Some Restraint


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Scene Title Some Restraint
Synopsis Two former wards of the Institute meet at the end of the world.
Date December 13, 2020

The sun has set in Sweden and in the dark of night the sky fluoresces with an unearthly glow.

A shimmering curtain of blue-green aurora dances over the mountains of Lappland, visible through the large and thick windows of the guest sweet afforded to Wright Tracy. Sleep isn’t coming, at least not yet. There’s been too many revelations in too short a time to be able to even process all of them. But sitting in the wood-paneled walls of a bedroom that hasn’t had its decor updated since the 1970s, Wright is at least never alone.

Half a world away in New York it’s just after two o’clock in the afternoon and the temporal asynchronicity is a new experience for Elliot Hitchens. Wright can feel it behind her eyes, that Elliot is wide awake while her body is hours offset in jetlag. The warm confines of her spacious suite and the gentle white noise of the HVAC system affords a subtly soothing sense of privacy, though the artificiality of it all harkens back to Elliot’s patchwork memories of the Commonwealth Institute.

A knock on the door breaks reverie, however. Because there can’t really be any peace here.

Not tonight.

Guest Suite
The Reach

Lappland, Sweden
December 13th

8:09 pm Local Time

“Are you awake?” A woman’s voice calls softly through the door, her accent subtle and difficult to place. “It’s Joy.”

Wright and Elliot have been watching the aurora in silence since they first noticed it. The quiet between them is normally comfortable, though the chaos of the day has them both on edge. It’s soothing enough to take in this sight once Wright’s brain starts ignoring the hideous decor and architecture framing her view of the outside.

The peace they cultivated flinches back when Wright hears the knock on the door. The temptation to keep silent and pretend to be sleeping is nearly overpowering. They’d been so level for the past few years—Elliot able to be emotionally expressive while Wright finally got a handle on her anger—that they can’t help but feeling like they’ve had a setback. Not that they don’t feel justified in being angry about the fact that the overseer of the Ark, and therefore the overseer of the hell inflicted upon Elliot there, is still alive. Has escaped any meaningful consequences for his actions.

They’re so far outside of their expectations for this operation. They have no idea what the house’s inhabitants are capable of beyond Richard Ray’s veiled suggestion that conflict was all but pointless. But Wright rises to answer the door either way. She steps back as she opens it, giving Joy space to enter while keeping her eyes on someone whose capabilities and motivations are unknown. But her eyes are also in New York.

Elliot is silent as he watches from a seat beside the fireplace in his kitchen. He doesn’t know where he’d even begin. They don’t have language for this.

Joy, outwardly, seems harmless. Short, unassuming, wordlessly carrying herself in on bare feet. The patterned shawl worn around her shoulders matches the bohemian fashion she otherwise outwardly displays. Everything about her is loose, billowy, concealing. The door shuts behind her, as if of its own accord.

“I’m sorry to bother you at a late hour,” Joy says without her eyes ever quite meeting Wright’s. They stay focused somewhere around knee-height. “I wanted to wait until the house started to settle to sleep.” She looks around the room, though never up far. “Do you… mind that?” Now she blinks a look up to Wright, finally making eye contact. “Talking?”

Telekinesis, Wright assumes as the door closes. There’s a delay before responding that’s only half because of the jet lag and anxiety. The other half is born of a quickly dismissed hope that she can get through this interaction without speaking and risking becoming even angrier. She sighs and gestures into the room. “I’m not sleeping either way,” she says.

She keeps Joy in her peripheral vision as she returns to the chair by the window, rotating it to face another in the room. She lounges in her chair in a way that’s more prepared than relaxed. Eventually she gives up on watchful vigilance and turns to look again at the way the aurora billows like a sail on the unseen wind.

She balks at the idea of asking Joy why she’s come calling—as though she doesn’t already have a very good idea—so she turns back to look at Joy and waits in silence.

