‘Leily’

‘Leily’

It’s always the thing that will crush you, she thinks to herself. The scent of … of … butter hits her deep in the back of her throat. Everyone always focuses on the thing that could crush them under a weight they cannot bear, the thought continues, but what is the practical application of this fear? She follows her nose toward the awful scent released when butter and flour come together, rise and bake into the delicacies that are various pastries. He, she remembers and reminisces; He, always, tempted by the subliminal combination of fat and sugar, succumbed to the soft, baked goods. And then an odd realization befalls her: About whom are these thoughts?

A twinge, pang of emotional distress, no doubt, accompanies these thoughts that she, almost fully, cannot understand, and yet, there, a soft comfort promises to envelope her if she can withstand the turmoil. In front, now, of a place labeled “Bakery,” she stands, motionless, as if peering into the window, but, of course, she is not really there. Somewhere far away, in a land within her mind, she mulls the situation, debates whether or not she can, no, ought to consider the … the emotions. There, something sits and waits, but she cannot understand the thing. She cannot hear the words being spoken by a figure she cannot name. Warm. How now. The discomfort the heat impresses upon her becomes unbearable, but somehow, she decides that indeed, This is nothing. She cannot walk toward the unknown figure. The figure seems to recognize this and waves. She waves back. They exist together in a place nondescript, a space void of descriptive qualities, a zone wherein she can feel her hand rise to wave at the figure, but she cannot see the hand. The oddity is lost on her, of course. She feels much about much.

A whisper, You can see me. “Yes,” she responds. Do you know who I am? She waits for a moment until an answer reveals itself to her, “Yes, I feel as though I must, but simultaneously, I know I must not since a name I cannot put on you.” Where have you been? “But who are you?” I cannot unveil myself to you. You must know who I am. She takes another moment for an answer. A name. A small name. When the mist clears from the horizon, what’s left is what must have been there all along. Barely audible, she speaks the chalky fragments collecting in her mind, “Mox.” Yes. Still a bit unsure, she asks again, “But who are you?” Time will escort you through this abstraction. For now, just listen. She considers the situation, “Why?” There are things that you know that you do know that you know. Everyone wants to know what it is that you know, but until you know these things, you cannot know them. Thus, they cannot know what you know until you know what you know.

Twinkling, a cool blue light beckons her, and of course, the cool relief draws her nearer. Mox whispers into the void, You must go back so that the future may unfold. She understands these words as some sort of truth, but there, something continues to nag at the hems of her sleeves. The recognition of fear does not the banishment of that fear make. “Back to where?” she thinks aloud. I do not know. I’m just the messenger. Another voice enters, Excuse me. She looks around to find the owner of the disembodied voice. “Who is there?” she asks. You cannot stay here any longer, Mox shouts as the figure of him begins to fade, and continues, They will find me, and when they do, you will no longer be safe. Find him! “Who?” she wonders aloud. Him! He’s looking for you! He will search first in the place you need to remember. The figure of Mox disappears completely, and just as she begins to feel something she recognizes, a loud, large clap rings through her ears as the twinkling blue light turns green.

Inside the place labelled “Bakery,” a staff member whose name tag reads, “Leily” keeps a constant eye on the girl standing outside the shop. After ten minutes or so, Leily decides she will confront the girl to find out what is going on. “Excuse me,” Leily speaks to the girl standing outside the window. Rigid but still blinking, she [the girl] does not acknowledge her. “Uh, miss,” Leily attempts again as she places a hand on the girl. The girl crumples into Leily’s arms at her touch. “Oh my god! Miss, are you alright?” Leily shrieks as she gently lowers the girl onto the ground. “Help!” Leily shouts into the place labeled “Bakery.” “Someone come out here!” Leily further commands. Within a moment, however, the girl blinks and sits upright. Seemingly unscathed, she reaches into her backpack and pulls out a sandwich and begins to eat it. Still shocked and now a bit confused by the girl’s immediate recovery and follow-up action in eating a sandwich, Leily attempts to speak with the girl once again, “Miss, are you okay?” She sits for a moment and between bites of her sandwich, considers her responses, and for a moment more, she considers whether or not she feels as though she is “okay.” Determined, she responds, “Yes, I am quite fine. Thanks. Are you okay?” Leily looks flabbergasted and when the girl makes eye contact with her when she asks if Leily is okay, Leily feels a pang of recognition, “Are you …” “Yes,” she responds before Leily can complete the real question; “Yes, I’m fine” she states flatly between bites of her sandwich. “No, miss, I think that I know you,” Leily insists. The girl looks at Leily and sees no one she recognizes, “I’m sorry. I cannot see who you are.” Confused, Leily responds, “But you’re looking right at me.” “Oh yes, I can see what you look like, but I cannot see who you are,” she clarifies. “Oh,” Leily breathes out. The two remain seated on the ground outside the place labelled “Bakery,” the girl sits crossed legged, still facing the “Bakery,” eating her sandwich, while Leily sits on the heels of her feet, on her knees, on the right of the girl, facing her.

The girl begins to feel something. She stops eating. Leily notices, “What’s wrong?” The girl looks at her, “Leily.” “Yes, that’s my name. Do you remember me? I can’t quite remember where I met you or how I know you, though,” Leily responds excitedly. “No,” the girl begins, “I do not know why I know your name.” The conviction of the knowledge of this person named Leily does not resonate with the girl. Perhaps, she thinks, Leily means something, but what that is, she cannot know. Then, the girl looks at the name tag on Leily’s shirt that reads, “Leily.” A rush of sudden disappointment hits the girl hard and she feels frustrated. As soon as the frustration hits her, however, a feeling of sheer bafflement pours over her in a sort of disbelief at the notion of whatever to-be-frustrated means. She decides to stand. Leily reaches for her and helps her off the ground. “Thank you,” the girl acknowledges as she bows a slight bow of gratitude. “It’s no problem. Are you sure you’re alright?” Leily prods. She takes a moment to consider the truth, “Yes, I am feeling quite fine.” “Would you like a drink to go along with that sandwich?” Leily offers. She considers this again, and decides, “Yes, that sounds nice.” “Okay,” Leily smiles, “What would you like?” She considers this now and nothing reveals itself. She waits a moment more. Leily begins to look at her with a concerned face, the girl notices the change. She waits just the slightest bit longer and still, nothing. “How about some water or juice?” Leily presents after seeing the concerted effort the girl seems to be making to decide or determine what might sound nice. “Oh, yes. Water,” she responds. “Alright,” Leily smiles as both of their faces relax, “I’ll be right back.”

You cannot stay here, rings through her mind, insistent. She looks around herself to see from where the voice came. With no person within sight seeming to admit to the words, she remembers Mox’s words. A remembrance. Run!, the voice rings out urgent this time. Time will escort you through this abstraction, she reminds herself as she looks at the shoes upon her feet. Yes, I will run, she decides as she determines that the shoes will allow her to run at a quick pace. There, she feels is where she ought to go. Thus, within an instant, she’s gone, running toward a large, glass, bubble-like structure off in the distance with trees poking out the top. Leily returns from within the place labelled “Bakery,” to no waiting girl. Instead, Leily looks around and sees only the half-eaten sandwich upon the ground. A bit confused still but not surprised, Leily reaches down to throw the sandwich away, and just as Leily grabs the soft mess, an event unlike any other experienced in this orbital before manifests itself throughout a world content with contentment. 

