moments that end *p 'reating *s and "hat "e%+e got "hen "e get there/D DE+en a&ter I%m dead-D I ans"ered/ What sho*ld I ha+e said to her6 DE+en a&ter yo*%re dead- and I%m dead- I 0no" "e%ll go on- someho"/D !he 0issed me again/ 8nd again/ I "as silent &or a moment/ I 'o*ld tell that she "as thin0ing abo*t the past that she%d losttrying to remember things that "ere 4*st beyond the grasp o& her re'olle'tion- li0e &ig*res in a &og- al"ays el*si+e to her/

I said those "ords that 'ame so easy "hen I "as tal0ing to her- b*t "ere rarely heard any"here else in my li&e/ DI lo+e yo*/D !he sighed and smiled/ DCo*%ll ha+e to 'lear *p the "hole Mli&e a&ter death% part &or me- be'a*se I%m not s*re "here yo*%re ta0ing it/ I didn%t reali.e yo* "ere s*'h a big &an o& .ombies-D I added- attempting to lighten the mood a bit/ DJ*st promise me that yo* "on%t &orget-D she said/ DI ne+er "ill-D I promised/

Chapter 03 Co* might s*rprise yo*rsel& at the things that start to ta0e &orm in yo*r mind- at the s'enarios yo* 'reate "hen yo* let yo*r do*bt ta0e o+er/ I slept a little on the &irst night- at least/ !'attered tho*ghts bo*n'ed aro*nd inside o& my head as I restlessly tossed and t*rned in the bed2 e+ery little noise bro*ght me ba'0 to alertness/ I%d open my eyes- 'he'0 the door hope&*lly- sigh "ith disappointment- 'he'0 the 'lo'0- and repeat the steps/ The se'ond morning 'ame and "ent- and still she didn%t ret*rn/ I t*rned the ho*se *pside, do"n/ I &o*nd letters that I%d &orgotten years ago G 4*st "hy had I sa+ed some many old things6 I 'o*ldn%t remember hal& o& the people that had sent them/ I 'o*ldn%t re'all the last time that I%d spo0en to those people- and I didn%t 'are/ I &o*nd 'opies o& re'eipts &or items that I didn%t e+en o"n any more/ I started

thro"ing things into the trash- 4*st to get them o*t o& the "ay/ The se'ond night- I sear'hed thro*gh all o& the trash &or something that might point me in the right dire'tion- 4*st in 'ase I%d missed it and thro"n it o*t earlier/ 8nd I didn%t sleep/ I 'alled Janine/ !he didn%t ans"er/ I 'alled her again/ DCorentine%s not 'oming home-D I said into Janine%s ma'hine as it d*ti&*lly re'orded my message a&ter the tone/ I smo0ed pa'0s and pa'0s o& 'igarettese1ting*ishing them in the sin0- in empty bottles- in glasses- in the toilet/ I had more than a &e" drin0s/ I stared into the mirror/ I p*lled at the 'ir'les beneath my eyes/ I stood in the sho"er- as hot as it "o*ld r*n- and on'e the hot "ater ran

o*t- I stayed in the sho"er/ 7o*rs passed/ 3ore time "ent by/ I needed to sha+e- b*t I 'o*ldn%t &ind a ra.or/ In my &r*stration- I p*n'hed things/ Walls/ Aoors/ The mirror/ It h*rt/ I 'ried/ It h*rt/ I didn%t 0no" "here to t*rn/ I had no idea "hat I "as e+en loo0ing &or- "hat to do- or "hy it "as happening/ The one tho*ght 0ept e'hoing in my mind# !he%d le&t me/ I%d done something "rong/ I%d o&&ended her/ !he%d remembered her past and hated her present- and so she%d &led/ Then it hit me/ !he%d mentioned a do'tor on'eone that "as s*pposed to be helping her o*t "ith her memory problems/ Why hadn%t I tho*ght o& that be&ore6 What "as his name6 I grabbed a phone boo0 and began sear'hing/ No names 'ame to mind/ Nothing seemed to ring any bells/ No l*'0/

I de'ided- "ith a little bit o& g*ilt- to si&t thro*gh a b*ndle o& do'*ments that she 0ept in a des0 dra"er G LB*t there "eren%t any/ They "ere gone/ I started *p her laptop- loading her address boo0/ It "as 'ompletely empty/ I opened her email 'lient# no a''o*nts/ No images- no do'*ments- no &iles o& any sort G nothing that "o*ld lead me to her/ I 'alled Janine again/ DJanine- yo* aren%t going to belie+e this-D I said into the ma'hine/ D8ll o& her personal in&o%s been erased o&& o& her laptop/ I 'an%t &ind the name o& a single person she%s made a'5*aintan'e "ith sin'e she sho"ed *p hereany"here in the apartment/ 7er papers are missing/ It%s as i& someone 'ame into the ho*se and 'leared her o*t o& it/ It%s got to be something "orse than "hat "e tho*ght it "as/ Call me ba'0-D I pa*sed- loo0ing aro*nd the apartment/ I%d t*rned the pla'e inside o*t/

E+erything "as in disarray/ I 0ne" I "o*ldn%t be able to sleep *ntil I &ig*red o*t "hat had happened/ Or "ho "as behind her disappearan'e/ 7er abd*'tion/ DThings are getting really "eird &or me o+er here-D I &inished- hanging *p/

DI%m not "orried abo*t it all-D she said/ DI am "ho I am- the prod*'t o& all o& the 'hoi'es and de'isions that I%+e made- e+en i& they aren%t things that I 'an instantly re'all/ I thin0 that "hen there%s a blan0 spot in yo*r mind "here yo*r past sho*ld be- yo*r perspe'ti+e 'hanges/ Co* are "illing to ma0e sa'ri&i'es li0e thatta0ing all the bad "ith the good- all the negati+e things that yo*%ll probably hate abo*t yo*rsel&- 4*st to be able to ha+e a story- a 'omplete pi't*re o& yo*rsel& in yo*r head/ It%s something that yo* ne+er really &o'*s on- yo*r o"n sel&,image- this '*lmination o& all o& the e+ents in yo*r li&e- things yo*%+e said- things yo*%+e done/ ?eople yo*%+e 0no"n- in&l*en'esand so on/ It%s 4*st al"ays there/ 8nd "ith meit%s li0e ha+e this personality and these li0es and disli0es- b*t no past to re'on'ile them "ith- no history to 'onne't mysel& to/ I%m dri&ting- lost- and sear'hing &or the origin point/ !o no- I%m not "orried abo*t it2 I "el'ome it/ I "ant to remember it all/D

DI see-D I said to her- and I did *nderstand/ It 4*st seemed li0e there "ere so many things that I 'o*ld easily thro" a"ay in my o"n past4*st trade them in &or a big bla'0 empty spa'eso I "asn%t really loo0ing at any o& it &rom her side o& the &en'e/ It seemed li0e amnesia "o*ld be a "el'ome and bene&i'ial a&&li'tion "hen I "as depressed abo*t ho" e+erything had t*rned o*t in my li&e/ 8 less than per&e't 'hildhood 'olored by a disinterested &ather and an absentee mother/ 8 terribly "asted yo*th spent 'o*'h s*r&ing- '*lminating in a doomed marriage "ith an emotionless- 'old- and 'al'*lating addi't/ The loss o& a 'hild/ B*t I p*shed all o& that to the side- psy'hologi'allybe'a*se no good "as 'oming &rom d"elling on things that had 'ome be&ore "hile I "as sitting in a s"ing in the par0 "ith her- "at'hing her as she someho" de&ied all o& my e1pe'tationsboth &or maintaining her balan'e despite gra+ity%s p*ll- and &or matters o& the heart/

I 'he'0ed the papers and "as reminded o& a 'ompany that she%d +isited "hen loo0ing &or treatments &or her memory loss/ !yn'hro !ystems had pioneered ne" therapy methods &or memory regression and restoration- and had re'ently beg*n &ield trials on h*man +ol*nteers &or +ario*s methods o& treating people "ho%d been in4*red in 'ar a''idents and as a res*lt s*&&ered &rom memory disorders/ There had been an open 'all &or ne" +ol*nteers- so Cor had signed *p &or the &irst day they%d had a+ailable- ma0ing an appointment &or a 'ons*ltation to see i& !yn'hro 'o*ld help her/ There had been a series o& deaths in one o& the &irst trial r*ns- and a n*mber o& a&&e'ted &amilies had 4oined in a la"s*it against !yn'hro !ystems &or their loss/ They%d made eno*gh noise that the papers had lat'hed on to the story and started 'o+ering it- and it "asn%t long be&ore the go+ernment got in+ol+ed and started in+estigating the inner "or0ings o& the 'ompany- too/ !omething abo*t ethi's +iolations and the *se o& te'hnologies and

treatments that "ere not appro+ed &or *se in h*mans/ Be'a*se o& the p*bli'ity- &inding the n*mber &or the !yn'hro !ystems main o&&i'e "as pretty easy/ !pea0ing to a real person- ho"e+er- "as a m*'h more di&&i'*lt tas0/ INN8=IA EOTEN!ION INN8=IA EOTEN!ION INN8=IA EOTEN!ION With the &ederal in+estigation mandating that their resear'h halt and all o& the re'ent media attention- the 'ompany appeared to ha+e sh*t do"n 'ompletely/ I 0ne" that massi+e layo&&s o& employees had re'ently o''*rred "hen the 'ompany shareholders bailed o*t and 'a*sed the re'ently p*bli'ly o&&ered sto'0 to tan0- so I didn%t r*le o*t the possibility that one or more o& the indi+id*als that had lost a 4ob or "o*ld be losing their 4ob soon might be moti+ated to gi+e me some in&ormation abo*t "hat had

happened inside o& the 'ompany "hen she%d gone in &or treatment/ 3aybe they%d be able to lead me in the right dire'tion- i& I 'o*ld 4*st get one o& them on the line/ Re+enge "as a moti+e that I ass*med "o*ld "or0 to"ards my 'a*se in &inding anyone "ho "o*ld assist me in the sear'h2 altho*gh I didn%t really ha+e anything &inan'ially to gain &rom "hat I dis'o+ered abo*t !yn'hro- it "as still 'on'ei+able that people might be attempting to stri0e a blo" ba'0 to their &ormer employers in any "ay possible/ I "as o0ay "ith being *sed li0e that- i& that%s "hat it too0/ There "as al"ays the 'han'e that someone "ho a't*ally 'ared abo*t "hat "as happening "o*ld be able to help me- too- b*t my 'yni'ism told me other"ise/ INN8=IA EOTEN!ION INN8=IA EOTEN!ION INN8=IA EOTEN!ION

8*tomated phone systems "ere "aiting &or me on e+ery n*mber that I dialed/ On most o& the systems- I ended *p looping ba'0 to a pre+io*s men* and hanging *p a&ter e1ha*sting all o& the possible 'hoi'es and options/ In the main o&&i'e dire'tory- I randomly started dialing e1tension n*mbers- hoping to ring thro*gh to a telephone "ith a real person on the other end/ I remembered a mo+ie that I%d "at'hed on'e abo*t that last man on earth- and in one s'ene"hen he%s losing his mind &rom loneliness2 he%s 'alling all these n*mbers- trying to &ind anyone that might be le&t- 4*st hoping to 'onne't "ith someone- to &ind another person to tal0 to/ I "ondered ho" he "o*ld 'ope "ith a sit*ation li0e the one I "as in- and ho" I%d 'ope "ith his"ere o*r positions re+ersed/ INN8=IA EOTEN!ION INN8=IA EOTEN!ION INN8=IA EOTEN!ION

I stopped paying attention to "hat n*mbers I "as dialing- &alling into a repeating pattern o& random b*tton pressing- "aiting- hearing the same response &rom a ma'hine- and attempting again/ Then- to my s*rprise- a 'all &inally "ent thro*gh/ The phone 'li'0ed- 'onne'ting/ N8=IA EOTEN!ION DAepartment P0J-D a man ans"ered/ DNeri&i'ation n*mber- please/D I didn%t 0no" any +eri&i'ation n*mbers- o& 'o*rse- or e+en "here to begin g*essing at "hat they might be/ The irony o& the sit*ation 'rossed my mind &or a moment "hen I reali.ed that I "as on'e again to a point o& ha+ing to randomly g*ess a se5*en'e o& n*mbers in order to a'hie+e anything prod*'ti+e/ I hesitated/ DNeri&i'ation n*mber-D the man repeated/

D=isten-D I said/ 7e didn%t hang *p- b*t he didn%t respond- either/ I ass*med that he "as listening/ DI%m trying to &ind someone "ho "or0s &or !yn'hro !ystems G spe'i&i'ally someone "ho 'an tell me abo*t some initial patient testing that might ha+e gone "rong and the patients that might ha+e been in+ol+ed "ith s*'h testing-D I 'ontin*ed/ 7e "as still on the lineas &ar as I 'o*ld tell/ DI 0no"- I 0no"- it so*nds li0e e+ery other 'all yo*%+e re'ei+ed &or "ee0s- b*t I thin0 something bad has happened to my girl&riend and I%m trying to &ind o*t i& it 'o*ld be the res*lt o& something that happened to her "hen she "as possibly a +ol*nteer patient d*ring testing o& a prod*'t or treatment 'alled the !yn'hroni'ity Ari+e/D I loo0ed at the ne"spaper in my hand- saying the name that I%d highlighted in an in+estigati+e arti'le released a &e" "ee0s be&ore/

DThe main telephone line &or ne"s 5*eries is 'learly posted in m*ltiple lo'ations online-D the man responded/ DCo* ha+e the "rong e1tension/D DWait9D I e1'laimed/ On'e again- he didn%t hang *p/ DI%m not a reporter/ I%m not really m*'h o& anything- 4*st a g*y trying to &ig*re things o*t/ I don%t 0no" "hat the !yn'hroni'ity Ari+e isand I%m not trying to get ne" in&ormation in order to brea0 into a 4o*rnalism 'areer or anything li0e that/ I don%t 'are "hat it is- e+enI%m 4*st trying to &ind Corentine-D I o&&ered- as a "ay o& e1planation/ DWrong e1tension-D the man repeated/ 7ad I really ended *p tal0ing to another ma'hine6 DWhy didn%t yo* dis'onne't the 'all6D I as0ed him- &r*strated/ DWhen yo* reali.ed that I had the "rong e1tension6 ?lease- i& yo* ha+e anything- a n*mber- an address# something that 'an help me gather 4*st a little more

in&ormation abo*t this 'ompany G besides the st*&& that the media%s 'ir'*lating G I 'o*ld really *se yo*r help/D DI don%t 0no" "hat yo*%re tal0ing abo*t-D he said- and then he did dis'onne't the 'all/ The stati' pop o& the line dropping "as a terrible so*nd/ What "as Aepartment P0J6 I tried dialing the n*mber again- "ondering- trying m*ltiple +ariations o& P0J as an e1tension- b*t to no a+ail/ It 5*i'0ly be'ame so &r*strating that I started to lose &o'*s- so I p*t do"n the phone and the papers and sat do"n on my bedstaring at the "all- trying to 'olle't my tho*ghts/

D!o- yo* don%t remember m*'h o& anything6D I as0ed her one night- staring at the 'eiling &an as it t*rned o+erhead/ !he p*lled hersel& 'loser to me- p*tting her head into my armpitsmelling my s0in/ DCo* smell good-D she said/ DEood thing I too0 a sho"er today/ I try to stay on top o& that- yo* 0no"-D I responded- patting her on the b*tt/ !he mo+ed e+en 'loserthro"ing her leg o+er me- sighed- and 'losed her eyes/ I rea'hed o+er and ran my &ingers thro*gh her hair "hile she tra'ed o*t some sort o& messages on my 'hest# letters to the &*t*re or e5*ations or doodles or lo+e notes2 I don%t 0no"/ I ne+er as0ed/ We "ere 5*iet- &or a little "hilerela1ed and 'ontented/

Chapter 04 3y dream began 4*st as my "ee0 had- e1'ept in my dream- I "o0e *p in someone else%s ho*se/ The &looding bathroom "as in the same pla'e as it "as in my apartment- and she "as standing in &ront o& the mirror- 'alling to me/ DWa0e *p-D she said- her +oi'e almost m*si'alas i& her singing 'o*ld bring me a"a0e/ I 'limbed o*t o& bed and tripped o+er some metal pie'es- &alling to the &loor/ I ga+e the metal pie'es a more thoro*gh loo0 and reali.ed that they "ere the remains o& "hat loo0ed li0e pi't*re &rames/ The pie'es "ere s'attered all o+er the &loor o& the bedroom/ I got ba'0 to my &eet and 'are&*lly made my "ay into the bathroom- b*t she "as no longer there/ D7ello6D I as0ed- pee0ing behind the sho"er '*rtain- e1pe'ting to see her there- "ashing her hair- or maybe 4*st hiding li0e a little 0id "o*ld- trying to &righten me/ B*t she "asn%t in the sho"er- either/

!he "as- strangely eno*gh- on the other side o& the mirror/ DI miss yo*-D said she- holding her hand *p to the glass/ I 'o*ld see 'ondensation &orming aro*nd her hand on the s*r&a'e o& the mirror- "hi'h I "as translating more into a type o& "indo" than anything else- sin'e there "as a "all behind me- to"el hanging *p- and there "as a +ast hall"ay behind her- leading o&& into the distan'e/ I ass*med that it "as 'old on her side o& the mirror sin'e there "as 'ondensation &orming- b*t then I reali.ed that the &og "as on my o"n breath and that there "as a &rost pattern on my side o& the mirror/ DI miss yo*-D she repeated- holding her other hand *p to the glass/ I started to spea0- b*t the "ords "o*ld not 'ome/

The phone "as ringing/ Was I asleep- so soon6 What "as the dream- &ading aro*nd the edges at &irst- into nothingness6 The bed "as "arm and the sheets "ere so&t/ It "as dar0 o*tside2 it m*st ha+e been late/ $or a moment- I tho*ght that she "as beside me again/ I tho*ght that I 'o*ld &eel her hair spilling o&& o& her pillo" and into my mo*th/ I li'0ed my lips and they tasted li0e her s0in/ The dream 'ontin*ed to &ade/ The phone 'ontin*ed to ring/ I rea'hed o+er to the nightstand- 0no'0ing the phone onto the &loor/ I hadn%t gro"n *sed to it being in the bedroom- "here I%d mo+ed it in the hopes that she "o*ld 'all/ I didn%t "ant to miss that 'all/ It "as hard to &o'*s2 my eyes "eren%t 'ooperating "ith me- my re&le1es "ere all o*t o& syn'/ I retrie+ed the telephone &rom the &loorm*mbling o*t an apology &or all o& the 'ommotion/

DI ha+e the in&ormation that yo*%re loo0ing &or-D a "oman said to me/ DIn&ormation6D I as0ed/ DWho is this6D DCo* re'ently made a telephone 'all that 'onne'ted yo* to Aepartment n*mber P0J/ Ao yo* re'all the in5*iry that I%m spea0ing o&6D she as0ed me/ DI do-D I said/ D=isten to me/ We are sending someone to meet "ith yo*/D DWhen6D DTonight/D DWhat 0ind o& meeting is this6 Where6D DIt%s a meeting abo*t something +ery important to yo*-D she stated/ DThe 0ind o& meeting yo* "on%t "ant to be late &or- espe'ially gi+en yo*r re'ent 5*eries to the o&&i'es o& !yn'hro !ystems/D

D7o" did yo* 0no" abo*t those6D I as0ed hers*rprised/ DWhere do yo* &it into all o& this6D !he ignored both 5*estions/ D8 gentleman "ill be "aiting &or yo* in the par0ing de'0 on the 'orner o& 3aple 8+en*e and E+ergreen/ 7e "ill signal yo* to enter the de'0 and spea0 to him on'e he has established that the sit*ation is se'*re/ Be o*tside o& the par0ing de'0 in one ho*r/ 7e "ill not "ait/D !he h*ng *p/ The line "ent dead/ I pla'ed the phone ba'0 on the re'ei+er and the set e+erything ba'0 on the nightstand- 'onsidering "hat had 4*st happened/ I "al0ed o+er to the "indo" and loo0ed o*t onto the street belo"/ Raining and 'old/ !hit/ I 'alled Janine- and she ans"ered on the &irst ring/ DI need yo* to 'ome "ith me/ !yn'hro%s arranged a meeting "ith someone &or me/D

DNo"6D DThat%s "hat she said-D I ans"ered/ DCan yo* 'ome "ith me6D 8 pa*se/ DI need a &e" min*tes to get ready/ I%ll pi'0 yo* *p in abo*t K-D she ans"ered/ DThan0s- Janine/D Why a par0ing de'06 What 0ind o& meeting6 I grabbed a 4a'0et and headed o*tside to "ait/

We "ere some"here in 3ississippi "hen she as0ed me to p*ll o+er/ D$or &resh air-D she said/ D8nd to loo0 at the 3il0y Way/D 8t t"o in the morning on a t"o,lane high"ay in the middle o& absol*tely no"here- 3ississippi- I didn%t e+en 'he'0 the mirrors/ It "as an almost 'lo*dless night2 there "ere a &e" high &loating strat*s 'lo*ds near the moon- "hi'h "as 4*st o+er the hori.on/ It "as rare that the air "as as 'lear as it "as on that night- e+en so &ar a"ay &rom the 'ities- "ith all o& their tra&&i' and their &a'tories and their light poll*tion/ Ci'adas and 'ri'0ets sang a 'hor*s into the night s0y&rogs replied "ith e5*ally tri*mphant +oi'esheralding a +i'tory- ho"e+er temporary- o+er h*manity%s de+elopmental spra"l/ I sh*t o&& the 'ar- t*rned the radio o&&- and 0illed the lights/ We stood by the high"ay &or "hat 'o*ld ha+e been ho*rs- and no tra&&i' passed *s by/ There "as no one in the "orld b*t *s/ The s0y "as o*rs2 l*mines'ent bands o& the gala1y%s arms

"ere thro"n a'ross the hea+ens li0e the 'rashing "a+es at night/ The stars spar0ed at *s- li0e signals- li0e 'odes- li0e "hen yo*%+e got yo*r &lashlight pointed o*t on the "ater at 4*st the right angle/ O''asionally- stars &ell a'ross the s0y- strea0ing tails behind them "ith 'olors shi&ting thro*gh the entire spe'tr*m# bl*egreen- yello"- orange- red/ DI remember this-D she said- breathless/ DThis is something that%s ne+er 'hanged- something I don%t thin0 I 'o*ld e+er &orget/D DIt%s I agreed/ DIt%s more than she 'o*ntered/ D!omeday "e%ll be o*t there- mo+ing aro*nd limitlessly- e1ploring- dis'o+ering/ Areaming/D

I 'he'0ed my "at'h again- "ondering "hen the resear'h agent "as going to arri+e/ I ass*med that he "o*ldn%t be dri+ing and that he%d 'ome o*t o& the main entran'e and signal me "hen he "as ready to tal0/ I didn%t as0 the "oman on the phone ho" he "as going to arri+e- or ho" he%d lea+e- or ho" he%d 0no" "hat I loo0ed li0e2 I 4*st did as he had instr*'ted d*ring the phone 'all earlier and "aited at the 'orner 4*st a'ross the street/ !he hadn%t told me not to bring anyone along- and Janine had been my ride- any"ay- altho*gh I "as ma0ing her stay o*tside o& the par0ing de'0/ I "as "orried abo*t her sa&ety- regardless o& her desire to a''ompany me into the str*'t*re- b*t it "as too late to send her ba'0 alone/ I& he sho"ed *p- he "as going to be late/ We%d arri+ed "ith time to spare- b*t had been "aiting &or almost an ho*r/ DAo yo* thin0 "e%ll ha+e to "ait m*'h longer6D Janine as0ed/

DNo-D I said/ DIt%s too dangero*s/ I%m not standing aro*nd here all night- p*tting yo* in dangerand I%m s*re as hell not doing so "ith the possibility o& 'ompromising the little bit o& in&ormation that "e%+e already obtained that may gi+e *s a lead in tra'0ing her do"n 4*st to get a little bit more/ I& he%s not in the par0ing de'0 "ithin the ne1t ten min*tes- "e%re lea+ing/D The s*ggestion that "e 'o*ld ha+e been in danger seemed to resonate "ith her/ 3aybe it "as &oolish o& me to bring her along- to allo" her to 'ome- "itho*t proper regard &or her sa&ety/ We "ere dealing "ith people that "e didn%t 0no"/ I had no ideas "hat their tr*e intentions "ere- b*t I &elt that I had no 'hoi'e b*t to tr*st the leads the in&ormant had gi+en me/ In my r*sh to get things mo+ing- I%d possible p*t Janine in harm%s "ay/ I 0i'0ed mysel&- ma0ing a mental note to be more 'a*tio*s in the &*t*re/

Then- as i& he 0ne" that "e "ere 'ontemplating lea+ing- a man "earing a dar0 s*it and a bla'0 &edora 'ame o*t o& the par0ing de'0 at the &ar entran'e- loo0ed dire'tly at *stipped his hat- and "ent ba'0 into the shado"s o& the b*ilding/ DWait here- Janine-D I ordered- and started a'ross the street/ I "al0ed into the dar0 entran'e o& the par0ing de'0- hoping that "here+er I met the resear'h agent at inside "o*ld be better ill*minated than the &ront gates- "hi'h "ere 'losed and lo'0ed/ The admittan'e lights &or both lanes o& the entran'e "ere a steady- mena'ing red- as i& telling me to stop my sear'h- as i& they "ere "arning me not to ad+an'e/ I straddled and 'limbed o+er the lo"ered tra&&i' arms- heading deeper into the b*ilding/ DAo"n here-D a man be'0oned to me &rom the re'esses o& a stair"ell abo*t 0 meters a"ay/ DOn the lo"er le+el- a"ay &rom the street/D It "as hard to ma0e o*t any details o& his

demeanor/ The brim o& his hat obs'*red most o& his &a'e in dar0ness/ I tr*sted that his intentions "ere not male+olent and &ollo"ed his lead do"n the stairs/ I& he "anted to h*rt me- he%d probably had more than eno*gh opport*nity to do so/ 8&ter all- he seemed to be "or0ing &or someone "ho%d tra'0ed me do"n and o&&ered me a lead into the resear'h trials !yn'hro had 'ond*'ted earlier in the year/ 7e "aited near the "all on the ne1t &loor do"n- a &e" meters a"ay &rom the &oot o& the stairs/ DI don%t ha+e long-D he began/ DWhat do yo* "ant to 0no"6D DWhat 'an yo* tell me6D I 5*estioned/ The man stayed in the shado"s- and had I not been meeting him &or s*'h a serio*s reason- I "o*ld ha+e made a 'ra'0 at him &or 'opying e+ery se'ret in&ormant in e+ery espionage mo+ie I%d e+er seen/ B*t all 4o0es aside- there "as no

do*bt in my mind- e+en then- that I "o*ld do anything "ithin my po"er to &ind her- to sa+e her- "hether that meant I had to go do"n into the depths o& a par0ing de'0 in the middle o& the night &or a se'ret meeting "ith a !yn'hro in&ormant or tra+el &rom one end o& the "orld and ba'0/ D?lease- sir- be more spe'i&i'/D D8bo*t !yn'hro !ystems- then- that%s a good pla'e to start/ What are they hiding &rom e+erybody6D DThe &iles that my &riends and I re'o+ered a&ter the in+estigati+e s"eeps "ith pertinent in&ormation on !yn'hro "ere minimal- at bestb*t it appears that they "ere operating as an *mbrella &or a hand&*l o& resear'h pro4e'ts that the p*bli' ne+er "o*ld ha+e gone &or-D he began- loo0ing ner+o*sly aro*nd the par0ing de'0/ D!omething abo*t psy'hology and 'omp*ter analysis o& the pro'esses o& memorythat%s "hat the 'o+er story "as that they &ed resear'hers li0e me/ B*t it "ent a lot deeper

than that/ 3ost o& the employees- o& 'o*rsehad no idea- and any in+estigating agen'ies "ere t*rned a"ay or paid o&&- none the "iser abo*t !yn'hro%s 'onstr*'tion o& a't*al de+i'es that 'o*ld be *sed to alter the "ay that people "ere thin0ing/ We%re still not s*re ho" it "or0ed or ho" &ar along they made it into the pro4e't- b*t yo* sho*ld start by loo0ing &or &ormer employees and other resear'h agents "ith higher 'learan'e le+els that I%+e got/D 7e handed me a slip o& paper "ith a name and a n*mber s'ribbled on it/ DI%+e been 0eeping tabs on this g*y &or abo*t &i+e months/ 7e%s lo'al- so yo* sho*ld be able to tra'0 him do"n/ 7e 'an probably send yo* higher *p the 'ompany roster i& yo* 'an &ig*re o*t a "ay to 'oer'e him/ I do*bt yo*%ll need any inspiration in order to do that/ It seems that !yn'hro%s plans &or yo*r girl&riend in+ol+ed the e1tra'tion o& in&ormation &rom her memory &or *se in one o& their resear'h models/D

D!o yo* don%t "or0 &or !yn'hro !ystems- then6D I as0ed- see0ing 'lari&i'ation/ DNo- o& 'o*rse not/ 3y 'ompany "as 'ontra'ted by !yn'hro to do spe'iali.ed resear'h in &ields that are not rele+ant to "hat yo*%re sear'hing &or and as a res*lt had a''ess to their data/ 7o"e+er- "hen the &ederal in+estigations began and e+erything started &alling apart!yn'hro bro0e the 'ontra't that they%d arranged "ith *s- and "e all lost a lot o& money in the &allo*t/ The same thing happened to other pri+ate 'ompanies- so some o& *s ha+e gotten together and are doing "hat "e 'an do re+eal "hat%s really going on "ith !yn'hro !ystems/ We%ll ne+er get o*r in+estment ba'0tho*ght I personally belie+e that there are se'ondary resear'h &ields that 'ame o*t o& !yn'hro that "ill pro+e to be 5*ite l*'rati+e in the &*t*re/ Co*r 'ase 'ame to o*r attentiontho*gh- and most o& *s "ant to do "hat%s right/ =i0e I said- it%s not abo*t the money/D

DCo* said that they "ere *sing Coren%s memories &or their resear'h- that they "ere p*lling them o*t o& her brain/ Co*ld that be the reason that she had amnesia "hen "e met6 Aid they erase her past- someho"6D I as0ed/ DI%+e apparently misinterpreted the &*n'tion o& their de+i'es- sin'e yo*%re telling me that she had amnesia "hen yo* met her/ That%s ne" in&ormation to me- and I%ll pass it along to the appropriate people/ The &iles that I%+e got des'ribe a "oman "ith her attrib*tes re'ei+ing treatment in one o& their lo'al o&&i'es abo*t si1 months ago/ The s*b4e't%s name has been remo+ed &rom the do'*mentation- b*t I%d be "illing to bet that the s*b4e't and yo*r girl&riend are the same person/D I loo0ed at the slip o& paper that he%d handed me/ The name on it- Ar/ E+an ?artain- seemed +ag*ely &amiliar- b*t I 'o*ldn%t pla'e "here I%d heard it be&ore/

DAo I 0no" this man6D I as0ed the resear'her&olding the paper and slipping it into my po'0et/ DIt%s possible that yo*%+e heard his name on the ne"s- or read abo*t him in the papers-D he said/ D7e is the head o& the department o& resear'h &or !yn'hro !ystems- and I s*spe't he%s 'ompli'it in many o& their *mbrella operations/ 7e%s been inter+ie"ed se+eral times2 he al"ays has the same 'ompany line abo*t !yn'hro and "hat they%+e been resear'hing and ho" the 'ompany is helping people b*ild better li+es/ Co* 0no"- the "hole bit abo*t ta0ing 'ontrol o& yo*r &*t*re that%s on all o& the ads/ 7e "as re'ently impli'ated in the in+ol+ement o& se+eral 'ases o& inappropriately pres'ribed medi'ations and 5*estionable treatment methods res*lting in psy'hologi'al disorders that "ere intense- b*t apparently short,li+edin a n*mber o& patient%s 'ases/D 7e loo0ed at me- "aiting &or me to as0 another 5*estion/

DWhat yo*%re telling me is interesting- b*t *ltimately it%s not *se&*l to me be'a*se it%s not helping me get any 'loser to her-D I said&r*strated by his 'alm- detailed ans"er/ DI "ant to 0no" "hat they did to her- and "hy/ I "ant to 0no" i& they abd*'ted her &rom my ho*se- i& they dr*gged me so I%d sleep thro*gh it- and "here she is no"/ I ha+e to &ind her/ This ?artain g*y- ho" 'an I 0no" that he%s not 4*st going to gi+e me the r*naro*nd- or that he%ll e+en be a+ailable to meet me6D 7e pa*sed &or a moment- ad4*sting his 'oat/ DI sho*ldn%t ha+e to remind yo* that yo* sho*ld loo0 into yo*r o"n medi'al history/ I ha+e in&ormation that yo* "ere seeing a therapist *p *ntil yo* met yo*r girl&riend/ !*ddenly- yo* stopped/ Co* "ere dealing "ith depression&eelings o& abandonment- and an almost o+er"helming sense o& re4e'tion in yo*r li&e/ This "as the res*lt o& the loss o& yo*r 'hild- as "ell as yo*r di+or'e- I pres*me/D 7e almost grinned at me- b*t seemed to 'at'h himsel&/

DCo* "ere s*i'idal- "eren%t yo*6D 7e as0ed/ D!yn'hro !ystems also dealt "ith 'ases o& se+ere depression G s*ggesting that yo*r girl&riend might ha+e also had those tenden'ies "hen she began her treatments/D I "as be'oming +ery angry/ 8s &ar as I "as 'on'erned- he had no right to thro" my past into my &a'e li0e that mentioning the marriage/ 7o" had he dis'o+ered that6 Who "as I really dealing "ith6 I p*shed him against the "all/ I noti'ed that the paint- a dirty green the 'olor o& toothpaste resid*e- "as peeling a"ay- re+ealing the 'oarse s*r&a'e o& the 'on'rete beneath it/ DAoes !yn'hro ha+e something to do "ith me6D I demanded- my nose almost to*'hing his/ D8re o*r 'ases someho" related6% I 'o*ld see the 'on&li't o& interest in his eyes/ I hoped that he 'o*ld see the desire to brea0 something in mine/ 7e blin0ed/ I didn%t/

DTal0 to Ar/ ?artain-D he ans"ered- no longer sel&,ass*red/ D?lease- that%s all I 'an tell yo*/D DWhat i& he doesn%t 'ooperate6D I as0ed him/ I didn%t rela1 my grip/ D7e "ill 'ooperate "ith yo*- I%m s*re o& it-D he replied- 'on&iden'e ret*rning to his +oi'e/ D=oo0- this b*ilding%s not se'*re eno*gh &or me to stay here any longer/ !omeone "ill 'onta't yo* later "ith more in&ormation/ Will yo* please release me no"6D I let go o& him- and he br*shed his 'oat&lattening o*t the 'reases in it "here I had been gripping the &abri'/ DCo*r &riend- Janine- is it6 !he%s probably getting "orried abo*t yo*-D he smiled at me "ith the same loo0 o& 0no"ledge that had bothered me be&ore/ J*st ho" m*'h abo*t my li&e and the li+es o& my &riends did these people 0no"6 Why "ere they slipping me in&ormation in &ragments- "hen it seemed that they "o*ld

be able to lo'ate and 'onne't me "ith her 4*st as easily6 DCo*%re m*'h more than 4*st a resear'h agentaren%t yo*6D I as0ed him/ DResear'h agent and other things/ 3y employers allo" me to handle all sorts o&L sit*ations-D he responded/ DCo*r employers6 Co*%re re&erring to !yn'hro !ystems- aren%t yo*6D DAon%t ma0e too many ass*mptions- &riend/D DI don%t appre'iate yo*r games-D I said to himt*rning to lea+e/ DReal li&e isn%t a game/ There are 'onse5*en'es &or all o& *s/D That didn%t e1plain m*'h- either/

DWhat abo*t &ate6D I as0ed- &lipping the headlights o+er to bright/ DCo* mean in relation to the e1isten'e o& Eod6D !he as0ed/ DO& 'o*rse yo* do-D she addedans"ering her o"n 5*estion/ We "ere some"here in Te1as/ 8t night- "hen there "as nothing b*t the road and it "ent on &or miles and miles and miles- "here times and distan'es "ere meas*red in 'on+ersations and bathroom brea0s/ DWell- I%+e tho*ght abo*t it- too- and I g*ess it does 0ind o& present a dilemma-D she 'ontin*ed/ D8 ma4or one-D I agreed/ DI mean- "hat%s to say that my entire li&e%s not &ated and set o*t- e+en i& I don%t 0no" "hat%s going to happen ne1t- yo* 'an theoreti'ally tell me all o& it- e+erything that happens- by tra+eling into the &*t*reright6D DTheoreti'ally- I 'o*ld do that/D

D!o "hat de'isions- a'tions- and e+ents in my li&e are really *nder my 'ontrol6 What i& something bad happened and yo* 'ame ba'0 and told me abo*t it6 !ho*ldn%t I be able to stop it6D DI g*ess that really boils do"n to an ethi'al 5*estion on the part o& the person "ith the 0no"ledge o& the &*t*re- doesn%t it6D !he said/ D!*re- I 'o*ld 0no" in ad+an'e o& some 'ertain e+ents in yo*r li&e- b*t e+en i& I told yo* abo*t them- "o*ld yo* really be able to 'hange them6 Wo*ld yo* belie+e me6 J*st 0eep in mind that yo*r &*t*re is someone else%s past- and &rom their standpoint- it%s set in stone/D D=et%s 'onsider it on a le+el beyond that o& 4*st one indi+id*al- then/ What i& yo* 'o*ld stop a "ar6 Where is the ethi'al line dra"n6 Ca*sing a 'hange in the timeline li0e that "o*ld a&&e't 'o*ntless li+es/ Wo*ldn%t it be "orth trying6 I& "e 'an%t 'hange the &*t*re- then "hy are "e here6D I as0ed her/

DI don%t really 0no"/ B*t 7ere is "here "e areno"-D she said- sighing/ !he tra'ed her &ingers on the glass edge o& the "indo" as i& she "as playing the piano or typing/ DI "o*ldn%t "ant someone to 'ome &rom the &*t*re and stop this &rom happening- e+en i& it "as in the name o& stopping a "ar/ I don%t 'are abo*t e+eryone else2 I only "ant this/D B*t "hat i& I "as the one "ho "as going to die6 Co*ld I stop a &*t*re &rom happening by remo+ing *s &rom the e5*ation6 Considering it on a le+el that "as more lo'alone that 'on'erned me- that%s "here I had the real iss*es/ I sho*ld ha+e been able to dri+e the 'ar into a telephone pole and 0ill *s both/ That de'ision sho*ld ha+e been in my hands- a de'ision that I%d al"ays be able to ma0e/ I "anted to belie+e that I "as a master o& my o"n &ate- and a''ording to her- it "as my o"n de'ision- tho*gh I%d already made it gi+en someone else%s perspe'ti+e &arther do"n the time line/ Nothing abo*t my potential impa't

"ith a solid ob4e't on the side o& the road 'on&li'ted "ith the &*t*re history o& the "orld/ I& she "ere a time tra+eler &rom my &*t*re- I 'o*ld ha+e 0illed her then- and she%d still be born on the same s'hed*le- still &ate&*lly de'ide to +isit the past that I e1isted in- still meet me- and so on/ It 4*st didn%t seem right/ I loo0ed at her as she stared o*t o& the "indo" 'ontentedly- arm "a+ing *p and do"n in the "ind- and I smiledb*t she didn%t see me/ 8nother idea 'ame to mind/ I& there someho" "as a time ma'hine at my disposal- I 'o*ld tra+el ba'0 into time and "arn mysel& abo*t e+er getting married in the &irst pla'e- sa+ing mysel& a lot o& personal ang*ish and psy'hologi'al iss*es/ Or I 'o*ld ha+e sa+ed the baby- i& &or some reason I had de'ided to get married any"ay/ I tho*ght abo*t it and then reali.ed that all o& those e+ents "o*ld ha+e to o''*r in order &or me to end *p "here I "as that night- dri+ing along that empty road

thro*gh Te1as/ Then I reali.ed "hy I "as ha+ing an iss*e "ith it# 'hanges 'o*ld be made- I "as s*re o& it- sin'e "e only had the perspe'ti+e &rom "hate+er de'isions that "e%d made and e+ents in o*r li+es- it merely seemed that there "as only one path/ It seemed li0e I 'o*ldn%t do anything abo*t all o& the bad things in my past &rom my '*rrent standpoint sin'e I e1isted in that parti'*lar present/ I& I 'hanged things- my other sel& "o*ldn%t 0no" any better- b*t "o*ld go on belie+ing that things "ere *n'hangeable and that li&e had &ollo"ed only one path/ ?erhaps someone else had met a strange girl "ith some memory problems in the batht*b or at the &ront door o& a di&&erent apartment- and the sel& that I had sa+ed &rom all o& the bad things "o*ld ne+er be the "iser/ Wo*ld it be morally "rong to deny a past +ersion o& mysel& the ri'hness and 4oy o& my present lo+e in order to pre+ent them &rom e1perien'ing- to spare them- e+en- the agony o& lo+e lost6 Who "o*ld I be 'hanging6 Wo*ld my o"n memories 'hange- or "o*ld I be'ome a

li0e a spe'ter- a "andering star- ha*nting a present that I no longer belonged to "ith the dar0 light o& "hat ne+er "as to be "eighing do"n *pon me6 I dro+e on &or a little "hile longer- 'onsidering the possibility that I had already made e+ery de'ision that I "o*ld e+er ma0e- and I 4*st had to "ait &or time to play o*t so that I 'o*ld li+e thro*gh them- or e+en die be'a*se o& themli+ing in the ill*sion o& &ree "ill- del*ding mysel& into thin0ing that anything "as a real 'hoi'e/ I thin0 that there "as some religion that appropriately addressed that +ery iss*e/ Eenerally spea0ing- tho*gh- religion ne+er really "as &or me and I 'o*ldn%t s"allo" and digest s*'h a massi+ely +ag*e 'on'ept- any"ay/ On the other hand- it 4*st didn%t ma0e sense that "e%d e1ist solely to mo+e along the timeline/ There had to be something more9 I& only I 'o*ld 'ompletely- *n5*estioningly a''ept that e+erything "as random- that the *ni+erse "as 'haoti'- that there "as no real

point in anything- and that e+erything "as the res*lt o& an e+ol+ing dynami' to"ards entropymani&ested thro*gh 'onstantly tipping balan'es o& order and 'haos9 I& I 'o*ld 0no"- beyond the shado" o& a do*bt- that a &inal balan'e "o*ld be a'hie+ed in the end- someho"- that the *ni+erse "o*ld e1ist as nothing more than heat energy- and perhaps a&ter that- a tr*e .ero state/ B*t there "as al"ays the possibility that something *n0no"n "o*ld happen- e+en a&ter that/ Nothing is possible- be'a*se E+erything is/ 8ll o& those 'on'epts too0 pla'e on a s'ale so +ast that it didn%t matter "here h*manity &it into the pi't*re- m*'h less one indi+id*al h*man li&e# my o"n/ That "as all &ine "ith mesin'e it "as too big o& an iss*e to really ta'0le at all- too +ast to "rap my head aro*nd and thin0 abo*t "here "ords "o*ld e+en ma0e sense- sin'e there "as absol*tely no "ay that I%d e+er be able to grasp the 'on'ept o& the li&e span o& an entire *ni+erse- &rom beginning to end/ Where did I &it into this6 Co*ld my a'tionsho"e+er small- 'hange my o"n &*t*re- and

there&ore alter the &*t*re o& the *ni+erse6 7o" &ar "o*ld the ripples e1tend6

Chapter 05 Janine%s boy&riend- Aa+id- sipped at his pint o& beer- 0eeping an eye on the ba'0 door &or *s/ DAo yo* thin0 that this g*y "ill sho" *p6D 7e as0ed/ DI%m starting to noti'e a theme here-D Janine 5*ipped/ DWe%+e had pretty good l*'0- so &ar-D I said/ I hoped that o*r good l*'0 "o*ld 'ontin*e/ It seemed li0e "e had a lot o& leads that only led *s to other leads- and e+eryone that "e spo0e to "as passing *s on to"ards someone else/ With ea'h pass- "e gained a little bit more in&ormation that "as *se&*l to *s- tho*gh- so I "asn%t abo*t to start 'omplaining/ Aa+id seemed ner+o*s- and *nderstandably so/ !he%d told him that I had to meet a potential in+estor in a shado"y b*siness +ent*re and that I 4*st needed someone to play loo0o*t- in 'ase the potential in+estor de'ided to bring along

some less than &riendly additional g*ests/ 7e told her not to tell me his name- &or some reason- tho*gh I already 0ne" it/ I e+en 0ne" "hat his address "as- "hat 0ind o& 'ar he dro+e- ho" old he "as- and a hand&*l o& other in&ormation that I%d pi'0ed *p listening to Janine tal0 o+er the "ee0s- b*t I played along and pretended I didn%t 0no" anything abo*t him- e+en telling him that I tho*ght it "as the best &or both o& *s that he remained anonymo*s/ I g*ess that he didn%t really 0no" ho" "ell Janine and I 0ne" ea'h other and ho" "e%d planned all this o*t ho*rs ago/ 8t least one part- abo*t the meeting being important"as the tr*th/ ?artain "asn%t d*e to arri+e &or another 0 or K min*tes- so I lit another 'igarette/ DJ*st ma0e s*re that yo* t*rn the 'amera on-D I reminded Janine- nodding to"ards her mpH player/ I "as glad that they had de'ided to p*t 'ameras in those things/

DEot it-D she said/ D:p the slee+e- arm o+er the ba'0 o& the booth/D !he "ore a baggy 4a'0et "ith loose slee+es into the bar that day/ To a 'as*al obser+er- it "o*ld only appear that she had her arm aro*nd her boy&riend "hile they shared a drin0/ I hoped that no one "o*ld noti'e them at alltho*gh/ D7a+e yo* 'he'0ed the battery 'harge6 Ao yo* ha+e eno*gh a+ailable memory6D I as0ed her"orried that something "o*ld go "rong/ I "anted to get as m*'h re+ie"able in&ormation as possible &rom the meeting "ith the do'torespe'ially i& he had rele+ant in&ormation that "o*ld help me &ind Coren/ D!top "orrying/ It%s ready to go-D Janine reass*red me/ Aa+id smir0ed/ I 'onsidered po*ring my drin0 onto his lap/ DO0ay- then-D I sighed- p*tting my 'igarette o*t and "iping my s"eaty palms on my pants/ DI%ll

go ahead and go *p to the bar/ 7e sho*ld be here any min*te- so ma0e s*re yo*%re ready/ B*t don%t be too ob+io*s- g*ys/D DWe%+e got it- man-D 7ip Aa+e said/ I m*st ha+e gro"led/ Janine "in0ed at me as I le&t the booth and made my "ay to the bar/ I sat do"n and ordered a pint- 'he'0ing the door &or ?artain/ Nothing seemed *n*s*al- and no one had entered the bar in the past &e" moments/ The bartender 5*i'0ly bro*ght my drin0 to me- and I started sipping on it/ DI heard a pretty good 4o0e the other day-D he said- leaning on the 'o*nter top/ DWant to hear it6D I shr*gged/ DO0ay-D I ans"ered- not really &eeling *p to being an a*dien'e- b*t not "anting to br*sh the g*y o&&- either/

D8ll right/ 7ere goes-D he said/ DWhat do yo* 'all a tho*sand la"yers at the bottom o& the 8tlanti' O'ean6D I "aited &or the ine+itable/ D8 good start9D 7e e1'laimed- la*ghing at himsel& as he deli+ered the ans"er/ I smiled 'o*rteo*sly/ DThat%s a pretty good one-D I said/ DWhat%s a mathemati'ian%s &a+orite dessert6D 7e as0ed- 'ontin*ing/ I rolled my eyes/ Was this g*y serio*s6 I hoped that he "o*ldn%t 0eep tal0ing &or so long that ?artain "o*ld stop in- noti'e- and s0ip the meeting/ I 'he'0ed the door again/ The bartender didn%t really "ait &or me to g*ess the ans"er- any"ay/ D?i9D This time he re+ealed the ans"er glee&*lly- as he "as delighted by his o"n "it/ 7is am*sement at himsel& "as m*'h more

h*moro*s to me than his st*pid 4o0es- and I 'h*'0led a little bit at my o"n internal 4o0es"hi'h "ere at his e1pense/ I too0 a long dra" &rom the glass o& beer/ DO0ay- o0ay-D he 'ontin*ed/ DOne more and I%ll stop/D I "as ignoring him already/

