Convergence (10000ISH WORDS OF FAILED NANO ’15)

/ I DID NOT WIN; WHAT IS NEW. As usual, this is where I come to set my incomplete garbage free. One day I will finish something. Here is the thing I wrote, posted for the people who told me that they would want to read what I was writing. Cloutier is able to travel through my fictional worlds, stealing my muses and turning them into books. I am very fond of em as ey possibly know more about where my stories are going than I myself am aware of.

If you need content warnings: death, mild body horror, bad mothers, some domestic violence, self-indulgent writing, much unhappiness, recycled characters and some meta concerning that. And yes, Part 2 is most certainly linked to Flight of Fancy. /


Ey steals lives. That’s it. With absolutely no preamble whatsoever, ey drops in between pages, savours all ey finds in between the lines, and leaves with someone integral to the story. A single person, whose removal almost always guarantees the collapse of a narrative. Ey is a connoisseur of catalysts, with an eye for the angular shard of rock one may skip across the surface of water and cause ripple after colliding ripple to represent tales intertwined. With no stones to skip, the water remains still. At least, for a while. Until someone arrives and pokes at the surface with a stick.


“I don’t suppose you’re aware of it. That you’re not the only Instance of yourself that exists.” The young man is coy with the revelation. His manner sultry, almost. The cigarette held between his long fingers is ashed, deftly, before a long, contemplative drag is taken from it once again. He lets out words along with nicotine-tinged breath. “I find you here now. Give it a few more years, or however else you may choose to express the passing of time, and I’ll find you again. Only, this time you’re on a station orbiting a man-made bulk in space. Or dragging your bare feet along a dirt path, on your way to a temple with peace offerings for the gods of disaster and death. You’re not the only you to exist, and I want you to understand.”

The recipient of the words is in a hardly ideal state to be listening, let alone comprehending. His hair is matted with blood from when he ran his hands though it, clutching too hard, close to the roots, as though making to rip every last strand from his scalp. Hands, trembling, are now laid in his lap. The face is twisted into a snarling rictus, an animalistic grimace that’s all teeth. He’s kneeling on the concrete floor, grey like the pants of his school uniform. A pattern of bloody handprints unites both floor and fabric. The only consistency is the desperate nature of their application—smudged, haphazard. They map a path to the centre of the classroom, where someone is dangling from the ceiling fan. So undignified.

Cloutier sighs, gestures with his cigarette. “That one dies in every world in which you both meet. He has to. His life ends with a period, and then your sentence begins. All this because you loved him.”

The kneeling youth shakes his head, and his mouth opens and closes, a silent prayer for his teacher, his mentor. It takes a long, awkward moment or two before Cloutier comes to the realisation that he’s sobbing. The thief crouches beside the the boy, hastily enveloping him within his arms. “Oh no. No, no, no… I didn’t mean to imply that you were the cause of his death.” The cigarette falls from his fingers to land, and extinguish itself in a pool of sticky, coagulating blood. “Shh,” he says, ineffectually. Tears would mean damp pages that would remain wrinkled even after being carefully dried and ironed out. He knows this from countless past experiences. “Shh, don’t cry. You’re going to have a much better life now.” A lie. “Safe.” Also a lie.

The sobs do not subside. On the contrary, they grow in intensity. Each breath judders through the boy’s bony frame, rattling him from the inside. Where he gets the energy to cry with such fervour, Cloutier can only guess at. He suspects that it comes from a place not unlike a void—a wound so deep that suffering itself, against its will, has had its pockets emptied and its soul bared. “You’re going to ruin it,” he mutters into the rust-scented hair. “My book. And, oohhh, fuck. You haven’t understood a word I said. Of course, of course. I’ve been speaking the wrong language. Let’s try this again, shall we?”

Same scene, different angle of approach. This time, Cloutier gives emelf more to work with before ey arrives. The discovery has yet to be made. The teacher is still whole; his veins still hold the five litres or thereabouts of blood the human body is meant to contain. Soon, it will be spilling out onto the concrete floor. But not yet. The floor has not been marked by death, only by the scrape and drag of twenty-four pairs of desks and chairs.

Ey waits under the eaves of the gardener’s shed, impatiently tapping a finger against eir elbow. A remarkably human gesture, fitting for one which chooses to wear a humanoid shape. At this point, Ey is still composed of swirling shadowy mist wrapped around the suggestion of a human form. The undulating shroud gives no hint as to what features might hide under the obscured face—there are none.

Well. Not yet.

First, ey remembers to breathe. Ey sucks in a noisy breath through a hole that opens up in eir face, ignoring the stirrings of protest from ancient, perhaps even ancestral memories. (This is undignified!)

Within the shadows, a pair of lungs take root and start to bloom—bronchi stretching out branch-like and tiny spongy chambers filling up. The trachea starts to form, and Cloutier gags on it. This is something ey will never get used to. Meanwhile, nerves have started to grow as well, limp and lifeless as yarn until the central nervous system materialises and shocks them all awake. Rude! All feeling returns in a rush, a cacophony of pain is sounding to herald the fragments of the body fighting to piece themselves together. A nose protrudes from between flat, rounded cheekbones. Hair sprouts from… places. With a cough, a shudder, and a shake, Cloutier arches a newly created spine, and expels a sigh—relief—when the vertebrae crack obligingly. Satisfied, ey runs his hands over his bare chest, savouring the delightful tickles against fingertips with fresh fingerprints.

The age of eir assumed forms, and eir gender (where applicable) is never something ey has control over. Ey simply arrives, and the surroundings pour into em what it requires of eir presence. This time: ‘Male’—and everything it means to the people here.

Clothes, now. He’s in the mood for something context-compliant. A neat button-up cotton shirt surfaces from underneath eir skin, shining wet with translucent plasma and clinging to flesh. The shirt settles in and dries itself—not with the aid of the hot, dry summer, but by powers far more supernatural. The shirt is white like teeth, white like staring into the sun. A pair of dull cotton pants to match. Long and tapered for long, tapering adolescent bones. Cloutier finds himself teetering on the cusp of twenty. If he could undo the threads of his DNA, he would discover that he’s just ten days from his birthday. A pity the identity is temporary, and concerned only with the present.

