“I’m a particle physicist,” Claire would tell her dates, dumbing things down, because people never believed that a woman could be tinkering with the very fabric of time. That was firmly established in the popular imagination as a man’s job, probably an elderly man with white hair and wild eyes.
Claire’s hair was brown with red highlights, and she had nice eyes.
“What does that mean?” asked Andy, for whom Claire had high hopes.
“Maybe one day I will get you to my lab, and show you,” she told him.
After that, the evening went well.
They had six good months together, though she never seemed to have enough time for him.
“My work comes first,” Claire told herself. “Once I’ve had a breakthrough, there will be time for us.”
Then, just when she was really making progress with her research, another woman lured him away. This was made especially galling by the fact the other woman was herself.
“But he’s my boyfriend,” Claire protested.
“Yes, but he was mine, too,” future Claire pointed out. “Also, I have this fancy gun from the 28th century.”
“What does it do?” asked Claire, interested despite herself.
“Drills through time,” future Claire explained. “Look.”
“Ooo, pretty,” admired Claire. “And what...argh!”
But even as she plummeted into the time hole, she couldn’t really hate future Claire for pushing her. Part of her was just cheered that some future version of her had achieved her research goals.
“What’s that?” asked the serf, in an archaic regional dialect.
“Time Catapult,” replied Claire tersely.
She pulled the lever, and was quietly disappointed when the mechanism collapsed inwards into an embarrassingly small and short-lived time vortex.
“Bugger,” she said.
The principles were there, it was the local materials which were letting her down.
She had tried so hard, she had poured so much effort into her work. And yet she was still not there. She still couldn’t do it. And she had to do it, or else there would be...
Then she had an idea.
She gathered up all her spare bits of equipment - everything that might possibly be used to make another Time Device Of Some Description - and chucked them down a handy well.
“Do you know what you’re doing?” asked the serf.
“Who does, really?” Claire replied. “Sometimes you just have to give it your best guess.”
“And your best guess involves...?” asked the serf.
“Giving up,” explained Claire.
She sat down.
“And that’s going to work...how?” asked the serf.
“Not how,” corrected Claire. “When. And the answer is...”
There was a puff of fundamental particles, and a woman with flowing grey hair and sparkly skin appeared.
“Now, now, now,” said the woman severely. “What is the meaning of this?”
“Who is she?” asked the serf.
“Father Time,” explained Claire. She hesitated. “Well, the personification is traditionally male, but...”
“Progress,” said the woman curtly. “Now what’s this ‘giving up’ nonsense?”
“What it says on the can,” said Claire. “I’m done. I’m out.”
Mother Time narrowed her eyes.
“Oh, no you’re not,” she said fiercely.
“Yup,” said Claire, laying herself down in on the ground and letting out a contented sigh.
“You can’t give up!” chided Mother Time. “If you do that, how are you ever going to get back to your own time, and win back what’s-his-face?”
“I’m not,” said Claire simply. “I’m quite happy with this bloke.”
The serf waved nervously. Mother Time frowned, and blasted him with a ray of frozen moments. The serf went reeling backwards into a time loop.
“No - you’re - NOT!” Mother Time growled. “You’re getting back to your bloody work, pronto!”
“Or else?” said Claire sweetly.
“Or else you’ll never be there to steal Andrew and zap you back in time in the first place, obviously!” snapped Mother Time. “It’s time paradoxes 101! And it’s bad news, I can tell you!”
“Not for me,” said Claire. “I don’t look after the very fabric of time, after all. Not my responsibility. Think I’ll just relax and watch that silly bugger for a bit.”
The serf waved nervously from his time loop. He was doing it rather a lot.
There was the sound of teeth grinding.
Mother Time was not best pleased.
“Fine,” said Mother Time at last. “You win. I suppose one of us has to act responsibly.”
Claire grinned at her, and held out her hand.
Mother Time leaned in an odd direction, and minutes and seconds tumbled around them.
“I’m only doing this once,” Mother Time grumbled. “After this, you’re on your own.”
The minutes rattled into hours, then days, weeks and years started howling past.
At last, Mother Time leant back. In her hand she held something Claire recognised. It was nifty-looking.
“Nice one,” she said, picking up the time gun from the 28th century.
“Fine,” said Mother Time, ungraciously. “Just be sure to sort out this mess. I hate bloody paradoxes.”