The Earth-Man | Kevin

The Earth-Man | Kevin

The two begin to walk away from the stream leaving W on the side not yet crossed, with V and U on the side crossed already. “Where are we going, ma’am?” Kevin asks yet again. “But you already know,” the older woman responds. “Yea, I guess. I mean, I know you said a ‘hillside’ or something, but where is that?” Kevin extends. “A hillside is lost on you?” the older woman asks. “No. I know what a hillside is,” Kevin scoffs with a crinkle of his nose. Stopping for a moment now, the older woman turns to face Kevin who follows all-too-closely and asks, “Then what is your question, Kevin?” “I … I just … I guess I just … you know … like where is this hillside?” “Look into the future, if but only a few minutes,” the older woman responds. “Ma’am?” Kevin stands up straight almost in defiance but something else entirely; “I’m sorry, but what? No one can look into the future.” “Can you not?” the older woman chimes. “Uh, like, no, ma’am,” Kevin speaks indignantly. Amused, the older woman already decided that this Earth-man will know some truth and begins, “Well, in what direction are we headed?” Kevin thinks for a moment, then points, “That way.” Still amused, the older woman further prods, “Excellent. Is there a hillside in view over there?” Kevin looks again in the direction he pointed only moments ago, and then, something dawns on him. He looks directly at the older woman, “That is where we are going.” “Yes,” the older woman affirms. Feeling excited now, Kevin begins to understand a semblance of understanding, “And so, we’ll like, that’s like where we’ll be, you know, in like a little while or something!” The older woman determines that the Earth-man looks all too excited and refuses to participate in his excitement, and instead, the older woman responds with an air of disappointment, “Of course, dear.” Unaware of the older woman’s indifference to his newly acquired knowledge, Kevin still feels giddy and proud. Silently, they walk on toward the hillside.

A little while or something later, the two reach the edge of a thick forest of aspen trees. The older woman stops and turns again to face Kevin. “We’re here. We’ve made it to the hillside?” Kevin asks. The question inflicts such obviousness that the older woman ignores Kevin’s inquiry and instead quizzes, “Do you know what kind of trees these are?” “No, ma’am,” Kevin responds; “Honestly, you know, I have, well, I don’t know anyone who has seen the kinds of plants and trees and such here that I’ve seen over the past few days.” “What do you make of all of these plants and trees and such?” the older woman continues. “Well, sure, like they sure are beautiful. I just sort of wonder though, if I’m like dreaming or like where I am, you know?” Kevin responds. Feeling the depth of Kevin’s impishness, the older woman concedes, “Yes. And yet you have not once asked where it is that you are.” “No, ma’am,” Kevin insists; “I definitely know better than to find out.” Surprised by Kevin’s open stupidity in that he lacks the curiosity necessary for intelligence, the older woman sighs a deep breath of seeming futility. What the older woman feels, however, is anything but. The older woman begins, “These trees are called ‘aspen’ trees. Come, feel the unique smoothness of the trunk.” Kevin walks toward one of the trees and complies, “Ewe. What is this sh-, stuff, that’s like all on me?” The older woman continues, “As a small child, my family lived in the high mountains of a place on Earth with which you ought to be familiar.” “Oh yea, like where?” Kevin asks. The older woman ignores him, “On this mountain hillside, aspens grew like grass on a lawn and covered every square inch of the valley.” “Wow,” Kevin interjects; “That sounds really beautiful. Do you miss it? I mean, it must kind of look, like, you know, right, here, right?” The older woman continues to ignore him.

“One day, while walking through the bright forest, my father informed that the aspens are very unique plants, that essentially, there are only a handful of aspens in the entire world. He further explained how every tree that is seen above ground actually just represents a root that shot up through the ground again to reveal itself as a tree. So, if you touch one trunk of an aspen, you’re really just touching one limb of it. One aspen tree can grow to cover an entire hillside or mountainside, popping up every few meters to reveal itself again, in another place in space while all of its roots connect each tiny leaf to every other tiny leaf across an entire forest. The aspen’s greatest advantage, however, also reveals its greatest weakness. For if, on the surface, one tree becomes infected with some disease, all of the trees of a hillside, which is really one tree manifested all on that same hillside, become infected with that same disease. This means, of course, that one tiny event can wipe out an entire, seemingly multiple, population. What has happened, obviously, is that one aspen tree has died, but the effect of this one tree dying is that an entire forest has been lost.”

Somewhat bored, Kevin says, “Okay. That’s sad, I guess.” The older woman, of course, had been gazing longingly into the forest of fall-like aspens whose leaves have all turned a stunning, vibrant gold and flutter in the synthetic breeze. Upon hearing the words spoken by Kevin, the older woman blinked hard and realized that the decision that was made about him long ago would, in fact, be the fate that she would now have to seal. Kevin, now, indifferently looking into the forest before him, catches the eye of the older woman who looks sternly into his face. “You are meaningless in this realm. You had no meaning from the time when you came. You are nothing in the vastness of time,” the older woman begins. “What the fu-, hell, no, what the fuck?” Kevin responds, defiant. “If time is like these aspens, where do you belong?” “Ma’am? I don’t know what you’re getting at, but I matter. I matter a whole fu-, no fuck it, I matter a whole fucking more than you do. Who the fucking hell are you anyway?” Kevin shouts now. “It does not matter. Everything here and now matters not, to someone like you,” the older woman answers.

“I just like woke up, and I like don’t know, you know, like anything about what’s going on. I’m real sorry if I like saw something I wasn’t supposed to see or something, but really, lady, I haven’t got a fucking clue. I thought, and you know, I was like real excited that someone important wanted to finally talk to me cause I thought, like, you know, like, you would finally give me some answers or something, but instead, I’m just like told all these ridiculous stories or stuff that like, you know, what’s the word, it just doesn’t matter? Like you say that all the time. ‘Oh, Kevin, it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. You don’t matter.’ How do you think that like makes a guy feel, you know? I’ll tell ya; it doesn’t make me feel good at all,” Kevin vents.

“Of course it does not feel good, but what good do your feelings do?” the older woman, unmoved by Kevin’s outburst, coolly responds. “It’s my feelings. It hurts, you know, like it hurts my feelings when you say I don’t matter. I matter!” Kevin yells. “How?” the older woman puts to him. Stepping back and away from the older woman now, feeling upset and hurt. Kevin, of course, cannot put into words his own worth or value. “I just do,” Kevin murmurs under his breath. “Proof to the contrary will be revealed,” the older woman states flatly; “There are people waiting back at the stream.” The older woman leaves Kevin in half sobs as the entirety of his worthless life flashes through his mind like small daggers that pierce the mind of the emotionally weak. For a moment, Kevin stares at the dirt path beneath his feet as he contemplates the words of the older woman. “I matter,” Kevin continues to whisper under his breath; “She can’t fucking know anything about me or my life. I matter. I’m good. I’m reliable. I do what I have to do. I show up to work on time. I work hard. I give my all.” Kevin hears the voice of the older woman whom he can no longer see as the older woman has passed beyond a small curve in the hillside, “Come along, dear. You do not have much time.” Kevin considers his options and then the voice of the older woman rings out again, “No, this is not actually the open wilderness. You know not where or when you are. Simply follow. Now.” Feeling hopeless and dredged slightly in sadness, Kevin relinquishes his resentment for the moment and walks in the direction of the older woman’s voice.

Some Fresh Air

Some Fresh Air

The distillation room distills water, not so much for drinking but rather, in the service of providing the synthetic rain within the orbital, which orbital researchers soon found to be not-synthetic rain at all. Being, essentially, a large-scale greenhouse, constructed almost entirely of glass and carbon-fiber-type materials, the orbitals, the researchers found, were actually quite proficient at condensing the moisture out of the air into a sort of mist. How to then turn that mist into rain as opposed to simply humidifying the place, Terraces were built with a sort of vacuum room to attract the moist air where the moisture would condense into a form that would then, ever so rarely, be cycled through the orbital as rain. Compared to the rest of the orbital and the Terraces themselves, the distillation rooms are quite noisy. Nevertheless, the room, if its function is unknown to a person, suggests nothing more than a storage closet, perhaps for a water heater or the system that waters and nourishes the foliage within the Terrace. The walls are of an opaque, frosted glass, where a person standing within the room could make out the shadow of a person standing outside the room, but the person standing outside would most likely not see the soft, grey cloud of a human form inside the room. And it is precisely within this type of room that the older woman stands and waits for [Staffer] and the Earth-man while the remaining three escorts, whose shadowy figures the older woman can see through the glass wall directly in front of her, stand in wait as well.

