Dawn, with a faint shimmer of sunbeams peering through the cracks between the trees, while the grassy, unkempt lawn begins to warm, he arrives. Aware of her forthcoming arrival later in that day, he knows better than to cross paths at this time. They cannot, as it were, make green just yet. The stakes are too high; they are identities all too fragile. He grows weary of chasing her down in order to travel through space and time, constantly arriving at places unknown to them, only to find that they must travel yet again with no knowledge about the bigger picture. This time, he decides, things will be different. Of course, they’re always different, and yet, the sameness of their situation continues to follow, forever, endlessly in a loop they now feel trapped within. He remembers the words of the old man’s warning. There’s no way of knowing when or where happens before, there is only what he knows … without doubt. And the order of his remembering suggests that he must be here now.
He stands on the porch of the Listmaker. Whether or not he has arrived at the correct house, he cannot know, until he knows. Knock, knock, knock, upon the tattered and torn, half-screen door that stands between him and the front door. He waits for the semblance of movement within the house. It’s all too possible that the inhabitant still sleeps at this early hour, hence the stillness and quiet within the house. He knows, however, that if he has found the Listmaker, the Listmaker ought to be awake by now. He attempts to look through the windows that line the front of the house, but they are all closed up with thick curtains. Still, he waits another moment and looks out over the property. Birds chirp to welcome the morning. Light twinkles through the trees. A cool breeze blows over the lawn as the overgrown grasses sway. Knock, knock, knock, he tries again, only to be met with more silence. A small twinge gnaws at the palm of his left hand. Lifting the hand to his face to get a look, he sees that there’s a ladybug on him, scratching at the inside of his hand. He takes a closer look. The ladybug seems to be grooming itself, rolling around almost as if it’s itching it’s back and washing it’s face. He keeps watching.
Then, the ladybug seems satisfied and shakes itself off, looks around as if deciding to where to trot off next, but instead of choosing a direction, the ladybug looks up directly into his face. “Hey,” he states casually. The ladybug waves a little wave. Shocked, he’s taken aback a bit. What the? Curious, he tries again, “Hi, there. What’s going on?” It looks to him as if the ladybug shrugs and then sits. The ladybug looks around again, seemingly deciding on something. “Can you understand me?” he asks and then immediately feels stupid. Nodding, the ladybug walks up his palm toward his pointer finger and then walks to the tippy tip of his pointer finger. Once settled upon the tip of his finger, the ladybug nods again and then gestures with its face to sort of either look or move in that direction, which would lead him over his left shoulder, off the porch and onto the lawn. This is crazy, he laughs at himself, but he already decided that he’d listen to this creature, despite the impossibility of the situation.
He steps off the porch and walks in the general direction of the pointing ladybug. Once he reaches the lawn, however, the ladybug motions to take a right, which leads him down the side of the Listmaker’s house. He sees a beautiful patch of flowering plants and looks down at the ladybug, assuming that is where it wants to go. He stops for a moment, waits for further instruction. The ladybug turns around and faces out, facing his same general direction, then points to the garden. Ah ha, he thinks to himself, proud. He walks to the patch of flowering plants, and as he edges closer to the garden, the ladybug pulls on the tip of his finger with a little halting motion. He twists his hand around so that he can look the ladybug in the face. The ladybug nods and then makes funny gestures with its front legs as if picking things off his finger. “What?” he asks, slightly confused by the mime. The ladybug points down. He kneels down. The ladybug points at the orange nasturtiums, turns to face him again and then makes an “x” with its two front legs. He laughs out loud, “Ah hahaha, okay. I get ya.” Slowly, he walks around the tiny patch, presenting each different type of flower to the ladybug as the ladybug promptly nixes each option with the “x” symbol it makes with its front legs. He chuckles at every dismissal.