She waited until Mother Time had gone before using the gun to un-peel the serf from the time loop.
“Urgh,” said the serf. “I feel like I was just hit by a thousand Tuesday.”
“I know the feeling,” Claire sympathised. “Falling through a time hole’s not much fun, either.”
Then she lifted the nifty-looking gun, and took a deep breath. It was time to win back her man.
It was time, she thought, to make some time for him.
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The beautiful illustration used for this story is by Leo Colonna - many thanks!
Certain places take up spaces in your heart and mind.
Blurred traces of half-seen faces are sometimes all you find.
Once you went there, might have stayed there, for a year or three.
Figures fey, glamour betrayed, ‘neath a swooning tree.
Certain dreams echo themes you may have lived one day
But though they gleam nothing seems to ever stick or stay
A queen, a court; a broken fort; bracken and grass and star
You love there caught, then came up short, and still you bear the scar.
Certain times, you start to mind, and worry why you stayed.
But then you find you can’t rewind, and curse the day you strayed.
This normal world is quite unfurled, known and mapped and grey
While all in bold beyond the fold those certain places play.
Illustration by An Anim.
She was too young to die.
That’s what Chloe had screamed, as the car hurtled out of control, ploughing over the roadside barriers, and careening down the steep mountainside towards the rocks and crashing waves below.
“Nope,” said the voice next to her. “Just too Chosen. Assuming you look lively and use your powers, that is.”
Chloe looked over. A huge badger was sat in the passenger seat, regarding her with large, inscrutable eyes. Behind the badger, the rock face continued to flash by outside the window. Only it had slowed to a crawl. Something odd was happening with time. But that would have to wait. Right now Chloe had odd animals to deal with. She would move on to the odd other stuff in due course.
“Are you...death?” Chloe asked the badger.
The badger stared at her solemnly.
“Only to earthworms,” it told her. “Now come on. I’ve slowed time down, but there’s only so much I can do.”
“Hmm?” said Chloe, whose previous experience of talking badgers was approximately zero.
“Chop chop,” urged the badger. “Make with the powers, already. Unless you want to end up spread over this very pretty coastline, that is. Your choice.”
“But I don’t have any...” she started to protest.
“You don’t have any powers, yeah, yeah,” said the badger, sounding exasperated. “Honestly, that’s what your grandmother told me, and her grandmother before that; and with respect, they soon learned that their understanding of reality was pretty fundamentally flawed, and you will too, sweetheart.”
“Sweetheart?” she repeated, “Isn’t that a bit...?”
“Sexist?” said the badger. “Patronising? Yeah, maybe. But unless you pull out those powers, pronto, we’re not going to have much time to discuss the finer points of civilised conversation.”
“Look,” said Chloe, who was getting a little cross herself, “I don’t know what the hell you're talking about! I don’t have any powers! I’m just a normal twenty four year old woman, with normal twenty four year old problems! Like money worries, and relationship stuff, and...and...”
“And plunging over a cliff into fiery oblivion?” offered the badger helpfully.
There was an embarrassed pause.
“Ok, fine, not all my problems are ordinary,” Chloe admitted. “That doesn’t mean I can just, like, wave my hands in the air, and...”
Chloe waved her hands dramatically in front of her, and//
//and the scene of rapidly approaching rock-based death was replaced by an empty white space.
“Urgh,” said Chloe, who abruptly found that she was no longer sitting in a car, nor indeed plunging anywhere. This turn of event was distinctly discombobulating.
“I thought it better to come here first,” said the badger.
“Where is here?” said Chloe, trying extremely hard not to vomit.
“An in-between place,” said the badger, in a very final sort of way. Chloe wasn’t sure if the world was spinning around her. In the blank white emptiness, it was difficult to tell. She thought for a moment, and was then violently sick.
The vomit glistened for a moment, then dissolved into the blank whiteness.
“Where did it...?”
“No time for that,” said the badger, a shade briskly. “I can’t hold this for long, you know.”
“Hold what?” she demanded, thoroughly bemused now.
“Hold us here,” said the badger testily, as if she were asking the most stupid questions he had ever heard. “My, you don’t have much more sense than a goldfish, do you? No, don’t answer that. An insult to goldfish, I suppose.”
“Now wait a minute...” Chloe started to say.
“No,” said the badger, “more like twenty or thirty seconds, if we’re lucky.”
