A Lingerer Lingers

A Lingerer Lingers

…because the world is flat, again.

[This is a portion of a completed first draft of a sci-fi manuscript titled Bromides and is the sequel to a self-published work titled Red & Blue Make Green, and it is the next installment of that sci-fi manuscript, which is uploaded as an ongoing work of serial fiction here on medium &elsewhere whenever the author feels compelled that you are about to begin reading now…begin, alternatively, at the beginning, or read in whatever order you find suits you best…✌]  

The world is flat, remember?, and everything within it lacks depth. I have never been here before, but I have read of its description. One would think that all of this seems strange, but really, it’s not strange at all. I see the person for whom I have been searching. Here? In this place, at this time? The location seems odd but not too odd when considering how she operates. She must have been here not too long ago, I assume. “Mox,” I gently whisper, disguised as a windstorm. “Not only can you not stay here forever, but also, you cannot stay here much longer,” through the wind I continue. Sprawled among the prickly points of the flat, slices of grass, watching as fluffy clouds in the distance retreat, transform into thin sheaths as they fly overhead, “Yes, yes,” Mox speaks aloud in a tone that would suggest his accepted acknowledgement. Awe, look at him; he looks so happy rolling around in this seemingly safe timescape. “Obviously,” Mox continues; “I shouldn’t have been able to be here at all.” He rolls around a bit on the grass, winces at the sting of the pointy grass. “This place is unreal,” Mox thinks aloud to himself in sheer enjoyment of the oddity that is this flat world. Of course, the world is not flat in the sense that the world is not a sphere, instead, everything within this world lacks depth, meaning that, despite the three-dimensional planes of existence, each independent object lacks a third dimension, like a pop-up picture book for those relegated to references from the days of yore, but all of this has already been explained. The idea of a thing, most oftentimes, proves itself to be difficult to relate to for those who exist within, for the lack of a better term, linear time. Nevertheless, to understand the world within which our dear Mox survives, requires little to no imagination. Here, within this flat world, however, Mox relaxes, feels indestructible. The question, of course, soon becomes, “How did he get here?”

According to some, Mox holds the ability to hide here within himself. To a privileged few, the matter is more or less annoying and rather banal; although the irritation of the reality weighs heavy on the privileged few. For those completely unaware of this reality altogether, the matter presumably deems itself quite curious, fascinating, perhaps even exotic to some extent. I, of course, am of the privileged few, but despite this privilege, I cannot know everything, no matter how hard I wish that the truth were not true. The matter of Mox’s arrival seems trivial, when considering the basis of all that is being said and developed through page after page of sheer nonsense. For if I were to tell of the specifics, this chance encounter would deem itself … what’s the word?, … irrelevant?, … meaningless?, … frivolous. Yes, to tell of the specifics would deem this encounter frivolous. A small frustration or perhaps the reality of the worthlessness of this entire endeavor precipitates and drizzles itself upon the minds of the unknowing.

The problem, first and foremost, is that you do not know who I am. Therefore, whether or not I can be trusted diminishes any truth I may or may not tell. Hmmm. Perhaps I could divulge that I am a liar, and so, my lies are true because I have forthrightly told that I am a liar, which means that when I lie, I am telling the truth, supporting my admittance of being a liar. Thus, if I, a liar, lie, then I tell the truth, and then the truth becomes that there is no truth, only lies. But then, when the mind of the receiver of the lies and/or truth believes the lies and accepts the deceit, then the mind builds its response(s) under the false pretense of the knowledge given as truth. And then the real question arises, What is truth? Well, it [truth] cannot philosophically be fact … because … people lie, to themselves and to others. But I’m telling you that I lie, and so you can be freed from the burden of trying to figure out what is the truth.