Finally, as he approaches a cluster of tiny white flowers, the ladybug shimmies a bit, as if excited. “Yea?” he laughs as he asks, “Is this gonna do it for ya?” The ladybug turns to look at him and nods in confirmed excitement and then waves him off with the right front leg/foot. As the ladybug turns to jump off his fingertip, he whispers, “She’ll be here later. Can you lead her here please?” The ladybug turns around and stares into his eyes for just a moment before it shakes its head and drops it low in a somber sort of way. “Why not?” he asks, peeved. The ladybug remains somber, not looking at him. He guesses that the ladybug cannot make such a guarantee, and he knows that the likelihood of her recognizing the ladybug is infinitely small. He sighs audibly and concedes, “Yes, I know what you mean. Can you at least promise to try?” The ladybug cheers up a bit and nods enthusiastically. “Okay, thank you,” he states as the ladybug nods and turns out, away from him, toward the cluster of tiny white flowers, ready to take a leap. “Alright,” he begins in farewell; “Later,” he again casually bids. The ladybug shimmies its backside and prepares to launch and just as it begins to jump off the tip of his finger, the sound of a snapping tree branch cuts through the air. Stunned, he jolts a bit and then quickly checks on the ladybug. “Goddammit,” he spits aloud in frustration. There, atop the cluster of tiny white flowers, the ladybug lies on its back, wings spread wide and broken, dead.
He treads out from within the patch of flowering plants and stands at its edge, looking back toward the tiny white flower cluster. He can barely make out the speck of the ladybug. Whatever, he self-soothes. Clouds form overhead and threaten rain. From the side of the house that he currently stands, he sees a porch extending out from the back of the house. As the patter of scattered raindrops ease into a dull roar, he runs to the back porch that is luckily partially covered by a torn awning. He looks through a sliding glass door and realizes that he can see into the house since whatever blinds or curtains hang on the inside remain open. From this location, he can see the kitchen and the living room area that opens into what looks to be a study. Dark, he cannot make out anything too specific within the study, but the disheveled nature of the area makes him think that the Listmaker might be uncharacteristically unorganized. But then he notices the kitchen and living room areas are immaculately ordered. Every little thing seems to have a place, except that there are two mugs sitting on the counter that separates the kitchen area from the living area. He also notices that there’s a carton of almond milk sitting out, which seems odd, but since he doesn’t drink almond milk himself, he decides he doesn’t know if that’s common practice. Nevertheless, the two mugs stand out to him. A visitor? he wonders. Did she arrive early? Fuck. What’s with all the early arrivals lately. She’s totally out of sync or something, he considers.
He gives the glass door a knock, Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, and waits for a signal of movement. Maybe someone answered already, he thinks as he remembers, the fucking dead ladybug. Still raining, the droplets enlarge and turn into a straight-up downpour. He accepts that the awning will probably not keep him dry much longer, but to his delight, the falling water stops, almost all at once within just a minute. Parting ways, the clouds reveal the light of the sun and an uncomfortable warmth overcomes him. Knock, knock, knock, he tries again. He waits.
A sense of unease washes over him, and he can’t quite place the feeling despite the strong recognition. Breaking and entering into the house, he decides, however dubious, appeals to him greatly. Can he spare another moment, no matter, and wait a bit longer before enacting such drastic measures? Without a watch and with little to no sense of the relative time of when he currently exists, there’s no way of knowing exactly what time it is, he realizes. There’s also no knowing when she will arrive. All he knows is that he needs to speak with the Listmaker and be long gone before she appears. Pacing the back porch, he mulls the options. No matter how hard he tries to look forward, to catch a glimpse of any hint that may help him decide, he comes up blank. He seethes. Someone meddles with mesh and fabric, sewing in bits and pieces that help only the few, a self-serving individual who requires … something … something very specific, he concludes. Bound to the now that is now, he keeps pacing the full length of the porch, waiting, drumming his mind for the recollection of something … anything. The most recent words of the old man ring out in his mind, She will not be difficult to find because she does not know that she needs to remain hidden. And then a flash of understanding hits him between the eyes as he whispers, “Mox.” If Mox knows where she is, and the old man feels confident in finding her, then the old man can easily know what Mox knows. So where is Mox now? If I can find Mox, I can know what the old man knows, and then I’ll know what the old man wants. The unsettled feeling returns with full force and reminds him of a different time, a different life, lifetimes ago. He recalls the first time he encountered a Listmaker.
