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Desperate Inquiry into the Love Life of Brooke

Nescott by Devon Pitlor

I. Two women, one hotel room

On Tuesday the twenty-fourth of April, 1997, a blustery


spring day where winter in Aristock seemed to be getting
its last revenge against a warmer than usual March, two
very dissimilar women walked up to the desk of the
luxurious Town Center Inn and rented a room
overlooking the still covered swimming pool. It was a
nice room with a refrigerator full of drinks and had
plush chairs and a kidney-shaped table as well as a cozy
kitchenette. Little chocolate treats were spread across
the bed, and gratis perfumes and sensual body lotions
lined the shelves of the bathroom. As with most quality
rooms, there was a protective sheet across the seat of the
toilet, and thick, embossed towels were stacked by the
turquoise-appointed walk-in shower. A Jacuzzi bubbled
on the balcony, and other small, free amenities lay in
visibly seductive places across the room.

The younger of the women, Brooke Nescott, who just


days before had completed her senior year at Mid-
Central State University and was not only deeply in loan
debt but also quite uncertain about her chances of
finding a job as a microbiologist, had been sternly
warned by the older woman, whose only given name was
Justine, not to disturb anything in the plush room.
“Don’t even eat a chocolate or, above all, do not remove
the seal from the toilet. Use your own toilet before you
come here. Do not take a shower or think about opening
the balcony door. Don’t touch any of the towels and do
not lie on the bed. Use a wet wipe on all the doorknobs
you touch. Sit only in that chair over by the table. Put
your legal pad on the table and take all the notes you
want, but do not use a recorder. It won’t record anything
we say anyway. When we leave each day, wipe off your
part of the table. Make sure you do not leave any
fingerprints on anything.”

Justine, who had a long aquiline nose and rather bushy


eyebrows, although not an attractive woman, was
certainly a noble and commanding one. Her green eyes
were strong and bold, and when she spoke, her voice
issued like that of one whose authority was not to be
questioned. She had an accent that Brooke sometimes
could not understand and often said words that, while
sounding like English, were not quite English. Her age
was visibly older than twenty-two year old Brooke, but
was impossible to guess. Her spine was the straightest
that Brooke had ever seen, and her gait exuded the
energy that comes with having a distinct purpose.
Justine was all business, and Brooke had already had the
business explained to her. It had happened right after
Justine had transferred the sum of ten thousand dollars
into Brooke’s account, and Brooke had agreed to attend
each and every one of the required meetings in a place
yet to be specified by Justine. It turned out to be the
nicest hotel in Aristock--but of course, Brooke would not
get to remain in the room after the meetings and couldn’t
use any of the fine amenities except one chair and the
table.

Justine had apologized for the ten thousand dollars,


saying that it was all that “circumstances” allowed her to
spend but that Brooke’s presence in the room and her
participation were, in fact, worth far more.

In the lobby of the hotel, people came and went, families


with children, business travelers, honeymooners and
church wardens. Brooke knew that in this crowd, Justine
had a companion whose job it was to protect Justine, but
Brooke had no way of knowing who it was or where this
person hid. She had just been told that he was there.

There was a certain strangeness sensed among the hotel


employees as Justine paid in packets of fresh banknotes
for a full week’s rent. Also, Justine signed the
registration card with an odd signature that seemed to be
in a writing unknown to Brooke. Her Pennsylvania
drivers license, however, looked valid enough to convince
the desk clerk that she was who she said she was. The
payment in cash would later be investigated, but nothing
would come of that because the money would go to a
bank by armored car and the serials of the notes had
never been recorded. It was not counterfeit money, but
had anyone chanced to investigate the serials, things
would have not gone as smoothly, and Justine’s unseen
companion would have needed to intervene.

After examining the room and, of course, wiping off any


possible fingerprints, the two women took the elevator to
the lobby and walked into the parking lot. Dutifully,
Brooke handed Justine her car keys, and Justine drove
Brooke back to her apartment. Justine handled the
Honda Accord well now, but at first she had seemed
confused by its controls.

“Never drive to the hotel,” warned Justine. “I will come


and get you and take you in your own car everyday.”

With that, Justine shook hands with Brooke, turned


abruptly and walked away down the busy campus street.
Brooke watched her disappear into the crowds of
students who came and went from the university
buildings. Part of her agreement was not to ask
questions or try to identify who Justine was and where
she came from or went.