!ome dolphins bro0e the "a+es- leaping o*t o& the "ater 'lose to the shore/ D7ey- 'he'0 that o*t9 Aolphins9D I said- pointing to"ards the sea/ DAolphins6D !he as0ed- loo0ing o*t past the sand and o+er the brea0ing "a+es/ DCo* 0no"- li0e porpoises/ They%re sea mammals- 5*ite intelligent/ I read some"here that they%re learning ho" to *se 'omp*ters to tal0 to *s/D DI don%t 0no" "hat that means/ I%+e ne+er heard o& them be&ore/ They loo0 li0e really big &ish9D she said/ I tho*ght that it "as "eird that she%d 'laim to ha+e ne+er heard o& dolphins- b*t I 0ept in mind that she might ha+e &orgotten them- too/ :s*ally "hen she heard a name or sa" an animal- she re'ogni.ed it- so this de+iation &rom the pre'edent seemed e1'eptionally strange/

!ometimes that happened- tho*gh/ We ran into things that she%d ne+er heard o& or e1perien'ed- li0e 'o&&ee/ 8nd no"- dolphins/ While it "as di&&erent &rom anything I%d e+er had to deal "ith be&ore- it didn%t really matter to me/ On'e she%d seen them- e1perien'ed them &or the se'ond &irst time- she%d al"ays be able to remember "hat they "ere/ DI "ent s"imming "ith some dolphins- on'e- at this "ater par0-D I told her/ DIt "as really 'ool2 yo* 'o*ld tell that they "ere tal0ing to yo* by the "ay that they loo0ed at yo* and in the "ay that it seemed li0e they e1pe'ted yo* to ans"er them/ =i0e yo* "ere the st*pid one &or not being able to ans"er them ba'0/D DI thin0 a lot o& animals are m*'h more intelligent than "e thin0 that "e are- or at least 'apable o& high le+els o& intelligen'e/ We might ha+e to gi+e them a little 'oa'hing and a lot o& patien'e- tho*gh-D she said/ DIn the &*t*re- do yo* thin0 that "e%ll do something good "ith all o& o*r te'hnology6

3aybe modi&y the animals so that they%re smarter6D DI don%t see "hy "e 'o*ldn%t/ 8ren%t there already 'omp*ters that 'an help the dea& to hear and sensors that 'an help the blind to see6 3aybe 'ats and dogs "on%t really be pets so m*'h anymore as they "ill be'ome tr*e 'ompanions/ They 'o*ld 'arry on 'on+ersations "ith yo* and &lat o*t demand that yo* ta0e them &or a "al0 "hen they%+e got to go to the bathroom-D she la*ghed/ DIt seems li0e "e%re not so &ar o&& &rom a &*t*re "here that%s happening- any"ay/D D8s0 any 'at o"ner-D I said-D and they%ll probably tell yo* that it%s already the 'ase/ I had a 'at "hen I "as in 'ollege2 the st*pid thing had a bad habit o& relie+ing himsel& on people that he didn%t li0e/ 3aybe he "asn%t so st*pid- tho*gh- be'a*se it t*rned o*t that I didn%t really li0e most o& the people he peed on- either/ 7e "as probably trying to tell me something and sa+e me the time/D

DCats are strange animals- that%s &or s*re/D It "as gro"ing dar0- so someone s"it'hed the strings o& party lights on all aro*nd *s- and s*ddenly the bal'ony "as a lot more &esti+e loo0ing that it had been be&ore/ Ca*ght *p in the e1'itement o& the moment- she grabbed my arm and started &or the door/ D=et%s go-D she said- her enth*siasm 'ontagio*s/ I &ollo"ed her o*t into the streets- "here "e p*r'hased some mas0s "ith s0*lls on them &rom a lo'al +endor/ E+en tho*gh "e "ore long mas0s o& death- "e 'elebrated li+ing and lo+ing long into the latest ho*rs o& night/

D!lo"ly-D the bartender 'ontin*ed- deli+ering the ne1t p*n'h line/ DNery slo"ly/ !o that they ne+er 0no" "hat%s happened to them/ Then they%re dead- and it%s too late &or anyone to as0 any 5*estions/ >ind o& li0e boiling a &rog/D 7e smiled at me- "aiting &or me to la*gh at the 4o0e/ I didn%t *nderstand it- b*t I g*ess that I%d missed the &irst part/ DI don%t get it-D I told him/ DEh-D he pa*sed- "iping the 'o*nter top "here the 'ondensation &rom glasses had 'olle'ted/ DJo0es li0e that aren%t &or e+eryone/ Want another drin06 Co* "ent thro*gh that &irst one pretty 5*i'0ly/D I loo0ed do"n- s*rprised at mysel&/ I really had &inished o&& the pint a lot more 5*i'0ly that I tho*ght/ D!*re/D

DComing right *p-D he said- happy to ma0e another sale/ DCo* meeting someone6D he as0ed/ DI& they a't*ally sho" *p- I am/D DThey *s*ally sho" *p-D he told me/ 8s i& he 0ne" the 0ind o& person I "as "aiting on/ I glan'ed o+er my sho*lder at Janine and Aa+id/ Aa+id loo0ed a"ay- 5*i'0ly/ Too ob+io*s/ !he smiled- bo*n'ed in her seat a little- and ga+e me a th*mbs *p/ Too ob+io*s/ 8nd too late/ ?artain sat do"n on the bar stool beside me/ DI%m only meeting yo* be'a*se I o"ed a &a+or to the "rong person-D he stated- be&ore I%d e+en si.ed him *p/ DCo* sho*ld ad+ise yo*r &riends in the booth o+er there to t*rn o&& the 'amera/ I don%t ha+e to tell yo* anything- and I don%t "ant to be re'orded/D

That thre" me o&&/ I "asn%t e1pe'ting ?artain to be soL on top o& things/ I 5*i'0ly s'anned o+er him- hoping to gather some in&ormation abo*t him &rom his appearan'e- b*t there "as nothing remar0able abo*t him at &irst glan'e/ E1pensi+e glasses- a 'risply star'hed "hite shirt- dar0 sla'0s/ 7e loo0ed li0e he might ha+e s0ipped a day bet"een sha+es- b*t his hair loo0ed li0e he%d 4*st had it '*t and styled/ 7e "ore a bla'0 tie- loosely- and he didn%t ha+e on a 'oat/ 7e glared at me impatiently- ma0ing dire't eye 'onta't "ith me- 'hallenging me to deny his demand/ I t*rned to"ards Janine/ 7er arm "as o+er the ba'0 o& the booth- pointed in o*r general dire'tion- 4*st as "e%d planned/ Eood girl/ Aa+id nodded to"ards *s- and she t*rned to loo0 at me/ I made a motion &or her to stop &ilming by "a+ing my hand in a '*tting motion in &ront o& my throat- and she raised an eyebro"# 8re yo* s*re6 I nodded an a&&irmati+e response/ !he p*lled her arm- along "ith the media re'order- ba'0 into the booth/

D!he &ollo"s orders- at least-D ?artain 'ommented/ DIt%s a "eird sit*ation/ None o& *s really 0no" "hat%s going on-D I o&&ered- de&ensi+ely/ D!he doesn%t "ant anyone to get h*rt/D DCo*6 Or me6D 7e as0ed/ D8nyone-D I ans"ered/ DWhy do yo* need to tal0 to me6D ?artain as0ed me "hile &lagging do"n the bartender/ DI%m loo0ing &or some in&ormation abo*t !yn'hro !ystems/ Not 4*st the 'ompany- tho*gh2 I need in&ormation abo*t a possible patient- or-D I hesitated- s"allo"ing the l*mp in my throat/ D?ossible test s*b4e'ts-D I &inished/ The bartender arri+ed- brea0ing the 'on+ersation/ DI see yo*r &riend sho"ed *p/ What 'an I get &or yo*6D he as0ed ?artain/ I hoped that the

bartender "o*ldn%t try his 'omedy ro*tine "ith *s again/ D!omething dar0ly- in a glass/D DOne se'-D the bartender said- strolling o&&/ 8t least "e li0ed the same 0ind o& beer/ DWhy sho*ld I tell yo* anything- &riend6D ?artain as0ed me/ DI%+e already told e+erything I 0no" to the inter+ie"ers- the papers- the poli'e- and the 'o*rts/ Co* 'an loo0 it *p in the p*bli' ar'hi+es i& yo*%re interested/D DI "as 0ind o& hoping that yo*%d ha+e a parti'*lar 0ind o& in&ormation that those people "o*ldn%t be as0ing abo*t-D I said/ The bartender dropped o&& ?artain%s beer "itho*t saying a "ord- apparently noti'ing that "e didn%t "ant to be dist*rbed/ DWhat%s yo*r story6D 7e as0ed- 'hanging dire'tion/

I sighed- &eeling the hea+y "eight o& ha+ing to e1plain something that didn%t ma0e any sense to someone "ho hadn%t li+ed thro*gh it "eighing do"n on my sho*lders and on my mind/ DNot too long ago- I "o0e *p- and my girl&riend "as missing/ I didn%t s*spe't it at the time- b*t it appears that a person or people "or0ing &or !yn'hro !ystems abd*'ted her &rom my homeor she le&t in &ear o& them arri+ing- and in a really big h*rry/ !omeho"- I slept thro*gh it all- possibly be'a*se I%d been dr*gged/ What ma0es it "eirder is that all o& her personal do'*ments and &iles "ere remo+ed &rom the ho*se- too/D 8bd*'tion e1plained "hy the hot "ater "as still r*nning in the sin0 "hen I "o0e *p- sin'e she al"ays br*shed her teeth "ith the hot "ater on/ I hadn%t e+en tho*ght to 'he'0 &or the presen'e o& her toothbr*sh at the timetho*gh- as I "as primarily &o'*sed on 'leaning the "ater *p o&& o& the &loor be&ore the tenants

belo" *s noti'ed a lea0- tho*gh I%m s*re that e+en by then- it "as too late/ The &lood in the bathroom didn%t really matter too m*'h a "ee0 later- "hen someone had bro0en into the pla'e and t*rned it inside o*t "hile I "as o*t "ith Janine sear'hing &or her/ I mentioned that *n0no"n indi+id*als had ransa'0ed my home "hen I%d been o*t and he didn%t e+en rea't/ D!omeone 0no"s that I%m loo0ing &or her-D I said/ D8nd I don%t thin0 that they "ant me to be able to &ind her/D D!omeone "ants yo* to &ind her- it seemsother"ise yo* "o*ldn%t be here in this bar- and I "o*ldn%t ha+e beenL 'oer'ed into sho"ing *p-D ?artain said- 'len'hing his teeth together as he balled his hands into &ists/ Then he rela1ed again- as i& something *psetting had 'rossed his mind b*t he%d been able to blo'0 it o*t/ 7e too0 a long drin0 &rom his pint/ DCoer'ed yo*6 What happened6D I as0ed/

DIt%s none o& yo*r 'on'ern- stranger-D he saidt*rning to loo0 at me again/ 7e stood *p and stepped a"ay &rom the bar/ D7o"e+er- this is ridi'*lo*s/ Eood l*'0 &inding yo*r &riend/D I "asn%t s*re ho" to respond to that/ 7e hadn%t gi+en me any ans"ers9 D?artain- "ait9D I protested- standing *p/ 7e didn%t reply as he "al0ed o*t o& the &ront doors o& the bar and into the bl*rry "orld o*tside/ I t*rned and loo0ed at Janine and Aa+idshr*gging/ They both 'ame o+er and met me at the bar/ DWhat did yo* &ind o*t6D Janine as0ed- her &a'e a mi1t*re o& 'on'ern and anti'ipation/ DNothing-D I said/ DNothing *se&*l at all/D

!he too0 my hand in hers- as she o&ten did- a gest*re that I%d gro"n to &ind 'om&ort in/ It seemed right- the "ay that o*r hands &it together- the "ays that "e &it together2 it seemed li0e the day "asn%t 'omplete i& "e didn%t hold hands &or a min*te or t"o/ I g*ess that probably so*nds strange or *n*s*alpatheti' e+en- b*t i& yo*%+e e+er been in the same position- yo* 0no" "hat I%m tal0ing abo*t/ DThere%s another one9D she said- pointing at the s0y/ I didn%t see it be'a*se I "as loo0ing at the "ay that the "ind "as blo"ing 4*st a &e" strands o& hair at a time a'ross her &a'e/ I noti'ed that the s*n had lightened her hair a lot in some pla'es so that she had blonde strea0s r*nning thro*gh it/ We%d spent a lot o& time o*tdoors "hen "e "ere in E*rope- and she rarely "ore a head 'o+ering o& any type- altho*gh hand0er'hie&s "ere pop*lar at the time/ !ome

o& her hairs "ent into her mo*th as she spo0eand she remo+ed them "ith pre'ise &ingers/ !he too0 her hand ba'0 a&ter a moment and leaned ba'0 a'ross the hood o& the 'ar/ !he p*t her hands together and loo0ed o+er at me/ DWhat is it6D I as0ed/ DNothing- really/ J*st ma0ing s*re o& yo*-D she ans"ered/ DCo* get &i+e points- then/ It sho*ld be less- b*t I%m &eeling genero*s-D I said/ DThat "as too easy/D DIt "asn%t all that easy9D !he protested/ D8re yo* 0idding6 I 'a*ght the re&eren'e right o&&-D I replied/ DNot e+eryone reads 3ilne- yo* 0no"/D DE+eryone sho*ld/D

Chapter 06 The phone "as ringing/ 7ad I &allen asleep again6 What "as the dream- &ading aro*nd the edges at &irst- into nothingness6 The bed "as "arm- the sheets so&t/ It "as dar0 o*tside2 it m*st ha+e gro"n late/ $or a moment- I tho*ght that Coren "as beside me again/ I tho*ght that I 'o*ld &eel her hair spilling o&& o& her pillo" and into my mo*th/ The phone 'ontin*ed to ring/ I rea'hed o+er to the nightstand- ta0ing the phone o&& o& the re'ei+er- hoping that the 'aller had gi+en *p/ It "as hard to &o'*s2 my eyes "eren%t 'ooperating "ith me- my re&le1es "ere all o*t o& syn'/ D7ello6D I m*ttered- still groggy/ DI ha+e more in&ormation &or yo*-D the "oman said to me/ D3ore in&ormation6D I as0ed/ DIs this Aepartment P0J6D

!he didn%t ans"er my 5*estion- b*t I tho*ght that I 'o*ld hear 'li'0ing in the ba'0gro*ndsomething that so*nded li0e typing/ D=isten to me/ We are sending someone else to meet "ith yo*/D DWhen6D I sighed/ DTonight/D DWhy are yo* being so mysterio*s6 Where "ill "e meet this time6D D8 gentleman "ill arri+e &or yo* momentarily/ Co* are to enter the 'ar "hen it arri+es- b*t be in'onspi'*o*s abo*t it- i& yo* 'an/ 7e "ill arri+e at yo*r residen'e and allo" yo* to enter the +ehi'le b*t "ill he not "ait- so be ready/D !he h*ng *p/ The line "ent dead/ I pla'ed the phone ba'0 on the re'ei+er and 'onsidered "hat had 4*st happened/ The 'on+ersationho" the 'aller "as already be'oming &amiliar to me- ho" she already ass*med that I "o*ld

tr*st her and do "hat she demanded/ I "al0ed o+er to the "indo" and loo0ed o*t onto the street belo"/ Raining and 'old/ E+ery day/ I grabbed a 4a'0et and headed o*tside to "ait/ The 'ar "as already in &ront o& the b*ilding "hen I opened the &ront door/ I ran to"ards itdodging p*ddles and 'he'0ing &or tra&&i' as I 'rossed the street/ The passenger door "as *nlo'0ed- so I got into the 'ar/ I didn%t "ait &or him to say anything- ta0ing &irst initiati+e at starting o*r 'on+ersation/ DWhat the hell is going on6 Where the hell is Corentine6 Why the hell do yo* ha+e me bo*n'ing &rom pla'e to pla'e- all o+er this 'ity4*st to pi'0 *p a little 'r*mb o& in&ormation here and another bit there- "hen none o& it%s really in&ormati+e to me at all6 I met *p "ith ?artain- yo* 0no"- and "hile he ga+e me some interesting things to thin0 abo*t- "hy sho*ld I belie+e that he%s telling me the tr*th6 Why sho*ld I belie+e any o& yo*6D

I%d been ma0ing a list/ DI "ill ans"er all o& yo*r 5*estions to the best o& my ability/ Wo*ld yo* pre&er that I do so in the order in "hi'h yo* as0ed them6D The in&ormant 'almly pressed the 'igarette lighter do"n- and then t*rned the radio o&&/ D?lease-D I ans"ered- trying to rela1/ I rea'hed &or my o"n 'igarettes- b*t I%d mispla'ed them some"here/ DE1'ellent/ 7ere- ha+e one o& mine-D he saidand then he lit t"o 'igarettes at on'e- passing one o+er to me/ 7o" did he 0no" that mine "ere missing6 D$irst- there are a lot o& things that I 'an%t tell yo*/ Co*%re too m*'h o& a liability to the people that I "or0 &or i& yo* go p*bli' "ith the in&ormation/D I didn%t as0 &or m*'h o& an e1planation on that- sin'e I had so many other 5*estions that I &elt "ere more important and in need o& ans"ers/ The people that he "or0ed &or 'o*ld 0eep their se'rets as long as they told

me "here I 'o*ld &ind Cor/ I *nderstood that they "ere serio*s eno*gh- gi+en the great lengths that they%d gone to to"ards remaining anonymo*s/ D$eel &ree to pro+ide in5*iries "hene+er 'lari&i'ation is re5*ired/D I noted to mysel& that his e1'essi+ely 'lini'al approa'h to o*r 'on+ersation might be *se&*l to me2 i& I de'ided to ma0e a play to s5*ee.e more in&ormation o*t o& him- I 0ne" that he probably "anted to remain as deta'hed as possible- so it might be easier to thro" him o&& by e1pressing an emotional rea'tion to his statements/ =o" blo"- maybe- or 'heap tri'0b*t I didn%t 'are ho" I manip*lated the ans"ers &rom him- as long as I got "hat I "anted/ 3y 'on'erns "ere 'lo*ding my ob4e'ti+ity- tho*ghand I didn%t reali.e my o"n limits- m*'h less gi+e tho*ght&*l 'onsideration to"ards the limits o& the strange man "ho didn%t "ant to be 0no"n and "or0ed &or a shado"y gro*p o& people "ho "o*ld only meet me in the

strangest pla'es- on their terms and on their time tables/ I nodded- "aiting &or him to 'ontin*e/ DCo*%re going to "ant to meet *p "ith E+an ?artain again- I%d +ent*re-D he stated/ DEspe'ially a&ter yo*%+e had a day or t"o to thin0 abo*t this/D 7e rea'hed into his po'0et and remo+ed a small bro"n paper bag- &olded *p aro*nd a s5*are ob4e't and taped 'losed/ 3y &irst tho*ght "as that it "as a Christmas present G all that it la'0ed "as a bo" on top2 a +ery small bo1 "rapped as I%d "rapped my o"n gi&ts- year a&ter year/ 7e handled the pa'0age "ith 'are- perhaps e+en "ith some sort o& re+eren'e/ I loo0ed o*t o& the "indo"s'he'0ing to see i& there "ere any people "al0ing the streets o*tside o& the 'ar- and i& so- i& they "ere e1'eedingly interested in "hat "e "ere doing/ I remembered ho" my e1,"i&e had s'ored some opi*m- so long ago- to"ards the part "hen things "ere getting really bad/ I remembered

ho" "e had started sear'hing o*tside o& o*rsel+es and &ar a"ay &rom o*r hearts &or things that "o*ld n*mb *s- hoping that anything "o*ld be the sal+e that "o*ld ease the a'he o& lo+e &alling &rom its 'o*rse/ I remembered &eeling paranoid then- too- in her 'ar- as she remo+ed a small plasti' bag "ith a s5*are blo'0 inside o& it/ !he handled that small gi&t "ith her o"n &orm o& re+eren'etho*gh her a"e "as misg*ided- and her respe't &or things had diminished to a point that it seemed at times to hardly remain at all/ DWhat%s in the pa'0age6D I as0ed- ret*rning my attention to the in&ormant- this nameless man in the 'ar sent by the anonymo*s "oman on the telephone 4*st a &e" moments ago/ 7e didn%t respond/ 7e began *n"rapping the bro"n paperre+ealing a small metal bo1/ 7e dis'arded the "rapping onto the &loor o& the 'ar and remo+ed the top o& the bo1 by sliding it open/ I leaned 'loser to him to get a better loo0 inside o& the

bo1 as he shoo0 an ob4e't o*t into his hand/ 7e 'losed his &ist aro*nd the ob4e't and 'leared his throat/ DThis ob4e't is li0e a sign post-D he began/ DIt points yo* in a dire'tion that might help yo* &ind yo*r "ay- tho*gh the ans"ers yo*%re see0ing "on%t e+er 'ome to yo* easily/D 8 signpost6 7e "as 'orre't- tho*gh/ I "as absol*tely- *ndeniably lost/ DCo*%re loo0ing &or sol*tions to problems yo*%ll ne+er *nderstand2 yo*%ll &ind ans"ers to 5*estions yo*%ll ne+er e+en thin0 to as0/ The important thing &or yo* to remember is that yo* m*st &ind yo*r o"n "ay/ The indi+id*als "ho ha+e pro+ided this ob4e't to yo* insist that o*r assistan'e to yo* remains limited to this &inal meeting- along "ith the in&ormation that yo*%+e pre+io*sly been pro+ided-D 7e pa*sedrea'hing &or his 'igarette- "hi'h had b*rned hal&"ay do"n to the &ilter in the time that he had been opening the pa'0age/

I didn%t spea0/ DCo* as0ed "hat%s going on-D he res*med/ DCo*%re sear'hing &or yo*r missing girl&riend- a "oman named Corentine/ I 'an 'on&irm that !yn'hro !ystems does ha+e a hand in her disappearan'e-D he stopped again- loo0ing o*t o& the "indo"- "at'hing the rain r*n do"n the glass/ DThey also ha+e a hand in her appearan'e/D D7er appearan'e6D I interr*pted/ 3y stoma'h t*rned o+er/ DWhen she arri+ed "itho*t e1planation in yo*r apartment%s batht*b/ Where do yo* thin0 that she 'ame &rom6 7o" do yo* thin0 that she got there6 !he doesn%t remember- that%s tr*e/ Why ha+en%t yo* e+er 'onsidered that yo* 'an%t re'all the e+ening be&ore- either6D I tho*ght abo*t it &or a moment/ It "as a day li0e any other- e1'ept that it "as the day be&ore things began to 'hange in my li&e/ !omething li0e the last day o& a prison term/

What abo*t the night be&ore6 What did I do on the night be&ore she arri+ed6 DIL IL 'an%t remember the night be&ore/ I 'an%t remember the "ee0- or e+en the month be&ore- either- really- b*t "hat does that e+en mean6 =i&e%s a bl*r sometimes/ =i&e%s boring and 'y'li'- and be&ore I met her- li&e "asn%t e+en "orth li+ing/ There "asn%t a single *ni5*e thing abo*t my li&e "orth tal0ing abo*t/ !o "hat6 ?eople &orget their days all the time/D 7e smiled/ DI s*ppose that yo* no" belie+e yo*%+e &o*nd a reason to li+e-D he said- lighting another 'igarette/ 7e e1haled slo"ly- sa+oring itappearing to en4oy ea'h se'ond o& it/ DI ha+e a reason &or being here- b*t I%m not s*re ho" this is helping/D Cor%s entire past seemed li0e it "as blan0/ We 0ne" that it e1isted- that it had to e1ist- that the memories "ere lo'0ed in her head

some"here- b*ried do"n deep in the dar0 o& her brain- and that they%d 'ome *p &rom time to time &or air- ta0ing a breath o& li&e- and she%d spea0 them o*t lo*d or "rite them do"nholding them 'lose to her li0e "on by 'hildren/ 8nd they "ere her o"n +i'tories- &or ho" hard she &o*ght to regain ea'h and e+ery one o& them/ 8 daily str*ggle/ I reali.ed that my o"n lapse o& memory "as something totally di&&erent- tho*gh/ I 'ompared it to her amnesia as a point o& re&eren'e only G be'a*se her amnesia "as something that I had 'ome to *nderstand in a "ay/ In her 'asee+erything "as lost- there&ore only gain "as possible/ In mine- I didn%t e+en 0no" "hat I%d &orgotten/ I ass*med that it "as nothing important/ Or better yet- things that I "anted to &orget- things &rom the past I%d been trying to "al0 a"ay &rom/ DWe%+e as0ed yo* to meet *s in di&&erent pla'es- al"ays at the last min*te- as yo* 0no"and that reason sho*ld be ob+io*s to yo*/ I "ill

not "aste time e1plaining that/ The 5*estions that I%+e as0ed yo* and that yo*%+e as0ed yo*rsel& G those are the most important pie'es o& in&ormation that I 'an gi+e to yo*- tho*gh yo* may ne+er *nderstand or appre'iate them/ In addition- I 'an gi+e yo* this-D 7e rea'hed o+er and handed the ob4e't to me- 'losing my &ist aro*nd it- b*t 0ept his hand on mine/ 7is hand "as 'old to the to*'h/ I "anted to p*ll a"ay- to inspe't the smooth ro*nd ob4e't in my 'len'hed &ist- b*t I 0ept my hand in pla'e and didn%t brea0 eye 'onta't "ith him/ D8 se'ond meeting "ith ?artain/ 7e still has 'onne'tions "ithin the 'ompany that may be *se&*l to yo*/ 7e 'an also e1plain the ob4e't that yo* hold in yo*r &ist/D 7e rela1ed his grip and I p*lled my hand a"ay/ Instead o& loo0ing at the ob4e't- tho*gh- I p*shed it into my 4a'0et po'0et/ D8re yo* going to loo0 at it6D he as0ed meso*nding some"hat s*rprised/

DE+ent*ally-D I ans"ered- rea'hing &or the door lat'h/ DEoodbye- then/ Co* "ill not hear &rom *s again/D DI%m not really s*re that I belie+e that- yet-D I said/ DB*t li0e e+erything else- I%ll ha+e to ta0e yo*r "ord &or it/D I opened the door and e1ited the 'ar- stepping o*t onto the side"al0- &ollo"ed by a 'lo*d o& smo0e that had been &illing the 'ar/ 7e started the 'ar and almost immediately began to p*ll o*t into the street/ I "at'hed him go- rea'hing into my po'0et and "ithdra"ing the ro*nd de+i'e- s0epti'al/

DI thin0 that most o& the ma4or e+ents that o''*r in li&e "or0 on a le+el that is beyond one person%s ability to 'hange them/ It%s li0e the tides/D D!o "hat%s the point o& anything i& yo* 'an%t ma0e a di&&eren'e in the end6 I& it%s all going to happen in a set order- be'a*se i& yo*%re &rom a point &or"ard &rom "here "e e1ist- &rom all o& this-D I made a s"eeping motion "ith my handgest*ring to"ards the dar0ness o*tside o& the 'ar- Dthen all o& this is 4*st a history lesson/D D8ll o& this-D she said- mimi'0ing my gest*re- Dis e1a'tly "hat the point o& e+erything is9D DThe here and the no"- yo* mean/D DWhere+er that might be/D DIt so*nds li0e a 'op o*t to me/ It seems li0e "e sho*ld be able to 'hange things- that there isn%t 4*st one "ay that things 'an go/ Time sho*ldn%t be one string o& e+ents leading to another-

*n'hangeable- "hile "e 4*st ride along "ith it/D DAon%t &orget that yo*%re applying yo*r o"n personal- h*man 'on'ept*ali.ations to a *ni+ersal set o& e+ents/ J*st be'a*se something seems li0e it sho*ld be one "ay or another a''ording to o*r h*man perspe'ti+e o& things doesn%t mean that the *ni+erse operates that "ay/D DIt%s tr*e/ We tend to do that- don%t "e6 One o& these days "e%re going to "ipe o*rsel+es o*t be'a*se "e thin0 the entire *ni+erse re+ol+es aro*nd o*rsel+es-D I said/ DWell- it hasn%t happened yet- and *ntil it doesyo*%re all that matters-D she replied- rolling her "indo" do"n as she did/ The "arm- &resh air mi1ed "ith the re'y'led air,'onditioned air inside o& the 'ar- and I imagined a miniat*re th*nderstorm bre"ing inside the 'ar "ith *s/

!he held her arm o*t o& the "indo" and made a 0ind o& m*si' "ith the "ind as it ble" a'ross her hand/ DThat%s tr*e- "hat yo* said- in a "ay-D she saidp*lling her arm ba'0 into the 'ar a &e" moments later/ DB*t yo* 'an%t loo0 at things &rom any other indi+id*al%s standpoint- sin'e yo* are "ho yo* are/ Co* 0no" "hat I%m trying to say6D DWell- yeah- b*t I thin0 yo*%+e missed the point that I "as trying to ma0e-D I told her/ DCo* 'an only be yo*- yo* 'an only e1ist &rom all o& the de'isions that led *p to "here yo*%re at today- be'a*se other"ise yo*%d be a di&&erent person- and then yo*%d not be able to ha+e the same perspe'ti+e on e+erything that yo* ha+e today-D she elaborated/ It made sense- b*t still didn%t resol+e the "hole theoreti'al iss*e o& a &*t*re time tra+eler 'hanging e+ents &or someone else G or e+en more spe'i&i'ally- a &*t*re +ersion o& mysel&

'oming along and gi+ing me ad+an'e "arning o& some sit*ation in my li&e that "as abo*t to happen so that I 'o*ld a+oid it/ It "o*ldn%t 'hange anything &or the &*t*re +ersion o& meb*t it "o*ld 'hange the present +ersion o& meL altering my o"n destiny/ Things 'o*ld be 'hanged- 'o*ldn%t they6 I 'o*ld 'hange mysel&i& I 'o*ld tra+el in time- 'o*ldn%t I6 When I as0ed her that- she shr*gged her sho*lders/ DWhy not6D she as0ed/ DThere are a lot o& mysteries o*t there- a lot o& *n0no"ns/ $rom "here the hypotheti'al time tra+eler &rom the &*t*re originated &rom- s*re- this has all happened and is set in stone/ 7o"e+er- &rom yo*r +antage point or my +antage point it%s all an open &*t*re2 i& yo* loo0 at it T78T "aythat%s ho" it is/ I& yo* loo0 at it T7I! "ay- then that%s ho" it is/D !he "as done "ith the 'on+ersation- "hi'h had looped ba'0 o+er&olded o+er and again- li0e origami/ It had be'ome &eedba'0/

Chapter 07 It "as easy eno*gh to 'on+in'e ?artain to 'ome along "ith me/ 7e re'ogni.ed me as soon as I 'ornered him inside o& the 'on+enien'e store/ DCo* again-D he said- ba'0ing *p a little/ 7e ran o*t o& spa'e- b*mping into the maga.ine ra'0s behind him/ 7e seemed a little dr*n02 he "as some"hat disoriented/ D8gain/ We%+e got some important things to tal0 abo*t- ?artain-D I began/ DI 'an%t ha+e yo* lea+ing li0e yo* did the last time- either/D I p*lled my 'oat to the side- re+ealing the holstered pistol on my hip to him/ 7e 'he'0ed the handg*n- and then loo0ed ba'0 *p into my eyes- his o"n eyes "ide "ith disbelie&/ I glared at him/ DIt%s real-D I "arned/ DWe 'an%t e1a'tly tal0 abo*t things in here-D he pointed o*t/ DI%m not e1a'tly in the right &rame o& mind &or this/D

DCo*%re right-D I agreed/ DEood thing the bar%s a short "al0 a"ay/ =et%s go/D 7e hesitated a moment- possibly e+al*ating ho" serio*s I "as abo*t bringing him along "ith me/ Be&ore he 'o*ld 'hallenge me- I grabbed his arm/ DI don%t ha+e anything to lose-D I said- gripping his arm as hard as I 'o*ld- my intention not only to let him 0no" e1a'tly ho" serio*s I "asb*t also to lea+e a br*ise/ 7e didn%t ans"er- b*t started mo+ing to"ards the door/ DI%m e1pe'ting yo* to ma0e a brea0 &or it- or to yell &or help-D I told him as I remo+ed the pistol &rom its holster/ I p*shed the barrel o& the g*n into his ba'0 "ith one hand and grabbed his sho*lder "ith the other- leaning in 'lose to his ear/ I noted that gray hairs "ere ta0ing o+er his head/ D>no" that I%ll 0ill yo*/D

7e sti&&ened in response to my threat- b*t 0ept mo+ing/ I holstered the "eapon "hile "e le&t the store- nodding to the 'ler0/ DCo* 0no" "here it is-D I said- indi'ating the bar/ DJ*st beneath the s*r&a'e-D he 'rypti'ally replied- loo0ing o+er his sho*lder at me/ DJ*st &ar eno*gh that yo* 'an%t 5*ite rea'h it/D I sho+ed him on'e &or good meas*re- b*t didn%t d"ell on his strange statement &or +ery long/ I "ondered- brie&ly- ho" m*'h he%d had to drin0/ I "as also 'on'erned that a passerby might &ig*re o*t "hat "as going on and 'all the poli'e/ DCo* 0no" that they made *s go thro*gh "ith the treatment- too-D he said/ DThey don%t "ant *s to tell anyone/ They didn%t "ant their se'rets getting o*t into the "ild/D DWhat I thin0 is that yo*%ll probably tell me anything that yo* thin0 I "ant to hear 4*st to

get this g*n o&& o& yo*r ba'0- ?artain/ >eep mo+ing/D We "al0ed the rest o& the "ay to the bar in silen'e/ On'e "e arri+ed- I didn%t "aste any time in getting to the point/ I p*lled the de+i'e that the man in the 'ar had gi+en to me o*t o& my po'0et and pla'ed it onto the table in &ront o& *s/ ?artain seemed s*rprised/ DI ha+en%t seen one o& those in a "hile-D he said/ DWhat is it- e1a'tly6D I 5*estioned/ DIt%s a &irst stage prototype/ One o& the &irst series that &*n'tioned "ithin the re5*ired parameters &or &*rther ad+an'ement/ One o& the &irst series o& stable *nits-D he pa*sed/ DI thin0/ It%s 0ind o& ha.y to me/ 8s I said- they treated *s- too/ !aid "e signed *p &or it in o*r 'ontra'ts- some 'la*se b*ried beneath the

paragraphs and pages that nobody e+er really read-D 7e dri&ted &or a moment- lost in tho*ght- then 'ontin*ed/ DI& I remember 'orre'tly- ea'h o& these *nits has a *ni5*e *ser assigned to it/ There are re'ords o& the patient%s treatments and pro'ed*res 'oded into the dri+e inside o& this *nit/D 8 "aitress 'ame by the table- and "e ordered drin0s- 5*ietly/ DB*t "e 'an'eled that series-D he added/ DWhy6 What happened6D I as0ed him/ DI &orget/ !omething "ent "rong/ ?eople starting s*&&ering &rom memory loss/ 8mnesia/D 8 'hill "ent do"n my spine/ Co*ld this de+i'e be the 0ey that I%d been see0ing6 DWhat 'a*sed the memory loss- reallyespe'ially i& the initial de+i'es "ere stable6 Aid something set it o&&6D I as0ed/

DIt%s a side e&&e't that o''*rred "hen a +iolent on *ne1pe'ted shi&t "o*ld o''*r-D he responded/ D8n *ne1pe'ted shi&t6 What are yo* tal0ing abo*t6D I started to "onder more abo*t Cor%s mental stability than abo*t ho" she%d entered the ho*se- been ta0en &rom the ho*se- or ho" "e%d get her memories ba'0- b*t only &or a moment- be'a*se he interr*pted my o"n "andering tho*ghts by 'ontin*ing on/ DCo*%re not going to li0e this-D he said'h*'0ling to himsel&/ DI already don%t li0e this- ?artain/D Where "as he &inding h*mor in this sit*ation6 DWe "ere "or0ing on 'ogniti+e and memory theories- e1perimenting "ith te'hnology that "e didn%t really *nderstand/ We "ondered i& memories are hard"ired into the brain or i& they are mere 'hemi'al arrangements- li0e beads on a stringL ones that 'an be altered and rearranged as one might see &it- or deleted

'ompletely/D ?artain dri&ted o&&- thin0ing o& something- or maybe he 4*st didn%t 'are anymore/ 3aybe there "ere too many 'hemi'als sat*rating his system2 his mind soa0ing in a !yn'hro !ystems ind*'ed st*por &rom "hi'h he ne+er "anted to ret*rn/ I "ondered "hen he%d been e1posed to one o& the banned treatments and ho" e&&e'ti+e it "o*ld be/ I "ondered i& it "as more or less e&&e'ti+e than the treatment he%d *sed on Coren/ O*r drin0s arri+ed- and I s"irled the i'e in my glass aro*nd in 'ir'les/ !*ddenly- ?artain 'ontin*ed- as i& he%d ne+er pa*sed at all/ DI remember things so 'learly- sometimes/ Other times I remember things that don%t ma0e any sense- &a'es- strange names- and b*ildings/ It%s all random- 4*mbled- and it%s hard to predi't "hen a ne" memory is going to s*r&a'e and "hat it "ill mean/ 8nd ho" I%ll *nderstand it/D

D!o yo*%re saying that the treatment%s not permanent-D I s*ggested/ 3aybe there "as hope/ DCes/ No/ I mean- I remember this# That "e%d basi'ally 'on'l*ded that the &inal res*lt o& memory manip*lations "as only semi, permanent- and that the original memories "ere &i1ed- li0e a mo+ie- and that yo* 'o*ld mo+e them aro*nd in the brain as m*'h as yo* "anted b*t yo* 'o*ldn%t 'hange anything# the brain "o*ld re'ompile the in&ormation in its original order- "ith time G sin'e e+erything that had happened pre+io*sly- thro*gh all o& that time- had bro*ght yo* to yo*r present pointand the brain has to ma0e sense o& that/ There seems to be a system o& elimination at "or0 in the mind- "here &alse memories are re4e'ted and p*rged &rom memory as they are pro'essed/ The h*man mind is in'redible and it ne+er stops "or0ing- 'ompiling in&ormationand sol+ing riddles/ 8t least *ntil yo* distra't it/ Or *npl*g it/ !o "e agreed to the treatment o*rsel+es *nder the ill*sion that "e a't*ally

had a 'hoi'e in the matter- in the e+ent that &*rther testimony "o*ld be re5*ired in the &allo*t a&ter the 'ompany%s &*rther 'ollapse this "ee0/ It%s not s*pposed to be permanenttho*gh it%s starting to &eel that "ay to me no"/ B*t hey- "hat 'an "e really 0no" &or s*re6D 7e had 'reases in the dar0 'ir'les *nder his eyesas i& he hadn%t slept in days/ 7e seemed to &o'*s on something &ar a"ay again- and I "ondered "here he "as going "hen his eyes gla.ed o+er li0e that/ DWhat happens i& the brain 'an%t &ig*re o*t "hi'h series o& e+ents is the 'orre't one6D I as0ed/ D=i0e yo*rs6D 7e as0ed- t*rning to &a'e meloo0ing me in the eye again/ DNery &*nny- ?artain/ E1'ept I%+e ne+er been thro*gh one o& yo*r pro'ed*res-D I retortedthro"n o&&/ I set my glass do"n/ I loo0ed a"ay/ D8re yo* s*re6D

There "as a long pa*se/ 7e "as trying to tri'0 me/ I didn%t e+en 0no" i& he "as telling the tr*th abo*t his o"n e1perien'e or i& it "as 4*st a r*se to thro" me o&& the right tra'0/ 7e "as still a 'ompany man- a&ter all/ 3aybe I "as getting too 'lose/ D!o "hat is this- really6D I as0ed- indi'ating the de+i'e/ I rolled it aro*nd in my hand- loo0ing at the "inding hands and dials inside o& it/ It really resembled 'lo'0"or0- e1'ept that it seemed too small to be &*n'tional and it "as in the shape o& a sphere- li0e a marble- instead o& a dis'- li0e a "at'h/ DI mean- "hat did !yn'hro really do to those people- and ho" is it that yo* e+en had s*b4e'ts to e1periment on at all- and ho" did yo* 'on+in'e them to implant this inside o& their bodies- and "hat else sho*ld I 0no" that yo*%re not telling me abo*t6D I stopped &or a breath/ I &ig*red it "as a reasonable eno*gh series o& 5*estions 'onsidering I "as the party

member "ith the g*n/ It "o*ld ha+e been *n&ort*nate &or him i& I a't*ally had to *se it/ DThin0 o& the de+i'e as ha+ing a personality o& its o"n/ The 8I programs inside o& it de+elop and mat*re as they age and they e1hibit in'linations and dire'tions o& modi&i'ations that best adapt to the *ser%s indi+id*al memory e1perien'e/ Remember- the de+i'e in yo*r hand is only a &irst,stage *nit- a prototype- and "as rendered obsolete and *n&it d*e to the trans'ription errors/ The &inal pro'ed*re seriesthe one "e treated o*rsel+es "ith 4*st this "ee0- relied on almost *ndete'table nanite s"arms 'omposed o& mostly organi' bases/ They "ere designed to be eliminated &rom the body- nat*rally- on'e the treatment had e&&e'ti+ely ta0en pla'e# *s*ally "ithin 4*st a 'o*ple o& ho*rs/D 7e pointed to the bathrooms/ DWe "anted a m*'h less in+asi+e approa'h- and o& 'o*rse- an approa'h "hi'h &a'ilitated deniability/ Co* piss them o*t on'e they%+e done their "or0- and sin'e they%re mostly organi'- yo* 'an%t stop them- e+en "ith an

ele'tromagneti' p*lse- so they%re m*'h less +*lnerable to destr*'tion than anything "e prod*'ed initially/ We%d e&&e'ti+ely militari.ed it/D 7e seemed e1'ited abo*t his resear'h- and at the same time- a bit too 0no"ledgeable'onsidering he%d s*pposedly had his mind blan0ed o*t o& pertinent 'lassi&ied in&ormation/ DCo* ha+e an a"&*lly good memory &or someone "ho *nder"ent the treatment-D I obser+ed/ DI%d really hate it i& yo* "ere lying to me abo*t any o& this/D DWhat reason do I ha+e to lie anymore6 8nything *se&*l- li0e ho" to engineer the nanites- is 4*st a blan0 spot in my head-D he retorted/ DI& yo* don%t belie+e me- shoot me/ Or order me another drin0/ 8l'ohol a''elerates the pro'ess- and I%m ready to &orget yo*&riend/D

We "ere drin0ing in a 'orner booth o& the Rat and ?arrot p*b- some"here in the o*tlying s*b*rbs o& =ondon- spending one o& o*r last nights in the 'ity "itho*t a real plan o& a'tiongoing "here+er the roads and e+ening "o*ld ta0e *s/ !he sipped a pint o& beer and I ran my hands o+er the marred "ooden s*r&a'e o& the tabletop- names and lo'ations et'hed into the grain o& the "ood o+er 'o*ntless nights by both dr*n0en tra+elers and bored lo'als/ Earlier that day- "e%d ta0en a train to Ao+er"here "e%d had o*t photo ta0en "ith the notorio*s "hite 'li&&s rising in the distan'e behind *s/ On the train- she slept- head in my lap- "hile I read a maga.ine/ E+ery no" and then- I%d loo0 o*t o& the "indo" &or more o& the same &ields and boro*ghs- at the time a little eager to ret*rn to =ondon- b*t also a little 'ontent to sit still- idle- en4oying the moment &or "hat it "as/

DThere%s &oam on yo*r lip-D I said to her- ta0ing a dra" &rom my o"n pint/ DIt%s good beer-D she responded- "iping her mo*th on the ba'0 o& her slee+e "ith a 'omi'al gest*re- passing her entire &orearm o+er her &a'e/ I thin0 by that point she "as more than a little dr*n0/ I& she didn%t mind- neither did I/ DWhat are "e going to do tonight6D I as0edsetting my glass do"n on the table and rea'hing o+er to pi'0 *p my 'igarette/ DWe%re going to 5*it smo0ing- I hope-D she saids'orning/ I la*ghed/ D8&ter that- I mean/D DI don%t 0no"/ 7ang o*t/ 3a0e o*t/ Ta0e a to*r o& ?*tney/D D8ll e1'ellent s*ggestions- lo+er/D

DThan0s9 That%s "hy I made them-D she said"in0ing at me/ We "al0ed aro*nd a lot- in e+ery 'ity that "e "ent to- and it "as ni'e be'a*se "e ne+er ran o*t o& things to tal0 abo*t and "e ne+er got bored on o*r e1'*rsions/ !he al"ays had an interesting obser+ation abo*t things or sometimes she%d &ind an obs'*re point to debate2 4*st as o&ten"e "o*ldn%t spea0 at all- 'ontent in ea'h other%s 'ompany/ Eood silen'e and the ability to p*ll it o&&- that%s something that really 'o*nts in the end/ 8nother ro*nd o& drin0s 'ame- &ollo"ed by 'on+ersational rambling and good silen'e/ 8&ter the bar had its last 'all- "e st*mbled o*t into the street- holding ea'h other *p- a s'ene &rom 'o*ntless mo+ies that I%d seen playing o*t in real li&e- right be&ore my eyes as I li+ed it/ E+erything seemed li0e a dream- bl*rry thro*gh my dr*n0enness/ We "andered do"n the road &or a "hile- e+ent*ally 'oming to rest at a "aiting ben'h near a b*s stop/ We sat/

DCo* 0no"-D I said to her- Dthat getting dr*n0 "ith yo* and being dr*n0 aro*nd yo*- it%s totally di&&erent than all those times that I al"ays got dr*n0 be&ore/D DIn a good "ay or a bad "ay6D she as0edh*ddling *p against me/ It "as a little "indy on that street- and as "as the *s*al in =ondone+erything "as "et- "hi'h made it seem a little 'hillier than it really "as/ D8 good "ay- a good "ay-D I reass*red her/ DIt%s a "ay that%s totally "itho*t the per+asi+e sense o& trying to hide &rom something- to es'apethat 'ame hand in hand "ith all the other times- ba'0 home-D I said- re&erring to the days be&ore she sho"ed *p/ The night be&ore she arri+ed- e+en- "hen I%d tried to dro"n it all o*t- n*mbing e+erything that might pain&*lly brea0 thro*gh/ I "ent on/ DIt%s really ni'e- and I 0no" that I%m being red*ndant "hen I tell yo* that- be'a*se I tell yo* ho" I lo+e yo* and ho" per&e't things are all o& the time- b*t I &eel li0e I%m 4*st not

e1pressing it on a le+el li0e I%m &eeling itbe'a*se "ords 4*st aren%t the right "ay to really &*lly e1press those &eelings/D DI 0no" "hat yo* mean-D she said- s5* me/ I 'o*ld &eel her &ingers gripping my side thro*gh the hea+y "ool o+er'oat I "as "earing/ O*r breath &ormed a small 'lo*d o& &og aro*nd *s as "e sat/ DE+en i& "e ne+er &ig*re o*t ho" I got here- or "here I 'ame &rom- or "hat my lost memories are- I%+e still got so many things to e1press to yo* that aren%t easily 'on+eyed thro*gh "ords/D DWords are all "e%+e got &or no"- h*h6D I as0ed0no"ing that she%d agree# We had so m*'h more/