A long time ago, he awoke, thrown like what always happened during any other time after making green, into the middle of a life being lived. This, of course, was one of the earlier iterations when the sudden transference from one when into another thrusted his mind into a full-on spin, which caused a numbness starting from the crown of his head down through his entire body, lasting, most often times, around ten minutes. Unable to move or think during this time, he would simply stare out in a strange gaze, existing in the planes of nothingness. How to describe this process proves impossible, but nevertheless, he would, if he could, say something to the effect of, “If air could speak to the annoyance of constantly being pushed, shoved, and encroached upon.” Anyway, this one particular time, he was but a small boy child living in a village in the steep valley just below where the three peaks meet. There, within the village, a Listmaker lived, the first Listmaker he had met, not “first” as in the linear perception of time before a different meeting but rather, as first first within his existence. But that is all beside the point. As a small boy child in the village, he was an orphan (the kind whose parents left him for dead, as opposed to those whom Death takes, not that one is more or less tragic, the distinction is what’s important), running hither and thither, free to be wherever whenever he pleased. His appearance caught the peculiar attention of a specific person within the village, who, for all intents and purposes was this Listmaker.
This Listmaker lived on the upper-most outskirts, nearest the end of the official village ordinance, at the place where the river begins to flow through the village. Being well-known and seated among other peoples of prominence, this Listmaker became quite fond of him and he of this Listmaker. Most days, when this Listmaker had written the boy child into this Listmaker’s list, he would visit this Listmaker, sit and chat for hours at a time about nothing specific. He never really knew exactly what this Listmaker found so fascinating about him, but he found this Listmaker’s general nature fascinating. What he learned was how this Listmaker would write a list for each day to which this Listmaker would then adhere to, absolutely. Some days, at the boy child’s request, this Listmaker would sometimes make a list for him, and then the boy child would find that he, too, would be bound by the list for that day. He, of course, determined this strict process hilariously fun, a feature to his life that drew him ever closer to this Listmaker and this Listmaker’s precise skill. On other days, the boy child would arrive at this Listmaker’s house to find that this Listmaker already knew all of the questions he had planned to ask, and as each question rose to the surface of his mind, this Listmaker would simply answer each question before he uttered one word, essentially making the entire conversation quite one-sided. The scene of a young boy silently sitting in an armchair while this Listmaker spouted out seemingly random information must have looked serenely odd to any observer.
Some villagers enjoyed the eccentric nature of this Listmaker (although, unknown to them as a Listmaker), especially since, as a mostly garden-loving village, the villagers could always find a healthy ladybug population of which this Listmaker generously allowed the distribution. Many villagers, however, decided that this Listmaker and all of the surrounding hearsay made this Listmaker a person who ought to be generally avoided. Nevertheless, this Listmaker’s prominence within the village could not be ignored. Most failed to understand how this Listmaker grew to be a person within the upper echelon of intelligence within the community, and those who did understand this Listmaker refused to share the significance. This refusal to disseminate this Listmaker’s eminence confused the boy child greatly, so the boy child, as he grew, would try to convince the villagers of this Listmaker’s power. But whenever the boy child would visit this Listmaker, this Listmaker would kindly request that he cease his attempt to change the mind’s of the villagers. After the concise request, this Listmaker, without fail, would end each conversation about the boy’s need to convince others with these words, “Ignorance is not the fault of the ignorant. Ignorant people are fully necessary; they balance the intelligent. If everyone’s ‘intelligent’, statistically, there are still the ten percent who would be the intelligent, not including the distinction between the ten percent of the top ten percent, making everyone else, the remaining ninety, the ignorant, cycled forever, on a continuum with each new batch of intelligence birthing ignorance and filtering out the ten-percent that’s deemed intelligent.” And every time this Listmaker ended the small condemnation of his frustration at “stupid people,” the boy would roll his eyes, until one day, when the boy was no longer a boy, he looked at this Listmaker as a sorrowful revelation befell him and asked, “Why don’t you just write lists for everyone so that they can live better lives?”