Brooke knew only two things: There were ten thousand


real dollars, which she needed, in her checking account
and that Justine was a judge. “You can call me judge
when, and if you need to address me as the hearing
progresses. It won’t matter if you say Justine. We are not
fussy about things like that. But remember that I am the
judge. Judges are impartial. I’m there to see that they
each give you a fair rendition of their cases. After that, I
will be there to verify your verdict. Because in this case
you are the jury, and your decision will be irrevocable
and final.”

II. Another court proceeding

It happened when Brooke Nescott was nineteen and


doing her civic duty on the jury of a city court, the price
she had to pay for voting that year. A Turkish guy, an
immigrant who barely spoke English, had been denied a
claim by his insurance company following an automobile
accident which had arguably not been his fault and
which had left him in a wheelchair. His insurance
company had refused to indemnify him on a technicality
regarding his residency visa and a missing premium and
some other jargony stuff that Brooke, in all honesty, had
not paid nearly enough attention to. During the trial, her
mind had wandered far from the proceedings. She
thought about her class notes from Statistics, and finally
her mind found her undressing the defense attorney, who
was the youngest and most attractive of the two opposing
lawyers. Envisioning herself having sex with the attorney
embarrassed her, and she shook herself back into the dull
and often confusing reality of the trial. The jury foreman
had even chastised her in chambers for being inattentive
and not recording the various facts presented by the two
lawyers. In the end, the Turkish guy got some kind of
settlement, but Brooke forgot how much or even why she
consented to it. She understood very little of the case and
allowed herself willingly to be swayed by the other, more
vocal members of the jury, just in order to get the damn
thing over. And that was what Brooke Nescott knew
about juries and courts. They were for people who paid
attention or cared about such matters. A drab insurance
settlement had been nothing to hold her in thrall, and she
felt both disgusted with the court system and herself for
her less than prepared contribution to what a strange,
dark man from another country either was or was not
entitled to. Brooke swore she would never put herself in
a position where she would ever have to make an
uninformed choice again. “I’ll just drop out of the
system,” she said to herself.
And she did. She took a low key civic role right up until
the finish of her senior year when, without warning,
Justine’s commanding voice rang over her phone and
summoned her to a quiet campus café with the promise
of money. From the start, Brooke realized that wherever
Justine came from, she was a person of great importance.
It scared Brooke at first, but the money, initially $300 in
cash just for meeting Justine, made things easier. Also,
Justine seemed to improve as she went along. It was as if
she was learning English better but already knew a great
deal of it. Her accent, one which Brooke had never heard
before, became clearer as she spoke and the strange
words that often punctuated her sentences became fewer
in number. Each time Justine uttered a word that
confused Brooke she would correct herself, apologize and
say something like “I’m sorry. You don’t know that one.”

Naively, Brooke had asked “Do I have to do anything


illegal?”

Justine assured her that nothing would be against the


law, and if it was, Brooke could walk away in a moment’s
notice, but that the “case” was vital in ways that Brooke
could never fathom. As they sat there in the dim light of
the café, Justine’s shiny, almost lizard-like green eyes
blazed with such compelling urgency that Brooke
suddenly became afraid to refuse. Whatever this thing
was that involved her, it had necessitated the intervention
of what could have been a veritable she-devil. “Why on
Earth am I so important?” Brooke both asked herself
and then Justine. Justine refused to answer but assured
her that her importance was far greater than she could
ever understand and that details about it would be
“formally” developed during what Justine was already
calling a “hearing.”

Justine stared with intensity at Brooke until Brooke


finally broke down and agreed to attend a meeting for
three hours each day in a private but very safe place in
Aristock. Justine informed her that the money would be
deposited within 24 hours, and it was.

Right before the end of this initial meeting, Justine told


Brooke to resume her life normally in all ways except to
plan nothing between the hours of 8AM and 11AM
during the next week.

Then Justine said something totally out of character:


“Continue to see those guys you have been seeing--both of
them. Don’t say a word about any of this to either one,
naturally, or to anyone else, as I have told you. But
continue to go out with them. You will one day marry
one of them, and that is mostly what these proceedings
will be about.”