A gentle whirr of the distillation system rings within the older woman’s ears. The older woman, surprisingly, feels a slight discomfort from the sound and closes her eyes to focus the mind on the task ahead. What the older woman will speak to the Earth-man is already known well within her, of course, but no matter, the older woman considers a second option. The muffled voices of people speaking calls the older woman’s attention back into the space. A gentle knock. “Enter,” the older woman speaks aloud. The glass door puffs a puff of air as it glides off between the two panes of glass that make up the wall within which the door is framed. “Ma’am,” [Staffer] greets as he begins motions to introduce the Earth-man to the older woman. “Thank you,” the older woman cuts; “You may leave us [Staffer].” [Staffer] genially bows his head in recognition of an order. The Earth-man stands barely within the space. [Staffer] makes his way around the Earth-man and as the door slides to close the room off from the rest of the world, the Earth-man stumbles a step forward out of fear that he may be standing within the door’s way. Shy, a bit hunched, each hand clasping the other at about belly-button height, eyes darting throughout the room, slightly rocking back and forth from side to side on one foot then the other, the Earth-man looks certifiably uncomfortable.

“Relax,” the older woman suggests in the nicest voice possibly conjured for this moment. “I, ah, uh,” the Earth-man mumbles. “Hello, I am Kevin Voss,” the Earth-man speaks. “Yes, that is right, Kevin,” the older woman responds, and continues, “Am I pronouncing that correct? Keh-Vin Vah-Ss?” “Uh, yea, and you …” Kevin attempts to ask. “It doesn’t matter,” the older woman squints. Still obviously nervous, Kevin continues to rock from side to side. “Do you know why you are here?” the older woman begins. “Uh, I, I think so,” Kevin responds. “You think what, Kevin?” “I think I know why I’m here, but like, you know, it’s a little tough these days.” “Why is it that you are here then, Kevin?” “Well, I mean, I guess like, I thought that I was just like being asked about a really crazy thing that I saw happen, but now I think that I like definitely saw like something I shouldn’t have, like, you know, I saw something I shouldn’t have. You know?” Kevin blurts out a little anxious but with an overwhelming sense of confidence. This sense catches the older woman in a strange way that cannot be pinned down so easily. A whistle of a small wind. The older woman tilts her head slightly down and slowly closes her eyes to the sound. “Uh, Miss, or like Madam?” Kevin attempts again to ask. “Quiet,” the older woman conjures her nicest voice again, “Please.” Laughing. A warm breeze fills the tiny room. “Uh, wait, what is this?” frightened, Kevin asks; “Uh, Madam, or Ma’am, I really don’t like want to go through anything like weird or anything.” The older woman does not hear Kevin, of course. Instead, the sounds of a message ring through the older woman’s ears. When you live in the dark, there, much less is seen. The breeze ceases, Kevin, green in the face, about to vomit, begins to breathe heavily, one hand on each knee, bent in distress. “Please, Kevin. Calm down,” the older woman commands in a less-nice voice, albeit still pretty gentle. “Ma’am, I’m sorry, I just,” Kevin starts again. “Understood,” the older woman sternly responds. A strange moment goes by while Kevin suddenly appears to feel much better. “Yes,” the older woman speaks. “What was that?” Kevin asks. “It doesn’t matter,” the older woman informs. “What doesn’t matter?” Kevin asks again. “Your feelings, dear,” the older woman obliges.”But I feel fine,” confused, Kevin answers. “Excellent. Kevin,” the older woman calls; “Why don’t we take a little walk.” “Uh, okay,” Kevin agrees.

The two exit the distillation room, into the presence of the older woman’s three remaining escorts. To the escorts the older woman directs, “We will take a short walk through the hillside. Your accompaniment is unnecessary. However, please do follow us through the stream, and then wait for us there.” “Yes, ma’am,” escort V responds for all three. Kevin, feeling nervous again, states an awkward, “Uh, hello,” to the escorts who promptly ignore him. The five, now, walk through the arboretum toward the hillside-themed wildlife of Third Corridor’s Terrace. Silently, they make their way around a bustling group of facilitators who seem to be tending to an unruly bunch of vines that stalk an unwanting population of bamboo. Kevin seems in awe and asks, “Where the fuh-, uh, hell am I? I have, uh, like never seen any place like this before.” The escorts look at each other amongst themselves. The older woman, who leads the group, says nothing. Kevin, assuredly in awe now, continues to speak aloud, “Wow. Well, I’ll be. No, that can’t be. Is that a? Jeee-sus. Phew! What is that? This place is huge? How did that get here? Where did you find that?” For about fifteen minutes they walk through the arboretum until they reach a wide shallow stream, easily crossed upon stepping stones. U and W cross while Kevin follows. The older woman gently grasps the arm of W and instructs, “Kira ought to find you soon.” W understands this instruction and simply nods in acknowledgement. The older woman crosses the shallow stream to meet with the others.

On the other side now, the older woman instructs U and V to stay put, “After some time has passed, a return will be imminent.” “Where are we going?” Kevin interjects. “Up to the hillside,” the older woman entertains. “Why?” Kevin asks, a little indignant. “To get some fresh air. Doesn’t fresh air sound nice, Kevin?” the older woman placates. “Uh, I guess. Yea, sure,” Kevin resolves. “Excellent,” the older woman states with all her might to stay calm and pleasant while turning to begin the walk toward the hillside. “Ma’am,” V speaks aloud. “Yes?” the older woman replies while turning back toward the stream where Kevin, V and U still stand. “The path that breathes is the way that leads?” V asks. “Of course,” the older woman responds and then looks at Kevin; “Come along dear, you do not have all day.”

On Terraces

On Terraces

The six escorts stand at attention while the older woman rises from her seat and all walk toward the curved wall directly behind the older woman’s chair. Forming two lines of three, since the older woman detests the “hovering,” as she calls it, of a person immediately behind her, the escorts flank the older woman just behind each of her shoulders. Easily, the older woman may gently glance behind a shoulder and address or look upon any of the six. The lack of importance shed upon the place order of the six reveals the lack of hierarchy among them. Nevertheless, the escort, W, poised just off the older woman’s left shoulder instigates the process of transportation.

For most inhabitants within this orbital, the cost of travel is time. The vast distance between the older woman’s private quarters and the Third Corridor cannot be walked in one day. The distance can be traveled in a day’s sunlit hours by above-ground vehicular transportation or in a few hours by below-ground rail. For a select, unknown to the general population, few, the distance can and may be traveled within a relative instant. Familiar terms such as teleportation, backdoors, wormholes, folding, etc., fail to describe the process accurately. Thus, a specific report of exactly how this method of transport and travel works lacks verification. The exclusivity, of course, accounts for the elusive explanation. Such as it is, the older woman, along with her six escorts stand at the ready in front of the portion of curved wall that sits directly behind the older woman, if she were sitting in her centered chair.

The process begins quickly as the escort W steps forward toward the wall, lifts her left hand. A dim light marks an outline of a door in the wall. The escort presses her hand against the wall within the outlined space, a small puff of air. Separating now from the wall, a door slides backward, away from the group of travelers, then easily slides to the left and opens into a dark passageway. The group, still led by escort W enters the passageway, and as the door closes behind them, the space fills with a soft, dark blue glow. As quickly as the group disappears behind the door, they arrive in a glow of red at the Third Corridor. Of course, still unseen despite their arrival, no one within the Third Corridor takes notice of them, but in another instant, a flash of green reveals the seven travelers to the facilitators as the group appears all at once in the doorway between a greenhouse and a tropical arboretum. Again, much of the arrival process goes unseen by the facilitators with one facilitator recognizing the instantaneous appearance but soon thereafter writing off the improbability of the situation as a moment of lapsed attention, who then immediately calls [Staffer] to notify him of the older woman’s arrival.

Within each of the six corridors resides a place where most inhabitants of this particular orbital give little to no attention. Most, of course, as usual, are unaware of such a facility. Few, not including those who work within the facility, ever visit. Built with the intention to provide solace for the humans now living within a drastically fabricated, synthetic world, the six Terraces house a multitude of former Earth-dwelling plants, trees, flowers and grasses that may be enjoyed by any orbital inhabitant at no cost. Of solid glass, the Terraces each take on the shape similar to that of soapy bubbles piled on a countertop. The tops of each seeming bubble, of course, opens out into the orbital itself, and in some places, the tops of the tallest trees poke out and peer into the orbital. Populated not only by a garden for edible plants, a greenhouse for decorative flowers, a nursery for environmental trees and foliage, a hydroponic garden for medicinal herbs, and a landscaped oasis, every Terrace also houses a specific, themed garden, such as tropical, woodlands, etc.