Joy’s eyes linger on Wright for a moment, a half-lidded stare shuttered behind dark lashes. She looks to the floor, then to the room’s window. “I remember you,” she says quietly, approaching the window to look out at the snow falling outside. “From the Institute.” Wrapping her arms around herself, Joy doesn’t let that revelation sit long.

“Unlike you, I was a voluntary resident there, in containment.” Joy’s brows knit together, her jaw tightening. “I remember, in the time when my chemical negation waned and my abilities came back, feeling you dreaming.” She looks at Wright out of the corner of her eyes. “I see you here, now; plurality.” She lowers her voice. “No one else knows that.”

It’s jarring for Wright to be addressed as Elliot by a stranger. Obviously the people here knew something before Wright got here. About the ability, the connection. The unique circumstances that led to how they are now, unlike other hosts. It’s something Ames does, intuiting but not understanding. Part of the reason that they’re living separately now. The nightly ache of being only miles apart. The days at work where they can be together, in danger.

Elliot wants to lash out against everyone who put him in the Ark. Anyone who through inaction allowed him to stay. Those who got there too late to save Bastian. Too clumsily to save Tala and Yancy. He contains the rage now, putting it into the clutch of his fists. In the snap of his fingers. In the rocking of his body as he doesn’t scream. In the way he can’t talk right now but he’s always had Wright to do that for him.

Wright blinks away a tear, brushes it off her face with a sleeve while Joy isn’t looking, as though this woman can’t see that too. She’s staying level so Elliot can act out against the helplessness. It still takes her a moment to pull the relevance out of what Joy said. Voluntary, abilities, dreams. Are there any memories of dreaming in the Ark? None that Wright can access without looking in the Palace. The dust and mildew on the doors of that place are enough to keep her from looking in.

“Thanks, I guess,” Wright says, though she’s not really sure to which part she’s referring. “You seem to have me at a disadvantage, Joy.”

Joy meets Wright’s eyes, nodding in agreement. She turns to rest her shoulder against the tall window, looking side-long at Wright. “I’m not sure how much there is to know about me that would be relevant and not just… muddy the waters. My name is Joy, I’m a mosaic, and we shared a living space for a time.”

Looking down to the floor, Joy considers her response, then makes a small sound in the back of her throat. “I came here to see how you were holding up. I don’t clearly remember my dreamwalking during my time in the Institute, but I know on a few occasions I visited you. I have an…” she looks Wright up and down, “understanding of what it is you do. Your ability. I’ve done my best to stay… disentangled.”

Then, with some hesitance Joy offers, “I thought I might be able to help. Somehow. Maybe offer some clarity or…” she huffs out a small sigh. “I don’t know.”

Elliot doesn’t let himself get lost in a spiral. His breathing evens out, he relaxes his body, though he’s certainly not relaxed. And disentangled, does she mean she would be able to take or use the ability on her own? He shudders at the thought of it.

“I’ve had less stressful days,” Wright says on Elliot’s behalf. “It’s not every day you find out that you were tricked into travelling thousands of miles to meet the person responsible for overseeing six months of double-secret psycological mad science torture.”

“Also apparently the world is going to end and my wife and daughter will die if that happens,” she continues on her own. She seems to be picking up speed, rambling like she used to. “And there’s no guarantee that Elliot’s ability will function across timelines. Even if it does we’d only have a few weeks of communication before breaking the link with someone here which, if you know, means I’d have to stay here. And possibly explain to people that my link is permanent. So it would be incredibly traumatic if it doesn’t work and an interdimensional divide stomps the link shut.” She shrugs. It’s a lot.

She sighs, scratching at her eyebrow for a moment at Elliot’s prodding. “I’m assuming this clarity is unrelated to the information that Marcus Raith promised Elliot in exchange for his help? Not that I’d mind if you cut out the middleman.”