Is it time? Almost. He can see the teacher at his desk, a solitary form hunched over in his seat. Terrible posture for one so young—not even thirty! Probably doing something boring such as grading papers, or making sure the attendance lists are in order. The assailants are on their way, probably doing something equally as clichéd. At this moment, they are likely to be bounding off rooftops, three figures in skin-tight garb, coiling and uncoiling, three lithe springs. They have no need for weapons, being weapons themselves. They possess the grotesque ability to spontaneously shatter their own bones and harden flesh to resemble carapaces, reshape limbs into rough daggers, anything they desire, anything they are able to imagine.

There are enough minutes to spare for a quick smoke. The downside of having a central nervous system is, at times, having to contend with its whims and tantrums. In this situation, the growing anxiety is probably appropriate. Nevertheless, Cloutier gives his hands a quick shake, manifesting a cigarette in his left hand and a lighter in the right. “Ohhhh by the omniscients of every world ever dreamt up…” Click. Flick. His hands are trembling so badly he nearly drops everything, but finally, he clamps his lips over the lit cigarette and inhales the world through tobacco-tinted lenses. Through the dusty glass shutters of the classroom, the teacher rises from his seat, sensing something.

Cloutier doesn’t have to watch, but once in awhile, he does. He’s drawn to inevitability, on some level highly aware that though his presence spells an inevitable end for certain lives, their lives, in turn, are wheels that spin around axles that most certainly aren’t himself. He is never central to another’s life, and he finds that galling. In a way, it’s gratifying to be there to witness when axles break. While not given to violence himself, there are times when he refuses to turn away from such scenes. They allow him to feed upon the sense of power which predators gain from preying upon the helpless. Even while it sickens him.

Death is coming for the schoolteacher. The assassins close in on him slowly, like loyal old hounds loping towards their master. Evidently, the man is expecting company; he meets them straight-backed and hands folded behind his hips—left completely open to them, not deceptively so, with absolutely no intention to feint. Cloutier is too far from them to overhear their words, if any at all are being said. Perhaps their mouths never open. Perhaps their lips only move to exchange bitter curses, taunting each other. Their silhouettes dance like shadow puppets, distorting as though a hand has been waved over their source of light. When the air stills, only three shadows remain. The rest of the scene remains obscured by solid wall. Cloutier finally looks away.

He slumps against the side of the shed. His left hand is cramping up from its pincered grip on the cigarette which he raises to his lips and sucks on, desperate. There is still time for him to come back to himself and make the same swaggering entrance as before. Meanwhile, he knows, the assassins are busy with their hands. Whatever shapes they’ve broken and fused themselves into now, they must have appendages which allow for knotting ropes and crude surgical procedures—that is to say, the removal of organs for decorative purposes. Very soon, a youth of sixteen is going to walk into the room, and find his favourite person in this world strung up by ropes to the ceiling fan. He will collapse before the yawning gap of an emptied torso, gape at the coil of intestines around the victim’s neck.

Seconds too late, Cloutier starts sprinting for the classroom door.

The windows blow out spectacularly; one of those explosions that seem more like implosions in reverse, finite in range, yet more destructive in intensity. It begins with a soundless surge of energy like a star turned inside out—then the wave hits the walls and exits the room by forcing itself out through the least resistant paths. The shutters go out in a hail of glass shards. The fluorescent tubes explode against the ceiling. Twenty-four sets of desks and chairs are sent sprawling. The teacher’s wooden desk—solid wood and built to last (hopefully) centuries, simply rolls over and lands heavily on its side with a resigned thump.

Cloutier picks himself off the ground, scrabbling about on all fours for his cigarette before he realises that it’s gone and put itself out in a nearby gutter. RUDE! He staggers towards the door, leans against the door frame. The atmosphere is buzzing, a low hum that reverberates against the inside of his skull, the marrow of his bones. The source is the boy in the school uniform.

“Youuuuu,” he says. His outstretched hands gesture blindly, feeling the air for the edges of the narrative; he’s lost his place. His finger has slipped on the page. Frustrated, he chews on his lower lip while reaching inside himself for the right language to use. Does having the right words still matter, at this point, when he’s already missed a crucial cue and allowed a key plot point to develop unimpeded? “You! Crane boy!” The youth turns around to face the thief. Cloutier winks. “That’s a very nifty set of powers you’ve just acquired.”

Eyes narrow. Shoulders tense. {YOU KILLED HIM.}

Cloutier winces. This is untrained telepathy at best. The mind-voice is sonorous, blundering right into his consciousness without so much as a knock. There’s already a headache forming at the base of his skull, and after stepping into the field of residual energy, he didn’t think it could get any worse. He’s grinding his teeth so hard that a muscle in his jaw starts twitching. “U-use your voice-voice, please. I implore you. The one that comes up your throat. Like I’m doing right now.” Gesturing, hand flapping about the approximate region of his voice box, for emphasis. Dearly wishing he still had his cigarette for moral support. “I didn’t kill Yamamoto. The poor man-”


The irony is so great that Cloutier could weep. “No. That’s you!” He exclaims, delighted. “The liar! The one that hides so far within his own webs of lies, he can’t tell where they end and he begins. So many fresh stories, different each time, so desperately believed in that if I left you to it, I’d probably have endless new iterations of every person you use as a pawn in your game. What feasts you leave in your wake!”

He was hoping to catch the liar before he spun his first web. The youth who sewed shut the lips of his past, buried it deep within himself where it would never again speak. The same thing happens each time—the loss of a sole confidant triggers a perverse desire to endlessly confide in anyone he meets. The need devours, a hunger too great to sustain with pale, wan reality. Falsities substantiate. The youth thrives on inaccuracy and insincerity. The path back to his true history falls into ruin. The first collapse: the boy, overwhelmed, falls to his knees. Cloutier has already seen this happen once. Perhaps, though he’d hoped to enable this moment before the boy came into his powers, perhaps he can still salvage this particular volume. The effort is a strain on his body, and dark curlicues of mist have started to leak from the corners of his eyes. Even the idea of a third attempt makes his chest tighten into a hard lump of fear, that distasteful, unpleasant emotion.