Each Terrace, obviously, serves a practical, physical purpose of filtering and cleansing the air within the orbital, but they also serve the practical, psychological purpose of filtering and cleansing the minds of the inhabitants. What the Terraces forego is the purpose of education. In a reality such as orbital living, one no longer practices the sort of tangible forms of hands-on learning as was once the standard in days of old. For the first few revolutions, orbital customs required that each inhabitant spend no less than one hour per week within a Terrace. Accessible and sizable, the Terraces can easily hold half of its respective corridor’s residents in spacious comfort all at once. In the case of an emergency, one supposes, every inhabitant within the orbital could reside within their corridor’s Terrace, if only with the slightest bit of personal space. The requirement seemed irrelevant to the mental health of the inhabitants, and so, over time, the compulsory visitation remained law but went unenforced. Soon thereafter, with each new generation pouring in and out of each orbital, the Terraces nearly vanished from human awareness. Nevertheless, for the practical purpose of breathable air, the Terraces continue to do their duty, and their constant, consistent vacancy makes them greatly appealing to the older woman.

The older woman directs herself into the arboretum where she stands at the edge of the bamboo that grows en masse along a path that leads toward a shallow stream, looking beyond the thick forest of ribbed shoots. The six escorts disperse themselves throughout the garden. A few moments pass as a gentle whisper blows by the ear of the older woman. “Who,” the gentle whisper asks, “can see the things for which she does not look?” The gentle whisper continues, “Who can know that which cannot be see?” Unnerved, the older woman calls for escorts X, Y, and Z, “Please, find Kira.” “What, then, would you like for us to tell Kira?” escort X asks. “Upon seeing you, Kira will know what to do.” “Yes, ma’am,” the three respond in unison as they exit the arboretum. Once the three are out of sight, [Staffer] appears in the doorway between the arboretum and the hydroponic systems facility and makes his way toward the older woman who immediately turns to acknowledge him. “My apologies, ma’am, for the wait” [Staffer] begins; “The Earth-man has proven difficult to awaken after the presumably stressful day, yesterday.” “Yes,” the older woman sharply responds. “Shall I take you to him, now?” [Staffer] asks. “No,” the older woman instructs, “bring him to me. I will wait in the distillation room.” [Staffer] nods and excuses himself, “Yes, ma’am.”

On Lingering

On Lingering

“Please, come in.”

“ …”

“Please, have a seat.”

“ …”

“You looked concerned. About what do you hold such grave concern?”

“Well, the last time you called, I was unceremoniously dismissed, at which point I was sure I would be exiled off this orbital or worse, killed.”

“The fragile feelings of your kind must be … daunting.”

“It wasn’t a matter of my feelings, ma’am. I have a job to do, and …”

“And what? You felt as though a deep, evil hindrance prevented you from performing admirably?”

“Never mind.”

“Never mind, what? You are the self-proclaimed user of words in order to tell the story, are you not? Then, by all means, use your words?”

“I’d rather not.”

“Oh, by virtue of not feeling like doing so?”

“No.”

“Understood. Have you eaten?”

“Yes.”

“Who fed you?”

“Kira and one other whose name I never learned.”

“That seems rude.”

“Does it?”

“Be sensical.”

“For what purpose?”

“Your own dignity, if for nothing else.”

“Fine. I suppose not knowing the name of one person who silently delivers a meal could be considered rude.”

“Yes. Did you sleep?”

“During the night, no, but yesterday?, yes.”

“How was the garden?”

“Comfortable.”

“Excellent.”

“Ma’am, what’s going on here?”

“Where?”

Here here. What’s happening. Why am I sitting here?”

“Oh, goodness. Your existence is something about which no one can really speak, confidently.”

“No. You misunderstand me.”

“Unlikely.”

“Fine. If this is how you want it. What happened … yesterday?”

“What do you think happened yesterday?”

“Whatever happened does not matter to me, nor does it affect me directly.”

“It did, however, affect you, did it not?”

“What do you mean?”

“You ceased to exist. If only temporarily.”

“No. I was sitting outside, in the garden, waiting.”

“Were you?”

“Yes.”

“How can you be sure?”

“Ma’am, I can’t.”

“What? Be sure? Please, elaborate.”

“I just can’t deal with all of this … with you … with …”

“How all of this makes you feel?”

“No.”

“Individual choices will most often times be made based solely on feeling.”

“I feel nothing.”

“As a result of your inexistence without the need or approval of others.”

“No.”

“That was not a question.”

“No, this, this is exactly what I cannot do with you.”

“Oh. What are we doing now?”

“Ma’am.”

“Please, illuminate the situation.”

“Ma’am, you called me.”

“Very well. Your services have deemed themselves necessary. Thus, please proceed.”

“With what?”

“Your story, of course.”

“Okay?”

“Now,” the older woman commands, in no fewer words, at the curious being to whom she starkly speaks, who sits directly across from her; “Excellent,” the older woman encourages. “Where is it that you would like for me to begin this next account?” the curious being asks. “Wherever pleases you, dear,” the older woman condescends, and upon hearing the description of her tone chuckles in a snide hiss that furthers the condescension.

For the past three biases, the older woman called into question every inhabitant within one klick (or one kilometer, or 1000 meters or .62 mile) radius of her private quarters. Hour after hour passed as dozens of people streamed in and out of the cylindrical chambers of the older woman’s office. “No, please begin again,” the older woman interrupts. “Sorry?” the curious being asks. “Begin again,” the older woman repeats. The curious being sighs a sigh of frustration peppered with a little disbelief at the situation at hand. Mulling the happenings of the day before, the curious being sits and waits for the words to precipitate above and condense into the rightness of a thing. “Ah, interesting,” the older woman interjects again between the curious being’s thoughts. “What?” the curious being inquires. “The day weighs heavy,” the older woman responds. “Perhaps, ma’am, this would be easier if I were left alone or allowed to leave.” Pretending to give the curious being’s request some thought, the older woman instructs, “Indeed that may be easier, but your work here is not finished. When you are finished, you will be dismissed and freed to go about your lingering.” Indeed, the day weighs heavy upon the minds of the inhabitants who live near the older woman. The curious being looks again to the older woman for guidance or approval. The older woman stares back equally curious. Heavy, indeed, the words begin to fall.

Amidst the mist of mild and grey, the day, cold and long, but no longer, for the morning brought about the orbital’s nearest star’s beams of shine. Through the one circled, ceiling window of the cylindrical room, the light shines through and casts a spell of warmth. A soothing respite from the incident of a Bias long passed. Seemingly calm, the orbital settles into the routine of ordinary life. In the air, no matter, a restlessness lingers as the older woman knows a truth about the overarching circumstance. An Earth-man, lost, resides within a time unknown to him. He lives in a past unreachable. Understanding much, the older woman understands that someone is to blame for this occurrence. There lingers, a question, the much larger question, of course.

Few know the full story behind the incident, and even fewer understand it. All, nevertheless, know of the incident. Those who know the full story have yet to make the full connection between the incident and the Earth-man himself. Those who understand the incident, however, understand the implication. To the many, “Perhaps the Earth-man brought himself here, with purpose, but that seems unlikely. The possibility still remains. One cannot dismiss the possible, especially since to travel through time is no longer fantastic,” goes the gossip. To the few, someone is responsible, but who?

The list, of course, is quite short. Nevertheless, unless the inhabitants demand an answer, the incident will no longer be discussed in a few short iterations, the older woman is sure of it. Of what the older woman, no doubt, is unsure reveals the gap in her knowledge, the gap that cannot ever be known. Thus, a search must commence. “Excellent,” the older woman interjects, yet again. “Now, that search must assuredly commence,” the older woman continues as a small fleet of three men and three women orderly enter the cylindrical room through the door directly to the right of the center of the room where the older woman sits, facing forward, to escort the transport of the older woman across the orbital to the Third Corridor where she will finally meet this man from Earth.

