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Pressure is a tricky thing, and subject to a rule of power: the greater the area, the less it affects. You can bear a great deal of a force applied broadly. The littlest things will pierce you through.

Vicki’s riddled and lossy, the weight of his absence springing leaks from the pinholes no one should have seen. She patches (sleeves and handkerchiefs) and waits for the next one, but what’s to repair her? What algorithm fills a shape when one side is removed?

Drink water. Read stories. Healing is hard. We are but integuments, surface and tension, all waiting to break.


“I think this thing is broken,” says Efrem.

“Don’t flap your dongle at me,” says Vicki.

“It’s supposed to change every whatever minutes so it stays secure, but it’s been stuck on this for like two days,” he says, holding up gray plastic key on its silver ring. There’s a little old-style numeric LCD on one side.

“I bet you got one of the prank ones.”

“What? They don’t make those.” He frowns. “They make those?”

“What’s it say right now?”

“5318008,” Efrem reads aloud.

“Turn it upside-down,” sighs Vicki.

“What?” says Efrem.

“Oh come on,” he says, a minute later.


“Did you have trouble with my email, sir?” she asks, adjusting her headset on her squashed ear.

“I uh. I got that, here’s what… I still can’t… log on.” He pronounces that last with a foreigner’s careful emphasis.

“And you made sure your caps lock was off?”

“No, I hadn’t.”

“Okay, could you do that and then type your password?”



“Sir? It’s working?”

“Oh,” he says, “I thought you’d help me out there.”

Vicki breathes carefully. “Turn the caps lock off–”

“I know!” There’s desperation in his voice. “You gonna tell me how to do that or not?”