I ordered another drin0/ D!o someone "ho "ent thro*gh the pro'essespe'ially early on- "o*ld they be li0e a 0idstill gro"ing *p6D I &o*nd the idea hard to get my head aro*nd/ DThey%d be m*'h more stable than a teenager/ Aon%t be silly9D 7e 'ra'0ed his 0n*'0les "ith his th*mbs one at a time/ They popped so lo*dly that the bartender loo0ed at *s- possibly thin0ing "e "ere being impatient &or the ne1t ro*nd/ DCo*%re not really ans"ering that one- tho*gh/ What 0ind o& beha+ior 'hanges 'o*ld a person e1pe't6D DWell- yo* might "ant to tal0 to some o& the resear'h assistants- sin'e they%re the ones "ho spent the most time aro*nd the s*b4e'ts immediately a&ter the treatments/ The other do'tors and I 4*st 'ompiled in&ormation and 'ame *p "ith ne" theories and approa'hes/ 8s I said- I%+e already &orgotten a lot o& the

details/ I 0no" that "e 'ame *p "ith a te'hnology that "as ne" and that "or0edL and maybe "or0ed too "ell/D 7e "in0ed at me/ ?artain "as a lot stranger to me today than the &irst time I%d met him- "hen he seemed so 'omposed and in 'ontrol o& the sit*ation/ D8nd yo* remember all o& this abo*t yo*r time at !yn'hro- b*t not eno*gh abo*t the rest o& yo*r resear'h to tell me ho" to &i1 Cor on'e I &ind her- or- at the +ery least- "here she might be-D I "as still d*bio*s- and it "as ta0ing a lot &or me to digest the possibility that his "ords "ere tr*th/ I needed a ne" approa'h i& I "anted to &ind o*t more rele+ant leads in my sear'h/ DI& there%s anything else yo*%d li0e to as0- or i& yo* plan on 0illing me- no" is the time to do it-D he said- sliding his empty glass a"ay &rom him and '*tting the meeting short/ I loo0ed in the dire'tion o& the bartender- "ho "asn%t paying any attention to *s- and then p*t !yn'hro%s de+i'e ba'0 into my 4a'0et po'0et/

DOther"ise- I%ll 'ontin*e drin0ing- no" that yo*%+e started me on that 'o*rse &or the day-D he 'ontin*ed/ DCo* don%t mind pi'0ing *p the tab &or me- do yo*6 I%m s*re that yo* 'an *nderstand that I%m a little lo" on 'ash right no"- ha+ing been re'ently *nemployed and all/D I ignored his sar'asm and pla'ed t"o t"enties on the table/ DThat sho*ld 'o+er it-D I said- pla'ing my hand on his sho*lder/ DThan0s &or the in&ormationdo'/ I%+e got to get going- any"ay/ B*t h*mor me &or another min*te/D 7e raised an eyebro" b*t didn%t 'omment/ DWhat do yo* thin0- Ar/ ?artain6D I as0ed him/ DWhat happens ne1t6 Where do I go &rom here6 8m I sear'hing &or nothing6 Is she gone &or good6D DCo*%re too &*'0ed *p-D he said to me/ D8ll this time I%+e been telling mysel& it%s all a dream- a

nightmare- e+en- and that I%ll "a0e *p soon/ 8ll this time I%+e been telling mysel& that I%+e lost my grip on reality and that I%+e slipped into a del*sional "orld that my mind had been 'reating &or me as I%+e been strapped into a 'hair in the middle o& a padded room some"here/ B*t there really is a stranger 'on&ronting me in a bar- threatening me "ith a g*n "hile b*ying me drin0s-D he la*ghed a&ter this/ 8ltho*gh he "as raising his +oi'e- the &e" people in the bar still seemed to be ignoring *s/ DB*t I%+e also learned that "hat e+eryone sees as &a'e +al*e is 4*st li0e the gloss 'oat on the s*r&a'e o& tr*th/ 8nd the tr*th is that people see "hat they "ant to see and &ind "hat they "ant to &ind/ Reality is 4*st a matter o& perspe'ti+e- &riend/ The treatments ha+e made me *ns*re o& most e+erything- b*t that%s the one thing I%m still positi+e abo*t/D ?artain "as really losing it/ 7e m*st ha+e ta0en the treatment more re'ently that he%d implied-

maybe e+en right be&ore I &o*nd him at the 'on+enien'e store/ I le&t him in the booth- m*mbling something abo*t a man named Aes'artes/

!he 0i'0ed sand *p into the air as she p*t her &eet do"n- stopping her motion abr*ptly/ 8 5*i..i'al loo0 made its "ay a'ross her &a'e/ DWhy%d yo* stop s"inging6D I as0ed- t"isting the 'hains o& the s"ing that I "as sitting on aro*nd and aro*nd- "aiting to ma0e mysel& di..y "hen they sp*n aro*nd- *n"inding/ I "as staring at the gro*nd aro*nd *s "here 'igarette b*tts "ere littered a'ross the grass and the sand/ I tho*ght that it "as 0ind o& &*nny that there "ere so many 'igarettes in a par0 "here 0ids "ere playing/ I "ondered i& it "as the 0ids that "ere smo0ing or i& the parents "ere doing soor i& no one really e+er "ent to the par0 anymore e1'ept yo*ng 'o*ples "ho had &allen in lo+e/ DI 4*st remembered something-D she saidstaring o&& into spa'e/ DI remember s"ingingli0e this- at a par0- and my dad "as p*shing me so that I 'o*ld get higher *p into the air/ The "ay my stoma'h dropped 4*st no"- that &eeling o& &ree,&all- it 4*st triggered the "hole thing9D

!he "as getting e1'ited- and I "as happy to see that she had remembered something- e+en sometime seemingly in'onse5*ential abo*t her past/ I "as glad that she had a real history2 she had real memories- altho*gh they "ere all lo'0ed *p some"here and *na+ailable to her/ DThat%s great ne"s9D I e1'laimed/ I "as b*sy li&ting my &eet and spiraling aro*nd as the s"ing *n"o*nd itsel&/ DCo*%re going to ma0e yo*rsel& si'0- st*pid-D she ad+ised- &inally t*rning to loo0 at me- giggling/ DE*ess that means I%ll need a 0iss to get better-D I replied- trying to &o'*s on her as I sp*n aro*nd- b*t she "as gone again- a bl*r/ I tried again on the ne1t pass/ 7o" many dreams do "e s*rpass "hen "e &ly6 DOr a 0n*'0le sand"i'h-D she said- holding *p her &ist/ 8nother thing abo*t her "as that she lo+ed to employ silly 'li'hFs- and "o*ld e+en go so &ar as to set *p a 'on+ersational sit*ation

4*st &or a reason to *se one/ !he made a good game o& it- and it seemed that I had 4*st &allen +i'tim to one o& her set*ps/ I didn%t mind/ DOr a 0n*'0le sand"i'h-D I e'hoed- p*tting my &eet do"n on the gro*nd/ DI &eel di..y9D DI "onder "hy memories 'ome ba'0 to me so randomly-D she said- res*ming s"inging/ DThe mind "or0s so strangely/D DAo yo* thin0 that i& yo* &eel other sensationsor see other sights- that it might trigger more memories6D I as0ed- already &eeling that the 5*estion had been ans"ered- b*t '*rio*s abo*t "hat her tho*ghts "ere on the s*b4e't/ DI don%t 0no"/ 3aybe/ The smell o& b*rning toast and ne"spapers at the deli aro*nd the 'orner- the te1t*re and smell o& a "arm to"el a&ter "ashing my &a'e in the morning- the &eeling in my stoma'h as I drop &or 4*st a se'ond in the ar' o& a s"ing- and e+en the so*nd that a b*s ma0es as its air bra0es release press*re "hen it stops to pi'0 me *pL all o&

those things ha+e triggered random memories &or me G e+en i& the memories "eren%t nearly as rele+ant to "hat "as happening as the one I 4*st had/ =i0e the time that yo* dropped a 0ni&e into the 0it'hen sin0 and it reminded me o& a ghost story that I%d heard on'e- "hen I m*st ha+e been a teenager/ !ometimes it%s "ith songs- too/ I%ll remember an entire song- a little sli'e o& an a&ternoon in the middle o& the "intertime- or the "ay a story 0ept me &rom sleeping one night- all be'a*se o& the seemingly *nimportant and 'oin'idental li0e the so*nd o& a 0ni&e &alling against the metal basin o& a 0it'hen sin0-D she pa*sed &or a moment/ DThere are people o*t there that "ill tell yo* that memories are all 4*st random 'hemi'al 'oding stored in the ner+es inside o& yo*r brain and that &alse memories 'an be &abri'ated 4*st as easily as real ones- as long as yo* 0no" "hat yo*%re doing/ I%+e as0ed them-D she said/

D!'ary tho*ght-D I responded- 'onsidering that the people she%d as0ed might be the 0ind o& people that "o*ld do something li0e thatgi+en the right e5*ipment and a "illing s*b4e't/ On'e *pon a time- I 'hose to belie+e that there "as something o*t there- something beyond "hat "as easily e1plainable/ Todaythat something meant that a strange girl had be'ome a part o& my li&e and her story "as a little beyond "hat "as rational- "hat "as logi'al- "hat seemed to be tr*thL and I 'a*ght mysel& it all- something I tended to do that had bro0en apart tr*st in the relationships that 'ame be&ore her- something I had learned to do as an *n"illing de&ensi+e me'hanism as a res*lt o&- most re'ently- the di+or'e/ I tr*sted her- &or "hate+er reason- and in doing so- I a''epted her mysteries as and strange- hidden past as part o& the deal/ DI%+e as0ed a man to try to help me re'all things- yo* 0no"-D she said- standing *pstepping a"ay &rom the s"ing/ I stayed p*t- no

longer preo''*pied "ith t"isting the 'rea0ing 'hains/ DAid it "or06D I as0ed- ass*ming that they%d &ollo"ed thro*gh/ D7e "o*ldn%t do it/ 7e said he might be able to i& "e "ere to sign all sorts o& releases and 'ontra't o*t "ith a pri+ate lab some"here o*tside o& the lo'al 4*risdi'tion- be'a*se there%s some 0ind o& in+estigation starting *p abo*t 'ertain types o& pro'ed*res his 'ompany has been trying o*t/ 7e said it%s not really in the ne"s yet- b*t that it%s abo*t to be/ 8ny"ayhe &eels that e+en i& "e "ere to ma0e the e&&ort- there%s too large a margin o& error and that it 'o*ld potentially do more harm than good- permanently erasing parts o& more than 4*st my memory- 'rossing o+er into my personality and identity itsel&/D D8 ris0 yo* sho*ldn%t ta0e-D I &inished &or her/ D8 ris0 that he%s not "illing to ta0e- at least not yet/ We%+e only been tal0ing &or a &e" "ee0s2

he%s been gi+ing me more time to re'o+er the memories on my o"n/D DWell- I &or one am glad that yo*%re ta0ing more time to remember things instead o& going "ith s*'h an in+asi+e approa'h/ I really en4oy it "hen yo*%re aro*nd and "o*ld hate it i& yo* "iped yo*r mind 'lean and &orgot all abo*t metoo9D I said- "at'hing her as she "al0ed aro*nd'ir'ling a par0 ben'h/ !he smiled and 0ept orbiting/ DWhat%s his name- any"ay6D I as0ed- o*t o& '*riosity/ D?artain/ Ar/ E+an ?artain-D she said/

Chapter 08 DThere%s a tr*'0er%s rest stop o&& the high"ay abo*t 20 0ilometers &rom here- b*t I thin0 that it 'loses at dar0/ 3aybe "e 'an get a ride &rom a &reight dri+er there or &rom someone "ho%s par0ed their 'ar there &or the night/D We 'o*ldn%t ta0e her 'ar be'a*se she%d let her boy&riend borro" it &or the "ee0 to go see his parents- "ho li+ed a &e" states a"ay/ DJanine-D I said/ DCan%t "e 4*st b*y a map6D !he opened her eyes and so*rly glared at me/ DI%+e been &ollo"ing yo* aro*nd all day/ In addition- don%t get me "rong G I don%t mind9 B*t I%m trying to remember ho" to get to this spe'i&i' tr*'0 stop- be'a*se there%s a +ery spe'i&i' diner ne1t door- and last time I 'he'0ed- it "asn%t listed on any map/D

DWhy does one tr*'0 stop or diner matter o+er any other "hen "e%ll probably pass &i+e others on the "ay6D I as0ed- not &ollo"ing her logi'/ DJ*st tr*st me on this one/ I%+e hit'hed rides o*t o& this parti'*lar one be&ore- and I 0no" that it%s m*'h sa&er there- "here the people 'an be tr*sted-D she responded as i& she "ere stating the ob+io*s/ D8nd they%+e got great grilled 'heese sand"i'hes-D she added/ DE+en tho*gh "e%re going in the opposite dire'tion than "e need to be6D DThe trail isn%t going to get m*'h 'older than it already has- so 4*st rela1/ We%ll &ind her/D I didn%t belie+e that at all- not &or a momentb*t Janine "as too help&*l to me to let her "al0 a"ay be'a*se I 'o*ldn%t restrain mysel& &rom mo*thing o&& to her abo*t ho" idioti' this deto*r "as/ !o I stopped arg*ing and let her thin0 abo*t "here it "as that "e "ere to ne1t/

DThe &a'ility that ?artain "or0ed o*t o& "as north o& here- on the o*tside o& the 'ity perimeter- b*t "e%ll only be able to rea'h it &rom 'ertain a''ess roads sin'e the main roads leading to it ha+e all been 'losed o&&/ I& I 'an tal0 to the right people- they%ll be able to tell me e+erything that "e need to 0no" abo*t e+ery ro*te- e+en i& none o& it%s on the map/ ?eople o&& the grid 0no" abo*t pla'es that are o&& the grid-D she in&ormed me/ D8&ter that- "e 'an ta0e a 'ab- e+en- hit'h a ride- b*y a tan0"hate+er/D I hoped that "e "o*ldn%t need a tan0/ We made it to the rest stop a &e" ho*rs later"here "e &o*nd that the diner ne1t door "as still open and "as relati+ely empty/ D8ren%t yo* h*ngry6D Janine as0ed- heading straight &or the door/ DI%m star+ing9D I &ollo"ed her into the diner- "here "e sat do"n at a booth against the "all- in the 'orner- a"ay &rom any &oot tra&&i' that 'o*ld

possibly ha+e arri+ed at s*'h a late ho*r/ !he ordered some pan'a0es- a grilled 'heese- and t"o sli'es o& apple pie- and I ordered a '*p o& 'o&&ee/ The "aitress seemed disinterested in *s- bored e+en- and that "as en'o*raging/ 8t least "e didn%t appear to be l*nati's on a del*sional 5*est- "hi'h "as ho" I "as starting to &eel/ The &ood 'ame 5*i'0ly- and sin'e I%d already &inished the &irst '*p- I ordered another/ D=ong night ahead o& yo*6D The "aitress as0ed thro*gh a mo*th &*ll o& 'he"ing g*m- &illing my '*p *p/ DI e1pe't that it "ill be-D I ans"ered/ On'e she%d le&t the table- I bro*ght the abd*'tion *p again/ DWhy "o*ld someone abd*'t her6D I "ondered o*t lo*d/

D3aybe someone needs her &or something- &or some sort o& plan/D DWell- they ob+io*sly 0no" more than she doesi& that%s the 'ase/ I& they 0no" "ho she is and thin0 that her memories 'an be re'o+ereddoes that mean they%re going to do more tests on her6 Aoes it mean they%re going to 'ond*'t more e1perimental treatments that might h*rt her6 We need to &ind them and p*t a stop to it be&ore they 'an do any more damage to her than they%+e already done/D D3aybe she doesn%t "ant *s to &ind her/D DI& someone 0no"s ho" to *nlo'0 her memories-D I said- a 'hill passing thro*gh me as I tho*ght o& the possibly terrible methods that the hypotheti'al do'tors "e "ere dis'*ssing might ha+e had at their easy disposal &or e1tra'ting in&ormation &rom s*b4e'ts "ith memory problems/ DThen they 'an ma0e her &orget all abo*t *s/D When I said *s- I really meant me/

The "aitress dropped o&& the &ood- along "ith a &resh '*p o& 'o&&ee &or both o& *s/ !he raised an eyebro" "hen she reali.ed that Janine planned on eating e+erything that "e%d ordered/ D7ere yo* go-D she said- "iping her hands on her apron/ DThan0s-D I ans"ered- and she "al0ed ba'0 into the 0it'hen/ Janine too0 a sip o& "ater and loo0ed right at me/ D8re yo* really "illing to go "here+er yo* ha+e to so that yo* 'an do something abo*t this6D !he as0ed in a serio*s tone that "as *n*s*al &or her/ DO& 'o*rse I am/D DThere%s no 5*estion- then- no do*bt in my mind that I am "illing to do the same thing &or both o& yo*/ Co* g*ys are abo*t the only &amily that I%+e got/D

DThan0s/ This is all too big &or me to really *nderstand-D I said- p*tting my &a'e into my hands/ Normally- I "asn%t spending the day dealing "ith things li0e 0idnappingbrain"ashing- and 'orporate espionage/ I didn%t e+en 0no" "here to begin &ig*ring o*t the s'attered trail o& 'l*es &illing *p the spa'e all aro*nd me- or "hose in&ormation "as legitimate- or "here I 'o*ld &ind my heart/ The most in depth de'ision that I%d made in "ee0s had 'entered on "hi'h digital mer'hant I "anted to shop my m*si' o*t to- "hat royalty rates they%d be able to pro+ide to me- and ho" long it "o*ld ta0e to propagate thro*gh their retail o*tlets/ 8ll o& those types o& de'isions "ere already a "orld a"ay &rom me and gro"ing more distant e+ery min*te/ D8ll things that really matter are-D Janine saidrea'hing &or my 'igarettes/ DCo* really sho*ldn%t smo0e-D I said- allo"ing the s*b4e't o& the 'on+ersation to shi&t/ Changing the s*b4e't "as another bad habit o&

mine- I s*ppose2 I tended to do it "hene+er I &elt *n'om&ortable or &elt I "as getting too deeply in+ol+ed in things that sho"ed emotional "ea0ness or +*lnerability on my part/ Inside- I &elt on the +erge o& brea0ing do"n and 'rying li0e a baby- right there in the middle o& some "eird diner o*tside o& the 'ity2 I &elt li0e s'reaming and tearing o*t hair- doing the "hole bibli'al "eeping and gnashing o& teeth in a pile o& ash- 4*st to indi'ate the deep le+els o& my torment/ Inside- I &elt li0e an e1plosion "as o''*rring- and I "as applying all o& the &or'e that I 'o*ld m*ster "ithin me to hold it in- to 'ontain it- to 0eep it &rom brea0ing o*t- ma0ing me lose my grip 'ompletely/ It "as m*'h easier to stay on the lighter side o& things 'on+ersationally- and as long as Janine "o*ld let me remain there- things "o*ld be &ine/ Contained/ Controlled/ Corentine "as the only person I%d e+er 0no" that I &elt 'ompletely at ease "ith opening *p

to- and that 'onne'tion happened almost instantly/ 8nd she "as gone "itho*t a tra'e/ DTe'hni'ally- I sho*ldn%t be doing a lot o& the things that I do- yo* 0no"-D she said- lighting the 'igarette- then passing it to me/ !he rea'hed into the pa'0 and p*lled o*t another one/ DB*t I%m not li0e anyone else that yo* 0no"- am I6 !mo0ing is hardly brea0ing the r*les 'ompared to the other "ays that "e%re de&ying "hat%s Ms*pposed% to be Mright%-D she a''ented the "ords "ith her hands- ma0ing sign lang*age 5*otation mar0s be&ore lighting the se'ond 'igarette/ DCo*%re a+oiding tal0ing abo*t this already- I 0no"- and I "ant yo* to 0no" that I noti'ed/D DE*ess I%m still in sho'0 or something-D I o&&ered/ The "aitress ret*rned- dropping o&& the 'he'0/ DI%ll pay this-D Janine o&&ered- and I shr*gged/ DI& yo* "ant-D I said- loo0ing o*t the "indo"/

!he grabbed the 'he'0 and got her "allet o*tthen "al0ed *p to the 'o*nter/ I "asn%t paying that m*'h attention to her- b*t "hen she still hadn%t ret*rned to the table a&ter a &e" moments- I loo0ed to"ards the 'o*nter to ma0e s*re e+erything "as o0ay/ It "o*ld be 'ompletely *na''eptable &or someone else to +anish on me- I tho*ght/ !he "as tal0ing to a man at the 'o*nter- and he "as pointing in the dire'tion o& another man "or0ing *nder the hood o& a RN in the par0ing lot/ !he shoo0 the &irst man%s hand- and then ret*rned to the table/ DReady to go6D !he as0ed/ DCeah- let%s get mo+ing-D I said/ DIt%s not getting any earlier/D I le&t a tip on the table and &inished my 'o&&ee o&& in a g*lp- and then "e le&t the diner/ Janine ya"ned and stret'hed as "e stepped into the par0ing lot/

DI%m so sleepy-D she in&ormed me/ DThat 'o&&ee didn%t seem to "or0 at all9D I tho*ght abo*t ho" I 'o*ld *se a nap mysel&b*t I do*bted that I%d be able to sleep anytime soon/ It "as getting 'hilly o*tside- and the s0y "as o+er'ast- 'lo*ds obs'*ring the rising moon/ The iodine lights in the par0ing lot 'li'0ed and b*..ed and the so*nd o& 'ars on the nearby high"ay "ere a d*ll drone- &illing the ba'0gro*nd "ith ambient noise/ !ome"here in the distan'e- I heard sirens/ I stopped &or a moment- loo0ing *p at the s0yta0ing a deep breath o& the 'ool night air/ Janine hailed the man standing at the mobile home- and he ret*rned her "a+e- so she started bris0ly "al0ing to"ards him/

?aris had its moments/ The $ren'h "ere generally ami'able- b*t I%m s*re that her impressi+e 'ommand o& their lang*age helped *s o*t a lot/ I%d heard stories o& less prepared to*rists "ho "ere stranded in a 'ity &*ll o& people "ho *nderstood English b*t re&*sed to spea0 it- stri'tly on prin'iple/ The 'ity smelled li0e a tho*sand years o& h*manity- the same as all o& the other old 'ities s'attered a'ross E*rope did to one degree or another/ I g*ess that being in lo+e and abroad ma0es things seem a little bettertho*gh2 the d*st and soot ta0e on a 'harm o& their o"n "hen they%re part o& a pla'e%s personality- no longer mere negligen'e or disrepair on the part o& the 'ity%s inhabitants/ ?aris "as a 'ity *ndo*btedly &illed "ith "asted*st- and soot- b*t it "as also a 'ity &illed "ith the smells o& green hay- 'andle "a1- and melting b*tter/ Aar0- d*sty library basements "ere o+er&lo"ing "ith the re'ords o& generations already &orgotten/ !team rose on

'obblestone path"ays li0e the ghosts o& &amo*s e1patriates/ It "as one o& those pla'es yo* lo+ed to +isit- b*t yo*%d ne+er "ant to li+e there2 the +eneer "o*ld ha+e "orn a little too thin in pla'es and the per&e'tion rested a little bit too &ar a'ross the line# on the &airy tale side o& things/ B*t that%s "hat made it per&e't- that morning as I "at'hed the 'ity 'ome ali+e &rom o*r bal'ony- as she alternated bet"een 'he"ing her nails "ith *tmost 'on'entration and dropping hal+es o& stra"berries into her glass o& 'hampagne- '*rio*s abo*t the b*bbles that appeared &rom no"here aro*nd ea'h sin0ing pie'e o& &r*it/

I t*rned to &ollo" Janine in the dire'tion o& the RN/ !he had already arri+ed and "as spea0ing to the man "ho she had 'alled to &rom a'ross the par0ing lot/ 7e "ore a red 'he'0ed &lannel shirt that loo0ed li0e he hadn%t "ashed it in years- and his modern,loo0ing glasses slid do"n his nose as he e1plained to Janine that his engine had o+erheated and that it loo0ed li0e he "as stranded in the par0ing lot &or the night/ Janine raised an eyebro"- loo0ed *nder the hood- and immediately 'ommen'ed tin0ering "ith the "or0ings o& the engine/ The man and I both peered o+er her sho*lder- trying to see "hat she "as doing/ DCo*%re in my light-D she said- and "e mo+ed o*t o& the "ay/ DCan yo* pass me a s're"dri+er6D D7old on &or a se'-D the man said- "al0ing o+er to a small red toolbo1- "here he e+idently "as 0eeping a s're"dri+er/ 7e passed her the tool-

and &e" moments later- she 'losed the hood o& the RN/ DTry to start it-D she ordered- sm*gly sti'0ing her hands into her po'0ets a&ter "iping them o&& on her pants/ 7e hopped into the dri+er%s seat and t*rned the ignition s"it'h/ The engine started on the &irst try/ DNery impressi+e me'hani'al "or0 going on there9 No" it r*ns so 5*ietly9D The man said to her- ignoring me 'ompletely/ DWhat%s yo*r name6D D8 little tri'0 I pi'0ed *p on'e "hen I "as dating a me'hani'-D she replied "ith a non'halant e1pression/ DThe name%s Janine/D !he shoo0 his hand/ 7e lingered- holding her hand 4*st a little bit longer than he probably sho*ld ha+e/ DI appre'iate the help-D he ans"ered- still loo0ing at her/ DI%m totally *seless "hen it 'omes to the me'hani's o& things- so yo* 4*st sa+ed me a 'all to the to" ser+i'e and a high

probability o& getting s'ammed by a shop some"here/ 3y name%s 7*nter/D 7*nter "ore glasses- the 0ind that loo0ed e1pensi+e and hip- made o& br*shed *ltra,light alloy/ They "ere the 0ind o& spe'ta'les yo*%d &ind in &ashion maga.ines &rom e1oti' &oreign 'o*ntries that yo*%d ne+er been to and 'o*ldn%t prono*n'e the names o&/ Interestingly- the glasses "ere in dire't 'ontrast "ith the rest o& his dishe+eled style- in &a't- "ith his appearan'e as a "hole- as i& they "ere the one mon*ment to a li&e o& prosperity amidst the r*ins o& a man no" on the road/ 7e "as *n0empt- and I 'ompared his style "ith that o& a typi'al eight year old2 it seemed that he had made an e&&ort to 'oordinate an o*t&it- b*t he%d &ailed miserably at mat'hing things *p/ 7is shirt "as b*ttoned in'orre'tly- "rin0led- and smelled slightly li0e milde"/ One o& his shoes "as *ntied/ 7is so'0s didn%t mat'h/ It "as intentional- o& 'o*rse- I%m s*re o& ittho*gh he%d deny that i& yo* "ere to e+er as0

him abo*t it/ It "as all part o& some statement he "as probably ma0ing in de&ian'e against "hate+er li&e he%d li+ed be&ore/ 7e "as probably some ri'h 0id trying to be a bohemian/ Was it "rong o& me to ma0e s*'h an ass*mption abo*t him based merely on my &irst '*rsory impression6 It seemed li0e he "anted people to loo0 at him and thin0 he "as st*piddisorgani.ed- and 'are&ree/ There "as something abo*t the "ay he loo0ed at *stho*gh- that made me thin0 that there "as a lot more going on in his head than he "as letting on/ Aespite all o& those seemingly *nattra'ti+e 5*alities- he seemed li0e a good person/ I had one o& those &eelings that yo* get- yo* 0no""hen yo* 'li'0 "ith someone straight o&& the bat/ Not 5*ite the same as it "as "ith Cor- ho" 'o*ld it be6 B*t not altogether di&&erenteither/ Co*ld "e tr*st him6 Was I "rong6 DWhere are yo* heading- 7*nter6D I as0ed/

DWell- I%m 0ind o& 4*st dri+ing aro*nd- b*t I planned on going o*t "est on'e I 'he'0ed o*t the to"n/ 8lmost made it- too- *ntil I started ha+ing this problem "ith the tr*'0 o+erheating/ Co* 0no"- see the sights o& 8meri'a be&ore I settle do"n- be&ore I start a li&e some"here/D Well- at least he seemed to &it into the mold o& "hat I%d e1pe'ted o& him by my pre'*rsory ass*mptions abo*t him# probably not 0no"ing ho" to add 'oolant to the radiator- probably ignorant abo*t ho" to 'hange the oil/ I "ondered i& he%d e+er e+en loo0ed *nder the hood/ DI o"e yo* one-D he said/ DCan I gi+e yo* t"o a li&t some"here6D D8't*ally-D Janine ans"ered- Dmy &riend and I need a ride to a pla'e that%s abo*t an ho*r o*tside o& the 'ity/ Thin0 yo* 'an help *s o*t "ith that6D DAon%t see "hy that "o*ld be a big problem-D he said- opening the passenger door o& the RN and

gest*ring &or *s to 'limb on board/ DE*ess ta0ing a 'ab o*tside o& the 'ity "o*ld be a pretty e1pensi+e &are- h*h6 Why else "o*ld yo* "ant to get a li&t o*t there- right6D DIt%s a't*ally 0ind o& 'ompli'ated-D I ans"ereda little p*t o&&/ I t*rned to Janine/ DI& it%s a problem- "e 'an &ind someone else to help *s/D DIt%s not a problem- man-D he said to me/ DI& yo*%re ready- I%m ready9 J*st point me in the right dire'tion/D DWe appre'iate it-D I said to him- 0i'0ing at a pie'e o& bro0en glass on the asphalt and loo0ing ba'0 into the diner- "hi'h "as as empty as e+er/ DCo* g*ys don%t mind pit'hing in &or a little gasdo yo*6D 7*nter as0ed *s/ DThis beast o& a ride may be 'om&y- b*t she only gets abo*t se+en miles to the gallon/D 8ltho*gh he had posed it as a 5*estion- I thin0 that it "as more o& a &riendly "ay o& telling *s that it "as an e1pe'ted 'ontrib*tion/ There "as a glimmer in

his eye that made me a little '*rio*s- b*t I dismissed it/ DNot a problem-D I replied/ DIt%s good to see yo*%+e got re'lining 'hairs in here-D I saidya"ning/ I "as m*'h more tired than I had reali.ed and the 'o&&ee &rom earlier hadn%t done a bit o& good/ DCo* 'an &ind yo*r "ay aro*nd in here-D he stated- indi'ating the entire 'abin o& the RN/ D3a0e yo*rsel& at home/ !*re yo* g*ys "ant to head o*t tonight6D Janine loo0ed at her "at'h/ DIt%s pretty late already-D she obser+ed/ DB*t "e sho*ldn%t 'all it a night yet/ Besides- I bet yo*%re pretty eager to ma0e yo*r "ay ba'0 to"ards the 'ity on'e yo* drop *s o&&/D DCool-D he said- smiling at her/ DI%m gonna ta0e a bathroom brea0- then- be&ore "e hit the road/ There are drin0s in the &ridge i& yo* "ant something-D he o&&ered/

DAo yo* thin0 "e 'an tr*st this g*y6D I as0ed 5*ietly as0ed Janine on'e 7*nter had "al0ed o*t o& earshot and "as 'loser to the diner/ !he 'he'0ed her "at'h again/ DIt%s getting late/ It "ill ta0e *s at least an ho*r to get to ?artain%s &a'ility/ We 'o*ld 'all a 'abb*t it%s probably going to ta0e more than an ho*r &or one to get o*t here- then another ho*r or more to get to the lo'ation/ 8 ride%s a rideand "e%+e got one no"/ Or "o*ld yo* rather "ait *ntil tomorro"- "hen the trail might be 'older than it already is6D !ar'asm- maybe- b*t she made a good point/ DWe don%t 0no" him- tho*gh/ 8nd he might thin0 "e%re 'ra.y i& "e tell him the tr*th/D D!o don%t tell him anything- st*pid9D !he sho+ed me play&*lly/ DRela1/ It%s 4*st a ride/ I%m s*re that a night "at'hman "ill be at the labs and 'an let *s 'he'0 the s*r+eillan'e tapes to see i& Cor%s passed thro*gh there/ 3aybe "e%ll r*n into

someone that%s seen her- "hi'h "o*ld ma0e things a lot easier &or *s &or s*re/D DI& she%s been o*t to the labs in the &irst pla'eany"ay-D I said/ We "ere grasping at stra"sand I 0ne" it/ D!he might ha+e gone some"here else G somepla'e that "e%ll ne+er be able to &ind her at/D

DWal0 some more6D I as0ed- stret'hing o*t a little/ D=et%s-D she said- standing/ We "al0ed aro*nd the neighborhoods &or a "hile in the early ho*rs o& morning be&ore ret*rning to o*r room at a little bed and brea0&ast/ The hotel o"ner "as behind the 'o*nter "or0ing on a 'ross"ord "hen "e made o*r "ay thro*gh the &ront door to"ards the stairs that led *p to o*r room/ !he nodded at *s "ith a 0no"ing "in0 and ret*rned her attention to the 'ross"ord p*..le/ I%m s*re that she had plenty o& e1perien'e "ith dr*n0en 8meri'an 'o*ples st*mbling in at all ho*rs- and she%d &o*nd that it "as best to 4*st ignore them- &or the most part- *ntil they%d mo+ed on/ !hortly therea&ter- "e 'limbed into bed together- shi+ering &rom the 'hill in the sheets/ With 'hattering teeth- she e1pressed "hat I interpreted at the time as the &irst signs o& be'oming bored "ith me/

DI%d li0e to get a 4ob on'e "e get ba'0 home-D she said- sha0ing/ D8re yo* dr*n06D I as0ed- not belie+ing that she "as serio*s/ D8 little- b*t sober eno*gh/ I need to p*ll more "eight "ith things/ Co* 'an%t 4*st hang aro*nd "ith me "hile "e "ander aro*nd to"n e+ery day &or the rest o& o*r li+es- yo* 0no"/ I need a 4ob- something to help "ith st*&& aro*nd the ho*se- at least/ Co* 0no"- I%d li0e to be the one to pay &or o*r dinner sometimes-D she said- and I 'o*ld tell by the tone o& her +oi'e that she really "as serio*s/ DNo/ I mean- I don%t 0no"-D I ans"ered herde&ian'e already 'reeping into my +oi'e/ DI%+e got plenty o& money le&t &rom the di+or'e settlement2 it sho*ld get *s thro*gh a pretty good stret'h o& time/ I& anything *se&*l 'ame o*t o& that relationship- it%s the 'ash/D !he 0i'0ed her &eet a little- as "as her habit "hen she &irst 'limbed into bed- something she

did "hen she "as e1'ited or trying to stay "arm/ It "as 4*st another one o& those things that yo* al"ays noti'e b*t don%t really pay a "hole lot o& attention to *ntil the "eirdest times- "hen they either annoy yo* or seem inappropriate/ This time- it "as both/ I didn%t "ant her to lea+e i& she didn%t ha+e to/ In my mind- "e didn%t ha+e to stay in the apartment &ore+er2 there "ere 'o*ntless 'ities "e 'o*ld e1plore together/ The idea o& getting a 4ob and settling do"n seemed to be a threat to the magi'- so o& 'o*rse I "as opposed to it9 DIt%s not really abo*t the money- tho*gh-D she in&ormed me/ DWhat%s it abo*t6D I as0ed- s*ddenly &eeling +ery do*bt&*l o& my o"n ability to 'ontrol the ne1t &e" min*tes/ I &elt a l*mp rising in my throat"orry that she needed the spa'e to get a"ay &rom me- that she "as bored "ith me or that I had o*tli+ed my *se&*lness to her- or "orsethat she%d 'on'l*ded that she didn%t lo+e me anymore/ When yo*%re 'a*ght *p in moments

li0e that- the logi' o& the sit*ation is 'ompletely o+erridden by the emotional entanglements yo* ha+e "ith the other person/ I "as getting s'ared/ I%d been do"n the road o& do*bt and instability be&ore and the only pla'e it ended "as "hen one party rea'hed a point o& being too bro0en to 'arry on any &arther/ DIt%s abo*t the &a't that yo* "ent &rom being 'ompletely independent- ans"ering to no one b*t yo*rsel&/ No" yo*%re at the other end o& the spe'tr*m- all be'a*se o& the one day that I 0no'0ed on yo*r door/ The one day that I 'hose yo*r spe'i&i' door- and I 'hanged e+erything in yo*r li&e/ It%s abo*t ho" yo* ne+er as0ed &or any o& this- and one day I "as 4*st thereneeding help- and ho"- in a &e" short monthsyo*%re tra+eling all o+er the "orld "ith some stranger "ho has amnesia abo*t e+erything in her li&e *p to the point that she met yo*-D she spo0e 5*i'0ly/ !he%d ob+io*sly been thin0ing abo*t it &or a "hile/

DIt%s abo*t ho" yo*%+e ne+er said no- ho" yo*%+e ne+er been *n0ind abo*t things- ho" yo*%+e ne+er gotten &r*strated or annoyed "ith me and all o& my "eird stories and problems/ Co*%+e been nothing b*t per&e't- and I 'an%t help b*t &eel li0e it%s all a ho*se o& 'ards- abo*t to be blo"n a"ay- lea+ing me lost "itho*t yo*-D she "as 'rying as she spo0e- and I &elt a little si'0 and ner+o*s- all sorts o& emotions triggering a 'on&li't o& physi'al rea'tions "ithin me/ I didn%t mo+e/ D=ost "itho*t yo* is something that I 'an%t ta0e-D she 'ontin*ed/ DNot no"- and I don%t 0no" "hy that is or ho" it 'ame to be that "ay- b*t I 4*st 'o*ldn%t go on/ I "ant to gi+e yo* spa'e so I don%t s*&&o'ate yo*- so I don%t dro"n yo* in all o& me/D DI%+e had a &e" lessons in dro"ning- b*t this isn%t one o& them-D I replied/ It "as- as *s*al- a light,hearted response to a serio*s topi'- b*t I 0ne" that she%d *nderstand/ !he al"ays did/

Chapter 09 D7a+e yo* seen anything "eird behind *s6D Janine as0ed/ D8nything "eird6D 7*nter repeated the 5*estion/ DE*ess not-D she de'ided/ DWhat do yo* thin0 that yo* sa"6D I as0edp*lling the blinds apart in the ba'0 "indo" o& the RN so that I 'o*ld get a better +ie" o*t onto the road behind *s/ DNothing- I%m 4*st being paranoid I g*ess-D she said/ D?aranoia%s a good thing a&ter a day li0e the one "e%re ha+ing-D I reminded her/ DI probably 4*st need a nap/D I nodded- re'lining the o+ersi.ed and 'om&ortable s"i+eling 'hair/

DThat%s a good idea/ 7*nter- 'an yo* "a0e me *p in K or 20 min*tes6D DNo problem- man/ No problem/D When I slept- I dreamed- and "hile I "o*ldn%t go so &ar as to 'all the dream a nightmare- it de&initely "as &rightening/ I "asn%t s*re abo*t its basis in reality- b*t I 0ne" that my mind "as re&le'ting on the past &e" months- and more spe'i&i'ally- the e+ents o& the past &e" days/ It "as 'ontin*ation o& an old dream/ I 'o*ldn%t &ind my +oi'e- and I "as trying to "arn Cor abo*t a s*dden- mena'ing dar0ness mo+ing to"ards her &rom the &ar end o& the 'orridor behind her/ It "as right behind herli0e a +ast shado"- e1'ept that it "as more s*bstantial than any shado"2 it "as almost as i& the distan'e and imagery behind her "as being erased "ith ea'h moment that passed/

!he didn%t noti'e the pani'0ed loo0 on my &a'e2 she 4*st 0ept smiling at me- doodling little neon designs "ith her &inger on the glass/ I started pointing &ranti'ally to the approa'hing bla'0ness behind her- b*t she didn%t respond/ !he didn%t rea't to me at all/ 8s it 'ame 'loser to her- it too0 on the shape o& "hat appeared to be a giant angel or demon"ings spreading o*t o& the bla'0ness and ta0ing shape- and then "hate+er it "as too0 on the more re' dimensions o& a man/ 8 man "ith "ings# that%s an angel- right6 When the eyes o& the 'reat*re opened- they "ere the 'olor o& &ire- and I &inally 'ried o*t- p*n'hing at the mirror as hard as I 'o*ld/ The glass bro0e into tho*sands o& pie'es and &ell a"ay/ Blood dripped &rom my hand to the bathroom &loor5*i'0ly &orming a p*ddle m*'h li0e the one that "as 'a*sed by the o+er&lo"ing sin0 in the apartment- ba'0 on Aay One/ There "as no "all behind the bathroom mirror2 instead- there "as a long t*nnel/ It reminded

me o& a +entilation sha&t- li0e the 0ind that yo* see in mo+ies "here the lead 'hara'ter has to ma0e his "ay thro*gh it in order to a+oid being dete'ted and 'apt*red by se'*rity/ Or monsters/ $or some reason- it seemed li0e a good idea to 'limb into the +entilation sha&t that "as behind the mirror/ I too0 the to"el o&& o& its hanger on the "all behind me and "rapped it aro*nd my bleeding handmindlessly t"isting it aro*nd and aro*nd in my &ist so that I 'o*ld stop the bleeding/ I 'on'entrated on seeing something in the sha&t in &ront o& me besides an in0y dar0ness/ I 'limbed in- brea0ing the &a*'et o&& o& the sin0ignoring it as it 'r*mbled a"ay into nothingness- part o& a &orgotten s'ene/ 8&ter a &e" moments o& 'ra"ling thro*gh the sha&t- I sa" a light- so I 0ept on in the only dire'tion a+ailable to me/ T*rning aro*nd at that point "o*ld ha+e been more di&&i'*lt than pressing on/ I rea'hed the end o& the sha&t a little "hile later- and "hile I "as a"are that time had passed- e+erything so &ar had passed

by me li0e a bl*r/ I had the strange tho*ght that my dream "as 'a*sing time itsel& to be'ome s0e"ed/ I emerged into an empty room "here the "alls "ere painted "hite and per&e'tly mat'hed the 'eiling and the &loor/ It "as as i& I had entered into a large '*be- "here any side 'o*ld ser+e as the &loor or the 'eiling sho*ld the room be rotated/ I%m not s*re "hy that idea o''*rred to me- either- b*t it seemed to be important/ I 0ne" that I "as there to meet someone b*t I "asn%t s*re "hy I "as the only person there i& that "as the 'ase/ I &elt something br*sh against my an0le- so I loo0ed do"n- &inding a s0inny orange 'at beside me- loo0ing *p at me "ith "ide eyes/ DAo not be a&raid-D it said to me- and I remembered hearing those "ords some"here else be&ore- b*t I 'o*ldn%t re'all "here/

DI%m not-D I ans"ered "ith total 'on+i'tion/ I had no 5*estions "hatsoe+er abo*t "hy a 'at "o*ld be spea0ing to me in English/ DIt%s a &a't-D the 'at began- Dthat there are three &earless types that e1ist/ The &irst is a "arrior/ The se'ond- a &ool/D The 'at pa*sedli'0ing a pa"/ I noti'ed that the "alls "ere &ading a"ay aro*nd *s- and that "e "ere in the middle o& the sea- &loating on the s*r&a'e as i& "e "ere on a ra&t/ The "a+es lapped *p against the sides o& the no" in+isible '*be/ DThe third- my &riend-D and he pa*sed again- I thin0 mostly &or e&&e't- be'a*se it "as a dream li0e that/ DThe third type o& person "ho has no &ear is a pro&essional thie&- as he plans his 'rime meti'*lo*sly and 0no"s that he "ill ne+er be apprehended/ That is- as long as he ne+er ma0es a mista0e/D I tried to spea0- b*t 'o*ld not/

DWho%s ma0ing a mista0e6D the 'at as0ed me/ DWho%s ne+er made a mista0e6D I "o0e *p "hen my &a'e hit the &loor o& the RN/ Random ob4e'ts "ere &lying all aro*nd me and all I 'o*ld really &o'*s on "as the "ay that the 'arpet loo0ed/ I heard Janine repeating the "ord D'on'entrateD *nder her breath and I tried to get a handle on "hat "as happening all aro*nd me/ I "as still groggy &rom sleeping so hea+ily- b*t I &orgot abo*t the dream shortly a&ter that- instead &o'*sing on the more immediate and pressing matters at hand/ I loo0ed *p and sa" Janine leaning against the 'abin "all- one hand helping her to balan'e as the RN ro'0ed aro*nd- b*'0ing as i& it "ere trying to thro" *s o*t o& it- the other hand pressed against her head/ 7er eyes "ere 'losed and she seemed to be doing a pretty good 4ob 'on'entrating on "hate+er it "as that she "as trying to &o'*s on- be'a*se she didn%t rea't at all to the s"i+eling 'aptain%s 'hair that 0ept

banging into her leg in rhythm "ith the +ehi'le%s 'haoti' motions/ 7*nter- sa&ely b*'0led into the dri+er%s seat"as "restling "ith the steering "heel- 'raning his head to 'he'0 the mirrors/ 7e "asn%t doing as good o& a 4ob "at'hing the road ahead o& *s as he "as "at'hing "hate+er it "as that "as behind *s- ob+io*sly- "hi'h had led to my &all &rom the re'lining 'hair in the &irst pla'e/ I%m not s*re ho" I slept thro*gh the 'haos leading *p to that moment- b*t I remember thin0ing that it "as already be'oming a bad habit that I needed to brea0# sleeping thro*gh disaster a&ter disaster/ While it seemed to be 0eeping me ali+e- it "as also 0eeping me dangero*sly misin&ormed abo*t "hat "as going on/ DWhat%s going on6D I yelled a'ross the RN/ DCo*%re not going to belie+e it *ntil yo* see it9D 7*nter e1'laimed- still 'on'entrating most o& his attention on the mysterio*s e+ents transpiring behind *s/

DTREE9D I yelled ba'0 at him- "at'hing the road ahead o& *s- sin'e he "as doing a piss,poor 4ob o& it/ 7e s"er+ed the tr*'0- hard- setting it into another "a+e o& bo*n'es and ro'0ing "hile ne" items "ere dislodged &rom "here+er he%d had them sto"ed a"ay/ 8t least none o& the st*&& getting trashed &rom all o& his terrible dri+ing "as o*rs- sin'e "e le&t in s*'h a h*rry and so imp*lsi+ely that "e didn%t pa'0 anything to bring "ith *s/ It "as a good thing that "e didn%t ha+e any pets on board- too/ I al"ays had tho*ghts li0e that in the "eirdest moments/ DThis damned rig is too damned slo"9D 7*nter yelled in &r*stration- p*n'hing the steering "heel/ :ns*re o& "hat I 'o*ld do that "o*ld be help&*l- I made my "ay to"ards the &ront o& the tr*'0- 'limbing o+er the +ario*s shi&ting piles o& bo*n'ing and rattling 4*n0- *ltimately landing in the 'opilot%s 'hair beside 7*nter/ DWat'h o*t9D he yelled at me- rea'hing o+er "ith his right arm- trying to grab something

that I hadn%t noti'ed be&ore- b*t it "as too late/ 8 laptop 'omp*ter bo*n'ed o*t o& the seat at abo*t the same time as I landed in itand be'a*se he "as trying to 'at'h it- he 4er0ed the steering "heel too hard- 'a*sing the 'omp*ter to &ly into the door beside me/ O+er all the rest o& the noise- I heard a lo*d 'ra'0and then the laptop t*mbled to"ards to the &loorboard at my &eet/ DAamn it-D he said- p*tting both hands ba'0 on the steering "heel/ I didn%t say anything- "ondering "hy the laptop "as 4*st sitting in the 'hair in the &irst pla'eand "hy it hadn%t &allen to the &loor be&ore I de'ided to o''*py the 'hair/ It didn%t matter2 I 0ne" that "e%d &ig*re o*t a "ay to repair it i& it "as bro0en- "hi'h "as probably all that 7*nter "as 'on'erned abo*t any"ay/ Ne+er mind that his +ehi'le- more e1pensi+e than a small ho*se"as being trashed by his terrible dri+ing "hile "e &led &rom something behind *s that I still hadn%t seen/ Ne+er mind that I "as still

'on&*sed abo*t "hat "as going on- "hile Janine stood behind *s- 'hanting'on'entrating/ I &ig*red that I "o*ld be most *se&*l as a spotter and 'opilot &or 7*nter by mo+ing *p to the &ront seat- sin'e he seemed to be ha+ing iss*es &o'*sing on the road ahead o& *s/ DAon%t "rap *s aro*nd any phone poles- o0ay6D I as0ed him- trying to grab the seat belt/ Be&ore he had a 'han'e to respond- he hit the bra0es a little too late as "e entered a t*rnand a series o& billboard s*pport beams 'ame into +ie" 4*st as "e "ere &alling o&& o& the road onto the o*tside sho*lder- s0idding the sides o& the RN against a g*ardrail/ I loo0ed o*t o& the "indo" beside me and sa" spar0s and pie'e o& both the tr*'0 and the g*ardrail brea0ing o&& and &lying into the air behind *s/ DThere%s a ledge9D I in&ormed him/ D8 ledge9D We in'hed 'loser to"ards the pre'ipi'e- the g*ardrail be'oming "ea0er and "ea0er/ 8t

least "e "ere noti'eably slo"ing do"n as the &ri'tion &rom o*r e1tended grinding on the metal rail 'reated drag/ I loo0ed into the mirror- trying to see "hat "as behind *s- 4*st in time to see bright &lashes o& light/ I heard the g*nshots a split se'ond later- as I reali.ed that there "as a 'ar p*rs*ing *s/ D!hit9D I e1'laimed- startled/ DE1a'tly-D 7*nter ans"ered/ I t*rned to &a'e him/ DThey%re shooting at *s 8NA dri+ing "itho*t their headlights6D I as0ed/ 7is glasses had started to &all o&& o& his nose/ 7e p*shed them ba'0 *p to a more reasonable position/ D!eems li0e the long and the short o& it-D he said- biting his lip/ DThis is insane/D