III. Chase and Adrian

Brooke had known Chase since high school, and they had
maintained during their four years of university an on
and off relationship. Chase was handsome, sexy and
promising. So was Adrian--handsome, sexy and
promising. Just like Chase. She had known Adrian only
a short time, but at intervals he seemed to be taking
Chase’s place in her love life. And then Chase would
show up with a bottle of wine and some steaks, and
Adrian would dim briefly in her affection, only to
reignite a day or two later by saying something witty to
Brooke over the phone or laughing with her about
someone’s stupidity while watching the black swans swim
in the park pond. And then Chase would come back with
a flower or a bush he had plucked from someone’s lawn,
and it would be Chase again. Brooke would giggle
uncontrollably at his cute hoodie, red sneakers and baggy
jeans. That was the little merry-go-round that Brooke
had been enjoying for over a year by now, and she didn’t
even attach that much importance to it herself. She had
only a vague idea of what love was, but she felt carnal
passion for both boys and enjoyed being in their
company equally. As for marriage, that was not in the
front chamber of her mind until Justine put it there.
What had mostly concerned Brooke was being pretty and
sought after, and who cared about anything like marriage
right now? She had a career, a life, to establish. She was
not husband hunting. She just liked company at night
and on weekends, and she wanted to make sure she never
forgot how to like boys…or men…or whatever the two of
them were now. So again WHY? Why was Justine, who
was serious as a watchtower, so damn interested in who
she kept company with? It seemed to bring the whole
thing down a notch, and, had it not been for the real
money, Brooke would have written it off as some kind of
prank sprung on her by some kooky reject she had left
behind in her life. And furthermore, she resented
Justine’s intrusion into her private affairs. What did the
old cranky bitch care about her boyfriends? And why
did she know about them in the first place? It was all so
absurd, save the money. There was going to be this big
“hearing” in a hotel room for five days about a couple of
guys she had been sleeping with. She needed to walk
away right now and give the money back, but Brooke
had been raised to honor promises and decided against
this action.

As they parted ways, Justine shook Brooke’s hand and


then immediately handed her a antibacterial wipe and
motioned for her to use it. “Get some of these and use
them whenever you touch any of us,” Justine said, “just
as a precaution.”

“What are you infected with?” asked Brooke, once again


slightly frightened.

“Nothing I know of,” said Justine. “It is just a


precaution. We like to shake hands as much as you do.
But it is, after all, a way of spreading germs. Don’t be
afraid to wipe your hands when we touch.”

Brooke knew that should have been the final straw, but it
wasn’t. The first meeting remained on schedule for the
following Monday. In the days between, Brooke waited
in vain for responses to her applications and went to a
hockey game with Chase, ate at a Korean restaurant with
Adrian, walked through a dull municipal museum with
Chase, laughing at his lame jokes, went roller skating
with Adrian and blah, blah, blah. If asked to remember
each date, she couldn’t have done it, but the lust of youth
caused her to sleep with each boy at least once before the
“trial” began. They were both what her mother had once
called “eligible bachelors,” but Brooke seriously was not
worried about that. It was all about sex, she kept telling
herself, and it mostly was.

IV. Justine arrives on Monday


As usual, Justine just walked up to Brooke’s door and
knocked, came in, smiled and sat down. Brooke was still
applying some eye shadow, and they were early anyway.
When Brooke came out into the living room, Justine rose
to leave, but a faint buzzing sound seemed to surround
her fit body. Out of nowhere, she extracted a small, pen-
shaped object and began talking into it in a hushed tone.
Brooke noted that it was not English, but sounded like it
could have been from a distance. She decided it was
some sort of creole language made up partly of English
words mixed with some other tongue. She had
vacationed on islands where such dialects were spoken,
though none of the creoles sounded even slightly like the
one Justine was using on her tiny phone. When the
communication was finished, the little telephone just
vanished somewhere into Justine’s tight-fitting, one-piece
suit. More strangeness, thought Brooke.

As before, she handed her car keys over to Justine, who


had to think a minute about which side of the Honda's
steering wheel she needed to put them into. She seemed
lost for a moment. Was it the right or left side? And the
gear lever puzzled her again briefly, but she got the car
into motion and drove skillfully enough the half mile or
so to the Town Center Inn. Brooke sat quietly beside her
in the passenger’s seat. It was an ordinary day in the
campus town. Students darted recklessly across the
crowded streets, and delivery trucks lined the store
fronts. The morning sun came through Justine’s window,
and for a minute or two, it made Justine look almost
horrific. Where did those huge eyebrows come from?
Brooke wondered. Why are her nostrils so wide? The
woman was definitely human but seemed almost too taut
and fit, especially for an older person. Her skin, Brooke
noted, was flawless, and she did not seem to be wearing
any cover makeup.

