Back | Next

Life on the Preservation

Wind buffeted the scutter. Kylie resisted the temptation to fight the controls. Hand light on the joystick, she veered toward the green smolder of Seattle, riding down a cloud canyon aflicker with electric bursts. The Preservation Field extended half a mile over Elliot Bay but did not capture Blake or Vashon Island or any of the blasted lands.

She dropped to the deck. Acid rain and wind lashed the scutter. The Preservation Field loomed like an immense wall of green, jellied glass.

She punched through, and the sudden light shift dazzled her. Kylie polarized the thumbnail port, at the same time deploying braking vanes and dipping steeply to skim the surface of the bay.

The skyline and waterfront were just as they’d appeared in the old photographs and movies. By the angle of the sun she estimated her arrival time at late morning. Not bad. She reduced airspeed and gently pitched forward. The scutter drove under the water. It got dark. She cleared the thumbnail port. Bubbles trailed back over the thick plexi, strings of silver pearls.

Relying on preset coordinates, she allowed the autopilot to navigate. In minutes the scutter was tucked in close to a disused pier. Kyle opened the ballast, and the scutter surfaced in a shadow, bobbing. She saw a ladder and nudged forward.

She was sweating inside her costume. Jeans, black sneakers, olive drab shirt, rain parka. Early twenty-first century urban America: Seattle chic.

She powered down, tracked her seat back, popped the hatch. The air was sharp and clean, with a saltwater tang. Autumn chill in the Pacific Northwest. Water slopped against the pilings.

She climbed up the pitchy, guano-spattered rungs of the ladder.

And stood in awe of the intact city, the untroubled sky. She could sense the thousands of living human beings, their vitality like an electric vibe in her blood. Kylie was nineteen and had never witnessed such a day. It had been this way before the world ended. She reminded herself that she was here to destroy it.

From her pocket she withdrew a remote control, pointed it at the scutter. The hatch slid shut and her vehicle sank from view. She replaced the remote control. Her hand strayed down to another zippered pocket and she felt the outline of the explosive sphere. Behind it her heart was beating wildly. I’m here, she thought.

She walked along the waterfront, all her senses exploited. The sheer numbers of people overwhelmed her. The world had ended on a Saturday, November 9, 2004. There were more living human beings in her immediate range of sight than Kylie had seen in her entire life.

She extracted the locator device from her coat pocket and flipped up the lid. It resembled a cellular phone of the period. A strong signal registered immediately. Standing in the middle of the sidewalk, she turned slowly toward the high reflective towers of the city, letting people go around her, so many people, walking, skateboarding, jogging, couples and families and single people, flowing in both directions, and seagulls gliding overhead, and horses harnessed to carriages waiting at the curb (so much life), and the odors and rich living scents, and hundreds of cars and pervasive human noise and riot, all of it continuous and—

“Are you all right?”

She started. A tall young man in a black jacket loomed over her. The jacket was made out of leather. She could smell it.

“Sorry,” he said. “You looked sort of dazed.”

Kylie turned away and walked into the street, toward the signal, her mission. Horns blared, she jerked back, dropped her locator. It skittered against the curb near one of the carriage horses. Kylie lunged for it, startling the horse, which clopped back, a hoof coming down on the locator. No! She couldn’t get close. The great head of the animal tossed, nostrils snorting, the driver shouting at her, Kylie frantic to reach her device.

“Hey, watch it.”

It was the man in the leather jacket. He pulled her back, then darted in himself and retrieved the device. He looked at it a moment, brow knitting. She snatched it out of his hand. The display was cracked and blank. She shook it, punched the keypad. Nothing.

“I’m really sorry,” the man said.

She ignored him.

“It’s like my fault,” he said.

She looked up. “You have no idea, no idea how bad this is.”

He winced.

“I don’t even have any tools,” she said, not to him.

