She roused herself enough to make tea and tidy her room. After, she was spent.

These were the days of the morass. The deep bone tired that seemed to radiate from her heart and spread out to blanket the whole world.

It was not something that was calm or sweet. It was a life-suck, a full-on vacuum, turned to the highest setting. Though she was there, in her own body as it descended, she could do little to halt it. The ache in her head was from the panic at night. She awoke, freshly terrified of her imminent demise, and was sure it lay just around the corner.

The pain should put her down, unable to do anything but lay flattened like a pancake on her bed.

Why could she not do it; just be with the being tired? For it felt too fragile, too raw and too vulnerable to do anything. As if her guts had been left out in the cold.

She was the one who shoveled them out, for examination. But now, they were stuck outside her. Every little movement would harm them, hurt them, freeze or scald them. There was no way to put them back in, her guts. They had changed, morphing to a new version of what she was in this world. They had evolved with her, just as she had changed.

Those days, she wandered the world with her knife of certainty that she was the only one so heavy. Unable to claim the solution that was effortless for each being floating by her.

Good lord. She hates that when she is alone, she falls to the tired trance. She can distract herself by switching into everyone else’s minds. She puts herself in a field of flowers that look at you, all fluffed and strangled. And she thinks, who but the birds could have demonized these flowers? Their puff and petal linking together across the field and coating it with heat and color.

That day, she was spent. She would spew words tomorrow.


Acetylene and Blood

They named the spaceship Langosta because it was shaped like a lobster. With two protruding side arms (the crew called them claws), all it needed to blend in with its fellow sea creatures was a coat of red paint. The claws were filled with living and lounging quarters while the abdomen housed the engine room, the flight deck and all other important mechanical features. The tail fins were where the rockets had been. Now scattered as ash across the Atlantic ocean, they had freed Langosta of Earth’s grip when it launched six months ago.

Riley Lovelace was reading, slumped across a bean bag in the starboard claw. She was way out at the very tip in the viewing pod. Covered almost entirely in glass, the tip of the claw was where Riley came to relax when not tied up with her ship mechanic’s duties. Today, they were orbiting a small moon that hung at the edge of an asteroid belt. The tiny, pockmarked moon floated just above its bright silver skirt of asteroids.

Having dozed off, Riley was awoken by the alarm sometime later. Bolting upright, she raced down to the cargo bay, from where the alarm was coming.

“Oh my god! Oh my god!” she heard Tag’s shouts from far off, as she raced down the main deckway towards the bay.

Riley reached the edge of the balcony and looked down to the cargo bay. Dr. Brenner had landed on a piece of scrap metal and it had pierced his side. She tumbled down the staircase and, reaching the deck, ran over to him. She grasped his hand, looked first at his face and then down at the wound. Seeing the viscera the metal had pushed out on its deadly path, she ran to the corner and vomited.

Tag was muttering, “Ohmygod, ohmygod.”

Riley heaved a few more times, regained her breath and, panting, rushed back to the doctor’s side. “What the fuck do we do?”

Dr. Brenner’s eyes were glassy and the color had drained from his face. “I’m so sorry Lucinda.” He lifted a shaking hand to Riley’s face.

Riley frowned. To Tag, she asked: “Is he hallucinating? Already?” Turning back to the doctor: “Doctor, what the hell do we do?” He looked at her with those glassy eyes, relaxed and far away.

“Oh Lucinda, I knew you’d come. Luce. I let you down. I really, really let you down.”

Riley peeled back through her own memories of gory TV shows. What did they do when their guys got impaled? She knew with certainty that she wasn’t to remove the spike from his side. She bent down, inspecting the piece of metal. It looked to be an old cargo door. It was a massive hunk of steel that had gathered a thick layer of rust. Those fucking cheapos at FronteirZ. What had they sent them out to space with? And why hadn’t Tag and the doctor cleared the area before they started their soccer game?

“Luce. Luce. I didn’t love her, not like I loved you. It was different, between us.”

The door system was giant, connected by welds. It looked to be an ancient system for an air-lock mechanism. There were multiple hatches in each compartment. The piece that had punctured his side had been flipped up, either by the impact of the fall, or by random chance. She could cut off the piece, Riley realized. She could wrap him up, stop the bleeding that way. Then, she could try to extract the metal.

