<<if $finefortime>>Still. It can't hurt to keep moving. I've already eaten about half of my bagel by the time I get to the top of the stairs. I put the plate on my bed next to my laptop, grab a towel, and head for the shower. Somedays, the shower is a place of intense enlightenment, critical reflection, and stroke of genius. Some people would argue that being in the shower //all the time// is the surest way to be in the right place at the right time. \n\nToday is not one of those days. \n\nI am out and dressed before I realize I'm putting clothes on. I shove the remainder of the bagel into my mouth and grab my laptop and bike helmet, fleeing toward the stairs. \n\n[[ºget the morning paper]] \n<<set $beenupstairs = true>>\n<<else>>\n<html><font face="Courier" size="3" color="#2E8A2E">7:14AM</font></html>\n\nI give my dad his bagel-- cream cheese, no jelly -- and head for the stairs. \n\n"I've gotta get out the door fast today, Dad. My new designs are due on Hitsch's desk at 8:00 sharp."\n\n"Goodnight, Ike!" says my dad, but then stops, and frowns. "No, no that's all wrong. Good luck--that's what I meant."\n\nMy lip quivers involuntarily when I go to smile, so I turn away. "Thanks, Dad."\n\nI've already eaten about half of my bagel by the time I get to the top of the stairs. I put the plate on my bed next to my laptop, grab a towel, and head for the shower. Somedays, the shower is a place of intense enlightenment, critical reflection, and stroke of genius. Some people would argue that being in the shower //all the time// is the surest way to be in the right place at the right time. \n\nToday is not one of those days. \n\nI am out and dressed before I realize I'm putting clothes on. I shove the remainder of the bagel into my mouth and grab my laptop and bike helmet, fleeing toward the stairs. \n\n[[ºget the morning paper]]\n<<set $beenupstairs = true>>\n<<endif>>
When I reach the kitchen, the sight is more than a little grisly. \n\nMy dad is sitting on the floor inside the kitchen. From the blood smeared down the side of the cabinet beside him, you might think he'd been shot. He's clutching a very bloody hand with another bloody hand, and crying. A long bread knife lays culpable and unceremoniously beside him. \n\n"I just wanted to make myself a bagel so that you didn't have to waste time..." he says. His voice is such a hush I can barely hear it even as I kneel down beside him. \n\n"Dad...!" I exclaim. "I'm sorry! I should have come straight downstairs..."\n\nI take his injured hand in mine and examine it. It's easy enough to cut oneself while slicing bagels. But the sorts of cuts that usually result are lacerated fingers and sawed thumbs. My dad has managed to cut a slice across the top of his left hand... which could only mean that he'd been holding the bagel from the top when he went to cut it. I close my eyes. \n\n"It wasn't in the right place at the right time..." he said. "I... thought I could do it... I thought I knew..." \n\n"You can't keep trying!" I tell him, "You just have to accept that you need help!"\n\n"I know... I know... I'm sorry..."\n\nI stand up and grab paper towel, running it under the faucet while awkwardly clutching my bathtowel. Then I crouch back down and begin to clean his wounds. \n\n"Lucky for me, my girl works for a paper towel company," he jokes, feebly. \n\n"Yeah... sure... right place..." I laugh, bitterly. \n\n//[[Clearly, though, I could work on my timing.]]//\n\n
I have my face pressed into Rian's side as the coroner and his assistants lift my father upon a stretcher. The coroner turns and gives me a sympathetic nod, and then they're just gone. They might as well have disappeared from the earth all together... //all of them//, not just my father. \n\nRian's holds me tightly, and his palm smooths up and down the length of my arm as I soak the side of his shirt with my tears. \n\n"Shhhhh..." he murmurs. "Shhhh.... I'm so sorry..."\n\n"I could've done something about it. I could've //helped// him if I hadn't gone to work and just forgotten all about him. I always just ignore everything and put my job first and in the end what does it even matter?"\n\n"It matters because you did //everthing// that you could, whether you think so or not."\n\n"I didn't spend more time with him..." I whisper. "Heck, I couldn't even stop working long enough to eat //lunch// with //you//! I'm such a horrible person..."\n\n"That's a lie," he says. \n\n"We should eat dinner, to make up for lunch." \n\n"Are you hungry? I can't imagine..."\n\n"I don't know. Not really, but I need to do //something//. //Anything...// Something //productive//. I can't just stand here and cry. Let's make food, and you can tell me what you wanted to tell me."\n\nRian's hand pauses on its way up my arm. After a moment, he gives it a squeeze. \n\n"No," he says. "It //definitely// isn't the right time for that. Not after all that's happened."\n\nHe lets me go, and walks over to the kitchen to put the food I'd cooked into the microwave.\n\nAnd I stand there wondering if I'd made time for him today-- any time at all-- if everything would have turned out differently.\n\n::::\n\n\n\n<html><font face="Monaco" size="4" color="#7BA7A7">KAIR0S</font></html>\n\n//The ancient Greeks had two words for time, //chronos// and //kairos.// While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time in between, a moment of indeterminate time in which something special happens. In rhetoric kairos is "a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved." Kairos was central to the Sophists, who stressed the rhetor's ability to adapt to and take advantage of changing, contingent circumstances.//
:: Mareike decides that the best course of action is to just leave him be, and focus on her work. She'll talk to him tomorrow, when both of them have had a chance to reflect a bit. ::\n
I leave Rian and go back to my desk. \n\nNot moments later, a wail of pain fills my ears, and my brain somehow doesn't even consider that it could be //anyone// else. Everything else that follows sounds foggy, far away: several shocked gasps, shrieking coming from the other side of the office, and Rian sobbing. \n\nI'm trembling enough that it takes my legs a moment to successfully lift me out of my chair. I peer over the top of my cubicle. \n\nThe scene that greets me is enough to completely turn my stomach. \n\n<<if $late>>[[ºnot this, not again.|rian]]<<else>>[[ºgood god...|rian]]<<endif>>
Somebody else has already taken it upon themselves to call the paramedics, and they are already showing up to try to help by the time I cross the room again. \n\n"Ri, why is this happening to you?" \n\n"I don't know... I don't know what to say. I don't know where to be. I don't know what to do..." He's sweating, and in pain. \n\n"Ri, there must be a reason. There must have been something you were thinking. Something that //made// that girl--whoever she was-- show up right then and tempt you. What were you //thinking//??" \n\nThe paramedics poke and prod, trying to get him out of the wall. He winces and then howls. \n\n"Ri, please. I think.... I think you have to tell me. I think if you don't tell me this is just going to get worse...\n\n[[... I think you telling me is the key to everything...]]"\n\n\n
:: couples' fight! P2 -- more melodrama! ::\n\n"[[What if the right place to be right now is not with me?]]"
“Mom would've wanted to see you move on with your life, dad. She wouldn't have wanted you to dwell on her like this. She would've wanted you happy.”\n\n“Is that what I wanted for her? To see her happy? No… I don't think… I always… kept her back…”\n\n“What?”\n\n“I her… stopped her…”\n\n“Stopped her doing what…” I press him. He cringes, makes a choking noise. “Wait, no, pause. Breathe first. Then answer… okay? Good…”\n\n“Gelvain,” he says, wheezing. “Vain..leg..gavel..in… vale gin…”\n\nIt takes me a moment to unscramble the letters in my mind.\n\n“[[Leaving?]]” \n
The moment the theory occurs to me it just... //works.// All the evidence I have, all the things I've heard Rian say, all the things I've heard my father say -- everything leads back to guilt. Guilt prevents action. Guilt leads to indecision. Guilt builds up within, slowly, steadily, until it drags you under and drowns you, like a disease....\n\nSo if you somehow relieve yourself of the guilt, if you just... let //go// of it, is that like being cured? //And how, exactly, does one make guilt go away?//\n\nI have to go home //right now//. \n\nWhile I'm standing there, mind racing, the paramedics have extracted Ri from the wall. His hand and wrist are in dire shape, although they're still attached to his arm, so that's a blessing.\n\nI kneel down beside him. \n\n"Listen, sweetheart. It's okay, alright? It's //okay//. I forgive you. And you don't have to do everything. You don't have to do //anything//. It doesn't matter. You don't have to compare yourself to me and I don't have to compare myself to anyone else. I get that now... But I need to go..."\n\n"I want you to stay with me."\n\n"I know, but this is not where I need to be right now. The paramedics will take care of your hand, and I will come see you later, okay? I swear. I need to talk to my father." \n\nI lean close and kiss him on the forehead. Then I'm on my feet and sprinting for the door. \n\n[[ºhome]]
I sigh, and toss the paper across the room toward him. \n\nHe waits until it has already landed on his lap to reach out and try to catch it. I wince, and he sees it, even though I try to mask it. \n\n"I was just joking with that one," he tells me, with a wink. \n\nI laugh, weakly, and close the door behind me as I leave. \n\n<<if $finefortime>>\n[[»»»|ºon time but late]]\n<<else>>\n[[»»»|ºearly and on time]]\n<<endif>>
If there's one thing I can't stand, it's being patronized. I don't need people to tell me where my talents are lacking. It's difficult to forget. \n\n"I'm incredibly sorry," I say. What else //can// I say?\n\nCaidar sighs.\n\n"Enough of that. Let's put up your designs and see what they look like. You've built up some suspense, after all."\n\nI scurry to the front of the room and drop my bag into the only empty chair, hauling out my laptop and plugging it into the projector. \n\nOf course, the first thing that is displayed to my cranky, captive audience is the image of the boyband on my desktop. //Extra credibility never hurts anything...// I hear Rian cough his way through a noise that might have been a laugh and may have been a groan of pain.\n\nI bring up the files as quickly as I can: sugarplums, peaches, grapes and melons, bananas and apples. Everything...\n\n...when I turn back to my audience, it's clear that I could just as well have left the boyband showing. \n\n[[ºThe boyband probably has more fans in this room than I do right now.]]
KAIR0S
Hi Ike, \n\nWe've got a potentially game-changing client coming in this morning to talk with our quilting people. It would be really helpful for you to sit in on the conversation and talk through how your artwork and the quilting patterns work together. Can you get here by 7:45? I know it's hard with you having to bike in, but we'd love you for it. \n\nThanks, \nMr. Hitsch\n\n<<set $boss = true>> <<set $checked = true>>\n\n[[ºback to Inbox|ºcheck email]]
:: couples' fight! insert melodrama...... ::\n\n[[ºmissing conversation snippet]]
Thankfully for both of us, the wound isn't as bad as it looks. In all honesty, it could probably use some stitches as a precaution. But I find some gauze and tape in the bathroom drawer -- shoved //far// to the back, and collecting dust--and the makeshift bandage seems to stem the bleeding fairly well. \n\nI get him back to the couch. \n\nThen I clean up the counter tops. \n\nThen I make him another, less bloody bagel. \n\nAnd one for myself, while I'm at it. \n\nI'm beyond late. \n\nI don't say a word the entire time. I don't know what I //could// say. The whole situation is just too unfair. To him. To me. My hair is dripping down my back, icy tears as hot tears lace my face. I bite into my bagel with a strange rage. In the background, the television is playing an old noir movie, some stilted, serendipitous, surreal bit of cinema. My dad loves that stuff. I don't quite get it. And right now it just makes the entire room feel like a drama. \n\n"You must be freezing. Go put some clothes on..." my father says. \n\n"Yeah..." I agree. I don't have much of an appetite, as it turns out, what with all the blood and shock. I leave the rest of my bagel on the counter and rush up stairs to at least //try// to make it to work at a reasonable time. \n\n[[ºLast time I ever take a leisurely shower.|ºhurry out the door]]
“Fine,” he says, awkwardly. “Forget I tried to help.”\n\n“Ri-” I sigh, spinning around. “It's not like that. I appreciate you being here but I just-it's overkill, Ri! And I just think if-”\n\nWithout warning, Rian suddenly flickers out of existence, and I'm left talking to my bulletin board. \n\nA few moments later, he's back. \n\n"Sorry," he apologizes, "Vyn couldn't figure out how to install a new ink cartridge." He nods across the office. "The guy's only been in the design department for what, 5 months now? You'd think he'd at least be able to operate the printer. I still haven't figured out what he's actually //doing// here..." \n\nHe laughs. Something about the way he's talking bothers me, but I can't figure out what. At least part of it probably stems from the fact that as of this morning I'm not entirely sure what //I'm// doing here. Before I can even open my mouth to say so, he continues, restlessly:\n\n“But anyway, you were saying that me being around to hand you tissues is overkill-but that's //exactly// what makes office romances so great, Ike. There are just so many more opportunities for us to be in the right place for each other-all the time! Like, I can make sure I'm in the office early to cover for you, and kick your cubicle to pull you out of your pixel-pushing haze in time for your 2 o'clock design brief, and show up with your laptop cable right when your power is running low, and refill your coffee mug right when you realize it's empty… and…”\n\n“I don't need //babysat//, Ri,” I say. “And if you really wanted to show up at the right moment to //help me// you would've shown up at my house last night instead of lingering around at that party by yourself.”\n\nRian stares at me like a lost sheep. My jaw hurts. I realize I'd been clenching my teeth harder and harder as he chattered, until I'd snapped. \n\n"Yeah...I... No, you're right. So... um..." he starts, sheepishly. "What happened last night? How's he doing?" \n\n[[ºUgh, to hell with his lame attempts at sympathy.]]\n[[ºI need to stop being so cruel. He was trying to cheer me up.|He was just mixed up again.]]