When they reached the enclosed parking lot of the hotel,


Justine made the mistake of shutting off the Honda’s
engine without putting the car in park. She pushed in
vain at the gear lever until Brooke quietly reminded her
that the motor had to be running before you could put
the car in park. Justine apologized and corrected her
mistake. “We’re early,” she said. “That is not a good
thing. Tomorrow we will have to time it better. Today we
need to wait about five minutes in the car.”

Justine shifted sideways and looked with her usual


intensity at Brooke. “I think you were on a jury once
before,” she began.

Brooke agreed that she had and started to ask how


Justine knew, but checked herself remembering the no
question rule.
“You will be a jury of one,” continued Justine. “The
thing about juries is that they are to determine truth.
You have to listen to each argument and make an
informed decision. The decision you make this week will
have far-reaching consequences for millions of people. I
hope you remember that and listen carefully. Two men
will be speaking to you. Both will have compelling and
detailed arguments. It will be solely up to you to decide
whose argument is the best. That is what a juror does. I
can’t help you with that. I am only here to keep things
fair and…..” Justine couldn’t find the word and said
something garbled again, but corrected herself
immediately and said “fair and legal.”

Brooke nodded her head. She felt like opening the car
and bolting off. Why on Earth did she need to make a
decision that would affect millions of people? Her last
decision, whatever it was, had only affected a Turkish
immigrant in a wheelchair. And that had been bad
enough.

The five minutes passed tensely, and the two women,


upon Justine’s signal, alighted from the Honda and
walked straight to the lobby elevators and went to their
rented room.
V. The hearing begins

Justine motioned Brooke into her appointed seat at the


table, again warning her not to touch anything else in the
room. She was still brandishing her sanitary wipes and
used them on anything she chanced to touch. Brooke
wondered why she just didn't wear latex gloves if she was
so afraid of germs. She also wondered, once again, just
what sort of horrific disease she might walk away from
the proceedings with. But she had pledged herself and
needed to stifle this passing fear.

A quick knock came at the door. Justine, wipe in hand,


opened it, allowing two men to enter the room. Once
again, an almost pulsating knot of fear rose in Brooke's
chest, but both men wore extremely pleasant smiles.
Both were dressed in very contemporary business suits
on which Brooke, who liked men dressed in suits,
immediately noted rack creases which had not been
ironed out. The suits, both of them, seemed to have come
directly off the store hangers and showed no signs of
previous wear. Both men seemed perfectly charming.
Neither offered his hand, but both gave Brooke a kind of
non-military salute which conveyed respect. Both flashed
a kind of modified hip-hop finger signal to Justine, who
responded in kind. Brooke wondered if it was a kind of
gang sign. She chuckled inwardly at the idea that the trio
might comprise a gang of some sort.

The first man to speak identified himself by the name


Layson. Like Justine, he had only one name. Also like
Justine, the man seemed a little too perfect, too healthy.
He looked like a specimen from a gym poster and carried
his body like a prowling athlete. His skin, like Justine's,
was absolutely flawless, and his nostrils were wide---
something that had always bothered Brooke about
Justine. The second man was less than perfect. There
were some dark hollows under his tired eyes and his
cheeks seemed to sag. Though far from unattractive and
out of shape, he exuded much less perfection than
Layson. He too gave only one name, which sounded like
Armicho, but Brooke had not heard him as clearly as she
had Layson. His presence, likewise, was less
commanding than either Justine's or Layson's. He
moved with a certain strained heaviness and seemed
altogether too ordinary to be in the company of the
others. This comforted Brooke to some degree. A
normal person finally, she thought. Though in time
Armicho, who upon further introduction, became
Darmicho turned out to be anything but normal.

Justine pointed her little penshaped object at Darmicho


and the latter moved closer to where Brooke sat at the
table. Out of nowhere he produced two glossy photos of
both Chase and Adrian and placed them on the table in
front of Brooke.

"I argue for Adrian Albritton and against Chase


Kingsley," he began in a rocky accent quite similar to
Justine's. A string of incomprehensible words then
issued from his lips, and Justine tapped the table with
her device. He started over, and his words became totally
clear this time. The argument began with a short story
about Chase having once pried the top shell off a turtle,
killing the animal instantly. He had done this at age
twelve to find out what was inside.

"Natural boyish curiosity," interjected Layson, looking


at Justine for approval.

"Admitted," said Justine without hesitation.

Darmicho then went forth to recount no fewer than ten


episodes in the life of Chase Kingsley which were clearly
designed to show his less than kind personality. "His
parents had a nasty divorce too," concluded Darmicho.