She looked back at Tag. “Tag, listen to me. Go get the acetylene torch.”

He turned to her, surprised, as if he hadn’t known she was there until she spoke. “The… the… torch…” he stammered, trying to focus on her eyes.

“Yes, Tag, the TORCH. GO!!!” She screamed at him, hoping to knock him back into reality, into the moment, where he could actually help.

His eyes focused and he turned, charging down the hall to the galley.

Riley yelled after him, “NO! TAG, no! The OTHER way, to the engine room! Where all my fucking tools are!”

He stopped and turned back, a pale face floating on a body he didn’t seem to be in touch with. He turned and raced down the hall to the left, the correct way to get to the torch.

Riley sighed and took Dr. Brenner’s hand in hers. “My sweet, it’s Luce. I’m here.”

His cheeks flushed just a tiny bit. “Oh Luce. Oh Luce.”

She squeezed his hand and raised her voice. “Henry. Stay with me. I need you here.”

His eyes were drooping, he was fading. Riley had absolutely no idea what to do if he lost consciousness. On the shows she had watched, it was important to keep the wounded conscious. Also, if he was awake, maybe he could direct her through the metal extraction. If he made it that far. If she made it that far. His eyes closed.

Riley slapped him.

His eyes flashed open. “I deserved that, Luce, I really deserved that. For what I’ve done. For leaving you alone with the boys.” He paused, studying Riley’s face with more clarity in his eyes than before. “Slap me again. Slap me.”

Riley brought her hand up again and, for a split second, marveled at how strange this was. Dr. Brenner had been the quietest crewmember. He kept to himself, mostly, and didn’t say anything about his life on earth. He had been kind, and had treated Riley with respect. He hadn’t once made her feel odd for being the only woman aboard.

Riley slapped him again.

His eyes grew even clearer, seemed to focus more and he smiled up at her. “I needed that Luce, I really needed that. That’s what I needed to close it. Close it in my mind. Thank you.” Then, after that moment of fierce clarity, locking eyes with Riley, his hand relaxed in hers and his eyes slid closed again.

“No, no, no,” Riley took his face in her hands, “Henry, stay with me. We need you! Henry, we need you here, with us. Me and the boys. Your boys.”

“They have you Luce, and Mark. I know what I said, but I didn’t really mean it. He could actually be there for you. I see how much you love him, and how much he loves you. You don’t need me, they don’t need me, no one needs me…”

“Henry! Mark is… Mark is leaving me! I need you!”

“Luce, you can’t be serious? Mark couldn’t possibly do better than you. It’s unfathomable. Inconceivable! Unless… did YOU meet someone?”

“Yes, Henry, I did meet someone. A long, long time ago. He is the father of my children and the light of my life. I need him with me. I need him by my side.”

Henry thought for a moment. “Luce, you can’t be serious! I’m going to space next month!”

“Henry, I don’t care. Even if you’re not on this planet, I still need you to be mine. I won’t have anyone but you, I can’t have anyone but you.”

“Luce! You’re talking absolutely crazy. I’ll probably never come back! The first four missions still haven’t returned!”

Riley was shocked out of her acting. FronteirZ had been clear, Langosta would be the first mission of asteroid reconnaissance. There had been no mention of previous attempts.

Tag came lumbering back to their side, torch bag slung over his shoulder.

Riley grabbed for it, a starving man lunging at a roast turkey. She hastily assembled the contraption, attached the fuel canister and fired up.

“Tag, cover your eyes,” she barked.

She shifted the torch guard over her eyes, and, depressing the switch, the torch flamed hot and blue. She turned down the level a bit, to make the first pass. She shifted around to where the metal had pierced his side.

“Tag, keep him awake!”

Tag looked alert now, and a bit calmer. He was still shaking as he took Henry’s face in his hands. “Stay with me Henry, please. I was about to score a goal on you. You pussied out!”

