I’d seen pictures of his desk, several of them. They were slightly different, but there was one thing in common with every single one. It was cluttered. Piles of files, pencils lying in constant danger of rolling off the edge, a half-empty cup of coffee or tea or maybe flat soda, a wadded up piece of paper, a stack of books, no two of them aligned at the edges. It seemed like the desk of someone who would start working on every idea that popped into his head, so he wouldn’t forgot. A person who didn’t use sticky notes or devices to help him remember. But in the most recent picture I saw of Professor West’s desk, all of that was gone. There was just one thing left on the desk, a letter addressed to someone he’d never met before in his life, and who’d never met him.
“Before you kill us,” the philosopher said, standing before fangs dripping with searing venom and six pairs of blazing eyes, “let us ask you a question.”
The philosopher felt her heart beating within her chest. She winced at the feeling. It was not painful. Just sad. Her heart knew this was the moment of her death and it was still aching to keep her from it.
All six of the creature’s eyes were on her, but she was most directly in front of one pair in one giant dog-like head. She knew this one’s name. This one was Lucte. The name meant “grief.”
“Here, you see?” the surgeon said, as he pointed with his scalpel. “At the nexus of the heart and the brain? Between the eyes and the throat, right at the back of the mouth, where the voice is on the verge of emerging?”
The secretary peered past the gleaming scalpel and tilted her head. There was nothing to see at the moment, other than the expected anatomy inside the mouth. The corpse that lay on the dissection table had been long vacated. But the surgeon claimed that he had cut through at just the right time, the fleeting moment right after certain death.
13 September “I’ve been summoned to your side,” I said, taking a seat in the chair beside her bed. “In the hopes that I can help guide you back to the world of the living.”
She coughed, cleared her throat, smiled at me, and said, “I have been waiting for you.”
The waking dreamer was lucid on the day that I met her. Though she was lying propped in her bed, she didn’t even appear weak or pale. I was quite surprised. But then I looked into her dark eyes and perceived in their depths a hidden truth, a weary soul, and a cautious calm. She was indeed haunted by the journeys that her mind and even her body had made in the weeks prior.
Victoria Lockhart, like many of those in both the cast and crew of her feature film debut, had heard about their director. His genius. And his…moods. That’s what they were called back then. Moods. And only directors were allowed to have them. She’d been so excited on her first day. Even after she saw him throw a chair at one of the writers. Even after she’d seen him take a swing at the cinematographer. Even after she’d heard him say things to his assistant in front of everyone that made the woman crumple at his feet in tears. Victoria told herself that she would never trigger his ire. She would make him adore her, respect her, and treat her as gently as he treated that favorite suede jacket of his.
The stegosaur watched the beetle flick open its hard outer wings and extend the flight wings underneath. She watched the beetle launch himself into the air and hover, floating to and fro before he droned away. She watched in study of the beetle’s ability. And she watched in envy of the beetle’s ability.
She heard pebbles shifting behind her, but she did not turn.
“You’re looking in the wrong direction,” a voice said.
The stegosaur smiled and swung her head around.
“If you want to fly, there’s the way,” said the little limusaurus. She tossed her head back as she strode over to the stegosaur.
The foal peered out at the sea, the forbidding sea, and he wondered. He wondered at what his mother had just told him.
“It can’t be true,” he said, swishing his tail. He was still new to the world, but already he had a favorite thing to do, and it was swishing his tail.
“Why not?” his mother asked. She had warned him not to get too close to the waves. But she need not have. He wasn’t going anywhere near that roaring, reaching, grasping beast that she called “the sea.”
“Well, I’ve heard that sharks can never stop moving or they’ll die. And they don’t sleep as we do. I have a story that might explain why, but…”
Lia pretended to hesitate as she gauged the children’s reactions. The oldest looked curious but skeptical. The middle one started to grin at the mention of sharks. And the youngest cocked her head in such a way that the lamp light cast a twinkle in her eye.
“You know what?” Lia said. “I’m actually not sure I should tell you this one. I don’t want to give you nightmares.”
“Raccoons or orphans, whatever is back there, chase them away. Or chase this away. It’s your choice.”
I didn’t want to look at the glinting silver coin that he held up, but I couldn’t help it. This was not the coin I needed today, or ten days from now, or even ten years from now. I was prudent with my coin. No, this was the coin I would need when I was an old woman, assuming I wanted to be the type of old woman who spent her days sitting by a sunlit window, sipping on fruit nectar, listening to a happy dog bark as I read a book of my choosing for as long as I so pleased.