Talk about a departure from my usual work! This was a brutal story to write, and as terrible as it sounds, I hope it’s just as brutal to read.
Stylistically, the biggest inspiration for this piece is the fact that I’ve been reading a lot more contemporary SF lately, mostly from Apex and Uncanny magazines. It’s great stuff, but a dramatic shift from the SF I grew up with. So this is my effort to follow the overall style I’m seeing in modern work, which I think is pretty appealing. I’m not sure I succeed on that score, but the effort has value.
Content Note: Violence
As I step out into the cool evening air, I take a deep breath that feels so good it’s annoying. The last chill of spring still lingers, but not enough to feel uncomfortable. It’s a clean scent, balancing the sweetness of distant flowers. Far away, the horizon is painted in violet and warm honey, light wisps of clouds more counterpoint than obstruction. I feel like I’m being mocked.
Armageddon shouldn’t be so serenely beautiful. It’s like the world is telling me “This is what you’re about to lose.”
I take a long drink of coffee. It’s ice cold and the bitterness makes me shudder, but it reassures me a little. That one little flaw is enough, and if all goes well nothing will be lost but my innocence. That much, I can afford.
Even so, I’m hesitant to go back inside. For just a few moments longer, I want to savour this moment, incongruous as it is. These are the stakes, after all. Success means I get to see this again. Maybe not right away, but there’s a chance. Failure means nobody will, guaranteed. The thought firms up my resolve a little, which I need right about now.
My phone goes off just as I’m turning around to get back to work, and I marvel at the timing. Of course it’s Wim, who the hell else would it be? Sometimes I wonder if they’ve got cameras set up or something, and they’re just messing with my head, you never know with them.
“How much time,” I ask, even though I already know.
Wim’s voice is neutral in tone, difficult to read, with an undertone of strangeness. “None. Hurry now, you have only one night.”
“I just took five minutes,” I say, a bit defensively. “Everything is ready, so I’ll be heading out immediately. How are things on your end?”
“Others already at work. Buying you time, but not much. Do not take too many five minutes Save for after, maybe.”
I disconnect the call without saying goodbye. A bit rude, but I know Wim doesn’t care. I’m not sure they even understand pleasantries like that to start with.
I’ve set up shop in an abandoned mine, bought through a variety of proxies. It’s the very picture of a sinister lair, which makes me smile. The sort of work I do is best kept away from the public, so I’ve been coming here for quite a while. Signs of wear on the equipment gives it a lived-in look. A Jacob’s ladder crackles in the corner as arcs travel along its length. It doesn’t serve any useful purpose, but if you’re going to have a mad lab you might as well do it right.
Before setting out, I take one last check. I don’t need to, and can’t really afford the time, but this is my one final indulgence. The next few hours are going to be hell.
I’ve got my coffins – now I’m ready.
The glory of the sunset has faded by the time Lucy gets off work. Still enough light to navigate the parking lot, although the street lights come on anyway. She sighs, thinking it would be nice to get off work for a change. But she can’t really say no to overtime.
From the back of her car, I can practically read her mind. I see how her shoulders sag, the way her shoes scuff a little, the way she hangs her purse almost to the ground. She’s tired. Tired of long hours in the lab, tired of reports, tired of no time to herself. Tired of going home to an empty apartment with barely enough energy to microwave something and then fall into bed so she can do it all over again. She just wants to get to her car and get home, maybe get a decent night’s sleep for once.
She stops for a moment and looks around. She can feel something in the air, and it bothers her. I feel it too, but she doesn’t know what it is, and that puts her on edge. Too perceptive for her own good.
Despite her fatigue, she picks up her pace a little. Something feels off. It could be the strange feeling in the air, the scent that isn’t quite strong enough to identify. The way a breeze seems to be kicking up, making rustling noises behind her. Maybe the unfamiliar SUV on the other side of the lot that feels more sinister than it should. She fumbles with her keys, taking three tries to hit the unlock button successfully before throwing herself in. Safe, she seems to think, as she tries to get her breathing under control.
She chokes on her scream as I suddenly move behind her, tossing a strap over her upper body and cinching it hard against the back of the seat. It takes the wind out of her, which adds to her panic. The last thing she expected was for her paranoia to be justified, and she’s unprepared to deal with it. Her body flails against the restraint, but she’s pinned. There’s no escape now.
