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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.


If she can really read minds, Zocco’s sure she must not think much of him.

“Not that it’s anything like reading,” Chopine says, “and not that what I think of you should matter, but you happen to be wrong.”

A snatch of song, a brief sexual fantasy featuring her, and resentment sweep through Zocco’s mind; the last because she can tell when his kindness is forced, but not vice versa.

“You’re becoming more aware of your own thoughts already.”

The little cues in her voice say she’s mocking him, but gently. With affection?

“See,” Chopine smiles, “you can do it too.”