Ch. X, p.5

He ran his hand along the wall, feeling to see if it was different at any place, but it was all stiff, crumbling brick; an odd choice, he felt, considering the other materials available…

He stepped back, looking upward at the still empty window. For a moment, he thought of calling Detroit and demanding that he have his ‘associate’ open the door. Then a striking notion occurred to him—where’s my sense of wonder?

It was an odd question to ask. During the past few years, he had seen many things strange and wonderful; but, drenched in a living nightmare, he found them difficult to appreciate. And he had learned that people who seemed especially quirky or “out there” were actually either a.) on drugs or b.) insane.

But somewhere, deep down, he knew that wasn’t the case. And besides, wouldn’t it be more interesting to approach this situation with levity?

A sense of the playful unknown buoying his spirits, he leaned against the wall, searching for any details that seemed out of place. To his right, three oddly protruding bricks caught his attention. Closer examination revealed that they each stuck out at different degrees. Was there some kind of sequence? He pushed on the shortest one, then the tallest one, then the middle one, but they didn’t budge. Maybe they were only decoration?

Well… that’s all I had, he thought. Or… one more thing came to him. “Abracadabra?” he said, quietly and with a little bit of shame, pressing upon the bricks.

Nothing happened.

Then, moments later, the wall dissolved beneath his hands.

He jerked away in surprise as a door sized section of the wall folded aside like a set of drapes. A black space called him into its sable folds, and as he passed through, the modified brick wall returned to its original state.

The light escaping, he searched a nearby steel door for a handle of some sort, but nothing obvious presented itself.

“Dominic?” he heard, muffled.

An expanding column of light spilled into the dark vestibule, accompanied by the creaky opening of the antiquated metal door.

“Hi there,” said the young woman, bathed in gold. She waved a hand over her shoulder, “come on in.”

He nodded in bewildered thanks, following her into a well lit room.

“What was all that?” he asked.

Her eyes conveyed an unexpected depth. “It’s how I find out what kind of person you are.”

“What do you mean?”

She smiled brightly and placed a finger to her lips, motioning to him to follow.

Paintings and sculptures of an odd sort passed all around him in the wide open area, their disparate styles and forms creating an eye catching panorama upon earthen colored wall. As he took in his surroundings, she led him to the center of the room where a trio of stacked spheres sat; each was about the size of a small bedroom, their exteriors laden with intricate and imaginative designs.

“So, I hear you need some data extracted…” she said. “Where is it stored?”

He fumbled to extract a miniscule red cube from a waist pocket, saying, “Here,” and held out the device.

She gingerly picked it from his upturned palm. “I shouldn’t be more than a minute. Feel free to have a look around… just don’t break anything.”

He watched the tall, thin woman disappear into the stack of spheres, and found her understated movements to be strangely entrancing. But that wasn’t what he was here for.

Hopefully she won’t be interested in the data itself, he thought, his eyes meandering around the room. But there’s no point in worrying. Not much I can do about it now.

He took a closer look at his surroundings. Grand paintings created with obvious skill adorned the walls of the warehouse—landscapes, people, architecture… Astonishing talent had compelled these into existence, but between the sprawling, complex works of art were some very curious pieces that he found nearly as intriguing.

One in particular, though he couldn’t say why with any amount of certainty. The painting was little more than a golden circle, tinged with fluorescent blue and placed upon a white background. He perused it carefully for some time, unable to fathom his own fascination with it.

He heard footsteps.

“Admiring my work, I see,” said the woman, her eyes alight with interest.

“You painted these?”

“I did.”

He was impressed. “What do you call this one?” He motioned to the golden circle.

“Eternity and a single moment.”

“Hmm…” He usually didn’t appreciate these kind of abstract works, but… this was different. He relinquished his pensive gaze and smiled at her. “What inspired you to paint it?”

Without looking at him, she sidled up to the painting and pressed herself against it lovingly. “I was contemplating life… Death. I wondered why I couldn’t understand what happened when we died…” she paused, closing her eyes and caressing the canvas. “Wondered why I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like if I and everything else suddenly ceased to be… and you know, they’re essentially the same thing… The closest I could get was to imagine a great, black empty nothing.

“Which was, you know, quite unappealing... But the alternative was no better—an eternity of existence? ‘My God, what would that be like,’ I wondered.” She sat down on a nearby block of wood and crossed her legs.

“So why gold and white?” he asked, sitting next to her.

She looked at him, deciding whether or not to finish her story. He looked genuinely interested, and she explained, “Because gold is the color of love… Over the past few months, I had begun to wonder why I felt this crushing sense of desperation around existence and eternity. I wondered if that was normal, or if everybody experienced things this way…

“But I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it with. Even since before the shift, I have lived alone. A few weeks ago though, I got it in my head that if I found love somewhere in the world, I might be able to feel okay about an eternity of living in one manner or another.”

“The way I see it, we all make our own realities. Which I guess was the point of your ‘believe in the door and you will find it’ thing, right?”

Her face lit up. “Well, aren’t you perceptive.”

He shrugged.

“So then, I was sitting there,” she said, pointing to a space by the wall, “when I found myself wondering again where to find love. I closed my eyes and, just as I asked the question, I saw this circle and I felt that gold, and I realized that I had been love all along… And you are the same,” she advised him, unheeded. “There isn’t anything out there. It’s all in here.” She jabbed a finger into his chest. “Not in someone else, waiting to be found.”

Her lips were screwed up, eyes fiery with passion. She clearly meant it.

He grasped her hand gently, lowering it from his chest. Solitude turns people strange. “How long will that decryption take?”

She seemed as if she had been visiting someplace far away and was just now returning to her body. “Right, well… You didn’t bring a lot of data, and it’s encrypted with a strange algorithm… very old. It shouldn’t take more than an hour… Where did you get this, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Genesys,” he said plainly. He was growing to like this woman. “A friend recorded it before she disappeared, and I was hoping it might give me an idea of where she went.”

She watched his eyes, suddenly distant; listened to his words, hollow and unfeeling… “You don’t seem to remember her like a friend…”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s your eyes… I’ve seen that look before. The look of something lost…”

“Well, yeah, she’s gone…”

“No, it’s not that. And it’s not love, either...” she pursed her lips together, eyeing him sideways. Then she lit up with understanding. “She took something from you, didn’t she? Something dear...”

He clenched his jaw. He didn’t want to trust her; things were easier if he didn’t. But he did, for whatever reason. And she deserved to know the truth.

After all… she was right.

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