"Wrong? Nothing's wrong. Well, I mean I guess you could say that //more// things are going wrong than usual, considering how many things I've had to intercept, but..."\n\n"Are you telling me that //nobody else// in this restaurant can handle any of the minor accidents you're preventing? I mean, hell, you could just let some of them happen and force the restaurant to invest in more paper towels, and then help our business in the process..."\n\nRian doesn't reply. I'm not sure he listened to a damn thing that just left my mouth, though he did manage to stay in his seat this time.\n\n"Ri, seriously. There's clearly something on your mind--"\n\nHe laughs, suddenly, out of nowhere, and I raise my eyebrows.\n\n"What?"\n\n"It was funny!" he chuckles, quietly, "You know, what you just said. Well, not what you said about there being something on my mind. The paper towel comment..."\n\n"And you're only laughing //now//?" I say. My turkey club sandwich suddenly leaves a bad taste in my mouth. \n\nHe doesn't reply. \n\n"Rian. What //really// happened at that party last night..."\n\n"Nothing! Chek was his typical frat-boy self. The whole place was too intoxicated to be interesting by about 11..."\n\n//But apparently still more interesting than hanging out with me?//\n\n"So... why didn't you just //leave//?"\n\n"I //was// leaving... I actually //was//, but..." he says. He's visibly //shaking// now. Then //invisibly// shaking, I guess, because he's disappeared again. \n\nI hear a clatter from the restaurant's kitchen, and a surprised cry.\n\nThen he's back, and white as a ghost. \n\n"What was that?" I ask. \n\n"Nothing."\n\n"Sounds like you made a few waitresses drop their plates instead of hang on to them, this time." \n\n"It's nothing!" \n\nI think I'm beginning to understand. \n\n"[[So, you were leaving...]]"
It takes almost all my energy not to scream, or to just get up and leave the house. I never thought it would take so much effort to //not// do something. \n\n"Dad..." I say. My voice a hollow, raking sound that I can't even recognize. "What happened."\n\n"It just happened so fast... so fast..." he gasps, through tears. "I just... I was just //there//, in the lab across the hallway from the cold-room, holding these flasks... and she... first the shock, and then the anger... and then we were just... arguing... I don't even remember what we said... what I said. //She// said she'd had it with me. She said she was just going to leave--take another position in a lab in Lairas... I reached out for her and she teleported away. But I had my hand on her wrist, so I went with her. \n\n"She kept trying to get away, and I just kept following... I don't even know where we were porting after a while, she was just so upset, screaming, and I was screaming back..."\n\n"And there's just so many tanks and cannisters of ugly stuff in those labs, Ike. Gasses, acids... Just so many....so, so many..."\n\nHe doesn't say anything else. He doesn't need to. The police said she died in a lab accident. That's accurate enough. \n\n"Jesus, dad..."\n\n"I'm sorry!" he howls, leaning over and slumping to the floor, curling into a ball like a child beside me. It's almost pathetic. "I'm sorry...."\n\n[[ºI want... I don't know what I want.]]
He nods. And I shake my head in unison.\n\n“But, why would she want to leave? She loved you!”\n\n“Yes…” he said, “But she also loved her career…”\n\nI blink. Mom was a researcher at a R.E.M.I. laboratory in the heart of Revaht: one of those super-high ISO standard, this-clean-room-is-so-clean-we-don't-even-have-doors facilities: one of those places where they spent every waking moment trying to figure out how to put vectors and DNA and organelles and organic compounds in the right order at the right time to cure cancer… or how to outsmart Anthrax through manipulating probability of exposure. Weird government projects like that… \n\n“Sure she did…” I agree, “But… I don't see how that…”\n\n“She wasn't curing cancer, Ike. She was trying to cure you.”\n\n“I…” \n\nI suddenly find myself almost involuntarily silent. My jaw twitches oddly through my next few attempts to speak, until I finally blurt: “But I don't //need// cured! I'm not //sick//! //You're// sick, I-I'm just…”\n\n“That's what I always told her, sweetheart. And she wanted to believe that too-I'm sure she did, Ike. But in her heart she just couldn't stop thinking about how //unhappy// her little girl must be not being like everybody else…” \n\nI realize my father's speech has improved significantly since he started talking. //This is working. I just have to make him keep talking…// \n\n“It kept her up at night, imagining what it must be like to be you. And I think she thought, if she could figure out the basis for our abilities, that she could give you gene therapy… or whatever it is they do… I don't know…”\n\nI stare at him. I'd walked into the house and sat down all full of good intentions. I was going to //save// him - be an outlet for his pain. I //still// need to save him, but I am not the reservoir of patience and empathy that I intended to be. First Rian, now this… //Why doesn't anyone ever tell me anything?// \n\n//Keep him talking.//\n\n“[[Why didn't she tell me? Why didn't YOU tell me?]]”\n"[[So... um... Did she... did she succeed?]]"
"No. You know what? Screw it." I reply, walking over to the kitchen table and dropping my bag into a chair. "I'm going to figure out a way to save you."\n\n"Ike, sweetheart--"\n\n"I'm serious."\n\n"No, Ike, you're //not//," he says, more sharply than I was expecting. "There's //nothing// you can do for me sitting around this house save for fetch me bagels, and that isn't going to save me." \n\n"You can't know that! I just need time to //think//."\n\n"You //need// to get to work and submit those designs, so they don't decide to //fire// you or something, Ike."\n\n"Let them fire me," I hiss. "If they're that insensitive that they--" \n\n"You're losing sight of the bigger picture, Ike."\n\n"The bigger picture..." I murmur. "The //bigger. Picture?"// Dad, the bigger picture is that //you're DYING!// You don't //get// bigger than that."\n\nThe tears are pouring down my face, but my dad seems completely unphased. He doesn't even raise his voice. \n\n"Unfortunately, sweetheart, it does get bigger. Whether you manage to somehow //save// me or not--"\n\n"Stop, dad. //Please.// I'm //going// to--"\n\n"You're going to have to support yourself, Ike. You //cannot// afford to let this job slip away. I... I won't be able to forgive myself if you do..." \n\nHis eyes darken oddly.\n\n"I'll just get another job," I hear myself whisper.\n\nDad just stares at me, and he's smiling. He's //smiling//, but it cuts worse than the sound of sobs. It's a smile of //guilt//, and that's just fucked up. //I// should be the one feeling guilty. //I'm the one who's about to walk out the door and leave him here to rot alone...// \n\nIt's not even remotely fair that he can't even count to ten in the right order, but somehow still realizes--much like I do--that I //can't// just get another job. Nobody wants me. I'm lucky that Caidar likes my work as much as he does. Most bosses wouldn't trade a few pretty paintings for perfect punctuality. \n \nI turn without another word and run back upstairs to grab my bag. \n\nI pass my dad again on my way to the door, shoving my computer into my bag along with a banana. \n\n"I you love, Ike," my father says. A bit of me withers. //He's mixing up word-order now... that's new....// \n\n"It's 'I love you'--" I say, tensely, but I immediately regret it. \n\n"Your heart's always in the right place," he says, ignoring me, "Even if the rest of you can't always come along. I... I wish I could say the same for myself."\n\n"... what?" I glance back, confused. "What do you mean?" \n\n"Nothing. Just go," he says. \n\nI shut the door behind me and dash down the steps to my bike. \n\n<<if $finefortime>>\n[[ºI should've just said 'I love you too'.|ºon time but late]]\n<<else>>\n[[ºI should've just said 'I love you too'.|ºearly and on time]]\n<<endif>>\n
:: Rian becomes frustrated with her tendency to be stand-offish and sarcastic. He makes a couple comments about her father's injuries being her own fault, and then teleports away without finishing the conversation. \n\nMareike buries herself in work to avoid thinking about anything else weighing heavily on her mind at the moment. The day passes by in a blur. ::
A large part of me still wants to leave. I still //could// leave. Another part of me wants to hurt him, or at very least just sit there and watch him suffer. //They never even told me that this was going on!// But I'm supposed to save him! He's my //father//. I can't just sit here and do nothing. What kind of person would that make me?\n\n//That's probably what my mother was thinking when she was trying to "cure" me...//\n\n//... without asking me first.//\n\n//What kind of person did that make her?// \n\n//Was my dad right to try to stop her?//\n\n//They wouldn't have even had this argument if it weren't for me being born this way...//\n\n//This is all my fault.//\n\n"Dad," I begin, slowly, preparing to say whatever it is that I need to say. That crucial bit of wisdom that will make the difference between right and wrong, forgiveness and resentment, love and hate, life and death....\n\n//This is all my fault.//\n\n[[ºIt's the right place, and the right time...]] \n\n \n
"With all due respect, sir, I think the //consequence// of the paper towel is a cleaner surface, not a masterpiece of a peach," says Rian, suddenly. He appends the word //'masterpeach?'// under his breath. I somehow manage not to laugh. \n\n"Speaking of that peach, the color is just //completely// off."\n\n"Is it supposed to be mauve?" \n\n"I think what she's done, is created a new fruit which is neither peach nor plum, but a hybrid species," interrupts another suit --a navy colored one-- and I can't tell if he's trying to defend me or not."Sort of like a tangelo."\n\n"A //what//," I say. And here comes the laugh I'd fought so hard to repress ten seconds ago. \n\n"Do you think this is funny, Ms. Martin?" asks another suit, then. It's really hard not to nod. But fortunately -- fortunately? -- the businessmen soon make it easy for me. "We didn't show up here this morning and wait around for your bicycle to bring you here just to be shown some mediocre fruit that could have been made using the smudge tool in an amateur paint program!"\n\n"The lighting isn't even entirely from a single angle!" says the beige suit. \n\nIt's true, I think; if I had just had a little more time to review the files, I might have had a chance to fix it... But that's beside the point now.\n\n"Nothing a little spilt coffee can't cover up," I remark through clenched teeth. \n\n"Ike..." says Caidar. \n\n"We're done here," says the beige suit, before Caidar can cover for my sarcasm.\n\n[[And just like that, they're gone.]]