7e didn%t respond to that &or a se'ond'on'entrating on na+igating thro*gh another t*rn/ DCo* g*ys ha+e some e1plaining to do- man/ ?eople are 'hasing yo* "ith g*ns9 Co* li0e &elons or something6D he as0ed- 4er0ing the "heel hard to the le&t to get *s aro*nd the t*rn/ DWe m*st be-D I said to mysel& as Janine 'ontin*ed 'hanting/ D7o" long is she going to 0eep trying to pray *s o*t o& here6D he as0ed/ 3y 5*estion &ollo"ed immediately a&ter his/ DWho the hell is shooting at *s6D D!h*tting *p "o*ld be more *se&*l than praying- be'a*se "hate+er it is she%s doing ba'0 there isn%t helping *s at all-D he 'ontin*ed/ 7e spared a moment o& his attention to gi+e me an in'red*lo*s loo0/ DT*rn aro*nd and see i& "e%+e

lost %em-D he said- s"er+ing to a+oid another g*ardrail as "e "ent aro*nd another t*rn/ DThings are abo*t to get really 'hoppy-D he ad+ised/ I instin'ti+ely d*'0ed do"n "hen another series o& g*nshots rang o*t- altho*gh- 4*dging by their ina''*ra'y- the most immediate danger seemed to be 7*nter%s dri+ing/ I t*rned to"ards Janine- ma0ing s*re that she "as o0ay/ !he had stopped 'hanting@praying@m*mbling- b*t she still had her eyes 'losed/ !he gripped the seat so tightly that her 0n*'0les had t*rned "hite/ There "as a lo*d bang &ollo"ed by the entire tr*'0 tilting to the right/ E+erything seemed to mo+e in slo" motion a&ter that/ DWe 4*st lost a tire9D 7*nter in&ormed *s/ I started to as0 i& it "as be'a*se the people behind *s had shot it- b*t then de'ided that it didn%t really matter "hat the reason "as- 4*st that something bad "as going to happen be'a*se o& it/

E+erything 'ontin*ed to tilt/ Cargo doors &le" open- spilling 'lothing- bo1es o& &ood- 'ans o& so*p- 'ir'*it boards- and other strange paraphernalia o*t into the 'abin o& the RN/ D7old on-D 7*nter said- as i& "e needed to be told to do so/ Then "e &ell o&& o& the road/ We "ere tossed aro*nd inside o& the 'abin as i& a giganti'angry 'hild had ta0en hold o& the RN and gi+en it a mighty sha0e- and then thro"n it to the side/ 7o*rs later- e+erything stopped mo+ing/ DJanine6D I 'alled o*t- smelling smo0e/ D7*nter6% Janine m*mbled something in response/ DI thin0 something is on &ire in here-D I saiddislodging my leg &rom *nderneath the seat it had someho" gotten st*'0 beneath/ DThere%s a &ire e1ting*isher inside o& one o& the pantries-D 7*nter told me/

I opened one eye- e1amining the pantriesnoting the &ire e1ting*isher lying on the &loor beside me/ I reali.ed that my head "as throbbing/ DThere W8! a &ire e1ting*isher inside o& the pantry-D I said- D*ntil it smashed into my head/D D>no'0 some sense into yo*-D Janine m*ttered/ I "asn%t s*re i& she intended it as a 5*estion or as an obser+ation/ 8t least she "as o0ay/ DA*de- 'an yo* pass it *p to me6D 7*nter as0ed/ DJ*st in 'ase there really is a &ire- yo* 0no"/ It might be important to p*t it o*t/D I grabbed the base o& the e1ting*isher and sho+ed it to"ards the &ront o& the tr*'0- "here 7*nter%s +oi'e "as 'oming &rom/

We "ere sitting beside ea'h other at a 'orner 'a&e beneath o*r hotel room- a parade o& &a'es streaming by aro*nd *s- the so*nds o& 'ommer'e rising *p in the ho*rs be&ore noon/ This "as Rome as "e%d li0e to remember its*mmertime- 'o&&ee and &resh 4*i'e &or brea0&ast- "ith things li0e 'roissants and 'heeses and &r*it salads spread o*t on the table be&ore *s/ The 'obblestone streets "ere still "et &rom a brie& th*nderstorm the night be&ore- b*t the h*midity "asn%t so bad that the m*se*ms "ere an appealing es'ape/ We%d +isited all o& them t"i'e- any"ay/ !he still had ma0e*p on &rom the night be&ore2 mas'ara "as strea0ed do"n her 'hee0s- lea+ing bla'0 mar0s "here she%d been 'rying abo*t something that had made her happy- some moment "hen there &ire"or0s and light sho" made her re'all something poignant and then it "as the moon and stars- and maybe it had a little bit to do "ith the "ine- "hi'h '*lminated in an emotional pea0- some moment that I "as both e1'ited and &rightened to share "ith her-

another in the many that ha+e permanently et'hed themsel+es into my memories/ 3ost o& her amber 'olored eye shado" had been r*bbed a"ay thro*gh sleep2 sleep that- the night be&ore- I had hoped "o*ld ne+er arri+e at the end o& a day that I ne+er "anted to end- as my leg &ell o&& the side o& the bed- a bed too small &or any 'o*ple not in the mood &or sharing "ith ea'h other- b*t# "e "ere &ar &rom that 'o*ple/ We "ere in'apable o& being that 'o*ple in those days o& ?aris and Rome and =ondon and !t/ ?etersb*rg/ !he "as loo0ing at her nails- as she o&ten didand I 0ne" that she "anted to bite them- e+en tho*gh she%d already 'he"ed them do"n to the 5*i'0/ We "ere yo*ng and tra+eling abroad and she "as ner+o*s abo*t something- and I lo+ed her more than I 'o*ld +o'ali.e/ DTime%s treated this 'ity "ell-D she said- and I lit a 'igarette- spinning the metal lighter aro*nd in my hand a &e" times- partially

be'a*se I li0ed the "ay that it &elt and partially &or the e&&e't/ I stared o*t into the streets aro*nd *sremembering the Ei&&el To"er- "here 4*st days be&ore "e%d 'limbed all the "ay to the topstopping at the di&&erent obser+ation de'0s &or photos/ 3y legs "ere tired and I blamed them "hen my 0nees b*'0led on the *ppermost le+el- "hen really all that I "as hiding "as an irrational &ear o& &alling/ We%re al"ays &allingyo* 0no"- she%d said to me/ =i&e%s a series o& rises and &alls- o& 'rests and pea0s- b*t that%s all philosophi'al st*&&2 it%s all in yo*r headsimple &ig*rati+e images to des'ribe 'ompli'ated relationships and sit*ations/ When yo*%re really &a'ed "ith the potential &or &ree &all- no matter ho" irrational it may besomething st*pid happens- li0e yo*r 0nees b*'0ling and yo* end *p ma0ing an embarrassing drop that yo* hope people "ill interpret as a"e- as "onder- that yo*%+e been ta0en "ith the bea*ty o& the 'ity aro*nd yo*/

O& 'o*rse- she 0ne" the tr*th- right as it happened/ !he 'o*ld al"ays tell "hen I "as 'o+ering something *p and "hat "as going on inside o& my head- espe'ially "hen it really mattered- insisting that the 'onne'tion "e had "as more than 4*st the shared lin0 "e%d dis'o+ered- that &irst day- "hi'h seemed so &ar a"ay then- ba'0 in the apartment/ I "asn%t s*re then- at the beginning- and I ne+er really 'o*ld be- b*t yo* ha+e to tr*st people sometimesand she%d ne+er gi+en me a reason not to tr*st her 'ompletely/ I& I didn%t ta0e a 'han'e "ith my heart- then "hat "as the point6 DAo yo* li0e Rome6D I as0ed her- gest*ring to"ards the street o*tside and the rest o& the old 'ity/ DIt%s m*'h "armer than home- here-D she saidand I 0ne" that she "asn%t re&erring to the temperat*re/ DWhere+er yo*%re at is "armany"ay/ The 'o&&ee%s not bad- either/D DCo* 'an &eel that there%s a history here- yo* 0no"6D I as0ed/ DI mean to say that this 'ity is

old- a lot older than Ne" Cor0 or any other 'ity ba'0 in the states/D DIt%s a lot better than ?aris "as- too-D she said/ D?aris is s*'h a bea*ti&*l 'ity- b*t it%s so hard to deal "ith the $ren'h9 They%re too 'a*ght *p "ith beingL $ren'h9 Rome%s is li0e the per&e't 'ity- it%s got a lot o& history- b*t it%s also got a lot o& li&e to it- a 'ertain +itality that%s missing in a lot o& to"ns/ 8 good 'ity &or being in lo+e/ ?aris "as li0e being trapped in an old mo+ie/ E+erything "as mothballed and preser+ed- li0e it "as trying to remain in the modernist era or something/D DI%ll drin0 to that-D I said- raising my glass o& orange 4*i'e/ !he tapped her glass against mine- and then t*rned the bottom *p- draining it empty/ !he bel'hed lo*dly eno*gh that a nearby "aiter stopped 'leaning a table &or a moment and loo0ed at her- raising a bem*sed eyebro"/ D!e+en-D I rated her/

DOnly se+en6 That "as at least an eight-D she arg*ed/ D$i+e or si1- probably/ Co* get a point or t"o &or lo'ation and '*teness-D I shot ba'0/ D?sh-D she said- dismissing my genero*s rating/ The "aiter res*med "iping o&& tables/ DB*t the $ren'h9D she res*med her rant/ DThe $ren'h- they had their heyday 'ompeting "ith !pain%s little b*ll&ighting thing- ba'0 at the t*rn o& the 20th 'ent*ry- right6 It%s li0e they ne+er got o+er it- li0e they 'an &ool e+eryone into thin0ing that they%re still the most romanti' 'o*ntry on earth and that ?aris is li0e some &airy tale magi'al pla'e "here all lo+es blossom and gro"9D DThey drin0 a lot o& "ine there-D I pointed o*t/ DThey%+e all got a permanent b*.. going on/ I thin0 they li+e longer than e+eryone else- too/D

DEod 0no"s yo*%d ha+e to get dr*n0 e+ery day i& yo* had to li+e there-D she ans"ered- rea'hing &or my glass o& 4*i'e/ D8re yo* going to &inish that6D DIt%s all yo*rs-D I said/ !he%d already started drin0ing it- any"ay/ DWant to go see the Nati'an today6D she as0ed/ DJes*s Christ- s*perstar-D I ans"ered- &inishing my 'app*''ino/

Chapter 10 We gathered in a 'ir'le aro*nd the little 0it'henette table inside o& the RN as the tinyo+er"or0ed +entilation &an in the roo& d*ti&*lly assisted the remo+al o& smo0e &rom the air/ We%d opened the doors- and most o& the "indo"s "ere bro0en- so the smo0e "as 'learing o*t 5*i'0ly/ Aespite all o& the damage s*stained d*ring the road ra'e that led *s to the bottom o& the ra+ine- the mi'ro"a+e o+en and gas range inside "ere still &*n'tional eno*gh &or e+eryone to heat some &ood *p/ 7*nter attempted to 'ran0 the RN%s motor so that "e 'o*ld r*n the air 'onditioner and 'y'le the air &aster- b*t "e%d r*ined something inside o& the engine &or good "hen "e 'rashed/ The motor "o*ldn%t e+en t*rn o+er/ DOn'e the batteries die and the nat*ral gas tan0 r*ns o*t- "e%re o*t o& po"er &or good-D 7*nter told *s- arri+ing ba'0 at the table "ith a 'on'erned loo0 in his eyes/ DWe%re going to need a to" tr*'0 to get this rig o*t o& here-

any"ay- and it%s so late "e sho*ld probably 4*st 'amp o*t *ntil the morning/D DI "as going to say-D Janine inter4e'ted- Dthat "e%re already pretty 'lose to the main gates o& the resear'h 'enter- at least a''ording to "here "e mar0ed it on the map/D !he loo0ed at me &or 'on&irmation/ DWe 'o*ld probably "al0 there in the morning a&ter ta0ing a little nap here "hile "e "ait &or the s*n to 'ome *p/ I see that yo*%+e got some sleeping bags already o*t o& storage-D she added- pointing to the b*ndled bags that had sha0en loose d*ring o*r 'rash/ We mo+ed o*tside o& the partially o+ert*rned +ehi'le- setting *p a little 'amping area nearby/ DC*rio*ser and '*rio*ser-D 7*nter said- in an e&&ort to bring some h*mor to the sit*ation/ I appre'iated his re&eren'e to 8li'e%s trip deeper and deeper into Wonderland on the other side o& the loo0ing glass/ Tho*gh "e%d only 0no"n ea'h other &or a &e" short ho*rs- I already &elt

at ease aro*nd him2 I &elt that I 'o*ld tr*st him/ There "as some "armth to his 'hara'ter that "asn%t present in a lot o& people that yo* meet in yo*r day,to,day li&e/ 7e "as the 0ind o& person that e+eryone loo0ed at and instantly &elt 'om&ortable "ith- the 0ind o& person yo*%d tell yo*r deepest and dar0est se'rets to and they%d ne+er get mentioned to anyone elsee+en tho*gh he%d probably heard it all be&ore &rom the g*y or girl be&ore yo*/ 7e seemed li0e someone "ho "o*ld be s*rprised be +ery little/ Regardless- I didn%t plan on telling him too many se'rets o& mine- espe'ially not as I sat in the "oods behind the "re'0age o& an RN "hile the "orld o*tside o& *s &aded into and o*t o& reality/ 3y &ading "orld "as a strange pla'e to li+e in- b*t nothing appeared di&&erent than it had a "ee0 ago- or a month ago- it "as 4*st that my head and my heart "ere trying to sol+e problems that tho*ght I%d ne+er be able to o+er'ome/

I "as &inding only a &e" ans"ers to the 5*estions that I had- and I%d only bro*ght mis&ort*ne into the li+es o& the people "ho be'ame in+ol+ed "ith me/ The "orld o*tside o& o*r little sphere &aded more- and I san0 deeper into my o"n re&le'tions- po0ing a sti'0 into the gro*nd/ We all sat silently &or a &e" moments- "arming o*r hands "ith the &ire "e%d b*ilt in the middle o& o*r area/ !omething nagged at my tho*ghtsand I "as "aiting &or it to s*r&a'e/ It seemed li0e something basi' "as missing that I needed to as0- b*t I &elt li0e I 0ept &orgetting it be&ore I had a 'han'e to spea0 *p/ Then it str*'0 me/ DWhy don%t any o& *s ha+e 'ell phones6 We 'o*ld 4*st 'all a 'ab to 'ome pi'0 *s *p instead o& 'amping o*t in the "oods li0e this/D They loo0ed at ea'h other brie&ly- and then t*rned to me sim*ltaneo*sly/ D3y phone bro0e in the RN 'rash-D Janine stated/

DI ha+en%t o"ned one in a pretty long time-D 7*nter said/ D7ate to get tied do"n "ith a b*n'h o& e1tra te'hnology that I don%t really need- yo* 0no"6D I tho*ght that "as a little strange- b*t I "as tired- so I dismissed my sense o& paranoia/ DB*t "here%s my phone6 I al"ays ha+e it "ith meL e1'ept no"/ I 'an%t remember "hat I did "ith it/D D3aybe yo* 4*st set it do"n some"here or lost it in the "re'0-D Janine hypothesi.ed/ DNo- I don%t thin0 so/ I don%t thin0 that I%+e had it &or a "hile no"/D I tried to remember the last time I%d *sed my mobile phone to 'all someoneb*t I 'o*ldn%t re'all a single time/ I &elt 'on&li'ted be'a*se I 0ne" that I o"ned and paid the bill &or the phone- b*t the only phone 'alls I 'o*ld remember ma0ing had been on a landline at the ho*se/ The memory lapse "asn%t 4*st o+er the past "ee0 or so- tho*ghL I

'o*ldn%t re'all ENER ma0ing a phone 'all "ith a 'ell*lar/ That 4*st didn%t ma0e sense/ 7o" 'o*ld I &orget ha+ing e+er *sed something as 'ommon as a mobile phone6 D3aybe the &ire e1ting*isher did more damage to yo*r head than yo*%d li0e to admit/ Want me to try to ro*nd *p some aspirin6D 7*nter saidglan'ing ba'0 o+er to Janine/ I "as de&initely starting to be'ome more paranoid- b*t I didn%t "ant to let them 0no" that I &elt li0e something strange "as going on bet"een them/ What "as the deal "ith all o& the shared glan'es they "ere ha+ing "ith ea'h other6 I &elt g*ilty &or s*spe'ting that Janine might be hiding something &rom me regarding the 'ell phone/ What else had I &orgotten6 $eedba'0 loops 0eep b*ilding *p "ith ea'h 'y'le- ampli&ying more and more "ith ea'h reiteration- *ntil at last they be'ome

dea&eningly lo*d/ 3y tho*ghts "ere doing thatand I needed a silen'er &or them- a "ay to brea0 their 'ir'*lar &lo"/ I 0ne" I "o*ldn%t "or0 anything o*t i& I 0ept d"elling on things that only pro+ided me "ith in'on'l*si+e ideas that made me &eel li0e I needed to 5*estion my o"n sanity and ho" m*'h I "o*ld be able to tr*st mysel&/ I &elt li0e I "as being too analyti'al to be gen*inely insane/ In the ro'0@paper@s'issors arg*ment inside o& my head- being slightly ne*roti' 'an'eled o*t being gen*inely 'erti&iable/ B*t "as that 4*st another sign o& mental instability6 To ans"er# I 'o*ldn%t tr*st mysel& anymore- not 'ompletely- sin'e I 'o*ldn%t "or0 o*t "hy I%d &orgotten a &e" things/ $la"ed logi' or not- I "o*ld ha+e to tr*st that Janine (most importantly) and 7*nter ("itho*t a moti+e &or misleading me) "ere sane- rational- and there to help me/ There&ore- I de'ided to stop 5*estioning in'onsisten'ies in their beha+ior

"hile I &o'*sed on "or0ing o*t my o"n mental glit'hes/ DWe%ll ma0e some more progress in the morning "hen there%s better light o*t-D 7*nter stated/ DI%m going to get some sh*t,eye/ Co* sho*ld do the same2 yo*%re both loo0ing a little "orse &or the "ear/ Aon%t "orry abo*t the RN/ !omedayI%ll b*y another one/// or maybe I "on%t/ This one "as a pie'e o& 'rap in the &irst pla'e/D DCo*%re right-D I agreed/ D3y head does 0ind o& h*rt/ I ha+en%t slept reg*larly in "ee0s/ It%s probably 4*st ner+es or something/ The phone%s probably at the ho*se ne1t to the bed or something/D Janine nodded dismissi+ely/ DI%m really tired- too9D !he e1'laimed- so*nding more eager than I "o*ld ha+e e1pe'ted her to/ 3aybe she "as 4*st ready to '*rl *p in the sleeping bag- sin'e it "as getting 'old o*t there/ D=et%s get some rest/D

D!ee yo* in a &e" ho*rs- then-D 7*nter 'on'*rred- rea'hing &or a rolled *p sleeping bag/ I &ollo"ed s*it- still trying to "or0 o*t "hat didn%t seem to add *p "ith my memories/ I remembered "hat ?artain had implied ba'0 in the bar- b*t 0ept the tho*ght at arm%s length/ I didn%t "ant to get s*'0ed into an e+en more paranoid tho*ght pro'ess and start do*bting my o"n sanity/ I& ?artain had been telling the tr*th and I%d someho" *ndergone one o& !yn'hro%s treatment pro'esses- then e+erything "as *p in the air/ E+erything/ I& that "as the 'ase- then there "as nothing in the "orld I 'o*ld belie+e in any more/ I loo0ed o+er to Janine and 7*nter- "ho appeared to ha+e &allen asleep already/ The &ire had died do"n 'onsiderably/ I%d been thin0ing &or longer than I reali.ed- b*t I still 'o*ldn%t e1plain the *nsha0eable &eeling that something de&initely "asn%t right G something e+en more strange than the reasons that had

led *s to the bottom o& a ra+ine in the "oods'amping o*t in the middle o& the night- "aiting to ma0e an early morning +isit to an illegal resear'h &a'ility/ I "orried &or a little "hile longer/ 8t some point- I &inally &ell asleep/

I "as trying to paint the angel again "hen she "al0ed into to the room/ The 'an+as al"ays ended *p being too 'ontradi'tory &or its o"n good- so I%d al"ays end *p dragging it into the sho"er to s'r*b the a'ryli' o&&/ Whene+er the need to 'reate something meaning&*lly symboli' "o*ld arise- I%d do it all o+er again/ It "as al"ays this angel sho"ing *p- this angel I%d ine+itably end *p trying to "ash do"n the drain/ I tended to ta0e on pro4e'ts- and on'e e+ery month or so I%d get interested in something ne"- and the month that she%d arri+ed "as the one in "hi'h I had de'ided that I "as going to learn ho" to paint/ ?lans o& painting tho*sands o& masterpie'es &illed my head2 I dreamed o& gallery sho"ings "here demand &or my "or0 e1'eeded my ability to s*pply- pro+iding limitless &*nding &or &*t*re endea+ors/ I had a desire &or the appro+al o& interesting and intelligent "omen2 I "anted &ormer &riends and my '*rrent peers to loo0 me *p and en+y me/ I 0ept trying to paint this angel as a &emale "ith

"ide eyes similar to that o& the anime style/ !he had broad- pointed "ings and short hair "ith 4agged '*ts on the edges/ I "as getting &r*strated as I &elt that I "as 'oming to the 'lose o& another &ailed attempt at painting this 'hara'ter "hen she "al0ed into the room/ !he passed me- heading &or the bal'ony- "here she sat do"n/ !he "as eating a 'elery sti'0 and her hair "as *p in a side"ays ponytail- meaning she "as in a h*rry at some point or that she didn%t 'are too m*'h abo*t it at another/ !he "as tal0ing on the telephone "hile she "as 'he"ing and I 'o*ldn%t hear a "ord that she "as saying/ I%d go dea& "hen I%d been thin0ing too hard- setting the +ol*me o& the "orld all the "ay do"n to .ero so I 'o*ld &o'*s my tho*ghts/ 7er toes "ere '*rled *nder her &eet and her 0nees "ere dra"n *p to her breasts/ !he "as sitting on the bal'ony- leaning ba'0 in a green plasti' patio 'hair- staring o*t at "hate+er the 0ind o& things "ere that she%d see in the s0y at

night/ I leaned to the le&t a little- 4*st in time to 'at'h her s'rat'hing her head 4*st abo+e her right ear/ 7er nail polish "as 'hipped- b*t the nails "ere painted the 'olor o& 8ri.ona mesas at d*s0/ The 'olor o& &ading anger or a blo" to the head- the dar0 red that 'omes a&ter a bright &lash o& "hite/ I to*'hed my &a'e- near my eyebro"- sore b*t not yet br*ised/ !imple "ords al"ays lead to terrible impa'ts/ I "ondered "hat "o*ld happen to *s- to those days- to the "orld/ I "ondered i& she really "o*ld e+er be'ome 4*st another series o& "ords to me and i& I%d be e+en less to her/ I& she%d e+er be'ome one o& those stories that ga+e me the s'ars to pro+e its tr*th/ I& she 'o*ld e+er be less- and i& my heart "o*ld e1plode &or lo+ing her more/ I "ondered i& she%d be the one "ho made me say those rarely &inal "ords# I%ll ne+er lo+e again/ Why "o*ld I6

!he 'ame ba'0 into the room- 4*st as I "as gi+ing *p &or the night/ DWhy do yo* 0eep "ashing it o&&6D !he as0edre&erring to the &a't that I 0ept ta0ing the 'an+as to the sho"er/ I%d e+en ta0en it o*t onto the side"al0 and "ashed it o&& "ith a garden hose a 'o*ple o& times/ DWhy not 4*st get a ne" 'an+as6 Co* p*t more e&&ort into erasing the st*pid thing that yo* do into painting it/ Co* m*st hate that angel more than yo* lo+e her/D I sighed/ DI don%t 0no" "hy I%m so obsessed "ith the image- really- b*t it 0eeps 'oming *p/ I thin0 that it "ants to be 'reated2 I thin0 that she "ants to be seen/ 8t least that%s "hat I "ant "ith the angel- I g*ess-D I 'ontin*ed- spinning mysel& in 'ir'les on one o& the barstools I 0ept in the li+ing room/ I made mysel& &eel a little bit di..y/

!he "as standing at the boo0shel&- so she sele'ted a dis' &rom her 'olle'tion and loaded it into the player/ 8s the bl*esy ragtime narrati+e began- I s'rat'hed my head/ DIt%s "eird that yo* li0e this so m*'h-D I said/ DWhy6 It ma0es me happy/ That%s "hat m*si' is s*pposed to do-D she ans"ered- stepping 'loser to me and pla'ing her hands on my sho*lders/ DIt%s alright- I s*ppose- 4*st not my &a+orite-D I said- rela1ing as she began to "or0 at the 0nots o& tension in my sho*lders/ It seemed li0e I%d ne+er get a"ay &rom those 0nots in the m*s'les o& my ba'0/ DCo*%re trying too hard-D she said/ DCo* sho*ld 4*st let the painting 'reate itsel&/ =et yo* hands "ander/D DIt%s easier said than done/D

DI 0no"/ !ometimes yo* 4*st ha+e to p*t the br*sh do"n and reali.e that yo*%re not meant to paint anything at all- at least not today/ !ometimes yo* try to be a painter "hen yo* sho*ld really be doing the dishes or gro'ery shoppingL or dan'ing "ith yo*r girl&riend/D The song 'hanged to a more *pbeat n*mber- as i& she%d '*ed it- b*t I thin0 her 'on+ersational timing had more to do "ith the &a't that she 0ne" the order o& the tra'0s on the dis'/ DThey 'all this g*y the Champion &or a reason-D she said- stepping ba'0/ !he began a small dan'e mo+e/ DBe'a*se he%s the best/ !ome o& his songs are sad- some are happy- b*t the man 0ne" e1a'tly ho" to let the m*si' 4*st "rite itsel&- "andering all aro*nd/ 7e let the m*si' lead him/D I had to admit that the song%s progression "as ma0ing me &eel a little bit better/ !he sp*n me aro*nd on the barstool/

D>iss me-D she demanded- and I 'omplied/ !he ra0ed her teeth a'ross my lo"er lip/ D=et%s dan'e/D I stood *p- too0 her le&t hand into mine- and pla'ed my &ree hand on her hip/ We began dan'ing o*r o"n +ersion o& the "alt.- sin'e I didn%t really 0no" ho" to dan'e in the &irst pla'e/ I%d ne+er ta0en dan'e lesson and spent as m*'h time holding the "alls *p at any &*n'tion that I%d e+er been to that re5*ired dan'ing as I did e1hibiting my less than stellar mo+es/ I%m not e+en s*re that the "ay "e "ere dan'ing "o*ld e+en be 'onsidered an a''eptable &orm o& any type- as I stepped on her toes e+ery 'o*ple o& steps/ I lost 'o*nt "ith the m*si'- 'on'entrating more on staring at her than maintaining proper 'aden'e/ !he didn%t seem to mind- so I didn%t either/ We 'ontin*ed &or a "hile "itho*t spea0ing- *ntil a slo" song 'ame on- and then "e 4*st stood there- holding ea'h other- ro'0ing in time to the m*si'/

DAo yo* thin0 "e 'an stay li0e this &ore+er6D she as0ed/ DI hope so-D I ans"ered/ DI ne+er "ant to go home- yo* 0no"-D she saidholding me a little tighter/ DWhate+er it is that I &orgot- "hoe+er it may be that I%+e le&t behind- ho"e+er it is that things "ere/// they 'o*ldn%t be li0e this/D I didn%t say anything/ I 4*st listened to hertrying not to d"ell on the impli'ations- the li0elihood- that there really "as someone that she had le&t behind- someone "ho might possibly lo+e her as m*'h as I did/ !omeone "ho "o*ld 'ome loo0ing &or her someday/ DNothing- any"here- 'o*ld be li0e this- e1'ept &or yo* and me- right no"/D DThen don%t e+er lea+e-D I s*ggested/ DWe 'an stay here or "e 'an r*n a"ay some"here together/ We 'an get a"ay &rom today- 'limb in a time ma'hine- and go ba'0 to a simpler

time than no"-D I said- & o*t lo*d/ It seemed li0e a good idea/ DThis is the per&e't time/ Right no"-D she stopped mo+ing and leaned ba'0- loo0ing *p into my &a'e and smiling/ DRight no"-D she said/ 8nd inside- I 0ne" that it "as/ Inside- I 0ne" that she "as right/

Chapter 11 I stood *p- stret'hing my sti&& limbs- and ya"ned/ I "at'hed the &og on my breath and immediately I &elt 'older as I mo+ed a"ay &rom "hat "as le&t o& the &ire/ It "as still dar0 o*t2 it too0 a moment &or my eyes to ad4*st to the s0y as I loo0ed *p thro*gh the trees abo+e me/ I re'alled the 'o*ntless times be&ore that "e had done the same thing together- *nder +ery di&&erent 'ir'*mstan'es/ I sear'hed &or &ire"ood thro*gh a small 'l*mp o& trees- sele'ting some s*bstantial bran'hes and limbs that had &allen to the gro*nd/ I gathered them into a pile so that I 'o*ld s'oop them all *p and 'arry them ba'0 all at on'e/ That made it easier to sear'h aro*nd &or other bran'hes- sin'e I "as *nen'*mbered by all the b*l0y sti'0s "e%d need i& "e "anted a &ire be&ore "e headed o*t/ I &elt a little si'0- and then- "itho*t "arning- I +omited/ I 0eeled do"n onto the gro*ndret'hing *p the remains o& the mi'ro"a+e

dinner I%d eaten 4*st a &e" ho*rs ago/ It "as a good thing 7*nter hadn%t had m*'h to eat2 other"ise- it "o*ld ha+e been "asted all o+er the &orest &loor/ I "orried abo*t the reality o& o*r sit*ation/ The !yn'hro !ystems resear'h lab "e "ere loo0ing &or "as s*pposed to be near a mo*ntain trail that "as o+er H000 0ilometers long/ I& she had 'hosen to +anish into the "ilderness- "e%d ne+er be able to &ind her/ I "iped my mo*th "ith my slee+e and made my "ay ba'0 o+er to the meager pile o& &ire"ood and 0indling that I had 'olle'ted- hoping &or her sa&e ret*rn/ 8&ter a &e" more moments o& sear'hing- I ret*rned to the &ire pit/ The others appeared to be sleeping &it&*lly- so I added some o& the bran'hes to the &lames- "at'hing them smolder &or a &e" moments "hile the "ater e+aporated o&& o& them/ The abs*rdity o& the entire 4o*rney "as be'oming o+er"helming as I re'alled the e+ents o& the past "ee0/ I& I had &orgotten

something as simple as *sing a telephone- I rationali.ed- then it had to be a possibility that I had also &orgotten other 'riti'al elements that "o*ld ha+e made the ans"ers to my 5*estions easy and apparent/ $ollo"ing that train o& tho*ght- I did begin to 5*estion my o"n sanitydebating the legitima'y o& my perspe'ti+e in the sit*ation at hand/ 3aybe I didn%t 0no" "hat "as going on any more be'a*se I "as 'ra.y/ 3aybe she%d le&t me and I%d blo'0ed it o*t- not "anting to go thro*gh it all o+er again- and my ridi'*lo*s 5*est "as the &inal sign- physi'ally mani&ested- o& my psy'hologi'al brea0/ It has to be a possibility- I said to mysel&/ I 'an%t r*le anything o*t/ I loo0ed o+er at Janine- still sleeping silently on the gro*nd a'ross &rom me- and then 'he'0ed 7*nter- "ho "as snoring 5*ietly/ It "as too 'old o*t there &or there to be a lot o& inse't noise in the "oods- *nli0e "hat yo*%d hear in the s*mmertime- "hen a "all o& organi' so*nd "o*ld s*rro*nd yo*- singing in yo*r ears li0e nat*re%s l*llaby- "hispering yo* ba'0 to sleep i&

yo* "o0e too soon/ Instead- there "as a pea'e&*l and strange silen'e- bro0en only by the so*nds that "e made at o*r temporary 'amp in the ra+ine%s bottom/ The &ire 'ra'0led/ 7*nter snored/ Janine rolled o+er in her bag/ It "as all too real- tho*gh9 I "asn%t imagining it/ I "asn%t 'harismati' eno*gh- no matter "hatto 'on+in'e Janine to 'ome along "ith me i& it "as a ghost 'hase- espe'ially a&ter e+erything "e%d tal0ed abo*t o+er the past &e" "ee0s/ !he 'ame along "ith me be'a*se something really "as going on that "asn%t easily e1plained/ Remo+ing Janine &rom the e5*ation didn%t 'hange the &a't that 7*nter belie+ed me and had e1tended an o&&er to help &ind Coren at the !yn'hro labs/ I didn%t thin0 it "as possible that "e 'o*ld all be s*&&ering &rom the same del*sion2 the odds in &a+or o& that had to be astronomi'ally high/ B*t ho" 'o*ld I &orget something as ob+io*s as a 'ell phone6

Bad tho*ghts dri&ted do"n &rom the treetops as the da"n slo"ly 'rept in on *s- interr*pting my hope&*l re&le'tion on the progress I%d made in at least dis'o+ering "hat had happened to her and "here she might ha+e headed to i& she "asn%t 0idnapped/ E+erything "as pointing *s in the dire'tion o& the labs nearby/ I reali.ed that I had been dra"ing spirals in the dirt- 'ir'les "ithin 'ir'les- strange "hirling designs and patterns 'ar+ed o*t o& nothingness as I &o'*sed on 'onne'ting the dots o& in&ormation that ?artain had gi+en "ith the &ragments the in&ormants and resear'h agents had &illed me in on/ I "as trying to add all o& that to the in&ormation I%d &ig*red o*t in my o"n resear'h into !yn'hro- and then add all o& that to "hat she%d said to me in o*r time together abo*t her o"n treatments &or memory loss/ I loo0ed ba'0 to Janine- still sleeping so*ndly in the grass- '*rled *p in a ball/

DI g*ess "e sho*ld start p*tting it all on the table-D 7*nter said- to my s*rprise- sitting *p and stret'hing/ DWhat ma0es yo* thin0 that "e ha+en%t already6D I as0ed him- raising my +oi'e a little/ Janine stirred b*t didn%t "a0e *p/ DIt%s not that I don%t tr*st yo* g*ys- b*t yo*%+e gotta 0eep in mind the 'ir'*mstan'es in "hi'h "e met/ They%re- *h- a little 5*estionable-D he said as he r*bbed the sleep &rom his eyes/ 7e p*t his glasses on and loo0ed at me'ontin*ing/ D8 'o*ple o& ho*rs ago- "e "ere in a 'ar 'hase/ !omebody "as shooting *s/ I need to 0no" "hy they "ere 'hasing yo*/ Or "hy they "ere 'hasing her/ Or i& yo* ha+e no ideathen I need to 0no" that as "ell/ Be'a*se they 'o*ld ha+e been 'hasing a&ter me- man/D 7*nter "as a morning person- I g*ess- be'a*se it seemed li0e he had a lot to tal0 abo*t right a&ter he "o0e *p- espe'ially opening *p "ith a loaded statement li0e that/ I didn%t say anything- "aiting/

DI 0no" yo* g*ys are trying to res'*e yo*r girl &rom this pla'e do"n the road that%s done some things to her head- and yo* apparently 'an%t go to the 'ops abo*t it be'a*se the 'ompany%s someho" in leag*e "ith them- and that%s 'ool/ B*t I 4*st met yo* g*ys last night and I already &eel li0e I%+e been s*'0ed into this thing in a "ay I%m not s*re that I%m 'om&ortable "ith9D There "as a t"in0le in his eyes as he said itli0e he "as almost to the point o& 'rying- and I "asn%t s*re i& he "as *pset or o+er4oyed- b*t perhaps it "as a bit o& both- tho*gh I 'o*ldn%t begin to imagine "hy he%d be either/ DWhat are the odds that they%d be 'hasing a&ter yo* g*ys instead o& a&ter me- I "onder-D he said- almost to himsel&/ I loo0ed at his hand and sa" that he "as 'la'0ing some di'e against ea'h other ner+o*sly/ 7e p*lled o*t a granola bar &rom his 4a'0et po'0et- opened it- and ate it as i& he "as a&raid it "o*ld be the last meal he%d e+er get a 'han'e to eat/

7e sighed/ It "as a hea+y sigh that seemed to say that he had a story that he%d told to others be&ore b*t they hadn%t belie+ed him- or perhaps he%d s'ared someone o&& be'a*se o& the reasons people might be 'hasing a&ter him/ 3aybe he%d lost someone- too- or someone had le&t him"orried that he%d end *p h*rting them "ith "hate+er se'rets he 0ept to himsel&/ I "as really 4*st pro4e'ting my o"n do*bts- &earsand problems onto him/ I had no idea abo*t him- really/ $or all I 0ne"- he "as a serial 0iller and he%d 'hop *s into small parts and lea+e *s s'attered aro*nd the &orest &loor/ D7o" abo*t yo* go &irst- 7*nter-D I said/ DCo* 0no" a little abo*t *s and "hat "e%re doingb*t "e don%t 0no" anything abo*t yo* at all/ Why "o*ld someone be 'hasing a&ter yo*L and shooting at yo*6D DI%ll need one o& those 'igarettes- probably-D he said to me- p*tting the di'e ba'0 into his po'0et/ D8nd no interr*ptions on'e I start/D 7e

loo0ed o+er to Janine- ma0ing s*re that she "as still asleep/ DOn'e *pon a time-D he started- DI shopped the "orld by 'atalog and shopping mall &or all sorts o& *seless 'rap that I tho*ght "o*ld ma0e my li&e more interesting- more entertaining- and more impressi+e to anyone "ho 'ame along and inspe'ted it- b*t I ne+er really tho*ght abo*t ho" e+eryone else "as doing the e1a't same thing as I "as- and no one "as ta0ing their head o*t o& their ass &or long eno*gh to noti'e anyone else%s 'olle'tions o& absol*tely *seless 4*n0 G e1'ept &or those &e" o''asions yo*%d noti'e that someone had something that yo* didn%t ha+e and that yo* en+ied/ It "as a repeating 'y'le o& e'onomi' ro*lette- and be&ore I reali.ed it- I%d amassed a tremendo*s 'olle'tion o& *seless 4*n0 and the debt to go along "ith it/ It s*rro*nded me in all o& my rooms- b*t I%d ne+er en4oyed any o& it/ I "or0ed in a 'on'rete blo'0 and e+ery no" and then- I "ondered "hat the real "orld o*tside loo0ed

li0e2 it seemed li0e I hadn%t seen the s0y in my entire li&e/ DI tho*ght abo*t the "ay "e embra'e retail therapy &or a long- long time/ I%d get depressed abo*t the stat*s o& the e'onomy- or "orry that a ne" ta1 "o*ld ma0e my mortgage "o*ld go *p a &e" b*'0s a month- or get stressed o*t i& I made a late payment on a 'redit 'ard- "hi'h I did- 'a*sing my rate to go *p a 'o*ple o& per'entage points/ I "as be'oming an1io*s o+er tho*ghts abo*t 8meri'a%s pla'e in the global so'iety- "orrying abo*t ho" a lot o& people o*t there didn%t li0e *s/ I%d 'omplain abo*t the path that o*r leaders "ere ta0ing *s on- 4*st li0e e+eryone else did- &ollo"ing the herd- staying distra'ted/ E+ery day- I%d dri+e to "or0listening to the ne"s and tal0 radio stations "hile the anno*n'ers spread strongly biased opinions li0e a blan0et o+er the air and thro*gho*t the 'ity- ne+er saying anything *nless it "as something in'endiary/ I &elt li0e e+erything I "as e1posed to "as intended to 'a*se a rea'tion- and all o& that &r*stration and

anger "as pooling *p "ith no good o*tlet *ntil it "as ready to boil o+er/ I 'onsidered rioting and petitioning- 4*st li0e e+eryone else- b*t 0ept &ollo"ing the *nspo0en orders 4*st li0e e+eryone else/ 8t the end o& the day- be&ore I popped a pill to help me sleep- I 'o*ldn%t say "hy any o& it "as signi&i'ant to me/ Why does any o& that shit matter- yo* 0no"- man6 We%re all angry- and "e%re all s'ared to spea0 to ea'h other- these days/ I started to &eel manip*lated- li0e a p*ppet/ I started to &eel li0e a disposable n*mber- *nable to sha0e those &eelings o& insigni&i'an'e/ D8nd I &elt li0e that e+ery day/ I%d "a0e *p and be a 'og in the ma'hine &or more ho*rs than I sho*ld ha+e a&ter slamming a 'o*ple o& '*ps o& 'o&&ee/ I%d spend as m*'h time in the 'ar as I did sleeping- and the highlight o& my day "as prime time tele+ision/ !*re man- I had great dental and medi'al- b*t I had to *se them all the time be'a*se I "as so *nhealthy/ I "as al"ays ma0ing mysel& si'0- probably be'a*se I "as getting so bored and *nhappy "ith li+ing/ I

needed a 'hange/ I needed to 0no" "hy I &elt so 'ompelled to be a part o& all o& the nothingness- day in and day o*t/D I 'o*ld see that 7*nter had been 'he"ing thro*gh those tho*ghts &or long eno*gh to digest them- and I remembered a time "hen I "o*ld d"ell on things 4*st li0e "hat he "as saying- b*t sin'e a reason to 'hange had 'ome along &or me , Corentine , none o& those 0inds o& iss*es had mattered m*'h to me anymore/ 3aybe being in lo+e "as li0e "earing a thi'0 pair o& glasses- ma0ing e+erything &*..ydistorted- and prone to ma0ing yo* &eel b*tter&lies in yo*r stoma'h/ Co* r*n into a lot o& "alls- b*t yo* don%t really mind be'a*se it%s 0ind o& &*nny/ 3aybe being in lo+e had been a barrier &or me- blo'0ing me &rom the reality that 7*nter had been li+ing in- ins*lating me &rom it- my e1pos*re and irritation "ith it/ D!o instead o& rioting against all o& it- I bo*ght into the system-D he 'ontin*ed/ DI in+ested

hea+ily in sto'0s- bonds- and sa+ings a''o*nts/ I lied to 'ard 'ompanies abo*t my in'ome so they%d grant me genero*s lines o& 'redit/ I be'ame more and more &o'*sed on &inding the e1ploitable holes in the &inan'ial net"or0/ I%d ne+er 'onsidered *sing my 0no"ledge abo*t 'omp*ters and se'*rity systems to ha'0 teller ma'hine systems or brea0 into ban0s *ntil thenb*t s*ddenly- e+en that made sense- seemed logi'al- and no longer seemed li0e I "o*ld be doing something "rong/ It all seemed li0e +i'timless 'rime- and I started honing my s0ills so that I%d ne+er get 'a*ght/ DI dismissed the programming I%d been &ed sin'e I "as a 0id abo*t honor and legality/ I 'leared o*t a &e" 8T3s to see i& I 'o*ld get a"ay "ith it/ I too0 reg*lar 'ash ad+an'es &rom the 'ards that I ne+er intended on paying ba'0/ When my mar0et in+estments made some gains- "hi'h "ere really 4*st a l*'0y brea0- I p*lled e+erything o*t/ I hadn%t made a ho*se payment in months/D

///!o he "asn%t as honorable and "e might ha+e tho*ght he "as "hen he%d o&&ered *s the ride the night be&ore/ I p*t mysel& into his pla'e/ I& I had the same set o& s0ills at my disposal as he seemed to ha+e "hen I "as at my "orst pointI%m s*re that I "o*ld ha+e done the same thing/ I probably "o*ld ha+e ripped o&& an 8T3 4*st so I 'o*ld go blo" the 'ash gambling or at a strip 'l*b/ I "asn%t the model &or morality- I 0ne" itand I "as glad that he "as there to help *s/ It didn%t matter "hat anyone%s moral standing "as abo*t the system- did it6 We had to do "hate+er "e 'o*ld to sa+e Cor- and as &ar as I "as 'on'erned- i& 7*nter 'o*ld help *s get there- or e+en get *s inside o& the !yn'hro labs someho"- I didn%t 'are "hat his moti+ations "ere/ The r*les "ere di&&erent than they%d e+er been be&ore/ 7e 'ontin*ed his e1planation abo*t "hy he "as on the road/ DI "as learning "hen to "al0 a"ay- maybe/ I bo*ght the RN and I started o*t on the road/

=ast night- I met yo* g*ys and I &elt li0e I%d dis'o+ered a 'o*ple o& people "ho had a reason &or being o*t here- tra+eling "ith a p*rpose/ I didn%t really belie+e yo* g*ys at &irst- "hat "ith the "hole 'orporate abd*'tion thing and alland I%m still not 'on+in'ed that "e%re not all insane- b*t it%s e1a'tly "hat I%+e been loo0ing &or G a reason that%s legit in a "orld &*ll o& b*llshit/D 7e "aited- then- long eno*gh &or me to reali.e that he e1pe'ted a response- tho*gh I "as 5*ite &o'*sed on "hat he had been saying and 0ind o& "andering o&& mentally in dire'tions that sp*n o&& &rom his monolog*e/ DB*t no" yo* "ant o*t-D I restated- reminding him that he%d told me he "as lea+ing *s 4*st a &e" moments ago/ DI don%t 0no" "hat I "ant2 I%m mi1ed *p and tired- 4*st li0e yo* g*ys/ I%m being emotional and it%s a bad 'ombination/ 3aybe "hat I%m trying to say is that I li0e yo* g*ys- b*t don%t 0eep me aro*nd i& I%m 4*st pissing yo* all o&

"ith my '*riosity and 'on&*sion/ I& somebody%s a&ter me &or the things I%+e done- yo* 'o*ld be in danger- tho*gh- so i& yo* g*ys "ant to head o*t "itho*t me- I *nderstand/D DWe s*r+i+ed an RN "re'0 last night-D I said/ DI thin0 danger &ollo"s *s/ I%d li0e it i& yo* stayed "ith *s/ I &eel li0e "e%re going to need some help to get thro*gh this- espe'ially i& I e+er "ant to see my girl&riend again/D 7e held o*t his hand and I too0 it into minesha0ing it/ DI%+e &elt li0e e+eryone and e+erything that I 0no" has been really s*per&i'ial and shallo" be&ore- 4*st li0e yo* ha+e-D I said/ DIt 'omes and goes in phases- tho*gh- and I%+e been distra'ted &or a little "hile no" by my o"n strange problems/D I reali.ed that I had stopped &eeling the "ay he did "hen she%d 'ome into my li&e- be'a*se it "as almost as i& a ne" s*bstan'e and sense o& reality had been applied to e+erything that I

0ne"- and e+erything that I sa" "as s*ddenly &*ll o& more depth and te1t*re2 li0e a deep gloss 'oat had been applied to a &ine grain o& "ood- "hen the s*nlight stri0es the s*r&a'e in s*'h a "ay that it loo0s golden- "hen pre+io*sly there had only been press,board and plasti'/ Janine stirred and sat *p- r*bbing her eyes/ DEetting the lo" do"n6D she as0ed- ya"ning and stret'hing/ DWor0ing on it-D I ans"ered/ DAo yo* need a re'ap6D DOh- no/ I%+e heard it all already/D !he s'rat'hed her side- and then stood *p- stret'hing again/ I "ondered "hen she%d had a 'han'e to tal0 to him/ DEetting in a 'ar 'hase doesn%t seem all that 'ra.y "hen yo*%re hanging o*t "ith people "ho are dealing "ith brain"ashing- 'orporate espionage- and potential goons &rom the past "ho aim to 'olle't on o*tstanding debts-D !he la*ghed/