Okay, I’ll put it this way. If I tell you something [it will be a lie] and you accept that thing as truth, then your mind reacts to the said thing as truth. Your mind then builds upon that acceptance of the truth to form its responses. Then, you respond accordingly. What happens, though, when, say, the truth is made known to you. What you believed was true was actually false. This newfound realization/revelation does not now simply deem your original response as a lie. You responded in truth, according to the information/knowledge that was shared with you as truth. So then what? The onus just ends up being upon each person as an individual to determine what is true and what is false?, that each person must seek and search for the infallible truth before responding to or creating any new thoughts? That seems, what’s the word?, … daunting?, … arbitrary?, … cruel? Ah, yes, that’s it; that seems cruel, at best. But remember?, I am a liar. So do you still want to know the truth about Mox and what he’s doing here in this timescape? I mean, your guess is as good as my lies. I will say this, nevertheless, you can always believe the words of a liar, since they [liars] will undoubtedly lie, and that’s the truth.

“Mox,” I whisper through an even gentler wind, again in an attempt to get Mox to stop rolling around all lax and comfortable, but my attempt to grab his attention so that I may explain to him the truth of his situation is foiled by the implosion of the flat world. As the flat world shrinks into itself, everything within it begins to funnel around and through a point the size of the tip of a pen. To the Circle’s Corner, then. And Mox seems unbothered. Everything collapses, and then with the faintest popping sound, all is lost. Slingshot through space and time, Mox traverses the infinite. Someone has traveled again.

Shivering upon the slick, shiny black floors of the orbital, a stranger approaches, kneels down to check on the incapacitated person, “Sir? Sir? Are you alright?” Nervous, I feel a bit frozen. “Sir?” the stranger continues. Sure enough, Mox begins to stir a bit. Looking disoriented, Mox hurls and spews vomit all over the stranger. “Uh,” Mox coughs; “Sorry.” Oh, gross. The stranger looks disgusted, “Uh, ah, it’s alright. Is there somewhere I can take you? I think I should take you to the hospital.” “Uh, I,” Mox starts as he tries to sit himself upright. The stranger, all too generously removes an outer layer of shirt and begins wiping himself off a bit. “Maybe some water?” Mox asks, looking a little pale. Honestly, this is the first time Mox has looked this bad after a bit of … uh … say … bad dreams. The stranger enthusiastically accommodates him, “Oh, yea, sure, I’ll be right back.” Mox looks as if he’s spinning a bit. It’s a little strange. Obviously, I could just ask him how he’s doing or feeling, but that’s not really my job. The stranger quickly returns, “Here you are. Maybe just a small sip to start off.” “Wow,” Mox genuinely states in surprise; “Thanks a lot, man.” “It’s Hauberk,” the stranger offers. Mox looks at the stranger as if confused. To my surprise, the stranger picks up on this, “My name. My name’s Hauberk.” “Oh, thanks, Hauberk,” Mox corrects. “It’s no problem, uh,” the stranger states while dangling encouragement for Mox to state his name. Mox sips some water and then notices the implication of the stranger’s pause, “Oh, I, I’m … It doesn’t matter,” Mox responds casually with a dismissive wave of his hand. And then Mox suddenly, violently spills water all over the unfortunate stranger. “Fuck! I’m … I … I’m … Shit!” Mox yells suddenly knowing better than to share his name with this Hauberk stranger, and then he furiously asks the stranger, “Where am I?” “We’re quite near the central fountain of Coax Six,” the stranger so kindly answers. “On the Orbital?” Mox further begs. “Yea, on one of the orbitals,” the stranger confirms. “No, THE ORBITAL!” Mox demands. The stranger looks a bit confused, “Uh, I’m not sure which The Orbital you’re thinking of.” “Shit,” Mox spits as he comes to a stand. “Hey, look man, I think you should take it easy,” the stranger suggests as he also stands to balance Mox by the shoulders. “No, I’m good,” Mox mutters; “I just need to know which orbital I’m on.” “It’s Orbital mmphsk [something I can’t make out from this distance],” the stranger softly states as if scared of Mox’s next reaction.