I lean forward, my lips close to her ear. “I’m sorry Lucy,” I say, knowing the effect my voice will have on her. “I really wish there was another way.”
She tries to turn but she’s bound too tight, so she frantically looks up at the rear-view mirror. What must she be thinking when she sees my face? I know her better than anyone, and even I don’t know. But by then my hands are at her throat, and the time for speculation is over.
She struggles, the danger finally sinking in. Her hands claw at the strap, but she can’t get leverage. I can feel the muscles in her neck tense and flex as she flails, in hopes of shaking me loose. My fingers dig into the soft tissue, cutting off blood and air. Her breath, what little she can manage, comes in wheezes and gurgles as panic overtakes her. There’s a crunch as I feel her trachea collapse under the pressure, and she starts to convulse.
It doesn’t take long for her to die, but I keep squeezing anyway, even after her head falls to one side and her body goes slack. Her chest is still, but I hang on as if I’m the one who’ll die if I don’t. It takes another full minute before I can unclench my hands, and I still feel the strain once I do.
Her body is heavy as I carry it across the parking lot to my SUV. The first coffin is there, and I place Lucy inside, taking one last look at her face. Slack and drained of colour, it’s a terrible sight. Worse, it’s my face too. Every detail is the same, even the little scar from a fight in eighth grade below her – my – left ear. Pulling the lid in place, I seal it tight and look at my arms. Even though I can’t see her any more, I can still feel her.
Looking up, I can see lightning in the distance. There are no clouds. I can’t afford to sit around.
Lucy pulls her hands out of the water for what seems like the hundredth time, looking around at the room behind her. There’s nothing there, just like the other 99 times. Just a sparsely furnished kitchen and living room, the same one she’d been living in for a month now. She lives alone, always did, but that never bothered her before. Until now, when every little creak sounds like a whisper behind her back, and no matter how well lit the room is, she imagines it’s full of shadows the moment she turns around. For once, she wishes she had someone to take her mind off it.
The radio was probably to blame, cutting into reports with reports of freak weather all over the region. Things with no ready explanation always make her tense, which is why she went into mathematics to start with. Numbers don’t do weird things. She turned off the radio a while back, but that unsettled feeling stuck with her.
Turning back to the sink, she submerges her hands once again, as bad as it feels to turn her back on that open space again. No feeling of dread is going to get the best of me, she thinks, even as the small hairs on the back of her neck rise up, immune to mere willpower. For the fourth time, she scours an already-clean pot, trying to push the nervous tension away.
The sound of the doorbell makes her jump, and she immediately feels embarrassed. Dammit, why am I so on edge today, she thinks as she heads to the door with a tea towel. The bell rings again. Whoever’s out there is impatient. Probably a salesman, since she doesn’t know anyone in town well enough for them to come visit. Good sense tells her to ignore it, but there’s something she can’t ignore that says whoever is out there knows she’s home, and isn’t planning to leave. She thinks momentarily about calling the police, but about what? Someone rang her doorbell twice?
She grabs the doorbell, and something makes her stop as soon as she makes contact. The feeling of dread spikes, and she wants to do nothing more than run away. To where, in a small apartment on the 10th floor, she isn’t sure. Just so long as it isn’t here. She pushes it down, trying to assert the rational, mathematical side of her that tells her this is foolish. All she has to do is open the door and tell them to get lost. Easy.
It’s only when she opens the door and I turn to face her that she knows the mistake she made. Time slows for both of us as recognition hits her and a dozen expressions run across her face, settling on shock. Unfortunately for her, that leaves her wide open.
“I’m really sorry about this, Lucy,” I say as I heft the baseball bat off my shoulder, using the momentum as it swings around to spear it deep into her midsection, knocking the wind from her. She staggers back and falls into the living room. Terrified and gasping for breath, she raises her arms as if that will keep me away.
Pulling the door shut, I follow her in. “Believe me Lucy, if there was another way I’d do it. I hope you forgive me.”
My first swing breaks her arm, causing her to scream and try to roll away. I barely hear it, the feeling of shock running through the bat and up my arms distracts me too much. Second comes in from the side, almost knocking her out immediately. I don’t give her time to react, and a third comes straight down. There’s nothing in the way and I can hear her skull crack. My stomach churns and the fourth blow is the hardest, smashing her like an egg.
I take two more swings, just to be sure.