“Let me—”

She walked away, but not into the street, the locator a useless thing in her hand. She wasn’t a tech. Flying the scutter and planting explosives was as technical as she got. So it was plan B, only since plan B didn’t exist it was plan Zero. Without the locator she couldn’t possibly find the Eternity Core. A horse! Jesus.


She sat on a stone bench near a decorative waterfall that unrolled and shone like a sheet of plastic. Her mind raced but she couldn’t formulate a workable plan B.

A shadow moved over her legs. She looked up, squinting in the sun.


“What do you want?” she said to the tall man in the leather jacket.

“I thought an ice cream might cheer you up.”


“Ice cream,” he said. “You know, ‘You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream’?”

She stared at him. His skin was pale, his eyebrows looked sketched on with charcoal and there was a small, white scar on his nose. He was holding two waffle cones, one in each hand, the cones packed with pink ice cream. She had noticed people walking around with these things, had seen the sign.

“I guess you don’t like strawberry,” he said.

“I’ve never had it.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Okay, I’m lying. Now why don’t you go away. I need to think.”

He extended his left hand. “It’s worth trying, at least once. Even on a cold day.”

Kylie knew about ice cream. People in the old movies ate it. It made them happy.

She took the cone.

“Listen, can I sit down for a second?” the man said.

She ignored him, turning the cone in her hand like the mysterious artifact it was. The man sat down anyway.

“My name’s Toby,” he said.

“It’s really pink,” Kylie said.

“Yeah.” And after a minute. “You’re supposed to lick it.”

She looked at him.

“Like this,” he said, licking his own cone.

“I know,” she said. “I’m not an ignoramus.” Kylie licked her ice cream. Jesus! Her whole body lit up. “That’s—”


“It’s wonderful,” she said.

“You really haven’t had ice cream before?”

She shook her head, licking away at the cone, devouring half of it in seconds.

“That’s incredibly far-fetched,” Toby said. “What’s your name? You want a napkin?” He pointed at her chin.

“I’m Kylie,” she said, taking the napkin and wiping her chin and lips. All of a sudden she didn’t want any more ice cream. She had never eaten anything so rich. In her world there wasn’t anything so rich. Her stomach felt queasy.

“I have to go,” she said.

She stood up, so did he.

“Hey, you know the thing is, what you said about not having tools? What I mean is, I have tools. I mean I fix things. It’s not a big deal, but I’m good and I like doing it. I can fix all kinds of things, you know? Palm Pilots, cellphones, laptop. Whatever.”

Kylie waved the locator. “You don’t even know what this is.”

“I don’t have to know what it is to make it go again.”

Hesitantly, she handed him the locator. While he was turning it in his fingers, she spotted the Tourist. He was wearing a puffy black coat and a watch cap, and he was walking directly toward her, expressionless, his left hand out of sight inside his pocket. He wasn’t a human being.

Toby noticed her changed expression and followed her gaze.

“You know that guy?”

Kylie ran. She didn’t look back to see if the Tourist was running after her. She cut through the people crowding the sidewalk, her heart slamming. It was a minute before she realized she’d left the locator with Toby. That almost made her stop, but it was too late. Let him keep the damn thing.

She ran hard. The Old Men had chosen her for this mission because of her youth and vitality (so many were sickly and weak), but after a while she had to stop and catch her breath. She looked around. The vista of blue water was dazzling. The city was awesome, madly perfect, phantasmagoric, better than the movies. The Old Men called it an abomination. Kylie didn’t care what they said. She was here for her mother, who was dying and who grieved for the trapped souls.

Kylie turned slowly around, and here came two more Tourists.

No, three.

Three from three different directions, one of them crossing the street, halting traffic. Stalking toward her with no pretense of human expression, as obvious to her among the authentic populace as cockroaches in a scatter of white rice.

Kylie girded herself. Before she could move, a car drew up directly in front of her, a funny round car painted canary yellow. The driver threw the passenger door open, and there was the man again, Toby.

“Get in!”