<<if $boss>>I arrive at the office ahead of time, which, for some people, might equate to missing the opportune moment. I, however, am not that special, so I'll sgladly ettle for not being late.<<else>> Apparently my boss, Caidar, sent me an email this morning requesting that I come in to work at 7:45 instead of 8:00 to meet with the client. I didn't ever see the email, but it doesn't matter, because I'm at the office at 7:43. I pretend like I got the message though, because it makes me look on top of things.<<endif>> \n\nNow I'm sitting here, shuffling through my design files in front of a conference table full of business men in outdated suits, as well as Caidar and the other lead graphic designer in the office, Rian. The latter happens to also be my boyfriend. \n\n--which is probably //obvious// to everyone in the room by now, given the fact that he can't seem to take his eyes off me at the moment. I shoot him a glare in between one set of peaches and a bunch of grapes, and he coughs and turns his eyes back toward the screen. \n\nAs soon as I go back to talking, though, his eyes are back on me. His expression is strange. Everything is strange, really. Ri's not usually one to make a huge fuss about our relationship. But right now his face is hard to classify. He's smiling whenever I catch his eye, but for the most part he just looks... concerned? Troubled? It's hard to find the right word. \n\n[[ºI wonder if it has something to do with the party I missed last night.]]\n\n
Rian glances back at me, skeptically.\n\n"If that were really true, then no employer would touch you with a ten foot pole, Ike. A clever teleport might put you in an interview seat, but you still need to have something to show when you get there. You know that."\n\n"Well, I certainly didn't have much to show this morning," I reply, glumly.\n\nRian sighs. "You did, but some people value time over effort, and that's their problem, not yours." He squeezes my shoulders. "I tried to cover for you, but once 15 minutes came and went there wasn't a lot I could do."\n\nI bristle at the idea that Ri thinks he has to //cover// for me, but I manage not to let my temper get the better of me. I know he doesn't mean it the way most people mean it. And even if he did, it's nice somebody actually //wants// to cover for me, rather than just letting Caidar chuck me out a window like some antiquated tech. \n\n"[[It wouldn't have mattered, Ri. The designs still weren't up to snuff...]]"\n\n\n
Hey No-Show, \n\nChek's party was last night, and I coulda done with a bit of your sharp wit--was hard to cut through the crowds without it. I kinda got the sense yesterday that you needed some space so I didn't remind you, but I hope nothing too bad happened with your dad. \n\nI guess if you needed me I would've known about it. \n\nLet's try again for the weekend?\n\n<3 \n-Ri\n\n\n[[ºback to Inbox|ºcheck email]]\n\n<<set $checked = true>>
<html><font face="Courier" size="3" color="#2E8A2E">7:01AM</font></html>\n\n"Ike, is that you?"\n\nI ruffle his hair as I walk by his couch toward the kitchen. It's all one big room. The television is on in the background, it's tuned to one of those classic movie networks -- where everything is black and white, and surreal technicolor. My dad loves that stuff. \n\n"No, dad. It's mom's ghost come back to torture you for your sins."\n\n"You're going straight to hell, you know that, kid...?" he laughs: a weak laugh, but warm. \n\n"Not //straight// to hell," I reply, grinning as I go for the bag of bagels-- they're left over from the weekend, and need toasting to be edible. I reach for the long bread-knife and begin sawing them in half. It's quite an endeavor. "There's probably some long, irritating spiral staircase for people who can't teleport down."\n\n"Sweetheart, that's probably what hell //is//--a staircase," my dad says. He coughs. "You forget all these people can only show up at the //right// place at the //right// time. Hell doesn't really qualify as a destination."\n\n<html><font face="Courier" size="3" color="#2E8A2E">7:06AM</font></html>\n\n"You kidding?" I ask. I shove the lever down on the toaster, and it starts to glow a sinister red. "It's the //perfect// place for most of them, and the right time was ages ago." \n\nHe laughs again. He really doesn't sound good this morning. I can feel a lump forming in my throat.\n\n[[ºI can afford the time to chat... can't I?]]\n[[ºI should get him the paper and continue getting ready.|ºget the morning paper]]\n
I unfold the paper and quickly begin scanning the article. Apparently 300 new cases have been discovered in the last week alone. A month ago, my father was one of only a handful of known cases in the entire country. \n\nThe article goes on to tell me more things I already know. That the illness seems to be psychological, but no traces of it have been found in brain imaging. Nor has there been any suggestion of a cure. The best treatment available is a hi-dosage capsule of melatonin and ginseng, but those are really meant to help memory, and nothing about IS seems to involve memory loss. \n\nI get bored with the article after a few paragraphs and flip hastily through the sports and the comics and the stock exchange...\n\n[[º... until I find the obituaries.]] \n\n
There are suddenly tears in his eyes. \n\n“Ike…” he moans, “I should've… ages ago. I know… you deserve to hear… but… I want didn't know you to… Didn't want you to… couldn't look at you if I…\n\n“Rriteble… terrible…” he whispers. “I am terrible.”\n\n“No!” I tell him, as his shoulders begin to tremble. “No you're not terrible. You're a human being, dad! A human and capable of mistakes-“\n\n“No…”\n\n“If anyone knows anything about making mistakes in this world it's me, dad!”\n
<<if $checked>><<else>>I ignore the feeling of dread that always swoops through me whenever my email window sweeps across my screen. I have five new messages. That's a lot, for this early in the morning. <<endif>>\n\n[[Sender : Alacrit-E-lectronics < Subject : LAST CHANCE TO SAVE 25% >]]\n[[Sender : inSITE < Subject : 25 Places YOU Should Be Today and Wh...>]]\n[[Sender : Caidar Hitsch < Subject : Come in Early? >]]\n[[Sender : Rian Arkady < Subject : missed u last nite >]]\n[[Sender : R.E.M.I. < Subject : Indecision Syndrome & How to Protect Yourse... >]]\n\n<<if $designfiles>>\n[[ºshut the damn computer and take a shower]]\n[[ºI should see what my dad is up to.]]\n<<else>>\n[[ºshut the damn computer and take a shower]]\n[[ºlook at last night's design files]]\n[[ºI should see what my dad is up to.]]\n<<endif>>\n\n<<set $email = true >>
I drop the glass and barely hear it as I rush back to his side. He's going blue. \n\n“Dad! DAD!” I hold his head in my hands. “Stop swallowing! You need to take a breath! Dad listen, you're going to suffocate if you don't breathe!”\n\nHis mouth opens, slowly, but then just lingers there, like a wretched, gaping trout out of water. \n\n“BREATHE!” I shout. \n\nFinally I see his chest rise. He gasps. \n\n“AGAIN,” I command. He does. “And again…” The blue begins to fade from his skin, and his eyes focus-if only for a moment, probably by accident-on my face. “There you go…” I whisper. “You just keep thinking breathe, okay? That's all you need to do right now. It's not a decision. There are no other options. You got that?”\n\n“Sey…eys…yes…” he murmurs, and then takes another breath. \nI have to drag him across the floor just to prop him up against the couch. It's not very comfortable, but there's not a lot I can do. For a moment I wish I had Rian, but the second I wish it I feel sick for having to rely on him. I wish I hadn't made him teleport through a wall… I wish I'd known how he was feeling all this time… \n\nStop it. You can't afford to think that way. Nobody can afford to think that way.\n\n“Dad, I need to talk to you about something. I need you to talk to me…” I tell him. “I need you to tell me about what happened to mom.”\n\nHis whole body seems to wince and recede from the question.\n\n“Breathe, dad,” I tell him. He does. “I know this is hard-in fact I know now better than I did this morning. Before today I had no idea just how hard it must be. But I need you to talk about it.”\n\n“Why…?” \n\n"[[Because talking about it will save your life.]]”\n“[[Because I need to know the truth.]]” \n“[[Because Mom wouldn't want to see you like this.]]”\n
:: annnnd this is the part where you're the office hero and Caidar keeps you busy with new projects and meetings all day, you miss lunch with Rian, and blow off all opportunities to talk with him.... riveting stuff.... ::\n\n\n\n\n\n[[ºhow the heck is the day already over?]]
He's not listening. "She was just //there//, in front of me, Ike, and I don't know what happened. It just seemed... right... And if she showed up than it //had// to be right, Ike, didn't it? It couldn't have been a mistake. Mistakes like that just don't //happen//."\n\n"Who is //she??"// I repeat, baffled. The implications of his words are so unexpected that I don't even know how to feel. I should be hurt, I think, or angry... but apparently this isn't the right time or place for those emotions to show up, so I just feel numb. \n\n"I-I'm sorry, Ike... Afterward I didn't know what to do... I realized how much I really do care about you but by then it was too late...God, Ike, I don't know what to say. I'm supposed to know what to say! This isn't supposed to happen!" He glances up from the shredded napkin, his green eyes are swollen red and glazed with tears. \n\nThen they vanish. \n\n[[I sit there, stunned.]]
Rushing out the door, I nearly slip on the newspaper waiting on the front steps. \n\n"Here dad. Catch!" I say, tossing it across the room. \n\nHe waits until it has already landed on his lap to reach out and try to catch it. I wince, and he sees it, even though I try to mask it. \n\n"I was just joking with that one," he tells me. \n\n"This //isn't// a joke, dad!" I whisper, and close the door behind me as I leave. \n\n\n[[»»»|ºlate]]
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Dedicated Shopper;\n\nBe at our Fourth and Greatplains Ave. store location TODAY at 5:30 for special deals on all the must have computer accessories! Why would you be anywhere else? \n\n[[ºback to Inbox|ºcheck email]]\n\n<<set $checked = true>>
Dad cringes. \n\n"It was stupid-- I shouldn't have. It's against so many laws and completely petty and disgusting but I--"\n\n"Dad!" I exclaim, and I'm actually laughing. "Shut up! That's... I... how the heck did you manage to pull that off?"\n\nHe seems surprised to find me so relaxed about his crimes. Honestly I'm a little surprised at myself too, but on the other hand, the insanity of what he's just suggested far outweighs the morality of it. \n\nHe chuckles, awkwardly.\n\n"I guess it was pretty mad of me. It took a //lot// of work, Ike. And I'm not proud of how much effort I devoted to it. Lots of planning my teleports into precise locations at exactly the times that security guards would pass each other and stop to chat. Lots of intercepting memos. Lots of figuring out which cell cultures to tamper with..."\n\n"What are you, some kind of super-spy?" I ask him, grinning. \n\nHe grins too, but it doesn't last long. A dark look comes over his eyes and he gazes past me, at the TV. I'm sure some noir film is still on mute in the background. I didn't stop to check.\n\n"Not super enough..." he says. \n\nI raise my eyebrows. \n\n"Are you supposed to be more super?"\n\n"She figured it out, Ike."\n\n[[ºsuddenly I don't like where this is heading.]]
"You are late," says Caidar Hitsch.\n\nI'm standing in my boss's office, in front of his desk, still holding my bicycle helmet. Probably for the best, though I doubt a bicycle helmet can protect me against emotional head trauma.\n\nHis eyes could probably bore right through the styrofoam anyway.\n\n"I know," I whisper. "I'm sorry, Mr. Hitsch."\n\n"Not just late, but very late. Which leads me to assume that you must not have gotten my email this morning."\n\nI suck in a breath. I didn't even open my computer... \n\n"No, sir..." I say, flushing.\n\n"Ike," says Caidar, "We've been through this. You're not like other people here. I know you can't just show up like the rest of us. But because of that, I expect you to always use every opportunity to inform yourself. To be extra observant. To anticipate all hypothetical scenarios... That means checking your email every time you get up in the morning."\n\n"I know, sir," I say, flushing. \n\n"Clearly you don't," he all but whispers, "or you would have been here."\n\n"Maybe I can go find the clients? Call them up and tell them I'll bring the designs to them right away...?"\n\n"The deal is broken, Ike," says Caidar, tensely, "You know more than anyone how quickly people move on. Nobody has time to wait for anything to happen anymore. When I explained to them that you have to bike to work, they were beyond generous to wait the 15 minutes until 8:00, when you normally arrive. But 15 after that Ike? No. I guarantee you that ten minutes after those men left his office, they were intercepted by some freelancer holding sketches who's spent the last 6 months preparing to snipe that deal from us at the perfect moment." \n\n"And you dropped that opportunity and that paycheck right into his lap."\n\n"Some bosses would fire an employee for a gaff like that."\n\n"Please sir... I'm so sorry..." I murmur. "My dad he... I just... he's been getting worse, and this morning he cut himself on a bread knife, and—"\n\n"I'm sorry to hear that," replies Caidar. He sounds genuinely sympathetic. Then: "Where were you when it happened?"\n\n"I...I-I was showering, sir."\n\n"Showering. I see. And he cut himself on a bread knife. Which, I assume, means that he was trying to make himself breakfast..."\n\n"Yes..." I say.\n\n"And you—knowing full well your father's condition—didn't decide to go make him breakfast before you showered?"\n\nI swallow. \n\n"Sir—even if I had, there's no guarantee that he wouldn't have found something else to injure himself with when I went to shower..."\n\n"But you could have made him breakfast, and told him to stay on the sofa until you were out of the shower, thereby all but eliminating the possibility of him hurting himself, am I correct?"\n\n"Yes, sir." \n\n"And then you could have checked your email."\n\n"Probably sir. I mean, yes."\n\n"And then you could have been here on time."\n\nI nod. \n\n"And then this company could have had a contract..."\n\nI'm pressing my helmet into my stomach at this point, almost instinctively. I feel like I've just been punched in the gut. \n\n"I'm sorry."\n\nCaidar just stares at me, for what seems like an eternity. Just to make me wallow in my misery.\n\n"Go back to your desk," he mutters, finally. "And try to get there in a timely manner, even if you do have to walk there." \n\n[[ºanything to get out of this office as fast as possible.]]