Time and time again, Layson calmly inserted rebuttals,


all of which were at once approved by Justine.

In the portrait painted by Darmicho, which took over an


hour to deliver and was far too often punctuated by
strange words which he needed to rethink and correct,
Chase Kingsley had a rough and undeveloped part of his
personality which he kept hidden from Brooke. In fact,
according to Darmicho, Chase bordered on being brutal
and was seemingly capable of doing violence to anyone he
became too familiar with. Justine disallowed elaboration
of this idea, much to the satisfaction of Layson.

Then Darmicho shifted his stance, put his thumb on the


photo of Adrian and began recounting multiple virtues
about the twenty-two year old. Brooke was vividly aware
of some of these virtues, not the least of which was that
Adrian had just been admitted to a prestigious law school
and appeared to have a brilliant career before him. Also,
his parents had never divorced (Darmicho seemed very
opposed to divorce) and were, in point of fact, quite well
off. Darmicho also respected money. That was clear. He
concluded the session with a dry summary of every good
thing he had said about Adrian and every bad thing he
had articulated about Chase.

Justine rose to her feet, and the day's work was over.
Three hours of dissection of two young men about whom
Brooke had been forced to learn more than what she
actually wanted to know. But she said nothing and was
asked to say nothing.
VI. The second day

Same routine: Justine, the drive, the sanitary wipes, the


arrival of Layson and Darmicho. Only today, it was
Layson's turn. Predictably, Layson was pro-Chase and
anti-Adrian. His words were pronounced with more
strength and confidence than those of Darmicho, but he
often made mistakes and said mysterious phrases that
required correction.

By the end of his three hour spiel, Brooke was becoming


overwhelmed by acres of often trivial information that
would have required a lifetime to gather had she ever
wanted to, and she didn't. She knew she needed to pay
careful attention and took copious notes, but often her
mind wandered. It was all about whom she should
choose as a life's mate---no strike that, about a husband
and maybe a temporary one at that. Relationships didn't
last long in the America of 1997, and Brooke was a child
of her era. What if I married Joe Blow from Kokomo?
she though to herself stifling a grin. What if I joined a
convent? What if I volunteered for the Israeli Army?
The proceedings were getting repetitious and boring.

On day three, Darmicho brought forth the turtle story


again and asked Brooke to think about a potential
husband who would wreak such horror on a helpless
animal. Also, he already had projected an image of
Adrian transferring to Harvard Law School and entering
politics and earning untold sums of money.

Layson, for his part, trotted out his previously told


episode wherein Adrian at age sixteen had left his fifteen
year old date stranded on a dirt road somewhere in Ohio
because she had refused him sex. He also kept referring
to Chase as a "nice quiet lad" who would be constant and
steady and satisfy all Brooke's needs in any future
imaginable. At one point he characterized Adrian as
"dangerously unstable."

During all these proceedings, Justine had performed the


perfect role of a judge, intervening only when necessary
to allow, disallow, direct and redirect.

Uncharacteristically, Brooke heard very little from either


Chase or Adrian over these last three days. Adrian had
called from his aunt's house in Akron to inform her that
he would be back in Aristock on Sunday and to please
reserve the day for him. Chase had stopped by with a
box of cherry-filled chocolates and had asked for sex in
the rather cute boyish way that Brooke always liked. But
Brooke had made the excuse of having her period, which
was untrue, and had sent him away in less than an hour.
Upon leaving, Chase said that he would come around on
Saturday and to please reserve the day for him.

In reality, Brooke had had enough of both Chase and


Adrian to last her for a lifetime, and she was relieved that
neither was there to make any amorous demands on her.
Naturally, she asked neither about the multiple
escapades---both good and bad---which had been
revealed as part of their separate biographies, as she
dreaded the arrival of Justine on Thursday and the
compounding, piling and repiling of more of the same.
The whole hearing was a charade, a silly joke taken to an
absurd limit.

Obviously, she would be asked to make a choice between


the two men by Friday, but what weight would her choice
contain? No one had ever told her that she would be
committed to irrevocable matrimony on the spot when
the hearing was finished, only that she would have to
make a choice. Joe Blow from Kokomo was sounding
better and better to her as the trial ensued.