She ducked into the car, which somehow reminded her of the scutter, and it accelerated away. A Tourist who had scrabbled for the door handle spun back and fell. Kylie leaned over the seat. The Tourist got up, the other two standing beside him, not helping. Then Toby cranked the car into a turn that threw her against the door. They were climbing a steep hill, and Toby seemed to be doing too many things at once, working the clutch, the steering wheel and radio, scanning through stations until he lighted upon something loud and incomprehensible that made him smile and nod his head.

“You better put on your seatbelt,” he said. “They’ll ticket you for that shit, believe it or not.”

Kylie buckled her belt.

“Thanks,” she said. “You came out of nowhere.”

“Anything can happen. Who were those guys?”


“Okay. Hey, you know what?”


He took his hand off the shifter and pulled Kylie’s locator out of his inside jacket pocket.

“I bet you I can fix this gizmo.”

“Would you bet your soul on it?”

“Why not?” He grinned.

He stopped at his apartment to pick up his tools, and Kylie waited in the car. There was a clock on the dashboard. 11:45 a.m. She set the timer on her wrist chronometer.

Twelve hours and change.

They sat in a coffee bar in Belltown. More incomprehensible music thumped from box speakers bracketed near the ceiling. Paintings by some local artist decorated the walls, violent slashes of color, faces of dogs and men and women drowning, mouths gaping.

Kylie kept an eye open for Tourists.

Toby hunched over her locator, a jeweler’s kit unrolled next to his espresso. He had the back off the device and was examining its exotic components with the aid of a magnifying lens and a battery-operated light of high intensity. He had removed his jacket and was wearing a black sweatshirt with the sleeves pushed up. His forearms were hairy. A tattoo of blue thorns braceleted his right wrist. He was quiet for a considerable time, his attention focused. Kylie drank her second espresso, like the queen of the world, like it was nothing to just ask for coffee this good and get it.

“Well?” she said.



“Ah, what is this thing?”

“You said you didn’t need to know.”

“I don’t need to know, I just want to know. After all, according to you I’m betting my immortal soul that I can fix it, so it’d be nice to know what it does.”

“We don’t always get to know the nice things, do we?” Kylie said. “Besides I don’t believe in souls. That was just something to say.” Something her mother had told her, she thought. The Old Men didn’t talk about souls. They talked about zoos.

“You sure downed that coffee fast. You want to go for three?”


He chuckled and gave her a couple of dollars and she went to the bar and got another espresso, head buzzing in a very good way.

“It’s a locator,” she said, taking pity on him, after returning to the table and sitting down.

“Yeah? What’s it locate?”

“The city’s Eternity Core.”

“Oh, that explains everything. What’s an eternity core?”

“It’s an alien machine that generates an energy field around the city and preserves it in a sixteen hour time loop.”


Now can you fix it?”

“Just point out one thing.”

She slurped up her third espresso. “Okay.”

“What’s the power source? I don’t see anything that even vaguely resembles a battery.”

She leaned in close, their foreheads practically touching. She pointed with the chipped nail of her pinky finger.

“I think it’s that coily thing,” she said.

He grunted. She didn’t draw back. She was smelling him, smelling his skin. He lifted his gaze from the guts of the locator. His eyes were pale blue, the irises circled with black rings.

“You’re kind of a spooky chick,” he said.

“Kind of.”

“I like spooky.”

“Where I come from,” Kylie said, “almost all the men are impotent.”


She nodded.

“Where do you come from,” he asked, “the east side?”

“East side of hell.”

“Sounds like it,” he said.

She kissed him, impulsively, her blood singing with caffeine and long-unrequited pheromones. Then she sat back and wiped her lips with her palm and stared hard at him.

“I wish you hadn’t done that,” she said.


“Just fix the locator, okay?”

“Spooky,” he said, picking up a screwdriver with a blade not much bigger than a spider’s leg.

A little while later she came back from the bathroom and he had put the locator together and was puzzling over the touchpad. He had found the power button. The two inch square display glowed the blue of cold starlight. She slipped it from his hand and activated the grid. A pinhead hotspot immediately began blinking.