I "ished I 'o*ld ha+e some o& her mirth/ DWe ha+e to &ig*re o*t "hat "e%re going to do abo*t transportation-D I 'hanged the s*b4e't/ I "asn%t in the mood &or any more heady topi's in "hi'h "e shared o*r pasts "ith ea'h other/ DThe RN is pretty m*'h *seless to *s/ I do*bt that "e 'an tip it ba'0 o&& o& the in'line that it%s on to get it o&& o& that tree- and e+en i& "e 'o*ld- it loo0s li0e "e bro0e an a1le "hen "e &ell into the ra+ine/D 7*nter 'h*'0led/ D!he%s pretty b*sted *p- all right-D he said/ DB*t "e made it all the "ay do"n here in one pie'eso she did all right/D DI%m s*re that "e%ll be able to 'all a 'ab and a to" tr*'0 &rom the !yn'hro labs on'e "e get there-D Janine stated/ DE1'ept that they don%t 0no" "e%re 'oming and probably don%t "ant *s there in the &irst pla'e-D I reminded her/ DBest 'ase s'enario is that "e

'an get in *nder the g*ise o& being reporters or something- do some snooping aro*nd- and maybe &ind someone "illing to help *s o*t/ 8&ter that- "e%re going to ha+e to be pretty snea0y and in+enti+e/D 7*nter loo0ed at me as i& I "as st*pid/ DWhat6D I as0ed/ D!erio*sly6D DBetter s*ggestions- then6D I as0ed/ DWhy don%t "e pay someone to gi+e *s the in&ormation6D he s*ggested/ DWe 'an%t 4*st bribe someone to tal09D Janine insisted/ DWell- 4*st so yo* g*ys 0no" "here I stand- I thin0 that as0ing them is the easiest ans"er/ I& that &ails- "e 'an &all ba'0 to yo*r plan o& snea0ing in/D

DI 'an%t 'ommit to the dire't approa'h in this 'ase- 7*nter-D I arg*ed/ DThin0 abo*t it/ I& yo* "ere !yn'hro !ystems- "o*ld yo* impli'ate yo*rsel& to the three o& *s6 O& 'o*rse not9 Co*%d 'all se'*rity and ha+e *s es'orted o&& o& the premises/D DThen ho" do yo* plan on snea0ing in and &inding the right person to tal0 to6D 7e reb*tted/ D$or'e6D I s*ggested/ DThings are getting o*t o& 'ontrol i& yo*%re planning on resorting to +iolen'e- d*de-D he said- thro"ing another bran'h onto the &ire/ DThings "ere o*t o& 'ontrol long be&ore that option e+en presented itsel&-D I said/ I tho*ght abo*t his re'ommendation- and he had a point- b*t i& !yn'hro 0ne" something abo*t "hat had happened to Cor and had in&ormation or her medi'al history on &ile- it might impli'ate them in ha+ing a hand in "hat

'a*sed her amnesia and- more re'ently- her disappearan'e/ They "o*ldn%t 'laim to 0no" anything i& "e as0ed them thro*gh the proper 'hannels- I "as s*re o& it/ They%d sti'0 to denying e+erything- 4*st li0e they had done "hen I%d 'alled them so many times be&ore/ That%s ho" 'ompanies li0e that "or0- isn%t it6 Aeny e+erything- sending all in5*iries to the la"yers6 It "as happening already on a m*'h bigger s'ale "ith all o& the press and the &ederal in+estigations going on/ I had no "eight at all 'ompared to the 0ind o& le+erage the bigger entities 'o*ld m*ster and I 0ne" that they "ere *nder absol*tely no obligation to assist a stranger and t"o o& his &riends "ho "al0ed *p to the &ront des0 re5*esting potentially 'lassi&ied and sensiti+e in&ormation abo*t possible &ormer (or 'ontin*ing) test s*b4e'ts/ I loo0ed at 7*nter and Janine/ We all needed a sho"er a&ter sleeping in the "oods &or a &e" ho*rs and hanging o*t so 'lose to &ires- both in the tr*'0 and on the gro*nd/ By the time that "e got there- "e%d all be e+en more dishe+eled- sin'e "e%d probably ha+e to

tre0 a 'o*ple o& 0ilometers thro*gh the "oods to get to the gates o& the !yn'hro 'omple1/ I shoo0 my head/ DIt "on%t "or0/ They "on%t tal0- I%m s*re o& it-D I stated/ DWe ha+e to &ind a "ay to get someone on the inside to tal0 to *s on'e "e%re there/ !omeone%s got to be "illing to gi+e *s the in&o that "e need to &ind her2 someone%s bo*nd to 0no" "here to loo0 and 'an 5*i'0ly &ind the ans"ers &or *s/ I%m still open to yo*r ideas i& yo* 'an 'ome *p "ith something more e&&e'ti+e-D I added/ DWhat i& "e ma0e things "orse i& the "rong person &inds o*t that "e%re loo0ing &or her6D Janine as0ed- mo+ing 'loser to the &ire/ DWhat do yo* mean6 They ob+io*sly 0no" "e%re loo0ing &or her9D I said- nodding to"ards the "re'0ed RN/ D:nless those g*ys 'hasing *s "ere a&ter me-D 7*nter added/

DWhat I mean is that i& !yn'hro%s trying to 'o+er something *p- li0e in&ormation rele+ant to her &ile- and the "rong person &inds o*t that "e%re loo0ing snooping into their in&ormation- they might ma0e it e+en harder &or *s to get to "hat "e%re loo0ing &or G or maybe they%ll erase the data altogether-D she replied/ DB*t i& she%s one o& the test s*b4e'ts- li0e ?artain s*ggested to me in the bar- then "hy "o*ld they get rid o& her &iles 4*st be'a*se "e "ere as0ing some 5*estions abo*t her6 !*rely they%d e1pe't her to intera't "ith people o*tside o& the 'ompany on'e she "as done "ith "hate+er tests or treatments that they p*t her thro*gh-D I arg*ed/ DThat%s ass*ming that she "asn%t a +ol*nteer-D 7*nter said/ DWe%re not really s*re "hat she "as- 4*st that she "as see0ing treatment &or her memory loss/D

D8ll that yo* 0no" is "hat yo* e1perien'ed "ith her-D Janine said/ D!he 'an%t remember "hat happened be&ore then- either- and &rom "hat yo*%+e told *s- her li&e leading *p to "hen she met yo* is 0ind o& a blan0 spa'e that she only re'alls &ragments o&/D DWho "o*ld "illingly s*b4e't themsel+es to 'omplete memory eras*re6D I as0ed- not belie+ing that it "as possible &or her to do it/ D!he "asn%t li0e that/ !he didn%t "or0 that "ay/ !he "anted to remember her past- not &orget it9D DWell- ?artain 'laims to ha+e *ndergone the pro'ed*re as "ell- b*t arg*ing abo*t it "on%t help *s get any 'loser to her-D Janine saidso*nding resigned/ DI hope that they let *s *se the phone to ma0e those phone 'alls- at least/D D8ny"ay- "e 'o*ld steal a 'ar i& "e had to-D 7*nter s*ggested/ DI mean- i& "e 'an%t t*rn *p anything at the labs/D

I "as a bit s*rprised to hear the s*ggestion 'ome &rom 7*nter 'onsidering ho" m*'h he seemed to "ant to stay o&& o& the radar/ !tealing a 'ar "o*ld be a 5*i'0 "ay to get 'a*ght and go to 4ail- &or not only the the&t o& the +ehi'le- b*t also &or "hate+er other 'rimes he may ha+e been "anted &or/ 8 r*n,in "ith the la" "o*ld be a bad "ay to brea0 his hiat*s &rom so'iety/ 7o"e+er- "e didn%t ha+e a reliable "ay to get ba'0 to the 'ity on'e "e "ere done at !yn'hro/ The poli'e "o*ld only be an iss*e i& they a't*ally 'a*ght *s/ D8t least it "o*ld gi+e yo* g*ys a "ay to get ba'0 home-D he added/ It seemed "e "ere on the same page/ I 'on'eded- not "anting to 'ontin*e debating the point *nless "e a't*ally had to be'a*se the labs t*rned o*t to be a dead end/ 7*nter 0i'0ed the side o& the RN hal&heartedly/ D!o*nds good to me9D Janine stret'hed one &inal time- stopping to "ipe her nose on the slee+e o& her s"eatshirt/ MThe high"ay%s a &e"

0ilometers &rom here-D she dire'ted- pointing to her le&t/ DThe road *p abo+e *s sho*ld lead to the entran'e o& the labs- "hi'h sho*ldn%t be too &ar &rom "here "e%re at no"- sin'e "e "ere almost there "hen "e got 0no'0ed o&& o& the road/D I hoped that things at the 'omple1 "o*ld be o0ay2 I "as praying to anyone or anything that "o*ld listen to me and perhaps had the po"er to help *s- not e1pe'ting an ans"er- and "asn%t s*rprised "hen no ans"er arri+ed/ I al"ays hated 'amping as a 0id- and o*r sl*mber party in the "oods only reminded me o& that/ I remembered all the times I spent in the ba'0yard- at 'ampgro*nds- or in random "oodsy areas on 'amping trips "ith my &amily or &riends "hen I "as yo*nger/ I had a rene"ed appre'iation &or all things ele'tri'- &or 'entral heating and air- &or mi'ro"a+e o+ens- and &or sho"ers "ith *nlimited s*pplies o& hot "ater/ The one night "as all that it too0- really/ Tho*gh I 'o*ld appre'iate all o& those things

e+en more- I also begin to see a ne" side to the "orld that I had pre+io*sly been ignoring2 I g*ess that%s "hat happens "hen yo* t*rn o&& all the lights and get a"ay &rom the noise o& the 'ity- on'e yo*%re s*rro*nded by the big emptiness o& nat*re "ith some &riends- h*ddled aro*nd a 'amp&ire/ 7*nter might ha+e been on the right tra'0- a&ter all- e+en i& that tra'0 "asn%t the one &or me/ DWish I%d bro*ght some marshmallo"s &or brea0&ast-D 7*nter 5*ipped/ We all 'h*'0led politely and began gathering o*r things/ DAid yo* e+er 'amp o*t as a 0id6D Janine as0ed *s- and I s'o&&ed/ DWhat6D !he as0ed/ DI "as 4*st thin0ing abo*t ho" m*'h I hated 'amping "hen I "as a 0id- that%s all/ !o I tho*ght it "as pretty &*nny that yo*%d as0 abo*t it/ !*re yo*%re not a mind reader- 0iddo6D

D8re yo* s*re that yo* "eren%t reading my mind &irst- and that%s "hy yo* "ere thin0ing abo*t it6D she as0ed/ DI "ish one o& yo* g*ys "as a psy'hi'-D 7*nter thre" in/ DThat "ay yo* 'o*ld tell *s "hat the best 'andidate &or a 'ar donation is/D 7e "as really sold on the idea o& stealing a 'ar/ 3aybe on'e yo* start stealing things- yo* 'an%t stop/ It "asn%t long be&ore "e "ere on o*r "ay againhi0ing *p a slight grade to"ards the theoreti'al lo'ation o& the resear'h &a'ility/ It "as still 'old- b*t "e stayed "arm d*e to o*r rapid pa'e thro*gh the &orest/ We 'ame *pon a road that "as *npa+ed and ro*gh- b*t had been *sed eno*gh that most o& the &oliage had been 'leared a"ay- repla'ed "ith gra+el- m*d- and tire go*ges/ DWhate+er tra&&i' this road might ha+e had-D 7*nter began- Dit m*st ha+e been 'arrying some pretty hea+y st*&&/ =oo0 at those tread mar0s9D

DTan0s6D Janine as0ed/ DAo*bt that-D I said/ DWhat 0ind o& 'ompany "o*ld need tan0s at their resear'h department6D DWhat 0ind o& 'ompany "o*ld hide their *nlisted resear'h 'enter on an a''ess road at the base o& a mo*ntain in the middle o& no"here6D 7*nter 'o*ntered/ I tho*ght abo*t that/ 7e had a point- b*t I serio*sly do*bted "e%d r*n into any tan0s o*t there/ I only had one 'lip &or the pistol that I "as 'arrying- and the Q0 'aliber ro*nds that "ere in it "o*ldn%t ha+e the stopping po"er re5*ired to prote't *s in the e+ent o& an en'o*nter "ith a tan0/ Or a large 'ar- &or that matter/ D!yn'hro !ystems is *p to a little more than e+en "e%+e s*spe'ted-D Janine obser+ed/ 7*nter nodded- stepping *nder a lo" hanging bran'h/

We arri+ed at the end o& the a''ess road a short "hile later/ The road ended in a small 'learing- abo*t three times as "ide as the road had been/ There "as a gate in &ront o& *s- and a&ter that- a large- empty 'on'rete lot/ 8 t"o storied- mostly glass b*ilding "as at the &ar end o& the pa+ed yard- and a 'o*ple o& smaller b*ildings made o& bri'0 "ere beside it on ea'h side/ 7*nter "al0ed *p to the gate/ DIt loo0s li0e this &en'e r*ns the perimeter o& the 'omple1-D he said- pointing to the 'oiled ra.or "ires at the top o& the &en'e/ DThe bad ne"s is that there%s ra.or "ire *p there/ Worse ne"s than that is that the "hole damn thing appears to be ele'tri&ied/D I noti'ed a small sign ne1t to the a''ess gate that ser+ed as a "arning abo*t the danger/ Whoe+er p*t the &en'e *p really didn%t "ant people "andering into the 'omple1- b*t they didn%t seem +ery 'on'erned abo*t "arning

trespassers abo*t the 'onse5*en'es o& going ineither/ DWe sho*ldn%t be here-D Janine said- 'on'erned/ DWe 'o*ld get into a lot o& tro*ble &or going in there/D DWell- I thin0 that%s probably the b*ilding "e "ant to get into-D I nodded to"ards the glass b*ilding/ DWe%+e 4*st got to &ig*re o*t a "ay to get to the door/D DThere%s no 0ey 'ard s"ipe on the a''ess bo1 &or this gate-D 7*nter pointed o*t/ DJ*st a man*al 0eypad/ I 'an try to g*ess the 'ombination/D 7e began p*n'hing in n*mbers/ DI ha+e a bad &eeling abo*t this "hole pla'e-D Janine reiterated/ 7e ignored her- 'ontin*ing his attempt to *nlo'0 the man*al gate lo'0/ I "al0ed beside the &en'e to "here it entered into the hea+ier "oods beside *s/

DThis 'an%t be the only entran'e to the 'omple1-D I said/ D7o" &ar aro*nd do yo* thin0 that this &en'e goes6D DToo &ar to "al0 aro*nd be&ore "e get 0i'0ed o*t o& here-D Janine said/ DCo* 'an%t e+en see the other side o& the 'omple1 &rom here/ There%s 4*st that "all o& trees behind the b*ildings/ We don%t 0no" ho" &ar the &en'e goes ba'0 into the "oods- either/D D3aybe there%s no &en'e on the other side-D 7*nter s*ggested/ D3aybe there%s not e+en any ele'tri'ity in it/D DI%m not going to grab it 4*st to &ind o*t-D Janine gre" "ide,eyed- stepping ba'0/ DThat%s 4*st st*pid/D I loo0ed ba'0 o+er at 7*nter/ I didn%t intend to grab the &en'e- either/ It "as possible that the &en'e ended some"here in the "oods beside *s- b*t I do*bted it/ Why bother p*tting a &en'e *p in the &irst pla'e- i& someone 'o*ld 4*st "al0 aro*nd it6

D!e'*rity seems pretty rela1ed-D 7*nter said/ DThis pla'e loo0s li0e a ghost to"n/D It "as tr*e/ There "ere no +ehi'les in the lotno se'*rity patrols had arri+ed to tell *s to lea+e the area- and there didn%t appear to be any h*man a'ti+ity going on aro*nd any o& the b*ildings at all/ DWe m*st be at the "rong pla'e-D Janine de'ided/ MDWe%re not at the "rong pla'e-D 7*nter arg*ed "ith her/ DThis is the only pla'e o*t here9D DAon%t be a 4er0-D she said to him- s'o"ling/ DCo* don%t 0no" me "ell eno*gh to a't li0e that/D DThat%s e1a'tly "hy I 'an a't li0e that- 0id/ I& yo* &orgot- I%m the one "ho ga+e yo* a ride o*t here and destroyed my ride all in the name o& &inding his missing girl&riend- so I%d be 'are&*l "ho yo*%re 'alling a 4er09D 7*nter e1'laimed/

DNo" that "e%re here- let%s do this/ Other"ise"hy%d "e e+en bother6D I loo0ed ba'0 to her/ !he loo0ed li0e she "as abo*t to 'ry/ I &elt *n'om&ortable "ith 7*nter bringing *p his do*bts abo*t things- b*t I 0ne" that they "ere legitimate/ I &elt g*ilty abo*t "hat had happened to his RN- b*t "e needed to get into that b*ilding someho"- and the t"o o& them &ighting "asn%t going to ma0e that happen/ DWe don%t ha+e all day-D I said- 'hanging the s*b4e't/ DCo* might "ant to h*rry *p and get to "or0 on that/D I pointed at the 0eypad to reiterate my re5*est/ 7*nter 'ontin*ed to e1amine the pad- randomly hitting n*mbers in the hopes he%d get l*'0y and &ind the right 'ombination/ DTry entering 'ode n*mber P0J-D I s*ggested/ To o*r s*rprise- the red stat*s light s"it'hed o+er to green- and "e heard the lo'0 'li'0 open/

7*nter let o*t a lo" "histle/ DThat%s a pretty good g*ess- d*de/D D?sy'hi' one-D Janine said- sl*gging me in the arm/ I p*shed open the gate- and it made a lo*d 'rea0ing so*nd that e'hoed o*t a'ross the laboratory yards/ D7ope&*lly they don%t ha+e any se'*rity dogs aro*nd here-D I said- loo0ing aro*nd/ D8nd hope&*lly the g*ards are still asleep-D Janine added/ We stayed in the shado"s to be s*re that no one "o*ld see *s- i& anyone "ere indeed aro*nd *s in the &irst pla'e/ 8ll signs pointed to the &a'ility being 'ompletely *nmanned- b*t that didn%t mean that the se'*rity or stationed employees "eren%t aro*nd , they 4*st "eren%t in o*r 'orner o& the 'omple1/

Janine 'o*ghed a little and then "iped her nose/ DI thin0 that I%m 'at'hing a 'old-D she saidsni&&ling/ !he b*ttoned the top b*tton o& the "ool military,style 'oat she%d pi'0ed o*t o& 7*nter%s things the night be&ore/ The 'oat "as more than a &e" too big &or her and made her loo0 li0e a little 0id "earing her &ather%s 'lothes/ 8nd so "e mo+ed a'ross the long stret'hes o& 'on'rete and asphalt- the so*nd o& o*r &ootsteps e'hoing o&& o& the seemingly li&eless b*ildings that made *p the *nlisted !yn'hro !ystems resear'h &a'ility/ The 'losest b*ilding seemed li0e the best pla'e to start- and I mentioned as m*'h to 7*nter and Janine/ They agreed- so "e "al0ed *p to the &ront doors/ I 'o*ldn%t see inside o& the b*ilding be'a*se o& the re&le'ti+e tint on the glass o& the "indo"sb*t the a*tomati' door sensors didn%t triggerand the doors "o*ldn%t open e+en tho*gh "e all tried to p*ll them apart/

DNo" "hat6D Janine as0ed me/ DNe1t b*ilding- I g*ess-D I said- rea'hing &or my 'igarettes/ DThey%re all going to be lo'0ed- yo* 0no"-D she said to me/ I loo0ed at 7*nter and he shr*gged/ DWon%t 0no" *ntil "e try/ =i0e I said- man- "e didn%t 'ome all this "ay &or nothing/D DI still thin0 "e%re at the "rong pla'e-D Janine said/ D=oo0 aro*nd/ There aren%t any !yn'hro logo signs *p any"here/D I ignored her and started "al0ing to"ards a smaller b*ilding to o*r le&t/ I "as s*rprised to see a rotating door in the entran'e"ay o& the se'ond b*ilding "hen "e arri+ed at it/ The "indo"s "eren%t tintedeither- and all o& the lights inside "ere on/ We pa*sed &or a moment- e+al*ating the str*'t*re/ D=oo0s li0e somebody%s home-D I obser+edleaning *p against the glass so that I 'o*ld get

a better +ie" o& the small lobby area on the other side o& the re+ol+ing door/ 8 re'eption des0 "as in the middle o& the room/ Behind that "as a set o& metal doors that loo0ed li0e they belonged to an ele+ator- b*t I 'o*ldn%t *nderstand "hy anyone "o*ld p*t an ele+ator in a b*ilding that "as only t"o stories tall/ It seemed li0e a lot o& e&&ort to ma0e the se'ond story handi'ap a''essible- i& that "as the 'asesin'e it "as a pri+ate &a'ility and it "o*ld ha+e been 'heaper to mo+e "hate+er "as *pstairs to the &irst &loor- I tho*ght/ There "ere t"o &i'*s trees in the room- one on ea'h side o& the re'eption des0- and they both seemed to be in good health/ The pla'ed loo0ed 'lean- as i& it had been o''*pied re'ently/ DE+en i& no one%s attending the des0-D I added/ 7*nter leaned *p against the glass- too/ DCep/ Ni'e ele+ator/D Janine raised an eyebro"- stepping ba'0/

DThis b*ilding isn%t tall eno*gh &or an ele+atoris it6D !he as0ed/ DThat%s 0ind o& "hat I "as thin0ing-D I said/ D:nless the people that "or0 here are really la.y/D DThere%s the possibility that the ele+ator goes do"n instead o& *p-D 7*nter s*ggested/ D:ndergro*nd resear'h ele+ator- o& all things-D I said to mysel&- and to the others# D!hall "e see i& "e 'an tal0 to someone inside6D D8&ter yo*- man-D 7*nter said/ D8re yo* s*re that yo* "ant to do this6D Janine as0ed me- grabbing my arm/ I p*lled a"ay &rom her/ DWhat%s "rong "ith yo*- Janine6D I snapped/ D!'ared someone%s going to tell *s to lea+e6 Better that than r*nning a"ay right "hen "e%re &inally ma0ing some sort o& progress9 Better to go to 4ail than to not 0no" anything at all9D

D!ometimes-D she said 5*ietly- loo0ing at the gro*nd/ DCo*%re a'ting "eird/ 3aybe yo* sho*ld "ait o*t here/ It "ill only ta0e a min*te or t"o-D I said/ D$ine-D she said- 'rossing her arms and s'o"ling/ I entered the b*ilding and 7*nter &ollo"ed me/ The air inside o& the b*ilding had a 'lean smellas i& it had been s'r*bbed and ioni.ed and &iltered relentlessly2 it "as a smell li0e the one yo*%d noti'e a&ter a hea+y rainstorm mi1ed "ith the antisepti'- medi'al odor o& a hospital/ I "al0ed to the re'eption des0- loo0ing &or a b* that "o*ld ring an attendant- i& one "ere a't*ally present/ I didn%t see a b*..erb*t *pon &*rther inspe'tion o& the des0- I 'o*ld see an array o& monitors displaying se'*rity &eeds &rom o*tside o& the b*ilding as "ell as one that "as loo0ing do"n on *s/ I 'he'0ed o+er my sho*lder 5*i'0ly b*t 'o*ldn%t lo'ate

the 'amera- "hi'h m*st ha+e been small gi+en that the "alls o+er the doors behind the des0 "ere 'ompletely &eat*reless/ DIt%s spoo0y 5*iet in here-D 7*nter 'ommented/ 7e "as e1amining the &i'*s tree on the right side o& the des0- and appeared to be trying to determine i& it "as a real tree or a +ery 'on+in'ing &a0e/ I t*rned to 'he'0 on Janine- momentarily 'on'erned that she had "andered o&& to somepla'e else in the 'omple1- b*t she "as still o*tside o& the b*ilding- shi&ting aro*nd"at'hing *s thro*gh the glass/ I gest*red &or her to 'ome in- b*t she ga+e me an Das,i&D loo0 in response/ I t*rned ba'0 aro*nd- 'he'0ing the doors &or an a''ess panel/ I tho*ght "e%d be able to &ind a 0ey 'ard in the re'eption des0 to open them and at least &ind o*t i& they "ent *pstairs or- as 7*nter s*spe'ted- do"nstairs/ DThere%s no s"it'h &or the doors-D I noted/

DCo*%re right- b*t there%s a 'all bo1 right herebehind the des0-D he replied/ I mo+ed aro*nd to "here he "as standingpa*sed &or a moment- and then loo0ed at him/ I%d someho" o+erloo0ed the 'all bo1 on my &irst e1amination o& the des0/ D!o "ho do thin0 it 'alls6D I as0ed/ DOnly one "ay to &ind o*t-D he ans"eredpi'0ing *p the re'ei+er/ 7e "aited- I "aitedand o*tside- Janine "aited- "at'hing *s "ith '*riosity/ Nothing happened/ DAid anyone ans"er6D I as0ed/ 7e didn%t loo0 at me- st*dying the monitors instead/ DNope-D he replied/ DI thin0 "e sho*ld try another b*ilding-D I began- b*t "as interr*pted by the so*nd o& the

metal doors behind me opening/ I t*rned aro*nd 5*i'0ly and too0 a step ba'0"ardsr*nning into the des0/ I e1pe'ted the missing re'eptionist to e1it &rom the doors- b*t I "as mista0en/ No one 'ame o*t- tho*gh it did appear to be an ele+ator/ DOn se'ond tho*ght-D I said/ Janine entered the b*ilding thro*gh the re+ol+ing doors- then- as0ing ho" "e had managed to open the ele+ator doors/ D8't*ally- they opened on their o"n-D 7*nter told her/ DThat%s not 'reepy or omino*s-D she 5*ipped/ D!o "ho%s "aiting &or *s on the other end o& the ele+ator6D DEood 5*estion-D I ans"ered her- &eeling a bit li0e someone "as playing "ith *s/ I stepped into the ele+ator- tho*gh- de'iding that it "as too late to t*rn ba'0/ I 'he'0ed the

'ontrol bo1 inside2 there "as only one b*tton a+ailable/ There "ere no mar0ings indi'ating "hether the ele+ator "ent *p or do"n- tho*ghso I still "asn%t s*re "ho "as going to "in the debate abo*t the dire'tion it "o*ld tra+el in/ D8re yo* g*ys 'oming6D I as0ed them- "aiting on them to get into the ele+ator "ith me/ They loo0ed at ea'h other and then Janine too0 a step in my dire'tion- b*t 7*nter grabbed her arm- holding her ba'0/ DIs that really the best idea6D 7e 5*estioned/ DWe don%t really 0no" "here it%s going- i& there%s anyone there- or ho" illegal this really is getting- e+en- 'onsidering that "e%re te'hni'ally trespassing already/ We%+e yet to see anyone "ho "or0s here/D Janine made a &*nny &a'e/ DWe%re already 'ommitted- 7*nter- yo* said so yo*rsel&/ Co* 'an%t p*sh *s along this &ar then s*ddenly get 'old &eet-D she reasoned/

D!omeone sho*ld ta0e the ele+ator- any"ay/ It%s not li0e it%s going to be some trap or something/ That 'reepy and omino*s thing "as 4*st a 4o0e/ Co* g*ys 0no" I%+e got a "eird sense o& h*morand regardless- I still thin0 "e%re at the "rong pla'e/ It doesn%t say anything abo*t !yn'hro !ystems any"here in the 'omple19D DWhate+er g*ys-D I said- annoyed "ith them/ DWait here/ I%ll be ba'0 in a 'o*ple o& min*tes/D I p*shed the b*tton/ The doors 'losed/ 8nd that "as the last time that I sa" Janine or 7*nter/

There%s the per'*ssi+e so*nd o& hea+y rain on the roo& and the "indo"s/ The r*bber,meets, glass so*nd o& "indshield "ipers "hile "e%re "at'hing them- holding hands "hile the "indo"s get &oggy/ !he breathes near my ear"arm- h*mid/ 7er head- resting on my sho*lder/ !he smells li0e la+ender and tea lea+es- li0e a ne" boo0/ B*t then again- "e%re yo*ng2 "e%re st*pid thirsty blan0 pages- so it ma0es a little sense/ The dashboard is 'ra'0ed and distorted &rom too many s*mmers o& ba0ing in the s*n/ The bla'0 +inyl is peeling a"ay &rom the door liners- the seats are pat'hed "ith d*'t tapethere%s r*st on the metal"or0/ The radio is an original- an analog monster- p*sh b*tton presets ready to 4ar the needle a'ross the *ne+enly ill*minated dial/ DI lo+e yo*-D she says/ DI lo+e yo* more than anything or anyone on this earth-D as she stares at the "iper bladesL to'0 to'0- s'reep/ To'0 to'0- s'reep/

I don%t mo+e/ I don%t respond/ I don%t e+en breathe/ DB*t I 'an%t "ait any longer &or yo*-D she pa*ses- s"allo"s/ I hear her tong*e to*'h her lips/ DI%m getting o*t o& this pla'e/ I%m lea+ing/D To'0 to'0- s'reep/ To'0 to'0- s'reep/ I blin0/ T"i'e/ Witho*t a "ord- I ta0e my hand &rom hers/ I "ant to thro" *p and die- 'ho0ing on my +omit and bile/ I "ant to '*rl *p into a ball and +anish/ I "ant to p*t my &ist thro*gh all o& the brittle plasti' and dirty glass and po'0mar0ed metal- so I 'an &eel the bones brea0ing the s0in tearing a"ay/ I "ant to 0iss her on the mo*th/ I "ant to &eel her s"eaty hands ra0ing their "ay a'ross my ba'0- dra"ing blood- h*rting me/ J*st one last time/ It%s all so &*'0ed *p/ I 0no" that I sho*ld let her go- so I 'lose my eyes- and I &o'*s# To'0 to'0- s'reep/ To'0 to'0- s'reep/

DI hope yo* *nderstand-D she says- and I don%t/ Then again- "e%re yo*ng/ We%re st*pid thirsty blan0 pages- so it ma0es a little sense/

Chapter 12 I m*st ha+e tra+eled do"n at least three or &o*r &loors- gi+en the amo*nt o& time it too0 &or the ele+ator to stop/ I "as a little s*rprised that there "ere that many s*b,le+els in s*'h a small b*ilding- b*t being so &ar *ndergro*nd meant that the gro*nd &loor might misrepresent the total si.e o& the b*ilding/ 3aybe all o& the b*ildings in the entire &a'ility "ere 'onne'ted *ndergro*nd and the gro*nd le+el b*ildings "ere stri'tly administrati+e and storage areas- 'onstr*'ted &or appearan'e/ It didn%t matter/ I intended to ma0e a 5*i'0 s'an o+er "here+er the ele+ator ended *p stopping at- 'he'0 some things o*t- see i& there "ere signs that anyone "as there (e+en tho*gh all signs pointed to that not being the 'ase- as &ar as "e%d seen)/ 8&ter that- I planned on ret*rning ba'0 to the *pper le+el and letting Janine and 7*nter 0no" "hat I%d dis'o+eredthen see "hat they tho*ght "as the best 'o*rse o& a'tion &rom there/

Co* get all 0inds o& ideas in yo*r head- any"ay"hen yo* don%t 0no" "hat%s going to happen ne1t/ I imagined e+erything "o*ld go smoothly/ The "orst,'ase s'enario that I 'ame *p "ith in+ol+ed an aggressi+e se'*rity g*ard or t"o es'orting *s o&& o& the property "ith a stern "arning &orbidding *s &rom e+er ret*rning/ I also 'onsidered the possibility that Janine and 7*nter "o*ld agree to ret*rn do"nstairs "ith me a&ter I in&ormed them o& the hypotheti'al +ast "ealth o& in&ormation that I%d dis'o+ered on "hate+er s*b,le+el o& the small b*ilding that I ended *p on/ O& 'o*rse- I tho*ght all o& that on the ride do"n- be&ore the doors opened/ Then the ele+ator stopped/ I p*shed all o& my ideas to the side/ The doors opened/ In &ront o& me "as a sterile room +ery similar to the one I%d le&t 4*st a moment or t"o be&ore/ 8

re'eption des0 "as a'ross &rom the ele+atorand at it- a sharp loo0ing "oman dressed in bla'0 'lothing sat/ I noti'ed that she "as staring at me as soon as the doors opened- and she didn%t brea0 her ga.e as I stepped o*t o& the ele+ator- 5*i'0ly si.ed the room *p- made note o& the pair o& glass doors behind her that appeared to lead to t"o separate hall"ays- and ret*rned my attention to her/ D:m-D I started- *ns*re o& "hat to say to her/ D7i/D 7er ne*tral e1pression didn%t 'hange- b*t she ad4*sted her glasses slightly and brie&ly loo0ed at something behind the &a'ade o& the des0/ I ass*med that there "ere monitors o& some sort embedded in the panel- as had been the 'ase in the des0 *pstairs/ I didn%t ha+e time to ponder "hat in&ormation she might be re'ei+ing- be'a*se she spo0e/ DWel'ome ba'0- sir/ We%+e been e1pe'ting yo*/D That really thre" me o&&/

DCo*%re 0idding- right6D I as0ed/ DCo* say that to e+erybody "hen yo* 'at'h them brea0ing into yo*r resear'h 'omple1 don%t yo*6D !he raised an eyebro"/ I noti'ed her eye 'olorthen# bl*e/ It "as a good 'olor &or her/ !he a+oided ans"ering the 5*estion- probably be'a*se it "as a st*pid one/ !he typed something into a 0eypad on the des0 and then ret*rned her &*ll attention to me- 'learing her throat/ DWe 0no" "ho yo*%re loo0ing &or/ We ha+e the ans"ers/D 3y heart leaped into my throat and I &elt di..y and ner+o*s/ I 'o*ld hear my p*lse po*nding in my ears/ Blood press*re rising- anti'ipation/ 8n1iety/ DCo*%re going to ha+e to tr*st *s- tho*gh-D she added/ 7er initial statement seemed dire't eno*gh- li0e she already 0ne" "hat I "as there &or- b*t I also reali.ed that it "as 4*st +ag*e

eno*gh that it 'o*ld ha+e been some "eird psy'hology thing- trying to get me to say "hat I "as doing there "itho*t a't*ally 'oming o*t and as0ing me/ DWhat do yo* mean by %*s%6D I as0ed- 'on'erned abo*t her re&erral to hersel& and *nnamed others/ D!yn'hro !ystems- o& 'o*rse/ This is a main resear'h &a'ility- as yo* a"are/D DI%+e had a &e" do*bts/ 3y &riends *pstairsLD I began- b*t she interr*pted me/ DWe are ta0ing 'are o& them-D she stated&irmly/ !he stood *p/ !he "as almost as tall as me- easily approa'hing si1 &eet- not 'o*nting the heels that she "as "earing/ I 'o*ldn%t dete't any mali'e in her tone- tho*gh- so I didn%t "orry abo*t "hat she meant "hen she said that they "ere Dta0ing 'are o&D Janine and 7*nter/

!he "al0ed aro*nd the des0 and approa'hed me/ DWill yo* 'ome "ith me6D !he as0ed/ D?lease-D she added as an a&tertho*ght/ I remembered "hat Janine had said abo*t being 'ommitted already/ I didn%t 'ome as &ar as I had &or nothing/ 8ll o& the late nights- the strange meetings- the "eird trails that I%d &ollo"ed# they all led *p to "hate+er ans"ers the "oman dressed in all bla'0 "as abo*t to pro+ide/ !he gest*red to"ards the glass doors on the le&t side o& the room/ DWhat%s behind those other doors6D I as0ed hernot e1pe'ting an ans"er/ D3ore rooms/ 8 hall"ay that ends in the same pla'e as the one "e%re abo*t to ta0e-D she saidstill gest*ring to"ards the door on the le&t/ DWo*ld yo* pre&er to ta0e the hall"ay on the right6D

D8't*ally-D I said- DI don%t 'are/ I "ant to 0no" "hat !yn'hro%s le+el o& in+ol+ement in my li&e has been o+er the past year/ I "ant to 0no" "here my girl&riend is- i& yo* people too0 heror i& yo* e+en 0no" "here she is/ I "ant yo* to tell me ho" to &ind her/D D!hall "e6D !he as0ed again- her e1pression still ne*tral/ DI%m &ollo"ing yo*-D I said- getting the door &or her/ We "al0ed to the other end o& the hall"ay"hi'h "as abo*t 00 meters long- passing a set o& doors on ea'h side abo*t e+ery 0 meters/ The hall"ay ended at another glass door/ 8 larger room "as on the other side o& the door2 inside o& it "ere arrays o& monitors- strange+intage loo0ing dials- 0eyboards inlayed into e1pansi+e "or0spa'es- and most notably- a large glass obser+atory "indo"/ I 'o*ldn%t see "hat the obser+atory "indo" loo0ed o*t *pon &rom the hall"ay/

DWhat%s yo*r name6D I as0ed her/ !he pa*sed- loo0ing at me "ith the strangest e1pression- as i& she 'o*ldn%t de'ide ho" to ans"er the 5*estion/ It only lasted a momentand then it "as ba'0 to the same ne*trality/ D7ere%s o*r door-D she said- instead o& ans"ering/ !he opened the door immediately behind her instead o& the glass door that led to the obser+atory and 'ontrols room/ We stepped into a small o&&i'e/ Inside- it "as set *p 5*ite similarly to a physi'ian%s e1am room/ The 0inds o& things yo*%d &ind inside o& an e1am room "ere in there- any"ay- and it appeared that there "ere medi'al s*pplies o& some sort behind the transl*'ent 'abinet doors inside o& the room/ D7a+e a seat-D she said- nodding her head to"ards the e1am ben'h/ DI%ll stand-D I ans"ered/ D!*it yo*rsel&/D

DReally/ What%s going on6 I didn%t 'ome all this "ay 4*st &or a 'he'0*p/D !he almost 'ra'0ed a smile "hen I said that/ I &ig*red that I had a 'han'e to brea0 thro*gh her 'on+ersational "all- so I "ent "ith it/ DWhat%s so &*nny abo*t that6D I as0ed/ DCo*%re here to 'he'0 *p on something- aren%t yo*6 Or someone6D I tho*ght abo*t it &or a moment/

DCo* don%t tal0 abo*t it m*'h- do yo*6D she as0ed as "e sat on the train &rom ?aris to =ondon/ We "ere already *ndergro*nd2 the &l*'t*ations in air press*re made o*r ears pop as "e sped beneath the English Channel/ D8bo*t "hat6D I as0ed- ass*ming that she "as "ondering abo*t my &ormer marriage/ D8bo*t the times be&ore/ 8bo*t "hen yo* "ere married to Ni'toria/D 8ss*mption 'orre't/ DNot m*'h to say/ We got married- "e got di+or'ed- I mo+ed north/D DAid yo* lo+e her6D DI don%t 0no"-D I ans"ered- honestly/ D7o" 'an yo* not 0no"6 I hope that yo* ne+er say that abo*t me9D she replied- and e1aggerated loo0 o& "orry and sho'0 on her &a'e/

DI 'an ass*re yo* that I "ill ne+er "onder i& I lo+ed yo* or not- and I hope that "e ne+er rea'h a point in "hi'h I%d ha+e to 5*estion it/D DThen ho" 'an yo* be s*re abo*t someone that yo* "ere married to6 Be'a*se I "ant to 0no" ho" those 0inds o& things happenL be'a*se maybe they happened to me- too/D D!ometimes more &a'tors 'ome into play than 4*st lo+e-D I said/ DI thin0 that yo* and I are pretty l*'0y to ha+e &o*nd ea'h other/D DWe are-D she agreed- resting her head on my sho*lder/ DI tho*ght that I lo+ed her "hen I married hero& 'o*rse/ Things "ere 0ind o& 'ra.y ba'0 then/ I "as prone to ma0ing de'isions based more on the &eeling in the moment than 'onsidering the reality o& sit*ations/ Ni'toria "as an addi't and I tho*ght that I 'o*ld sa+e her- or 'hange her/ ?eople don%t 'hange- tho*gh/D !he "aited &or me to 'ontin*e/

DWe had a baby- a little girl/ We named her///D I pa*sed/ D!he died/D !he made a little gasping so*nd and rea'hed o+er- pla'ing her hand on my heart/ DI%m sorry-D she said/ D$or a long time- I blamed her &or that/ It a&&e'ted e+erything that I did- and most signi&i'antly- it "as the &inal blo" that tore o*r relationship apart/ What little relationship "e a't*ally had- as I dis'o+ered thro*gh the 'o*rse o& the di+or'e/D DWhat do yo* mean6D DWhen the baby died- there "as an in+estigation/ Ni'toria "as at the 'enter o& itLD I pa*sed/ Changing approa'hes- I 'ontin*ed/ DI 4*st tho*ght that I 0ne" her- and it t*rns o*t that all I 0ne" "as the 'hara'ter that she "as a'ting o*t &or me- that she "as li+ing a lie "hene+er I "as aro*nd her and that I ne+er really 0ne" her at all/ !he "as "ho I "anted

her to be- or "ho she tho*ght that I "anted her to be- b*t she had this dar0 side that I ne+er really sa" in the beginning/ 8ll o& that 'ame later on- on'e the anger began- on'e the pretense "as lost- as soon as she didn%t 'are "hat happened anymore/D DWhat do yo* mean "hen yo* say that she "as the 'hara'ter that yo* "anted her to be6D !he as0ed- *nderstandably "anting me to 'lear it *p &or her/

DI don%t e+en 0no" yo*-D I said to her- still preparing to ha+e to &ight her to lea+e/ E+erything 'o*rteo*s and 'orre't "ent o*t o& the "indo" &or me/ I had ne+er been in+ol+ed in a physi'al alter'ation "ith a "oman be&ore in my li&e- b*t I%d also ne+er been 'ornered in the basement e1amination room o& an international resear'h &a'ility "ith a stranger preparing to in4e't me "ith something that she said "as going to p*t me to sleep/ DThat%s tr*e/ B*t really- it%s 4*st sleep-D she said- raising her eyebro" again/ D8nd besidesyo*%re already 'ommitted/ Co* didn%t 'ome all this "ay &or nothing- did yo*6D $*'0 it- I tho*ght/ !he "as right/ What "as the point i& I didn%t try e+ery option that presented itsel&6 I had to &ind her/ I didn%t "ant to li+e "itho*t her/ I held o*t my arm/

The "oman in bla'0 nodded her head- stepped to"ards me- and 'are&*lly too0 me arm into her hand/ I noti'ed that her &ingers "ere +ery so&t/ 3y s0in &elt 'ool "hen she to*'hed me/ I "ondered i& she had done this be&ore "ith anyone else/ I &elt the pri'0 o& the needle in my s0in/ Eyes# bl*e/

8nd then#


We boo0ed a &light ba'0 &rom =ondon to 8tlanta- "ith plans to ma0e a road trip *p the eastern 'oast- ret*rning to home in a rental 'ar- ta0ing o*r time by be'oming to*rists in o*r o"n 'o*ntry/ DThere 'o*ld be others li0e yo*-D I s*ggestedripping into the bag o& salted pean*tss'attering them a'ross both o& *s and onto the &loor/ The &light attendant ga+e *s a disappro+ing loo0- I "a+ed to her- and I started to pi'0 *p the pean*ts/ DCo*r girl&riend%s getting mad at yo*-D she replied- nodding to"ards the attendant/ It "as an inside 4o0e that "e shared "ith ea'h other# "e%d re&er to third parties as o*r girl&riends or o*r boy&riends- 0ind o& ma0ing &*n o& the third party and 0ind o& ma0ing &*n o& o*rsel+es/ It "as a "ay o& stating to ea'h other that "e "ere both 'om&ortable "ith ea'h other- that "e "eren%t a&raid o& being silly- and that "e "eren%t parti'*larly "orried or 4ealo*s o& the

attention that both o& *s sometimes got &rom other peopleL e+en i& the '*rrent attention "e "ere the s*b4e't o& "as that o& the s'orn&*l &light attendant/ I "as still pi'0ing *p the pean*ts "hen I 'ontin*ed/ DWhat I%m trying to say is this# I& yo* "ere a test s*b4e't- "e 'o*ld loo0 yo*r do'tors *p again and get them to gi+e yo* another one o& their treatments/ They 'o*ld re+erse any pro'ed*res they might ha+e tried on yo*/ I& they%+e got the te'hnology to rearrange people%s memories- then it only stands to reason that they%+e got the te'hnology to ma0e ba'0*ps G in 'ase they s're" something *p in the operation/D DI& someone s're"ed *p- "hy "o*ld they re+eal themsel+es to *s6 What%s in it &or them6 I& they%re 'o+ering their tra'0s- e+en no"- it%s going to get progressi+ely harder to &ind themand e+en i& "e do manage to tra'0 someone do"n "ho "or0ed &or !yn'hro- they "on%t be

able to a''ess their e5*ipment anymore/ The go+ernment%s sh*t them do"n d*ring all o& the in+estigations-D she replied/ D3ost days I don%t thin0 that yo* e+en "ant me to remember "ho I *sed to be/D DI 'an%t deny that-D I said- m*lling it o+er a bit/ I "as done pi'0ing *p the pean*ts- so I started lining them *p in ro"s o& &i+e on the tray in &ront o& me/ MThe 'han'es that anyone &rom !yn'hro doing anything to help anyone o*t at this point are astronomi'ally against *s/ I%m already +ery l*'0y that I ended *p meeting yo* and that yo* are the "onder&*l person that yo* are/D DThan0s-D I said- gro"ing "arm in my 'hee0s/ Things li0e that made me &eel 0ind o& shy/ D3ore than one in a million/ One in billions *pon billions- probably-D she said- opening her o"n pa'0age o& pean*ts "ith m*'h more gra'e than I had/ !he d*mped a 'o*ple into her hand and tossed them into her mo*th/

DWhat did yo* say yo*r do'tor%s name "as6D I as0ed- "orried that she%d thin0 that I hadn%t been paying attention/ It "asn%t something "e tal0ed abo*t +ery o&ten- tho*gh/ 8s she saidmost o& the time I "anted her 4*st as she "as2 I 'onstantly "orried that she%d lea+e me i& she remembered her old li&e/ DWe 'o*ld start by trying to &ind him/D D$*nny-D she said- tilting her head to the side/ D7is name "on%t 'ome to me right no"/ Co* 0no"- it%s on the tip o& my tong*e/ I%ll remember in a se'ond/D Was this lapse related to her greater disorderor 4*st one o& those moments that happen to *s all- "hen yo* 'an%t seem to re'all in&ormation on demand &or "hate+er reason6 I "ondered i& all the ans"ers might be related to slips li0e that/ I rea'hed o+er and too0 her hand agains5* it/ DI lo+e yo*-D I said/

DI lo+e yo*- too/ What bro*ght that on6D DJ*st thin0ing it/D The s*n set o+er a broader hori.on than "e "ere a''*stomed to- and abo+e- the stars 'ame o*t- 'learer than they%d e+er been/ The "ings ro'0ed- and home "e &le"memories and moments all b*ndled *p in a press*ri.ed 'ell- miles abo+e the "orld- the o'eans belo"/ I didn%t reali.e that I%d &allen asleep *ntil she t*gged on my slee+e a little "hile later- staring in ama.ement thro*gh the "indo" at the billo"ing 'lo*ds belo" *s/ DIt%s bea*ti&*l9 8nd yo* 'an see the o'ean- so &ar belo" *s9D she said- pressing her &a'e against the glass/ I loo0ed past her and noti'ed that the "ings "ere still mo+ing- e+er so slightly- and it made me &eel a little ner+o*se+en tho*gh I 0ne" that things li0e that "ere totally normal/ When I "as a 0id and I "as on

an airplane- I%d pretend that the hea+y t*rb*len'e "as 4*st the "ings o& the plane &lapping li0e a bird- getting *s to "here+er it "as that "e "ere tra+eling to a lot &aster/ I%d seen too many ne"sreels sin'e then o& plane 'rashes- and e+en tho*gh it de&ied logi'- I &elt a sin0ing in my stoma'h at times that "as 'a*sed by a deep,seated- s*ppressed &ear/ I remembered ha+ing the same &eeling at the top o& the Ei&&el To"er in ?aris- "hen my 0nees in+ol*ntarily b*'0led beneath me and I &ell to the "al0"ay- rea'hing instin'ti+ely &or the rails so that I "o*ldn%t &all o&&/ 8ren%t "e all a&raid "hen it is time to soar6 DNery h*mbling9D she added- p*tting her hands *nder her 'hin/ 7er hair "as p*lled into pigtails on ea'h sideso I 0issed her on the ba'0 o& the ne'0 and then leaned ba'0 in my 'hair/ 8ll o& the pean*ts had &allen o&& o& the tray onto the &loor and *nderneath my seat/ 7er pigtails triggered a

memory o& the &irst days a&ter she%d arri+edand I 'losed my eyes again/


Chapter 13

White/ The 'eiling- maybe6 Where am I6

I%m not s*re/

It%s not *n'om&ortable/ 8 bed6 No/

Been here be&ore6 I don%t thin0 so/

Eet *p/ =ying do"n/

!ear'hing &or something6 What "as it6 Or "ho6 It "as a person/ !he/


It%s almost 'old in here/ Not 5*ite- tho*gh/ I shi+er/ I 'he'0 mysel&/ 8ll 'lothes inta't/ Where are my shoes6