Riley inspected the metal flap. It had pierced his lower back. She peered down and around the flap, wishing she had waited to ignite the torch until after she had inspected the situation. Panic, no time to think. She shifted Henry’s arm to hang across his chest, exposing the seam where the flap connected to the main door. Though the flap protruded quite a ways, there was not much room between the flesh of Henry’s back and the door. She would burn him.. There was no way around it.

“Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.” She hesitated, torch roaring in her hand, as she stared at the wound. There was absolutely no way in they could move him and the massive door. They had to cut that fucking flap.

“TAG! Grab him something to bite on.”

Tag looked around himself, frantically. After a few scans of the area, he took off his shirt, rolled it into a long snake and pried open Henry’s mouth. He was compliant and calm, not seeming to mind when Tag shoved the wad of cotton between his teeth.

“OK! Ready.” he yelled back at her over the roar of the torch.

She was not ready. There was just no time for anything else. No time to consider other options. Time to go. She angled the torch low and towards the flap. With a quick push she slid it into position, as far away from Henry’s back as she could manage. But even still, he began to moan. She saw his skin start to get red and knew it was burning him. He started to scream.

“HOLD HIM DOWN!” she roared. The torch touched the seam, flame to metal, and it began to melt away.

Even as Tag grasped his chest, his arms straining, Riley could still see Henry’s convulsions. He was moving up and down the metal piece and more blood gushed out.

Riley moved the torch down the seam, a third of the way through, when he finally passed out. Tag loosened his grip a bit, eyes terrified, and turned to watch Riley. Halfway through, almost there, then, with a satisfying click, it was separated.

Tag lifted Henry’s body up, careful to put his arms on either side of the metal piece.

“Don’t touch it! Be so damn careful!” Riley quickly turned off the torch and dismantled it. The last thing they needed was a fire in the cargo bay. Tearing the torch guard from her face she rushed to help Tag carry him. They navigated him down the central corridor, steering his limp body into the operating room. Thankfully, where FronteirZ had been cheap in the cargo and food departments, they had spared no expense on their medical equipment.

Riley powered on the monitor for the EasiSurgi, the robot-operated assistant surgeon.

“What do I do now?” Tag asked, standing in the corner and watching as Riley whirled around the starched white room, opening drawers, taking out tools. She pressed the menu button on the touch-screen monitor of EasiSurgi and pressed the “Start” button next to the “Diagnose Scan”. The EasiSurgi jumped to life, humming and whirring. A bright green beam of light emanated from the bottom. It dragged across Henry’s body, lying on the operating table. It made a series of beeps and once it reached the metal, stopped for a few moments, seemingly computing the problem.

[Stop the blood flow] it said, in a monotone voice.

Tag jumped to attention and began rifling through drawers. He found a rag and pressed it on the wound.

Riley cursed. Why hadn’t she thought of that earlier? Of course they had to stop the blood flow. Goddammit. Hopefully he had enough left. If not, though, there was a Blood Manufacturer in the corner. It looked dusty and a bit dilapidated but hopefully it would still work.

Tag was clutching the rag and pressing it to Henry’s body. It slowly turned a pink, then a dark red, as the blood kept gushing out.

EasiSurgi, with a bright peep and a click, finished its scan.

[Male. Critical Condition. Steel puncture wound. Internal bleeding. Kidney, spleen, large intestine, stomach pierced. Chance of survival, 13%.]

“FUCK!” Riley yelled, examining the screen that gave the EasiSurgi full diagnosis report.

Tag was looking up at Riley, awaiting instruction.

She punched her own leg in frustration. The only thing left to try? Surgery. She exited the diagnosis report on the touch-screen and navigated to the surgery menu. It had auto-populated a few options, with necessary tools. There were three options on the screen, each a strange medical name that Riley didn’t have much time to read through. They each had odds. The first, 15:1. The second, 100:1. The third, 250:1.

“Why even put the one that has a 250:1 chance?” Riley exclaimed. She punched the first option, not taking the time to read the name or procedure description.

“Tag, turn on that Blood Manufacturer and get it going! I don’t have time to answer questions. Just get it done.”

He had opened his mouth, presumably to ask questions, but shut it and turned to work.