“It work okay?” Toby asked.

“Yes.” She hesitated, then said, “Let’s go for a drive. I’ll navigate.”

They did that.

Kylie liked the little round canary car. It felt luxurious and utilitarian at the same time. Letting the locator guide her, she directed Toby. After many false turns and an accumulated two point six miles on the odometer, she said:

“Stop. No, keep going, but not too fast.”

The car juddered as he manipulated clutch, brake, and accelerator. They rolled past a closed store front on the street level of a four story building on First Avenue, some kind of sex shop, the plate glass soaped and brown butcher paper tacked up on the inside.

Two men in cheap business suits loitered in front of the building. Tourists.

Kylie scrunched down in her seat.

“Don’t look at those guys,” she said. “Just keep driving.”


Later on they were parked under the monorail tracks eating submarine sandwiches. Kylie couldn’t get over how great everything was, the food, the coffee, the damn air. All of it the way things used to be. She could hardly believe how great it had been, how much had been lost.

“Okay,” she said, kind of talking to herself, “so they know I’m here and they’re guarding the Core.”

“Those bastards,” Toby said.

“You wouldn’t think it was so funny if you knew what they really were.”

“They looked like used-car salesmen.”

“They’re Tourists,” Kylie said.

“Oh my God! More tourists!”

Kylie chewed a mouthful of sub. She’d taken too big a bite. Every flavor was like a drug. Onions, provolone, turkey, mustard, pepper.

“So where are the evil tourists from,” Toby asked. “California?”

“Another dimensional reality.”

“That’s what I said.”

Kylie’s chronometer toned softly. Ten hours.

Inside the yellow car there were many smells and one of them was Toby.

“Do you have any more tattoos?” she asked.

“One. It’s—”

“Don’t tell me,” she said.


“I want you to show me. But not here. At the place where you live.”

“You want to come to my apartment?”

“Your apartment, yes.”

“Okay, spooky.” He grinned. So did she.

Some precious time later the chronometer toned again. It wasn’t on her wrist anymore. It was on the hardwood floor tangled up in her clothes.

Toby, who was standing naked by the refrigerator holding a bottle of grape juice, said, “Why’s your watch keep doing that?”

“It’s a countdown,” Kylie said, looking at him.

“A countdown to what?”

“To the end of the current cycle. The end of the loop.”

He drank from the bottle, his throat working. She liked to watch him now, whatever he did. He finished drinking and screwed the cap back on.

“The loop,” he said, shaking his head.

When he turned to put the bottle back in the refrigerator, she saw his other tattoo again: a cross throwing off light. It was inked into the skin on his left shoulder blade.

“You can’t even see your own cross,” she said.

He came back to the bed.

“I don’t have to see it,” he said. “I just like to know it’s there, watching my back.”

“Are you Catholic?”


“My mother is.”

“I just like the idea of Jesus,” he said.

“You’re spookier than I am,” Kylie said.

“Not by a mile.”

She kissed his mouth, but when he tried to caress her she pushed him gently back.

“Take me someplace.”


“My grandparent’s house.” She meant “great” grandparents, but didn’t feel like explaining to him how so many decades had passed outside the loop of the Preservation.

“Right now?”


It was a white frame house on Queen Anne Hill, sitting comfortably among its prosperous neighbors on a street lined with live oaks. Kylie pressed her nose to the window on the passenger side of the Vee Dub, as Toby called his vehicle.

“Stop,” she said. “That’s it.”

He tucked the little car into the curb and turned the engine off. Kylie looked from the faded photo in her hand to the house. Her mother’s mother had taken the photo just weeks before the world ended. In it, Kylie’s great grandparents stood on the front porch of the house, their arms around each other, waving and smiling. There was no one standing on the front porch now.

“It’s real,” Kylie said. “I’ve been looking at this picture my whole life.”

“Haven’t you ever been here before?”