VII. The hearing continues on Thursday

From both Layson and Darmicho came another brief


summary, and then the photos of her two suitors
suddenly disappeared into the folds of Justine's body
suit. Justine called both "attorneys" to the far side of the
room for a brief conference, during which they chattered
feverishly in the almost-English dialect that had puzzled
Brooke so many times before. All three of them were
careful not to touch anything when they stepped away
from the table, and all carried wet-wipes just in case they
did. Brooke was tired, perplexed, overwhelmed and
bored. Trying to seem interested, she kept writing her
name on the roof of her mouth with the tip of her tongue.

Justine returned to the table and stared at Brooke. As


before, neither Darmicho nor Layson took a seat. Each
stood patiently at the side of the table waiting. Layson
was straight, fit, taut and tall, full of energy and vigor.
Darmicho was somewhat stooped and showed minor
signs of fatigue. Justine was her usual purposeful self.

"At this time we need to know if you have any questions


or need any clarifications," said Justine, who then folded
her hands and waited.

Brooke had a thousand questions, but the one she blurted


finally was "Why am I so important?" This was followed
by "Who are you, and what do you represent?"

Justine glanced at the two presenters, and they both


raised their eyebrows. Another few phrases in the
strange dialect passed between the three of them, and
Justine proceeded.

"At this very point in your life, you could have been
visited by hundreds of people. In fact, you most likely
would have been either kidnapped or killed by some of
them. Same with Chase and Adrian. However, killing
any of you would have inflicted unknown and most likely
disastrous consequences on the world we live in. It
probably would have caused its total destruction, and so
saner methods prevailed. We are, after all, both civilized
and deeply concerned about the survival of our
civilization. You may have guessed this by now, but we
all come from a precise point in the future, a point which
exists about two hundred years from today. The means
of going backwards in time has recently been invented,
but using it, except in special cases---like yours---is
expressly forbidden. If a person from our era comes here
and disturbs even one eyelash on someone's face, it could
over time have the most extreme of consequences. Time
and events are causal, and the most insignificant thing
done this very moment could wreak monumental and
catastrophic effects on the future. That is why we try to
leave as few traces as possible on this room and
everywhere else we go. That is why I drive you here
every morning because as time initially unfolded before
this hearing, you never drove to this hotel yourself, and
we needed to keep it that way. That is why we don't eat
the chocolates or use the toilet or shower. That is why
you can't sleep here at night. When we are finished and
go, all traces of our registration and usage of this room
will disappear. All I can say is that millions of yet unborn
people anxiously await your verdict, your decision to
either make a life with Chase or one with Adrian. In that
way, you are extremely important to the future. In that
way, you determine whether the human race progresses
into its salvation or regresses into its ultimate
destruction. I am not allowed to tell you which because
that is the job of my two colleagues here, but the distant
offspring you produce with one of them will either go
forth and found a great and lasting dynasty of shared
wealth and enlightenment for all mankind or, as you may
hear, a terrible and repressive state of human torment
and abject slavery. In another version, another
marriage, you will remain childless and therefore have
neither an enlightened nor a tyrannical successor, and the
world will simply struggle forward as it always has in fits
and starts, punctuated by wars and periods of moderate
prosperity. In effect, your marital choice in this regard
will render you without importance whatever to
generations unborn. Each of these representatives will
try to convince you that the other is lying and that his
choice of your future spouse is the one who will bring
prosperity and that opting for the other will bring only
servility and chaos."

VIII. Brooke once again listens to two arguments

Layson, on behalf of her eventual union with Chase,


explained that the great- great-grandchildren of that
conjuncture would become the enlightened and
benevolent leaders of a new and unified world wherein
science and arts flourished and every living person was
accorded dignity and the means of a comfortable and
unencumbered survival on a flowering planet well
managed to support all of mankind regardless of the size
of the population. His explanations were lengthy and
detailed, and at one point he called upon Brooke to
carefully examine the physical beauty and healthful glow
that both he and Justine possessed, as compared to the
rather sallow and hunched Darmicho. "Even his name
smacks of inferiority," he exclaimed. "Look at Justine
and me. I am 136 years old, and Justine is much older.
Look at us!"

"Disallowed," shouted Justine. "Leave me out of this.


She has no need to know our ages. And names do not
count."

Darmicho said, of course, that marriage and


reproduction with Adrian would bring about a balanced
and sane society of natural human improvement by
normal evolution, the society which he represented.
"These others are fabrications of an evil and suppressive
coterie, artificial humans, created by their own social
class to pose as Spartans while the rest of us somber in
disease and death. I am old enough myself, but I am at
least human. In my version, society goes on through
good and bad without the need of raising up a class of
supermen. With Adrian there will be no children, and
that may be sad, but there will be no promotion of a
super tyrannical class either, as in a world viciously
dominated by so-called perfect creatures like these two.
They have the arrogance of the lie on their side.
Darmicho began huffing and puffing as he continued. It
seemed as if he was trying to make himself suddenly
more pathetic than he actually was. Behind him Layson
grew suddenly taller and straighter and expanded his
solid chest and flexed his bulging muscular arms. There
was something artificial, Brooke thought, about both of
them.