Again, Cloutier kneels down beside the youth. “You know it wasn’t me.” He makes his voice gentle, hands spidering out along the younger one’s back, stroking and soothing. No one has ever touched the boy like this and it’s all he’s ever craved—to be held by someone who understands. And so Cloutier holds him, cradles him against his chest, murmurs into his hair—thankfully free of blood this time. It smells like rosehip shampoo mingled with sweat. “Don’t cry,” says the thief pre-emptively, as though trouble can be avoided by inviting it in. The boy is limp in his arms, crumpled up with exhaustion; his cheeks remain dry, all emotion inwardly focused now, tight within the unforgiving grasp of his newly awakened mind-voice. “You’re Tsurugi, aren’t you?” Same speech, with some—quite a fair bit of variation: “I’m going to tell you something you’re probably not going to believe…”

Later, ey retreats to eir domain, after having divesting emself of eir previous form and all his garments. Within em, a single book is gestating. The beginnings of a spine poke eir insides, the tiny volume drawing nourishment from the iridescent oil-slick mist around it. Mist coalesces into drop after drop of viscous liquid—glue for the bindings. Mist stretches itself out like taffy, weaving itself into strands of thread. Little nubs start to sprout across the inner membrane, soon growing into thorns which disengage themselves and open their minuscule eyes. They are the needles for the thread, so they sew. No pages without pulp. Flora in miniature appears—trees for their bark, teeth for their bite. Chemicals of unknown composition swirl, flirtatiously mingling. They lap at the pulp, coaxing the colour from them, blanching them until they turn pale from fright. A sprinkle of letters, cosmic dust gathered from old galaxies, to live again as stars.


I’m going to tell you something you’re probably not going to believe. Your gods, Tehvlen and Tehvlu, were once human just like you. They belched, farted, and rolled over in their sleep just like you. They dribbled and drooled, threw up the contents of their stomachs, twisted awkwardly to scratch themselves in hard to reach places, and sneezed, just like you.

I hate sneezing, by the way. Of all the inexplicable functions of the human body, sneezing is the most abominable. In the same vein but not quite the same league, we’ve got yawning. Just what is it with humans and permitting their fragile vessels to act beyond their control? How very careless. A huge oversight on the part of whoever oversaw their design.

Anyway, here’s the (not quite) tale of Tehvlen and Tehvlu:

Once, there was a pair of siblings—twins, dark of skin and pale of hair. They were born in the shadow of Amaranth to a mechanist and her husband, who tilled fields by day and worked under the red lanterns by night. Before the twins made death and disaster their playthings, they were known as Len’tel and Lu’fern. Such quaint names they used to have, didn’t they? The mechanist often brought her work home with her, and the twins would be lulled to sleep by rhythmic sounds of metal upon metal. Clink, clank, tink! And so on. What was she mending? Oh, all manner of strange and brilliant mechanical things.

One evening, when the twins were not long past their sixth name day, the Viceroy of Amaranth herself visited their home. In her arms she held a sweet mechanical babe with teensy mouth locked into a soundless wail. The babe had been swaddled in thick furs, as though its ticking cogs actually warmed its cold metal parts. Perhaps she’d placed the babe over the fire to warm him up before wrapping him to contain the heat. Who knows!

“Help this child!” cried Makoel the viceroy. “My daughter will refuse to live a day longer if I return with her child as still and silent as I have brought him to you now! If my plight does not pluck at the strings of your heart, perhaps the coffers of House Makoel will have the right appeal to your other sensibilities!”

The mechanist levered herself from her seat at the worktable and strode towards the door, which she opened after releasing a series of spring-loaded locks. “I am afraid,” she said to the viceroy, “that you are going to have to repeat yourself. You started to speak before the narrator of this tale had me open my door—and it is a fine door, constructed by none other than myself. I have ensured that it muffles all external sound, as I have two young children in my home, and it is my duty to see that they get enough rest, undisturbed.”

See what happens when you have an unreliable narrator? I’ll be more serious when we get to the good bits. I promise.

Makoel repeated herself, vexed that her sole appearance in the tale had already reduced her to a melodramatic demonstration of sorts. I don’t like her very much—can you tell? This time, she was more succinct with her request: “Please, fix this mechanical babe and I will pay you in coin.” Then she thrust the bundle of furs at the mechanist.

Our mechanist, protective instincts kicking in, held the bundle to her breast, eyes already wet with pity for the tiny ticking child.

“I’ll do it.” She dared to glare at the viceroy, a cobalt-blue stare with centres like tiny pinprick-sized voids. With a subtle shifting of her weight, she angled her body—and the babe—away from Makoel. “However,” she went on, “I will not accept your payment in the form of coin. Instead, I ask this of you: allow me to tamper with what I mend. Allow me to alter his insides. I know of factories where children just like him are made from moulds—pieced together from parts that are stamped out like currency. Wound up, they wiggle their fat limbs and cry for a breast to suckle upon, but their bodies remains cold. Let me infuse him with an artisan’s touch, and your daughter will weep when she hears his laughter, soft and gurgling. She shall press her ear to his chest, and it shall warm her cheek. She shall seek comfort in his beating heart.”

Makoel was suspicious. “You speak as though you were a god, or in possession of god-like skill.”

The mechanist shook her head. “Better to think of me as a necromancer than as a being of equal parts benevolence and cruelty. The purpose of a god’s influence is ultimately unfathomable, while their intentions are ours to divine—whichever direction we choose to point them in. A necromancer, on the other hand, is singular in purpose. Their purpose is always identifiable. Though, the same may not be said of his or her intentions.”

“So, the opposite of a god. But lest we digress: you reanimate the dead.”

“I animate the unliving.” The mechanist bowed her head. “There is a difference, Viceroy. It is my wish that you acknowledge my purpose before you leave my doorstep.”

“For my daughter’s sake, I grant you my unquestioning acceptance. You have a week from now to return the child to us. I will personally come to collect him.”

And so the mechanist began her work. She laid the babe on the worktable and peeled away the furs. She poked her fingers into his mouth, feeling about for the joint that held the jaw to the skull. Her own mouth pressed into a grim line from what she discovered. Where a responsible owner would have kept the hinges well lubricated with oil, the viceroy’s daughter (or whoever she employed to maintain her toy) had used some substance she must have thought an acceptable substitute. Obviously, her knowledge of such matters was inferior. Whatever it was she’d used had dried into tarry lumps and gummed up the hinges completely.