“Fuck,” Mox whispers, and then he sort of looks around as if looking for me, but of course, he cannot be. Nevertheless, Mox tries and speaks to me by simply speaking aloud while looking around as if speaking to a ghost, “I didn’t mean to come out of hiding.” The stranger takes a small step back as the tell-tale signs of fear cast a shadow over his face. “Uh, you look like you’re doing a lot better now,” the stranger observes as calmly as he can; “I guess I’ll just be on my way now.” Mox turns now to look directly at the stranger, “Who are you again?” The stranger contemplates whether or not this stroke of fortune that this man has forgotten his name already is good or bad, “Uh, I. It doesn’t matter. Just a good samaritan trying to help a guy out, ya know?” Hauberk starts to inch away slowly. “Hauberk,” Mox remembers; “It’s Hauberk, right?” Hauberk hangs his head low, disappointed, “Uh, yea, that’s me, but I should just be on my way now.” “No way, man! Please, you gotta help me,” Mox pleads; “If we are where you say we are, I’m in big trouble.” His turn to now turn pale, Hauberk attempts to excuse himself, “You know, I’d really love to help you out, but I’m already late for something. You’re looking a lot better, so really, I gotta go.” Mox looks reinvigorated, intent, “Look, Hauberk, I’ll either follow you around and force you to help me, or you can help me willingly.” “Shit man,” Hauberk responds; “That’s not fair, man.” “Suck it, asswipe,” Mox asserts; “What the fuck kind of name is Hauberk anyway? You’re coming with me. Now!” Mox whisper-shouts. Hauberk, unaware of the fact that the two of them exist within similar circumstances, arriving here at Orbital Didn’t-Catch-The-Name due to forces beyond them, begrudgingly follows.Mox and Hauberk silently make their way through Coax Six of the Orbital. They pass this and that and travel through here and there. Honestly, I am so freakin’ tempted at this point to abandon them and find Ladybug. But wait. What’s this? Hauberk begins to lag behind a bit. With Mox slightly unaware of Hauberk’s presumed attempt, I feel obligated to help the poor guy out. “Mox,” from a position behind him, I whisper. Mox turns just as Hauberk takes off in a full sprint in the opposite direction. “Motherfucker,” Mox spits aloud as he too takes off after him. With a spoke tunnel in the not-so-distant distance, Hauberk’s objective becomes clear. “Goddammit, Hauberk!” Mox screams in a desperate attempt to catch his man; “There’s nowhere to hide! They’ll find you! They’ve seen you!” Hauberk reaches the doors to the spoke tunnel that enables the transport of people and things, I guess, that can figure out how to use the spoke, in and around the Orbital. Quickly, Hauberk waves a call signal. Only a few steps behind, however, Mox reaches Hauberk just as the doors swing open and pummels Hauberk onto the floor of the capsule. Wrestling on top of each other within the capsule preparing to launch them to some other location within the Orbital, Mox screams, “You fucking fool!” The doors to the capsule seal shut. The pull of the vacuum blocks the information I need, and I can no longer see nor hear them. It looks like the capsule will transport them to … let’s see … Coax Three. Okay, then.

Tale of Two Squirrels

Tale of Two Squirrels

[if this were a print publication of this book, two blank pages would exist here…if you’d like to begin at the beginning of this online expression of a sci-fi manuscript written many years ago about time travelers and travelers of time, read Ladybug & The Lingerer {also on medium dot com}, and you’ll eventually read yourself here, or read whatever chapters you’d like in whatever order you deem best…*peace sign emoji*]

[begin chapter]

“Have you heard the Tale of Two Squirrels?” the older woman, again, asks aloud, seemingly to nobody. “Yes, very good,” the older woman congratulates; “If you have heard the tale, well then, please do tell of its meaning. No? To know of a thing while lacking the intelligence to understand the thing may always be forgiven, however, knowing of a gap in one’s knowledge without taking the necessary measures to fill that gap ought never be forgiven. Nevertheless, to know a thing for certain reveals the fool. Thus, do you want to hear the Tale of Two Squirrels?” The older woman walks toward the center of the cylindrical room where a plush armchair sits, accompanied by a tiny side table barely large enough to hold a drinking vessel. Seated, the older woman sits in the plush armchair, “Excellent.”