With his question lingering in the air, this Listmaker consulted the day’s list, and then answered him with a question, “Would you want to write a list for every person who came asking for one?” “Yes,” he answered without hesitation; “If I could educate every person who came my way, I would, without another thought.” “Yes, exactly,” this Listmaker pointed out; “I, too, would educate every person who came my way.” And then that sorrowful feeling slapped him in the face again. He understood what this Listmaker said. He understood the truth this Listmaker explained. He understood the Listmaker.
Seated now on the edge of the porch, he sits and fondly remembers his first encounter with a Listmaker. Then, he remembers why he is sitting on the porch of a Listmaker now. He takes a deep breath and ultimately decides that he must break into the house. This meeting cannot be wasted. Thus, he stands himself up and walks to the sliding glass door. First, obviously, he tests the door handle. The door slides open easily to the sound of the frame’s sealant resisting the detachment. You have to be fucking kidding me, he laughs to himself. Slowly, he slides the door open just wide enough to enter through the threshold. Right hand on the glass door’s handle, the left braced upon the door frame, he pokes his head into the house, “Hello? Hello? Is anyone home?” He waits. Silence greets him. He waits a bit longer. A noise from the kitchen. He jumps ever so slightly. The refrigerator kicks on. “I’m coming in now,” he shouts out to whoever may be hiding. One foot at a time with a brief pause in between, he quietly enters and then slides the door shut behind him. “Hello?” he again shouts aloud.
Bright, straight and serious, the kitchen space beams in modernity almost to the point of futurity. Similarly, the living area looks so strict that it almost seems as if nobody could possibly ever sit on that sofa. To the mugs on the counter area that differentiates the kitchen space from the living area he walks since the pairing of the mugs stands out to him. Everything about the kitchen sits immaculately clean and ordered, yet the two mugs sit, still half-filled with cold coffee, dried droplets of coffee stain the countertop near the mugs. A bowl of sugar sits, exposed, the lid of which abandons the sugar to the elements. Warm, a carton of almond milk accompanies the setup. He examines the carton and reads: REFRIGERATE ONCE OPENED. He sets the carton down and looks around some more, but there’s really nothing else to look at within the kitchen. Scrubbed clean and shining white, the sink sits empty along with the dishrack. Figuring that there is probably not much else to be learned in the kitchen, he scans the living area. Again, the space is clean and ordered, not a speck of dust or creased cushion/pillow to be seen anywhere. Even the plants stand tall at attention, perfectly balanced as if rotated regularly. He moves on through the living area into what looks like a study.
In heavy contrast, dark, rounded and overly ornate, the study features a heavy wooden desk facing out through the window. A full floor-to-ceiling bookcase, also of dark wood and crammed to the brim with books, line the entire right wall of the space upon entrance from the living area. A wooden step stool sits in front of the wall of books, while a wooden, chartreuse-cushioned armchair sits in the small corner made of the small piece of wall shared with the living area on the left, when facing the corner, and the wall shared by the stairs to the right, the corner directly behind the chair, assumedly being centered with the countertop in the space beyond the wall that separates the kitchen space from the living area. A person wishing to walk from the living area into, what seems to be, the entryway must walk through this space and if in a hurry, might bump into the aforementioned armchair. As he examines said armchair, he notices that perhaps it sits a bit askew since the rug upon which the front left leg of the chair, if sitting in it, rests is curled up under the leg and a tiny scuff mark suggests that his assumption holds true. The other chair in the room tucks under the heavy wooden desk and greatly resembles the desk as if, undoubtedly, part of a set. Of the rolling variety, the chair lacks cushions but provides arm rests, and the chair itself rocks forward and back on some sort of spring attached to the spoked-style legs set upon a wheels and castors system. He pulls open the drapes. Not a single speck of dust relieves itself from the fabric. Sun shines through the room to reveal the extent of its disarray. On edge, he peers out through the window and eyes the property. He sees no one. Nevertheless, he remembers the backdoor and jogs through the house to lock it. Returning to the study, the room seems dramatically worse in the light of day.