7o" did I get here6 8 'o*'h/ Whose 'o*'h6

The room is ni'e- any"ay/ Ni'er than home/ Where is home6 I sho*ld remember things li0e this/

8 hango+er6 I don%t thin0 so/ It%s di&&erent &rom that/ 3oreL nat*ral/ 3y head hates me/ I need a drin0/ 8 glass o& "ater is on the table beside the 'o*'h/ 3ine6 I drin0 it/ 8ll/ Wait/ I sho*ld ha+e smelled it &irst/ !omething%s not right/

I sho*ldn%t be 7ERE/ I sho*ld beL "here6

Thin0ing &or a moment/ :ndergro*nd6 Not dead- tho*gh/ The basement6 The "ater tastes good/ Is there more o& it6 !adly- no/

What time is it6 I 'he'0 my "at'h/ Eood idea9 3y "at'h is not "or0ing/ The battery is dead/ Why6

3y heada'he is s*bsiding- tho*gh/ R*i'0ly/ !trange/ What%s going on here6

I 'olle't my tho*ghts and loo0 at the room aro*nd me/ It appears to be a st*dy o& some sort- traditional/ !omeone%s home- e+entho*gh that person m*st be m*'h "ealthier than I am/ 8 small library o& leather,bo*nd boo0s is neatly organi.ed on the shel+es that 'ompose most o& the "all a'ross &rom the 'o*'h "here I a"a0ened/ Trin0ets and other anti5*e loo0ing &ig*rines are taste&*lly arranged on di&&erent shel+es/ There is an old phonograph player in the room/ I "onder i& it "or0s/ I re'all the lab/ I re'all allo"ing the "oman in bla'0 to in4e't me "ith something/ I%m not s*re ho" I arri+ed here/ I%m not s*re i& I%m still at the !yn'hro !ystems resear'h 'enter or i& I%+e been relo'ated- as the "oman s*ggested "o*ld be the 'ase/ I "onder "hat 0ind o& e1amination the mysterio*s do'tors ha+e 'ond*'ted on meb*t only brie&ly/ I noti'e the glass "all o+erloo0ing the +alley belo" *s/

!omeho"- I%m higher *p the mo*ntain/ I "al0 o+er to the "indo"s- 'he'0ing to see i& I 'an get my bearings/ It seems that I%m too &ar a"ay to see the 'ity- and I 'an%t &ind the labs in my initial s'an o& the lands'ape aro*nd me- tho*gh I do ma0e note o& the bea*ty and serenity o& the "orld o*tside o& this room/ I &eel 'alm- and "onder i& I%m in a rela1ed state be'a*se o& "hate+er it is that she in4e'ted me "ith/ With an *n*s*al amo*nt o& 'larity- I reali.e that things are 'ompletely o*t o& my 'ontroland I a''ept it "itho*t hesitation/ I m*st be *nder the in&l*en'e o& "hate+er the dr*gs "ere- I de'ide- sin'e something li0e that "o*ld *s*ally pro+o0e a stronger rea'tion o& some sort- at least- in me/ It%s not s*rprising to metho*gh- that I%+e been gi+en a tran5* $or a moment- I%m most interested in "hy I allo"ed someone I don%t 0no" to in4e't me in the &irst pla'e/ 7o" long did I sleep &or6 I ret*rn my attention to the room aro*nd mesear'hing &or something to drin0/ I &inished the

glass o& "ater that "as on the small table beside the 'o*'h be&ore I%d really 'ome to/ !omeone had to ha+e pla'ed it there/ Where are they no"6 I de'ide to e1amine the boo0 'olle'tion- b*t I don%t get that &ar- be'a*se an older man enters the room and introd*'es himsel&/// 0ind o&/ 7e%s tall and thin- b*t still &ormidable &or his ageand he loo0s li0e he is in e1'ellent shape/ I note to mysel& that I%+e made a habit o& e+eryone *p as soon as I see them- that I%+e only re'ently started doing it/ DI gi+e yo* my sin'erest apologies &or not being present "hen yo* "o0e *p/ I li+e here-D he says to me- e1tending a "rin0led hand in my dire'tion/ I ta0e his hand into mine- o*t o& habit- and sha0e it/ D3y name is 3r/ Camamotoand the people 'lose to me sometimes 'all me Aais*0e/ Co* 'an 'all me "hi'he+er is most s*itable to yo*/D 7e smiles at me and releases his grip/

DWhere are "e6D I as0 him- t*rning ba'0 to"ards the "indo"s/ DBea*ti&*l +ie"- isn%t it6D 7e as0s as a "ay o& ans"ering/ I nod my head- agreeing "ordlessly/ D=et%s ta0e a "al0 thro*gh the "inter garden-D he s*ggests- sliding the "indo" open and stepping o*t onto the small "al0"ay that is on the o*tside o& the ho*se/ I &ollo" him o*t o& the "indo"- and he 'loses it behind me/ It%s 'old o*t here- b*t I reali.e that the "al0"ay leads to a set o& stairs- and beneath *s is a "alled garden area- and my '*riosity abo*t the ho*se o+errides the sensation o& the 'old/ There is a &o*ntain in the yard/ There are "ooden ben'hes and largesmooth stones s'attered aro*nd the pla'e/ The stones m*st ha+e been bro*ght on site at great e1pense- &or they are h*ge and ob+io*sly not nat*rally o''*rring on the mo*ntain/ DThe "ind "on%t be so bad on'e "e ma0e it do"n the stairs-D Aais*0e says to me- already

ta0ing a &e" steps do"n/ DIt "ill &eel "armer there/D I &ollo" him do"n the stairs- and then "e began to "al0 along the pebbled path"ays that "ea+e thro*gh the garden/ 7e points o*t +ario*s plants to me- stating "hy they are *ni5*e and the reasons that they thri+e in the "inter months- b*t I ignore most o& "hat he is saying/ I%m still +ery rela1ed- b*t I%m not interested in plants or gardening- espe'ially "hen none o& the 5*estions on my gro"ing list are being ans"ered/ 8&ter a &e" more moments o& the garden to*rhe stops tal0ing- and "e "al0 along- silently/ 8 &e" more moments pass be&ore I brea0 the silen'e by as0ing him "hy they%+e bro*ght me here/ D3r/ Camamoto-D I say/ 7e stops "al0ing- and t*rns to me- pla'ing both o& his hands on my arms- sighing/

DWhy am I here6 !yn'hro didn%t bring me here "itho*t a reason/ Was I getting too 'lose to &ig*ring something o*t abo*t the 'ompany- and no" they%re not s*re "hat to do "ith me6 Where are my &riends6D D=et%s go ba'0 inside and ha+e some tea "hile "e dis'*ss this matter-D he says to me- smiling a hal&,smile that ma0es me s*spe't that he 'o*ld be a+oiding the ans"er on p*rpose/ I 'an%t attrib*te all o& his beha+ior to mere 5*ir0iness- not "hen things ha+e been the "ay that they are &or the past "ee0 or so/ What good is it going to do &or him to 0eep pro'rastinating tal0ing abo*t it6 !yn'hro%s done some pretty strange st*&&- and some o& it might be bl*rring the line "hen it 'omes to ethi'sb*t I don%t thin0 that they%re going to 0ill me at some old man%s ho*se *p in the mo*ntains/ We "al0 to"ards the ho*se- again- arri+ing a moment later at a door on gro*nd le+el/ 7e opens it and steps inside- and I &ollo" him ba'0 into the ho*se/ The door 'rea0s "hen "e 'lose

it- as i& it%s both +ery old and *na''*stomed to reg*lar *se/ DI sho*ld grease the hinges on that door-D Camamoto says to me- "al0ing to"ards a raised bar that sits li0e an island in the 'enter o& the room/ In the 'enter o& the island- there is a teapot- and there are t"o '*ps pla'ed on small plates beside it/ There is also a bo"l "ith a b*n'h o& bananas in it beside the teapots- and I raise my eyebro"s in s*rprise- b*t don%t 'omment/ DWo*ld yo* li0e some tea6D 7e as0s me- po*ring a '*p/ !team rises &rom the s*r&a'e o& the li5*id- so I 0no" that someone else has 4*st been in the room to set the be+erage o*t &or *s/ I am still thirsty- so I a''ept/ It%s been a long time sin'e I%+e had tea- any"ay/ 7e po*rs a se'ond '*p- "al0s ba'0 o+er to me "ith itand pla'es it in my hands/ D7ere yo* are-D he says/ D=et%s sit by the &ire and tal0- no"/D

I &ollo" him o+er to the &irepla'e on the ba'0 "all o& the room- and then "e sit in t"o high, ba'0ed arm'hairs that loo0 li0e anti5*es/ I& they%re as old as they appear to be- then I imagine that no one%s e+er *sed them and that there are no 'ats in the ho*se/ There are a lot o& boo0s on the shel+es o& this room- too- and I brie&ly "onder i& he%s read all o& them or i& they%re 4*st there &or sho"/ I ma0e note o& the n*mero*s ball,'lo'0s pla'ed thro*gho*t the room- "ondering i& Aais*0e himsel& is the 'olle'tor o& all o& the ephemera or i& someone else li+ing in the ho*se is responsible &or the "onder&*l reli's/ There is a stat*e o& an elephant in the 'orner o& the room , bla'0- appearing to be made o& 'erami' or por'elain- and a 'hessboard balan'es on its *pli&ted tr*n0/ The pie'es are arranged aro*nd the board as i& someone is in the middle o& a game/ 3ore 'l*es pointing to m*ltiple residents o& the ho*se/ Eod 0no"s that it%s big eno*gh in here and "o*ld probably be a lonely pla'e to li+e in all by onesel&/

The &ire is "arm- and I "el'ome the "armth a&ter "al0ing aro*nd o*tside in the 'oldshielded &rom the "ind by the "alls tho*gh "e "ere/ DWo*ld yo* li0e a banana6D 7e as0s me be&ore he sits do"n- e1amining the bo"l o& &r*it on the table/ 7e sele'ts a ripe,loo0ing &r*it &rom the b*n'h and o&&ers it to me/ DNo- than0s-D I lie to him/ It%s been e+en longer sin'e I%+e seen a banana/ DThis might be yo*r last 'han'e to ha+e a banana- e+er/ 8t least- a real banana-D he saysand I 0no" that he%s right/ Whoe+er he is- he%s ob+io*sly got a lot o& money/ D8nd these are &rom a 'ompletely Ra'e,K,&*ng*s &ree 'rop/ The hybrids 4*st don%t taste the same- I%m a&raid- and I%d rather not ha+e them at all then bother "ith something so medio're/D 7e pla'es the banana ba'0 into the bo"l- shr*gging his sho*lders- and then he sits do"n in the 'hair a'ross &rom me/ DWhen yo*%re my age- yo* ha+e little patien'e &or medio'rity/D

DAid yo* try to 0ill me6D I as0 him- point blan0/ 7e la*ghs/ DWhen6D 7e pa*ses long eno*gh to ma0e me "onder/ DI 'o*ld ha+e- "hile yo* "ere sleepingor any n*mber o& times sin'e then- had I "ished it/ B*t no- I made no attempt on yo*r li&e- and "as not responsible &or the de'ision that led to the o''asions in "hi'h yo* "ere endangered/D I thin0 abo*t "hat he%s 4*st said/ D!o yo* 0no" "ho%s responsible &or all o& the things that I%+e been dealing "ith this "ee06D DIt%s been going on &or longer than that- I%m a&raid-D he says- leaning &or"ard/ DWhat6 =onger than that6 7o" m*'h longer than that6D I as0 him- setting my tea'*p do"n on the &loor beside my 'hair/ I don%t "ant him to noti'e that my hands are sha0ing- b*t it%s probably already too late/ I &ear that he%s abo*t to tell me things that "ill shatter my

per'eption o& "hat my li&e has been lately- and a&ter the past &e" "ee0s- I%m "illing to belie+e that s*'h a re+elation is possible/ DWill yo* agree to be silent "hile I tell yo* some things that yo* "ill probably &ind +ery 'hallenging to belie+e6D DI ha+e a lot o& 5*estions-D I reply- not agreeing yet/ DCo* are a man o& many 5*estions/ 7a+e yo* 'onsidered "hy yo* al"ays 5*estion e+erything6 Regardless- yo* ha+e been "ondering "ho I am- and "ho I "or0 &or- I am s*re-D he states- and he is 'orre't/ DCes/D D3ost e1'ellent/ ?rimarily- there are e+ents transpiring "hi'h ha+e *n&ort*nately re5*ired my party%s in+ol+ement- tho*gh "e pre+io*sly had no desire or "illingness to ha+e a dire't hand in yo*r sit*ation/ That stated- yo* ha+e been a parti'*larly interesting detail to *s/

Espe'ially notable is yo*r sear'h to &ind the lo'ation o& yo*r missing girl&riend/ Tell me"hat do yo* thin0 it is that has 'a*sed her s*'h distress in her li&e6 Why do yo* thin0 it is that she le&t yo*/// +anished- e+en- as i& into thin air6D 7e smiles at me "ith a sympatheti' loo0 and ta0es a sip o& his tea/ I shi+er- b*t I don%t ans"er him/ 7e%s t*rned the tables aro*nd on me- no"- hitting me "here I am most sensiti+e- and "e both 0no" it/ I &eel li0e my stoma'h%s &alling to"ards the &loor beneath me/ DThere are people "ho tho*ght that the best sol*tion &or the problem that yo*%+e presented is +iolen'e- b*t yo*%+e been s*rprisingly l*'0y at a+oiding the sit*ations they arranged "hi'h 'o*ld ha+e ended badly &or yo*/ We ha+e sin'e re+ised o*r approa'h/ 8&ter all- yo*%re here no"- aren%t yo*6 !a&e and so*nd6D I don%t 0no" "hat he%s getting at- b*t I s*spe't he%ll get aro*nd to it/

D>eep tal0ing-D I prod him/ DTs0- ts0-D he 'hides me/ D?oliteness/ 3anners/D I 'an%t belie+e I%m being s'olded &or being r*de in a sit*ation li0e this- b*t I let it go/ D8s I "as e1plaining to yo*- the initial attempt on yo*r li&e "as a &ail*re-D he says/ DOriginallypeople "ere sent to remo+e yo* &rom the e5*ation long be&ore yo* started this &*tile ad+ent*re o& yo*rs- b*t yo*r &irst stro0e o& l*'0 o''*rred "hen yo* "ere not in yo*r apartment at the time that they sear'hed it &or any in&ormation abo*t "hat yo* might 0no" abo*t the 'ompany/D 7e pa*ses &or a moment- loo0ing at the &ire/ 7is +oi'e is remar0ably good,nat*red- b*t there is an omino*s *nder'*rrent starting to sho" thro*gh- and I shi&t in my 'hair/ DCo* probably didn%t noti'e that they%d remo+ed all o& the e+iden'e o& her e1isten'e thereany"ay/ O*r people do a good 4ob at erasing

things/ :n&ort*nately- the team assigned to yo* "as 'areless "ith its e5*ipment- and the e1plosi+es designed to destroy yo*r home did not detonate/ They had to be remo+ed at a later date- o& 'o*rse- sin'e no e+iden'e 'o*ld remain on'e yo* started *n'o+ering things abo*t the 'ompany%s resear'h/D DE1plosi+es6D I as0- in'red*lo*s/ This 'an%t be the tr*th/ DI& yo* "ere to ret*rn to yo*r apartment no"yo*%d &ind that it is 'ompletely bare/ We are erasing yo*r li&e- no"/ The 'ompany doesn%t li0e liabilities/ We 0no" "hen someone is more *se&*l to *s ali+e than dead- tho*gh- and that%s the only thing that sa+ed yo*- in the end/ >eep breathing-D he noti'es that I ha+e gro"n "ide, eyed/ DRemember that the de'ision to let yo* li+e "on o*t in the end/ Co* are +al*able/D 7e stares at me/ 7is eyes are 'old and 'ompletely de+oid o& emotion/ Is he "aiting on a bigger rea'tion &rom me6 What does he e1pe't me to do6 R*n6 To "here6

DWhat abo*t the g*ys in the 'ar behind *s6 Ba'0 "hen "e 'rashed the RN/ Were they yo*r people- too6D I as0 him/ DThey "ere 'ontra'ted labor/ 8 non,iss*e-D he ans"ers/ Easy &or him to say/ DWhat do yo* "ant &rom me6D 7e doesn%t ans"er &or a moment- b*t he 'ontin*es to stare at me- as i& he%s loo0ing right thro*gh me/ DI see that yo*r tea%s gotten 'old/ ?erhaps yo* "o*ld li0e a spot o& 'o&&ee6D 7e as0s- strangely/ I p*t my hands o+er my &a'e and sigh/ This is hard to a''ept- and he%s telling me all sorts o& things that I don%t e+en "ant to belie+e/ The &a't is that I do belie+e him/ I don%t thin0 that he%s lying to me- or that he has any reason to/ Nothing ma0es sense- e1'ept that somebody%s been trying to 0ill me- and my sear'h really did endanger Janine- m*'h more than I tho*ght it had/

7e snaps his &ingers/ D?ay attention to me-D he demands/ I ret*rn my attention to him- as he orders- and he loosens his tie/ D3ost people "o*ld agree that yo* are insane-D he in&orms me/ DTo 'on+in'e yo*r &riend Janine that yo*r 'a*se is "orth"hile is one thing- b*t in+ol+ing the man "ho 'alls himsel& 7*nter "as 5*ite an a''omplishment/ 7e needed a pla'e to belong to- didn%t he6D On'e again- I 'hoose not to ans"er/ I%m s*re he has more in&ormation abo*t my &riends than I do- any"ay- and I s*spe't that this is some sort o& shell game- distra'ting me &rom the tr*th/ I glare at him/ D!pea0ing o& little patien'e-D he trails o&&/ Is he mo'0ing me6 DIn any e+ent- "e "ondered# "ho "o*ld belie+e yo*6 I& yo* "ere to tell them the tr*th abo*t "hat yo*%d dis'o+ered- I mean/ Co*%re/// 'han'e

en'o*nters/// "ith &ormer employees o& the 'ompany- parti'*larly leading *p to yo*r meetings "ith Ar/ E+an ?artain , they pro+ided m*'h more in&ormation to yo* than yo* may reali.e/ In&ormation that "as ne+er lea0ed to the press- no matter ho" m*'h they tried to pry their &ingers into the ?andora%s Bo1 that the 'ompany had been trans&ormed into on'e s*''ess&*l resear'h had 'ommen'ed-D he pa*ses &or a moment- as i& 'onsidering ho" m*'h in&ormation he%s "illing to gi+e to me/ It%s as i& he%s se'ond,g*essing himsel& and the in&ormation that he%s been pro+ided abo*t my 'ase/ 7e doesn%t seem to noti'e that I 'a*ght him "ith a do*bt&*l loo0 in his eye &or 4*st that moment- and he 'ontin*es/ DB*t yo* 0no" all o& that already2 I 0no" that yo* 0no" it/ D7o"e+er- "ere yo* a"are that more re'ent e1periments *sing !yn'hroni'ity Ari+e te'hnology appeared to be mo+ing to"ards a 'onsistent and stable- predi'table res*lt6 There has e+en been some dis'*ssion as to administering the dr*g orally- most li0ely in the

&orm o& a single dose 'aps*le-D he sayse1'itement 'a*sing his eyes to glimmer/ 7e 'an hardly disg*ise his 4oy at "hate+er s*''esses he%s la*ding to me- no matter ho" m*'h he%s pro4e'ting a 'ool- 'allo*s e1terior/ It%s in s*'h 'ontrast to the 'hallenging- blan0 stare that he "as gi+ing me 4*st moments ago that I "onder i& perhaps he is the 'ra.y one in the room- or i& perhaps "e%re all mad/ DCo*%re getting ahead o& yo*rsel&- hereCamamoto-D I say to him- r*nning my hand thro*gh my hair/ DThe !yn'hroni'ity Ari+e "as real6 There really "ere e1periments on people ha+ing to do "ith memory manip*lation6D DCo* do*bted the tr*th that had been re+ealed to yo*6D 7e as0s me- and then "aits/ DI had no reason to belie+e "hat anyone "as telling me "as tr*th&*l-D I ans"er himde&ending mysel&/ DThe only real &a'ts that I ha+e are that she%s missing- and e+erything I%+e done to tra'0 her do"n has led me to yo*/D

DB*t yo*%+e ne+er do*bted that those &a'ts themsel+es might be de'eptions6D D!he "as there/ No" she%s gone/ E+erything else is *p in the air- maybe- and all o& this memory manip*lation st*&& that yo*r 'ompany is doing seems to be 'onne'ted to the reason that she%s +anished- tho*gh I 'an%t e1a'tly p*t together ho" that is yet/ I s*spe't that !yn'hro%s responsible &or her amnesia in the &irst pla'eand that maybe she%s o*t to get re+enge on the 'ompany &or s're"ing *p and erasing her past/ It doesn%t e1plain "hy she hasn%t 'alled- b*t it ma0es the most sense to me/ 8m I "rong6D 7e shr*gs his sho*lders/ I "ait &or him to ans"er- any"ay/ 8 &e" moments pass- and he 'loses his eyes/ I 0eep "aiting- "ondering abo*t that 'o&&ee"ondering i& he%s e+en dire'tly 'onne'ted "ith !yn'hro !ystems- and i& so- ho" deep that 'onne'tion r*ns/ I "onder i& he%s really 4*st a +ery "ealthy old man "ho someho" &o*nd o*t

abo*t my sit*ation- and i& this is all 4*st a game to him/ I "onder "ho else li+es in the ho*seand I thin0 abo*t the possibilities/ I "onder "here Janine and 7*nter are- and I "onder i& they%re doing anything to try to tra'0 me do"n/ I "onder i& they%re e+en sa&e/ Witho*t opening his eyes- Aais*0e spea0s/ D7a+e yo* 'onsidered it a possibility- as "ellthat yo* might ha+e been one o& o*r patientsand that yo*r memory has been tampered "ith6 That an error lies in yo*r o"n mind%s arrangement o& e+ents- and that error has 'reated a tidal "a+e o& 5*estions that yo* 'an%t ans"er6D I imagine ho" a tidal "a+e o& memories and 5*estions "o*ld loo0- s*'0ing *p parts o& my past- p*lling the "ater a"ay &rom the shore as the "a+e rises- higher and higher- &ar o*t at sea/ The 'oast is destroyed by e+erything p*lled a"ay &rom it 4*st moments be&ore/ E+erything 'omes &alling into pla'e/ In the 'ase

o& a tidal "a+e- any"ay- and that%s not happening &or me/ Nothing is &alling into pla'e- really/ I%+e 'onsidered "hat he%s as0ing me- o& 'o*rse2 4*st as I%+e 'onsidered the possibility that I tr*ly am insane/ =ess than a day ago- I de'ided that I 'o*ldn%t tr*st mysel& anymore- sin'e I "as s*&&ering &rom mild memory loss that "as apparently sele'ti+e/ Co*ld that really be a symptom o& something m*'h "orse in my mind6 I%+e heard that 'ra.y people ne+er thin0 that they%re insane- and that%s ho" I sho*ld be able to ga*ge my o"n sanity/ B*t "hat i& Camamoto is right6 What i& it%s not insanity or ne*rosis- b*t instead that I%+e been dosed "ith one o& !yn'hro%s &orm*las "itho*t my 0no"ledge (or re'olle'tion- at least)6 The sleeping medi'ine "as too re'ent- "asn%t it6 7e as0s me another series o& 5*estions/ DIn a so'iety li0e o*rs- do yo* really thin0 that it%s possible &or someone to ha+e no past at all6

Ao yo* really thin0 that yo*r girl&riend 'an 4*st appear in yo*r home one day- 'ompletely &ail to re'all a single personal detail abo*t her li&e prior to yo*- and despite all reasonable e&&orts and e+en e1ha*sti+e sear'hing- &ail to *n'o+er a single shred o& e+iden'e that her o"n past e+en e1ists6 There are re'ords &or e+eryone and e+erything/ Why didn%t yo* e+er 5*estion that6 No one is in+isible anymore-D he opens his eyes and loo0s at me/ I see "hat I interpret to be sadness there- b*t I do not 0no" "hy the emotion is able to lea0 thro*gh the "all o& his &a'e- momentary lapse tho*gh it is/ 7e 'ontin*es/ DThat probably 'ontrib*ted to the in&ormation lea0s that led to the &ederal in+estigations o& !yn'hro- any"ay- tho*gh the "or0 goes on e+en "hile in4*n'tions are &iled and in5*iries are 'ond*'ted/D Is he sad be'a*se his 'ompany is &olding *p beneath him6 Or is he sad be'a*se there%s something "rong "ith me- and I%m 4*st too 'lose to the problem to see it6 Is he sad

be'a*se there is no"here else that "e 'an hide6 DB*t yo* already said that yo*r people are good at "hat they do/ That yo*%re erasing my o"n li&e- e+en as I sit here "ith yo*-D I 'o*nter/ DWith money li0e yo*rs- and it does appear that yo*%+e got a pretty &air share o& it by the "ay things loo0 aro*nd here- "hy isn%t it possible &or yo* to erase "hat yo* 'onsider to be a mista0e6 !he might ha+e been a mista0e- and then my &riends and I got in+ol+ed- 4*st li0e yo* said- and "e &o*nd o*t too m*'h &or "hate+er reason- and no" "e%re on the list o& messes yo* ha+e to 'lean *p sin'e yo*%re trying to sal+age yo*r 'ompany be&ore the go+ernment sh*ts yo* do"n/ I& "e spread o*r in&ormation into the proper o*tlets- it only speeds *p the in+estigation pro'ess- halting yo*r resear'h/D DWe "ant to help people-D he says- de&ending the resear'h/ DI "ant yo* to help me-D I insist/

DCo*%re here- aren%t yo*6D DWhy do yo* tal0 in 'ir'les li0e that6D I as0 himgro"ing more and more e1asperated by his and e+eryone else%s endless a+oidan'e/ Aid I ta0e a dose6 Is he trying to tri'0 me6 Aoes he 0no" "here she is6 DWhat%s her name6D 7e as0s me- &inishing the last drops o& his tea/ 7e t*rns the '*p o+er so that it is *pside do"n on the sa*'er and leans &or"ard- pla'ing it on the &loor beside him/ DWhat6D I as0/ DCo*r girl&riend/ 7er name/ What is it6D Breath# in/ Breath# o*t/ I 'an%t remember/ Wait/ It%s right there- so "hy 'an%t I remember6

DI/// I///D I stammer/ I tilt my head to the sideas i& trying to dislodge the memory o& her name/ DIs it so hard to belie+e- no"6D he as0s me/ It isn%t so hard to belie+e no"/ It hasn%t been so hard to belie+e sin'e things stopped ma0ing sense/ Ne+ertheless- that doesn%t pro+ide an e1planation &or e+erything that I do remember/ Where did all o& the times that I%ll ne+er &orget really 'ome &rom6 The best and then the "orst times o& my li&e- on'e she "as gone , are they all 4*st tri'0s o& my mind bro*ght on by 'le+er ma'hination inside o& my head6 7o" 'o*ld I &orget her name6 I%+e &orgotten other thingsha+en%t I6 7e sighs/ DAid she e+er ha+e a name6D 7e as0s/ D8dmit that it%s possible that she ne+er e+en e1isted-D he says- as i& he%s demanding a 'on&essional &or a 'rime that I%+e ne+er 'ommitted be&ore he passes 4*dgment on me and then m*rders me in 'old blood/

DB*t-D I say/ DJanine/ Janine 0ne" her/ Janine 0no"s/ Co*%re tri'0ing me/ Co* dosed me "ith the !yn'hro medi'ine- didn%t yo*6 The "oman ba'0 at the labs ga+e me a shot o& yo*r treatment- or the dose "as in the "ater that I dran0 "hen I "o0e *p9D DCo* might be 'orre't-D he replies/ DCo* might be mista0en/ Janine might not 0no" "hat yo*%re tal0ing abo*t/ Janine might be "or0ing &or *s/D DThis is 'ompletely insane/ What 0ind o& e1periment are yo* doing "ith her6 8m I a part o& it6 J*st another test s*b4e't- tested to see "hat happens "hen yo* manip*late e+ery +ariable to the point that not e+en the tr*th ma0es sense anymore6 Co* made me &orget her name9 This is all part o& it- 4*st to see i& the treatment really "or0s9D I stand *p and ta0e a step- 'losing the gap bet"een *s by hal&/ I lean &or"ard- and I%m yelling into his &a'e/ DTell/ 3e/ The/ Tr*th/D

DThe tr*th is s*b4e'ti+e/ 8l"ays/ Co* 'an de'ide the tr*th &or yo*rsel&- any"ay/D I sha0e my head/ D7o" 'an I do that6 Co* ha+e all o& the in&ormation- here/D DCo* ha+e eno*gh in&ormation to de'ide-D he says- pla'ing his hands on his 0nees/ 7e stands *p- and "e are &a'e to &a'e/ DWe "ant to help yo*/ !o de'ide/D DI 'an%t-D I ans"er him honestly- be'a*se so m*'h has been thro"n into the sit*ation so rapidly- and I ha+en%t had time to sort it all o*t/ There are too many &ragments- too many pie'es o& in&ormation r*shing in all at on'eand there has ne+er been eno*gh time to sort it all o*t in an order that ma0es any sense sin'e all o& this started/ I don%t re'all e+er *sing a 'ell phone- either- I reali.e/ B*t that doesn%t mean that they don%t e1ist/ The same logi' 'o*ld apply to a missing person- and her nameand that "as m*'h easier to s"allo" than a''epting that it "as all a tri'0 o& my mind/

DCo* 'ame to *s &or treatment a&ter yo*r di+or'e/ Co* "anted to 0ill yo*rsel&/ Co* said that yo* had no desire to li+e anymore a&ter "hat happened "ith yo*r "i&e and yo*r 'hild/ I don%t ha+e to go ba'0 into the details o& that/ Co* 0no" that it%s tr*e- I 'an see it in yo*r eyes/D What he sees in my eyes is not my a''eptan'e that I e+er "ent to !yn'hro &or any sort o& treatment- b*t instead a resigned admittan'e that my o"n past "as so easily pla'ed into the hands o& the people at the 'ompany that this man is in+ol+ed "ith/ This e+il- manip*lati+e man "ith the 'almest demeanor I%+e e+er en'o*ntered- *sing a bad sit*ation to thro" me o&& and &*rther 'on&*se me abo*t "hat%s really going on/ 3anip*lation and distra'tion/ Is Janine "or0ing &or them6 Is that "hy she p*shed so hard to"ards heading to the labs a&ter the RN 'rash6 Is that the best e1planation &or the in'onsisten'ies in her beha+ior- and &or that matter- the stranger that "e%d been

tra+eling "ith- 7*nter# "as he someho" in+ol+ed6 ?aranoia- again/ It%s too 'ompli'ated to be the tr*th/ I 'an%t a''ept that so m*'h "or0 and design has gone into one treatmentone 'ase- espe'ially my o"n/ I%m not that important- e+en as a test s*b4e't/ Then againCamamoto%s asso'iates apparently did try to 0ill me at least t"i'e/ D?art o& the treatment pro'ess is that yo*r mind heals itsel& in the most appropriate "ay possible- 'reating a &alse memory set that allo"s yo* to re'o+er to the &*llest e1tent/ It%s a +ery 'ompli'ated pro'ess-D he 'ontin*esDthat "o*ld ta0e a long time to e1plain- b*t the basi' prin'iple is that the memories o& yo*r girl&riend are not real/ They ne+er happened/ Co*r mind- "ith the assistan'e o& o*r nanite s"arms- 'reated those memories to bring yo* ba'0 &rom a perilo*s edge o& desolation and sadness/ :n&ort*nately- the in+estigations began shortly a&ter yo*r treatment/ When in'onsisten'ies in yo*r memory started to sho" *p- the reality o& yo*r sit*ation began to &ilter

thro*gh- 'a*sing a 'on&li't inside o& yo*r head as yo*r mind began to do*bt itsel&/ Reso*r'es in the 'ompany "ere di+erted in other dire'tions- and the slip "ent *nnoti'ed- sin'e monitoring o& s*b4e'ts "as red*'ed d*e to ne'essary layo&&s/ $ort*nately &or yo*- the treatment "as s*''ess&*l and yo* "ere no longer s*i'idal "hen this happened/ Co* signed a 'ontra't allo"ing the 'ompany to inter'ede &or the sa0e o& impro+ing the pro'ess- and so agents "ere pla'ed into 0ey points o& yo*r li&e in order to bring yo* ba'0 here "hile ma0ing yo* thin0 that it "as yo*r o"n 'hoi'e to 'ome/ We had to re'o+er yo*- at least &or long eno*gh to &ind o*t "here the pro'ed*ral error o''*rred- so that "on%t happen "ith someone else res*lting in a less stable transition/D No- I thin0/ 7e%s lying to me/ Co* don%t 4*st imagine all o& the things that I remember- so +i+idly- so real/ Co* don%t 4*st ma0e *p another person/ Co*r &riends don%t meet them and gro" to lo+e them- 4*st as yo* do- and 'are abo*t them eno*gh to 5*it their 4obs and spend days

sear'hing &or them "hen they go missing/ E+en i& I%m 'ra.y- "hi'h might really be possibleshe%s real- and she%s missing- and I ha+e to &ind her/ Camamoto is "or0ing &or !yn'hro- ob+io*slyand he%s trying to thro" me o&& the trail/ B*t "hy6 Why s*'h an elaborate story6 8nd "hy "o*ld they try to 0ill me 4*st ho*rs ago i& they had tr*ly "anted to help me by pre+enting me &rom 0illing mysel&6 8rg*ing "ith him abo*t his o"n in'onsisten'ies "ill pro+e to be &*tile- I thin0- so I remain silent/ 7ad their original intentions been to sa+e me- and "hen the treatment "ent bad- they de'ided to dispose o& me- b*t then had I someho" pro+en to be a good so*r'e o& in&ormation to them abo*t ho" the "hole pro'ess "or0s6 Ces- it%s possiblethen- that I%d e+en seen a do'tor there- be&ore/ There "ere a lot o& blan0 days &rom my past that "on%t e+er 'ome ba'0/ That%s "hat happens "hen yo* don%t stop drin0ing &or "ee0s- and there "as a point in time "hen that "asn%t something o*t o& the ordinary &or me/

No" I%m thin0ing as Camamoto "ants me toand I%m thin0ing that he%s telling some +ersion o& the tr*th/ 7e%s made me 5*estion my o"n stead&astness and do*bt my reality- ta0ing the s*pporting beams &rom beneath me/ I t*rn and step a"ay &rom him and the &irepla'e/ DCo*%re lying to me- Camamoto-D I say'len'hing my &ists/ DI don%t 0no" "hy- b*t I 'an%t belie+e that yo*%re telling me the tr*th/ I& yo*%+e really got a''ess to !yn'hro%s treatmentthen pro+e it/D D?ro+e it6D 7e as0s- holding o*t his hands/ D8nd ho"6 8ll that yo*%+e "itnessed so &ar isn%t proo& eno*gh6D DNo-D I ans"er/ DIt isn%t/ I "ant to ta0e the treatment/ I& yo* 'an program yo*r robots to alter things inside o& my head- yo* 'an program them to repair the damage that they%+e 'a*sed/ I& yo*%re telling the tr*th- i& I%+e already ta0en one o& yo*r treatments- then the nanites 'an dete't "hat%s been altered in my brain and 'hange it ba'0/D

7e la*ghs at this/ DE1'ellent logi' leap- b*t yo* do not tr*ly *nderstand the pro'ess/ On'e a person has been treated- the 'hange 'annot be *ndone/ !e'ondary treatment has al"ays yielded 'riti'al &ail*re in test s*b4e'ts/ We%+e ne+er e+en attempted a se'ondary treatment on a h*man- be'a*se almost 00 per'ent o& o*r lab animals died as a res*lt o& brain hemorrhaging on'e the se'ondary dose "as initiated/D It 'an%t be/ It 'an%t be imm*table/ 8nd that%s only i& I%+e e+er been dosed in the &irst pla'e/ D8ss*ming that I%+e e+en been dosed-D I say/ DIt "ill 0ill yo*/D DI "anted to die- any"ay/ What di&&eren'e does it ma0e6D DIt ma0es a di&&eren'e be'a*se no" yo*%+e regained a "ill to 'arry on/D

I don%t- ho"e+er- "ant to arg*e the semanti's o& ho" "anting to li+e 'ame at the 'ost o& the tr*th/ ?ossibly- be'a*se I still thin0 that he is lying to me/ We all li+e a lie- e+ery day- I s*ppose- someho"/ I& the lo+e that I%+e e1perien'ed "asn%t real- then "hat%s the point6 DI& I%+e ne+er been dosed- tho*gh-D I hypothesi.e o*t lo*d- Dand the nanites 'an be ad4*sted to &ig*re o*t "hy I%m ha+ing tro*ble remembering things- they sho*ld be able to repair "hate+er 'onne'tions ha+e been se+ered- and then I%ll be able re'all her name and e+erything else that I seem to ha+e &orgotten/ Then I 'an &ind her again/D 7e sha0es his head at me/ D!he is al"ays going to el*de yo*/D DI "ant to ta0e the treatment-D I tell him/ I%+e de'ided/ It doesn%t matter i& I%+e been dosed be&ore or not/ I%ll ta0e my 'han'es/ I& I ha+e been dosed- I "ant the &a0e memories erased/ I& that

pro'ed*re &ails- then I don%t "ant to li+eany"ay/ I& I%+e ne+er been treated and Camamoto is lying to me- I reali.e that I%m still ta0ing a big leap o& &aith by tr*sting him to administer the treatment- 'onsidering that this alternati+e ma0es him one o& The Bad E*ys/ I& I%+e ne+er been treated- tho*gh- and something really is "rong "ith me- be'a*se my head%s de&initely not on straight anymore- I need to get better2 I need 'larity o& tho*ght and missing memories to ret*rn so that I 'an &ig*re o*t "hat happened to/// her/ The girl "itho*t a name/ DThat is yo*r 'hoi'e to ma0e-D Camamoto says to me/ I thin0 that I 'an dete't a 'ertain resignation in his +oi'e- b*t maybe I%m "rong/ DCo*%re probably thin0ing that this is still part o& yo*r treatment- or "orse- part o& an e1periment- b*t yo* are terribly mista0en/ Nonetheless- yo* still ha+e &ree "ill/ We "ill not pre+ent yo* &rom administering a treatment- sho*ld yo* de'ide that it is "hat is best &or yo*/ Co*%+e already signed liability

"ai+ers- any"ay- tho*gh yo* 'an%t re'all doing so/D D!ho" them to me-D I demand- loo0ing &or a reason to belie+e that "hat he%s telling me is the tr*th/ I& he 'an pro+ide the papers- then I might 'hange my mind/ DI do not '*rrently ha+e a''ess to those &iles-D he replies- drily/ DB*t they do e1ist/ $ederal 'ommittees ha+e tied *p a lot o& se'*re datalately- and a &ree.e on inter,'ompany data trans&er "as ena'ted to try to pre+ent resear'h/D DB*t the resear'h goes on-D I &inish &or him/ DAespite something as simple as a liability "ai+er being lo'0ed *p in the "or0ings o& a b*rea*'rati' in+estigation- the resear'h goes on/D I 'an ne+er belie+e his "ords- I thin0 to mysel&/ 8t least it%s one thing o*t o& all o& this that I 0no" to be the tr*th/ I as0 mysel& "hy I%m going to tr*st him to pro+ide the treatmentstill hoping &or a "ay o*t o& this/

Either "ay- my li&e is &*'0ed/ That%s "hy I%m going to &ollo" thro*gh "ith it/ DI "ant the treatment/ Right no"/ Can yo* do it here6D I as0/ DCes-D he ans"ers/ DThere is a station *pstairs "here yo* 'an administer the treatment on yo*rsel&/ I "ill sho" yo* ho" it the basi' 'ontrols "or0/ Co* "ill only need to p*sh a b*tton- tho*gh- be'a*se the rest o& the pro'ess is a*tomated on'e "e%+e 'alibrated &or yo*r system/D We lea+e the room together- and I &ollo" him *p the stairs/ The rest o& the rooms- at least the parts that I 'an see- are de'orated in a similar &ashion to the t"o rooms that I%+e already been in/ Boo0shel+es- 'o*'hesarm'hairs/ The room that "e enter *pstairsho"e+er- seems 'ompletely o*t o& pla'e in the ho*se/ While most o& the ho*se seems e''entri'random- and slightly organi'- this room is

almost empty e1'ept &or a patient%s ben'h and an array o& 'onsoles lined *p against the side"all/ There is a large "indo" on the opposite side o& the room- and it ta0es *p most o& the "all spa'e- as i& it "ere '*t into the side o& the ho*se at a date a&ter the original 'onstr*'tion/ The room is o+erloo0ing the gardens o*tside and the +alley belo" the ho*se/ I noti'e that it is gro"ing dar0 o*tside/ Is it night- already6 The room appears to be sterile2 all s*r&a'es that aren%t made o& metal seem to be painted "hite/ It loo0s +ery 'lean in here- and on'e again I noti'e a saniti.ed- smell in the air in the room/ Camamoto- pointing to a 'ontrol panel- spea0s to me/ DThat 0ey is the one that "ill a'ti+ate treatment/ That%s the only thing yo*%ll need to "orry abo*t/ Co*%ll noti'e that it deta'hes &rom the &a'e o& the 'onsole- so that yo* 'an re'line in this 'hair and initiate the treatment &rom a more 'om&ortable position/D

I nod/ D!ho*ld I 4*st sit in the 'hair6D I as0 him/ DThat%s &ine-D he says- opening a dra"er/ 7e remo+es some "ires &rom the dra"er and begins pl*gging them into di&&erent ports on the &a'e o& the 'onsole- 'he'0ing a monitor &or reado*ts and stat*s/ DI need to r*n initial diagnosti' s'ans on yo*- tho*gh/ It sho*ldn%t ta0e long/D 7e &lips some s"it'hes- and then ad4*sts some dials/ I don%t say anything- "at'hing him/ 8 &e" min*tes later- he seems satis&ied "ith the ad4*stments that he has made on the ma'hine- and he "al0s to the other side o& the room/ To my s*rprise- there is a re'essed panel in the "all that I hadn%t noti'ed "hen "e "al0ed into the room- ass*ming that it "as merely a 'o+er plate &or a &*se bo1 or something similar/ Camamoto e1tends a lighted arm &rom the re'ession on'e he slides the panel

to the side- and then e1tends it o+er to the 'hair "here I am sitting/ DWhat%s this6D I as0- thin0ing abo*t dentists/ DThis arm *nit 'omm*ni'ates "ith the 'onsole on that "all and 'ontains the nanite in4e'tion/ It also ser+es as pro'essor s*pport &or 'omm*ni'ation "ith the s"arms "hile they are a'ti+ely deployed and relays biometri' in&ormation abo*t yo* to the monitoring area/ While the "hole pro'ess is a*tomated- "e "ill still be monitoring and re'ording the entire pro'ess &or later analysis/D 7e atta'hes some sensors to my temples- and I try to rela1/ I don%t thin0 I%ll easily be able to *nderstand "hat%s abo*t to happen/ It da"ns on me that I might be doing e1a'tly "hat he "ants- tho*gh/ 3aybe they needed someone to +ol*nteer to be the &irst test s*b4e't &or a do*ble treatment- and he really "as telling me the tr*th/ 3aybe e+erything "as so elaborately set into motion so that I%d

"illingly step into the e1periment/ No/ It%s too late to start se'ond,g*essing mysel&- again/ DThat sho*ld ta0e 'are o& it-D he says- ret*rning to the 'onsole and e1amining the display/ DI am setting the treatment to ad4*st errors in yo*r memory- as yo*%+e re5*ested- 'ommen'ing at abo*t/// one year ago/D 7e hits a 0ey a 'o*ple o& times- and then types something into the 0eypad/ I try to see "hat the reado*t says- b*t it%s too &ar a"ay/ I re&le't on the past &e" "ee0s- and then o+er the past year- and then thin0 abo*t my li&e/ I sha0e my head at mysel&/ What am I doing here6 7o" did e+erything go so &ast- de+eloping &aster than I 'o*ld 0eep tra'0 o& it- sno"balling do"nhill into the a+alan'he that landed me here- in this room- in this moment- tr*sting my li&e to a strange old man that I already 0no" I 'an%t a&&ord to tr*st6 What "ill he do i& I ba'0 o*t- no"6 Will &ollo"ing thro*gh "ith this really help me &ind her- e+en i& it%s s*''ess&*l6

DI ha+e to get an IN set*p &rom a di&&erent o&&i'e-D Aais*0e says to me- t*rning aro*ndleaning in to p*t his hand on my sho*lder/ DThe pro'ess 'an ta0e a little "hile/ I%ll be ba'0 in a moment- and then "e 'an 'ommen'e/D 7e lea+es the room- pa*sing at the door be&ore he e1its/ DCo* 'an still de'ide to belie+e me/ Co* don%t ha+e to do this-D he says/ DCo*r e1perien'e "as s*''ess&*l eno*gh that yo* 'an go on- e+en start o+er- some"here else/ Co* ha+e learned to lo+e again/D DNo-D I say/ I sigh- resigning &rom the arg*ment/ D!he%s real/ Co*%re going to help me &ind her by helping me remember her/ E+erything begins here/D 8m I del*sional6 Things seem 'learer to me no" than they ha+e in a +ery long time/ 7e lingers &or a se'ond longer- and then 'loses the door behind him/

I immediately get o*t o& the 'hair and mo+e o+er to the 'ontrol 'onsole- gi+ing it a 5*i'0 e1am/ The &irst pla'e that I 'he'0 is the display he last ad4*sted- setting the system to repair &rom a year ago/ I don%t really 0no" "hat the display reado*ts mean- there are so many abbre+iations on the s'reen- b*t I do see the n*mber H<<- and I tab o+er to the &ield that it%s in *sing the 0eypad/ I erase the n*mber/ I%m ass*ming that it%s the amo*nt o& days &or the nanites to go ba'0 thro*gh in my memories/ Ao they base it on sleep 'y'les6 !ho*ld I read4*st &or a longer period or a shorter one6 I%m s*re that Camamoto "ill be ba'0 shortlyb*t I hesitate/ I 'he'0 the other &ields/ I don%t "ant to mess things *p too m*'h/ I%m not trying to &ry my brain on p*rpose/ I 4*st "ant to ma0e s*re that the treatment is e&&e'ti+e- and that Camamoto%s not trying to erase important things abo*t !yn'hro !ystems that I%+e learned-

or e+en trying to erase my memories o& her altogether/ 7e opens the door- and I 4*mp- startled/ DWhat are yo* doing6D he as0s- loo0ing at meand then 'he'0ing the 'onsole/ DJ*st tho*ght I%d ta0e a loo0 and then get the remote-D I say- e1plaining mysel&- hoping that he doesn%t reali.e that I%+e tampered "ith the settings/ I deta'h the a'ti+ation 0ey &rom the 'onsole/ It%s 0ind o& li0e a 'ar 0ey remote/ 8 single b*tton is in the middle o& the small bla'0 bo1/ I ret*rn to the 'hair- and Aais*0e sets *p the IN drip/ DThis might sting-D he says- sti'0ing the needle into a +ein in my arm/ It stings/ 7e rea'hes into the e1tended me'hani'al arm that is beside the 'hair and remo+es a &ormidable loo0ing needle/

DThis is the treatment/ I& the a'ti+ation b*tton is not triggered- they "ill brea0 do"n "ithin a &e" ho*rs and be'ome inoperable/ They "ill not be dete'table in yo*r system by this time tomorro"-D he says- e1plaining things to me/ DI& yo* 'hange yo*r mind- nothing "ill happen/D DB*t i& I don%t 'hange my mind- then all I ha+e to do is p*shing this b*tton6D I as0 him'lari&ying/ D8nd then the little ma'hines "ill &i1 me6D DCo*r de'ision to do this "ill 0ill yo*- in all li0elihood-D he ans"ers/ DIt%s the old debate- tho*gh-D I state/ DWill it 0ill me6 Will it heal me6 That "hi'h doesn%t 0ill yo* ma0es yo* stronger- they say/D DCo*r h*mor is a poor 'o+er &or yo*r &ear/D 7e%s right/ I%m s'ared/ B*t I don%t 0no" "hat else to do/ DThis is it-D I say/ D!ti'0 me/D I 'len'h my teeth/