My mind seems to have made itself up as I throw on my clothing. I grab my computer but don't put it into my messenger bag. I ignore the bag entirely and head back downstairs. \n\n"I'll see you this evening," says my father. \n\n"I'm not going to work," I reply, walking over to the kitchen table and dropping my laptop with a clatter. "I'm going to figure out a way to save you."\n\n"Ike, sweetheart--"\n\n"I'm serious."\n\n"No, Ike, you're //not//," he says, more sharply than I was expecting. "There's //nothing// you can do for me sitting around this house save for fetch me bagels, and that isn't going to save me." \n\n"You can't know that! I just need time to //think//."\n\n"You //need// to get to work and submit those designs, so they don't decide to //fire// you or something, Ike."\n\n"Let them fire me," I hiss. "If they're that insensitive that they--" \n\n"You're losing sight of the bigger picture, Ike."\n\n"The bigger picture..." I murmur. "The //bigger. Picture?"// Dad, the bigger picture is that //you're DYING!// You don't //get// bigger than that."\n\nThe tears are pouring down my face, but my dad seems completely unphased. He doesn't even raise his voice. \n\n"Unfortunately, sweetheart, it does get bigger. Whether you manage to somehow //save// me or not--"\n\n"Stop, dad. //Please.// I'm //going// to--"\n\n"You're going to have to support yourself, Ike. You //cannot// afford to let this job slip away. I... I won't be able to forgive myself if you do..." \n\nHis eyes darken oddly.\n\n"I'll just get another job," I hear myself whisper.\n\nDad just stares at me, and he's smiling. He's //smiling//, but it cuts worse than the sound of sobs. It's a smile of //guilt//, and that's just fucked up. //I// should be the one feeling guilty. //I'm the one who's about to walk out the door and leave him here to rot alone...// \n\nIt's not even remotely fair that he can't even count to ten in the right order, but somehow still realizes--much like I do--that I //can't// just get another job. Nobody wants me. I'm lucky that Caidar likes my work as much as he does. Most bosses wouldn't trade a few pretty paintings for perfect punctuality. \n \nI turn without another word and run back upstairs to grab my bag. \n\nI pass my dad again on my way to the door, shoving my computer into my bag along with a banana. \n\n"I you love, Ike," my father says. A bit of me withers. //He's mixing up word-order now... that's new....// \n\n"It's 'I love you'--" I say, tensely, but I immediately regret it. \n\n"Your heart's always in the right place," he says, ignoring me, "Even if the rest of you can't always come along. I... I wish I could say the same for myself."\n\n"... what?" I glance back, confused. "What do you mean?" \n\n"Nothing. Just go," he says. \n\nI shut the door behind me and dash down the steps to my bike. \n\n[[ºI should've just said 'I love you too'.|ºearly and on time]]\n
There's something wrong when I push open the door to the conference room---and it's not the squeal of the hinges, although the fact that the door is only ever used by me only serves to draw attention to the fact that I exist, which I guess is wrong, in a way... at least right now. \n\nI pause in the threshold, faced with a board room full of stony-faced, starched-suit types. They stare at me, some in bemusement, some in wry disdain. Then there's Rian, my co-worker, and moreover, my boyfriend. His face is a portrait of silent panic.\n\n"You're late, Ike."\n\nIn the awkward silence, my boss's normally kind voice ricochets down the conference table, nearly blastsing me out the door again. I manage to stand my ground, gawking at him like an idiot instead. //He can't be serious.// I went through //so// much trouble to make sure I was on time today. \n\nMy eyes flicker to the clock. \n\n<html><font face="Courier" size="3" color="#2E8A2E">8:01AM</font></html>\n\n"One minute past 8:00? Is that //late//?" I exclaim, bewildered. Rian's face twists painfully, and his eyes flash me a warning. //Maybe I should've been a little more demure...?// Even so, Caidar isn't usually one to pinch minutes; if he were, he never would've hired me. "I'm sorry, Mr. Hitsch," I correct myself,"It's just... You know I have to //bike// to work. I hope the guests were made aware...?" \n\n"They //were// made aware, Ike," says Caidar, "But it would seem that //you// weren't made aware that I wanted you to come in at 7:45 today."\n\n"How was I supposed to be aware of that?"\n\n"Maybe, if you'd read my email this morning," he replies, still just as quietly as ever. \n\nMy heart stutters, and my speech along with it. \n\n"But I mean... I..." I swallow, while the businessmen at the table continue to bore into me with their gazes as though there is //no// other place for their eyes. "There's never any guarantee that people check their email... If I'd known I obviously would have--"\n\n"Ike," says Caidar, "We've been through this. You're //not like// other people here. I know you can't just //show up// like the rest of us. But //because of that//, I expect you to always use //every// opportunity to inform yourself. To be //extra// observant. To //anticipate// all hypothetical scenarios... That means checking your email //every time// you get up in the morning."\n\n"I know, sir," I say, flushing. \n\n"Clearly you //don't//," he all but whispers, "or you would have been here."\n\n//It's always the thing that I don't do.//\n\n[[ºIt's like I'm a child.]] \n\n<<set $ontime = true>>
"I just don't understand the point..." I say, with a sigh, slumping down on the arm of the sofa with my plate in hand. "I'm devoting all my energy to salvaging a product that people are simultaneously trying to phase out of existence. Why not just let paper towels //die//, if people are so good at avoiding messes?"\n\nMy father doesn't answer me, at least not right away. \n\n"Paper towels are still important, Ike," he says, firmly. "Just because everybody is in the habit of never spilling milk or painting the inside of a microwave with overcooked macaroni doesn't mean that it will never happen again. And what happens when the milk is sitting there in a puddle? Are we going to wait for cats to evolve teleportation to lick it up? Are we going to cry? Or are we going to bend over with a piece of towel and //do//something about it? The paper towel exists because it is practical. Because it is a failsafe. Because it succeeds when all other options fail."\n\n"That's what I love about you, Ike. And what your mother loved about you. You never wait for something unrealistic to solve your problems. You never sit around and cry. You just //do// something."\n\n"Dad... you just compared me to super-absorbent sheets of tree pulp."\n\nHe pauses. \n\n"I guess I did..." he muses. He's flushing. "... I suppose that wasn't the right thing to say at the time--"\n\n"No," I stop him, laughing. "No, it was perfect, actually." \n\n"Well good. I've succeeded for the day, then."\n\nI walk over to put my plate in the sink, mostly just to put my back to him. I don't want him to see my tears. Not when he just told me I never cry. \n\n"[[ºI'm going to go shower,]]" I tell him. \n\n
<<if $walkofshame>> The walk of shame feels all too familiar as I make my way over to Rian's desk for the second time today. Although this time, I feel like I have very little to apologize for. \n\nRian doesn't acknowledge my presence for at least thirty seconds as I stand and watch him aimlessly push pixels like I was this morning.<<else>>\nRian doesn't acknowledge my presence for at least thirty seconds as I stand and watch him aimlessly push pixels like I was this morning.<<endif>>\n\n"Was it something about me that made you do it?" I ask, finally, managing to swallow the lump in my throat. \n\n"Ike, I need to get work done..." His voice is low, and grainy. I know all too well what that means. \n\n"Remember how you said office romances were the best kind, because it lets us always be in the right place to take care of everything?" I ask, bitterly, "How about doing that now, Ri."\n\nHe sighs, and rubs his temples, turning in his chair. His eyes are bloodshot red and swollen. \n\n//"I'm sorry,"// he whispers.\n\n"I just want to know why you did it..." I say. "Was it because I can't teleport? Or my dad? Or did I say something that upset you? I know I can be insensitive sometimes but I thought if I'd offended you, you would have told me about it--" \n\n"Ike, //I love you.// This didn't have anything to do with you--you have flaws, but that's not why. She was just //there//. I didn't know what to say. It just... if it's always the right place at the right time... then how could I not--"\n\n"BECAUSE YOU COULD JUST //CHOOSE// TO SAY 'NO', RIAN!" I shriek.\n\nThat's around the time I lose track of what I'm saying. It's all just words and blind emotion-- a deluge: some bitter assaults on society and people's values and all their stupid excuses for behaving like animals. Something about how he's never cared about me, something about how he probalby thinks he's more valuable than me because of his abilities, and that he couldn't possibly be wrong about anything. \n\nAnd then I'm babbling about my job again. And then my schedule, and then my father, and then how //fucking tired// I am, of //everything.//\n\nThe office around me is ringing with silence. I don't even care. \n\n[[I storm away from the cubicle.]] \n
I'm forced to get up and walk--actually //walk//-- over to Rian's desk. I call it the walk of shame. People always look up when I pass, assuming instinctively that someone appearing nearby must mean a destined visit from some doo-gooder. //No,// I tell them, with a grimace, and a wave, //it's just your neighborhood cripple. A cripple who walks. Now there's a thought...//\n\nRian's back at his desk, clicking furiously through file folders. I'm willing to bet he's being about as productive as I was when I opened my email inbox. \n\n"I love you too, Ri," I murmur. "Really, I do." \n\nHe doesn't react right away, just keeps clicking. But as I'm about to walk away -- of course, he //knows// the moment I'm about to leave. He can just //feel// it. -- he shoves his mouse away and rubs his temples. \n\n"I just... I never know what to do, Ike," he sighs. "Everything else, I just know. But when it comes to you..."\n\n"I know. I'm sorry. I was just really upset. You did the right thing. I was just being proud, like you said. You were //perfect//. I swear."\n\n"Ike, I am //not// perfect. Please don't--" \n\nAnd then he's gone again--\n\n--and back again, before I can even breathe. It's beginning to get a little strange. \n\n"Ri, what was //that//..."\n\n"Nothing. Just a false alarm..."\n\n"False alarm? What does that even--"\n\nHe spins his chair to face me. \n\n“I've gotta try to get something done this morning. You should too. I'll meet you for lunch?” he asks, nervously--as though he needs to ask. It's a rare event that we //don't// meet for lunch. Even if we //are// having a ridiculous couples' fight. \n\n“Yeah, alright.” I say, still watching him, skeptically. “12:30?”\n\n"Sounds good," he says.\n\nThen, before I can even begin to turn, he's darted out of his chair, grabbed me around the waist, and my stomach plunges as though I've been dropped out of the sky... \n\nEverything blurs. \n\nAnd then Rian is laughing at me as he lowers me gently into my own desk chair. \n\n"What the heck was that?" I gasp, shocked, and gripping his arm and that of my chair for some sense of stability. \n\n"Just saving Princess Proud from having to make another //walk of shame//," he murmurs into my ear, kissing my cheek. "I'll see you at 12:30."\n\nI can't help but smile to myself as he disappears. \n\n[[ºI really shouldn't be so hard on the guy.|rest of the morning]] \n\n<<set $walkofshame = true>>
It's a tissue-held by my always chivalrous and always timely boyfriend. He's chivalrous because he's a sweetheart, and timely because he's a damn-observant teleporter, but //also// because he happens to work with me. It's like having a doctor looming over your shoulder 24/7 with his fingers pressed to your pulse-except about 300% less obnoxious. Still, there's a high potential for weirdness. Rian //usually// manages to make it not weird. \n\nAnd right now, right now, his presence is perfect. I take the tissue from him and deal with my tears, blowing my nose. He moves his hands to my shoulders. \n\n“I blew it, Ri,” I say. My voice is all grain and grit. \n\n“Yeah, I see that,” he remarks, presenting me with another tissue from his pocket. “Would you like to blow again?” I can feel the smile on his face without turning around, and a laugh bursts out of my throat unexpectedly. I nearly choke on it. \n\n“Shut up, you bastard,” I say, reaching around to snatch the tissue from his hand. “That's //not// what I meant.”\n\n“I know, I know…” he replies, calmly. After a second, he squeezes down on my shoulders hard and leans in to plant a kiss on the side of my face. <<if $ontime>>“It's gonna okay, Ike. It's not the end of the world. Just a bad morning and a rotten client.”\n\n“Bad apples and rotten plums…” I mutter, planting my elbows on my desk and burying the heels of my palms in my eye sockets, rubbing. \n\n“No. I seem to recall very fresh looking fruit in those sketches,” replies Rian.<<else>>...<<endif>> He pecks the top of my head, and I squirm. His breath is warm in my hair, and his hands are still rubbing my shoulders. It occurs to me that he's not usually so… blunt… about physical affection-at least not at work. //Ugh...What if Caidar decides to come lambast me some more and sees this?//\n\n"[[What are you doing, Ri?]]" \n[[ºjust enjoy the damn backrub and stop overthinking everything.]]
I lose track of time as the water pours over my head. I can't help but continue to think of what my father said to me downstairs. I don't wait for something unrealistic. I don't cry. I just //do// something. \n\nSo why am I standing here sobbing in the shower, begging some higher power not to let him die? Why am I not //doing// something. \n\nI slam my hand on the faucet and turn the water off. \n\nThat's a start. \n\n[[ºNow what.]]