I get to the next Lucy just as she’s getting out of class. This time she’s into physics; I’m not sure why but we’re all scientists at heart. Even me, although I became something else later on. For this Lucy, she came to it a bit later than most. She worked for a couple of years after high school, giving herself time to choose her major. Smart girl.
Hanging back in the shadows, I know pretty much what’s on her mind. We’re the same, and that goes a lot deeper than looks. Aside from a couple of little tricks to fill in the gaps, it’s really just like calling to like. Never mind that she’s bad at hiding her feelings, just like me. It all shows on her face.
Like the others, she’s had a strange feeling of dread in the back of her head since nightfall, like a foot that’s fallen asleep and now every little touch hurts. It’s more than frustration at her ridiculous schedule, no two classes within an hour of each other. That much she’s used to, and even having her questions brushed off with a suggestion to come back tomorrow isn’t enough to account for the sense that something is wrong.
A strong gust rustles her jacket, blows hair into her face, despite being dead calm a moment ago. She picks up scents of ozone and distant fires, but the wind dies again and she can’t tell where it’s coming from. The clouds overhead are moving haphazardly, and though she knows nothing about weather, instinct says that this is wrong. The prickle in her head gets worse, and she knows they’re somehow connected.
As she starts to move, I push off from the wall and follow, hanging back as far as I can afford. She’s so sensitized right now that she’ll pick up on any sound I make, and I can’t afford to tip my hand just yet.
Under the circumstances, it’s strange that she chooses to cut through the park. But that’s not where the danger lies and she knows it, even if she can’t guess how. She’s being chased, and all she wants is to get home, safely behind a locked door as fast as possible. I wonder if she can feel the intensity with which I watch her back, several metres ahead.
Midway along the trail, I deliberately scuff my foot in the dirt. It’s a gamble, whether she’ll choose fight for flight at this point, but I think – I hope – I know her well enough. This time I win, as she spins around, half-crouching by instinct, ready to defend herself. But there’s nothing but an empty trail, not even the rustle of leaves in the bushes. For a second, she relaxes, trying to reassure herself that she imagined the whole thing.
Of course I’m not there. Translocation was one of the first spells I learned, and despite not wanting to use magic tonight I have to make an exception. There’s no way I’d be able to accomplish what I need to without it. I take a quick look below, allowing myself a half-smile at my gamble paying off before I let the rope fall, loop dropping around her neck just as planned.
She’s panicking now, trying to get her hands up before the noose tightens, but I’m faster. The rope goes taut between us, and for a few seconds we play a tug of war with her life. “I’m sorry, Lucy,” I tell her, just like with the others, and I feel the rope loosen just the slightest bit from the shock of recognition. I want to say more, but this is my chance, jumping off the other side of the branch.
My body goes down like a counterweight, just as hers goes up, rope jerking out of her hands as she flies up. But she’s struggling too much, and I curse as I realize the force wasn’t enough to break her neck, leaving her there, slowly strangling to death. A part of me is angry at her for ruining my plan, and I try to crush the feeling as soon as I realize it. She’s just fighting for her life, how can I blame her for that?
I just hang there, watching her struggle and feeling the rope burn in my hands. Eventually the twitching stops, but the sensation stays with me. A few minutes later I let her down and carry the body back to my SUV, where another coffin waits for her. I check one more time for a pulse before sealing the lid. As bad as her death was, what the coffin does would be worse. Maybe it’s a hollow mercy, but that’s all I can afford.
My name is Lucy. I’m a magician.
That sounds ridiculous, but it’s a ridiculous thing to be so that’s okay. I like it when things are congruent like that. Others might use wizard, mage, witch or whatever, but it all sounds just as dumb, so I say I’m a magician.
Not always, I started out like all the other Lucys, a scientist at heart. Still am, in my own way. Science is the only accurate way to look at the world and how it works. So when science tells us that magic is impossible, it’s absolutely right. But then, just being impossible doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
That’s how I came to find magic, the fact that I stumbled upon things that shouldn’t be, but insist on being anyway. So I started looking for more instances, and pretty soon I’d mapped out a general shape of what magic is. By then I was hooked, and too fascinated by what I’d discovered to stop.
It’s not rational. But it’s real. Sometimes a bit too real.