“At the edge of a wooded forest, a few trees extended beyond the sprawling tree line, inhabiting that strange boundary where the edge effect creates visible, understandable chaos. Here, two trees grew, spread apart by random brush, multiple grasses and varied wildlife. In each of the trees, a single squirrel lived, happy, healthy, hopeful that the life that had been given was a life worth living. How each arrived at their respective tree does not matter, thus, let the presumptions fly free. One day, one of the squirrels, a male, spotted the other squirrel in the not-so-near yet not-so-faraway tree. Excited, he jumped with excitement in an attempt to catch the other squirrel’s attention. For days the other squirrel, a female (or another male or make the other squirrel a female also, the details hardly matter for the purposes of a tale), failed to notice the pursuits of the male squirrel. No matter, he did not give up. Resilient and resourceful, he created large fans to wave and catch the light of the daily sun. Then, finally, the most glorious day arrived when the other squirrel recognized the efforts of the other squirrel. Curious, the female waved back and the two struck up a friendship. The trees, separated by treacherous terrain that made the distance ever too far to jump, provided adequate vantage points from which each could communicate with the other. And so, for a period of time, the two squirrels laughed and shared life from a distance.

“Then, one early morning, the male squirrel woke to the tingling sensation of longing. Even though he had never spent any time in the physical presence of his friend, he missed her. Skeptical of what the female squirrel might think, he worked up the courage to ask if she would be interested in having him visit her in her tree. Perhaps they could live together in the same tree. Before he asked, however, a ray of good fortune came his way in the form of her asking about whether or not one tree could sustain two squirrels. Thus, for an unknowable amount of time, the two squirrels discussed and theorized about one tree’s ability to sustain the both of them. Eventually, they decided that one tree could in fact provide for them. Delighted, the male squirrel finally asked if he could come live in her tree with her. She enthusiastically obliged and communicated that his presence would make her very happy, but being the strong, independent squirrel that she was, she proffered to be the one to make the dangerous journey through the treacherous unknown between them. The male squirrel honestly considered her offer. And so, for another unknowable amount of time, the two debated who was best suited to make the journey. Designing and challenging each other with various tasks that could be fulfilled within each of their own trees, the squirrels underwent a rigorous test of physicality and compared their performances. In the end, they came up with a plan that would utilize both of their strengths.

“The female squirrel (again, which squirrel is assigned to which attributes does not matter if the tale is changed for a reversal of genders or a homogenous-gender retelling) was larger, and so, they thought maybe she would look more appetizing to predators, she was also smarter, in that earlier in their relationship, she had taught the male squirrel how to stockpile food more efficiently. The male squirrel, being smaller, was quite quick, which made him a better candidate to run the distance between the two trees. And so, the plan unfolded in such a way that the two worked together to design armour out of tree bark that the male squirrel would wear as he journeyed through the treachery. Just as the male squirrel descended his tree, the female squirrel would jump down onto the ground on the side opposite the side toward which the male squirrel would run as a distraction. During the hottest part of the day, the two would practice jumping down and running up their respective trees, the male in his armour, the female in an attempt to see if she could draw the attention of hungry predators. Over the course of a few days, the female would make suggestions about flaws she saw in the armour, and the male would make suggestions about how she could scale the tree even faster. Then, the day of the traversal finally arrived.

“Both squirrels woke early in the morning to go over their plan. They had not really worked out a plan if either were caught and taken away seeing how that would merely be the end of all this nonsense anyhow. Therefore, they focused on what they each could do. After a long, loving conversation about the time they had already spent together, the sun sang its midday song. The two squirrels danced a short little dance together, apart, in their own trees. Feeling excited for a new chapter of their lives yet nauseated by the fear of death, the two carefully climbed down to the lower portion of trunk. At some point, they could no longer see each other through the thick brush covering the ground between them. Just as they reached this point, they waved and spoke words of optimistic finality. Then, they each jumped.