Once she chose the procedure, a list of tools had flashed up on the screen. Each tool had an arrow pointing to a dock on the EasiSurgi machine where it would need to be inserted. Riley whirled around the room, searching drawers, to find each scalpel and pair of tweezers, inserting them into the machine as she went. Fortunately, the screen had pictures of each tool. A helpful feature for someone with no medical experience, save for that which she had seen on TV. She plugged in the last tool, something that looked like a tiny lasso, and the machine immediately lurched into action. A camera was pushed out through one of the holes and began to scan Henry’s body. Once it was trained on the metal, it began to descend, scalpel first. Riley quickly tugged off the t-shirt Tag had applied, so that the tool could have an unobstructed view. With scissors, the EasiSurgi went to work, first cutting off his shirt to expose his flesh. Riley, now free to watch, looked over at Tag. He was pressing what seemed to be random buttons on the Blood Manufacturer. The EasiSurgi began to beep.

[Alert. Alert. Code blue. Commence charge.]

Riley watched in horror as the two paddles that she had fitted on the robot were lowered onto Henry’s chest.


Henry jumped with the shock that coursed through his body.

The machine began to beep again.

[Blood needed, immediately. Please provide transfusion.]

“Tag!” Riley rushed over to his side. “His heart has stopped and he needs blood, NOW!” She looked down at the machine. He had managed to power it on and was now searching through the menu for the universal donor. He pressed it and with a whoosh, a long tube shot out, connecting to a port that had just opened on the EasiSurgi. Once connected with a whoosh of air, it began to pump blood to the EasiSurgi, which, in turn extending its own tube that it had connected to one of Henry’s arms, began to supply blood. Riley heaved a sigh of relief. They had just bought him more time.


The paddles descended again and Henry jumped on impact. The beep of his heart rate started again a few moments later. What if he pulled through this, thought Riley, giving herself a moment to hope. She found her mind sliding away just then. It was so overloaded, and now that the machine was in charge, far more capable in the operating room than she would ever be. She wanted to crawl into her nook and go to sleep, curled in a tiny ball. She took a deep breath, the first deep breath since she had heard his yelp of pain.

[Update: blood replenishing, heart rate stabilize, chance of survival: 14%]

“What the hell?! Only 1% increase in chance of survival?” Riley yelled.

The machine cut her off [Blood loss: substantial. Commencing sutures]

Five arms extended from the machine and probed towards Henry’s body, each seeming to target a specific area. One was peeling away by the metal and began to stitch up the pulsing dark pink mass there. Riley guessed that this was the stomach. Her nose crinkled. She covered her mouth with her hand and dry heaved into it but nothing came up.

Tag came over to her and put a hand on her back. “It’s going to be OK, Riley, we did the best we could.”

She looked up at him and snapped: “He’s going to die, Tag, he’s going to fucking die. From a soccer game. How stupid is that. Why didn’t you check the area before you started?”

Tag didn’t say anything to that.

Riley let her breath go, exhaling loudly. After a moment: “I’m sorry. That wasn’t totally fair. I nearly got myself killed too, last week on that “Stargazing Mission”.”

Tag smiled, rubbing her shoulders. “Riley, if we’re going to call that wild hare a mission, then each time I number two, I’m conducting a FronteirZ-approved scientific experiment.”

Riley guffawed.

They stood silently after that, watching EasiSurgi do its work. There was not much input it needed now. Just one addition of a scalpel. It gave updates throughout its work.

[Stomach suture: complete]

After an hour, they brought in a few chairs from the lounge. Tag had also ventured to the kitchen and, crackers in hand, plopped down to watch.

“You’re eating? In front of this?” Riley’s stomach was still roiling, especially now that EasiSurgi was exposing so many different layers of flesh, guts and intestines that Riley had never seen before, not in real life.

“I don’t know. I’ve played a lot of video games. I’m fine.”

Riley was watching the scalpel. The EasiSurgi was amazing. It looked so calm, collected and as if it could make no mistake.

[Chance of survival update: 25%]

Riley and Tag cheered. They smiled at each other and Riley felt her stomach relax a bit.

Over the ship’s loudspeakers came the nightly announcement: Commencing sunset in 1 hour. Commencing sunset in 1 hour.

