Page 8

   I finally find a place. Outside the school, down a deserted street, up some stairs. What they have back here is a tent town. Should be the unnecessarily expansive grounds of the admin building for defunct factory behind. Closed then, abandoned now, although who knows for sure in all these makeshift alleys. Grey noon acts like a cover for the whole place.
   How do, I say.
   The man inside this tiny place on a corner looks out at me.
   That hurt? He says.
   What hurt? I say.
   I have a gash up the inside of my left forearm. I bound it when it happened but it needs attention. I keep both fists on the table. I don’t know what he’s talking about. Never trust a man with a moustache, that’s all I know. He has a bushy black handlebar under a round nose and small eyes with pretty lashes.
   How about..? I gesture at his wall, a grimy tarpaulin and a set of shelves with plastic containers holding sad collections of various vegetables.
   He shakes his head, though he stands in his shadows before a black stove. I don’t want to step in too far. I’d be cornering him in that little place he has made for himself in there – everything darkened by grime and cooking oil.
   I do smell meat cooking though.

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Page 4

   Because look, I don’t want you to think I’m alone out here, because I’m not. There’s a god. She comes and goes. I saved her. No, I know, right? Up until recently I didn’t know there were gods either. There was the one god, worshipped in the Imperium, religions about him shaped out culture and blah blah, but like I say, up until recently I, oh god damn it. I hadn’t known. I hadn’t—known. Oh you crafty conniving—
   Nice lady. Crafty conniving very nice lady.
   I saved you. You granted me a wish. There I said it. A wish. I wished for all the powers in the world. Because really, is there something else to wish for? There might be. And that’s the kicker: I don’t know.
   She said sure, you see. She said righto lad, here’s all the powers of the world. There wasn’t even a ding or a wand waved. She just said it.
   And we hadn’t really been getting along up until then. She kept making me not breathe. So I was dubious.
   The more you know, she said. And freaking vanished. That—that!—made a pop. She was there, knee deep in freezing water and crackling wet (the water on her was beginning to freeze in the wind – she crackled when she moved), and then—pop!—not there, which I guess left a sudden space in the world, a vacuum where there shouldn’t be open, and it either collapsed or the air around it rushed in—I don’t fucking know! It popped. But she’s been back and, I’ll say she’s been very grudging about this, but she said there was no god. No one real only god. And therefore…. the more you know.
   What the crafty conniving nice lady means is, oh and you had better sit down for this…. knowledge is power.
   It means, if I know how something works, I can make it work.
   And up until recently I hadn’t known there were gods.
   Do you see now? She’s a wicked one for sure.

Page 3

   No, I don’t want to go on. I can survey the thin layer of snow settled everywhere on this flat countryside from here, and spend a moment watching the surveillance cameras, and I’ll wait until I get cold enough, but I’m not going on. This broad new highway puts a line down the middle of the empty out there, but it’ll be way too long a walk to wherever it goes and my breath is already paradoxically hot in my nose. I’m not ready for this at all.
   Where the highway dips fractionally, the flat line of the bridge it passes under makes a near-in horizon, and circumscribes this expanse. Like I’ve been living in a little white pan of snow. The hot ache of the muscles at the back of my neck works away at my skull. I’d put the damn rucksack down but with the way my hands aren’t working, I might not get it back on again. Next time, really just bring more water.
   Or a car.
   Which is not the first time I’ve thought theft is what I should be down with right now.