I can hear the resonance in the echo of her footsteps, the way she clears her throat, the breath that she takes from me, and the stopping of my heart.

I see her reflection in shadows and mirrors, in the frozen surface of the lake in winter, in the handwritten notes, and in the wind-whipped clouds.

I feel her soft touch upon my lips, her hands soothing the worry from my shoulders and conferring confidence in the ambulance; she rocks me still when I ride the subway.



The crowded small cafe left little room for conversation, especially with the music playing at full volume. Perhaps that’s why they chose this spot to meet. He’d trailed them for the last three hours, and up to this point, hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary. Still, he sat as close as he could, his back to his marks and a cranberry scone on a small plate in front of him.

When they started talking, his ears pricked up. Even in this noise, the use of half-speak, that clipped, double-speed short-hand version of normal talking, caught his attention. He tapped a recording app on his phone. He’d have time later to filter out the background cover and then spend the next two or three days decrypting their conversations. This had better be good, having to eat a dry scone was torture. Why hadn’t he ordered some tea or coffee?

De Novo Mutation

When the doctor approached them in the waiting room, she did her best to keep an optimistic attitude. At a time like this, it was important for everyone to support the right decision.

“Mr and Mrs Franklin? I’m Dr Stavosky. I’m in charge of the examination of your daughter, Rosalind’s case.

“Yes?” The mother seemed skittish, her hand shaking. The husband looked like you could hit him with a shovel and he wouldn’t even know it. “How is she? How is our little girl?”

“Look, I’ll tell you up front that your daughter is unique. She’s what we’ve classified as a ‘de novo mutation’.” Dr Stavosky bit her lip. Maybe using unfamiliar technical terms had been a mistake.

“She’s a mutant? What does that mean?” The mother stepped closer to the husband.

“I’m sorry, I probably shouldn’t have used that term. She’s perfectly human. In every way human. It’s just that, in her case, her gene sequencing produced results that are modified from expected patterns.” That seemed to help the couple relax. Perfect, follow the human angle as much as possible.

“So she’s normal? She’ll be okay? When do we get to see her?” The mother smiled.

“You won’t be able to see her, I’m afraid. Perfectly normal child, but very sick with a bacterial infection. It’s in everyone’s best interest.”

The father turned, as if suddenly awake to the whole proceedings. “You’ll take us to our daughter. Now.”

Dr Stavosky edged backward, reached for her left wrist, pushed a button on the side of her watch sending a panic signal.

“You don’t understand,” said Dr Stravosky. “Your daughter is exceptionally susceptible this this particular bacterial strain due to her mutation.”

“But you said she was human, not a mutant.” Now the wife looked as angry as the husband.

“Look, we need to all calm down.”

“Don’t tell us to calm the hell down. Take us to our daughter before I smash your head in.”

“Mr Franklin, please. Relax and let me explain.”

Two HHO (Human Health Officers) entered the waiting room, flanking Dr Stravosky. The husband lunged at Dr Stravosky and the two officers knocked him to the ground. They proceeded to subdue him with their batons. He thrashed and struggled to no avail. The officers soon had his hands bound behind his back.

All the while, the wife inched her way around the outside of the room, grabbed the Dr in a chokehold with one arm, and produced a knife which she held at the Dr’s throat.

“Stay back,” the wife said.

“Please, Mrs Franklin. You must understand. It has to be this way. We can’t treat your daughter with antibiotics. It is unlikely they would help her in any case. Any treatment would force the bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance. Your daughter can not be allowed to pass on her susceptibility mutation. The new health guidelines are clear. It is irresponsible for us to treat your daughter. You have to think of the untold suffering you could cause by any attempt to save her.”

True Magic

Only certain things were imbued with real magic. Not the kind of magic you could purchase at a corner store or in a shuffled deck of cards, but the kind that existed like science and the magic was true because it always worked. She kept a journal of magic items.

  • wood from a lightning-struck tree
  • silver thread when sewn into cloth with a gold needle
  • living sand dollars
  • promises made at midnight beneath a new moon

She knew that new moons were too close to the sun to be up at night, but she’d learned the impossibility of promises. None of them could be trusted, but that was part of the magic.

  • postage stamps, the larger the denomination, the more the magic
  • magnets

Magnets were possibly the most magic of all things to her. They could push each other or if one were flipped, the could pull. She could feel the magnetic field like the hairs of a cat brushed the wrong way.

The Long Room

Maybe it was a very wide hallway, or an abandoned banquet hall, a convention center keynote venue, an airplane hanger. Whatever it was once, now it was a very long room; so long you couldn’t see one end from the other, not that he’d been able to find an end. Walk in one direction and after a while, a sense that’d you’d turned around became irresistible and you turned back, even if that meant you were still walking forward. That’s how he thought of it, the room was so long and disorienting.