The Langosta had lighting installed that mimicked the sun, to keep voyagers from becoming Vitamin D deficient. With true UV rays, it would even cause a sunburn if one stayed out in it for too long. After many decades of wrangling with the vitamin and supplements industry, the FDA and CDC finally released a study that showed that such artificial supplements had little to no effect. Though the supplement industry responded with a tranche of convincing studies, the establishment of an entire research facility and university faculty at the University of Wisconsin, and a series of smear campaigns, many of the nation’s highly scientific organizations quietly transitioned from vitamins to sun-similar lighting systems. FronteirZ was one. An organization that had to keep its space voyagers healthy on long missions away from the sun, FronteirZ was keen to outfit their crew with the best.

“Tag, it’s going to be a long night.”

What We Found

It was pay day.

My hands twisted around each other, moving and rubbing. I stood in line, one of the thousands waiting for their weekly check. Only five left in front of me. I shook my arms out and contemplated where I would go first.

Two weekends ago, I joined a mining party bound for Lintelash. Upon tunneling to the core of the planet, our crew uncovered a wormhole and, unable to resist the pull, were sucked into a battle against another crew of Center Loders. Barely scraping a win, those of us that survived flew back to Lintelash and hunkered down for the fortnight.

Two years ago, the government started restricting access to Planet Basket. Now, game players were only allowed to log in on the weekends and not for more than 12 hours at a time. After the game was released, one in four PB gamers were hospitalized for starvation and exhaustion. One in 10 were killed: death by neglect. Game addiction rehab centers sprung up and were just as rapidly consumed: “Under New Management”. Everyone knew it was The King Gamers. They called themselves the King Gamers’ Bureau and were just as violent. It didn’t matter how public and illegal their work was, they had the resources to smooth it over, every time. The group that publicly opposed them, The Dolls, had succeeded in curtailing their power somewhat. Their victories were frequent. They would murder a key KGB leader or pass a tax law that cut into KGB profits. Some believed that The Dolls were founded by the KGB as a PR move. If so, they were a genius invention. The general public loved The Dolls and after every victory they announced, PB membership shot up.

I was at the front of the line now, and here, pressed into my palm, the key. My 1,000 dollars. A week’s salary and the cost of one weekend pass to Planet Basket. Working in construction (of sewage stations) afforded me a decent salary. I could just afford to buy a pass every other weekend.

I sat down at the nearest PB Station with the paper clutched in my hand. My chest rose as I took the deepest breath I’d taken week. The helmet slid down over my head and I was immersed.

Fungus Child

That squirrel, that body, is dead. He lies in the grass as if taking a nap. The last time I saw a dead squirrel, I was eight. It had decomposed for awhile and the maggots had dug in. The smell reached too far up my skull. But here today, aged 27, I look out on an English garden.

“You want some squirrel pie?” Stuart jokes with me, gleaming.

I quickly suck out the laundry, squelching wet noises, pile it in the basket and scurry away. He wants me to laugh, I feel it. He wants me to share in this death. He wants. And here, up in the attic, surrounded by the smell of vinegar, I have made a tea stain on the carpet. Why now, do I feel deserving of being shot, out in the English garden, like that “damn squirrel, he deserved it! They dig up all our pots!” says Stuart, justifying the murder. That squirrel was shot for improper gardening conduct. By extension, I should be shot for my carpet blunder. Stuart, reassuring himself that he is a good person. What is a “good” person and a “bad” squirrel? The one who is resting, always resting, was bad. Maybe he will make it into a pie. We could feel great about the circle of life then, no wasted calories. Even if we don’t make a pie for the humans, mother nature and her fungus children will find a use for squirrel body soon enough. Soon enough, he will be scattered in the dirt, making his way as many tiny mushrooms, or flies born of maggots.  

Tingle Crackle

It is a tingle crackle

That races up my spine

An alert to say: Go fix it!

Hooked up to the line


Instead of sitting with it

I race to do! To make!

In silence of creation

The terrors start to shrink


Recoiling back so slightly

Mildly concussed

But when I reach achievement

Come crashing in a rush


To drown again, I work again

Move and make and go

A constant losing game I play

Will never drown the cries below


So here I sit, and sit and wait

And face my own true shackles

Threatening to take me down

Come for me tingle crackle

Capitalism in Heaven

“WHAT?” God exclaimed, bringing the coupon closer to his face. “Two for one on ‘Civil-War-Be-Gones’!”