"//Me?// I came over here to //make you feel better// because something was wrong with //you//. And this is how I get treated!”\n\n“I'm not saying I don't appreciate you coming over here because I //do// but I keep asking you questions and you just-”\n\n“Look, Ike,” he interrupts me, slowly. His voice is calm, but it's a false calm, like trying to smooth a layer of chunky peanut butter with a knife. “It's been a rough past twenty-four hours, okay? I get that. For you, for me-”\n\n“How was it rough for //you//?” I ask, irritation finally consuming me. “As //I// recall, you were at a party.”\n\nRian says nothing, just purses his lips. He looks angry… but… for some reason, I get the feeling that he's not angry at //me//. That seems silly. He has every right to be angry at me right now. \n\n“I'm just going to get back to work-maybe we can both cool off a bit. I'll meet you for lunch?” he asks, nervously--as though he needs to ask. It's a rare event that we //don't// meet for lunch. Even if we //are// having a ridiculous couples' fight. \n\n“Yeah, alright.” I say. “12:30?”\n\nHe's already gone before 'thirty' has left my lips. \n\n[[ºmost stressful morning ever.|rest of the morning]]
My mind washes white with a strange calm. \n\nIt's as though I am suspended, a marionette on strings, and they've all gone slack. \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n::::\n\n\n\n<html><font face="Monaco" size="4" color="#7BA7A7">KAIR0S</font></html>\n\n//The ancient Greeks had two words for time, //chronos// and //kairos.// While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time in between, a moment of indeterminate time in which something special happens. In rhetoric kairos is "a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved." Kairos was central to the Sophists, who stressed the rhetor's ability to adapt to and take advantage of changing, contingent circumstances.//
//noun// : the decisive moment.\n\nAnna von Reden\nCarnegie Mellon University\nSpring 2012
"There's nothing you can do about it //now//," I hiss, "So why bother asking?" \n\nI spin around and focus my attentions on my computer screen. I don't really have any task in mind, so I open my email account to make it look like I do, praying that he just //leaves//, before my charade fails. \n\n"Great. Yeah. That's just //great//," he says, then. "It's always the same with you, isn't it? People go out of their way to try to help and you can never just be //happy// about it because you're so damn proud!" \n\n"What am I supposed to be happy about? Let alone //proud//?" I exclaim under my breath, a furious whisper, "I fucked up a huge company contract, my boss hates me, my contribution to this company isn't near what it could be, I can't teleport, and my father is //dying//. Am I supposed to be happy because you handed me a fucking tissue?"\n\n"You could be happy because you have people in your life who who don't //care// about your punctuality or what some stupid man with a briefcase thinks of your work!" he hisses in reply; it sounds unnaturally higher. He's actually //crying//. "You have people who would do just about anything for you! People who //love//--"\n\nHe falls silent. \n\nIt takes me a moment to realize that he actually //left//--teleported god knows where, right in the middle of his sentence. \n\n[[ºAbout damn time.]]\n[[ºI've already failed at saying 'I love you too' once today.]]
I don't have time to shower. That's pretty unfortunate, given I'm supposed to meet with some important client. But that's what I get for wasting so much time in front of the computer. \n\nI put on the least-wrinkly pieces of clothing I can find and tie my hair back tightly to make it at least appear orderly. Then I shove my computer into my bag and bolt for the door, with a hastily delivered fairwell to my father. \n\nI nearly slip on the newspaper waiting on the front steps. I don't bother picking it up. \n\n[[»»»|ºon time but late]]
<html><font face="Courier" size="3" color="#2E8A2E">6:55AM</font></html>\n\nI heard this weird Christmas story once: something about children dreaming of dancing sugarplum fairies. There are no fairies in my head when my alarm goes off-- I don't know what the hell sugarplum fairies //are//-- but I do know what a plum is. And a peach. And a few grapes... and some apples. \n\n<html><font face="Courier" size="3" color="#2E8A2E">6:56AM</font></html>\n\nThey're painted in pastels, on sheets of white paper--that's //super absorbent// Spilt-It? Quilt-It!™ paper. I spent all night painting them, even after I closed my computer //and// my eyes. \n\n<html><font face="Courier" size="3" color="#2E8A2E">6:57AM</font></html>\n\nI guess I'm just trained to never waste time. //Ever.// I have to keep working, keep watching, so that I never miss the perfect moment. Apparently my brain no longer understands that when I'm //asleep//, I'm not //actually// working. Maybe it doesn't even matter. Maybe in my dreams I'll stumble upon the opportunity, the right course of action, the perfect paper-towel print for housewives everywhere... Then I just have to hope I don't forget about it by the time I wake. \n\nMaybe that's why I have such vivid dreams lately.\n \n... and apparently vivid daydreams too.\n\n\n[[ºWhy am I still sitting here?]]
<<if $email or $designfiles>>\nThe sheer amount of time I've spent agonizing over my computer this morning is ridiculous. \n\nI wonder for a second if maybe I'm trying to distract myself from other things. //Distraction is deadly, Ike.// The voice of my boss rings through my head like another alarm clock. //Observation is omnipotence.//\n\nI sigh and climb out of bed, only to hear my father's voice yet again. He //doesn't// sound like an alarm clock, but what he says jolts me awake better than anything else has this morning. \n\n"Ike? Do you want a half bagel or a whole one?!"\n\n//No. No no no.// He should not be on his feet. He should not be moving around. And he should //not// be holding a knife, for the love of all things holy....\n\n"Dad!" I shout, "Don't! I'll be right there!!"\n\n[[ºWhy do I always ignore him?]]\n\n<<else>>\n<<display "ºI should already be in the shower. ">>\n<<endif>>
“What do you mean, //what am I doing?”// he replies, grinning. “You're feeling terrible, and I'm trying to fix it. Am I not supposed to?” He tries to make the question sound flippant, but there's a weird earnestness lingering somewhere beneath, as though he's genuinely unsure about his own actions. //That's weird. He always so sure about everything…//\n\n“Well, I mean, of course you are, but while we're at //work//?” I reply, “It's awkward!”\n\n“We've been through this a million times. It's not like we're a secret. Caidar knows.”\n\n“Yeah, and he tolerates it because we're not breathing down each other's necks and crawling under desks together every ten minutes…” \n\nRian lets go of my shoulders. \n\n[[ºI probably shouldn't have phrased it quite like that.]] \n
Obituaries have become an obsession of mine. For as long as I can remember growing up, the only people who ever showed up in obituaries were people who died of the most natural causes -- usually old age. Accidents rarely claim human life. Somebody is //always// around to push out of the way of an oncoming bus. It seems like lifeguards are in the water before the drowning victim even takes a dip. \n\nBecause of this, the obituaries page is usually short, while on the facing page, you can read a much longer, comprehensive list of "Accidents Averted" the previous day. I guess they hold the same entertainment value as the police reports do to obsessive neighbors. \n\nThe obituaries have been growing, lately. \n\nI stare down at one entry in particular. It's a guy: young, probably not much older than I am. The blurb says he died yesterday at a rock-climbing gym after his partner failed to reach out and grab his hand when his harness malfunctioned. A woman on the ground below tried to break his fall and also ended up injured. The rock-climber's partner was later diagnosed with early-stage IS. \n\n"Ike... stop reading those. All they're going to do is wear you down." My dad's voice breaks through my mental haze. \n\n"There has to be a way to stop it," I mutter. \n\n"Stopping IS isn't going to bring Mom back," he says. "You and I both know that, no matter how sorry I am."\n\n//But it might stop me losing you.// The thought lingers in my mind. I can't make myself speak. \n\n"Go to work, Ike."\n\n[[ºHe's right, I need to leave.|ºI really don't want to think about this now.]]\n[[ºI could reach out and try to save him, or just let him keep falling...]]\n\n\n\n\n
"It looks like... clipart," says a man in a particularly out of fashion beige suit. \n\n"Well, //yeah//," I say, before I can help it. "They're for //paper towels.// It's not exactly supposed to look like a Caravaggio."\n\n"Seems like your intern doesn't know how to //speak// at the right time either, Mr. Hitsch," says another suit. \n\n"Maybe let the images speak for themselves, Ike," suggests Caidar, tensely. I grind my teeth. \n\n"All these images say to me is: 'please throw me away as fast as possible,'" says the beige suited man. "We're trying to //inspire// people, Mr. Hitsch," he continues, "In this day and age of unparalleled pressure to do the right thing, we don't want people to have to feel guilty about cleaning up a mess! We want them to embrace it as a chance to make a situation cleaner than it was to start! We want people to use our products, and be relieved that their mistakes are rendered inconsequential! And //that// requires paper towels of //consequence!//"\n\nThe speech ends, and I'm left blinking. \n\n[[ºI can't believe I just listened to that. Did that just happen?]]\n\n
Dear Reader; \n\ninSITE network has compiled this HAVE TO READ NOW list of the places you're most likely to make an impact TODAY! Just click the link to learn the secrets to your productivity!\n\n[A LINK THAT NOBODY IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD CLICK.] \n\n[[ºback to Inbox|ºcheck email]]\n\n<<set $checked = true>>
I take the bagel from him-- they're left over from the weekend, and need toasting to be edible. I reach for the long bread-knife and begin sawing it in half. It's quite an endeavor, but soon the two halves have found their way into the toaster. \n\nI turn to look over at my father. He's watching me, and his facial expression is that of a shamed child. //Don't.// I think. //I'm not your parent. You're supposed to be my dad. Don't do this to me.//\n\n"I don't like being a burden on you," he says. It seems perfectly timed to answer my thoughts, but I know it's just a fluke. He's far too sick to have done that on purpose. \n\n"You're not," I say.\n\nWe linger in awkward silence. The television is on in the background, it's tuned to one of those classic movie networks -- where everything is black and white, and surreal technicolor. My dad loves that stuff. \n\nThe bagels pop up, casually blackened. \n\nI prepare my dad's -- cream cheese, no jelly -- and deliver it to him on the couch along with his medication and a glass of water. \n\n"Thanks," he says. \n\n"Yeah," I reply, distracted, "I've got to get going. Boss needs me there at <<if $boss>>7:45<<else>>8:00<<endif>>."\n\n"Well you'd better hurry, then," says Dad. "It's already 7:35."\n\n<<if $boss>>[[ºShit.]]<<else>>[[ºI'm doing fine for time.|ºgo upstairs and eat while getting dressed]]<<endif>>\n\n<<set $finefortime = true>>
I fly down the stairs, skidding on the landing as I make a sharp turn into the den. Across the room, at our kitchnette, my father stands awkwardly, gripping a bagel in one hand and a long breadknife in the other. Standing up takes almost all his concentration, and he has none left to hold the knife steady. \n\n"Dad, stop!" I say, rushing forward. He pauses, and I have time to intercept, taking the knife from his hand and putting it down on the counter.\n\n"There you are!" he says, cheerfully, "I thought you were still asleep!"\n\n"Dad," I say, out of breath, "How many times have I told you not to try to make breakfast for yourself?"\n\n"But it's not a problem!" he insists. "You have a lot to worry about with your job and your own life! The least the old man can do is cut himself a bagel!" \n\n"Dad..." I persist. "Look at how you're holding the bagel."\n\nI watch his face as his eyes wander --and wander is a good word, because it takes them a while to do what they're told-- to the counter. The bagel rests on the countertop like the wheel to a wagon, and he's gripping it from the top, middle finger curled through the hole in the center. His gaze is vacant. \n\nHe would have started sawing through the top of his own hand, if I hadn't come down. \n\n"I'm supposed to know..." he murmurs, quietly, as my eyes sting with tears. "Location, sequence, causality... I knew... once..." \n\n"[[ºIt's okay, Dad. I'll get breakfast.]]"\n\n\n