She shook her head. At the same time her chronometer toned.

“How we doing on the countdown,” Toby asked.

She glanced at the digital display.

“Eight hours.”

“So what happens at midnight?”

“It starts up again. The end is the beginning.”

He laughed. She didn’t.

“So then it’s Sunday, right? Then do you countdown to Monday?”

“At the end of the loop it’s not Sunday,” she said. “It’s the same day over again.”

“Two Saturdays. Not a bad deal.”

“Not just two. It goes on and on. November ninth a thousand, ten thousand, a million times over.”


“You can look at me like that if you want. I don’t care if you believe me. You know something, Toby?”


“I’m having a really good day.”

“That’s November ninth for you.”

She smiled at him, then kissed him, that feeling, the taste, all of the sensation in its totality.

“I want to see my grandparents now.”

She opened the door and got out but he stayed in the car. She crossed the lawn strewn with big colorful oak leaves to the front door of the house, stealing backward glances, wanting to know he was still there waiting for her in the yellow car. Her lover. Her boyfriend.

She started to knock on the door but hesitated. From inside the big house she heard muffled music and laughter. She looked around. In the breeze an orange oak leaf detached from the tree and spun down. The sky blew clear and cold. Later it would cloud over and rain. Kylie knew all about this day. She had been told of it since she was a small child. The last day of the world, perfectly preserved for the edification of alien Tourists and anthropologists. Some people said what happened was an accident, a consequence of the aliens opening the rift, disrupting the fabric of reality. What really pissed everybody off, Kylie thought, was the dismissive attitude. There was no occupying army, no invasion. They came, destroyed everything either intentionally or accidentally, then ignored the survivors. The Preservation was the only thing about the former masters of the Earth that interested them.

Kylie didn’t care about all that right now. She had been told about the day, but she had never understood what the day meant, the sheer sensorial joy of it, the incredible beauty and rightness of it. A surge of pure delight moved through her being, and for a moment she experienced uncontainable happiness.

She knocked on the door.

“Yes?” A woman in her mid-fifties with vivid green eyes, her face pressed with comfortable laugh lines. Like the house, she was a picture come to life. (Kylie’s grandmother showing her the photographs, faded and worn from too much touching).

“Hi,” Kylie said.

“Can I help you?” the live photograph said.

“No. I mean, I wanted to ask you something.”

The waiting expression on her face so familiar. Kylie said, “I just wanted to know, are you having a good day, I mean a really good day?”

Slight turn of the head, lips pursed uncertainly, ready to believe this was a harmless question from a harmless person.

“It’s like a survey,” Kylie said. “For school?”

A man of about sixty years wearing a baggy wool sweater and glasses came to the door.

“What’s all this?” he asked.

“A happiness survey,” Kylie’s great grandmother said, and laughed.

“Happiness survey, huh?” He casually put his arm around his wife and pulled her companionably against him.

“Yes,” Kylie said. “For school.”

“Well, I’m happy as a clam,” Kylie’s great grandfather said.

“I’m a clam, too,” Kylie’s great grandmother said. “A happy one.”

“Thank you,” Kylie said.

“You’re very welcome. Gosh but you look familiar.”

“So do you. Goodbye.”

Back in the car Kylie squeezed Toby’s hand. There had been a boy on the Outskirts. He was impotent, but he liked to touch Kylie and be with her, and he didn’t mind watching her movies, the ones that made the Old Men sad and angry but that she obsessively hoarded images from in her mind. The boy’s hand always felt cold and bony. Which wasn’t his fault. The nicest time they ever had was a night they had spent in one of the ruins with a working fireplace and enough furniture to burn for several hours. They’d had a book of poems and took turns reading them to each other. Most of the poems didn’t make sense to Kylie but she liked the sounds of the words, the way they were put together. Outside the perpetual storms crashed and sizzled, violet flashes stuttering into the cozy room with the fire.

In the yellow car, Toby’s hand felt warm. Companionable and intimate.