“The male squirrel ran faster than he had ever run in his life. He did his best to keep the top of the tree to which he was headed centered directly in front of him, but then he heard the tell-tale sign of a predator. Immediately, he came to a halt and froze. The tiniest swishes of movement pierced his ears. He could hear his little heart beating faster and harder. Then, he recognized the sound of the female squirrel screeching as if injured. His predator bolted away, unseen. He made another run for it. Meanwhile, the female was writhing and making all sorts of commotion at the base of her tree until she too heard the approaching predator. Waiting until the last possible moment, she feigned injury and screamed as loudly as possible. As her spine began to tingle to the point where she knew danger was imminent, she waited a split moment longer and then blasted up the trunk of her tree, just in time. A small cat caught a glimpse of her and chased her right up to the tippy top of her tree. The cat, being larger and heavier, could only scale about halfway up before the limbs of the tree became too thin to support the weight. The cat batted and scratched at her as she hung on for dear life. Luckily, the distraction was working. The male squirrel had made excellent progress and made it to the base of the female’s tree. A new problem, however, developed. The female was trapped at the top of the tree; the cat kept close eyes on her from a branch in the middle of the tree, and the male remained in danger upon the ground. Each squirrel resisted the temptation to communicate another plan.

“Then, the female executed an extraordinary feat. Knowing that the male squirrel had safely reached the base of the tree, she knew that he could perhaps hide along the very base of the tree, camouflaged by his tree-bark armour. Carefully, the female squirrel mimed a little mime about how he could hide and potentially look like part of the tree. The only problem was his tail. After so much time miming to each other from their respective trees, he understood what she was saying and then tucked his tail into the top of his back armour. With the cat’s attention still fixed upon the female, the male was free to gesture that he was ready, and then he began to do a short countdown with his toes. ‘Three, two, one,’ he gestured, and then he crouched tight under his tree-bark armour as she jumped from the top of the tree onto the ground. Immediately, the cat reacted to her movement and also jumped from the tree. The male, safe from the view of the cat, ran up the tree and began to peel off his armour. Running furiously around on the ground, the female quickly grew tired. Luckily, the male squirrel began throwing the pieces of his armour at the cat. Confused and a bit distracted, the cat stopped but for only a split second to look around. It was just enough time for the female to split and make her way safely to the tree. The cat, however, recovered quite quickly and saw the female scrambling up the tree and followed. Seeing the female and the cat rushing toward him, the male too ran up to the tippy top of the tree. Again, with a stroke of good fortune, the cat could only make it about halfway up the tree before the branches began to bend under its weight. Frustrated at being foiled twice, the cat slowly climbed down and jumped out of the tree, turned back to look up the tree, hissed and made its way through the treacherous brush. Exhausted yet exhilarated, the two squirrels embraced each other in a long overdue hug. They made their way down to the female squirrel’s nest and rolled around until the day grew dark. That night they slept like babies, each in the comfort of the other.

“The next morning seemed like the most glorious day. They woke to a bright sun-filled, cloudless scene, filled to the brim in ecstasy. In fact, they were so happy, they failed to see the impending danger of a bird circling overhead. Through the course of the morning, they chased each other up and down the top portion of the tree, shared a meal together, and talked ceaselessly about the adventures of the day before. Then, suddenly, without a hint of threat, the circling bird dove down to the top of the tree, just as the female squirrel ran up the tree from a playful chase and snapped up the female squirrel. The female reached out while screaming in defiance. The male squirrel ran furiously up the tree in an attempt to jump up and reach the female to no avail. Unbeknownst to them, this particular bird didn’t eat squirrel, and so, as the bird flew over the former tree of the male squirrel, it dropped the female who landed quite safely within the branches of the male’s tree. Relieved to still be alive, the female squirrel’s emotions soon flooded with bewilderment. After checking if she was indeed free of injury, she positioned herself near the top of the male’s tree and looked out beyond the treacherous ground below to see that the male squirrel seemed safely within her tree. They communicated that they were each fully intact and safe.

“Fearful and confused, they spent a few days not talking about how to reach each other again. Eventually, however, they decided to enact the same plan as before, and again, the male successfully reached his old tree. Delighted and excited, they forgot about the misery of being separated, and again, chased each other up and down his old tree, now their new tree. And again, after a few days this time, another bird circled, snatched the female and returned her to her original tree. For an eternity, the two squirrels lived in and accepted this harmonious discord.”