Kira’s (sounds like ‘ear’) Staffer

Kira’s (sounds like ‘ear’) Staffer

“Where have you sent him, Kira?”

“He sits in the garden.”

“Very well.”

“Ma’am?”

“Yes.”

“[Staffer] arrives with haste. Shall I send him in?”

“Of course.”

“ …”

“Please, be seated.”

“ …”

“A message is what you deliver?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Who sent you.”

“I sent myself.”

“How is it that you’ve come by this information?”

“I stumbled upon it myself.”

“By chance?”

“By circumstance.”

“Of course. Where is it that you are stationed?”

“The twelfth exit of the third corridor.”

“Excellent. And what do you make of your superior?”

“The favor that you show toward her must mean she is of the utmost competence.”

“Yes, Kira certainly has trained you well. And the superior of your superior?”

“I cannot honestly say.”

“Make an assumption.”

“ …”

“ …”

“Since I was allowed direct entry just now, when word of my message was made known, I assume that I am proficient.”

“Your name?”

“[Staffer].”

“Very well, [Staffer], please deliver your message.”

“Ma’am?”

“Yes.”

“I am in a place of confusion as to exactly what to say.”

“Ah, yes. Who intercepted you?”

“How did …”

“It does not matter.”

“I do not know him.”

“Very well. What did he say?”

“He requested that I not inform you, ma’am, of the information I acquired.”

“Understood. And the threat?”

“Ma’am?”

“This person must have threatened you, or else, there would be no need for your confusion in whether or not you ought to deliver your message, no?”

“No.”

“Ah. What did he tell you?”

“He told me …”

“Quiet.”

“Ma’am?”

“[Staffer], silence!”

“ …”

“ …”

“ …”

“ …”

“ …”

“Do you understand the options before you?”

“I believe so, however, would you, ma’am, be kind enough to shed light upon them.”

“No. You may ask one question, if you know what that question should be, and the truth will be spoken in return.”

“ …”

“ …”

“What is the likelihood that I will remember who I am?”

“Strong, most remember. You, however, are under completely different conditions. What needs to be done will be done, but if your messenger finds you first, there’s nothing to be done. Understood?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Very well. Have you decided?”

“Yes.”

“Excellent. What is it then, [Staffer], that you know?”

“A man has arrived within the Orbital via a displacement.”

“When is he?”

“The Numerical Years.”

“Earth?”

“Yes.”

“Where is he?”

“The station at Third Corridor.”

“There is no protocol for this, [Staffer]. How did you contain him?”

“Dream capture.”

“Did you wipe him?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Your reasoning for this?”

“The incident.”

“Excellent.”

“I’ve already questioned him, and he remembers much.”

“Yes. These conversations are known. Action has already been taken.”

“But ma’am …”

“You cannot know what cannot be known, [Staffer]. I, however, am not you.”

“Yes.”

“Do tell, nevertheless.”

“The last thing he remembers is watching someone disappear. He, allegedly, witnessed someone disappear on Earth. The next thing he knew, he was sitting in the station being questioned.”

“No, that is not all. Tell everything.”

“But ma’am, I thought you already know of this occurrence.”

“The occurrence is understood. Tell me the how.”

“Nobody knows how. The witness does not even know he is not from this world.”

“He still does not know.”

“Yes.”

“That was not a question.”

“I am sorry.”

“It doesn’t matter. When was this witness found?”

“Shortly after the last Bias.”

“You found him?”

“Yes. He was walking along the pathway that leads out of the twelfth exit, looking strange. I approached him and immediately knew he was not from now.”

“How did you come to this conclusion?”

“His clothing, the overall look to his face, and he, uh, he smelled of a certain, uh, uncleanliness.”

“Of course. Then what did you do?”

“I sent him into a dream and walked him toward Third Corridor’s station.”

“What was he like when he woke up.”

“Seemingly normal. He did not seem confused or unsure of where he was.”

“He sees only what he knows, of course.”

“Oh, yes.”

“What did you ask him?”

“I just had him talk about his day. He seemed a bit shaken about seeing someone disappear, but not worried about his current state of existence.”

“This is your message?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Please rephrase the entire thing and speak it in one concise package.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Begin.”

“This morning, shortly after the last Bias, I walked my routine rounds around the twelfth exit of the third corridor. While walking, I saw an unfamiliar-looking man who I instantly knew was not from this time or place. I knew this because he was dressed in unusual clothing and emanated a certain stench. Not knowing what the proper protocol is for this sort of situation, I enacted, what I thought to be, the safest mode of conscious suspension and dream captured the foreign man. Shortly thereafter, the foreign man was sleeping soundly in one of the Third Corridor’s station rooms. The foreign man did not seem bothered, nor did he seem as though anything was unusual to him. After an hour or so of questioning, I learned that the foreign man is indeed from the planet Earth sometime during the early Numerical Years. According to the Earth-man, the last thing he remembers is a man disappearing before his eyes. The Earth-man’s full account has been visually recorded and documented. The disappearance seemed to have lasted no longer than a few minutes, at which point, the Earth-man does not recall anything else about what happened next. The most recent thing that the Earth-man remembers is waking to our knocking on his door a few hours ago to wake him. That is when I questioned him and learned that he perceived of our knocking on his door as the knocking by friends back on Earth to remind him of work. I’m sorry, to remind him of his responsibilities to his employer. No one can account for the Earth-man’s time travel. So far no one has come forth as a witness to the Earth-man’s arrival on this orbital. It is possible that the Earth-man has been here for some time, unnoticed, but this is unlikely. My conclusion is that yesterday’s incident must be related to the arrival of a man from Earth’s past. I do not have any idea how this man could have arrived here. I also make no presumptions about why. I must then also conclude that there is a chance that this Earth-man arrived yesterday, having only been found today, but again, I do not think this is likely. Further action is recommended, but I do not know what that action should be. Thus, after concluding my initial round of questioning with this man, I made my way straight to you, ma’am, to deliver this message.”

“Understood, [Staffer]. Thank you for your efforts. Everything you say reveals truth and nothing more. You are dismissed.”

“Ma’am?”

“Yes.”

“I cannot help but wonder how it is that this man arrived here. Please, if you would be so kind, tell me what you know?”

“There is no possible way for you to know what is known by those who know the things that cannot be known. Kira!”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Please escort [Staffer] through the door.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“And [Staffer].”

“Ma’am?”

“Be careful.”

“Yes.”

“Kira, return to me when [Staffer] has safely departed.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“ …”

“Ma’am?”

“Bring the physicist from the Numerical Years here, immediately.”

“Which era?”

“The last upload.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Continuance Not Clairvoyance

Continuance Not Clairvoyance

“Sir, look, I know your story; I’ve read what you saw; I just want to hear you speak the narrative yourself.”

“I told the guy like a hundred times what I saw! Like, what more can I say? I just feel like I’m in all sorts of trouble or something. I mean, I was like in my house, then there was knocking, and it all goes foggy, and I can’t remember. I don’t know what I did or what I saw. I just feel like I’m being interrogated. I mean, I know that I’m being interrogated, but nobody will fucking tell me what’s going on. I thought you were here to tell me what the hell is going on!”

“Sir, I’m sorry, but I don’t know what’s going on either. I too just woke up here to a non-stop round of questioning.”

“Who are you?”

“I’ve been instructed not to tell you, but if you can stay calm, I will tell you.”

“I’m like not going to fucking stay calm! Do you even know what I’ve been through today? I mean, you must know what I’ve seen or something, and I like wasn’t supposed to see it or something, and now I’m going to be killed or something! You don’t get it!”

“I do get it. I just don’t get all of it.”

“Then who the fuck are you?! And are you going to like fucking tell me what the hell is going on?!”

“Sir, you just need to stay calm. How about you have a seat. Sit back down. Just relax. Do you want something to drink or eat?”

“What is this like good cop now? I mean, that like other guy already scared the shit out of me. I’ll say whatever it is or do whatever whatever like I need to do or say to get the fuck out of here and back home!”

“Honestly, I think that’s why you’re here. I think they’re trying to get you back home.”

“Fine.”

“So, is there anything you’d like? Coffee? Tea?”

“I’ll take any soda and yea, I’m like hungry. I’ve been here all day.”