There aren’t very many of us in the world. Oh, loads of people do things you could call magic by accident or instinct and rationalize it away. Humans are especially good at that. But those who do it on purpose and embrace the irrational side of the world, the ones like me, only come along rarely. A few dozen across the world, I’d guess. It’s hard to really pin down a number, given how isolated we tend to be, following out own little obsessions.
The only other magician I talk to regularly is Wim. They came into my life pretty early on, not long after I admitted to myself I wasn’t exactly doing science any more. More than once it’s occurred to me they might have had their eye on me before that, but I learned a long time ago that speculating about Wim’s motives is a good way to get a headache and not much else. That we formed something like a friendship, or at least that’s how I feel about it, is good enough.
Wim is a creature of mystery. In all the time I’ve known them, I haven’t been able to pin down any facts that would stick. What country they’re from, what their native language is, even their gender, nothing. Hell, I don’t even know if they’re human in the first place. After all, there are things running around that aren’t anywhere close, and there are definitely magicians who have experimented on themselves to become something….different. I can’t say Wim isn’t like that. But then, I can’t say they are, either. For all I know, they grew up in an ordinary household in the suburbs, and just like messing with me. I just don’t know.
Still, I’m grateful for whatever friendship I can get. I’m bad at making friends, and worse with relationships. The way I live my life, always chasing one obsession or another, isn’t all that suited to anything long-term. The other Lucys are like that too, which is handy in this situation. It is a bit lonely though, just sometimes, so having a friend who understands is a blessing.
Once this is all finished, I wonder if they’ll actually get mad at me for once. Seeing that would be kind of refreshing.
I give myself a shake as I pull up in front of Lucy Number Four’s house. Time to get to work, I think as I pull on a pair of brass knuckles. This one’s ready for me, she can’t deny that she’s being hunted. The whole place is locked up tight, and she definitely won’t come if I knock. But all it takes is reaching out just so, and giving a little…twist, and those old locks just do whatever you tell them to.
She’s in the basement. Thinks I won’t find her. She’s wrong.
Lucy Number Five never became a scientist, at least not for a living. A few bad breaks and a couple of bad decisions kept her out of college, so the closest she was ever able to get was working as a nurse’s aide. She’s an amateur astronomer in her spare time though, and a pretty damn good one.
When I find her, she’s holed up in a hotel room with a dresser against a door and holding a handgun she picked up somewhere on the way. She’s canny enough to know that staying home is a bad idea, but she didn’t run far enough. I’m glad for that, there’s no time for an extended chase.
Tremors run through the ground, even though there’s no fault line anywhere close. The wind has started blowing hot and cold in random directions, and lightning is everywhere. That alone is unnerving, but the remaining Lucys know full well they’re being hunted. I wonder if any of them would give up if they knew why?
She’s got her eyes on the door when I come up behind her. I can’t help but smirk just a little as I raise the length of copper pipe over my head, then bring it down with all the force I have.
I have trouble with Lucy Six. She’s the only one who’s trained in self-defence, thanks to a stint in the army. Girl’s gotta make a living, and they paid for school. They put her in logistics, and she got into mechanical engineering off the back of that.
It’s the first face-to-face fight I’ve had since this whole thing started, and at one point I think I’ll be forced to use magic just to survive. But she hasn’t been keeping up with her training now that she’s in grad school, and the way I keep taunting her with private details of her life while wearing her face is unnerving to throw her off balance. First emotionally, then physically as well.
She still fights hard, and it takes everything I’ve got to get the wire around her neck and start pulling. Even then it’s a battle, but after a while the energy goes out of her and I fall off, panting and sweating. The feeling of triumph brings a lopsided grin to my face that doesn’t fully go away until I get the coffin closed.
The next Lucy runs like a rabbit, and I chase her like a wolf. She takes off into the woods with me on her heels, desperate – too desperate – to take her down. She knows what I’m here for, how many I’ve killed. How much I need to tear her apart.
So she runs, scrambling through the brush even though it lashes at her, the rocks making her stumble. Her panic is contagious, doubly so through our link as Lucys, and the shared rush of adrenaline makes me feel powerful. I shouldn’t want this. Feeling her bones breaking, tissues tearing apart, the life flowing out of her and over my hands. It’s meant to be penance, not pleasure. Even so, I crave it and the bloodlust cannot be denied.
The skies open up with a sudden, driving rain that comes out of nowhere and I literally rear back and howl. The whole world has become primal, and I answer in kind. I’m beyond anything rational now, and I salivate with anticipation.