“Marcus talks like he knows everything,” Joy says, letting Wright’s worries remain in the other woman’s personal space, aired out but not directly addressed. Joy isn’t certain she has a good way to anyway. “Records from the Institute are sparse, from what I’ve learned. Much of it is buried in radioactive steel and concrete. Simon, the man you met? He was all but a disrespected figurehead by the time Elliot wound up there.”

Joy sighs in such a way that it seems like having this conversation is tiring to her. She slouches against the wall by the windows, turning to rest her head against the window glass. “The person who ran that department was a woman,” she notes with a look over to Wright out of the corner of her eyes. “She constantly balked at her inability to experiment on me, one of the few stops Simon still had the authority to put in place.”

“Erica Kravid.” Joy gives a name to a nightmare. One Elliot knows met the end of an assault rifle in the Institute’s holdout facility Sunstone a couple of years past. “I don’t know what she was trying to do. Just… the end result.”

Elliot pauses to listen as he settles comfortably into a deep emotional detachment and feels Wright follow. He’d always known Broome wasn’t directly and immediately responsible for all of the daily goings-on in the Ark; it was a big place. Some of his clearest memories from before his capture still leave him awestruck by the physical scope of the arcology. But he’s spent a lot of time needing somewhere to lay all of the fault, and Simon was a convenient figurehead.

Erica Kravid is news to him.

“Elliot didn’t see any faces or hear any names after he was caught,” Wright says. “Not that he can remember anyway. I only found out that Elijah Carpenter was involved thanks to a precog, after the fact, on Pollepel Island.” She lets out a humorless huff of breath.

“I feel like what went on in Site Zero probably wasn’t up to standard operating procedure as far as chain of custody documentation went,” she continues. “At least until Praxis; somebody made it out knowing something. Enough to refer to Project Zero by name, as a success.” What she was trying to do was… best not to think about. The end result was Elliot. “So I’m guessing that someone was her.”

“That would be my guess.” Joy says in a hushed tone of voice, small and regretful. Her eyes wander the floor for want of something to seek, following patterns of cracks in the woodgrain and where the seams of wood join with stone. For a time, she is silent. The room is silent.

“Zero.” Joy says in a hushed tone of voice. “That was the one who came before,” she says, blinking a dark-eyed look up to Wright. “I can feel it, even now. Pressed behind your eyes like hands on dark glass.” Her eyes search side to side in Wright’s.

“I’m sorry,” Joy says as she looks away, back out the window, back to the snow.

Elliot flinches/Wright flinches like she’s been struck, snapping her eyes closed—There are no windows in the Palace. She blinks and casts her eyes at the floor, clouding with frustrated tears. Elliot places his hands at the sides of his head to limit his field of view.

Neither of them knows what to say to that. Until Wright, eventually, “That much I do know.” Elliot was hoping to feel the relief that he felt in his recent nightmare—to hear someone else finally speak of it and to be able to put the burden down—but relief doesn’t come. He just feels like he’s still under a spotlight, but now somebody is actually looking at him there, watching him juggle all of his compounded lies.

“Do you know who it was?” Wright asks. “Or, do you know what happened to Bastian? Subject zero zero zero zero point one point one?” She doesn’t really hope. Elliot would know if the boy—the first permanent co-host—had somehow survived, wouldn’t he?

Joy shakes her head. “I don’t. Whoever it was that you became entangled with was a powerful mind. Enough so that I knew better than to engage. The others…” She sighs softly. “A part of them lives on in me.” Her dark eyes drift across the floor, waver from side to side, then look back up to Wright.

“What you are…” Joy says careful, “who you’ve become? It’s greater than the sum of its parts. Both in the ability you now possess and the person you are. A mosaic in the most literal of senses, even if you aren’t expressing multiple abilities in an obvious way. But still, that is what’s happening here.”

“One window,” Joy says softly, “many panes of glass.”

“Less than zero,” Elliot says compulsively, “Greater than the sum of my parts.” He remembers the edges of the old nightmare. The feedback loop he’d fallen into until Wright disturbed the narrative enough for him to find purchase and wake up.