Makoel’s daughter had been neglectful, or ignorant. Neither option served to endear her to the mechanist’s forgiveness. You see, there is something to be said about people who would idealise simulacra when they do not lack for the physical or monetary capabilities to produce, procure, or care for the real thing. We have the dukes and duchesses with their caged mechanical songbirds. We also have Kather Makoel (who, by the way, had greeted five and twenty name days) who wished to eschew the mess that comes with motherhood. The wet burps, teething tantrums, the colourful palette of excrement that babies are wont to produce. She only wished for something, anything—a creature smaller and more vulnerable to cry out to her in need. She’d have been better off with some sort of rodent, really, but that wouldn’t have made for a very good story.

As the mechanist mixed up a potent solvent to dissolve the tar-like substance, the red lanterns high up in the towers of Amaranth were lit one by one, marking the passage of an apprentice making their way up the stairs to the top. In one of them, her husband awaited his first customer of the night. The lanterns were meant to illuminate their steps. Across the room, on a raised wooden platform, her children continued on in slumber. Len’tel lay on his back, snoring softly. Beside him, Lu’fern was curled up on her side, fingers wrapped around her brother’s wrist, reflexively grasping for him in her sleep.

Len’tel and Lu’fern would awaken to find their mother working feverishly. The room was strewn about with powders and dried herbs, sections of copper pipe, rubber tubing, resin… it looked like a quake had passed through the house, with the worktable at its epicentre. “Morning, my hearts,” the mechanist greeted her children. She had pulled herself away from her work, yet seemed to remain bound to it by invisible, elastic cords. And the twins’ brows furrowed in concern, in growing terror, to see how a single night had wrought such terrible changes in their mother’s face. Haunted eyes like the darkest of corners, lips pallid, almost blue in the dim lightning—then she threw open the shuttered windows! And the sunlight that flooded in made the pockets of sadness beneath her eyes look less sad, and her cheeks less hollow.

“Ma…” Lu’fern said, taking a step forward. Her brother’s hand still remained tight within hers; within their grasp, like a secret, they’d taken with them the last remaining bit of warmth from under the bedcovers. “Ma,” Len’tel echoed.

“My hearts.” The mechanist smiled, and dropped into a crouch so her face would be level with theirs. She opened her arms for a hug and they plummeted towards her. Their love for her was devastating, twin planets colliding with the sun. She pressed kisses to their foreheads, and sent them off to the market with enough for savoury buns. In a while, her husband would return, and she wished to conceal the evidence of her obsessive tinkering. She thought herself deranged.

Three days passed. The interior of the house was starting to smell. Overheated metal, charred organic matter from burning leaves, or, something more sinister?

Whenever the mechanist could extricate herself from her work on the mechanical child long enough to sleep, her husband crept into her workspace to sweep the floors. He would fill a bowl with clean water, briefly warmed over the stove. He would push a piece of cloth into it and move it about until the temperature matched that of his own body. Always with a sigh, he would daub the damp cloth across her face, hoping to find the person he loved under the smudges and sour reek of her sweat.

She hadn’t confided in him lately, but he gathered that the job was an important one and asked no questions about it. He’d approached the guild and begged from them a leave of absence so Len’tel and Lu’fern would not have to suffer neglect. The leave was granted to him, but he would owe them thrice the rental fee for his room for each day he did not show up in it. He still left in the afternoons to help out in the fields, but the rest of his time was devoted to his children, ensuring they left on time for their lessons, and had warm food at the right times. There was nothing that could be done about the unnatural odours or noises. When the twins wrinkled their noses and scowled in the direction of the worktable, they were told to bear with it. “Ma will come back to us,” he told them. He crinkled his eyes and brought the corners of his lips up in a smile, but children are more perceptive that you’d imagine. Of course they didn’t believe him.

On the fourth day, the mechanist’s husband opened the window and pulled aside the drapes to let some fresh air in. As he walked towards the mechanist, she threw a pot across the room. Her aim was uncanny. The impact was enough to turn his head. Flinching, his arm came up to shield his face, expecting a second blow. Expecting her to throw herself at him, snarling. At the corner of his eye, just below his right temple where she’d hit him, a bruise was already forming. The contents of the pot had splashed across his cheek, and the remainder was in a dark splotch at his feet, at the centre of which the empty pot appeared to be floating. It smelled like liquid rust.

He called her name, but he might as well have been speaking to an apparition. In the natural light, her pallor lent a paint-like quality to her features. She looked like an artist’s rendition of herself, melting in the humidity.

“What’s happening?” He reached towards her, already fearing that she would lash out at him. Her hands were curled like birds’ feet, claw-like, reptilian, but he held them nonetheless. “Love, what’s going on?” Try as he might, he could not drive the bitter edge from his voice, and the guilt seeped into her skin and ate into her bones. The mechanist’s husband looked around them, at the containers and sheaves of parchment which remained hidden and secret to him—he would never know their contents. They were all meticulously labelled, but he had not the knack for alchemy and mechanism. Her work was an enigma to him. He would never know her as long as the knowledge she manipulated and the craft she dabbled in remained unknown to him first.

She sagged against him heavily, and they tumbled to the floor. The mechanist muttered a string of incoherent words against his chest, blindly gathering the fabric of his shirt in her hands, tugging him close. “…created. One heartbeat. Each time the deathbell tolls.”

“I don’t understand,” her husband murmured. “Is there anyone here who’ll be able to help? Is there anything at all I can get you? Love?” He expects her to say something like No, stay. So he can feel less vulnerable to the sudden shifts in temperament. So he can feel like he is the only balm she has for her hurts, despite being far from the best possible answer, and far from being the cure. Receiving the words he wants to hear would be compensation enough for her flinging the pot at him. He ekes out his forgiveness; a little goes a long way each time.

“No,” she says.

The rejection drives itself deep into his chest, a mirrored shard. There is nothing she’ll give another that she will not be able to look into and see herself reflected in. She is one of those people who do not agree with selflessness, only able to understand the world in terms of themselves. They are the ones who unerringly find their way into closets, where they reside until you open the doors to discover that the figurative skeletons are still there.