“Alright. Just sit tight. I’ll see what I can do. …

 

“Excuse me. Is there any way we can get something to drink or eat in here?”

“Maybe.”

“Thank you. …

“… See that was easy.”

“Yea, we’ll see.”

“Alright. Please, sir, just start from the beginning, and tell me everything that happened from the time you left work until you found yourself here.”

“Yea, fine.”

“Thank you.”

“So, I like work the night shift, and so I guess I left the factory around five in the morning.”

“Was it dark out?”

“No, not dark, but the sun wasn’t up yet, I mean, as best I can tell. There’s not much sunlight these days.”

“Yes, I know what you mean.”

“And I like walk toward the inlet, there’s like this small stream that runs through the far end of the main downtown area of the city.”

“Okay.”

“I always walk along the sidewalk that like runs along that like little stream every single day on my way home.”

“Every day?”

“Yes. Every single ephing day.”

“Okay.”

“But like this time, I’m like walking, and I see this guy like walking across the bridge, Sprouts Bridge, that like crosses the inlet to the west side of the downtown area of the city, and it was a little like strange.”

“Okay. Why, what was strange?”

“Like seeing a guy in the early fucking morning just walking that bridge.”

“What’s significant about that bridge?”

“Well, I mean, it like crosses the inlet to the side of the downtown area that’s basically deserted. There isn’t like nobody who lives over there anymore, so usually, there are like kids who want nothing but trouble on the bridge late at night and whatnot, but an adult man in the early morning? No way. I should know. I walk by that bridge every single day at exactly the same ass crack of dawn. You know?”

“Yes. I understand you.”

“So, since there was that guy there, I like noticed him. I saw him, so I just sort of stood there and look at him. I don’t think he saw me cause we were like walking different directions, but then he kept looking back like someone was following him.”

“Was someone following him?”

“Not that I could tell.”

“Okay.”

“So, then I like keep watching him until he stops on the middle of the bridge, and then he looks like he’s about to jump.”

“Okay.”

“And that’s when I decided I’d like get the hell out of there cause I don’t want to be like part of someone like, you know, killing themselves.”

“Alright.”

“So, I turn around and try to convince myself that I’m just going to mind my own business, but then everything like gets all colorful.”

“Colorful how?”

“Man, sorry, miss…Lady or whoever you are, I mean, you said you read the thing. This is when all the rainbow colored shit started happening, you know?”

“Sir, remember? I need to hear it from you.”

“Agh, ugh, uh, yea, fine. Okay, so yea, it’s like … it’s like … looking through a rainbow, you know?”

“No, I don’t know. That’s why I’m here.”

“Ugh. So, like picture a rainbow, and you know how you can like see through them cause they’re just like light and shit.”

“Okay.”

“So, yea like that, but like everywhere.”

“Okay. Then what happens.”

“So, yea, it was all like crazy, so I turned around to see if that guy was still on the bridge.”

“And he was?”

“Yea. He was still just standing there.”

“Did the colorfulness look any different around him?”

“What do you mean?”

“Did the way the world looked through the ‘rainbow’ as you say, look the same near the guy on the bridge?”

“Yea, I guess. I mean, I think so. I don’t really know if I’d know the difference.”

“Humf … Yea, I alright. Then what happens?”

“So, he’s just standing there, and since we’re like the only two people who could possibly be experiencing this crazy color shit, I decide that I’ll walk toward him to see if I can like chat with him about it or whatnot.”

“Okay.”

“And then as I’m like getting closer to the bridge, there’s this loud crack through the air, like thunder but sharper or something, louder, like a tree branch snapping or something.”

“Are there trees in this area of town?”

“Hell no. When was the last time you saw a tree, outside, on Earth, man! Sorry, lady, ma’am.”

“Okay. Alright.”

“So I look up for a moment, like up to the sky, you know, but I don’t see nothing, so then I look back at the guy, and he’s like looking back at me. So, then I just sort of stop dead.”

“Were you close enough to hear each other?”

“Nah. I don’t think so.”

“Was there anyone else on the bridge by that time?”

“Nah. No, I don’t think so. I mean, maybe, but I don’t think so.”

“No one else? Are you absolutely sure?”

“No, I’m not ab-so-lute-ly sure. But I’m pretty sure.”

“Okay. And then what?”

“And then he just disappears.”

“But how? What did it look like?”

“I don’t know. Like picture someone sitting here. Or yea, like I’m sitting here, and then the next moment I’m gone.”

“Was he there and then you looked away, and then he was gone?”

“No. I was staring right into his face, and he was staring back, and then poof, nothing.”

“Then what did you do? Did you go examine where he stood?”

“No. I mean, now that you say that, I think that’s probably what I should’ve done.”

“Okay. So then what?”

“So, then that’s when everything gets a bit foggy.”

“Alright. Then what’s the next thing you remember?”

“I was like sleeping, and then my work buddies were pounding on my door to like wake me up for work.”

“Did you tell your friends about what happened then?”

“Wait.”

“What?”

“I think I don’t know if the people knocking were my friends cause I don’t remember seeing their faces.”

“What do you mean? What happened then?”

“I don’t remember. I just remember waking up to pounding on my front door.”

“Were you in your own bed?”

“I think so.”

“Are you sure?”

“Well, no, now I’m not.”

“Where were you?”

“Well, like, I mean, the next thing I remember is that I’m like walking through some forest, garden place, but that can’t be right cause there aren’t no trees on Earth.”

“Where did you go after you walked through the forest garden?”

“I like entered a room full of books and stuff or something, it looked like old from like, you know, old history books of like when there were kings and queens.”

“Then where were you?”

“I was sitting in some small room with a big couch and like no ceiling or something, and then that guy came in and started talking to me and asking all sorts of questions.”

“Do you know what day it is?”

“Yea, sure. Well, no not exactly. But it should be [day, date] like an R-day.”

“What year?”

“[Year]”

“Alright.”

“What? What’d I say?”

“Nothing. I just. Wait here a minute. I need to talk to someone.”

Not Her, But She’ll Do

Not Her, But She’ll Do

“So, are you saying that the story was of an apocryphal nature?”

“Well, yes, it is.”

“Ah, apologies, yes, the story is still widely heard or told or seen?”

“Heard mostly. I never knew a written account existed for years. Well, I guess it was most of my life, thus far.”

“Understood.”

“People speak of the events as true. That was what drew me to the subject in the first place.”

“Speak to the first part, please.”

“What?”

“How people speak of the events, etc.”

“Well, there are a lot of people who believe that they’ve seen these, I don’t know what to call them except like, maybe disappearances?, but that’s not how those who speak of them talk about the, uh, event.”

“How do the people speak of the event, then?”

“Sort of … magic or some sort of sighting.”

“A sighting of what?”

“Alien beings or people from other dimensions.”

“Do you know what happens during these events?”

“Yes.”

“You’ve seen it?”

“No. I read about them.”

“You believe the written accounts to be true?”

“I’m not sure if I’d say I’m a ‘believer,’ but the situation as a whole fascinates me. You hear the tale or a rumor about a sighting, and then everyone’s interested in what it was exactly. You hear things.”

“And that was what drew you to the subject?”

“Yes, absolutely. I was absolutely fascinated by these accounts of people ‘disappearing’ and the flashes of light and all these different images of color and rainbows, and everything just seemed so, so, intriguing.”

“How is it that you came to read written accounts of these ‘disappearances’?”

“Various books stores.”

“Sorry?”

“Bookstores.”

“Oh, right. Yes. Apologies. And are you fond of this antiq … this form of media?”

“Media? I suppose. Yes, I like books.”

“Do you remember how you got here today?”

“ … ”

“Sorry. Let’s continue with what you read of these accounts.”

“Alright.”

“What was it that you found so fascinating and intriguing?”

“Well, I assume you know of the events; that is why I am here, yes?”

“Of course. The events are known by everyone.”

“So, don’t you find them fascinating?”

“You find them fascinating, and that is what is fascinating. Please, answer the question.”

“Geez, alright. I thought this was a simple sit down to discuss my research on the disappearances, but that’s fine, I’ll just get to my point.”