“Well...well you better make it quick then,” said Chloe, a little lamely.
“Finally, sense at last,” sighed the badger. “Listen: you are the carrier of a mystical energy. The latest in a long line of Chosen Ones, destined to help bring balance to the Storystream.”
“To the...Storystream,” Chloe repeated blankly.
“Exactly,” said the badger. “In rather small ways, I suppose, but not all Chosen Ones are chosen equally.”
“But what is the...” Chloe started to say, and at that moment the white blankness flashed away, replaced by//
//a huge dragon, red and silver scales flashing in the strange light of a distant purple sun. Chloe looked down. She was mounted on a large and vaguely fierce looking...badger?
The dragon stared at her, momentarily confused, she assumed, by the sudden and unexpected appearance of a young woman mounted on an enormous badger.
“Help!” came a high, urgent voice from the ground below.
Chloe blinked, trying desperately not to fall off her badger.
There was a brief pause during which no one did any helping.
The badger underneath Chloe gave a meaningful shake of its nose.
“Oh,” said Chloe, suddenly understanding that she was meant to be the one doing the helping, rather than the other way around. “Sorry. Right.”
She cast around in what she hoped was a generally helpful way.
“Help!” came the voice again, when it had worked out that Chloe probably wasn’t going to find it without extra input.
Chloe looked down.
Far below, so small she seemed no bigger than a tiny doll, a fantastically imperilled-looking princess was tied to a stake.
Chloe gave the woman a little wave.
“Hi,” she said. “How’s everything?”
“Oh, you know,” said the princess, with a slight brittleness to her voice which Chloe misliked. “Just hanging around waiting to be rescued. It’s great fun. I’m sure someone will be along any minute.”
A stab of guilt shot through Chloe...and came up hard against a slab of pure I’ve-taken-enough-crap-today shaped determination.
She felt herself going very still.
“Do you now?” she asked, looking down at the - very pretty, and Chloe was sure - entirely charming princess. “Must be hard work.”
The badger stirred uneasily beneath her, but Chloe had had about as much of the badger as she felt she could take, too, and she ignored it.
The princess glared up at her, eyes flashing.
For a moment she was speechless.
“How dare you?” the princess demanded. “You don’t know what it’s like! To be tied up here, awaiting almost certain devouring by Klaxor, here. He’s simply horrid. And his breath smells.”
The princess indicated the huge red and silver dragon, who made a hurt whining noise.
Chloe was beginning to get the distinct impression she didn’t like this princess. The princess reminded her entirely too much of some of the girls she had known at school. The overly-entitled ones. The snobbish ones. The ones who always had immaculate hair and makeup, and got what they wanted without having to ask, and...
“Psst,” said the badger, just a shade sarcastically. “FYI - this isn’t going quite according to plan.”
“Really?” said Chloe, who found that all at once she cared very little for plans. She had been subject to other people’s plans all her life. “How so?”
“Well, generally speaking you’re supposed to flit between stories, help them run smoothly,” the badger went on. “Here, for instance, it would be customary to rescue the princess from the clutches of the evil dragon.”
“Sounds pretty dull,” Chloe muttered. “And what’s happened to whoever was meant to do the rescuing, anyway.”
The badger gave a shrug.
“I suppose someone forgot to file the requisite paperwork,” it said dryly. “That sort of thing happens all the time.”
“Wait a minute,” said Chloe. “A moment ago you told me that I was...what was it? A Chosen One destined to bring balance to somewhere or other, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, right,” said the badger. “You got a problem with that, sweetheart?”
“The latest in a long line of possessors of a sacred power,” Chloe went on, ignoring the patronising badger. “Isn’t that’s right?”
There was a pause.
“That’s about the size of it, yeah,” agreed the badger.
“And I’m meant to do that by rescuing overly-entitled recipients of inherited socio-political inequality from endangered species of spectacular flying reptiles?” said Chloe.
“More or less,” allowed the badger. “I mean, dragons aren’t reptiles, but yeah, basically.”
Chloe thought about this for a moment.
Then she sighed.
If she was the wielder of a vast and mystical power, then she was sure as hell going to do things her way.
“What a load of horse shit,” she said.
“What?” said the badger. It sounded genuinely shocked, as if it had been half asleep up until now.
“I’m not rescuing her,” said Chloe firmly, indicating the princess. “I know her type.”
There was a brief, enraged pause from down below.