After lying on the floor, not speaking or moving very much for an hour or two, the mechanist’s husband persuaded her to take a bath. He filled the round tub with boiling hot water, then sat beside her as they waited for it to cool.

He broke the silence first. “I’ll take Len and Lu to the temple.”

She grunted in assent, staring up into the rafters of their home.

“The Kev’arch will understand, and the re’archs are trained not to ask questions. All sorts of rules they have. They even have a book of some sort, that’s just the way they live. All the rules that exist to bind humankind are made by humans ourselves, and some of us prefer to write the rules down so you can tell when they need changing.”

He rose to touch the surface of the water. First holding his hand flat and hovering above it to feel the temperature of the steam, which condensed and clung to his skin obligingly. Almost cool enough? So he touched it instead with a fingertip, drawing back so quickly that the tension of the water tried to leap up after him. “We never wrote anything down.” he said. “Rules, I mean. Even guidelines. People in love don’t do these things, do they? Yet I’m starting to think that we should have.”

And so Len’tel and Lu’fern spent the last three days at the temple, and honestly, they had a great time. For the first time, they had live-in companions, as some of the re-archs were as young as five or six. If I wanted to be heavy-handed about it, we could say that it almost foreshadowed what was to become of the twins. Parents and other assorted guardians often say things like that to their little ones: “You like it so much here! Then we’ll leave you here forever! Stay!”

The mechanist’s husband resumed his nightly work with the Guild of Red Lanterns. The rent he paid included use of the room for the whole day, and so he spent his mornings there as well. The bed, after all, was also perfectly adequate for sleeping in. In the afternoons, he stopped by the temple, and the re’archs brought him tea and snacks for merely existing. Their unquestioning appreciation of every human presence was written in their book, or something.

This is what the mechanist did while she had the house to herself:

She’d already cored out the mechanical babe’s old innards, and they lay spread out on one side of her worktable like a collection of metal insects. There were segmented parts, and parts that seemed to wriggle in the light of her alchemical lamp. These, she brushed to the floor with broad sweeping movements of her hand. They were useless. She would no longer entertain the possibility of failure, the chance that she would have to piece the babe together again while her hand was guided by someone else’s design. Her own design, while a conceit, would be the greatest thing she’d ever made with her own two hands. While still incomplete, the anticipation of its completion suffused her with a warm glow. This was creation. This was motherhood.

This is what was given to Viceroy Makoel when she came to collect him:

The mechanist presented the babe to the viceroy face down, with the panel in his back hanging open. “Go on,” she said, “wind him up.”

Makoel reached hesitantly into the recess, felt for the thick brass handle of the key, and wrenched it half a turn to the right. And again, she turned it, click, pause, click, until it could no longer be rotated. The mechanist shut the panel and flipped the babe over. Makoel looked into his face, noting that the eyes were different. No longer dull; now they were beady, gleaming, regarding her with… intelligence. She shook her head slightly, but the mechanical child’s gaze had already struck her as uncanny, and there was no ridding herself of the feeling she was being watched. His outer surface—skin—had been polished; she could see the glow of the alchemical light in it, and her own face, made bulbous by the curvature. Then, she realised—”Why isn’t he moving?”

The mechanist smiled. “Of course,” she said in a hushed voice, as though she’d deliberately planned for the viceroy’s expectations to go unmet—and she had. “He is utterly unique now. He’s been… reborn. He’s more than cogs and wires.” A soft laugh. “I’m afraid you’ll have to return him to himself, by speaking his name to him.”

“He doesn’t have one.” The viceroy was curt. A blotchy blush started to redden her cheeks. “Kather never named him. He was only ever referred to as ‘sweet child’, ‘my boy’, and the like.”

“Of course.” The mechanist scoffed. She shifted the babe in her arms, cradling him against her body. His cheek was flush against her chest; had his mouth been open, it would have looked as though he made to feed from her breast.

“We can name him now, if you like,” offered the viceroy.

The mechanist raised an eyebrow sceptically. “We? Do you mean to declare me one of his parents?” When no reply came: “No, I will not have him. I already have children of my own, and they have already grown out of infant-hood. I am long over the desire to play mother to an infant again. While I will accept the responsibility of having recreated him, I have no intentions to claim him as my own. However”—she stroked the mechanical child’s head, and it was as smooth as an egg where a flesh and blood child would have downy hair—“I consider him my masterpiece. I will never again create any… thing such as he. You should know this. Even if you decide never to honour him with a name.”

Makoel held out her arms for the child, and it was only then that the mechanist realised that her own arms were still wrapped protectively around him. A small sigh escaped from the mechanist’s lips as she handed him to the other woman. “Please,” she said, “hire someone experienced in providing regular maintenance for mechanical devices. You can more than afford to do so, I’m sure. Your daughter will not care for him, and you know this. He is more than a mere plaything now. I would not want you to learn too late that you cannot afford to neglect him a second time.”

“What about you?” Nearly an accusation. “Will you help to maintain him? I did not ask you to make him any more complex than he was made to perform. He’s hardly recognisable as the device—the toy—that I brought to you last week!”

The mechanist’s mouth twitched in displeasure. “Lest you seek to conveniently forget your promise, permission to alter him was requested—and granted.”

“And the request was phrased such that it was conveniently oblique! Was I to comb your words for hidden meanings as they left your mouth? Do you think me a fool? All I asked—begged—of you, was simply to repair a device that was not functioning as it should. I did not ask for a mockery of the living. I did not ask for this!”

The mechanist’s face was unreadable for all the rapid, subtle shifts in her expression. Her hands shot through the air between Makoel and herself, stopping a hair’s breadth from the mechanical child. The viceroy flinched, almost dropping the babe. “This,”—the mechanist’s voice sounded choked, as though she’d just swallowed poison—“is only now functioning as it should, because of what I have done for him. You ought to accuse the factories of peddling the true mockeries! I have helped him to shed his previous form. He has transcended from the sorry state of being a poor imitation.”

“So you do see yourself as a god after all!” Makoel sneered.

“I make no such claims.”

“You do not. However, I do. I choose to interpret your actions as unfathomable, and your intentions as malicious. I believe that you have done this in order to punish my daughter and I, for something you have perceived as a personal insult. And yet, rather than alert us to it and offer genuine aid, you choose to judge our actions and exact what you see as fitting punishment. As I told you—as I will now repeat: I am not a fool.”