“Yes, it is important not to have hurt feelings.”

“I’m sorry?”

“When one’s feelings get hurt through a clear lack of revelry, people feel emotionally wounded.”

“Um, no. I don’t feel emotionally wounded.”

“Then why take offense to the directness of this situation?”

“I wasn’t offended.”

“Then why say, ‘Geez’?”

“It just seems rude to have all of this discussion be so one-sided.”

“This is a one-sided situation, however.”

“Is it?”

“Of course.”

“So, I’m being interrogated?”

“More or less. Remember, though, you came here of your own free will.”

“Did I?”

“Of course. How else would you be here?”

“Well, now I’m not sure.”

“Well, if you’re no longer sure about whether or not you want to continue stating answers to the questions asked, you are free to leave.”

“So, you don’t want to know about my research?”

“Do you want to speak to your research or do you want your feelings to feel good?”

“I don’t know what you’re getting at, ma’am, but I’m here because someone called me.”

“And you showed up.”

“Yes. I’m here, aren’t I?”

“Why?”

“Mostly because I need the money, but I also think that these stories aren’t just stories. I think that these disappearances are true. I think that every account is so similar that they cannot simply be brushed off as radical obsession with fill-in-the-blank affiliation.”

“What is the motivation behind the conviction?”

“That the stories are true?”

“Of course.”

“The motivation … I am motivated by the consistency.”

“How often do these disappearances occur?”

“No one can know for sure because there’s a good chance that every event hasn’t been reported.”

“When are you?”

“I’m sorry?”

“What is today’s date?”

“[date/day]”

“Year?”

“[Year]”

“Give a ballpark estimate based on your research.”

“There have been roughly fifty recorded incidents over the past thousand years or so.”

“Meaning what?”

“Meaning, I’d assume that an event happens maybe every ten years, but there’s a low probability that every event would be seen, and then who knows if the witness would be compelled to record the incident in writing. Therefore, I feel as though …”

“Enough with the feelings.”

“Jesus, fuck. I … would … es-ti-mate … that there’s no way of knowing exactly how many times or how many different people have not only seen the event but also, how many different people have disappeared through an event.”

“Ah. Very good.”

“Thank you.”

“No.”

“No, what?”

“No, thank yous. You have no idea where you are.”

“Within the scope of what these disappearances are or mean? I know! That’s why I’m here!”

“No.”

“No, what?”

“Physically. You have no idea where you are currently located.”

“Yes, I do?”

“This doesn’t matter. What matters is what are you researching now?”

“Well, I read about a hundred different books by people who have either documented as a witness or for someone else who has witnessed a disappearance and learned that there is ever only one witness to the event, even when the witness speaks of other people directly within their vicinity.”

“Yes.”

“Yes, what?”

“Please continue.”

“So, usually, the witness undergoes some sort of mental trauma wherein they feel … they think that they are crazy or have seen something they weren’t supposed to see, and then, they begin to fear for their own safety. Everything basically goes downhill fast, as far as mental stability and mental health is concerned.”

“For the witness.”

“Yes.”

“Understood.”

“Then the witness eventually forgets about the event and when people approach them about it later, they fail to understand its significance. So, if a witness doesn’t speak up fast and loud enough, there’s a really good chance that the witness will forget or write it off as ‘crazy,’ which means the only documented, known witnesses are the ones who really believed what they saw, believed it so much, despite being amongst other people who should’ve also seen the disappearance happen, that they raved about it until someone was willing to listen. Or in a few cases, the witness was prominent enough to write about it him/herself, and the written account was read.”

“So, what is it that you research now?”

“Sorry. I get excited and lose my train of thought.”

“Is it a train?”

“Figuratively.”

“Speak in the literal, please, no more ‘magic’ or ‘downhill’ or ‘trains’ that are not trains.”

“Jeez-us. You are one tough nut.”

“One last time, please.”

“You are impenetrable.”

“Yes. Continue.”

“Alright. These days, I suppose …”

“This really is your last warning. There’s no use for you if you cannot find confidence in your own action.”

“What?”

“You suppose?”

“What the fuck, lady? Nobody just talks so perfectly and ardently in conversation.”

“Try.”

“Jesus-fucking-christ.”

“Are you religious?”

“Fuck no.”

“Why is that?”

“Are you crazy?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Are you religious?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Well, if you are religious, you’re crazy. If you’re not religious, then you know why I think you’re crazy.”

“You only think that, though. How does that matter?”

“My thoughts?”

“Yes.”

“Because your thoughts matter.”

“To whom?”

“To you, the world, to everything that you wish and hope to be.”

“How?”

“You can’t be or exist without having the thoughts you have. Your thoughts are what makes you who you are?”

“Typical.”

“I’m sorry?”

“It doesn’t matter. Continue if you please.”

“I don’t remember the question.”

“Then sit there until you do remember.”

“ …”

“ …”

“ …”

“ …”

“ …”

“ …”

“Shit.”

“Yes.”

“Oh, something about no one speaks so impeccably in real life.”

“What is real life?”

“Goddammit. Do you want me to answer the question from before?”

“If you can remember it.”

“Shit, my research.”

“Ah, very good.”

“Yes, so my current research revolves around figuring out what exactly happens during these disappearances.”

“How can you, of all people, figure such a thing out?”

“I’m a physicist.”

“Are you?”

“Yes, I thought that was part of the reason why my work meant something to you.”

“Of course. Are you any good?”

“One of the only prize-winning females out there.”

“Prizes mean something to you?”

“Okay, just … you’re … what was it?, impenetrable.”

“Please.”

“Yes, fine, I will continue. It must be a matter of physics or at least something that has to do with the relationship between matter, humans, and space, time, and a transference or anomalous change in or of energy around those humans.”

“Must it?”

“Yes, absolutely.”

“Theories?”

“Of your demanded definitive state? No.”

“What is knowable?”

“Nothing.”

“Yes.”

“The obvious problem, for me personally, is that I have not encountered a witness myself.”

“Never?”

“Correct.”

“Never spoken to a person who was close to a witness?”

“I have spoken to people who have directly heard a witness speak of the event witnessed.”

“What would you ask?”

“Everything.”

“Where would you start?”

“Are you telling me there’s someone here who has recently witnessed a disappearance?”

“No. With what question would you start if you were to encounter someone who believed they saw a disappearance?”

“I’m not sure.”

“You have never given this any thought?”

“You said my thoughts don’t matter.”

“Of course they do.”

“Why?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Fuck, lady. Stop shit … just … just … stop … with the … word dom-i-nance.”

“Ah, very good.”

Ladybug & A New One

Ladybug & A New One

“Mother-fucking fucking-fucking christ,” Ladybug screams while storming about. “I am not screaming, and you did not use an exclamation point,” Ladybug sternly explains with its middle two … arms … rested upon its … hips? “Yes, hips will do for the sake of, what’s the word?, the, oh right, the imagination,” Ladybug nods, this time, with its middle two arms crossed across its … chest? Ladybug rolls its eyes as its middle two arms fall loosely by its … “Sides goddammit! Sides!” Ladybug shouts. “Yes, thank you. I am shouting now,” Ladybug thanks. “You totally suck at this, bee-tee-dubs,” Ladybug enunciates. “You’re allowed to speak,” Ladybug speaks. Curiously, Ladybug brings this to the attention of no one in particular and contemplates the validity of its perception of … reality. “What is it with you and your linguistics?” Ladybug asks, and continues, “Why do you not know anything?” A squirrel appears in the distance. “Yea, you can wiggle away this time,” Ladybug scoffs … “It’s more of a huff. That’s how the other one used to put it; I liked them better,” Ladybug huffs. “No, I’m not huffing now. Ugh, why do you suck so much?” Ladybug asks, this time, as it flutters off toward the apparent squirrel. “I don’t flutter!” Ladybug shouts as its distance grows closer to the squirrel.