A seriously chaotic mess, the room, strewn with slips of paper, full sheets of paper, pages of books, whole books, writing utensils and other stationery-related products, suggests some sort of malfeasance, especially when considering the general atmosphere of the other two rooms. Hanging on one of the walls, a clock reads ten minutes past seven. Unsure about the exact time but not knowing any better at this exact moment, he reads the time as being logical, given that his arrival had to have been sometime around half-past six that same morning. He rummages through the slips of paper. “Lists,” he whispers to himself. Sheet after sheet after sheet of list after list after list cover every inch of the desk and carpet much of the floor. At random, he picks a slip off the floor and peruses line by line. The paper upon which this list was written feels smooth, old, only slightly wrinkled. Taken as a whole, the slip curves on itself a bit as if it has been rolled up. Of course, he is fully aware of the Listmaker’s proclivities to make lists, and so, the nature of the elements within the room do not surprise him at all. What is surprising, however, is that the room seems devastatingly disheveled.
Where is he? he thinks to himself, remembering that he must speak with the Listmaker. He does not really have the time to figure out what happened here, unless, he realizes, whatever happened here was not intentional, and hence, the reason behind the Listmaker’s absence. He mulls a few options while scanning the room for any further clues. Imperatively, he decides that he will search the rest of the house, if only quickly to see if any other information about the Listmaker’s whereabouts jumps out at him.
Onward through the study, he stands in the entryway, behind the front door. He looks through the small round window out to the lawn once again, still, no one. A hallway lines the right side of the staircase and ends at a door with no knob but rather, has a horizontal, rectangular metal panel where one ought to push in order to make one’s way through the door that he assumes leads into the kitchen. Through the entryway to the other side of the house, another sitting/living area opens out into a dining room. Both rooms match the sleek, sterile modernity of the kitchen space and other living areas. He pokes a head into each room, but nothing seems out of place. Testing to see how clean the space actually is, he runs a finger over half a dozen, seemingly random surfaces and each surface affirms nothing but sheer, obsessive cleanliness. He sighs a deep sigh, the sort of sigh one sighs when things do not add up, no matter how hard one tries. Back to the entryway and up the stairs he goes.
Half-way up the stairs he comes to a landing and then the stairs take a one-eighty and continue upwards. The second floor opens out into one large room that covers the area of the second sitting/living area and the study below. Lined fully with floor-to-ceiling windows, the wall that looks out onto the front of the property houses French doors that open out onto a porch the length and depth of the front porch below. Around and to the right, once scaling the staircase, the room continues to open out into a futuristic office full of variously aged technology. To the left, a wall with a set of double-doors. A queasy sensation hits him in the gut. He does not want to go into the room, but he knows that he must. The fear of finding someone unsavory almost deters him. Stubborn is the most common word other people use to describe him, and while his stubbornness may sometimes be confused for bravery, he would not describe himself as a brave person. Nevertheless, he summons the stubborn and reminds himself that he must find the Listmaker as soon as possible.
Knock, knock, knock, he gently taps on the door. Silence. Knock, knock, knock, knock, a little louder this time, and then he waits. Silence. Indecisive, he considers the most beneficial/safest door to open if an intruder hides within the room. Inconclusive, he opts for the right door so that he can easily punch with his free left hand. Cautiously, he creaks the door open. Dim but not dark, the room smells of a fresh breeze. Immediately, he notices the lumpiness of the bed and then sees the face of a man at its head. Startled at the figure of a human being lying in the bed, he jumps and then whips his head around to furiously scan the room for an attacker. Through an ajar door at the far end of the room he can see the fixtures of a bathroom. Another set of double doors remain closed at the foot of the bed. Quietly, he jogs to the bathroom, and at the ready, he jumps into the tiled space. Empty. A quick look around exposes nothing. He jogs back into the bedroom and swings the double doors open wide. Prepared, he soon realizes that the enormous walk-in closet sits nearly empty. Of course he is relieved that no threatening person jumped out to disable him, but he also feels a little disappointed at his cowardice. Nevertheless, with his safety procured, he rushes to the person in the bed.