Justine abruptly ended the proceedings. "Tomorrow you


will ask your final questions to each representative and
make your choice. I assure you that you will indeed
choose either Chase or Adrian because the only two
versions of the future that can develop involve either one
or the other of them. You will not be totally happy with
either man, and you will separate from whichever you
choose after starting or trying to start a family. But you
are fated to choose, and choose you will."

IX. Brooke reviews the case.

That night was not an easy one for Brooke. At first, she
wanted desperately to flee, to run off somewhere where
she could not be found. She remembered the case of the
unfortunate Turkish immigrant. That itself had placed
far too much responsibility on her shoulders, but this
choice was overwhelming and headsplitting. Flight
seemed like her best possibility. She threw a few items
into a travel bag and headed feverishly out the door of
her apartment. But a soft and invisible barrier, an
unseen but yielding wall surrounded her staircase.
Although she could see her Honda Accord in the
driveway, she could not penetrate the soft expanding
enclosure far enough to reach it. It reminded her of an
acid trip she had taken years before as a teenager. She
had tried to walk two blocks to the home of a friend, but
the acid had made her journey totally impossible. The
distance between her and Jenny's house just kept getting
greater with every step she took, as if the Earth between
them was ever expanding as she moved forward. So it
was tonight. The world was like a soft and bottomless
soap bubble that prevented her from ever reaching her
car. In desperation, she returned to the apartment and
collapsed on the couch. Beside her was a legal pad with
the scribbled notes she had taken over the past four days.
Some, perhaps most, of it was pure nonsense. Some
words she could not even read. It was about Chase and
Adrian and two versions of a future that she alone could
determine. Her mind finally mulled over some of the
information she had received. The arguments had been
balanced. Layson had bleated his case in strident tones
and with unshakeable confidence, whereas Darmicho had
stumbled through his as if trying to reach some
inaccessible point of intensity beyond his actual level of
competence or energy. But each had made an equally
compelling case. The notes offered no relief either and
eventually resolved to a blur under her eyes. She had no
idea which way to turn, what decision, if any, to make.

And finally, exhausted and mentally drained, Brooke just


said "Fuck it." It was a loud "fuck it" and directed
toward no one in particular. The walls rung with the
hollow echo of her voice. "Fuck it."

X. Conclusion: Brooke's decision

Justine called the hearing to order. She casually tossed a


wadded up sanitary wipe across the room into a
wastebasket and then, remembering that this could do
harm to her future world, jumped up at once and
retrieved it. It disappeared like everything else into some
unseen fold of her slim, tight body suit.

Darmicho and Layson were standing as usual. For the


entire week neither of them had ever sat down. Brooke
wondered what dastardly effects their butt prints on
chairs would have made two hundred years from that
Friday. Outside, the bright April sunshine gave the
promise of a beautiful spring, but Brooke chanced to
notice a wayward cloud or two coming over the eastern
horizon. Undoubtedly Justine and her cohorts knew
whether it would rain that day or not. Maybe that was
the question she should ask. Will it be sunny all day?
Brooke mulled over the idea. She still had only the
vaguest notion of what questions to ask. Her main
interest was to end this drama and get on with her life.
Her inability to flee yesterday evening convinced her that
there were a certain number of free will things she was
locked out of by predetermined fate. Making babies with
a man other than Chase or Adrian was probably one of
them. Joe Blow from Kokomo, she knew now, was not an
option.

The issue was far from simple. She had clarified it


somewhat in her mind. It came down to this. She needed
to marry either Chase or Adrian. With one of them she
would have children. With the other she would not.
Darmicho did not want her to have children and Layson
did. Darmicho said her descendants would become
Spartan dictators and suppress the world, and Layson
said they would be enlightened and lead the world into
centuries of peace, enhanced health and social
tranquility. Darmicho promoted Adrian, so logically her
union with him would be barren. Conversely, Layson
favored Chase so Chase would be the fertile one---and so
on back and forth. Layson looked like a perfect human
and Darmicho did not. The real question was if she
married and had the children of Chase, would they be
malevolent or illuminated? Or would the human race
actually progress better if left untouched to develop
without such astounding leaders of any stripe? It didn't
seem to be doing that so far. Maybe having a leader of
any moral standard, good or bad, would be better than
the mediocrity which had always flavored imperfect
human governance.