“So how are they doing?” he said.

“They’re happy.”

“Great. What’s next?”

“If you knew this was your last day to live,” Kylie asked him, “what would you do?”

“I’d find a spooky girl and make love to her.”

She kissed him. “What else?”


“I mean without leaving the city. You can’t leave the city.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’d just get stuck in the Preservation Field until the loop re-started. It looks like people are driving out but they’re not.”

He looked at her closely, searching for the joke, then grinned. “We wouldn’t want that to happen to us.”


“So what would you do on your last day?” he asked.

“I’d find a spooky guy who could fix things and I’d get him to fix me up.”

“You don’t need fixing. You’re not broken.”

“I am.”


“Let’s drive around. Then let’s have a really great meal, like the best food you can think of.”

“That’s doable.”

“Then we can go back to your apartment.”

“What about the big countdown?”

“Fuck the countdown.” Kylie pushed the timing stud into her chronometer. “There,” she said. “No more countdown.”

“You like pizza?” Toby said.

“I don’t know. What is it?”

After they made love the second time Kylie fell into a light doze on Toby’s futon bed. She was not used to so much rich stimulation, so much food and drink, so much touching.

She woke with a start from a dream that instantly disappeared from her consciousness. There was the sound of rain, but it wasn’t the terrible poisonous rain of her world. Street light through the window cast a flowing shadow across the foot of the bed. It reminded her of the shiny fountain at the waterfront. The room was snug and comforting and safe. There was a clock on the table beside the bed but she didn’t look at it. It could end right now.

She sat up. Toby was at his desk under a framed movie poster, bent over something illuminated by a very bright and tightly directed light. He was wearing his jeans but no shirt or socks.

“Hello,” she said.

He turned sharply, then smiled. “Oh, hey Kylie. Have a nice rest?”

“I’m thirsty.”

He got up and fetched her a half depleted bottle of water from the refrigerator. While he was doing that she noticed her locator in pieces on the desk.

“We don’t need that anymore,” she said, pointing.

“I was just curious. I can put it back together, no problem.”

“I don’t care about it.” She lay back on the pillows and closed her eyes.


“Hmmm?” She kept her eyes closed.

“Who are you? Really.”

“I’m your spooky girl.”

“Besides that.”

She opened her eyes. “Don’t spoil it. Please don’t.”

“Spoil what?”

“This. Us. Now. It’s all that matters.”

Rain ticked against the window. It would continue all night, a long, cleansing rain. Water that anybody could catch in a cup and drink if they wanted to—water out of the sky.

Toby took his pants down and slipped under the sheet next to her, his body heat like a magnetic field that drew her against him. She pressed her cheek to his chest. His heart beat calmly.

“Everything’s perfect,” she said.

“Yeah.” He didn’t sound that certain.

“What’s the matter?”

“Nothing,” he said. “Only—this is all pretty fast. Don’t you think we should know more about each other?”

“Why? Now is what matters.”

“Yeah, but I mean, what do you do? Where do you live? Basic stuff. Big stuff, too, like do you believe in God or who’d you vote for president?”

“I want to go for a long walk in the rain. I want to feel it on my face and not be afraid or sick.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re spoiling it. Please, let’s make every second happy. Make it a day we’d want to relive a thousand times.”

“I don’t want to live any day a thousand times.”

“Let’s walk now.”

“What’s the hurry?”

She got out of bed and started dressing, her back to him.

“Don’t be mad,” he said.

“I’m not mad.”

“You are.”

She turned to him, buttoning her shirt. “Don’t tell me what I am.”


“You practically sleep walk through the most important day of your life.”

“I’m not sleep-walking.”

“Don’t you even want to fall in love with me?”

He laughed uncertainly. “I don’t even know your name.”

“You know it. Kylie.”

“I mean your last name.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It matters to me,” Toby said. “You matter to me.”

Finished with her shirt, she sat on the edge of the bed to lace her shoes. “No you don’t,” she said. “You only care about me if you can know all about my past and our future. You can’t live one day well and be happy.”