Lightly, he presses two fingers to the carotid artery in the man’s neck. A pulse. Closely now, he looks at the face of the man in the bed. “The Listmaker,” he whispers aloud. He does not know whether or not he should call an emergency service. He decides that he really cannot do such a thing, since, in all actuality, he should not even be here. She’ll be here soon anyway, he thinks to himself with the understanding that for her to have “found” the Listmaker in this condition will be safer for the both of them. He searches the area surrounding the bed. A little unnerved, he peeks under the bedspread to see that the Listmaker is fully clothed. “Hmmm,” he sort of murmurs to himself. Sitting now at the edge of the foot of the bed, he wonders about what could possibly be going on. There exists little about the world in general that he does not or cannot understand, but situations of this nature are of the variety that he rarely comes across. Presumptively, probably no “normal” person would come across such a situation. His mind clouds with skepticism, uncertainty and worst of all, suspicion. “Fucking old man,” he scowls under his breath. More words of the old man press upon his mind. Know this, the voice of the old man surfaces, by the time you realize you should have heard my message, I will be unable to cooperate, for the answers to the questions will have been discovered.
“Fuck,” he spits aloud, and then looks over to the Listmaker to see if he had aroused him. Frustrated he rests his face in his hands. And then he sees it, something small and round under the bedside table. Frantically, he rushes over to the bedside table and gets on all fours. With his face pressed on the ground, he sees that he can easily reach the thing. Retrieved, he holds a spool of, what seems to be, thermal receipt paper. The same stuff from downstairs, he recalls. The top portion has been ripped off with the first line partially reading:
1811 what the stran wants
Just above the last entry the lines read:
1800 – 1801 Consult the day’s list
1801 – 1810 Complete tomorrow’s to-do list
1810 – 1811 Answer the door to see who knocks
and account for the earlier part of the day in its entirety. “Yesterday,” he whispers to himself as he reads the date at the top of the list, and then he notices another list beginning at the top of “yesterday’s” list with the latest hour nearest the bottom as the spool unrolls. As he unspools the list, merely looking for an end to the present list, he reaches a timestamp at roughly 0758 hours where the list ceases to outline the beginning of the day, “Today,” he quickly realizes. The first timestamp on “today” or the last line item the Listmaker wrote “yesterday” reads:
0758 – 0805 Water open-air garden
With the list’s end being before the day began, he begins to wonder why the Listmaker failed to write in the first part of the day. He looks over the list for “yesterday.” The day begins at 0630 with these two items being the first on the list:
0637 – 0638 Get out of bed
0630 – 0635 Wake
“‘Today’ lacks a wake time,” he audibly contemplates. Then he examines the list closely, reading each item, until a very specific happening captures all of his attention. “Shit,” he speaks aloud.
He reads the lines over and over again, and this is what it reads:
1206 – 1207 She will arrive
1207 – 1210 Walk out and greet her at the edge of dirt drive
1210 – 1211 Invite her in for lunch
1211 – 1215 Make her feel comfortable, offer water
1215 – 1235 Make sandwiches, attempt small talk
1235 – 1255 Eat lunch and discuss why she is here
1255 – 1256 Ask her directly what she wants
1256 – 1257 Ask her again
1257 – 1258 Reiterate that she must
1258 – 1311 Listen
1311 – 1312 Agree to her request and convey the urgency of the situation
1312 – 1313 Walk to desk and find a free sheet of paper
1313 – 1314 Prepare her list
For an unknowable amount of time he stares at the list, until suddenly, he grasps the gravity of the event listed that he now reads. “What fucking time is it?” he asks himself as he searches the room for a clock. His eyes rest on an analog clock on the wall that reads a time he does not understand. “Seven-ten?” he mutters; “Still?” And then his entire body grows cold. Quickly, he checks the pulse of the Listmaker. “Okay, good. Hang in there, please,” he begs the Listmaker. Running out of the room and down the stairs, he has to figure out what time it is. Through the front door he burst into the front lawn, out in the sunlight. Overhead the sun still sits fairly low, just over the tops of the trees. Okay, motherfucker, okay, I have a little time, he determines. Back in the house now, he furiously digs and searches through the stacks and piles of lists. What he looks for, he cannot be too sure, but he is sure that he’ll know it when he sees it.