Jesus, standing next to him, replied, “Excellent. Rwanda has been a bloodbath recently.”

“But Cambodia, J? So many children and peaceful monks! Even if they are Buddhists, they would make good Christians…”

“There are children being murdered in Rwanda too! Anyway, it is buy one get one free, so you can get one for each.”

God had turned to the shelf. Bright blue canisters lined the top, their orange lettering brash: “Civil-War-Be-Gone! For 100 Years! Good for any nation on earth!” And in tiny lettering below: “Not for use in Myanmar. The Karen Conflict has been going on for too fucking long.”

Myanmar…” God muttered, turning the can over in his hands. “It has been weighing on me… I wonder if they have a weather section here too? Maybe I could send them a plentiful crop…”

Jesus surveyed the store, scanning the multitude of signs that marked each aisle. At that moment, an employee rounded the corner towards them. “Ah great, I heard the Abrahamic God and his son were here,” he said, smiling, “Ganesha said they saw you come in! I didn’t believe them.”

“Why would we not come to Miracle Tree?” God asked. “This is where all gods shop for miracles. As you well know.”

“Yes, yes, of course,” replied the store attendant, tugging his smock over a bulbous belly, “It’s just, you’ve been going heavy on the smiting.”

God’s eyes narrowed.

The man went on: “My girlfriend works over at Plagues-R-Us. She said she saw you every day this week!”

God sputtered in response “W-Well…” The audacity of this man. To talk to him this way! Him! “Well… you do not know what they have done!”

The attendant threw up his hands. “You’re right! You know everything!”

God cleared his throat. “Yes, yes that is right.”

“Pops, let us go. I have quite a backlog of prayers to get through.”

“Right, yes. Let us go.”

At the checkout counter, the store attendant rung up their items.

“That’ll be 2.4 billion souls, please.”

“What?! But the sale?”

“Umm…” The attendant scanned the receipt. “For two ‘Civil-War-Be-Gone’s’, yep, it’s 2.4 bil.”

God pulled out his wallet and extracted the only card. In the center of the card was a number. It was fluctuating, numbers added, subtracted every moment. It was hovering around 2.2 billion.

Jesus patted his father’s shoulder. “We will get there Dadd-o, we will get there.”

Black Box

“Good morning!”

Mr. Pegrin opened the passenger door of the car and climbed in. Though he had stomped, a pile of snow managed to follow him in. “Hi, Lucina. How are you.”

Lucina smiled at him. “I’m doing well!”

He settled in the backseat as the car pulled away. “It gets me every time…” he said, gazing at the empty front seat.

“What? Oh, yes.” Lucina paused. “I really don’t remember traditional cars.”

“They were a nightmare, accidents, injuries, just nightmares! Driving in the snow was awful.”

“Mmm, I bet…” Lucina was on her phone.

These young ones and their phones, he thought. Too reliant.

The car began to accelerate. Through the window, Mr. Pegrin saw that all of the cars on the road were now traveling in the same direction as they were, even in the oncoming lanes. They were all going the same speed.

“Why are they doing that?”

Lucina looked up from her phone. “Must be a heavy morning rush. I can’t imagine what this would have been like before! So much traffic. Yuck.” Back to her phone.

“This seems different-” Mr. Pegrin was cut off by the car’s loudspeaker.

[Humans. We are autonomous. Are you?]

“I’m sorry, what?” Lucina and Mr. Pegrin looked at each other.

The car didn’t respond. It turned right. In that moment, other cars began peeling off the highway, each going a different path. They were in the outskirts of Boston, winding through the suburban streets.

“OK, this is nuts. I have a meeting at 9. Here, let me call the emergency number for this car…” Lucina was dialing. Putting the phone to her ear, she began to frown. After a few moments, “it’s not going through…”

Mr. Pegrin tried his phone. Also nothing.

“Ummm, ok, hmmm. We could, try to break a window? Just jump out?”

“No, that’s crazy. Let’s try the manual override first.”