“Then I trust that you will not behave foolishly,” the mechanist said, expression finally settling on sombre. “I think it is time for you to leave. How ever you may choose to interpret my words or my actions is a matter which concerns only yourself. I suspect that you and I see the world through a multitude of different lenses, of which exactly none are tinted the same.”

The viceroy barked out a laugh. “Well, I do believe that there is exactly one pair of lenses which are of the same tint. I agree—that it is indeed time for me to leave. I wish you only the best. You certainly have a gift for mechanism, and it would be a shame to have you persecuted for it. Don’t do anything to implicate yourself, Mechanist. I came to you as a desperate mother seeking to placate her daughter. I leave your doorstep as Viceroy of Amaranth. It would do you well to remember that I am mother to this city as well, and will remove anything or anyone who would cause harm to her.”

The mechanist nodded once, smiled crookedly at Makoel. “Good night, Viceroy.”

This would be a good line to end the story with, but we are still some way from the true ending. There are unresolved plot points (not that you should expect all of them to be tied up so neatly in this chapter. It’s supposed to be self-contained but not self-sustained, know what I mean?) Anyway, I’ll skip ahead a bit.

This is the tale of Tehvlen and Tehvlu, continued:

The mechanist sent a message via a runner to the Guild of Red Lanterns, a simple note: I have returned from my work. The twins were to be taken back to their home, but they led the way, with their father in tow. They were rosy-cheeked and full from laughter, still nudging each other and whispering as they walked, intermittently bursting into giggles. Their brief stay at the temple had been a vacation; the constant flow of treats and attention from the smallest re’arch to the lu’varch herself had been more than enough to distract them from dwelling on the strangeness of the arrangement. The mechanist’s husband was both relieved—and concerned—that the children were not in the least distressed to have been separated from their mother. He could not say it was due to their temperaments, or if, as a parent, he could claim partial responsibility for their resilience. Too long had already passed since he’d been a child himself to easily recall if he’d been the same way. His own childhood had been marked by long stretches of idyllic nothingness, and he was grateful for it.

The mechanist heard her husband turning the key in its lock. She wanted to scuttle up the walls and climb the rafters like a spider, or anything at all that could flee to a quiet corner and cocoon itself in silence. She’d spent such a long time alone, intensely ruminating, that to have company once more seemed to defy the solitude she so jealously guarded. She was far from ready to have them fit themselves into her life again. How was she to explain to them—her family—that she’d been bent out of shape?

The door swung open. “Hello,” her husband greeted her. “Love,” he added.

And now, we go to Kather Makoel in her room. Do keep in mind that this all happened ages, and ages ago. Before the City fell to flames, but not very long before it did. When Amaranth fell, the secret of alchemical light was lost. (But don’t worry about that. Someone, a distant relation of the mechanist herself, will rediscover how to make artificial light again. Whether you will learn about that still remains to be seen.) Perhaps we’ll lapse into sporadic use of the present tense now, to heighten the dramatic tension.

The viceroy’s daughter regards the babe nestled in the crook of her arm. He’s wrapped in his furs once again, eyes open and staring up at her. A servant enters to add fuel to the alchemical sconces on the walls; the shadows lean and sway languidly as he moves around the room. The lights are reflected as glowing pinpricks in the mechanical child’s eyes. Kather Makoel coos at him softly. “My pretty poppy.” She takes a step backwards and does a half turn, to make her long nightdress flare out around her ankles. “My little golden one. Look how he shines!” Out of the corner of her eye, she watches herself in the mirror. The servant stepped smartly out of her way before she could collide with him.

“When you’re done with your prancing, I suggest you settle down long enough to attend to something important, concerning the child,” the viceroy spoke from where she’d gone to stand, beside the mirror. The sight reflected in it irked her. One foolish daughter was enough; she had no need to imagine that one foolish daughter, multiplied.

“Ooh, mother!”

“Be serious, now. Do you not wish to find out if the mechanist has fixed him? A week ago, you were ready to throw yourself off a tower if you could never heard his voice again. Here he is now, with all the vitality of a rock, and you hardly seem to notice. Perhaps we should leave him as he is.”

The young woman whirled around to face her mother. “Alright then,” she said. “What is it?”

“You’ll have to name him.”

And we skip ahead a bit, to the moment when Kather places the babe upon her bed-covers, leans over him with apprehension clearly written across her features. Her love for the child is changing. It has never been unconditional, or straightforward. Her love is driven by her narcissistic desires, and now, envy has crept in. Subconsciously, she knows that to name him would be to make him more than an extension of herself, to invite others to acknowledge his existence as that of an individual’s. She wants to keep him as a symbol that she is capable of love, wanting to preserve the illusion though everyone around her can see right through it.

“Lyre,” she says. “I’ll name you Lyre. Like the instrument.” Lies and liars—a theme it seems we will never be free of.

A whirring starts up from within the dense labyrinth of the mechanical child’s innards. Oh! He has eyelids, after all! They blink slowly, opening and shutting, two rows of tiny golden lashes fluttering. The viceroy feels her heartbeat quicken, the sensation of being strangled as it pulses through the veins in her neck. Unnatural creature! But she holds her tongue, afraid of provoking her daughter, who must surely be having an even less rational reaction to this. She’s expecting hysterics.

“He’s perfect.” Kather Makoel is wonder-struck. She picks up the babe—Lyre, now—smiling to feel him warm under her hands. It’s different—she can tell. This isn’t the heat of overworked machinery. And here I’ve noticed a quirk of the written word: we’re always describing things in terms of what they are not. Perhaps the use of negative space is better left to visual art, where foreground and background, however they’ve been juxtaposed, can be viewed all at once. Where were we? Ah, yes. The babe.