<html><font face="Courier" size="3" color="#2E8A2E">6:58AM</font></html>\n\nI've already spent three minutes just sitting here. A waste. Today is going to be rough.\n\n"Mareika...?"\n\nMy father's voice echoes up the stairs, weakly. It's not going to be a good day for him either. Lately he has fewer and fewer good days. And last night was rough for both of us. \n\nI don't want to think about it. I'm still kind of angry about it, to be honest, even if that's selfish of me. I was supposed to be at a party last night with my boyfriend, and instead I ended up on disaster mitigation duty for my dad again...\n\nI need to be at work by 8:00... at least in theory. But who knows, maybe if I show up at 8:01 or 7:59, my life will be forever changed for the better. But //which one// to aim for?\n\nIf I were remotely talented, I would know.\n\nUgh. Fuck it. \n\n<html><font face="Courier" size="3" color="#2E8A2E">6:59AM</font></html>\n\n[[ºI probably have time to check my computer.]]\n[[ºI should check on my dad. ]] \n[[ºI should already be in the shower. ]]\n
<html><font face="Courier" size="3" color="#2E8A2E">7:00AM</font></html>\n\nI search through my sheets until I figure out which of the many mismatched blankets my laptop is hiding between. \n\nI should check on my father. Really, //really// should. As it is, I convince myself that the noise I heard from downstairs was just a tired floorboard. //'Creeeeeaaak'// sounds close enough to //'Mareeiiikka'// that I can swallow my own lie with only a moderate amount of nausea. \n\nMy computer glows brightly after my fingers are done whacking my password into the keyboard. Three rakishly handsome faces grin at me from my desktop. They belong to 'All Mapped Out'-- you know, one of those boybands, with hits like 'There in a Heartbeat' and 'Obstacle [Of]Course!' about //that girl// who's about to do something really stupid, until //that guy// shows up at her balcony, having brought along a diamond ring and a field of Everbloom tulips and the entire yearly output of the Instafix Chocolate Factory...or just a pre-fab soliloquy. \n\n<html><font face="Courier" size="3" color="#2E8A2E">7:02AM</font></html>\n\nPeople who get to know me always seem surprised when they learn I'm a sucker for that crap. They'd be //more// surprised, I'd expect, if they realized that I like to imagine that the boys in those songs get there at the perfect moment because they actually take the time to assess the relationship and plan elaborately in advance. \n\nRather than, you know, just teleporting wherever the fuck they want. \n\n<html><font face="Courier" size="3" color="#2E8A2E">7:03AM</font></html>\n\nI'm better than that. I'm not //that girl//. And I don't have time to dwell on this right now. \n\n[[ºcheck email]]\n[[ºlook at last night's design files]]\n[[ºshut the damn computer and take a shower]]\n\n<<set $boyband = true>>\n\n\n\n\n
The results of last night's pixel pushing are still open on my toolbar, and I find myself almost subconsciously clicking on the file to bring it into focus. \n\nUgh.\n\nThings often look different in the light of morning. Most things look better. \n\nBut not these designs. I can see where the gradient from rose to orange across one of my peaches is too sudden, and where the shadow cast by one of the leaves doesn't match the source light of the rest of the image. The grapes are also slightly too small beside the apple...\n\nPart of my brain tries to tell me that these images are going to be printed on paper towels-- that nobody //cares// about the images on paper towels, and frankly people rarely //buy// paper towels to begin with. Who ever spills things anymore? \n\nBut all the while, I'm adjusting colors and reshaping vectors and magnifying grapes. It's the burden of being trained to be hyper aware. It's also the burden of knowing that a great looking bunch of grapes might be the only thing that //makes// people want to buy paper towel. \n\nOf course, that also requires me delivering them to my boss on time... My eyes flicker suddenly to the clock.\n\n<<if $email>>\n[[ºshut the damn computer and take a shower]]\n[[ºI should see what my dad is up to.]]\n<<else>>\n[[ºSince I'm already on my computer, I might as well check my email.|ºcheck email]]\n[[ºshut the damn computer and take a shower]]\n[[ºI should see what my dad is up to.]]\n<<endif>>\n\n<<set $designfiles = true>>
It's a slow rest of the morning. Unsurprisingly, nobody wants to give me another assignment right now -- not after I botched the last one. I email Caidar to ask him when he'd like to see the revised still-lifes. \n\n"Whenever seems like a good moment //to you//," he replies-- single line email, no greeting, no signature. He's not being lenient. His words ooze with sarcasm, and I know exactly what he //really// meant: "Stop asking, and //do it//."\n\nI sigh, and pass the hours blending mauve into orange, re-thinking the curvature of green grapes, and trying out different types of lighting -- all the while thinking how stupid it is to worry about any of it when all the effects will just be folded, moistened, crumpled, stained, and trashed. Maybe, somebody, somewhere, //frames// pieces of papertowel, therby justifying my whole career. I'm not hopeful. I consider incorporating stains //into// my design; paper towels that look like they already soaked up some grape-juice, and dealt with some microwave gunk. The thought is incredibly unappetizing, but somehow amusing. \n\n<<if $late>> But then, while trying and failing to come up with a red to look like re-heated chilli, my mind wanders back to my father, and the blood on the kitchen cabinets. My idea suddenly loses all its comedy.<<else>>...<<endif>>\n\n[[º12:30 couldn't come soon enough.|ºlunch]] \n\n
"... what happened?" I say, swallowing. "I-I never heard you fighting, or... or //anything//."\n\nThe TV reflects black, then white, then black again on my father's glazed eyes. \n\n"It all happened so fast, Ike... I'd just ported into the cold room in the lab to try to destroy some of the samples she'd be storing, but for some reason I didn't realize her lab assistant had stayed late that night. Nervous kid, always terrified of destroying something valuable by accident. He saw that the cold-room door was open and ported over to close it so that nobody would blame him...\n\n//Every single person is so damn scared of being the guilty one... What is wrong with this world?// I think. \n\n"... I had to port out fast so that he wouldn't see me. I didn't have time to plot a trajectory, or a destination, or a purpose. I was thinking of your mother, beyond everything--" \n\n"--and that's exactly where you took yourself," I finish, knowingly. "To wherever she was..."\n\nHe finally brings his eyes back to mine. He doesn't say anything, but his face says everything. \n\nI sit there, stunned; my grip on his hand has gone limp. I //knew// as soon as I'd developed my theory back in the office that my father was hiding guilt over the death of my mother. And who wouldn't? When a man has all the power in the world to rush in and save the day, who //wouldn't// feel guilty about letting an opportunity slip away?\n\nI hadn't expected that //him being there// had been //the thing that killed her.//\n\nI hadn't considered the idea that maybe he //deserved// to feel guilty. Maybe Ri deserved to feel guilty too. //Maybe everyone just deserves it.// \n\nIt's all too much to think about. \n\n//Run.// My brain says, and I can feel my muscles all jolting at once, desperate to leave-- if I //were// capable of teleporting, that jolt would have been my disappearance. But I'm not, so I just sit here helpless, twitching, demolished. \n\n[[ºget up and walk away. just do it.]]\n[[ºstay at his side.]]
After a few seconds of my staring blankly at the tacky plastic coating on the booth across from me, I resign myself to the fact that Rian's not about to turn up again any time soon. \n\nI've lost my appetite by now, anyway. \n\n//Figures he would just tell me he cheated on me, then leave me here with the check. So chivalrous...//\n\nI collect myself and muster the will to return to the office. Part of me doesn't even know why I'm bothering. Part of me wonders where exactly I went wrong to make all this shit happen to me in one day....\n\nBy the time I walk back, Rian has long been back in his cubicle. I stand in the doorway to the company's little cubicle hell, wondering whether to approach him again or just go back to my desk. \n\n[[ºI can't just let him escape this.]] \n[[ºI don't want to look at him.]]
"You don't understand..." he says. "You can't possibly understand."\n\n"Understand //what//, Ri."\n\n"Every day I look at you. What you accomplish. //How much// you accomplish, when you can only move at a fraction of the pace. And I just wish I could help you. I just wish I could do more. In this society everybody is just expected to be able to //everything//. I should be able to do //so much more//. I should be able to fix your problems, Ike. But every day I just feel so helpless, I just feel so //guilty// when I think about what I could be doing that I'm not. I can't do enough.... \n\n... I can't do enough... And when that girl showed up I just... for once I didn't have to do anything. I just went along for the ride... I just stopped dealing with it.It's a stupid reason, I know! I know it is! But it's all I've got. It's how I feel."\n\nHe disintegrates into tears. \n\n//Guilty...//\n\n[[Ri, it's okay!]]\n\n
<html><font face="Courier" size="3" color="#2E8A2E">7:08AM</font></html>\n\nI get up and refill the glass, as quickly as I can. "Don't go taking the pill without the water now..."\n\nHe laughs. So do I. It's all either of us can do. I bring him a full glass. He looks at the pill and the water for an age like it's some sort of chicken and egg problem, before finally swallowing both at once.\n\n//Indecision// -- that's what the doctors have taken to labelling it: //indecision syndrome//. It starts with the teleportation; you begin showing up at odd places at odd times, without knowing why. That's how it started with dad. \n\nThen you stop doing //anything// in the right place or the right time. And then your feet have trouble being in the right place, and your fingers, and your words... \n\nThey say it hits your heart last: it beats strangely and furiously in the final moments because it stops understanding that pumping blood takes proper timing. \n\n<<set $indecision = true>>\n<html><font face="Courier" size="3" color="#2E8A2E">7:11AM</font></html>\n\n//"Ike,"// my dad's voice breaks my thoughts. //"The bagels,// sweetheart. Don't you freeze here at my side just because //I'm// slowing down."\n\n"Right."\n\nI head back to the counter and put the toasted bagels on plates with a clank that betrays they are still stale bricks. I get out the cream cheese and jelly. \n\nThere's a bunch of grapes painted on the jelly jar. It reminds me of sugarplum fairies again, and how little time I have to get to work.\n\n[[ºBut I have to eat anyway. Might as well eat with him.|ºeat with your dad]]\n[[ºI can save time if I eat upstairs.|ºgo upstairs and eat while getting dressed]]\n[[ºI should grab the paper while I'm down here.|ºget the morning paper]]
"Ike... I don't know what to say," he says, eyes darting this way and that. He's playing with a fork and drops it. He picks it back up hastily and pretends it didn't happen, as I stare at him, heart racing. \n\n"Ri..." I say, reaching for his hand, but he moves it almost involuntarily toward his napkin, and begins ripping it into pieces. "You're scaring me to death... This is like how dad started..."\n\n"I was going to come find you last night. I swear. The party was lame... a-and I knew if you weren't there then you could've used a hand. I was about to walk out the door. I'd just grabbed my coat, and I was thinking about hopping to your place..."\n\nThen he's at an empty booth across the restaurant, looking around in bewilderment. He finds my eyes, swallows, teleports back.\n\n"Ri..."\n\n"And then she was just there..." he blurts.\n\nMy heart stops.\n\n"[[Who?]]"\n\n \n\n\n
I manage to take a deep breathe and not blurt the first thing that comes to mind. //Don't judge. You can't judge him.//\n\nDad takes a deep breath, this time without me telling him to. \n\n“A year ago she stumbled upon something… we hadn't spoken much about it before then -she knew it bothered me … but then she came across something, and it all surfaced again. I didn't know what to do. And she just started working all the time-all the damn time… and I couldn't take it, Ike.” \n\nIt's true-Mom //had// been working a lot, in the months leading up to her death. There'd been a question as to whether maybe exhaustion had been part of the cause of the accident. Nothing had ever come of that line of inquiry, though. It seemed almost irrelevant. \n \n"[[You 'couldn't take it?' What does that mean?]]"\n"[[Mom working all the time upset me too.]]"