Two panes of glass,” Wright says heavily. “Anything more could only be considered a grave moral failing. Maintaining the agency of others is immensely important to me. Unless…” she shakes her head, unsure where she might head with that thought.

Elliot does know where that thought ends. It’s terrifying to consider, because failing to do so could also result in immeasurable harm. He sighs and reorients his thoughts.

Of all the things Joy has said, a part of them lives on in me is the most striking. It’s demoralizing to know that after losing so much of his memories of the Ark co-hosts, some part of them are hers now, not his. Perhaps not lost entirely, merely waiting in wings of the Palace long since atrophied by time. By the ceding of ground to the Switchboard.

“Ask her if the part of them that lives on in her can be shared,” Elliot says almost derisively; he knows he isn’t that lucky. Wright passes the question on.

Joy shakes her head in response. “It doesn’t work like that,” she regrets to inform. “The abilities that made them unique, that drew the Institute’s attention, transferred to me on their deaths or… I emulated them? It’s hard to say. The science of what I am is as much a mystery to me as it was the scientists who studied me.”

“They all possessed mental abilities of different textures, some telepaths.” Joy elaborates, wrapping her arms around herself. “Touch, eye contact, impressions in a room. Why you were connected with them all, I don’t know. But I can intuit that it was intentional,” and the way Joy says intuit has weight to it, as if intuition was a thing she performed actively rather than reflexively. “Someone had a design, and I know that Adam Monroe got his hands on a part of it and used it to… design something for himself.”

Hanging her head, Joy lifts a hand to thread an errant lock of dark hair behind one ear. “Adam bifurcated his consciousness through a program called Heisenberg, something the Institute was working on that was an offshoot of whatever program you were a part of. There was a man,” she looks up to Wright, “Peter Varlane, who was involved with it.” Wright knows the name, Wolfhound arrested him at Sunstone, and Elliot remembers the newspaper article that discussed his violent escape from the PISEC facility on Long Island in February.

“Adam shared a collective consciousness of himself, spread across multiple cloned bodies made from his own regenerative tissue. It was a failsafe against… greater telepathic forces. Against detection and location. You might have been a proof of concept, or an evolution. I don’t know which came first, but Varlane would.” Joy’s brows knit together with worry. “I don’t know where he is, but I do know he’s alive.” Though she doesn’t elaborate on the how.

Assuming it to be true and hearing it confirmed are separated by a span of miles. Elliot sinks into depression for a moment before pulling himself out. It’s been nearly a decade, what’s one more evening? He can grieve later. For now he tries to focus on Joy’s information.

And there’s a lot of it. He moves upstairs, unlocking the door to his office. Ignoring what’s already on the wall where he organizes his thoughts, he jots down notes with a marker to rearrange later.

Why telepaths seems fairly obvious to Wright. Elliot’s capture and attempted execution in Site 0 unexpectedly turned into the program’s first real success when he became the first person to survive it. Being able to share some aspects of telepathy across links had quantifiable benefits and hypothetically limitless applications.

“Clones,” she says without feeling any of the dry humor affecting her words, “That can’t have been cheap.” She stares out the window, taking some time to absorb what they’ve learned. Trying to think of relevant questions to ask while she has this opportunity. Joy seems to be more than willing to freely offer up what she knows. Wright looks back to where Joy stands in the soft light of the aurora and gambles, “What question should I be asking you right now?”

Joy doesn’t comment on the cost of a clone, judging by her expression she may not even know, or maybe it’s that her answer isn’t a monetary one.

“I don’t know,” is Joy’s answer to Wright’s question. “What matters to you is your own counsel to keep. I make a point of not invading the thoughts of others, and only we know the truth of our own hearts. What you should do can only be decided by you.”

Wrapping her arms around herself, Joy looks down at the floor. “Sometimes we don’t get answers to those questions, either.” When she looks up to Wright, it is with a mixture of both sympathy and apology. Though she doesn’t explain either.