He takes a breath. His metal skin, previously unyielding, is soft and pliable to the touch. What magic had the mechanist wrought, to make metal sheet behave like human skin? Kather gently pinches the child, gathers the flesh of his chubby forearm between her fingers. The tiny mouth falls open and he lets out a lusty cry. Tears well up in her own eyes, a surge of emotion momentarily causing her to go weak. She feels limp all over, senses numbed by her attention on Lyre’s cries. She is aware of little more than his dense body, the peculiarity of his crying. His eyelids are drawn over his eyes, but no moisture comes forth from beneath them. His face is scrunched up only as much as the nature of his metallic skin will allow. “Stop,” she says in a coaxing tone, rocking him in her arms. He’s too different, and it scares her to hear how enchanting his voice has become; cries no longer subdued and pleading. A voice which impels her to give herself up to its demands, blind to consequences, blind to the surroundings.

Not knowing what else to do, Viceroy Makoel grabs her daughter by the shoulders and shakes her hard. The reverie breaks, and the woman—girl—sees her mother’s face swim before her, Lyre’s cries growing softer, the need to attend to him diminishing in urgency. “Do you hear that voice?” She asks faintly. “It seems to be coming from inside my head.”

We’ll leave this cast of characters here for now. They’ll return later. I promise to return to finish the tale. It is the tale of Tehvlen and Tevhlu, right? So, do me a favour and consider this the prologue, won’t you?


Ey is sitting on a beach, curled up like a comma. There is sand. Waves whisper along the shore, reverent with its caresses. As far as beaches go, this one is fairly nondescript. However, do note the absence of debris, the lack of life forms other than emself—assuming you even consider em a living being. The book ey is growing within emself is almost complete. The pages are still warm from when life was seared onto its skin, each stroke laid down with blazing certainty. Enclosed within the leathery covers, the typefaces huddle together cheek to cheek. Here come the first stirrings, hinting to em that it is almost time. Ey gets up and faces the expanse of water, shadows trailing from eir semblance of limbs.

There’s always a constant breeze blowing in from across the sea, and ey knows not where it comes from. Nor the shape of the island, the rest of this world, if it is even a planet ey resides on. For all ey knows, it may be a construct or an illusion. All ey can be certain of is its name, and it is called the Stasis.

And before the book has been extracted from emself, ey will be unable to leave this world again.

The stirring grows more urgent. Pages flutter and rustle inside, somewhat imperiously. Ready now. Ey Manifests. Ey waits for eir hands to turn solid enough—plunges them into emself, flesh barely cooling over the tendons and bones. Fingers close around the volume, carefully easing it into the open air. Cloutier feels it bristling as it emerges, jolts leaping from its surface onto his skin in tiny arcs as he pulls it out inch by inexorably slow inch. There is no doubt that it is complete, but this also means that it will resist being forcibly removed from safety. Ey can feel the wet plop of organs materialising, eir face becoming more than two hollow sockets. A face that would be just only recognisable as belonging to the person who now exists in the form of a book. And the nerves have fired up! Pain shoots through eir body and ey doubles over. Cloutier has the book in a death-grip—wrenches the last inch free before it tries to destroy itself by drawing on the last remaining wisps of eir shadowform. Sometimes they do that. Even stories succumb to suicidal tendencies.

Ey collapses into a sit, stretches out on eir back with the book resting on eir chest, spent. Ey looks completely like the boy Tsurugi now, but ey isn’t him. He—at least, this particular Instance of him—has been divorced from his physical form. When Cloutier allows the shadows to well up from their hiding place within em again, Tsurugi’s likeness will be subsumed by em.

When Ey arrives in July’s world, it’s always on the same deserted beach. This one, unlike Cloutier’s own, is streaked with stains and dotted with rubbish. Ey initiates the Manifest, already preparing emself for the onslaught of unpleasant odours.

The ribs spread outwards within eir chest cavity, wrapping around the lungs, the heart, already pumping before the capillaries have formed fully. Sometimes, it’s messy. This form is complex; whenever July is involved, ey tends to manifest as people whose identities require some accommodations. Their imagined lives take a slightly longer time to slip into. For instance—in this world, ey gets a body with breasts, which ey feels a strong discomfort about, that in itself having nothing to do with being currently naked on a windy beach. There are garments to alleviate the dissatisfaction, and Cloutier pulls them into existence with his mind. Synthetic, elastic materials and natural cotton fibres weave themselves from threads that spool rapidly from his back and wrap around his chest. Over it, a plain black shirt, slightly loose fitting to better conceal the seams of the garment underneath. This, he pairs with dark coloured jeans. He’s more at ease with himself now.

July is gawking at him. “I am never going to get used to that. It’s so… visceral. I look at you and think, is that what I look like inside? If I film it happening and reverse the playback, would it look like a body decomposing while the tissue and all remain immaculate? Is that what’s going to happen to me when I die, just a whole lot neater? Only, I’ll be nothing instead of a cloud of moving soot.”

Cloutier knows what happens to July—all known Instances of him—when he dies, but the answer the shadow entity gives is a small shake of his head, and the faintest of smiles.

“Was I babbling again? Sorry. You’re gorgeous as always. Those cheekbones. Amazing jawline. Freckles like God himself tripped on the milky way and left on your face a smattering of stars.” July grins, stepping towards Cloutier to pull the taller man into a tight hug. “I missed you,” he murmurs, “missed you, missed you, missed you.” Sounding so incredibly wistful despite having the person he’d been yearning to hold right there in his arms. He has to tiptoe a little and tilt his head to bury his face in Cloutier’s hair, just below his ear where his hairline ends at the nape of his neck. Sighs contentedly. Inhales slow and deep. Cloutier smells like fresh-pressed sheets, not a single hint of the fire and brimstone July expected, the first time he was close enough to covertly sniff him. “You smell amazing,” he says, voice muffled by Cloutier’s skin.

“And you smell…” Cloutier wrinkles his nose, bothered by more than just the putrid air. He’d expected his voice to sound lower in register. July hasn’t seen him in two weeks. Cloutier, on the other hand, has not seen July in over half a year. He’ll have to get used to being himself again. Nervously, he clears his throat, consciously relaxing the muscles in them and reminding himself to speak more slowly. From the diaphragm. “I… will get back to you on that when we’ve left this place. Nothing new, but it smells like, urgh. I’d rather not have that mixed in with your scent. Ever.” He clears his throat again, a nervous laugh bubbling up from his chest. He makes a small ‘hm-hm’ sort of amused sound instead.

July gives his hand a quick squeeze. “Fair enough,” he agrees. “It smells like a sewer voided its bowels into the contents of another sewer’s sick.”