“Kill this Lingerer,” the older woman commands a nearby subject.

“But, Ma’am. A deal was made.”

“The liar always prevails in the end.”

“Then what is to come of this position?”

“A replacement.”

“But Ma’am. The conditions of the knowledge known by each version of tellers has been discussed. How will the story unfold in its entirety?”

“Enough. End it now.”

[The sound of static]


…tap the category Bromides to read all of the chapters related to this writing :)

He Arrives

He Arrives

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. 

She & The [Old] Man

She & The [Old] Man

Landfill. Yes, she thinks to herself as she climbs over a large pile of, what seems to be, garbage toward the archway of the front door through which she needs to enter; landfill seems like the right word. The heap never lets up. “Excuse me?” she calls through an outstretched neck while still atop the trash mound. Rustling. A man pokes his head around a corner just far enough to catch a blurry glimpse of red hair. “Excuse me, sir?” The man cannot see her very well at this distance, but she does not know that. He can, however, tell that she is a she, by her voice, of course. “Yes? What is it? I think that you are quite late, my dear,” the man shouts from behind the wall, unseen. She begins to clamber down the heap. “It’s not ready anyway,” the man continues on, “A message was sent to you days ago regarding this exact delay. Why are you here?” She stands silently. More rustling. The man emerges from beyond the wall around which he was hidden and slides into the less cluttered room in which she stands. “Oh,” the man states in surprise after now having a look at her. He takes a step back and examines her from a safe albeit oddly close distance. “Hmmmm,” he murmurs. She feels the urge to take off her shoes. “Not yet,” the man instructs. “How long have you been here?” “I only just arrived,” she answers. “No, when did you arrive here here,” the man urges. “Yesterday,” she responds after understanding what the man was initially asking. “Oh, yes,” the man sighs, “Your arrival does make some sense to me now.” The man stops pacing, makes his way to a dusty, darkened window sill, sits and crosses his left arm over his torso as if hugging himself while simultaneously propping his right elbow on the arm so that the fingers of his right hand may stroke his face.

The sounds of another person ring through the corridor beyond the garbage heap. She turns to see who approaches. “Ah,” says the shining face of someone she does not know although she does feel as though she must know him, “I’m so sorry that I don’t have any work for you this session,” the shining face laments. “May I, at the very least, take you out to dinner. I really do wish I could’ve given you the work. I love to send my money into the hands of people I love,” the shining face exclaims a little too loudly. Confusion. “I,” she begins, but the man cuts her off. “She doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter,” the man shouts with a dismissive flick of his wrist. “Well, just come on by for dinner whenever you have a chance,” the shining face blurts out over the heap as the face continues its ascent up the stairs. The man, still perched on the dusty sill, wonders aloud, “Is she supposed to be here now?” “As opposed to when?” she whispers. “Where were you just before you arrived here?” the man asks, and then finally corrects, “the old man.” “I was walking through a dark corridor with …“ she starts, but the old man cuts her off again. “So you did receive my message!” “I received a message. Then I went to go pick up the package, but when I got there …” “That goddamn corridor!” the old man shouts. She knows that this old man has the answer to the only question for which she needs an answer, but she does not know the question. “Yes,” quietly now, the old man speaks gently, “I do have the answer, but I cannot help you until you know the question.” “Do …” she begins. “No,” the old man replies.

They share the space of the cluttered room, the old man still at the sill, she standing on one of the only bare squares of floor. Through the dusty window she can see the glittery sunlight force its significance between the tiny cracks where the dust has not infected. She looks down at her shoes; they are of the dirty sort with which she is less comfortable. She watches the old man think. The realization that she will, unfortunately, have to wait in this … filthy place for an unknowable amount of time dawns on her. “Yes,” the old man states. “There is a room over there that is less, as you put it, filthy. Come.” She carefully follows the old man into a much nicer room that’s filled with ancient technology and plant-based materials. The only pieces of furniture are a bright purple velvet wingback chair, a piano stool unaccompanied by a piano, a large dining table unaccompanied by chairs, and a small table barely large enough to house one large lamp. “No, there is no bed in this place,” the old man answers, “but there is food. Are you hungry?” “Yes,” she responds with curiosity.