“There are answers to the what and why, though.” Joy asserts. “The Institute’s records were claimed by your country’s government after the war. The Deveaux Society once held a comprehensive archive of them all, but they were lost to the machinations of Mazdak, those who serve Uluru.” Her dark eyes narrow for a moment in thought. “Yamagato Industries may have some answers, they claimed ownership of a portion of the Institute — the Renautas company — after its collapse. Praxis may have others, but China and the Dead Zone are both far from your reach.”

Joy shakes her head, regretting her lack of tangible answers. “No secret stays forgotten. No matter how hard anyone tries. I can offer you that hope.”

Elliot strangely finds Joy’s reassurance unhopeful. He puzzles at the difficulties of trying to unearth a secret while simultaneously seeing that it remains forgotten for everyone else. For now he adds Devaux, Yamagato, Renautus beneath where Praxis is already written.

Wright nods thoughtfully though Joy’s explanations. “You were a host to the entity?” she asks. “Eve Mas mentioned earlier this year that the Entity leaves you with some kind of host gift. In Eve’s case that apparently meant wrapping her naturally terrifying demeanor in a vampiric nightmare fog.”

She realizes that she’s rambling again, and pauses for a moment. “Mostly I’m curious if you have any tips for how one could become a former host to the Entity, should one suffer the misfortune of becoming a current host? I feel like giving Elliot’s ability to the enemy is probably a bad idea. Though honestly I’m not really clear on how it all works.” Still rambling.

Joy looks Wright square in the eyes. “You won’t like the answer.”

Then, softening, she slips away and starts to pace the floor. “It changes you, all the time. Constantly. If a body is made up of cells, it knows that and it is each and every individual cell given memory, reason, and purpose. It’s terrifying. While it commandeers you, you feel—I felt both in control and not at the same time. Like we were two sheer pieces of fabric overlaid so perfectly that we started to…”

Joy looks over to Wright, then down at the floor. “Actually, I think you know that feeling well enough.”

“Eve’s perspective is skewed,” Joy decides to change the topic. “She… sees Uluru as a mother to us all, a progenitor of who and what we are. But I—I never felt that. I don’t know what it is, but I wouldn’t ascribe anything it does as a gift. The nightmare that it tried to enact when I was young… thousands died before it was stopped. And the cost was—” Joy closes her eyes and shakes her head. “So high.”

Wright nods solemnly to Joy as she speaks of the conflict of her youth. She leaves the room in silence for a moment before asking, “Why does it want to destroy all life across multiple timelines? What tangible benefit could possibly be gained from an act so horrific? Is it spiteful, or just alien and unknowable?”

“I don’t know,” Joy says in a whisper with a shake of her head. “All I remember from my time as its host of—of what it wants? Is just… so much anger.” She swallows down a noise in the back of her throat, threading a dark lock of hair behind one ear at the same time. “It’s entirely possible that, given how it lives, it doesn’t see what it is doing as murder.”

Joy turns to look at Wright again. “If you lived, stretched out like a spider across the web of time, seeing infinite lives and possibilities… maybe your perspective would be skewed too.” She looks down to the floor, wrapping her arms around herself. “Maybe it’s not what’s happening now that it even cares about, but what would come after.”

Her mouth twitches up into an almost-smile. “I hate Flood analogies.”

Wright raises her head while she processes what she’s heard so far. “Dam,” she says. It might be fun for Elliot to tease out the morality of the actions of a creature suspended between cosmic strings. But today has been stressful enough that it doesn’t seem fun.

Turning back to the Aurora, Wright puzzles over how to ask a question. She doesn’t turn to Joy as she asks. She doesn’t really expect an answer to satisfy her. “Why are you here? If you survived the Ark you have more reason than most to hate Simon Broome.”