“Sup, Lady,” the squirrel greets with a lift of the chin. “What’s with this one?” the squirrel points, with a thumb over its shoulder. “It’s Margaret,” the squirrel … “Margaret,” Margaret introduces, although one would never be able to guess the gender of a squirrel just by looking at them. “She/her is fine,” Margaret admits. Ladybug rolls its eyes and perches itself atop the acorn in Margaret’s … hands? “Yea, hands are fine where universal descriptions are concerned,” Margaret approves while waving the acorn around in one hand as Ladybug flutters to stay on top of it (the acorn). “Where did this one come from?” Margaret asks Ladybug. “The older woman off’d the last guy,” Ladybug shrugs. A lie. “What?” Margaret wonders with great concern as she, too, rolls her eyes. “The main problem with this one is that it won’t speak,” Ladybug gestures with feigned exhaustion. “Oh,” Margaret sighs. “Well, what’s this all about?” Margaret finally asks. The two glance over at nowhere in particular with an … impatient? … look? “Can it just shut up?” Margaret asks. “Unfortunately,” Ladybug begins, “I do not possess such power.” “If I look, I’ll stare,” Margaret admits. “Yea, this one’s a cutie,” Ladybug flirts. The two continue to stare.

More than a few minutes pass. “When were you last?” Margaret wonders, seemingly aloud. “It’s such a long story,” Ladybug laments with another big huff. “Very well, have you seen the Listmaker?” Margaret offers. “Oh. My. God. Yes. This was when everything started to go wrong, but nobody seems to know what’s going on,” Ladybug explains. “That seems about right,” Margaret states while stroking her chin with her left free hand as the right continues to gently toss the acorn up into the air with Ladybug still fluttering to stay atop it. “Okay, I know where you need to go,” Margaret concludes. “Thank Bromide,” Ladybug shouts … “Ugh, you forgot the exclamation point,” Ladybug corrects; “Here, I’ll do it again. Thank Bromide!” Ladybug’s excitement reaches its normal high as all of its flying apparati deploy, and Ladybug does a little happy dance. “Where, Margaret? Tell me, where do we need to go?” Ladybug asks, huffing and puffing for air after exerting itself beyond its normal daily physical movement. “Shut up,” Ladybug scoffs, at no particular one. “No, I’m talking to you,” Ladybug states with an over exaggerated eye roll.

Margaret clears her throat, “You need to find her” Ladybug plops itself down onto its … butt? “Haunches, the other one used to call them my haunches,” Ladybug offers as Ladybug plops itself down onto its haunches. “What’s the problem?” Margaret asks. “Obviously, we know this. Well, not this one, the other one and I, ‘we’ know this,” Ladybug states while leaving out the obvious that everything that needs to be known will be known by those who need to know. “Oh, well, that’s what I know,” Margaret admits. “That’s what everyone knows,” Ladybug explains.

The two sit in silence for a moment, a bit discouraged. “A bit?” Ladybug whisper-asks, greatly discouraged, nearly suicidal. “Alright, watch it,” Ladybug pleases as if in threat. “Yea, I am your greatest threat, Lingerer,” Ladybug threatens, for sure, this time. It becomes increasingly difficult to know exactly what and how it is that ticks off Ladybug in just the right way to make it intolerable to be around. “It’s you,” Ladybug points; “It’s always you.”

As Inquisitor

As Inquisitor

“I do not know why Mox lies so readily, ma’am, but in his defense, at least the lies are part of his overall character or lack thereof.”

“Of course. You do seem to be right about that. Where is he now?”

“I’m not sure, and none of the others have seen him in some time.”

“How much time is some time, dear?”

“I believe the last person who saw him was Uldin during the Bias.”

“How do you know of this?”

“A guarantor requested … ”

“Of course. Who is the most-capable person to find him?”

“Ma’am?”

“Yes.”

“If Mox is hidden, there is no way to find him.”

“There are ways. He has been found in the past, and this will not be the last time he hides, of course.”

“Who would you like for me to send?”

“Do not send anyone. Bring someone to me.”

“Right away, ma’am.”

> . . . <

“Do you know why you are here, Lingerer?”

“To tell the story, I believe.”

“How is it that you know the story?”

“Many years ago, I stumbled upon a different story that seemed to have no end, and so, I began my search to find its end.”

“And that is how you found yourself here?”

“Yes, ma’am. The story is being told as I watch it unfold.”

“Do you not know the end?”

“Yes.”

“I see. Please, proceed.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course.”

They sit in a lofty room, circular, cylindrical actually, and above their heads a large, round stained glass window spreads wide and fills the ceiling completely. Directly centered in the circular room, the older woman sits comfortably upon a rod-iron chair, facing one of the four doors that are equally placed around the circle’s wall, and in front of her sits a small loo table that supports a small, pink, carnival glass plate of crumpets, a stack of old-Earth tea cups and saucers and a glass, self-sieving teapot.

The day seems strange, full of tension as various individuals swarm in and out of the older woman’s office chambers after being called in, one-by-one, to be interrogated about yesterday’s incident. The older woman, of course, understands all and thus knows the cause of said incident, but the repercussions are what concern her, and the only way for her to understand what will be is to figure out the reason the incident happened in the first place. The older woman, feels the intensity in the air, a shift, the clouds no longer sway in a misty formation of carelessness; they know something. “Please, Kira,” the older woman shouts aloud throughout the room despite the fact that Kira stands outside the room. Immediately, the doors to the older woman’s left open as Kira ushers in the next person in question as the current person in question grabs a crumpet as the older woman abruptly dismisses the person with a wave of the hand and a, “Good. Don’t come back.”

For hours, people are summoned from every turn within walking distance to sit and chat with the older woman. Some have a small idea about who the older woman is, but most have no idea who she is or why they are there. Those who know of the older woman easily comply and follow the person who approached them. Those, however, who do not know the older woman, despite the oddity of the situation, do not know whether or not they have the right to decline the offer, if it even is an offer. Thus, all arrive into the office a bit scared, fearful, confused and sometimes quite resistant and demanding. The older woman flexes a certain amount of power and nobody seems to know how it is that she is able to do so. Nevertheless, the vast majority of people within the Orbital do not know the older woman, but for some reason, everyone seems to know of her.

The questions are simple enough, and everyone who arrives usually ends up feeling proud of their own competence. They, of course, have no idea for what the older woman probes, since great pains have been taken to keep the questioning reasonable and plain. Little effort, though, is made to comfort the fearful person in question. The older woman usually begins with a minute or so of pure silence, which ultimately leads to the offering of tea and crumpets to break the silence, “Tea? Crumpets? Sugar and cream are unavailable.” Once the person in question seems to calm down a bit, not to say that all ever calm down, and in fact, there were, on quite a few occasions, those who refused to even acknowledge the older woman’s demand that all be questioned. Eventually, however, they all comply because, “Frankly,” the older woman states as she casually sips some tea, “you must.” Once all of the niceties are established and the person in question realizes that the interrogation revolves around the incident and not around them personally, the older woman decides to make it about them, “Who are you, and where do you live?” Most, of course, begin to feel uncomfortable again as the older woman probes ever deeper into the personal lives of those being questioned. Some, of course, like the attention. Despite the overall consensus that the people in question are answering the older woman’s questions honestly, the older woman feels frustrated at the people’s overwhelming lack of insight and information, since, “For to know anything, one must first know one’s self; it’s no wonder that all of these people have wasted my day.” Angry now, the older woman takes a deep breath, exhales, stretches her neck as she sits up tall in her chair, “Kira, please.”

A moment later, Kira appears before the older woman. “Perhaps,” the older woman states, “since hours have been wasted, turns of a farther distance ought to be searched as well.” “But ma’am, does everyone who potentially understands the incident need to be interrogated?” Kira asks shyly. “Of course not, dear,” the older woman states to obviate further discussion. Kira knows better than to press the matter, thus, with this instruction, the older woman’s staff quickly sets out in an attempt to find out to what extent the incident is known.

“That’s enough,” the older woman commands with a raised hand, and continues, “No, that … Please, that’s enough.” The older woman looks at me. “Stop it!” the older …

“That … Stop it!”

“Ma’am?”

“Must the command be repeated yet again?”

“I’m sorry. I just don’t understand what it is that you want.”

“What is it that you do understand?”

“You want me to stop telling the story?”

“Of course.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Leave us.”

“But ma’am …”

“The daggers that stare hear the words of each whisper that fuels the flame of the conceited.”