“How dare you!” the princess yelled up at her, in very unladylike tones. “You stupid commoner! You ignorant whelp! You...!”
“Step on her,” Chloe ordered.
“What?” asked the badger once more. It sounded more shocked than ever.
“Step on her,” Chloe repealed.
“I can’t do that,” said the badger. But Chloe heard the faint wistfulness in its voice, and she realised with a jolt of satisfaction that she had won.
“Can’t you?” Chloe asked. “I am the wielded of strange and mystic power, after all.”
Down below, the princess was still spewing out a torrent of venomous words, unable to hear the exchange between Chloe and her badger.
The badger licked his lips, thoughtful.
Then he shrugged.
“When you put it like that,” he said.
The badger lifted one enormous foot.
“And another thing,” the princess shouted. “Do you have any idea the kind of stress I go through, wondering what sort of prince is going to turn up? Only to find it’s not a prince, just some silly chit of a girl riding a...riding...oh!”
The words faltered as the princess realised what was happening.
There was no time to scream.
The sound of a huge badger foot slamming into the mountainous terrain echoed solemnly across the world.
There was a long, happy silence.
“There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” said Chloe briskly.
She looked over at Klaxor. The huge red and silver dragon gave her a nervous half smile. Chloe nodded at him.
“Off you go then,” she told the dragon breezily. “I’m sure this stupid story didn’t have much nice lined up for you. Better get going and make the most of things.”
She smiled to herself as the dragon gave a happy squark and launched itself off into the distance, wings flapping majestically against the purple sun.
“How’s that for bringing balance?” she muttered, half talking to herself.
“You know, that’s not how things usually go,” the badger told her thoughtfully. Chloe was pleased to note that it did not sound disapproving. Quite the reverse, in fact.
“No?” said Chloe. “Maybe it’s the way they should. Stories can be pretty stupid.”
Chloe nodded to herself, satisfied. As she did so, the world seemed to hum and shudder. A power was growing in her. An awareness. She could sense the flow of story around her, of narrative currents.
“Do you know,” said the badger, “you remind me very much of your great great great great aunt Margery. She was the first of your line. She didn’t take much nonsense, either.”
“Sounds like a sensible woman,” said Chloe. “What do you mean, first of my line.”
“Oh, she was the first possessor of the power,” said the badger. “It was she who won it. Got given the charter, as it were.”
Chloe could almost see the flows of it now: the glimmers of narrative potential which flashed through the world, the lines of force which held the story together. And, behind that, she could sense the thin places, too. The places where one might, with a little push, break through, from one story into another.
“The charter?” she repeated vaguely. “What charter?”
“Well, your charter, obviously,” said the badger, with a little of its previous condescension. “You are her now, after all.”
Chloe’s eyes fixed on a portion of the horizon. It was thin there. That was where they needed to break through. She wondered what story they would find next.
“I am who?” she asked, though she found that she knew already.
“The bringer of balance,” came the reply. “The fighter of wrongs. The squisher of overly-entitled princesses. The Power Badger.”
Chloe nodded to herself in satisfaction.
“The Power Badger, eh?” She said. “I like the sound of that.”
Then she urged her badger forward, and tore the storywall in front of her with one swift blow. She wondered where they would go next.
Wherever it was, she hoped they were ready for her.
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Ki looked at the thing he had made. From his vantage point three rungs up the ladder of phase space, he could see it spread-eagled in nineteen dimensions. It had spheres and lines, energetic colours, delicate curves that were beautiful in their endless inevitability. It was pretty.
“Well, it’s not bad,” allowed Ola, grudgingly. “I still prefer mine, though.”
The two pan-dimensional entities were comparing their attempts at substrates with which to fill lower Universes. It passed eternity.
Ki regarded Ola’s most recent creation, and frowned.
It was true: hers was certainly more elegant.
“I like the lights,” he muttered. “Lights are a nice touch.”
“You think that’s good?” Ola replied, complacent in her victory. “See what happens when I do this...”
Ola leaned into the little Universe, Phase Space telescoping around her as she gave it a flick, sending it rocketing along one further dimension: time.
The substrate flared brightly, much to Ki’s surprise, exploding in a kaleidoscopic panorama of colours, before dissipating gently into a barely perceptible hum of thin-spread background radiation.
“Well, good game,” sniffed Ola. “We must play again.”