We’re going up a muddy hill when she slips, and then I’m on top of her, teeth digging into her neck as if I’m starving. She screams, but it’s the taste of blood that finally snaps me back to my senses, and I throw her away from me, into a tree. She hits hard, and falls to her knees, stunned for a second, while I grab a nearby rock. It feels too right in my hand, and that scares me.
After, I sit by her body with its crushed skull and the gash on her neck still oozing blood, and I wonder just what I’ve become.
Wim calls just as I’m loading the last coffin. My hands are still shaking, and I let a couple of rings go by before I’m able to answer.
“Lucy. Almost done,” says Wim. How they know I have no idea, since the effect of the Lucys isn’t additive. So long as only one extra exists in the world, things are just going to get worse. That’s what the coffins are for, to separate them from the universe itself. I made them specially, so that not only are the contents placed in their own space, but they’re eaten away, degrading until nothing at all remains. As bad as the deaths so far have been, that one would hurt even more, and last a lot longer.
“One left, but I guess you know that,” I say, hoping they don’t catch the tremor in my voice. They do anyway.
“Killing is hard on you,” they say, “not ready for changes that come with it. No time to deal with now, save for later. One left, then maybe you keep killing, maybe you stop. Can deal later.”
“I’m scared, Wim. What if I can’t stop? I told myself that I needed to feel it, so some memory of them would be left, but I don’t think that’s what it’s about any more. I feel like an addict. What if I need to do it again, with magic it would be easy to get away with it.”
“A few people no big deal,” said Wim, their tone unchanged. “People die. Very good at it. Always more people, if world is there still. A few here and there, no real problem. Need to save world first.”
I know they’re right. I have to push this down and take care of the next one….no, the last one, and then I’ll have the luxury to have a breakdown. “Okay, I guess I have to. How much time do I have left?”
“Still time, yes,” comes the reply. “Not much time. Bad weather you see, feel earth shake. Some buildings just disappear, molecules don’t hold. People inside, not so lucky. I hear whole mountain gone, but hard to tell. Too much avalanche. Volcano near London, will make geologists very confused if any alive tomorrow. If any tomorrow.”
“I get the hint,” I tell them. “I’m already on my way.” I gun the engine for emphasis. “With luck, I’ll be done in an hour or so, then we can clean everything up.”
“Go. Finish first, we talk after.” Wim cuts the call abruptly, same as always. At least there are still things in the world I can count on. But there’s no time left, so I rush down the highway for my date with the final Lucy.
I pull into her driveway just as a snow squall passes, and the clouds suddenly disperse. It’s a good thing it’s the middle of the night, the symbolism of the heavens parting and sunlight pouring down would probably make me lose my nerve. As it is, I’m nervous as hell.
This Lucy is last for a reason. Out of all nine of us, she’s the only one besides me who found magic, same as I did. If she fights back, I’m not sure I can win, at least not in time.
She’s not running, I’m grateful for that much. She waits for me to shut off my vehicle, and I watch as she opens the door to come to me. A woman follows her, grabbing her arm and they talk seriously for a few moments. It’s tense, and I really shouldn’t be watching. But then Lucy leans in and kisses her, before coming my way. And there’s another reason I don’t want to do this, I think. Something the others, including me doesn’t have, and when she’s gone that’ll be lost too.
I open the passenger door, and she climbs in. I marvel at how casual it all seems.
“I guess you know why I’m here.” For emphasis, I reach into my bag and pull out a wicked-looking butcher’s knife, placing it on the median between us. It’s a hell of a metaphor.
She looks down at that knife, then back up at me like it’s nothing important. My eyes flicker between hers and the knife, and she watches for a moment before saying anything. “It was a good idea,” she says at last. “A bit of a cheat, spying on alternate timelines to get the benefit of the experiences of your other selves. All those different choices and branching paths, it’s tantalizing. You couldn’t have known that none of those timelines actually exist.”
I nod. I don’t want a discussion; the last thing I need is to sympathise. But she deserves at least this much. “My friend told me the same thing. They didn’t see it coming either, not like this.”
“And now you’re stuck with eight copies of yourself brought into this world, and you’ve got to take us out again.”
