The boyo working the transmitter doesn’t look like much, except his face is radiant. Radiant, like one of those pooka upworld adverts for neural templates. Dopamine-druggy, but lucid. Like he’s in love. Boyo also looks like he hasn’t spoken to a human in days, and like aside from the food allotments he doesn’t have a lick of capital. His clothes have that washed-while-wearing look, and they’re homespun; no fancy imported fabrics or styles. You’d walk away from this jondo in the market.
The bazaar on the moon that wandered Transitional Space did not meet Kestre sa Elaya’s exacting requirements for a safe transaction. In years past, as the duelist prime of House Elaya, she would have journeyed with an honor guard to the much-feted Gray Manse. Her meeting would have involved liquors imported from the Flower Worlds and delectable canapés and candies, some of which she would pocket to give to her nieces when she returned home.
I have experienced some tastes of my afterlife as a crustacean. In it, I am one of many, on a beach with purple sand abutting a sea that could be water but might be some other liquid entirely, beneath stars that seem larger and brighter than any I see in the night sky now. The effect is very alien, but I have no idea whether the place really looks that strange, because I am looking at it with the eyes of a creature not human, which may be seeing it in spectra my human self cannot measure.
Before she became a hermit, Asa –π had been a managing director with JP Morgan Credit Suisse on Valentina Station, Venus. She would, of course, find this description small-minded and obtuse. “Call a woman a financial engineer or a man an agricultural systems analyst, and the world thinks they know something about them,” she wrote. “But what does the job a person has been channeled into have to do with who they are?” Nonetheless, I will tell you that she was responsible for United Planet’s public offering thirty years ago.
Only when Marlo and her mother have followed the attendants through the faux-marble foyer and into the room filled with diffusers and soft jazz and laid down on the massage tables covered in crisp, clean-smelling sheets; only when someone has placed a cool gel pack over Marlo’s eyes and set something against her skin that starts kneading, a familiar, needling motion that ignites a distant spark of recognition within her; only then does Marlo understand where her mother has taken her. She pushes back her eye mask and sits up.
I hate when I have a call in Inglewood. It’s still the 1990s in Inglewood, and for all I know, people still care about Madonna. Los Angeles County has a forty-bed psych facility there. Arrowhead looks like a nursing home: a long one-story building with a wide wheelchair ramp and glass doors and overly bright, easy-to-clean floors. I stop at the reception desk and check in. “Rosni Gupta,” I say. “I’m here to do an evaluation.” The young man at the desk catches his bottom lip in his teeth and nods.
For as long as I can remember, I have always been two people. My earliest recollection is of myself as a three year-old boy, Danny—and at the same time as a girl of the same age, Cristina. Another early memory is of playing in the rubble of the bomb-ravaged streets of London, when I asked a little boy, “Who will you be tomorrow?” He looked at me as if I were mad. I took it for granted that everyone I met, everyone in the world, was two people like me.
Allen was watching news of the nearest shooting when he decided he needed a tattoo to cover his neck. He had one over his heart, and one on each eyelid. His forehead and cheeks were covered, and enough of his lungs that he might live if he got lucky. He didn’t have the money to ink his back or chest, but he had saved enough for the neck, where more and more people were getting shot these days, he explained to his wife. “More and more people are not getting shot in the neck,” she said, lighting a joint, her eyes narrowing to slits as she dragged.
If you had a warp drive, it would be easy. The mathematics are strange the way ley lines are strange, invisible yet divinable. You’ve pulled your way up sterner mountains, fingertip by fingertip. You’ve already compensated for stellar motion, spacetime curvature, hyperspatial congruences. You’ve scratched out hundreds of equations in cold blue hyacinth ink and piled them away in the knitted stocking under your bed, where only Berenice would think to look. Equations that would tell you exactly where to slice a hole between worlds, if only you had the right knife.
I was working the squirt station on the breakfast shift at Peevs Burgers when I learned that my best friend’s life was over. The squirt guns were connected by hoses to tanks, each tank containing a different slew formula. Orders appeared in lime-green letters on my screen, and I squirted accordingly. Two Sausage Peev Sandwiches took two squirts from the sausage slew gun. An order of Waffle Peev Sticks was three small dabs of waffle slew. The slew warmed and hardened on the congealer table, and because I’d paid attention during the twenty-minute training course and applied myself, I knew just when the slew was ready.