7e in4e'ts the needle into a split port on the IN set*p/ I don%t &eel a thing/ Nothing 'hanges/ 8re !yn'hro%s ma'hines already ma0ing their "ay into my brain- probing aro*nd6 7o" long sho*ld I "ait be&ore a'ti+ating them6 DI am going to lea+e the room/ I strongly s*ggest that yo* re'onsider this/ The treatment ta0es a &e" moments to permeate yo*r ner+o*s system- at "hi'h point a'ti+ation 'an o''*r s*''ess&*lly/ I "ill be monitoring the pro'ess remotely- along "ith a small team o& physi'ians and s'ientists/ !ho*ld something go "rong- "e "ill be here immediately/D I "onder abo*t the small team o& people that I%+e neither heard nor seen sin'e I%d been in the ho*se/ Tho*gh there "as no e+iden'e o& their e1isten'e- s*rely they "ere there/ They had their o"n li+es- their o"n e1perien'es- their o"n memories/ 3y la'0 o& per'eption didn%t 'hange that &rom being tr*th/ This only s*pports that she really does e1ist- that I%m not o*t o& line in my disbelie& o& Camamoto- and

that !yn'hro%s treatment might really help me i& I%m ha+ing problems re'alling things abo*t my past/ D!ee yo* in a little "hile- Aais*0e-D I say'losing my eyes- leaning ba'0 into the 'hair/ 7e lea+es the room- this time "itho*t hesitating/ 7e doesn%t say a "ord/ 3y palms are s"eating/ I try to rela1/ It%s gro"n dar0 o*tside- and "hen I open my eyes- I 'an e+en see a &e" stars thro*gh the glass "all/

No more hesitating/ I p*sh the b*tton and 'lose my eyes/ Breath# o*t/

Breath# in/ Then it hits me/ I open my eyes- b*t all I 'an see is bla'0ness/ The bla'0ness- and dar0ness- &ore+er- I thin0/ I am a "andering star/ This &ate is reser+ed &or me/ It o''*rs to me that I ne+er entered a se'ond string o& n*mbers to repla'e the ones that I%d deleted- b*t the tho*ght passes 5*i'0ly/ I do not 'are/

Bla'0ness and dar0ness/

7o" m*'h time has passed6 I try to mo+e- b*t my limbs do not respond/

E+ery"here- "armth/ There is a light- then- in the 'enter o& my &ield o& +ision/

I &o'*s my eyes/

I go to"ards the light/

[End o& Narrati+e]

!*pplemental 3aterials
or Chapter 14

8dditional 'onte1t*ally rele+ant materials ha+e been 'olle'ted pertaining to the narrati+e and are as &ollo"s#

Ao "e e+er get another 'han'e to ma0e o*r li+es happen6 Ao yo* thin0 "e%ll meet again- someday- on'e it doesn%t h*rt anymore6 7a+e things gone too &ar6 7as redemption es'aped *s6 Is it really too late6 Il tempo sta esa*rendosi/ ///I don%t 0no"/

< &eet/
Tell the people that yo* lo+e ho" m*'h they mean to yo*2 !oon all "ill be "aste/ !oon Time "ill ha+e her "ishBringing *s all home $or a &inal 0iss- and then# !leep "ell- 'hildren/

7er entire past seemed li0e a blan0/ We 0ne" that it e1isted- that the memories "ere in her head- and they%d 'ome *p &rom time to time &or air- ta0ing a breath o& li&e- and she%d spea0 them o*t lo*d- or "rite them do"n- holding them 'lose to her li0e They "ere- &or ho" hard she &o*ght to regain them/ 8 daily str*ggle/ I reali.ed that my re'ent lapse o& memory "as something +ery di&&erent &rom that- tho*gh/ I 'ompared it to her amnesia as a point o& re&eren'e only , be'a*se her amnesia "as something that I had 'ome to *nderstand in a "ay/ In her 'ase- e+erything "as lost- there&ore only gain "as possible/ In mine- I didn%t e+en 0no" "hat I%d &orgotten , e1'ept &or a &e" things# the last time I%d *sed a 'ell*lar telephone- &or e1ample/ That%s b*t one small

"a+e in a +ast o'ean o& memory2 nonethelessit is a "a+e that I sho*ld ha+e re'alled/

The Enemy "ill 'ons*me yo*# Regret- Remorse- !e'ond Tho*ghts- and thirds/ !lo"ly at &irst- then rampant- +ora'io*s2 Ta0e a sip &rom the '*pEase in- easy/ Easy- b*t not as easy as yo* tho*ght , To remember Tr*th/ Airty &ingernails- br*ised- misg*ided 0nees/ Aar0 'ir'les li0e p*ddles *nderneath yo*r eyes/ !omething *nderneath the bed- "hispering/// shh shh

=I!TEN9 ("hat yo* "anted to hear) Co* 'an%t remember it9 Airty sheets- s"eating s0in Airty sheets 'linging to s'ents and "rin0les/ Co* 0no" things abo*t last night2 Co* 0no" things that yo* "ant to &orget/ =osing to*'h "ith other tho*ghts Co* on'e s"ore ne+er to release/ 7o" "e hide o*rsel+es9

8nd so yo* sho*ld &all li0e a b*tter&ly "ith b*rning "ings/ 7ere is the or'hestration- noti'e as the m*si' s"ells8 little "a+e here- a min*te 'rest thereThen '*lmination- the pea0- nothing near a tidal "a+e- b*t "orth mentioning to othersOn'e- be&ore yo* 'rash into the '*rrents belo"/ Co*r li&e is a mo+ie/ Co*r +oi'e is a so*ndtra'02 yo*r mo+ements are the s'ore/ To the 'aden'e o& years roaring past- ma0e yo*r pea'e/

To the rhythm o& yo*r heart as it "ea0ens/ With ea'h step- yo* breathe/ With ea'h in4e'tion- &ire is diminished &or a moment- b*t not &or a moment more/ 8nd so yo* sho*ld &all li0e a b*tter&ly "ith b*rning "ings/

Balan'ing 8't/
We%re al"ays 4*st on the brin0 o& &alling o+er the edge- I thin0- "at'hing her balan'ing a't/ !he%s not a&raid- b*t I am a&raid eno*gh &or *s both/

There%s no s*'h thing as ma0ing it all better/ !o she said# sadnessit%s so +ery 'lose to madness/ "hi'ht"isted- she admitted"as inherently li0e lo+e/

8h- bitters"eet memories- yo*%re damaged goods at dis'o*nt pri'es- and spring is in the air again/ One o& those moments "hen yo*%re riding the line bet"een de'iding on one thing that 'o*ld 'hange these sit*ations &ore+er- or another- in "hi'h e+erything "ill 'ontin*e as it al"ays hasine+itably '*r+ing in a slo" spiral do"n"ards/ 8nd yo* 'hoose the latter- o& 'o*rse- be'a*se yo* 0no" that the &ormer al"ays leads to the other- and that no one%s e+er gonna sa+e yo* no"/

What details do "e &ind "hen "e sear'h e+ery 're+i'e e+ery 'orner ea'h 'ra'0- ea'h noo0 "hen "e read e+ery page o& e+ery boo06 What details do "e dis'o+er beneath the lines the sheets "e%+e slept *nder a tho*sand times6

What things "e%d ne+er 0no"n be&ore6 What se'ret path6 What hidden door6 What is in store &or *s6

Euthenica Tablets Re& P<,J00,8O E*theni'a @ !yn'hroni'ity Ari+e ?ro4e't Report T Q-P<K (e) INTERN ! "#E $N!% RC&I' ! (E)T 8lpha !tage resear'h is 'omplete/ I m*st ha+e tra+eled do"n at least three or &o*r &loors- gi+en the length o& the trip in the ele+ator/ I "as a little s*rprised that there "ere that many s*b,le+els in the small b*ilding- b*t being so &ar *ndergro*nd also meant that the gro*nd &loor might misrepresent the total si.e o& the b*ilding/ 3aybe all o& the b*ildings in the entire &a'ility "ere 'onne'ted *ndergro*nd- and the gro*nd le+el areas "ere stri'tly administrati+e and storage areas/ It didn%t matter/ I intended to ma0e a 5*i'0 s'an o+er "here+er the ele+ator ended *p

stopping at- 'he'0ing some things o*t- maybe seeing i& anyone "as e+en there (altho*gh all signs had pointed to that not being the 'ase- so &ar as I%d seen)/ 8&ter that- I planned on ret*rning ba'0 *pstairs and letting Janine and 7*nter 0no" "hate+er I%d dis'o+ered- and seeing "hat they tho*ght abo*t doing &rom there/ Co* get all 0inds o& ideas in yo*r headany"ay- "hen yo* don%t 0no" "hat%s abo*t to happen/ I imagined all o& that "o*ld go smoothly- and the "orst 'ase s'enario that I 'ame *p "ith in+ol+ed an aggressi+e se'*rity g*ard or t"o es'orting *s o&& o& the property "ith a stern "arning to ne+er ret*rn/ I also 'onsidered the possibility that Janine and 7*nter "o*ld agree to ret*rn do"nstairs "ith me a&ter I in&ormed them o& the +ast "ealth o& in&ormation that I%d dis'o+ered on "hate+er s*b,le+el o& the small b*ilding that I ended *p on/ O& 'o*rse- I tho*ght o& all o& that on the ride do"n- be&ore the doors opened/

Then the ele+ator stopped/ I p*shed all o& my ideas to the side/ The doors opened/

When they lea+e- yo* "ant to '*t it o&& 'ompletely- and 'leanly- and 'a*teri.e the "o*nds- so that the healing pro'ess 'an begin/ With medi'ines- and so'ial e+ents- and time- it sho*ld be'ome 4*st another set o& s'ars/


7a+e a hard time letting it go- do yo*6 7a+e a hard time &orgetting all o& these things on yo*r lists2 ha+e a harder time remembering the things that yo* tho*ght yo*%d ne+er &orget6 7o" to lo+e- ho" to li+e- ho" to lie///

What 'an I say- no"6 It%s all the same/ !leep 'omes- and sleep goes/ Things may rotate2 things may loo0 di&&erent in the a&ternoon than they did in the morning2 8l"ays at night- "hen they seem to be something else 'ompletely/ B*t they ne+er 'hange- not really/ E+erything seems important- and maybe it issometimes/ $lip it o+er and it 'hanges- the dynami' o& it all- the "ay the '*rrents to*'h itand it%s *pside do"n and ba'0"ards and it%s *seless/ !ame ob4e't- di&&erent perspe'ti+e/ !ometimes- yo* don%t as0 &or him- b*t Charlie the Ehost "ill 'ome- and he%s there in those most +i+id and l*'id moments "hen yo*%re &ailing to sleep2 reminding yo*# ho" years ago the a&ternoons "ere long and yo* 'o*ld 'on5*er gala1ies in an ho*r/ When on'e- yo* in+estigated the 'losets- sear'hed &or door"ays

into other "orlds- other times- any other pla'e besides the boring t*rn o& ho*rs in the day/ Waited &or &ire&lies- made lanterns "ith them"at'hed them- in some inno'ent b*t si'0ening "ay- as they &aded and died/ E+erything dies- Charlie tells yo*- so don%t a't as i& yo*%+e risen abo+e the 'y'le/ Aon%t a't as i& it%s &ore+er/ It isn%t/ I& l*'0 permits- it may be'ome one o& the memories- some t"enty years later- the ones that 0eep yo* &rom sleeping/ Other"ise- it%s all gone- &orgotten/// in that- at least- "e are all &orgi+en/

Com&ortable To*'h/
It%s the only thing that%s real- I thin0/ Be'a*se lo+e is s*'h a sa'ri&i'e in itsel&/ Be'a*se lo+e is gi+ing *p onesel& to the "ill and "him o& another/

Code 020/
!T8T:! RE?ORT# ?INE TKJQSS !:BJECT S0< SQ<P COAE 020# CRITIC8= ERROR# 8ANI!E !:BJECT RETRIEN8= NECE!!8RC $OR $:RT7ER 8N8=C!I! COAE 020# CRITIC8= ERROR# ?ROB8BI=ITC O$ =8TENT CRITIC8= ?ROCE!!INE EOCE?TION 0/H<U 8N8=C!T NOTE!# :N8N8I=8B=E !ECONA8RC NOT8TION# I stepped into the ele+ator- tho*gh- de'iding that it "as too late to t*rn ba'0/ I 'he'0ed the 'ontrol bo1 inside2 there "as only one b*tton a+ailable/ There "ere no mar0ings indi'ating "hether the ele+ator "ent *p or do"n- tho*ghso I still "asn%t s*re i& it "o*ld ta0e *s *pstairs or into some basement some"here/

D8re yo* g*ys 'oming6D I as0ed them- "aiting on them to get into the ele+ator "ith me/ They loo0ed at ea'h other- and then Janine too0 a step in my dire'tion- b*t 7*nter grabbed her arm- holding her ba'0/ DIs that really a good idea6D 7e 5*estioned/ DWe don%t 0no" "here it%s going- or i& there%s anyone there- or ho" illegal this really is gettinge+en- 'onsidering that "e%re 0ind o& trespassing already- *sing &a0e IA 'ards to get past the gates- and ha+e yet to see anyone "ho "or0s here/D Janine made a &*nny &a'e/ DWe%re already 'ommitted- 7*nter-D she reasoned/ D!omebody sho*ld ta0e the ele+ator- any"ay/ It%s not as i& it%s going to be some trap or something/ That 'reepy and omino*s thing that I said "as 4*st a 4o0e/ I ha+e a "eird sense o& h*mor/ Besidesli0e I%+e been saying all along- I really thin0 "e%re at the "rong pla'e/D

DWhate+er- g*ys/ Wait here-D I said- p*shing the b*tton/ DI%ll be ba'0 in a 'o*ple o& min*tes/D The doors 'losed/ That "as the last time that I sa" Janine or 7*nter/

Committed to another an'ient treas*reanother an'ient bo1/ Co*%+e seen yo*r share o& those +ines entangled- embra'ing- strangling the rotting "ood that 'on'eals immeas*rable "ealth- or so yo* say/ I ne+er &o*nd m*'h *se &or stolen gold- any"ay/ !o- sin0ing li0e a shipyo* hold a desperate 'ry o*t in the dire'tion o& hea+en- hoping that the gods "ill noti'e yo*2 some long lost myths in the shado"s by yo*r side/

Aon%t "ait *p &or me/ Aon%t "orry- I "on%t/

!he "ore a barrette- metal- in her hair- it "as in the shape o& an in&inity sign- and she had on those nerdy glasses this time/ Bottle blonde4*st li0e they almost al"ays are- "ith the dar0er roots gro"ing o*t and the hair '*t shorto& 'o*rse- smo0ing her 'igarettes li0e a pro&essional "o*ld- someone in a 'ommer'ial/ They%re all the same- small &rames- ni'e '*r+es/ :nli0ely to gain "eight as they age/ 7er arm slee+ed "ith tattoos o& something &oreign b*t oh,so,'olor&*l- 'omplete "ith the high "ater K0 s and the army,na+y Red Cross bag that ser+ed as a p*rse/ White tan0 top o+er bla'0 bra- she probably had her nipples pier'ed and she probably p*t o*t on the third date/ That isi& she "asn%t preo''*pied "ith her noteboo0 as she s'ribbled little memos to posterity and 'rappy poetry abo*t being dissed in a relationship and lyri's &or her band that ne+er, "ill,be/ They%re all the same- any"ay- and

they%re al"ays 'old- so they t*rn the heater *p in !eptember and they steal hoodies &rom boys and they name their 'ars "ith names that 'hange depending on the time o& day- and the mood/

I lo+ed the "ay that she la*ghed- "ith no reser+ation- no a"0"ardness- "itho*t &ear that she might la*gh embarrassingly or st*pidly/ !he la*ghed &reely- something I had ta*ght mysel& not to do a long time be&ore then as a means o& 0eeping a lo" pro&ile/ =a*ghter- to me- "as a reason to be sel&,'ons'io*s- at least *ntil she 'ame along/

C*riosity T /
I am the &ire o& resentment- a needle s'raping a'ross the groo+es- a strong "ind p*lling a 0ite "ith a &rayed string/ Be&ore "e arri+ed here- "e smo0ed opi*m together/ 7ardly romanti'- she sat on the toilet and I leaned against the bathroom "all and yo* 'o*ld hardly hear the b*bbling o& the 'heap plasti' "ater pipe thro*gh all the noise o& the party as "e b*rned o*r 'o+eted s'ore a"ay/ That%s the end o& it- she tells me- pla'es the pipe do"n in the batht*b- and rea'hes &or her 'igarettes/ O*tside- th*nder- and the b*ilding sha0es a little/ I stare at my re&le'tion in the mirror/ I in+estigate my teeth/ 3y mo*th is dryI 'an still taste the al0aloids- and I &eel li0e I ha+e tar *nderneath my &ingernails/ It appears as i& the &lo"ers on the "allpaper are spiraling

aro*nd in 'ir'les- b*t I 0no" that it%s all imagination- r*nning re'0less/ I need to tal0 to yo*/// later/ I need to tell yo* something- she says- bet"een ind*lgent drags o&& a menthol 'igarette that 'ra'0les as it b*rns to the &ilter/ 8nd I p*sh her "ords to the sideli0e so many st*pid maga.ines that I 'an "ait to read later- all piling *p and 'l*ttering the "aiting room tables in my mind- be'a*se- yo* 0no"- e+erything is 'ool/ E+erything &eels good/ !o I 0iss her- and she bites my lip- and I taste a little bit o& blood- and she m*mbles an apology/ It doesn%t matter- she doesn%t h*rt me/ It "on%t be long be&ore "e%re some"here else- a *ni+erse a"ay &rom here- b*t &or no"- I%m 'ontent to tra'e lines "ith my &ingertips a'ross the '*r+es o& her s0in "hile all the seemingly &orgettable m*si' hoo0s itsel& irre+o'ably into the ba'0 'atalog*es o& my brain- "here it "ill "ait- li0e a snare- to tear at my heels "hene+er I try to r*n/

C*riosity T2/
There are sirens- some"here/ $ar a"ay &rom here/ Closer- the dim 'allings o& the trains as the rails h*m and sigh into dar0ness/ Closer still- the so*nd o& the high"ay people- bleary, eyed- north to so*th- so*th to north- all lost some"here bet"een painted lines/ 8ll heading home- or lea+ing home- or "itho*t a home/ These are the so*nds o& a 'ity that dreams as it%s raining o*tside in the night/ What "ere yo* dreaming abo*t6 !he as0s me'on'ern in her +oi'e so*nding alien a&ter this g*l& o& years that "e%+e spent gro"ing apart together/ It m*st ha+e been pretty bad- she ya"ns- stret'hing her arms to"ard the 'eilingpalms *p"ard/ !he 'o*nts something- then- on her hands- *sing her th*mb &or the &irst digitand I reali.e that she%s doing so in binary/ Whate+er it is- it%s lost- and she 'ontin*es/ Co* destroyed something- she says/

There "as a ghost- I tell her- and tho*gh there%s no s*'h thing- I shi+er/ No- not anymore- she replies- and she seems sad and resigned as she rolls o+er and &a'es the "all/ !he begins "riting something "ith her &inger on the paint in the dar0- and I lea+e the bed so that I 'an loo0 o*t o& the "indo"/ O*tside- the "orld seems a little emptier- and o+er my sho*lder- I hear her sigh/

C*riosity TH/
Today- "e%re b*rning the past in a 'ommandeered KK,gallon garbage 'an/ We%re b*rning all o& the hereti's o& o*r yesterdays at the sta0e2 "e%re gi+ing all the mementos o& heartbrea0 that "e%+e e+er 0no"n a tr*e trial by &ire , "itho*t a 4*ry/ There%s smo0e and it%s e+ery"here- and tomorro" morning yo* "ill smell it in o*r 'lothes and hair/ We%re de'laring "ar on all o& the lies and bro0en promises that anyone e+er made to *s- &oolishly 'ommitted to paper/ !he%s 'rying as she thro"s the photographs into the &lames/ One trembling hand&*l &ollo"ed by another- and another/ I pa*se and I debate the 'onse5*en'e o& o*r a'tions- ea'h irre+o'able motion &ore+er banishing both the good things and the bad/ With time- e+en the memories "ill bl*r/ I hear the rose,&illed +od0a bottle 'ra'0 at the bottom i& the &*rna'e- imagining

the glass as it begins to glo"/ Into the &ire- the no+el I ne+er &inished/ Into the &ire- pages and pages o& alternate histories- o& better tomorro"s &or both o& *s- o& the imaginary people "ho be'ome trapped inside o& e+eryone%s heads/ Today- they die/ Today- "e are &ree/ !he pa*ses &or a moment- and I "at'h as she lights a 'igarette/ !he ta0es a long drag- hal& 'losing her le&t eye "hile raising her right eyebro"- and "ith her eyes she is as0ing me "hat- or "ho- or "hen I "ill destroy ne1t/ !o as the glo"ing ashes rise- dri&ting on the temperat*re &lo"s- I pi'0 *p noteboo0sillegibly s'ribed "ith m*si'/ I pi'0 *p s'rapboo0s- o+er&lo"ing "ith maga.ine 'lippings and arti'les/ I pi'0 *p so many letters &rom lo+ers "ho "al0ed o*t in the morning b*t still ha+en%t ret*rned/ I pi'0 *p bloody 0ni+es and smashed toy 'ars and 'asings o& b*llets and bro0en mi'ro'hips/ 8ll rise- please mo+e to"ards the &ire/

In the end- there%s nothing that 'an be sa+ed/ No"- she steps 'loser and 0isses me/ 7er lo"er lip is "arm- her nose is 'old/ 7er hands are on my 'hest- &ingers spread o*t as i& to grab meto stop me- or perhaps to p*sh me a"ay/ In a motion- she t*rns- and she "raps her arms aro*nd me- and she%s standing behind me/ =i0e a little 0id- she%s pee0ing at the &ire# '*rio*s/ 8&raid/ 8nd here "e remain- together- &ore+erobser+ing the "arm glo"ing 'orpses o& o*r pasts/

'*r+at*re/ the sphere o& the earth- tilting a"ay beneath o*r &eet/

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WO:=A CO:/// ?ress in5*iries that only yo* and the ghost "o*ld 0no" the ans"ers to6 Is there a limit to 'ommon 0no"ledge- to that 0no"ledge "hi'h is attainable thro*gh 'on+ersations- songs- and "ritings6 8 limit to detail that o*tside obser+ers "ill retain6 Is there tr*ly anything that only yo* and the ghost 'an 0no"- some small detail that yo* both "ill remember- something that no one else 'an attest to as tr*th or *ntr*th- as &a't or &i'tion6 8nd ho" does one test the 'eiling o& said limitations "hilst retaining 'on+ersation "ith a&orementioned ghost6

Isn%t it pro+en- time and again- thro*gho*t history- that something too good to be tr*e ine+itably is- that nothing 'omes "itho*t 'ost (material- tangible- or other"ise)- and that "ishes really don%t 'ome tr*e6 8nd do yo* in+ite the ghost inside- and embra'e it- and lo+e it any"ay- or &ollo" the ghost to "here e+er it resides- dedi'ating e+erything- sa'ri&i'ing e+erything , 4*st to pro+e that there%s something more in the "orldthe *ni+erse- besides the +ario*s (and m*ndane) pro'esses o& the li&e 'y'le6 I s*ppose that there is no right ans"er- and that one m*st simply "al0 to the edge o& the "orld- and peer o&& into the bla'0ness and dar0ness o& &ore+er- and ta0e a step , 5*ite possibly- or better yet- most li0ely- to &all and to perish/ B*t there is still the 'han'e- no matter ho" in&initesimal- that one "ill do anything b*t pl*nge into the depths and lose li&e- and i& s*'h a thing e1ists- the so*l2 that one "ill &ly- or metamorphose- or begin again-

and that all o& the theories and hypotheses and pre+io*sly set e1amples "ill be pro+en "rong///

Or maybe it%s better stated that there m*st be the 'han'e that one "ill simply not &all///

0,a !he "as al"ays one &or testing the limits o& "hat she%d been told- yo* 0no"/ ?*shing the en+elope or 'rossing the line- b*t not anything in a daring or romanti'i.ed "ay- i& that%s the 0ind o& thing that yo*%re thin0ing/ 8l"ays "ith an in'lination more to"ards so'ial sel&, destr*'tion- &inan'ial r*in- or bodily harm- a blind eye t*rned to"ards 'a*tion and pr*den'e- al"ays riding the pro+erbial ra.or%s edge one &ra'tion o& an o*n'e o& press*re a"ay &rom rending the artery hopelessly and irre+o'ably *seless &or the s*stenan'e o& li&e/ That%s not a 'omplete senten'e- is it6 I don%t 'are/ 0,b $or e1ample- she%s got this s'ar on her handthese interlo'0ing '*r+es that &orm all these

per&e't SK 'ent 'ir'les- li0e the rings o& a tree0ind o&- and they%re &rom "hen she "as 4*st a 0id and she had to to*'h the glo"ing orange eye o& 0no"ledge on the sto+e top be'a*se she didn%t belie+e mom or pop "hen they told her that it "as 7OT- that it "o*ld B:RN- and that b*rns al"ays 7:RT/ !he%s also the type that ne+er 'ries- at least as &ar as I%+e e+er seenand I%+e seen a lot o& her- yo* 0no"- so I do*bt that e+en then she rea'ted in a "ay that re+ealed "ea0ness/// a real to*gh,girl typeyo*%+e met someone li0e her be&ore- I%m s*re/

3om and ?op- be&ore they mo+ed on- they told the story a little di&&erently than she does- o& 'o*rse/ I g*ess all parents ha+e them- these stories o& a lo+eable b*t st*pid and disobedient little 0id2- s'reaming at the top o& its l*ngs as it r*ns thro*gh the ho*se "ith an e1tended &inger or hand or arm- lamenting the gods &or pla'ing s*'h '*riosity in their thirsty little heads- all the "hile "ith tears and snot &lo"ing

&reely &rom all a+ailable &a'ial ori&i'es- blind &aith in motion that *s*ally 'on'l*des "ith a more dramati' meeting o& said 'hild "ith a pre+io*sly *nnoti'ed and also 5*ite in'onsiderately pla'ed 'hair- door- or "all/ 2 Well- that%s 4*st ho" she is- yo* 0no"6 !o I "as 0ind o& s*rprised "hen she started listening to e+eryone%s ad+i'e one day on matters o& the heart ser+ed in 'on4*n'tion "ith a "aste pile o& really bad ideas- and e+en more s*rprised "hen she totally &la0ed o*t on this g*y that she "as really into- and I "as really- RE8==C s*rprised "hen she stopped ans"ering the phone "hen he 'alled be'a*se he "as- a&ter all- potential &or a RE8==C RE8==C bad mind&*'0/ Really/ 8nd that%s probably "hy he "as per&e't &or her- and also the reason she%d let him get a"ay- "ith her ne" resol*tion to &ollo" instead o& lead and to let e+eryone else ma0e her de'isions &or her/ Time passes li0e a dream/ We rea'h &or the s0y- "e seem s*rprised "hen o*r hands ret*rn-

empty/ B*t "hat o& all the breath that "e%+e 4*st 'apt*red and let slip bet"een o*r &ingers6 7o" many li+es ha+e shared that air6 H I%m learning to be more li0e the other lemmings- she tells me/ I%m learning to be sa&e and predi'table and boring and m*ndane and en'aps*lated- be'a*se that%s a million times easier than the 0ind o& thing that s'ars yo*r hand- or "orse- yo*r heart- &or li&e- and it%s the 0ind o& loss I%m "illing to ta0e and the 0ind o& medi'ine that I%m learning to s"allo" "itho*t gagging/ this 'on+ersation e+ol+es as I smo0e an emerald green Clo+ersmo0e- an 8meri'an 'igarette the 'olor o& money- so &an'y and &ashionable- in an *n0empt roadside 'a&e near To*lo*se- $ran'e/ Q 8t least I didn%t &*'0 him- she sighs as she says this- and she loo0s 0ind o& regret&*l and sadand I p*t my hand onto hers/ Is it any "onder

that the "ords &or 7eart and 7*rt are so similar6 e+ery moment is an open door

Be'a*se it spreads thro*gho*t yo*r li&e/ Be'a*se it 'ons*mes yo*- in the end2 in the end- malignant +ersions o& yo*rsel& ha+e destroyed &ar too m*'h to allo" &or s*stained s*r+i+al/ Be'a*se yo* be'ome terminally ill "ith it/ :pon analysis- yo* &ind that the 'ore is hollo"/ That the li&e is a shell/ The body is a +essel- and "hen the +essel is bro0en- there is nothing/ 8 big- a"&*lly blan0 NOT7INE/ The 'on+ersion o& 'ells- the m*tation- pro+ing e+ol*tion on a 'ell*lar le+el/

The "irings o& the brain m*'h li0e that o& the tele+ision (ha+e yo* e+er seen it "hen yo* t*rn the po"er o&&6)- resid*al ele'tri'ity s*rges and points in the 'enter- a bright bea'on o& light thro*gh the t*nnel/

I open empty hands and smile- 8 bro0en dream/ Can yo* remember "ho yo* "anted to be "hen yo* gre" *p6

!omeday- "hen "e are old and gray &ools "hen "e%re "aiting to die"hat "e%+e done- "hat "e%re thin0ing"e%ll "onder# "as li+ing "orth the lies6 8ll o& o*r hearta'hes- all o& the s'ars "orn- bandaged- hidden , "e are the "eary "ar,torn/ $or *s# the dar0ness- &ore+er/ We are li0e the li&eless stars/ The s*n rises2 "e dri&t/

Will the &e+er brea06 I don%t 0no" !ho*ld "e ta0e him to the hospital6 I%d rather not What i& it gets "orse6 What i& it gets better6

We%re in the 'ar together and "e%re not 5*ite lost- b*t "e%re &ar &rom &o*nd/ The heater is t*rned *p to Q- "e%re dri+ing aimlessly along the 'oast "aiting &or the engine to "arm *p the air- "e%re tal0ing in h*shed tones and "hispers and "e%re m*rm*ring a stream o& tho*ght- hal& spo0en and a 5*arter impliedand a 5*arter lost/ !he%s telling me a story o& ho" she brea0s into ho*ses as a demonstration o& her &ree "ill and I%m thin0ing that I%+e been here be&ore- a long time ago/ 3y ear 'anals a'he/ The "ind on the bea'h in the springtime "ill '*t right thro*gh yo*- a ser+ant o& the o'ean- so 'old- so dar0 and deep/ I &o'*s on the dotted lines- playing ping,pong "ith the 'ar as i& I%m dr*n0/ I &eel si'0 to my stoma'h/ !he doesn%t taste the same as she *sed to taste/ I 'on'entrate on the

&eeling o& sand bet"een my toes inside o& my so'0s and I%m trying to 'o*nt the grains and the &ibers and the 'igarette in my hand is abo*t to &all on the &loor/ I%ll sear'h &or it- blindly- &ind it by heat alone- smelling the smoldering 'arpet/ !he%s telling me a story o& ghosts and gods and gra+eyards- and I%m la*ghing on the inside , b*t not a healthy la*ghter &illed "ith 4oy or one o& 'arelessness- instead# the la*ghter o& the malignant- &illed "ith irony and a taste li0e bile- or 'orrosion/ I &eel a gro"ing sense o& distr*st in this "oman as my eara'hes s*bsideb*t I rea'h &or her hands any"ay- and she ta0es mine into hers as i& she "ere eager &or the 'onta't/ I as0 her to marry me- again- be'a*se it%s all a part o& this destr*'ti+e 'hain o& e+ents "e al"ays p*ll &rom "ithin o*rsel+es- and I see no reason to 'hange the s'ript- no matter ho" m*'h or ho" little the stage has been rearranged/ 8gain- she de'lines- reminding me to 0eep my eyes on the road/

We%re o*r o"n little symphony o& &*'0ed *p rea'tions to ea'h other/

I ta0e aim &or the dit'h- the phone poles2 I ta0e aim &or the tra'tor,trailer%s headlights in the opposite lane/ I ta0e aim &or anything s*bstantial and immediately deadly- anything to bo*n'e o*t o& the s'rat'h in the re'ordanything to release the pa*se b*tton o& this same endless '*t,s'ene/ I 'hange my mind- steady the "heel- and I dri+e on/

*&% #&$"!( I +"E#TI$N T&I# DIt%s so lo*d in here sometimes/ !ometimes Nothing is all that yo* 'an hear/D

It all starts "ith the e1tended eye 'onta't/ Then- ne1t thing yo* 0no"- they%re po*ring yo* another glass o*t o& the se'ond- no- the third bottle o& "ine- and they%re dragging yo* into the bathroom- and stripping yo* do"n- and they%re thro"ing yo* in the sho"er and s'r*bbing yo* "ith e1pensi+e soaps and pads "ith hard to prono*n'e $ren'h names/ 7a+e yo* been si'0 be&ore6 8re yo* si'0 no"6 7o" many times ha+e yo* done this6 !o the sho"er ends- they belie+e that they%+e made yo* 'lean again- they belie+e that they%+e "ashed the sten'h o& li+ing o&& o& yo*- they belie+e that yo* don%t still ree0 o& all o& the al'ohol yo*%+e imbibed/ They belie+e- so they mo+e to 0iss yo*- b*t it%s bl*rry no"- the lights are so bright- and i& it happens- yo* 'an%t remember/

I& anything has 'hanged- yo*%+e &ailed to noti'e- be'a*se- a&ter all- this is the +essel that yo* reside in and these are the battle s'ars to pro+e that yo*%+e li+ed/ That yo*%+e lo+ed- that yo*%+e lied- that yo*%+e bent hearts and ha+e had yo*rs br*ised/ That it all &ades into memory- and to a point that yo* 'an%t remember a name "ith the &a'e- or a sit*ation "ith a date- or "hat their &eet loo0ed li0e/ Then- one day- yo*%re "a0ing *p- the s*n is in yo*r eyes- yo* ta0e note that it%s al"ays going to be that "ay- be it bathroom lights or stadi*m lights or some li&e,gi+ing star that yo*%+e ta0en &or granted2 yo*%ll al"ays ha+e the glare blinding yo*- the tears to bl*r yo*r +isionthe dro"siness o& sleep resting *pon those lids/ That day is the day that it all s*ddenly matters2 &or yo*%+e planted no garden- no &lo"ersyo*%+e "ritten no no+el/ Co*%+e sto'0piled so little &or the "inter- and m*'h less &or posterity- it%s already gro"ing late in the day/

Co* 'an still smell the al'ohol in yo*r hango+er- it%s there- "ritten on yo*r eyelids and inside the e'hoes in yo*r memory , yo* 'an taste it in yo*r throat2 it%s telling yo* that no matter "hat yo* did- yo* 'an%t be right- that no matter ho" yo*%+e 'hanged- yo* ha+en%t 'hanged eno*gh/ That yo* ne+er "ill/ B*t today is a ne" day9 The songs "ill be played again (perhaps- "ith 'o*rage)- the stars- tonight- they "ill shine brighter than they ha+e be&ore- these things that are so li0e an'hors to yo* , yo* "ill drag them pain&*lly in- brea0ing the s0in in the pro'ess- or yo* "ill *napologeti'ally hea+e them o+erboardlea+ing them behind- &ore+er- lost into the abyss/ !o I 5*estion# are yo* in6 Or- e+en no"- are yo* ma0ing an es'ape o+erboard6

D/gnissim yletelpmo' se'alp emos ni dna -detnemgar& dna deretta's dna delbm*4 s%noitamro&ni ehT /rehtie "on0 t%nseod eh! 6ot ema' ehs et*nim eht taht yrt t%ndid e" 0niht *oC Wh&g y+1r 4*ng N &n+5 4*ra N gby5 lbh nobhg g*r "+t&n4 'hmmyr- na5 *b4 ab bar pbhy5 'hg +g gbtrg*re nal .ber +a nal &beg bs ern&banoyr n.bhag bs g+.r- &+apr g*r oyrnp* *n5 sn5r5 gbb .nal y+ar& seb. g*r +.ntr/D

7o" many dreams do "e s*rpass "hen "e &ly6

The possibilities are endless/ What "o*ld yo* li0e to e1perien'e6 8 moment as someone else6

*E *I!! ,I## %$" W7EN CO: 8RE EONE# NO=:3E ONE 8 TRIB:TE TO T7O!E T7INE! T78T WE 8== 78NE =O!T IN O:R CE8R! 8NA T7ERE 8RE !TI== T7O!E T7INE! T78T WE 78NE CET TO =O!E DTVn0 om han inte Vr samarbets+illig6D &rWgade 4ag honom/ Jag +ille inte slVppa greppet om honom/ DTro mig- han 0ommer att samarbeta med dig/ Jag Vr sV0er pW detD s+arade han- med en ton a+ s4Vl+sV0erhet i sin rIst/ XByggnaden Vr inte sV0er nog &Ir mig lVngre/ NWgon 0ommer 0onta0ta dig senare med mer in&ormation/ >an d* +ara sW snVll o'h lWta mig gW n*6X

Jag slVppte honom o'h han borstade sin 4a'0a genom att platta *t delarna a+ 4a'0an som tidigare ryn0lats till a+ mitt hWrda grepp/ DAin +Vn- -anine- +a6 7on oroar sig sV0ert &Ir dig n*D sade han o'h &linade mot mig med samma bli'0s om hade s0rVmt mig tidigare/ 7*r my'0et +et de hVr mVnnis0orna egentligen om mJitt li+6 Nar&Ir ga+ de mig in&ormation i bitar nVr det +er0ade sW en0elt &Ir de att hitta o'h binda mig till henne6 DA* Vr mer Vn en *ndersI0ningsanalyst +a6D &rWgade 4ag/ DAet Vr en passande titel &Ir sit*ationer som mina arbetsgi+are lWter mig hantera-D s+arade han/ DAina arbetsgi+are6 A* menar #.nchr/ #.ste0s eller6D DEIr inte &Ir mWnga antaganden n* +Vnnen/D

DJag *pps0attar o'h gillar inte dina spel-D sade 4ag honom- o'h +Vnde mig &Ir att lVmna/ DNer0ligheten Vr inte ett spel/ Aet &inns alltid 0onse0+enser &Ir alla inblandade/X Aet &Ir0larade inte spe'iellt my'0et- heller/

Co*%re tal0ing abo*t p*tting it into pill &orm6 That%s the most li0ely a+en*e the 'ompany is going to go &or- I%d say/ B*t the nanites "on%t be a'ti+e/ We%+e already sol+ed that problem/ They a'ti+ate on'e they%+e been ingested/ Theoreti'ally- at least/ We%re still "or0ing on some 0in0s in the pro'ess/ >in0s6 Well- yo* 0no"/ C*rrently- only abo*t <0U o& the nanites are a'ti+ating as they sho*ld/ The res*lts are pretty predi'table# 3emory alteration%s not o''*rring as it sho*ld/ $ragments- again6

The same problem "e had "ith the in4e'ted +ersion trials/ 8nd yo*r team is s*re that the iss*e lies "ith the mi'ropro'essors and it%s not something "ith ho" the mind is hard "ired6 3y people had some pretty strong e+iden'e that the a't*al physi'al alignment o& mole'*les "asn%t e+erything re5*ired &or the memories to be retained/ Co*%re tal0ing abo*t the *n0no"n element/ I%m tal0ing abo*t something li0e a so*l/ We 'an%t e+en get into that/ The res*lts that "e%+e a'hie+ed so &ar ha+e been phenomenaland they%re pretty 'on'l*si+e that it%s all ta0ing pla'e on a physi'al le+el/ We 4*st ha+en%t isolated the proper 'hemi'al 'oding yet/ $*ll s"arm a'ti+ation o*ght to ta0e 'are o& that problem- sin'e "e%ll be yielding e1ponentially higher res*lts/ We%re r*nning o*t o&/// blan0 slates/

There%s no shortage o& &resh minds o*t there/ There are desperate people o*t there "ho "ill try anything/ B*t beyond that- it%s nothing a little monetary 'ompensation "on%t &i1/ 7a+e yo* tho*ght o& "hat yo*%d li0e to 'all it yet6 8 lot o& that is going to depend on i& the $A8 &or'es *s to pair *p "ith a pharma'e*ti'al 'ompany/ B*t I do ha+e some ideas/ 3ost o& the team agrees on the name %E*theni'a% &or the pill &orm o& the prod*'t/ The higher *ps "ill ne+er go &or it/ I%m s*re they "ant it to someho" tie into the !yn'hroni'ity Ari+e line/ Besides- it%s too 'lose to %e*thanasia%/ O*r 'lient base and target mar0et o*ght to be ed*'ated eno*gh &or that not to bother them/ 7o" smart is a lab rat6

7a/ 8ny"ay- I%ll send the reports o+er by the end o& the day/ =et me 0no" i& yo*r team 'omes *p "ith anything ne" this a&ternoon/ Things are going slo"er no" that "e%re being in+estigated- b*t I%ll be in to*'h/ Than0s &or l*n'h/ Co*r t*rn- ne1t time/

Johnny "at'hed her play "ith her 'igarette and "ait &or someone to o&&er a light- and he had that sm*g loo0 on his &a'e "hen she to*'hed his hand "ith both o& hers as he o&&ered/ ?redi'table- predi'table/ 7e "at'hed her as she sipped her !hira. and he as0ed her i& she li0ed ?ort- and o& 'o*rse- she did- and "hen he as0ed her she 0ind o& hal& smiled at him- so he told her all the bands she listened to "hile he pi'0ed the polish o&& his nails/ 7e rea'hed into his po'0et and he p*lled o*t a tran5* "hen she "asn%t loo0ing and he slipped it into his mo*th a&ter toying "ith it &or a bit- and he "ashed it do"n "ith spit so she "o*ldn%t noti'e anything b*t a some"hat ner+o*s g*lp- one that she "o*ld attrib*te to some sort o& magnetism or a&&li'tion similar to s"eaty palms/ Johnny 'he'0ed his "at'h and he sang the same songs in his head that he al"ays had as he "aited &or the hal& ho*r to slide by- and

it slid by- the hands o& his "at'h almost &l*id they "ere so real- and he debated telling her abo*t her &a+orite mo+ies and her &a+orite boo0s and abo*t e+erything else that she didn%t 0no" that he 0ne" that she%d ta0e to a deserted island i& she had to go- b*t instead he settled on her !panish/ When her phone ranghe le&t- heading &or the 'ar in the par0ing de'00no"ing (or at least hoping) that the 'losed doors meant en'aps*lation and isolation &rom the tiresome red*ndan'y o& them all/ They%re all the same- any"ay- and they%re no better than the "al0ing dead2 too dea&- too d*mb- and too blind to reali.e that they%+e been &inished &ore+er- sin'e long be&ore they had e+er e+en beg*n/

E1pansion I "as yo*ng on'e8li+e/ Belie+ed in lo+eBelie+ed in li&e/ O'tober s*nsetsThe "inter streets/ The Christmas lights in The "illo" tree/ The ho*se behind *sThe basement stairs/ We agreed to marry there/

What is it li0e to re'all yo*r li&e li0e a dream6 !ome things- too real- some things- too good to be tr*e6 7o" m*'h 'an be ta0en as &a't6 7o" m*'h sho*ld be ta0en on &aith6

The dar0est days ha+e yet to *n&old/

KS <P < SQ 20 <J SH 20 <J SQ 20 <' <J <b <K 20 SQ <& 20 S2 <K <H < <' <' 20 SJ <& SK S2 20 <' <J << <K 20 <' <J <b <K 20 < 20 <Q S2 <K < <d H& 20 KH <& <d <K 20 SQ <P <J <e <S SH 2' 20 SQ <& <& 20 S2 <K < <' 2' 20 SH <& <d <K 20 SQ <P <J <e <S SH 2' 20 SQ <& <& 20 <S <& <& <Q 20 SQ <& 20 <2 <K 20 SQ S2 SK <K H& 0d 0a 0d 0a QP <&

SS 20 <d SK <H <P 20 <H < <e 20 <2 <K 20 SQ < <b <K <e 20 < SH 20 << < <H SQ H& 0d 0a 0d 0a QP <& SS 20 <d SK <H <P 20 SH <P <& SK <' <Q 20 <2 <K 20 SQ < <b <K <e 20 <& <e 20 << < <J SQ <P H& 0d 0a 0d 0a 20 0d 0a 0d 0a KQ <P <K 20 <Q < S2 <b <K SH SQ 20 <Q < SJ SH 20 <P < S< <K 20 SJ <K SQ 20 SQ <& 20 SK <e << <& <' <Q 2e

T7E N:8NCE! O$ 3C 7O3E $ig/ # The s*dden &lame or intense heat prod*'ed by a bomb or other e1plosi+e de+i'e/

DI don%t remember ho" I ended *p in yo*r batht*b- a't*ally/ It%s as i& that%s all that%s e+er been- e1'ept that I 0no" better/ I &eel that there "as m*'h more to my li&e be&ore that/ 8nd ob+io*sly there "as- I mean- I didn%t 4*st s*ddenly start to e1ist in the middle o& a b*bble bath- and I ob+io*sly 'ra+e 'igarettes &or a reason9 I 4*st don%t remember "hy- or ho" it 'ame to be that I "as in yo*r ho*se-D !he pa*sed- s"inging her &eet a little bit- heels banging against the 'abinet door beneath her/ DI remember really "eird things/ $or e1ample- I &eel that the disorientation I%m e1perien'ing is to be e1pe'ted- as i& it%s nothing o*t o& the

ordinary# normal/ B*t at the same time- it &eels as i& I%+e 4*st "o0en *p o*t o& a +ery l*'id dream/ 3y other memories- the &e" I 'an re'all- at least- are &ading &ast- repla'ed by ne" ones that don%t ma0e any sense- and then the ne" ones are 'hanged o*t &or e+en ne"er ones/ It%s li0e my brain%s st*'0 in o+erdri+etrying to re'o+er a lot o& lost in&ormation at on'e- and it%s really 'on&*sed abo*t "here to &ile and store it all/D Then- the lights in the ho*se dimmed &or a moment/ I 'o*ld hear the pit'h o& the 'entral air 'onditioning *nit "inding *p/ Noises li0e that yo* only noti'e "hen they 'hange- or "hen they start or stop altogether2 they%re part o& the ba'0gro*nd m*si' o& e+eryday li&e/ The re&rigerator- old beast that she "as- 'li'0ed and 'h*gged- sp*ttering o*t a &e" '*bes o& i'e into the & bo1- 'apable o& only a small per'entage o& her pre+io*s le+els o& prod*'tion in her old age/

!he distra'ted me &rom my obser+ations o& the n*an'es o& my home by e1e'*ting a &all &rom the 'o*nter top then- *n'ons'io*s/ I barely 'a*ght her- only 4*st in time to slo" her &allright be&ore her head hit the &loor/

$=8!79 What happens "hen the s0y &alls6

there "as something there that I &o*nd that I hadn%t held be&ore- b*t alone on a hard and m*sty single o''*pan'y bed- in a room m*'h li0e a prison- "e 'reate these types o& theologies/ "e "ant that religion- the one they b*ilt the to"ering 'athedrals &or- "e "ant to be a part o& something more than a mere &ingerprint thro"n stray &rom the hand o& the 'reator- "e demand to be 'reased- and bro0enand tested by &ire and by di+ision/ "e do this so that "e 0no" "hat "e are missing later "hen "e loo0 behind *s2 "e do this so that the pain o& li&e 'an es'ape the miring in o*r so*ls/

3other /// 8nd so the prin'e and the prin'ess li+ed happily e+er a&ter- and the dragons "ere all banished &rom their 0ingdom- &ore+er/ Aa*ghter 3ommy6 8re there s*'h things as ghosts6 3other O& 'o*rse not- honey9 They%re 4*st in s'ary stories/ Aa*ghter =i0e the ones that grandpa tells *s on 7allo"een6 3other

Ces- e1a'tly/ Aa*ghter What abo*t monsters6 8re they real6 3other No- there%s no s*'h thing as monsters- either/ Aa*ghter /// B*t sometimes I hear noises/ In the basement/ 3other The noises in the basement6 Those are 4*st the &*rna'e- or maybe the pipes/ There%s nothing do"n there to "orry abo*t9 Aa*ghter 8re yo* s*re6 3other