“Not copies, that’s the problem. You’re all real, just as real as me. Your histories are all real too, and all the memories and continuity that comes with them. All incompatible with each other, and the planet is going to shake itself to pieces trying to reconcile them. We’ll be lucky if the whole solar system doesn’t collapse, but by then it won’t matter.”
She looks softly at me, and I want to slap her just to make her mad. She should be pissed off. This whole situation is unfair as hell, and it’s all my fault. I wouldn’t blame her if she used the knife on me instead, but she’s not the one who’s tempted. The one who’s used to it.
She’s looking up at the window, and the silhouette behind the rustling curtain. “She didn’t want me to come out here, you know. She wanted me to fight, or run away with her. It was like she was the one who could feel you coming, not me. But where is there to run anyway?”
We both lapse into silence. A part of me wants to ask her questions, to learn about her life. I want to hear stories about the woman she loves and what she does with her magic. But I look down at the knife again, and I know I won’t do any of that. Once I close the coffin on her, all the connections in her life will be severed. Her wife won’t even remember her, and probably won’t even know she had one. Maybe she won’t exist either, I don’t know.
Lucy startles me when she moves her hand toward the knife. I almost thought she’d forgotten about it, but she picks it up and examines it for a moment, before handing it to me. “I just want you to do one thing,” she says, looking me straight in the eye. “Make sure she’s taken care of.”
She’s trying to be brave, but I can hear the little hitch in her voice. In the end, Lucy’s doing it for the woman in the window. She’s got something she needs to protect. Suddenly the knife feels very heavy in my hand.
There’s a flash of lightning outside, brighter and closer than it has any right to be. Lucy flinches, but all I can see is the reflection of the silver band on her finger. A tingle runs up my arms. I know it now, it’s the lives of all the other Lucy’s. I still feel every one, running through me like blood. More than that, it’s the exhilaration I felt, more intense every time. The feeling of anticipation, before I get to do it one more time.
Lucy is right. Wim is right. It’s time to end this.
Back in the mine, I haul the last coffin into place before turning to the computer. It’s the one piece of equipment I haven’t turned off. Even the Jacob’s Ladder is silent. I don’t need it now. All that’s left are a few simple tasks, and the world will be saved.
It only takes a few keystrokes to set the final program in motion. Once the timer is done, the charges I’ve set throughout the ceiling will bring the whole thing down. With the chaos outside, nobody will notice. With luck, it’ll be at least a century before anyone thinks to dig it up, and all the coffins need is a few weeks. I built them tough, so they’ll take at least that much punishment.
I reach across the desk and retrieve the bottle I brought with me and down its contents. The bitterness makes me gag, but I laugh a little at myself too. No point making poison delicious, after all. It’s the first genuine laugh I’ve had since this whole mess started, and it’ll probably be my last.
The lid to the last coffin is still ajar, and I push it aside to climb in myself. It’s strange how, here at the end, everything works out so well. I always did like it when things were the way they were supposed to be. A mad scientist has a mad lair. Poison tastes awful. And a villain takes the fall in the end.
I stumble a bit, my limbs not quite obeying me properly. There’s not much time left, so I climb in and pull the lid shut, sealing it from inside. I can feel a tingling on my skin as soon as the coffin already starts to work. I know I’ll be dead by the time it turns to pain, an undeserved mercy.
I wonder if the emails I sent will reach their destination, or whether they’ll just vanish when the timeline repairs itself. I made sure there was no way to trace my origin and neither have any identifying information, so with luck they’ll survive. But then, I’d been wrong before.
To Wim, I send a wish that you’ll watch over Lucy and her wife from now on. For all your mystery, you’re still the best person I know and I’m glad to have met you. I don’t know if you feel the same way, but that’s another thing that is as it should be.
As to Lucy, I hope some part of you remember me. Even with all eight of us sealed away, our connection is something more than that. Maybe not on any conscious level, just a feeling that comes to you now and then. That would be enough. To you I send everything I can of my own research, in hopes you’ll do good with it. That’ll be a damn sight more than I ever did.
I don’t know what’ll happen next. I’ll die and be destroyed. That much I can count on. But maybe I was too late and the world will end anyway. Maybe one of the other coffins malfunctioned. Maybe Lucy is already dead, caught up in an earthquake or something while I was on the road back here.
But maybe, just by the slimmest chance, maybe everything will work out fine.
That’s the hope I cling to, as everything goes dark for the last time.