She thinks about what it is that she even wants to eat. “It’s difficult to know such a thing at this point,” the old man interjects between her thoughts. “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think ‘food’?” Sandwich, she thinks softly in her mind. “A …” she begins. “Ah yes,” the old man concludes, “Good choice.” The old man leaves her in the velvet chair with knowing eyes. She feels … she feels …

It’s warm. Mox’s tree stands alone, distant in a grassy field lit by the sun’s evening glow. Air rushes by, caresses her face in a swirl of comfort. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath of the fresh air. Exhale. Clouds form. With the flash of cracking thunder, a storm billows instantaneously over her. The sun, darkened, retreats. Her eyes burn. The stream of a familiar voice reverberates throughout the field. Muted, faded, the green of the grass turns pale. She runs toward the tree as it, too, loses its vibrant saturation. Colorless, the grey-scale off of which everything now no longer bounces the sun’s magnificent light strikes her with a vomitous ache. She stops and keels over. “You cannot know that which cannot be known,” the wind whispers as it blows through her hair. She blinks a single tear from her searing, watering eyes.

Cold and stale air hits her face. She opens her eyes to see the old man standing before her with a plate and cup in hand. “How,” she mutters. “It’s only been a few minutes,” the old man answers, “Relax.” “I …” she begins again. “Mox cannot remain hidden for much longer,” the old man responds. She feels something. With a little understanding that her words mean nothing to this man (old man), she begins a thought, Why am I here? “I cannot know that which cannot be known,” the old man replies. “Focus on what you do know, without doubt,” the old man instructs as he hands her the plate with a rudimentary sandwich made of flat bread, an orange sauce and something else she prefers not to know, “And eat this.” But what is it?, runs cooly through her mind. “Bread and cheese,” the man states flatly. Oh, thank you, she thanks in thought.

“Now, tell me about this tree,” the old man demands ever so benevolently while making a seat out of a stack of books and other plant-based materials. It’s not a tree. “What does it represent then?” I’m not to tell details to strangers. “I am not a stranger.” I have doubts. “Very well, then. Does it have a physical location?” Mind clear, she sits silently and eats her sandwich. Then she wonders how she can keep her mind so free of thought, but wait, this is a thought she is having now. The old man chuckles amicably. “Interesting,” the old man speaks aloud. Silence. “I’ll tell you if you really want to know,” the old man offers. Tell me what? “How it is that you can keep your mind so clear.” Does it matter? “Of course not.” Silence.

“If not the tree, then tell me about the boy who brought you here.” What? “The boy you followed into the dark corridor.” But … “It’s okay, I’m very familiar with him. He is why you’re here, in my presence.” Then tell me his name. “Why should I? You don’t even know his name. It was a faulty test of my trustworthiness.” I followed my feet and ended up at his door. “He was upset.” Yes. “You were expected much earlier.” Yes. “What was the delay?” I have doubts. “Where were you before your feet brought you to him?” My home. “And before that?” But you know. “Her presence haunts all, not just you. Could you decipher the contents of the capsule?” Yes. “But I am a stranger.” But you already know. 

The room begins to expand as if it were a balloon filling with helium. The old man’s thoughts make wind and disrupt every particle of settled dust. Calm, she sits. Noisy, every plant-based material rips violently throughout the space. And then, silence. When the mind works at its optimum level, time stands still while every tangible object floats in the limbo between being known and unknown. Through the window now free of dust she can see the glistening sun through the outer glass of the orbital. This place the (old) man lives in, she thinks, rests at the edge; there’s nothing but a cold, dark vacuum beyond these walls.

The room again as it was before the old man’s mindscape, “Interesting.” I feel like I’ve never been here before. “And.” And yet, I do not feel lost. “Do you know who you are?” Yes. “Who are you?”