:: Mareike buries herself in work to avoid thinking about anything else that's weighing heavily on her mind at the moment. The day passes by in a blur. ::\n\n
The antique tones of technicolor had hidden the blue-gray tint that has washed across my father's face in my absence. \n\n//He was fine this morning. I mean, he wasn't perfect, but he wasn't so far gone, that... no... it can't be...//\n\nI drop the fork and napkin and fall to my knees beside him, shaking him, thinking maybe...//maybe// he just forgot that you have to open your eyes in order to wake up....\n\n//... and not be blue lipped... and cold...//\n\n"Dad?!" I say, even though I know better than to expect a response. I'm just talking, hysterically, automatically. "Dad, please. I knew shouldn't have left you this morning. I knew I should've tried to find a way....! Please..."\n\n[[ºI'm so sorry.]]\n\n\n\n::::\n\n\n\n<html><font face="Monaco" size="4" color="#7BA7A7">KAIR0S</font></html>\n\n//The ancient Greeks had two words for time, //chronos// and //kairos.// While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time in between, a moment of indeterminate time in which something special happens. In rhetoric kairos is "a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved." Kairos was central to the Sophists, who stressed the rhetor's ability to adapt to and take advantage of changing, contingent circumstances.//
Rian and I head to a cafe down the street from the office for lunch. Sometimes, Rian grabs me and teleports me over, but on nice days, he's happy to have an excuse to walk outside, and I'm honestly happier without that swooping sensation in my stomach before and after I eat a meal. I don't know how most people handle it. \n\nThe walk is a weird one; the ability to teleport has largely made people ignore the aesthetics of all the spaces //in between// point A and point B. People only bother to landscape places that can be seen out of windows. But there's also barely any litter on the roads, and barely any other //people// either. Those that we do pass usually are too embarrassed, or too hurried to spare a glance or greeting. \n\nUsually, Ri and I make fun of them in whispers. \n\nToday, though, Ri is distracted for reasons I can't pinpoint. During the entire walk, he keeps teleporting away from our conversation to do mundane things like pick up one hasty woman's dropped change. \n\nTo my dismay, it continues once we're in the restaurant. He's hopping //all over the place// to prevent salt-shakers from tipping over, keep waitresses from dropping trays, and doing calculations for patrons who are having difficulty figuring out how much to tip. I don't think he's listened to one sentence I've uttered from start to finish in the last half hour. \n\n"[[Ri, what is wrong?]]"\n[[ºleave the cafe without him]]\n
I crawl out of the blankets reluctantly and make my way downstairs. The steps complain loudly as I walk. They should be happy they exist; most houses don't even //have// stairs.\n\n"Morning, Dad." I say, peering across the threshold into the den. \n\nAcross the room, at our kitchnette, my father stands awkwardly, gripping a bagel in one hand and a long breadknife in the other. Standing up takes almost all his concentration, and he has none left to hold the knife steady. \n\n"Wait, Dad! Stop!" I say, rushing forward. He pauses, and I have time to intercept, taking the knife from his hand and putting it down on the counter.\n\n"There you are!" he says, cheerfully, "I thought you were still asleep!"\n\n"Dad," I say, "How many times have I told you not to try to make breakfast for yourself?"\n\n"But it's not a problem!" he insists. "You have a lot to worry about with your job and your own life! The least the old man can do is cut himself a bagel!" \n\n"Dad..." I persist. "Look at how you're holding the bagel."\n\nI watch his face as his eyes wander --and wander is a good word, because it takes them a while to do what they're told-- to the counter. The bagel rests on the countertop like the wheel to a wagon, and he's gripping it from the top, middle finger curled through the hole in the center. His gaze is vacant. \n\nHe would have started sawing through the top of his own hand, if I hadn't come down. \n\n"I'm supposed to know..." he murmurs, quietly, as my eyes sting with tears. "Location, sequence, causality... I knew... once..." \n\n"[[ºIt's okay, Dad. I'll get breakfast.]]"\n\n\n
"I don't know..." replies Rian, though a flush suddenly races across his cheeks. "Maybe I was thinking about how many paper towels we could sell if we put a picture of your face on them..."\n\nI can't see myself, but the skepticism on my face at that comment //has// to be truly monumental. \n\n"We should talk," he says, then, suddenly all full of gravitas. There's that troubled look again. \n\n"Okay?" I say. "Then let's talk."\n\n"Not now," he says. "It's not the right place, or the right time."\n\n"Right..." I sigh. "Sure, well, you would know."\n\nHe winces slightly.\n\n"We'll do lunch at 12:30, yeah?" \n\nI agree, and he teleports across the room to his cubicle while I head toward mine on foot. \n\n[[ºwell, I wonder what that's about.]]
"Well //great//," I sigh, rolling my eyes. "They seemed //completely// sane..."\n\nRian chuckles uncomfortably. Caidar doesn't even smirk.\n\n"Rian, leave us," he says, softly. \n\nRian's eyes flicker to my face.\n\n"We, uh... should talk, later," he mutters. \n\n"Okay?" I reply. //When do we not?//\n\nThen I'm alone to face the wrath of my boss. \n\n"Are they really //that// bad?" I ask, throwing my hands at the projection. \n\n"No, Ike, but--"\n\n"--How do they know that people don't //want// a hybrid peach/plum?" \n\n"//Ike--//"\n\n"And who the hell is //inspired// by a //paper towel//?" I exclaim, "If that's all we have to look to for inspiration the world is in //dire// shape--"\n\n"IKE!" Caidar snaps. "Enough."\n\nI fall silent. \n\n"The designs, Ike. They're not your best work. They're not your worst work either. If we'd //sold// them properly, we probably could have sealed the deal. The content of the designs is irrelevant."\n\n"Well //that's// consoling," I growl, "I suppose that's why you hired the incompetent cripple to do your illustrations? Because the actual content doesn't count?"\n\n"I //hired// you because you are a talented artist, a honest, intelligent, productive individual. I //hired// you because you were willing to work hard, and because you were always so //concious// of your shortcomings that you strived endlessly to be //say// the right thing. To be //kind//, //polite//, and //accomodating//." \n\n"//That// display, however, just makes me wonder if perhaps I was wrong about you." \n\nI don't have a response. \n\n"If you had just managed to //check your email, show up// here when we needed you, //smile// when they looked at you -- and if you had just //graciously// offered to make any tweaks they wanted,we would have had a very large new contract on our hands.//And now we don't."//\n\n"I'm sorry..." I say, for what seems like the dozenth time this morning. "I don't really know what got into me. I-It's just been a rough week, and I was in a hurry, and last night //my father//--"\n\n"I know what your situation is at home, Ike. You don't need to bring your father's illness into this. In fact that seems incredibly uncouth."\n\nSaying the right thing really isn't my strong suit. I don't know where Caidar got that idea. \n\n"How do I //not//--"\n\n"If you're too overextended to fulfill the requirements of your position, Ike, you need to tell me that, so that I can find somebody who can execute. This company //can't// afford to miss opportunities like this one, and I'm going to have to spend the //rest of my day// trying to figure out how to put myself in those businessmen's paths at the perfect moment to change their minds. And I have //far// better things to do!"\n\n"You need to go re-evaluate your situation, Ike. And then come tell me what you're willing to do to make this right."\n\nCaidar disappears from the room, but his eyes don't seem to leave with him right away. His face is burned in my mind, critical and irritated, but somehow also still the warm, generous man that hired me years ago... \n\n[[It's the warmth that hurts the most.]]
<html><font face="Courier" size="3" color="#2E8A2E">7:07AM</font></html>\n\nHis laughter fades as he sees the look on my face. \n\n"Come on, Ike, don't give me those eyes... I'm fine," he insists, but the subsequent burst of gritty coughs calls his bluff. I pour a glass of water, walk over to the couch and sit down with him. \n\n"I'm //fine//," he protests as I reach out for his hand. He can barely give it the softest squeeze. His fingers don't want to move where they're supposed to. \n\nI reach for the bottle of pills on the coffee table and hand him the glass of water. \n\nHe's already swallowed it all when I hand him the pill.\n\n"You weren't supposed to drink that yet, dad."\n\n"Oh... right..." The realization dawns on him slowly. "I'm sorry, Ike." \n\nI sigh. \n\n[[ºLet me get you a refill...]]
I sigh--I'm upset enough already without bringing last night into the mix. “He decided he was going to change all the light bulbs in the house, while the lights were //on//, and when none of them had burned out.” \n\nRian grimaces. “Yikes--is he okay?”\n\nI nod, closing my eyes. “Burnt himself a bit--and it was a chore to get him to sit down, because he was just so sure that he needed to be somewhere. And then he started talking about Mom again…” //Ugh…// I think, as my eyes sting. //Here come the tears again… I swallow hard.// \n\nRian swallows as well. “I'm sorry I wasn't there…” he says. \n\n//I'm sorry too,// I think, suddenly. It's a bitter thought, and I immediately feel bad for thinking it. But it's true. He manages to show up with a tissue for me to cry into, but last night--or for that matter //this morning//, when I //really// could have used him, he's nowhere to be found. \n\nI mean, it's not like it's his job to help me deal with my dying father. That's a heavy burden to ask someone else to carry, but that's--well at least in my mind--part of what being a boyfriend is about.\n\n“It's okay,” I say, but I suck at lying. He can hear how //not okay// it is, and I bite my lip and wait for him to try to atone for his sins, even though I really don't need or even //want// him to. My stomach twists. Between the two of us there's so much guilt compressed into this cubicle right now that the floor seems to sag under the weight. \n\nAnd then he's gone again, so spontaneously that I actually slide back across the floor and bump into my desk…\n\n… And as the two piece of furniture make contact he's already back. \n\n“What was that?!” \n\n“I just… Warren was looking for something on my desk and I just had to show-”\n\n“You weren't //gone// long enough to show //anything// to //anyone//!” I exclaim, all the while aware of how entirely flustered his expression had been in the second he'd teleported, and how wide his pupils are dilated. \n\n“He //found// it on his own just as I got there so I didn't have to show him!” he snaps, then. “Who are //you// to start making value judgments on teleports? How would //you// know?”\n\n“[[What's… Rian… what's wrong with you?]]”\n
<<if $beenupstairs>> "I wish I could stay and chat, dad, but I have to get to the office."\n\n"I know, Ike," he says, with a smile, "Get going, and I'll just grab another bit of shut-eye." <<endif>>\n\nI head for the front door, throwing it open, and snatch the morning paper off the steps. \n\nThe headline is bold, and takes up most of the space above the fold; it looks like something out of my worst nightmares. \n\n''INDECISION SYNDROME SPREADS FASTER THAN EXPERTS PROJECTED.''\n\n[[ºUhhh... How fast is fast?]]\n[[ºI really don't want to think about this now.]]
“Dad!” I exclaim, rushing into the house, “Dad, there's something that I need to talk to you about…”\n\nI stop when I see the living room. For a moment I wonder if maybe we got robbed while I was at work. The coffee table has been knocked on its side, the couch is all askew, and every belonging that we have is somewhere other than where it's supposed to be. The television remote is in a flower vase of water; the flowers, meanwhile, are in the sink, buds first, with their stems pointing to the ceiling, begging for moisture. \n\nMy father is lying on the floor about halfway between his couch and the kitchen counters. There is a drinking glass clutched in his right hand; its rim is chipped-probably from the fall he must've taken. A bunch of ice cubes are scattered across the floor near his other hand, slowly melting. He didn't remember that they needed to be put into the glass before they could cool anything. \n\n[[“Dad!”]]\n
"On the whole, I like them," a man in a beige suit tells me, after I've finished my presentation. "I think they're a nice throwback to simpler times. Good composition. There's almost something colonial about it. I think people will find the pictures comforting." \n\n"And that's exactly what we want," says the man beside him, "Comfort in the case of mistakes."\n\n"Of course," I say, with a smile and a nod. //Whatever you say, sir.// It's all a little crazy to me.\n\n"I think the lighting could just use a bit of tweaking. Right now it seems to be coming from several angles instead of just one source..."\n\n"--And maybe a bit of a pinker shade on the peach, there? Right now I think it leans a bit to far toward the purple spectrum."\n\n"I can make any changes you think are necessary within the week, sir."\n\n"Brilliant."\n\nCaidar leans across the table with a tablet computer and a stylus. \n\n"Well, Mr. Baker, should we talk business, then?" he says, tossing me a wink. \n\nThe conversation shifts, and I prepare to leave as quickly and quietly as I can. Rian rises and follows me out the door. \n\n"Morning, no-show," he says, when the door shuts behind us. "Nice job in there."\n\n"Colonial? Really?" I say, still amused. \n\n"Yeah, that was totally absurd. It's //clear// you were drawing your inspiration from the industrial age... with some rennaisance thrown in... and post-modern leaves..."\n\n"Post... modern... leaves..." I echo, blinking at him. \n\nWe both burst out laughing. \n\n"Seriously though. Nice job. You really sold them!"\n\n"[[What was with all the staring?]]"
I tumble to my knees beside him and reach for his face; he's awake - thank god. But beyond that…\n\n“I wanted thirsty and drink to was something,” he mutters, bewilderedly. He knows I'm here, but his eyes won't find my face. I softly stroke his brow, and reach to pull the glass from his fingers. “Llasowing…”\n\n“What?” I ask. My heart is pounding. This was sooner than I expected. He was talking fine this morning. How had he gotten so bad over the course of just one day? Why did I go to work this morning…\n\nNo, no I can't think like that. I can't feel guilty. That won't help. I can still save him. \n\n“..swallow…ing…” says my father, getting the letters in the right order this time. “Kept swallowing and swallowing and thirsty still…”\n\n“You've gotta put water in your glass before you can swallow it, dad…” I whisper, tearfully. \n\nHe's still trying to swallow, even now. Again and again, dry-mouthed, helpless. \n\nI'm moving, but it's pure adrenaline driving me to my feet to get him something to drink. I'm nearly at the sink when I realize what's actually going on…\n\n[[ºHe's so busy trying to swallow he's not breathing.]]