Joy looks up to Wright, squints, then looks like she understands and looks down to the floor. “I wanted to be there,” she says quietly. “I’ve known Simon for longer than he remembers. It’s complicated, but I know he’s a friend, trustworthy.” She looks back up to Wright. “He helped save the world once. Though no one remembers that, either.”

“It wasn’t Simon’s people that abducted me, it was people who had stolen the Institute from him. But once I was there…” Joy’s eyes track away from Wright, following a point in space, “it was quiet. The noise,” she says with a touch of her hand to the middle of her chest, “is hard to handle sometimes, worse during times of trouble or… war.”

Joy starts to wander, as if following something. “The Institute could not hold me if I did not want to be held,” she finally admits in a tone of voice that sounds distant and dreamy. “But when it fell… I had no choice but to leave.”

Slowly, Joy turns back to Wright, having lost whatever it was she was following. “I came here because this is where all roads lead. This is where the end begins.”

It’s difficult not to hold on to hate. It’s always felt good to assign blame for what Elliot endured in the Ark. But the truth is that he knew the risks when he exempted the assignment to infiltrate it. Up until the discovery of Site 0, at least. He went off-script to investigate, assuming that whatever happened in that hidden area was important enough to report on before his extraction.

“It’s hard to believe that Simon shouldn’t be held culpable for the monster he helped create,” she says as she watches Joy’s meander through her room. “That he isn’t as frankly evil as I’ve always assumed. You and Richard seem to treat him as a kindly old grandpa who gives you the good candy when Mom’s not looking. Like his past is some harmless thing that should be lovingly discouraged, not immediately corrected. Why should I trust him?”

“Trust isn’t a commodity, it also isn’t required,” is Joy’s opinion. “You can work with people and still be wary of their intentions. Sometimes it’s safer that way. But in this moment, with what’s at stake? This is where we all keep our stuff,” she says with a gentle smile. “There’s at least common interests in that.”

Running fingers through her hair at her temple, Joy glances to the window. “If at the end of the day you still think Simon needs to pay for everything that happened under his watch, it’s your choice.” She looks to Wright. “No one can make that decision but you. Not me, not Simon, not anyone else. I just know what he is to me. But…” Joy closes her eyes and shakes her head with a snort. “Everybody’s biased.”

Wright processes in silence for a minute, not really running the numbers. Just percolating. She focuses on what Joy’s said so far, not wanting to waste this opportunity. “You said you don’t know where Varlane is. How about Kravid? Or Monroe, did he actually die in Detroit or should we be worrying about other networked clones?”

Jesus Christ, she thinks, processing through the anxiety and shock. Wait, holy shit that’s bad. Her heart beats rapidly alongside Elliot’s. Everything’s off today.

“Can he… Could he link other people?” she asks, “Or was it just his clones?”

Joy closes her eyes, wrapping her arms tighter around herself. “I don’t know,” sounds more fraught than a straight answer should be. “Adam… Adam was networked to himself, copies of copies. But he—” She shakes her head and blinks her eyes open, looking at Wright with pain in her eyes that matches her voice. “I think he’s gone.” Not dead, gone.

“It took him.” Joy says with a whispering quaver to her voice. “The doom upon all the world. He’s its host now, and I… I don’t know where he is.”

Wright slows her breathing to level off the spike of anxiety. “Maybe we don’t really have to worry about it getting Elliot’s ability if its already spread across Adams, I guess.” Hopefully.

“You said all roads lead here,” she says. “Does that mean you can see the future?”

“Not… in the way you mean.” Joy says with a shake of her head, turning to look back to Wright. “It’s just—if you live long enough, you start to see patterns in everything. And that, as time goes on, there are fewer and fewer real choices to be made, just the illusion of many.”

“This is where it ends,” Joy says with a look away from Wright, down to the floor. “Because this is all we’re left with.”

Looking uncomfortable, Joy takes a step back. “I—should go. I worry I’m sinking into an uncharitable mood and… it’s not your fault.” She makes herself smaller, arms wrapped around her midsection. “Try not to worry so much about the future that you lose sight of the present.”