“Now you sound like Hemingway.”

“I don’t know what that means and I don’t care.” She shrugged into her parka.

“Where are you going?”

“For a walk. I told you what I wanted.”

“Yeah, I guess I was too ignorant to absorb it.”

She slammed the door on her way out.

She stood under the pumpkin-colored light of the street lamp, confused, face tilted up to be anointed by the rain. Was he watching her from the apartment window, his heart about to break? She waited and waited. This is the part where he would run to her and embrace her and kiss her and tell her that he loved, loved, loved her.

He didn’t come out.

She stared at the brick building checkered with light and dark apartment windows, not certain which one was his.

He didn’t come out, and it was spoiled.

A bus rumbled between her and the building, pale indifferent faces inside.

Kylie walked in the rain. It was not poison but it was cold and after a while unpleasant. She pulled her hood up and walked with her head down. The wet sidewalk was a pallet of neon smears. Her fingers touched the shape of the explosive in her pocket. She could find the building with the papered windows. Even if the Tourists tried to stop her she might still get inside and destroy the Eternity Core. It’s what her mother wanted, what the Old Men wanted. But what if they caught her? If she remained in the loop through an entire cycle she would become a permanent part of it. She couldn’t stand that, not the way she hurt right now. She didn’t know what time it was. She didn’t know the time. She had to reach her scutter and get out.

A horn went off practically at her elbow. Startled, she looked up. A low and wide vehicle, a boy leaning out the passenger window, smirking.

“Hey, you wanna go for a ride?”


“Then fuck you, bitch!” He cackled, and the vehicle accelerated away, ripping the air into jagged splinters.

She walked faster. The streets were confusing. She was lost. Her panic intensified. Why couldn’t he have come after her and be sorry and love her? But it wasn’t like the best parts of the movies. Some of it was good, but a lot of it wasn’t. Maybe her mother had been right. But Kylie didn’t believe in souls, so wasn’t it better to have one day forever than no days? Wasn’t it?

Fuck you, bitch.

She turned around and ran back in the direction from which she’d come. At first she didn’t think she could find it, but there it was, the apartment building! And Toby was coming out the lobby door, pulling his jacket closed. He saw her, and she ran to him. He didn’t mean it and she didn’t mean it, and this was the part where they made up, and then all the rest of the loop would be good—the good time after making up. You had to mix the good and bad. The bad made the good better. She ran to him and hugged him, the smell of the wet leather so strong.

“You were coming after me,” she said.

He didn’t say anything.

“You were,” she said.


Something clutched at her heart. “It’s the best day ever,” she said.

“I give it a seven point five.”

“You don’t know anything,” she said. “You got your spooky girl and you had an adventure and you saved the whole world.”

“When you put it that way it’s a nine. So come on. I’ll buy you a hot drink and you can tell me about the tourists from the fifth dimension.”

“What time is it?” she asked.

He looked at his watch. “Five of eleven.”

“I don’t want a hot drink,” she said. “Can you take us some place with a nice view where we can sit in the Vee Dub?”

“You bet.”

The city spread out before them. The water of Elliot Bay was black. Rain whispered against the car and the cooling engine ticked down like a slow timer. It was awkward with the separate seats, but they snuggled together, Kylie’s head pillowed on his chest. He turned the radio on—not to his loud noise music but a jazz station, like a compliment to the rain. They talked, intimately. Kylie invented a life and gave it to him, borrowing from stories her mother and grandmother had told her. He called her spooky, his term of endearment, and he talked about what they would do tomorrow. She accepted the gift of the future he was giving her, but she lived in this moment, now, this sweet inhalation of the present, this happy, happy ending. Then the lights of Seattle seemed to haze over. Kylie closed her eyes, her hand on the explosive sphere, and her mind slumbered briefly in a dark spun cocoon.


Kylie punched through, and the sudden light shift dazzled her.

Back | Next