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The end of the world

He steps outside and realizes he forgot to fold this part.

The sky above him glints like sugar spilled on ink. There are trees here, sharp and twisted things, like nothing on earth. Where is he?

When is he?

How old is he?

How old was she when–

He grabs a branch; his hand comes away bloody, and he smears it across the pages. Names lift from it and float away (Zocco Zion Zinnia Zhenya) but they’re all wrong. What page was it on? Seventeen? Nineteen?

Maybe he shouldn’t ask.

Somewhere a snowskull drifts to earth, ELIOT melting from its brow.

Zhenya

“Alert!” she yells in her strange accent, looking around the train station with wild eyes.  “My postilion has been struck by lightning!”

Svetik starts toward her, but Zhenya puts a hand on her arm.  “She’s just some coked-out tourist,” he says.

“She said someone’s been hit by–”

“It’s an old phrasebook thing,” says Zhenya.  “Nonsense sentence to teach you some grammar rule.”

“The monkey has taken my self-defense device!”

“Ah,” says Svetik, “I see.”

Not far down the road, the boy from the stagecoach twitches in the dirt; a macaque hoots, and squeezes the trigger again.

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