O& 'o*rse I%m s*re/ I%m also s*re that it%s time &or yo* to go to sleep/ Eoodnight- honey/ I lo+e yo*/ Aa*ghter I lo+e yo*- too- mama/ (3other e1its- t*rning o&& the light- hesitating at the door &or a moment/ !he does not 'lose the door all the "ay/) (!ome time has passed/ The mother is in the 0it'hen- reading a ne"spaper- "hen the da*ghter enters- 'arrying a doll *nder her arm/) Aa*ghter 3ommy- there%s a monster in the basement/ I 'an hear it/ 3other Aon%t be silly/ There%s no monster in the basement/

Aa*ghter B*t it%s s'rat'hing on the &loors9 3other O0ay/ I%ll go do"n there and tell the monster to stop ma0ing so m*'h noise and lea+e so that yo* 'an sleep/ Aa*ghter Be 'are&*l- mommy/ 3other I%ll be as 'are&*l as 'an be9 (3other e1its to the basement "hile the da*ghter "aits/ Time passes/ 3ore time passes/ The 'hild shi&ts- "orried- slo"ly mo+ing to"ards the door leading to the basement/) Aa*ghter 3ommy6

(The da*ghter opens the door to the basementand gathering her 'o*rage- ma0es her "ay do"n the stairs into the basement/ It is empty/) Aa*ghter 3ommy6 ///3ommy6 Where are yo*6 (There is no ans"er)

!i1 months ago- "e agreed to meet heresho*ld "e e+er be'ome =ost- sho*ld "e e+er desire to be $o*nd/ [1] Where is she no"6 To get to hea+en- yo* m*st &irst pass thro*gh hell/

$ootnote T /
I don%t remember "riting this/ I &o*nd the torn page beneath the sto+e in the 0it'hen one day as I "as sear'hing &or "here+er it "as that the mo*se "as 'oming into the apartment &rom/ ?enned in my hand"riting- it de&ied reasonable e1planation- yet there it "as/ 8 page that sho*ldn%t e1ist/

$ootnote TQ/
There%s blood on the "alls and it%s getting "orse e+ery day/ I%m starting to "onder i& it%s not 4*st the moths and the mi'e that are dying as a res*lt o& my 'are&*lly pla'ed traps/ I%m starting to "onder i& something larger has been in4*red and is "at'hing &rom the shado"s- or &rom the 'loset- or &rom *nderneath the bed/ Waiting &or me to lea+e- &or me to drop my g*ard- or &or me to &all asleep on the 'o*'h/ E+ery so o&tenthe air%s a little too stale- a little too dead to be inno'*o*s- and there%s a little more blood on the "alls/ 3aybe I%m dead- this is hell- and I%m only 4*st no" starting to reali.e "hat%s happened/ 3aybe yo*%re not e+en real anymore/ 3aybe I imagined yo* all along/ I%+e been trying to stop the moths and the mi'e &or "ee0s no"/ They persist/ I lie motionless on

the &loor &or ho*rs and listen to them in the "alls as they do the things that mi'e and moths do/ I ha+e holes in my s"eaters and holes in the dry"all behind the 0it'hen sin0/ I smell their shit in the 'arpet/ =ast "ee0- the s'ars on my le&t arm on'e again be'ame apparent/ Cesterday- it "as raining "hen I tho*ght I sa" yo* thro*gh the "indo"- 'alling to me/ Bla'0 "ater ran do"n yo*r 'hee0s li0e tears/ 8 tri'0 o& the light6 8&ter a moment- yo* "ere nothing/// gone/ What are these perpet*al 'onte1t 'l*es and "hy 'an%t I de'ipher them6 I remember "hat it &elt li0e to p*t my &a'e against yo*r na0ed belly and the smell o& yo*r s0in/ I remember 'o*nting all o& the &ine hairs 4*st belo" yo*r na+el as yo* ran yo*r &ingers a'ross my head- yo* sang songs "itho*t "ords to me- and I m*mbled &orgettable things to o*r *nborn 'hild/ 7o" I p*t my hands o+er the pages o& the boo0 yo* "ere reading and yo* rea'hed &or the glass o& "ater on the bedside

table/ I remember "hat the 'ondensation loo0ed li0e- the "ay it made a ring on the polished "ood and ho" it ran do"n yo*r "rist/ Bro0en pie'es o& 'erami' on 'on'rete# the "ay the i'e '*bes so*nded as yo* spit them ba'0 into the glass/ 7o" yo*r &ingers "ere 'old "hen yo* pla'ed them on my eyelids and told me to sleep/ Was li&e e+er real6 I "o*ld li0e to thin0 that it "as- that it is- that yo* are- b*t something bigger than that 0ind o& li&e is l*r0ing in the 're+i'es o& my home and it%s almost a*dible# no- no no/ The blood on the "alls is real- "hen all I ha+e le&t o& yo* is the memory o& e1perien'e that in it remains s*spe't/ What ha+e I 'apt*red6 Or perhaps- more appropriately- "hat is it that has 'apt*red me6

$ootnote T</
We are Islands !he la*ghs/ I tell her that I lo+e her- too/ !he tells me to be serio*s/ DIt%s not going to 'ome tr*e- no"- any"aybe'a*se I told yo* "hat I "ished &or/D !o "hat yo*%re saying is that "e%re doomed to &ail/ C*rsed *ntil the end o& time- I say/ DAo yo* belie+e in $ate6D she responds- holding her hands *p- palms &a'ing o*t"ard/ DCan yo* &eel me6D

Johnny 'limbs behind the "heel- pops another tran0- and starts the 'ar/ 7e hits the "indshield "ipers to 'lear the de" o&& the "indshield and he t*rns o&& the radio/ 7e &*mbles in his po'0et &or a lighter and there%s a 'igarette dangling &rom his mo*th/ Johnny 'li'0s on the headlights and stares at the "all o& the par0ing de'0 and he grips the steering "heel "ith both hands- no"- and he presses his &a'e into the steering "heel and he hal&,s'ream,hal&,gro"ls "ith his mo*th 'losed and he "aits/ 7e sighs/ 7e 'loses his eyes/ 8nd he remembers/

7a+e yo* 'ompromised too many o& The 1//2 Thin3s in &a+or o& stability6

DWhat a &*n game9D I e1'laim 8s my arm is t"isted to the point o& brea0ing/ No more &a0ing itTomorro"- all o& the lies "ill be tr*e/ =i0e"ise- the lo+e o& yo* Will be tested again- and again/ With this bottle- I drin0 to my sins/ $ear- Aismissal- $ear again/

=et%s get together/ Roll the di'e- 4*st one more time!pin the 'hamber- and let the steel Ei+e *s a 0issEoodnight/ It stops- empty again/ 8gain I "ait &or tomorro"8nother day to try again/

Ao yo* sleep easily at night6 When stars rest blin0ing behind a blan0et o& 'lo*ds- li0e yo*r head- yo*r hair- dri&ting a'ross yo*r pillo"spilling a'ross the sheets/ These patterns- o& "hi'h "e all dream/ Ao yo* dream o& yo*rsel&6 Those days "hen yo*r &o'*s on things "as so 'on'ise that- li0e a ra.or- yo* 'o*ld '*t to the 'ore o& all that passion and e1tra't- hold in yo*r hand- e+en- things that others only imagined to e1ist/ Aid yo* dis'o+er something- some"here- in all o& yo*r sear'hing- "hi'h &rightened yo*6 7ere the bones remain- all hea+y "ith do*bt and &ear- s'ored by a li&e o& 'o"ardi'e and hesitations/ 7er "ishes "ere to remain by the sea/

7a+e We 3et/
!o there are these bo1es on the boo0shel&- and "hen I%m sear'hing- I began ta0ing them do"n/ What did I p*t in these bo1es6 Why did I seal it "ith tape "hen I 'losed them *p6 The most re'ent one isn%t taped 'losed- so I open it- sitting in the middle o& the &loor/ It 'ontains letters that I%+e ne+er sent to people/ I remember &illing *p the other bo1es- no"- and sealing them "hen they 'o*ld hold no more/ I remember "hen I started ma0ing the bo1es in the &irst pla'e2 ba'0 "hen I reali.ed that the letters that I "as mailing "eren%t being read/ When I reali.ed that the re'ipients o& the mail didn%t 'are eno*gh to respond/ I remembered that the &irst bo1 had letters in it that I%d sentb*t had been ret*rned- ba'0 "hen I &irst began 'olle'ting the letters/

I still had to "rite them- tho*gh/ Co* ha+e to say things- not 4*st sometimes- all times/ Co* ha+e to ta0e the tho*ghts o*t o& the etherp*lling them do"n &rom the s0y li0e 'lo*ds or satellites or stars- e1amining them- and then apply them to the paper/ E+en "hen nobody%s listening/ The papers- the in0- they%re there to help yo* get it all o*t/

I miss yo*

I lo+e yo*

Aon%t go a"ay

Aon%t 'ome ba'0

I hate yo*

I 'an%t remember "hat yo*r &a'e loo0s li0e

Co* 0no" ho" it is/ !tages- relationships&riends- lo+ers- enemies/ I "rote letters- some li0e lyri's- some li0e songs- and some li0e long r*n,on senten'es that didn%t ma0e sense/ !hort and long letters- and &olded them- sealed the en+elopes- and then I pla'ed them inside o& these bo1es/ Wo*ld yo* read them i& I sent them yo*r "ay6 Wo*ld the things that I had to say to yo* a year ago- t"o min*tes ago- "o*ld those things e+en matter to yo*6 ?eople- ho" I miss yo*- yo* lost parts o& my past/


The easiest and best "ay to a+oid re4e'tion is to not e1tend onesel& at all/ There is loss in this sa'ri&i'e- I 0no"- reminded as I am sorting thro*gh the more re'ent past- all organi.ed into tiny paper pa'0ets inside o& a red 'ardboard bo1/ B*t there is something not lostas "ell- and that something- at times- seems m*'h more +al*able to me/ I am too a&raid that it "ill h*rt again- e+en still- and so the ris0 is a+oided by the 'reation o& these mailbo1es/ Co* don%t remember ho" many times that I%+e tried/ Co* don%t 0no" ho" many "ays I%+e told yo* that I lo+ed yo*/ Co* 'an%t see the millions o& 'hara'ters all 'alling yo*r name- or the ho*rs that ha+e died in yo*r honor/ 8nd all o& those ho*rs are 0ept in a bo1/ I loo0 to the &irepla'e/ I sho*ld destroy these/ !ome other time- that%s "hat they are/ !ome other time that is lost/

I don%t- tho*gh/ I 'an%t/ It "o*ld be li0e destroying part o& me- '*tting it o*t o& my so*l- &eeding it to the &lames/ Co*r &lames 'ons*med me eno*gh/ I am not strong eno*gh &or trying this again/

There is a dar0ness/ Can yo* &eel it6 Omnipresen'e o& !omething- some &or'e/ The hands- rea'hing *p &rom the sides o& the bed When yo*%re hal&,sleeping- li0e a s0eleton a'hing to be &ree o& its s0in ?*lling yo* do"nAo"nAo"n/ !ometimes- yo* might &ight it- and 8"a0en-

Easping and &*ll o& &ear/ !ometimes- yo* 'annot resist it- and Co*r resentment gro"s In the dar0est 'orners o& yo*r so*l/

8ll roads lead to"ards it- and are pa+ed "ith good intentions/

They say that it%s "here the heart isb*t e+erything I%+e e+er lo+ed is behind some other door/ 8ll o& these de'orations 8ll o& these ornamentations 8ll o& these distra'tions We bo1 them *p- &o*r "alls- top them o&& "ith a 'eilingThere%s no pla'e li0e it/

Er "ar *nser Ta1i&ahrer an diesem Tag/ !tVndig &ing er an den mer0"Brdigsten Yeitp*n0ten EesprV'he mit "ild&remden 3ens'hen an/ I'h ra*'hte eine Yigarette *nd beoba'htete"ie die BV*me an *ns +orbei.ogen- "Vhrend i'h ihre 7and hielt- als sie ihren >op& a*& meine !'h*lter legte/ DWo soll es hingehen6 Aa i'h der s'hnellste Ta1i&ahrer dieser 7emisphVre bin- 0ann i'h e*'h &Br einen 0leinen Y*s'hlag s'hneller ans Yiel bringenD sagte er/ Aann stellte er si'h +or# DI'h heiZe Bbrigens Thomas- *nd ihr beiden s'heint et"as anders als meine Bbli'hen >*nden .* sein/D D8nders6D er s'hl*'0te den >Ider/ I'h s'hnippte meine 8s'he a*s der gespr*ngenen !'heibe/ Wenigstens lieZ Thomas *ns ra*'hen/

7e*t.*tage erla*ben das n*r no'h die "enigsten Ta1is/ DN*n- .*allererst seid ihr +erliebt- "as an si'h s'hon *nge"Ihnli'h gen*g ist/ 8ber da ist no'h et"as anderes/ Besonders bei dir/D Er .eigte im RB'0spiegel a*& sie- "obei er die Elas&lV'he lei'ht berBhrte *nd den !piegel drehte- sodass i'h sein Eesi'ht ni'ht mehr so g*t sehen 0onnte/ DI'h habe ein 8ngebot &Br di'h[- &*hr er &ort/ DI'h "erde dir be"eisen- dass i'h der s'hnellste Ta1i&ahrer bin- den d* 4emals hattest- *nd "enn d* *n.*&rieden bist- "enn "ir an0ommen- "o a*'h immer d* hin"illst- ist die $ahrt *msonst/ Wenn d* allerdings .*&rieden bist- be.ahlst d* das Aoppelte/ 7aben "ir einen Aeal6D

!o- sitting on a bal'ony in ?aris- I as0ed her to marry me &or the &irst time- not really e1pe'ting an ans"er- not really s*rprised or disappointed or sad "hen she said no/ I 0ne" inside mysel& that there%d be other opport*nities &or all o& that- and that it "as merely a to0en representation that paled in 'omparison to the tr*e nat*re o& my ties "ith her/ QH



I don%t thin0 that &alling in lo+e "ith someone really 5*ali&ies as a spe'ial po"er/ 8nybody 'an do that/

Inde1 Q/
!he loo0s do"n at me- pla'ing her hand on top o& my head/ DThe thing is- as e+ery parent learnsthat the 'hild "ill ne+er be as disappointing to the parents as the parents "ill be to the 'hild/D I don%t really *nderstand/

7as =i&e Eotten Boring6 7a+e yo* 'ompromised too many o& The Eood Things in &a+or o& stability6 Ao yo* miss the days o& re'0less abandon "here 'onse5*en'es "ere irrele+ant6 7as yo*r lo+e li&e ta0en a t*rn &or the m*ndane- and yo*%d li0e to re'apt*re something mad- passionate- and e1traordinary6 ?erhaps yo*- li0e many others- ha+e &o*nd li&e to be little more than an endless series o& repeated motions/ !pending ho*rs e+ery day in tra&&i' only &or the great re"ard o& an entire day lost to the 'ardboard and 'heap 'arpet o& a '*bi'le en+ironment 'an "ear anyone do"nespe'ially "hen days bl*r into "ee0s- and "ee0s bl*r into years- and at the end o& the road- yo* ha+e nothing to sho" &or all o& yo*r

e&&orts/ 3any people &ind themsel+es "ondering# Where did all the time go6 8re yo* one o& these people6 It doesn%t ha+e to be this "ay9 We 'an help yo* gain ba'0 all o& those &eelings and e1perien'es that yo* tho*ght yo*%d gi+en *p or lost &ore+er9

gniroB nettoE e&i= sa76 ytilibats &o ro+a& ni sgnihT dooE ehT &o ynam oot desimorpmo' *oy e+a76 tna+elerri ere" se'ne*5esno' ereh" nodnaba ssel0'er &o syad eht ssim *oy oA6 yranidroart1e dna -etanoissap -dam gnihtemos er*tpa'er ot e0il d%*oy dna -enadn*m eht ro& nr*t a ne0at e&il e+ol r*oy sa76

noitamro&nI ero3 /ya"yna -e'i+ed eht des* ylerar I /moordeb eht &o t*o enohpelet eht gnipee0 &o tniop a ti edam I e'nis -ti re"sna ot neh'ti0 eht sdra"ot ya" ym edam I -gnitsised &o ngis t*ohti" gnir ot de*nitno' ti nehW /ti derongi I -la*s* sa dna -gnar enohp ehT /tey &&o gniog ere" enon t*b -daeh ym &o edisni p* gnigrah' ere" slleb mral8 6reilrae p* ne0o" I t%ndah yhW /1elpmo' tnemtrapa eht yb dedi+orp reta" toh &o ylpp*s sseldne ylgnimees eht ts*ah1e ot hg*one gnol ro& gninn*r neeb dah ti taht de.ilaer dna reta" eht &&o nr*t ot re+o deh'aer -rool& moorhtab ym emo'eb dah taht ssyba eht otni tepra' deggolreta" eht hg*orht deppets I /rool& eht ni eldd*p elbadimro& ytterp a etaer' ot hg*one gnol ro& os gniod neeb dah yltnerappa dna moorhtab eht ni 0nis eht &o egde eht re+o gninn*r sa" reta" eht taht sa" gninrom taht p* e0o" I neh" de'iton I taht gniht tsri& ehT

Is there tr*ly a dar0ness in o*r so*ls- or 4*st a la'0 o& lightness6

7al& the "orld%s asleep It 'an b*rn- or it 'an &ree.e/ Co*%re here "@ me 8t least in part# 8 memory/ Where the bed%s still "arm Re+ol*tions 'ome- the 'on5*ered gone !o the "orld 'an sleepCradled in the &ro.en deep/ In the "inter 'old "e are !leeping all the days a"ay/ Not all things bo*ght are also sold ///listen9

I don%t hear anything/ shh hlysnan I still 'an%t hear it/ 7o" 'an%t yo*6 It%s e+ery"here9

Wea0 at the 0nees What do they intend to do to me6 I& I "ait another year- and $all hostage to my &ears# I may not be able to see yo* In the dar0- e+er againI need 8 hand to g*ide me I need !omething to &ill this emptiness I "anted !omething that 'o*ld only begin

When I slept/ B*t "ith yo*- and o& yo*I dream/ Trying to sa+e yo*2 This 'o*ld 0ill me/ With a blan0 stare- paper thin- and J*st as paleI 'o*ld sear'h &ore+er/ or yo*Co* 'o*ld sa+e me &rom mysel&/

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7o" many years ha+e passed6 E'hoes penetrate the 'a+erno*s re'esses o& do*bt/ They &ly silently by night "ith this in5*iry- "aiting- "at'hing- gro"ing restless/ !ome"here on a sandy shore- beneath 8*t*mn%s trees and a 'ooling "ind- these e'hoes ta0e root- thri+e- and blossom- &ed by teardrops/ The song they sing- a moan o& the lost/ 8 =apse O& 3emory

0 0 00 0 0 00 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 00 0 0 0 00 0 0 00 00 0 0 00 0

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8nd s*mmer s*n "ith stri0ing reminders o& a 'old 'o*ntry "here rain "o*ld soa0 *s to the 'ore# 8nd so "e are# $ollo"ing the beaten paths o& the a*thor be&ore *s- the &ather "ho resides in hea+en (orperhaps- and in a blasphemo*s and 'onspiring tone- hell)- the sa+ior "ho is 'o+ered "ith the in0 stains o& a propaganda ma'hine- the holy spirits (ahem- "ith the addition o& li5*ors and brandies to taste)# Co* "anted to 0iss me then6 I "onder- hard set to bite the le&t 'orner o& the lo"er lip o*t o& 'on'entration and slash or determination- yo* "anted to p*t yo*r mo*th on mine- press lipsseal o*rsel+es into a moment that alone 'o*ld stand &ore+er or 'ompared to many others- go *nnoti'ed6

It "as o*r 'hoi'e- I tell mysel&- to "al0 the paths that pla'ed *s here again/ We%re 'hipping at the 'on'rete "all bet"een o*r homes- some so*th,o&,*rban !ha0espearean tragedy in the ma0ing2 b*t isn%t this o*r 'hoi'e6 8s i& o*r so*ls "ere bo*nd by the pen- or the 0ni&e- or perhaps "orse- the ele'troni' mail or the 0eyboard/ =i0e sha'0les on o*r an0les it holds o*r attention span &or one more dayhoping &or a ne" mo+ement- hoping this "ill be the day that "e &ind 'o*rage or a bash&*l se'ret or both- and "ishing that today the past "o*ld go a"ay &or good and "e 'o*ld to*'hbreathe- s"eat- 'ry- and &*'0 "itho*t this bitters"eet remorse/ ?erhaps today is that other day- and a ne" day"ashed by torrents o& s0y "eeping- the "ater and the li&e po*r together- and yo* and me/// I daresay "e may 'onne't these points again/ We are mortals- bo*nd/

I "rote it so yo*%d loo0- and yo* did/ !o yo*%d ha+e a reason to hate- to lo+e- to do*bt- to ass*me- to belie+e- to disbelie+e- to 'arry a gr*dge- to &orgi+e- to approa'h- and to re'ede/ 8nd yo* did/ 3aybe it%s the tr*th/ 3aybe it%s a lie/ 3aybe it%s a trap- yo*%+e &allen into it- no" yo* thin0 yo* 0no" "hy it%s all so 'ir'*lar- and maybe yo*%re right/ It%s "hat yo* e1pe't- isn%t it- to read6 8bo*t mon*ments &alling- or being 'onstr*'ted- or being destroyed/ 8bo*t a moment or t"o that yo* didn%t "ant to &orget or that yo* 'an%t get o*t o& yo*r head/ Or both/

Be'a*se nothing e+er 'hanges- and e+erything is al"ays the same/ Co* ma0e a de'ision and "ish that yo*%d made the other/ 8n option is gi+en and yo* se'ond,g*ess yo*r 4*dgmental"ays loo0ing o+er the &en'e &or a better ans"er/ $or the yin- the yang/ The bla'0- the "hite/ The "a0ing- the sleeping/ The li+ing- the dead/ The gods- the de+ils/ The day- the night/ We%+e lost the borders- the gray s'ale- the dro"sy- the 'omatose- the imps and the pi1iesthe t"ilight and the da"n/ They%re all some"here- lost in ne+erland- be'a*se yo* al"ays "anted it to be one e1treme or the other/ B*t nothing matters- e1treme or other"ise- in the end/ Be'a*se it%s 4*st "hat yo* "anted to see it as- to read it as- to loo0 into it as2 it%s ho" yo* 'onsidered yo*rsel&K- a&ter all- sitting on the &en'e- and had nothing to do "ith any other &a'tors b*t yo*r o"n s*''ess and maladies- yo*r o"n a&&li'tions and tri*mphs-

yo*r o"n s'ar tiss*e that yo* n*rse &rom "ithin/ We li+e in &ear o& death- so &as'inating nonetheless- and in doing so "e &orget to li+e/ 8 death in the past- or the &*t*re- and an *rge to e1amine it in all o& its &a'ets- 'reating a death in the present/ =ea+ing the dead to rot in the streets be'a*se "e%re too a&raid to s'rape them *p and "e%re too preo''*pied to dig them a &itting gra+e/ That "ay- e+eryone 'an see them- and they 'an "at'h the +ario*s stages o& de'ay &rom inside their homes- "arm- dry/ ?retty smelling/ That "ay- "e ne+er ha+e to let them go- be'a*se e+eryone e1pe'ts- yo* e1pe't- "e all 0no" that it m*st be there tomorro"- and "hen the system is predi'tablethere%s no reason to stop belie+ing- there%s no moti+ation to do*bt "hat yo*%+e al"ays tho*ght "as tr*th/ !o 0eep reading- be'a*se I "ill gi+e yo* a reason to hate- to lo+e- to do*bt- to ass*me- to

belie+e- to disbelie+e- to 'arry a gr*dge- to &orgi+e- to approa'h- and to re'ede/ 8nd yo* "ill/

those "ho 'a*se others to &all

Co* &ind yo*rsel& doing st*pid things li0e "aiting/ Co* tell yo*rsel& that i& yo* "ait long eno*gh- that the lyri's "ill 'ome- or that there%ll be a letter- or that someone yo*%re &orgetting abo*t "ill ret*rn to remind yo* o& "hat it is that yo* lost/ Be 'a*tio*s "here yo* treadBe %"are o& 'areless tho*ghts inside yo*r head

DIt%s been years and years-D I said- and I%m not s*re "hy I said that- sin'e it had really only been ho*rs/ DE+erything is relati+e- remember6 Cears are li0e se'onds i& yo*%re loo0ing at things &rom abo+e/D !he told me that- and dre" a heart on the glass "ith her &ingertips/ The strange thing abo*t the heart "as that is glo"ed brightly- li0e a red neon light- b*t e+en brighter than that- really/

I "ondered "hi'h the greater pri'e to pay "as# not being able to &orget- or not being able to remember/ Both "ays le&t yo* &eeling a little lost- "ith a little part o& yo* bro0en that yo* 'o*ldn%t repair- &or one reason or another/

n*rt*re nat*re n*rt*re nat*re

Co*r energy Channel it into 3e

What is e1pe'ted6 What has o''*rred6 Co* "rote that yo*%d be the best to me that yo* 'o*ld be &ore+er and e+er- so maybe that%s "hat yo*%re *p to/ 3aybe the best that yo* 'an be is not being at all-

and that%s "hy yo* stopped responding- months ago/ Things 'hange- they gro"/ Inside o& *sor sometimeso*tside o& *s/ There are times "hen "e "eed them o*t/ !ometimes other people "eed them o*t &or *sno matter "hat desire is b*riedho" deeply rooted2 the past is &ertile "hen it lies in o*r hearts/ I 'ried &or yo*/ I sho*ld ha+e told yo* "hy- then-

b*t I "as a&raid/ No"- I%m not a&raid/ 8nd I 0no"- it%s ne+er too late- tho*gh sometimesit is too &ar/ The g*l& is "ide- the 'hasm deep- and I 'an only rea'h hal& o& the "ay a'ross itto"ards yo*/

the smell o& "arm pa+ement steam rising rain 'lo*ds h*miditysand in my ears/ the "armth o& s*nb*rned s0in hair a'ross yo*r &a'e long dri+es thro*gh the s"amp s"arms o& mos5*itoes aro*nd the lights hotel room doors bl*e plasti' '*ps

'heap "ine- 'igarette ashes 'arbonation bloodshot salt"ater eyessti'0y s0in/ 0isses and a&ternoon sho"ers at the do'0s do"n on the bea'h splinters J/2SH< PQJKQJKS0HSK2K <Q <0SHJJ02 also see# En'omiasti'

0 / Aet er noe som g4emmer seg i +eggen- og det +enter til d* nesten so+er &\r det starter W 0lore seg +ei *t/ (There%s something hiding in the "alls- and it%s going to "ait *ntil yo*%re almost asleep be&ore it starts s'rat'hing to get o*t/) 02/ NWr d* slWr a+ lyset- 0ommer de *t &ra *nder sengen og +enter pW at d* s0al sette &\ttene dine pW g*l+et sW de 0an ta &ra deg s4elen din/ =a der&or lyset stW pW/ (When yo* t*rn o*t the lights- they 'ome o*t &rom *nder the bed and "ait &or yo* to p*t yo*r &eet on the &loor- so they 'an ta0e yo*r so*l a"ay &rom yo*/ !o lea+e the lights on/) 0H/ Aet er noe i 04elleren/ (There%s something in the basement/)

RE$# C78R=IE T7E E7O!T

0Q/ NWr str\mmen gWr- er det mest sannsynlig i00e i 04elleren mer/ NWr stearinlysene sl*00es er det mest sannsynlig ba0 deg/ (When the po"er goes o*t- it%s probably not in the basement anymore/ When the 'andles go o*tit%s probably behind yo*/) 0K/ NWr d* le0er med O*i4a,brettet lar d* de 0omme inn/ (When yo* play "ith the O*i4a board- yo*%re letting them in/)

0</ I blant er de mellom p*tene i so&aen/ Ae stre00er seg etter lommene dine nWr d* er distrahert og drar *t tingene dine- siden de pr\+er W st4ele li+et ditt &ra deg- , bit &or bit/ (!ometimes- they%re in bet"een the '*shions o& the 'o*'h/ They rea'h into yo*r po'0ets "hen yo*%re distra'ted and p*ll things o*t o& thembe'a*se they are trying to steal yo*r li&e a"aybit by bit/) 0S/ Ae ser pW deg mens d* so+er/ (They "at'h yo* sleep/)

RE$# T7E ?EE?INE 38N

0P/ >atter- h*nder og beiber 0an se de gW r*ndt i rommet med deg/ !pesielt 0atter/ (Cats- dogsand babies 'an see them "al0ing aro*nd the room "ith yo*/ Espe'ially 'ats/) 0J/ Ae samler seg i l*&ten- i s0yene r*ndt degog der +enter de/ Ae &lo00er seg til h4\rnene h+or det er m\r0t- h+or nattelyset i00e re00eri s0yggen +ed senge0anten- og der +enter de/ (They gather in the s0y- in the 'lo*ds abo+e yo*- and they "ait/ They 'ongregate in the 'orners- "here it%s dar0- "here the night,light doesn%t 5*ite rea'h- in the shado"s o& the bedposts- and they "ait/) 0/ =ydene d* h\rer er i00e h*set som r\rer seg- r\rene som 0nitrer eller temperat*r&ors04ellene som &Wr glasset til W spre00e , de 0ommer inn g4ennom +eggene- og i blant drar de/ Ae samler &lere a+ sine egne til tilba0e0omsten/ (The noises yo* hear aren%t the ho*se settling- or the pipes- or the temperat*re di&&eren'e ma0ing the glass pop ,

they%re 'oming thro*gh the "alls- and sometimes they are lea+ing/ To gather more o& their 0ind &or the ret*rn trip/)

/// In&ens*s ?hasmatis/

On this day- many &*t*res "ill 'hange/ It%s "eird ho" things happen/ Co* "a0e *p and yo* st*mble o*t o& bed/ Co* almost &all o+er as yo*%re o+erstepping the 'l*tter o& 'lothing &rom another dr*n0en night that litters the path"ay leading to"ards the toilet/ Co*%re standing in &ront o& the mirror r*bbing the 'r*d o*t o& yo*r eyes "hen yo* noti'e a bea*ti&*l- na0ed "oman sitting in yo*r batht*b- smo0ing a 'igarette- b*ried *p to her 'hin in b*bbles/ One o& her arms is dangling o+er the side o& the basin as the 'igarette slo"ly b*rns its "ay to"ards her &ingertips/ !he%s painted her nails bla'0- b*t the paint has been 'hipped a"ay/ Co* noti'e that she has +ery slender &ingers- and that she holds her 'igarette li0e an a'tor- or a hand model/ 7er eyes are 'losed- and yo*%re thin0ing that maybe

she is sleeping- or that maybe she is dead- or maybe she isn%t e+en there at all and yo*%re still asleep and dreaming/ It happened li0e that to me/ I stopped- startled- and e+en let o*t a little gasp o& s*rprise/ DWhat the &*'06D I as0ed/ Intelligent 5*estion- I 0no"/ DI "as "ondering the same-D she replied"itho*t opening her eyes/ 8 moment passed- d*ring "hi'h I stared at her "hile she didn%t mo+e at all- so rea'hed &or and grabbed a to"el- and then br*tishly thr*st it in her general dire'tion/ The initial abs*rdity o& the sit*ation diminished in ret*rn &or a more general sense o& a"0"ardness/ I 'o*ldn%t remember "ho she "as or ho" she arri+ed there- e+en i& my li&e depended on it/ B*t there I "as- r*dely ga"0ing at her- and there she "as- ta0ing a bath and smo0ing a 'igarette/ !he still hadn%t opened her eyes/

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*ith ti0e4 e5er.thin3 chan3es6

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3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss TE== 3E !O3ET7INE 3emory

=oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss

3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory

=oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss

3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss

3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory

=oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss

3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory

=oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss

3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss

3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory

=oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss

3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory

=oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss

3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss

3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory

=oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss

3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory

=oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss

3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss

3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory

=oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss

3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory

=oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss =oss

3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss

3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory 3emory

=oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss 3emory =oss

I rea'hed o+er and ran my &ingers thro*gh her hair "hile she tra'ed o*t some sort o& messages on my 'hest# letters to the &*t*re or e5*ations or doodles or lo+e notes2 I don%t 0no"/ I ne+er as0ed/ We "ere 5*iet- &or a little "hilerela1ed and 'ontented/

=o+e- be a light *nto my path/ $or the night is dar0and *nending/

There are s0ies there- li0e "a+es in the o'eanand "e 'an soar thro*gh them/ We are the ships2 lo+e blo"s *s along/

The 'on&ines o& this 'rib strengthen- all aro*nd/ 8ll aro*nd/ When dreams go to the &loor- land- and 'ra'0 apartth*nder is 'reated/ Chipped dreams- 'olle'ting in the shado"s o& &ootprintsthe shado"s o& bodies- "here they on'e slept in bliss/

D?romise me that yo* "on%t &orget-D she said/ DI ne+er "ill-D I promised/

3e , !o- "hat did yo* "ish &or6 7er , I 'an%t tell yo*/ Co* 0no" that i& yo* tell "hat it is- yo*r "ish "on%t 'ome tr*e/ (!he br*shes a stray strand o& hair &rom her &a'e)

!e'tor C/
E7CER)T # 8$!!$*#
=egal# In light o& re'ent &ederal in+estigation o& !yn'hro !ystems and its asso'iates- all 'onta't in&ormation &or the 'ompany has been remo+ed &rom this "ebsite/ We apologi.e &or any in'on+enien'e that this may 'a*se/ !yn'hro !ystems is leading h*manity boldly into the &*t*re "ith *p'oming de+elopments in the &ields o& medi'ine and te'hnology9 DWe 'o*ld 4*st "al0 *p to the &ront des0- tell them yo*r story- and as0 them to help yo* o*t-D he said/ DAo yo* thin0 that "ill "or06D Janine as0ed him/

DAo yo* thin0 that it%s any less li0ely to "or0 than snea0ing in- snooping aro*nd- and hoping to steal some in&ormation that might be rele+ant to yo*r 'ase6 !yn'hro !ystems is a big 'ompany sh*&&ling a lot o& in&ormation aro*nd in light o& the re'ent &ederal in5*iries/ I%d say that yo*%d be more li0ely to get help i& yo* 4*st as0ed &or it than i& yo* tried to be de'epti+e abo*t it/D

I li0e yo*r breasts- "hen yo* lie on yo*r ba'0ar'hed- and yo* stret'h yo*r arms abo+e yo*r head/ It%s ni'e ho" yo* bite yo*r lo"er lip "hen I%m 'lose- yo*r tong*e "hen I%m 'loser- yo*r *pper lip "hen I%m there/ 8nd yo* open yo*r eyes/ Aon%t &all o+er- or I "ill p*t on my shoes/

I 'an%t remember a sli+er

I &ind tomorro"- and I t"ist the 0ni&e again/ DOh yes-D I say/ DThis time I "ill "in/D Witho*t dro"sy passions- "hat do "e ha+e6 8 bitter taste- perhaps the times "e "aste/// What do "e ha+e- no"- my lo+e6 bad ne"s/

she as0ed me to stay/ all bene&i'ial things 'ome "ith a pri'e- don%t they6 yo* ta0e all the positi+e things and all the negati+e things- and sometimes yo* a't*ally do a little better than brea0 e+en/ sometimes- they $it right ne1t to yo*/ sometimes yo* lea+e be'a*se it%s not *n'om&ortable at all- rather- it%s dist*rbing that yo* "ant to stay- be'a*se yo*%+e &orgotten "hat that &eels li0e and don%t "ant to deal "ith the rami&i'ations o& "hat that means/ yo* lea+e be'a*se it%s too soon- b*t yo*%re older no"- and yo*%re s'ared- e+en tho*gh yo* 0no" better/ don%t be a&raid- yo* tell yo*rsel&- and yo* "ish yo* had a 'igarette &or a se'ond , any distra'tion2 yo* p*ll them 'loser- yo* 0iss them so&tly- and yo* shi+er a bit/ yo* reali.e that yo*%re syn' doesn%t ma0e sense6 does it ha+e to6 it ne+er does/ it%s al"ays e1plosi+e/

it al"ays &eels good/ e+erybody al"ays r*ns/

8 ro'0sharp edges- ro*gh,'*t tearing at '*tting at yo*r &eetthere is great gnashing o& teeth/ No"- thro"n into the la0e- s0im s*r&a'e- sin0ing- s"imming do"n# as ro'0s tend to do/ Thro*gh time- tender to*'hp*shed *nder '*rrentstreams- streambeds/ Ro'0- resting- polished on the shoreshaped egg o& the earth2

an epo'h o& 'are&*l design/ Into the soil beneath o*r &eet/ Will yo* &ollo"6

In the &a'e o& *nending s*nlight- "e "ilt/

=i+ing- =o+ing- and =ies/ Tho*gh yo*%ll "onder the ine+itable D"hat i&Dthe most li0ely ending is that one day the st*pid things "ill happen/ The lyri's "ill 'ome- the letters "ill arri+e- the memories "ill s*r&a'e and start "hispering s*ggesti+e things in yo*r ears# things yo* tho*ght- &or so long- that yo* "anted to hear/ With eno*gh 'on'entration and s"eat- thro*gh some misg*ided &or'e o& "ill- yo*%ll 'reate the reality that yo* tho*ght yo* "ere 'hasing a&ter- the one that yo* tho*ght "o*ld ne+er materiali.e/ Co*%ll ta0e a step ba'0- a&ter a moment- a 'o*ple o& 'on+ersations- and one or t"o sti&& inhalations o& the 'old Jan*ary air (ma0ing yo*r nose r*n)/

Co*%ll say to yo*rsel& something along the lines o& DThat%s it6D- and &eeling rather ripped o&&yo*%ll end *p sighing and yo*%ll say something li0e DI%m glad that%s o+er/D Then yo* 4*st "on%t 0no" "hat to do/ Co*%ll be some big- boring- li&eless blan0 spa'e"andering li0e a lost 'hild- m*ttering the details li0e an old man- trying to dis'o+er "hat yo* tho*ght "as so important abo*t lo+ingli+ing- and lies in the &irst pla'e/

7er , Why do yo* "anna 0no" so badlyany"ay6 3e , I d*nno- I 4*st do/ !o are yo* gonna tell me6 7er , (=eaning &or"ard- 0issing me on the 'orner o& my mo*th) Co* don%t 0no" "hen to stop- do yo*6

Taped to a 3irror/
One day- yo*%ll "a0e *p- and I%ll be gone/ It might ta0e a "hile &or yo* to noti'e/ 8 "ee0/ 8 month/ 8 year- e+en/ B*t yo*%ll noti'e- e+ent*ally- and by then- all that "ill be le&t might be the e1pression on yo*r &a'e as yo* "onder "hat happened/ 8s yo* dis'o+er that yo*%re s'reaming at the "alls/ 8nd yo*%ll 'ome loo0ing &or me in all o& the same old pla'es- and yo* "on%t &ind anything/ No 'l*es- no nothing/

Be'a*se I "ill ha+e sold it all/ Ei+en it all a"ay/ Thro"n it in the trash/ Ta0en a little bit o& it "ith me/ Then it "on%t matter so m*'h- anymore- these debates as to sin'erity- and tr*th/ Colle'tions/ Trophies/ Inner,"isdom2 "rongdoings gone *np*nished/ What yo* &eel that yo*%+e got to pro+e/ What yo* &eel that I%+e got le&t to pro+e to yo*/ There 4*st "on%t be anything le&t o& me by then/ No- nothing m*'h at all/ They say that i& yo* brea0 a mirror- yo*%ll ha+e se+en years o& bad l*'0/

I 'an spea0 to yo* normally no"/ I 'an remember "hat it "as li0e in the time be&ore yo* 'ame/ I don%t remember the &irst time that "e 0issed/ What "as it li0e6 Water 8ir Earth $ire 8ll are temporary/

$irst- there "as the po"er s*rge- then The 8pparitions/ 8 &e" blo"n light b*lbs- one notable- o+er the 0it'hen sin0/ The 'ir'*it brea0er tripping- a lo*d snapping o+er to the o&& position and there "as the "hining do"n o& the heater and the re&rigerator &ans and the so*nd o& the 'omp*ter monitor blin0ing o*t/ Aar0ness- a moment o& blindness "hile the eyes ad4*stedand then The 8pparitions/

8*g*st 0P- J11

I am a&raid/ The basement do"nstairs , that%s "here they 'ra"led *p &rom- 'rea0ing their "ay *p the Q steps to the top- to"ards the bent linole*m o& the &loor- those same stairs yo* *sed to &all do"n "hen yo* "ere a toddler- and ad+ent*ro*s/ Or rather- the ones that yo* hesitantly made yo*r "ay do"n into- do"n to"ards the basement,'ri'0ets- bro"n and spi0ed- to"ards the *n&inished "alls o& sheet ro'0 and smelling li0e &resh 'ement and 'ondensation/ Remember6 The rail "as loose at the bottom- and it "o*ld 'ome &ree &rom the mo*nt be'a*se yo* held it &or too long- and too o&ten- be&ore ma0ing the &inal steps onto the hard 'arpet o& the &loor/

I say *nto her# I sho*ld broad'ast mysel& into a million b*bbles o& 'arbonation and then maybe yo* "ill drin0 me *p and happiness "ill arri+e she says *nto me# perhaps drin0ing yo* 'arbonation and all

"o*ld sol+e no dilemma- "o*ld alle+iate only the symptoms ///the s0y 'o*ld &all on *s/

I "o*ld &ollo" her *nto the ends o& the earthi& she "ere to as0 it o& me/

Three Women/
!he%s three di&&erent "omen to me- I &ind mysel& thin0ing# The "oman be&ore me The "oman I am in lo+e "ith The "oman "ho 0no"s it%s &alling to pie'es

To 7a+e and To 7old/

J/2SH< PQJKQJKS0HSK2K <Q <0SHJJ02 We%ll al"ays ha+e a pistol to ea'h other%s heads- "on%t "e6 I%m "riting her name in the 'ondensation on the table as the tho*ght arri+es/ 3y mind "anders to some pla'e abo*t H000 miles &rom the 8+en*e be'a*se my 'ompany is disinterested/ !he as0s another 5*estion- I begin another ans"er- neither o& *s really pays that m*'h attention "hile the tra&&i' lights 'hange and it rains a &e" miles so*th o& here/ This is t"enty, si1- this is t"enty,se+en/ This is e+ery se'ondmin*te- ho*r- and day "e%+e "asted aiming &or the not,happy,4*st,appeased/ ?*ll the pl*g/ B*t I ne+er do/ I ne+er do/

I don%t thin0 that I 'an/

$i+e bon*s points- then/ It sho*ld be less- b*t I%m &eeling genero*s/ That "as too easy/ It "asn%t easy9 8re yo* 0idding6 We all 'a*ght the re&eren'e/ Not e+eryone reads 3ilne- yo* 0no"/ E+eryone sho*ld/

There is a 'ertain 'oarseness to my tho*ghts as I e+al*ate my sit*ation2 they are li0e the st*bble on my 'hee0s a&ter s0ipping a day o& sha+ing- and I 'an%t &ind a ra.or/

What I&/
(Nonsense "ords)/ What "as I thin0ing/ R*nning/ 8+oiding/ There are t"o e1amples sha0ing my hand and ill*strating that I am mista0en- and still I tried to rely on the on'e,interpreted,as,int*ition, b*t,no",do*bted,thing/ !t*pid me/ !t*pid silly tragi' and *sed to be romanti' some may say me/ No hyphens b*t no hyper+entilation either/ Comma 'omma and (more nonsense "ords)/ I%m tired o& "or0ing/ 8t and &or e+erything/ It *sed to be easy/

No not apathy not being bro0en not anythingnot nothing either/ !he isn%t 'oming home- b*t she li0es to tease me/ !he isn%t 'oming at all- b*t she li0es me to try/ Or so it seems/ Not hearing anything/ ?laying old m*si' &or old songs and old memories as therapy- e1'ept yo*%re "or0ing/ 8nd nothing%s "or0ing/ There%s a ne" blan0- a ne" empty- a ne" +oida ne" h*rt- and ne" loss- b*t girl# Co* &orgot abo*t me/ Co* &orgot abo*t me/ No more m*si'- so no more singing/ >eep the (nonsense "ords)/ !ell the memories i& they gi+e it ba'0 to me/ 999 8nd6

This is the m*d/ This is the m*d I%m 'ra"ling thro*gh/ Aidn%t say good,bye- 4*st that yo* "ant a lo+e and that yo*%re not so hollo"/ 8nd maybe 4*st maybe it isn%t a big deal that yo* slipped a"ay/ Or *n0no"n/ Or had a heart &ail*re/ Or 'o*ldn%t brea0 o*t o& the sal+aged mentality/ Or 4*st "anted to lo+e me- b*t yo* got tired o& "aiting/ 8ny n*mber o& things that it 'o*ld be/ Re+erts to something inside- it does- and to best sol+e the problem is to best 'reate a ne" one# The 'at'h- the r*b indeed/

Not apathy- I mean- b*t not nothing- eithernot Nothing at all/ Cigarettes and 'a&&eine/ (Nonsense motions)/ Tired- so tired/ Can%t 'o*nt anymore- 'an%t remember- e1'ept that on'e it "as easy/ Too &ar a"ay- too &oot,to,the,gas,to,the,so*nd, o&,the,road/ 8ll o& a s*dden- J0- JK- and yo*%+e grad*ated to a speeding ti'0et/ 8nd to someone old inside/ Be"are the "all/

3e , !*re it "ill/ !o/// tell me/ (I rea'h into my po'0et &or a 'igarette- only to dis'o+er that they%re soa0ed/) Aamn it/ 7er , (8 smile) No/ 8nd yo* sho*ldn%t smo0eany"ay/ It ma0es yo* smell &*nny/ It%s 0illing me/ 3e , The s*spense is 0illing me/

and so yo*r mo*th "o*ld "aterand yo*r hands "o*ld "anderand yo*%d 0i'0 yo*r &eet and shi+er/ I%d &ind yo* '*rled *p in a ball all aro*nd me4*mping in yo*r sleepor a"a0e"at'hing me dream/

It s*rges in the head "ith p*lse- so li0e smashing 'len'hed &ist into *npainted and *nyielding 'on'rete "alls2 nearly as bloody/ T*nnel +ision- les depassement d* temps- and then nothing# No one le&t to listen to the

rending so*nd o& metal and &ragments o& glass s'attering a'ross the asphalt/

There it is- There/ !ome"here riding the 'ir'le o& sight- 4*st o*tside o& the &ading red lines/ There it is again9 It s*rges- mo+es &or li&e- mena'ing and h*ngryno s*bstan'e to spea0 o& b*t someho" a "orth"hile +ent*re- someho" "orthy o& tal0ing it to sleep/ ?*t it to sleep so that it stays in pla'e- gets a"ay &rom the ri+ers o& anti&ree.e and gasoline- stands 'lear o& transmission &l*id and motor oil/ Not to mention the 'rimson mar0- stret'hing a'ross a h*ndred yards o& high"ay/ Eo tal0 to the gra+es- it%s s*mmer and the nights are shorter- so the s*nlight 'an banish the +oi'es in time to bring an end/ It%s "inter-

and the nights are long- and they%ll 'ome sear'hing- no"/ They%ll 'radle ears and "hisper as they 'lose their teeth aro*nd the ne'0 and t*rn the "heel do"n"ards/ Eo tal0 to the gra+es- their tr*th is not &ar &rom the primeand there they "ill "ait li0e spiders/// Casting nets aro*nd the 'andle &lames/

[End o& !*pplemental 3aterials !e'tion]

!e'tion Q# Be"are the Night

!tranger- Be"are The Night

!tranger- Be"are the night# It stal0s the '*r+es o& her hips ?ersistent- *nending/ 8 lo+er/ 8 0iller/ 7er shapes rise and &all2 Cir'adia balan'es her lo+e With her hatred/ 7er heart is a 0ni&e7er so*l is i'e/ Be"are the night# Where 'areless 0isses dri&t Ao"n- Ao"n- deeper/ ?etals o& ash- the blossoms

O& a 'aress yo* gi+e "ith $leeting regard &or sa&ety/ !he "ill 'ons*me yo* and Co* "ill s*rrender to her7opelessly/