A dark cloud passed over the sun casting a shadow in the


room.

Brooke searched her mind for a question as the trio


waited patiently. Suddenly, she remembered her botched
jury duty in the Turkish immigrant case three years
before. The crusty jury foreman had made a comment
that had briefly awakened her attention. He had said "X
has done his research better than Y. Lawyers need to be
totally prepared. X has simply done a better job of
getting all the facts." The comment seemed insignificant
to Brooke at the time because due to her lack of attention
she had no idea which lawyer was the better informed.
But today the comment took on a new meaning. Both
Layson and Darmicho had exposed an identical and
balanced number of flaws and virtues regarding her
possible choices. Both had made equally detailed
descriptions of the societal consequences of her decision
as well. Assuming that both lived in a future world that
had sent them to represent their cases to her, it was
obvious that both needed to be provided with infinite
research about both her life and the two possible versions
of the future that she now controlled. Maybe intensive
research was the key. She stared at the competing
sunshine and clouds, which seemed to be doing battle in
the heavens. She had not listened to a weather forecast
that day.

She looked at Layson and asked "Is it going to rain this


morning before we are finished?"

Layson, although bursting with his usual confidence,


cocked his head at Justine questioningly, and when
Justine gave him the nod to answer, said "I'm not sure.
It might."

She asked Darmicho the same question. Without


hesitation, Darmicho said "Yes." Of course, he could
have been faking it.

Then Brooke looked at Justine. "Let me have a recess


until eleven o'clock, and I will immediately make my
choice." Reluctantly, Justine assented, as a recess was
within the rules. "Furthermore," Brooke continued, "I
want to walk in the park across the street and think. I
used to loll around in that park occasionally just on the
spur of the moment, so I don't think it will disrupt
anything in your timelines if I go there now. You already
know that I won't talk to anyone."

Justine warned her that it was necessary to vacate the


room at exactly eleven am, as they had every day. "Be
back no later than ten fifty," she said sternly and flung
open the room door, sanitary wipe in hand.

Brooke strolled out of the hotel and into the little quiet
park. All around her flowers were budding, leaves
sprouting and early insects buzzing. A class of nattering
school children passed with their teachers. Brooke noted
that not one of them was carrying an umbrella. Teachers
were usually careful about that. Teachers knew about
the weather and were prepared for it on field trips.

Brooke Nescott climbed atop a wooden park table and


stretched out, trying to relax and forget the bizarre
commotion that she had been subject to during the past
few days. It would, she knew, all be over soon. As she lay
upon the table, another dark cloud passed across the sun.
It was followed by another, and the alternation of light
and shadow produced a weary hypnotic effect on her.
She remained in a trance-like state on the table until ten-
forty . Then she got up and started back toward the
hotel. Without warning, a peal of thunder deafened the
air. A few feet farther, and pellets of hard-falling rain
began beating at her head and cheeks. By the time she
reached the door of the Town Center Inn, the rain was
dancing down in sheets.

Darmicho, who favored Adrian, was thus the best


informed, and she told Justine and the others exactly that
upon rejoining them in the nearly untouched room. She
would choose Adrian for that reason---because of the
rain. That was her decision. Eleven o'clock came and
Brooke walked out the door past her astonished company
without a further word. Avoiding touch, they jumped
aside to allow her passage.

Layson and Darmicho vanished somewhere in the


hallway, and Justine followed Brooke just long enough to
watch her pull out her phone and call Adrian. Sunday
was his, and she wanted to say all the other Sundays too.
Later she would cancel with Chase anything they might
have planned on Saturday, and she would eventually find
a way of making the rupture final.

Brooke decided to leave her car in the hotel garage and


walk in the rain. She found it strange that this did not
matter any more to Justine who was now nowhere in
sight. Maybe her actions did not have all that much
impact on the future world now that she had made her
choice.

Brooke thought about her own future with Adrian. No


kids. And the marriage probably wouldn't last very long.

Or would it?

Brooke no longer cared. In her heart, she knew she had


resolved a much more important matter, but one which
she would not live long enough to verify. But she knew
that in the end she was right. And that was all that
counted.

All lawyers need to do their research. All of it.


_________________________________

Devon Pitlor November, 2009

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