“I always try to keep that in mind,” Wright says. “Though the impending apocalypse certainly doesn’t help.”

She looks over Joy for a moment, and with an opportunity to meet her eyes she says, “Thank you. For all of this information. For the talk.” She returns her eyes to the aurora and the billowing clouds signalling impending snow.

“Send my apologies to Simon and Ruby for my unprofessional outburst earlier,” she says to the view, still feeling embarrassed by it. “I’d rather not talk to him again.”

Joy lingers for a moment, then nods and turns away. As she walks to the door, her body discorporates into an ephemeral three-dimensional shadow that collapses down to the ground and slides under the door, disappearing from sight.

Wright turns toward the door when she doesn’t hear it open or close upon Joy’s exit. The tail end of her shadowy departure is met with silence, punctuated by a unnerved, “Jesus Christ.” She turns back to the window, scrubbing her hands over her face.

Elliot tries to watch the aurora in silence, but Joy has only roused the stress of this strange day. He sits on the floor of his office with his back against the wall, eyes unfocused in the direction of the notes he’s taken. “Ancillary,” he finally says.

Wright takes a staggered breath. “Excoriate,” she replies.

“Mechanical.” Elliot enters the Palace.

The Palace

Elliot walks through the empty expanse of the Mill, the tall outlines of windows now filled in with more red brick. His feet don’t make sound on the wooden floor. He opens the cargo elevator where the Piano sits, its cloth cover itself covered in undisturbed dust. He pulls the door back down by the strap to close it, counts to three, and opens it again.

Elliot floats through the meandering and narrow hallways of the Apartment Complex for what seems like an hour, ignoring the spirals of black mold creeping across the bare sheetrock walls. Ignoring the doors and their placards (Christmas Ornament, Bicycle Chain, Whistle). All but the door at the end of the beginning of the end of the hall. He pushes open the door—bloated with layered, flaking coats of white paint—marked Collins Glass. The door pops and groans in protest, but opens to the loci nonetheless.

The Collins Glass doesn’t sit upon a proper pedestal, rather high upon a car lift. The glass is cracked; are more pieces missing? He counts the shards on the floor in their sparkling constellation, indeed larger than it was before. The memory here is unstable, and also a trap. He didn’t come here for the Collins Glass or the Garage. He closes the door, touches the doorknob, then lets go; touches the doorknob, then lets go; touches the doorknob, then lets go.

Elliot crosses the Garage to stand with his back against the cold cinder block wall beside a red standing tool chest. He looks at the wall to the left of him, then the wall to the right. He closes his eyes and steps backward into the passage. Flies the few feet up and forward, a space which should be back in the Garage but isn’t. He nudges the table as he takes his seat. Always nudges it, never moves it. He opens his eyes.

The 0bservation Room

Elliot sits in the 0bservation Room. He is resigned to this old dread. Head resting in his hands, he looks up at the brittle specs of dry foam and scum where the high tide of time has left its mark on the room’s two-way mirror.

The battered door was once locked from top to bottom: broken chain slide locks, missing latches, rusted padlocks, deadbolts knocked from the frame, seized knob locks, cut strips of tamper-evident tape. Only four locks remain unbroken: the lock Elliot makes by forgetting the people he loved. The lock Wright makes by setting down the glass even though it’s still full. The lock they make by looking at Ames’s fascinated smile. The lock they make by lying; by lying; by lying.

Wright reaches to him from her seat across the table, taking his hand, careful not to touch the loci’s three sacred memories that lie between them.

The Deck of Cards that Yancy used to make a living off of New York City’s tourists—0000.1.3

The CD Walkman that Tala used at work even though she could remember every song perfectly—0000.1.2

The wooden horse that Bastian carved that his father made him burn to make him cry—0000.1.1

Together they look over to the door labelled SWITCHBOARD as the phone behind it begins to ring with languid curiosity.

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