I like the shower. It's the one place that I feel like I can\n\nreflect \n\n<html> m<br/> \n e n<br/>\n  a i     u l<br/>\n     n g f l y <br/>\n<br/>\non \n<br/><br/>\na <br/>\n   y <br/> \n n <br/>\n    thi<br/>\n      n<br/>\n        g.<br/> \n<br/>\n<br/>\n!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡<br/>\n!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡<br/>\n!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡<br/>\n!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡<br/>\n!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡<br/>\n!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡<br/>\n!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡<br/>\n!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡<br/>\n!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡<br/>\n!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡<br/>\n!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡<br/>\n</html>\n\n\nI can't shake the guilt of ignoring my father. He needs more help than he used to, more than I'm really ready to admit. \n\n//Indecision// -- that's what the doctors call it: //indecision syndrome//. It starts with the teleportation; you begin showing up at odd places at odd times, or not doing things that you were perfectly capable of doing. That's how it started with dad. \n\nThen you stop doing //anything// in the right place or the right time. And then your feet have trouble being in the right place, and your fingers...\n\nI don't like this train of thought. I reach for the faucet and turn off the shower. \n\nAs the sound of rushing water fades away, I realize that my dad is still calling for me. Except it's different than before: louder, and panicked. \n\n"Ike! Help! I'm bleeding! MAREIKE!"\n\nMy heart stops. \n\n//Oh god, Dad. What have you done...// \n\nI grab my towel from the door and rush downstairs while still wrapping it around myself. \n\n"[[ºHold on, dad!]]"
It looks like Rian tried to teleport into Caidar's office for a meeting--- though really, who knows //where// he was teleporting, given his earlier behavior.\n\nWherever he was headed, he didn't make it-- at least not all the way.\n\nBlood runs down the paint of the wall between the cubicle farm and Caidar's office. Its origin is a disemodied hand, sprouting from the plaster like one of those eerie lantern holders from the old noir //Belle et La Bête//... My dad loved that movie; he said it was so much better than the Disney version -- that the Beast in particular was so much more believable, that his desire to possess Belle was so much more sinister...\n\n<<if $late>>This rather misplaced thought is interrupted by a much more haunting recollection -- the blood running down my kitchen cabinets this morning when my dad tried to cut his bagel... <<else>>...<<endif>>\n\nI don't know why I'm thinking about this all of a sudden... but the thought //feels// right, somehow... like it's leading me toward something...like Rian's bloody hand is //actually// holding a lantern, guiding me toward some kind of revelation. \n\n[[ºMy feet carry me back across the room in a dream.|go back to him]]
<html><font face="Courier" size="3" color="#2E8A2E">7:00AM</font></html>\n\nThe earlier I get to work, in general, the better. After all, it's theoretically easier to be in the right place at the right time if you just stay at work all day, right? \n\nMy life is apparently defined by work. \n\nI throw my blankets back and head for the shower. \n\nThe bathroom door opens with a whine that betrays how old the hinges are. But over that squeal, I think I hear my father again. \n\n"Ike? Are you awake...?"\n\nI pause in my tracks, and bite my lip. \n\n<html><font face="Courier" size="3" color="#2E8A2E">7:03AM</font></html>\n\n[[ºHe'll be okay for a little while longer.]]\n[[ºI'm terrible! Why am I not downstairs with him?|ºI should check on my dad. ]]
Sitting at my desk, I wonder why I bothered coming to work at all. I miserably push pixels around my screen, even though there's no point to it.\n\nAfter awhile, my attention wanders to the internet -- because really, who's going to come yell at me more, right now? I end up browsing some news sites looking for new developments about IS, but the internet can't tell me anything I don't already know. \n\nThe only effect of all the news articles is to make me feel even //worse//... \n\n//How can Caidar expect me //not// to bring my father's health into this?// I //need// to keep the job, mostly so that I can support //him//.\n\nSuddenly, I wonder if maybe my father's health is deteriorating because I'm just as miserable at caring for //him// as I am at drawing peaches...\n\nIt's an absurd thought, admittedly, but before I know it, my screen goes blurry, and I'm choking back sobs. \n\nAnd then, all I can see is a burst of white, and something pinches my nose as I blink and recoil. \n \n"[[You seem to need one of these.]]"\n
Once the accusation leaves my lips, the flood gates open, I can't take it back -- the words just keep coming, bitter and hot:\n\n"You didn't even ever //ask// me if I would want that sort of thing! Shouldn't that be up to //me//?"\n\nAs I'm talking he starts to cough again; and even then it's difficult for me to just shut up. \n\n"Christ, Dad, how long were you and Mom hiding this from me? At what point do I become an //adult// in this situation. Or am I just forever a child because I can't see cause and effect as well as the rest of the population?! Damnit!"\n\nHe reaches out, suddenly, a robotic jerk, and grabs my arm. Only then do I stop seeing red long enough to notice his face turning blue again. \n\n//God, I really can't see cause and effect at all, can I?//\n\nI snap forward and shake his shoulders. \n\n"Dad, breathe!"\n\n//Keep him talking...//\n\n\n\n\n"Ike … I made her promise never to tell you what she was working on because I didn't want my little girl growing up thinking //anything// was wrong with her, because you're //not// sick, Ike. Like you said. You're //incredible.//” \n
<html><font face="Courier" size="3" color="#2E8A2E">7:00AM</font></html>\n\nAnxiety grips the back of my neck, trying to drag me toward the shower. Why am I going downstairs? For all I know, some important contractor decided to call up my boss before the office opened, and if I get to work at 7:15 with all my new designs, I would be the hero of my company and the patron saint of paper products worldwide.\n\nI can't think about that. I can't do anything about it if it were true. But I //can// get my father breakfast. I make do with the successes I can guarantee. The stairs complain loudly as I tumble down them in bare feet. They should be happy they exist; most houses don't even //have// stairs.\n\n[[ºLess thinking, more walking.]]\n
I push open the door to my house and unceremoniously drop my bag and bike helmet on the floor, walking my way out of my shoes into the kitchen. Dad is asleep on the couch, some classic movie bathing his face in a pale, lemony-green glow...\n\n"Hey dad," I say, loud enough to perhaps wake him. "I'm back."\n\nHe doesn't stir. I open up some cupboards and get out the pans to cook some stiry-fry. I figure the clatter will wake him eventually. \n\nHe slumbers on, though, right through the sizzle and the crackle and the knocking of silverware against china. \n\nI walk over to put a fork and napkin on the coffee table beside him, and that's when it finally occurs to me. \n\n[[ºHe's not sleeping.]]
Dear Miss Martín:\n\nThis email is a public service anouncement courtesy of the Rehvaht Emergency Medical Initiative.\n\nWe have not yet determined whether the illness commonly known as Indecision Syndrome (IS) is contagious. However, in an effort to stop the spread of the disease, we are working under the assumption that it can be transmitted via bodily fluids, and encourage all individuals to take the appropriate precautions. \n\nA full list of recommendations can be found on R.E.M.I.'s homepage, as well as links to appropriate city medical facilities if you think you or someone close to you may be infected.\n\nThank you for your conscientiousness, \n\nPhillip Degneri\nPresident\nRehvaht Emergency Medical Initiative\n\n\n\n[[ºback to Inbox|ºcheck email]]\n\n<<set $indecision = true>>\n<<set $checked = true>>
My phone rings as I walk my bicycle out of the office lobby and prepare to head home. I pause to answer. It's Rian, of course.\n\n"Hey," I say. \n\n"Hey," he replies. \n\n"So what's up?"\n\n"We never got to talk today..."\n\n"I know," I sigh, "Caidar kept me busy..."\n\n"Yeah, so I noticed. I mean, so I assumed. That is, you're not... //avoiding me// are you?" he asks. \n\n"Why would I be avoiding you?"\n\n"I don't know... I mean, you wouldn't. At least not yet," he begins to ramble and I raise my eyebrows. "Not unless--"\n\n"Do you want to talk //now//?" I cut him off. "I can get my headphones out and we can talk while I bike..."\n\n"No, no. I don't think that's a good idea."\n\n"Let me guess, on the phone is //also// not the right place... Rian what's going on?" \n\n"Look. Can I stop by tonight? Maybe help you take care of dinner, and then we can go for a walk or something?"\n\nI'm liking the prospect of this strange mandatory conversation less and less as the day draws on. \n\n"You know, if you're trying to break up with me, or--"\n\n"No, Ike. No... definitely not. I love you."\n\n"Well, okay..." I say, uncertainly. "I love you too. See you at 8?"\n\n"Sounds good."\n\nI hang up the phone and climb onto my bike. \n\n[[ºI'm not sure good is the word I'd use.]]
I let my brain turn off for a few blissful seconds--not like thinking has done me much good this morning--and lean back until my head rests against him. \n\n“I missed you last night,” he says, then. \n\n“Yeah,” I say, “I'm sorry. What happened last night? How was the party?”\n\nHe hesitates--it wouldn't have been so obvious if his hands hadn't abruptly let up on my shoulders. I use the opportunity to spin my chair around and face him. \n \n“Ri?” \n\nHe moves away, leaning against the cubicle wall casually, gazing at me. \n\n<<if $email>>"Oh, you know. It was like I said in my email."\n\n"That exciting, huh?"<<else>>\n"Oh you know. It was like I said in my email."\n\n"I didn't check my email this morning..." I sigh. \n\n"Well, you didn't miss much--from me at least. It was mostly boring."\n\n"Mostly?"<<endif>> \n\nWithout warning, Rian suddenly flickers out of existence, and I'm left talking to my bulletin board. A few moments later, he's back. \n\n"Sorry," he apologizes, "Vyn couldn't figure out how to install a new ink cartridge." He nods across the office. "The guy's only been in the design department for what, 5 months now? You'd think he'd at least be able to operate the printer. I still haven't figured out what he's actually //doing// here..." \n\nHe laughs.\n\nSomething about the way he's talking bothers me, but I can't figure out what. \n\n"[[Well, if all it takes to get a job these days is being at the right place at the right time, then who cares about skills, right?]]"\n\n"[[I asked you a question.]]"\n
"It wasn't just you, Dad. I hated how distant she became too. If I'd known that //that's// what she was so preoccupied with, I would've just... I don't know... I would've told her to quit it..."\n\n"I'm sorry I didn't tell you... Really, I... I should have--" he starts to choke again, and I realize my error. //Ugh, this guilt thing is so delicate...//\n\n"No, forget it!" I exclaim, quickly, "That's neither here nor there. It's not like we can teleport back in time and fix it just because we see it went wrong. We can't obsess over stuff like that, okay? You hear me Dad? You just have to be honest with yourself. Forget that I have //anything// to do with this."\n\nHe's quiet, for a moment. Not wheezing, not struggling; he just appears to be lost in contemplation. \n\n"After awhile, I //did// forget you had anything to do with it, Ike..." he whispers, then. "At first I told her that if she really cared about you, she'd spend time at home with us in the evenings instead of working so hard -- that didn't go over well with her. She came home even later. So I... I..."\n\nI reach out for his hand, squeezing it and rubbing his palm with my thumbs. \n\n"I thought if I could somehow prevent her from publishing her findings-- or prevent her from replicating the results... then maybe she would give it up, and just come home..."\n\n[[Are you telling me you broke into a R.E.M.I. laboratory?!]]
“I'm //positive// they're still better than anything I could've come up with, Ike." I roll my eyes. “Really! And if they weren't up to snuff by //your// standards, I'm assuming that's only because you had to pay attention to your dad last night. What happened last night, anyway?"\n\n"[[He was just mixed up again.]]"\n"[[I... seem to recall having just asked you the same question.|I asked you a question.]]"
:: Mareike gets sick of Rian's behavior and, while he's calculating another tip, decides to go back to the office without him. ::
Sitting at my desk, I wonder why I bothered coming to work at all. I miserably push pixels around my screen, even though there's no point to it.\n\nAfter awhile, my attention wanders to the internet. I end up browsing some news sites looking for new developments about IS, but the internet can't tell me anything I don't already know. \n\nThe only effect of all the news articles is to make me feel even //worse// about all the things that Caidar said... \n\nBefore I know it, my screen goes blurry, and I'm choking back sobs. \n\nAnd then, all I can see is a burst of white, and something pinches my nose as I blink and recoil. \n \n"[[You seem to need one of these.]]"
“Matter does what it?” he mutters. His head rolls against the cushion of the sofa. “Doesn't matter. I don't… want… to live… outwith… her. Don't deserve- me alive and not her… my fault…”\n\nHe shudders, and I grab his shoulders.\n\nShit, that probably wasn't the best way to begin this…\n