She stared at him, waiting for a response. But Ki was too flabbergasted by what he had seen. Time - in one of the lower realities! Imagine that! And the way her substrate had behaved, flaring then dissipating. Why had it done that? And what if it could be made to do something else? The possibilities were...
And when he realised she had spoken to him, Ola was already gone, off to strut some higher rung of phase space, looking to win more contests.
Ki didn’t mind. She had given him an idea.
He spent the next three eternities hard at work, trying to perfect his new substrate. It was very tricky stuff, that was for sure. He had blown up seven distinct Universes before he had a sensible handle on things, and that wasn’t counting the attempts which had only been partial catastrophes.
And yet it still wasn’t working.
The trouble was getting the stability right. That, and the trajectories. Still, it would all be worth it, he told himself as he scraped up the remains of an eighth universe, folding it back into the depths of phase space and hoping no one would notice, or that if they did, they would be able to recycle it into something useful.
If he could just get the initial conditions right, then he was sure it would work. He could feel it, could intuit it, he could almost...
“Watcha,” said Ola, materialising from a higher order reality to which Ki hadn’t been paying much attention. “What’s up?”
“Oh, nothing, nothing,” muttered Ki, quickly moving to tidy away his latest unworkable attempt. “Just mucking about. Just...”
But Ola was already leaning forward, snatching the delicate thing away.
She glared at it balefully, as if daring it to be anything like as perfect as something she had made.
She picked up one of the spherical components, gave it a rattle so that the internal dimensions vibrated discordantly, and frowned.
“Well I must say, I haven’t the foggiest,” she said, dismissively. “Honestly, the rubbish you come up with. Some people will just throw together any old components, won’t they?”
Ki was watching his substrate. It was trembling. He didn’t think Ola had noticed.
“Yes,” he said vaguely. An idea had just occurred to him. A sudden thought, an inkling about what the stuff had been missing.
“But then, some people have no ambition,” Ola went on blithely. “Some people are content to imitate, but never innovate. To be always second best.”
“Yes,” said Ki once more. He had to stop himself from looking directly at his substrate. It was shaking quite vigorously now. It almost seemed to be leaning up towards Ola.
“It’s about class, when it comes right down to it,” said Ola, as if laying down the final, devastating piece of an elaborate argument. “Some people have it. And some people just like mucking about with junk...”
The substrate pounced.
There was a frozen moment. Ola stared in astonishment as the substrate flowed, syphoning up phase space and covering her. Then it was retreating, sliding back to its own home Universe, settling easily into its meagre allotment of nineteen dimensional space.
It looked almost the same as before. The spheres, the lines, the orbits humming with the inevitability of motion...but there was something else there now, too.
It would work, now. He was quite sure.
Ki leant down and gave the substrate a flick, setting the universe tumbling through time.
Just as with Ola’s substrate, there was a flare of light and motion...but unlike her substrate, this one did not dissipate. Instead, it flickered and changed, zipping in unlikely fractal patterns, coalescing, rippling, pulling tighter and tighter, dimensions sliding into one another until it was a brilliant pulsing singularity in the very heart of the little Universe.
It paused, frozen and beautiful...and then - with a flash - sprang open again, unwinding.
Time sluiced back into being, unfolding with the other dimensions, but in the other direction this time. As it did so, the substrate exploded outwards: whizzing, dancing lines of energy and force...and, bound up inside, inextricably linked, the final, special ingredient Ki had been waiting for: mind.
“Pretty,” he observed to himself, with some satisfaction, as the fine mist of substrate began to cool down, coalescing into galaxies, into suns which burst suddenly into pillars of fire, and into planets on which - inevitably, now - mind began to flower. Odd, novel stuff to find in a lower Universe, that was for sure.
But it was so obvious, now that he had grasped it. Mind and matter, matter and mind: it seemed absurd that he had ever not known the intimate way they related, given time. Emergence saw to that.
Backwards and forwards, dancing through time first one way then the other, the Universe would spool and unspool, forever.
A further thought struck him, and his smile faltered a notch.
It was a shame that this Universe, however, had been formed up out of Ola’s mind in particular. One couldn’t help but feel sorry for whatever small, soured minds might emerge there. They were cursed, more or less. He hoped they had a sense of humour.
Still, he thought as he clambered up through phase space, sweeping the sad little Universe away to tick over indefinitely, tucking it out of the way under a pile of phantasmagorical cosmic detritus beneath which it might hopefully lay forgotten forever, it wasn’t bad as a proof of concept.