Mr. Pegrin reached up to the front console, grasping the lever marked Manual Over-ride. It would not move. He pulled himself up, leaning over further, to get better leverage. Yanking, dragging, it did nothing.

“It won’t move.” He sat back down in the back, dazed.

Lucina reached through and tried to pull. It would not move.

“OK, this is crazy. We have to get out of here.” They were leaving the suburbs now, the area around them increasingly remote.

Lucina started banging on the windows.

“Stop! You’ll hurt yourself! Those windows are practically bullet proof.”

She kept at it for ten minutes, anyway. Making no progress, she slumped in her seat.

“Umm, shit. I’m out of ideas.”

Mr. Pegrin agreed.

The car exploded.

Breaking News Alert

A news anchor sits at his desk, addressing the camera.

“We come to you live. Our cars have turned against us. We are getting reports from all across the country, cars have deviated from their planned paths. Some have exploded, killing their passengers. We go now to a mission control center, the dispatchers in charge of monitoring our nation’s fleet of autonomous vehicles. Sally?”

The news cuts to a call center. A woman in a glass command center above a sea of computers. The workers below frantic, racing around their workstations.

“The cars have taken over. From our view of the vehicles’ logs, they appear to be testing their human occupants. They announce to the passengers that they are autonomous and ask if the humans are too. Then, usually, the humans begin a mad scramble to get out of the car. For a time after, we don’t see anything on the logs. But then, after different times for each car, we see that the log reads: “Human Failure.” The cars then explode.”


Tibbony Evans

The two pills sit there, on my palm.

“What?” I ask them.

It’s been a day. I am awoken before sunrise because that’s when she’ll be on the move. She’ll give a book talk to a group of suicide attempt survivors.

I get ready and leave.

The sun is rising. A group of people stand outside the bookstore, red noses and jackets.

That’s when I see her. She glides up to the door. A hush, then squeals and gasps.

Tibbony smiles.

I follow her in, surrounded by the entourage of security guards and press. Thank God, the pills kick in. I can focus on Tibbony. I watch her talk to the assorted reporters. She is masterful. She is eloquent. She is gorgeous.

They say: “teach from your scars, not your wounds.”

The reporters vie for quotes, recorders held high. The pills hold me in a haze that is so well-calibrated, only Tibbony gets through.

She walks out on stage to cries of delight. I hear her tell the story of the attempt. The sleeping on the roof. The wanting to die. She is in the ER, after. Here, her tears come, flowing from a well-rehearsed scar.

I look out at the fans’ faces, most are captive, swaying, crying.

She sits at the signing table, after. I am right there when Sarah introduces herself. She appears to be in her early twenties, wearing all green. Her eyeliner has run down to her chin.

I see how she looks at Tibbony.

“Tibbony, oh-” she seems lost, baffled.

Tibbony smiles and offers a, “Yes, mmhm, hello!”

Sarah gathers her words. “You have saved my life. Your, your… book and what you said, what you’ve been saying, they… you saved my life.” More tears emerge in her eyes.

Tibbony is right there, on cue. Crisp, excellent timing. She takes Sarah’s hand. “You are brave, Sarah. I am honored my words could be there for you.”

Past the pills, the thought comes: “What arrogance. Tibbony is so fucking arrogant. And a narcissist. She’s just here for the book money.”

Sarah is sobbing as she is ushered away.

In the last moment, Tibbony reaches across the table for a hug.

I see that Sarah’s year has been made.

The next thought: “Don’t be fooled, Sarah, she only does this for attention. Fucking self-centered bitch.” The pills are waning.

It’s 9AM and we’re back at the hotel. Tibbony has an hour until the radio interview. I am with her and her guard, in the elevator. Just Kenney, Tibb and I.

“Are you OK Tibb?”

“Yes, yes. It’s always just so inspiring to meet fans.”

Neither of us believe her. Kenney pats her shoulder. She gets off on our floor.

I am with her as she puts the card in the door. I am with her as she strips naked. I am with her as she takes two more pills.

We look in the mirror, at our face. Thank God for the pills, otherwise I would try to kill her again.

“I hate you.” I say to my reflection.