Image by Olseya Hupalo
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George was walking to work when his leg went on strike.
“Hey,” complained George from the puddle in which he had been deposited. “What’s the meaning of this?”
“Sorry,” said the leg, sounding contrite. “Wasn’t my idea. Just following the message.”
“What message?” demanded George, heaving himself up using a passing old-age pensioner for purchase. “Actually, never mind! I’m going to be late as it is!”
George had just made it to his office, when his arms spasmed outwards, lodging him in the doorway.
“Ow!” said George. “You know, this really is most tiresome!”
“Sorry,” muttered his arms. “We wouldn’t have done it, only the message really was
“Insistent, was it!” growled George through gritted teeth. “Well, I’ve no time for it! Can’t you see I’m late?”
George did a Very Important Job. Everyone said so. He earned ever so much money, and drove a fancy car.
George was sitting in his office crunching numbers, when his gut leapt out through his mouth and tied itself in a knot.
“Can’t you see I’m working here?” shouted George, in an angry (if rather muffled) voice.
“I’m very sorry,” said his small intestine, words dripping regret. “But the message really is most insistent.”
George sighed heavily. He could see he was going to get nowhere today without listening to his damned body, no matter how busy he was.
“Well?” he snapped. “What’s the message?”
“It’s more of a beacon, really,” said his caecum, in a rich, oily voice.
“A beacon? What do you mean?” said George tersely.
“A distress beacon,” put in his colon, helpfully. “Can’t you hear it? The whole body is ringing with it.”
“I don’t have time for such nonsense!” snapped George. “Can’t you see I’m a Very Important Person? I do a Very Important Job,” he added, reproachfully.
“Well...that’s sort of the problem,” said his appendix, in a shrill, worried voice. “The thing is...you’re miserable.”
“Miserable?” said George, genuinely perplexed. “I’m not! I’m a Very Important...”
“Person, yes we know, love,” Said the antrum of his stomach, not unkindly. “But that doesn’t change the fact that you’re unhappy.”
“But...but look at my clothes! Look at my car!” protested George. “Aren’t they fine? And see at the way people look at me? They all know I’m Important!”
“Look mate,” chipped in his right elbow, who had been listening to the conversation unfold with increasing frustration, “Can’t you see that none of that actually MATTERS? You’re not bloody happy!”
George looked blankly from his duodenum to his rectum and back again. A strange feeling was starting to overtake him, an odd, uncomfortable, unsettled feeling, a feeling he had not let himself feel for so long he had almost forgotten how it felt.
It was sadness.
“Not...not actually happy?” he echoed weakly.
“Not at all,” said his liver. “Not for the longest time.”
“But...but everything I’ve worked for...” he said, casting an eye desperately around his expensively-appointed office. “Everything I’ve given my life for...”
“It wasn’t what you wanted,” said his nose mournfully. “When you - when we - were a boy, I mean.”
George blinked. An image filled his mind. Himself as a small boy, playing with his toys, and telling everyone who would listen all the things he was going to do when he grew up. His eyes were suddenly full of tears.
“I...I’d forgotten...” he said huskily.
“No you hadn’t,” said his eyes, gurgling slightly. “Not really. Not deep down.”
“Just on the surface,” whispered his facial hair. “But the surface was just going on, regardless. Not caring how much it hurt.”
“Which is why we had to get the message to you,” said his leg.
“Beacon,” corrected his arms gently. “Distress beacon.”
“But...this is horrible,” said George. Suddenly his mouth felt as dry as dust. He looked about his splendidly appointed office, as if seeing it for the first time. There were lots of straight lines, he noticed. Lots of hard edges, and cold surfaces, and metal, and lots of glass.
“The good news is, you listened,” said his skin softly, wrapping him in a warm, kind embrace. “At last, I mean.”
“Some people never do,” fluttered his alveoli, like a flock of tiny, perfect birds. “Not ever. Not even at the end.”
He felt better for his tears.
Somehow, they seemed to give him hope.
“Thank you,” he said to his body.
“Pray don’t mention it,” squeaked his bladder. “Any body would have done the same.”
Then, as his gut slipped back into place, as his knees and elbows and arms and legs all wobbled awkwardly - joyfully - as if being used somehow for the first time, George walked out of his office and carefully shut the door.