They’re mostly quiet for the duration of the walk up to the lighthouse, trudging along the gravel side by side with the backs of their hands occasionally brushing.

Cloutier is thinking about the first time he’d entered this world, ready to tease, to taunt, and to snatch another soul from the confines of its story, to confine it to his collection. July had turned it all on its head, countering his taunts question for question, unafraid when confronted with the implications of Cloutier’s revelations. Intrigued, July had wanted to know more, practically begged to know about his other Instances; if they were blind in their left eyes too, if they had the same habit of chewing on their thumbnails like he does. Even after Cloutier told him right to his face that he intended to end his life, July had wanted to know why it had to happen, and Cloutier had come so close to telling him. That he didn’t know why he was doing this, that he’d simply come into being and continued on as he’d always assumed he’d been doing, seeking, harvesting, cataloguing, meticulously, never ceasing.

Until July. For the first time, the Thief of Souls had faltered. He’d lingered until it was far too late to trigger the necessary cues for the capture, and July’s world had rumbled on, oblivious to the notion that there were dimensional faults through which certain entities were able to slip in. Cloutier had stayed for coffee, videogames, then drinks, strung through with July’s endless tangents and musing. He’d discovered something he’d had a hunch about all along: that it was not possible for him to get drunk. He’d found himself staring through a skylight wishing the constellations above them would start to spin, July right beside him, helplessly giggling. The music had echoed the nebulous feeling in his chest and Cloutier had yelled WHAT SONG IS THIS over it; when you live in a lighthouse far from the rest of civilisation, no one cares how loud you’re playing that song. (IT’S CALLED ‘BIZARRE LOVE TRIANGLE’. HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW THIS?)

For the first time, he’d fallen asleep. For the first time, someone had folded their arms around him.

“Hey,” July says, nudging him.

“Hey,” Cloutier replies, knowing at once that he must have had that expression like he was staring off into the distance that July so often claimed was his resting face.

“Thinking about work?” A smile. A smirk, almost. July certainly knows the best ways to bring him back to the present. Teasing him with inaccuracies, knowing he’ll take the bait in his efforts to correct them. Even a statement as simple as this one is yielding the desired outcome.

“No, not work. Don’t call it that.” He steps around July abruptly. Then he halts in his steps so the other, preoccupied with his anticipation of a more elaborate reply, will collide with him. July is only too eager to stumble into his embrace, with a longing sigh for more, but settling for lacing their fingers together, dragging him along, leading him home.


There are things you shouldn’t know. For your own good, we should take these things and hide them where you will never find them. These are secrets that should be left to lie, still as silt lies once it has settled to the bottom of the lake. For some secrets can never be destroyed. And as long as they remain dormant, there is a chance that they will drift through the water once again, rising to the surface, relentless, particulate, moving with the eddies of the current and impossible to pin down and be put to rest once again. The greater the secret, the greater the urge—to share, to spill, to cause tears and tears—rifts—stirs.

Some things about the shadow entity, the Thief of Souls, which July should not know:

That Cloutier wants to take July with em. Intact.

Ey’s unsure if it’s even possible. Sometimes, alone in eir hollowed-out tower, ey thinks about doing it. ey could drive himself mad thinking of ways to bring July into eir world without having to destroy him, digest him, distil him. The theft of lives is an act in and of itself. The method by which this occurs is another act altogether, albeit one that remains enclosed within the other. Many more acts lie beyond them, all fitted into one another, nested layers that go on and on. Each one may be cracked open to reveal the next, each one hides another one inside, on and on and on without end. Should Cloutier take July with em in the usual way, ey would be turning the act of theft inside out, then wrapping it around July to make him the core of it. Taking him back to the Stasis would be to strip him of the context which gives him purpose. Would be to remove the flesh and leave a hardened kernel of his essence.

To take July with em, intact, would be to strip emself of the context which gives em eir purpose instead.

Could an exception ever be made?

So that ey can preserve July in the only world he was meant to exist in, Cloutier has been harvesting other, less significant lives from it. It started with the ones no one would easily miss: the homeless, the ones so ravaged by sickness that what ey does could be merciful. For a long time, ey ignored the growing need for souls. The tiny ones too meagre to slake the thirst, ey found himself taking multiples in a single visit, returning to the Stasis with eir insides grotesque, swelling with triplets, twins. Ey made siblings of beings completely unrelated, bound them together cover to cover with pages and thread and ink. Stories intended for separate paths now wound into the same narrative mesh, then extracted as a single, malformed thing.

It wasn’t long before ey started on people closer to July: a shopkeeper he’d conversed with and purchased groceries from, a postal worker who’d travelled the five miles up to the lighthouse to deliver a letter from Curtis. If ey could find him, ey would probably be satisfied with Curtis himself, but that man and all his Instances are slippery creatures. Where Cloutier blends emself into shadows, they walk in plain sight, with light as their disguise.

And lastly, what Cloutier wishes most of all to hide, is that all other Instances of July are as inquisitive and carefree, impulsive, attractive in exactly the same way. That he could never save just one and damn the rest of them.


Quite honestly, I don’t know whose voice this is right now. I speak out, and the words bounce back, showing the shape of my current surroundings. It isn’t you right now, Cloutier. That much I can tell you. I’m someone else who has somehow superseded your omniscience, and now I am watching you, in a manner of speaking. Let’s get this out of the way—I’m blind. I am getting my bearings by way of echolocation. Right now, my words are coming back to me from the interior of a cylindrical room. They hurtle up the sides, past windows—all of them closed. Darting under the narrow gaps in between posters and the single curving wall. Spiral down the stairs. The air tastes slightly stale from being run through filters long overdue for replacement. All he can do to keep the stench of the ocean away. The air is heavy with music, too. He’s always got something playing from the radio, and it’s never anything new.

He lives in the past. Just like you, Cloutier. Do you both seriously think the present moment has that short a reach? Not when it comes to you. You are precisely the reason why I have come into existence. You had a job, which you neglected, thus I am here to pry you from the grip of your errant ways. Your narrative thread is to terminate the narratives of other lives. I have been sent to monitor you, and if necessary, cut your thread before you ruin the narrative that was planned for you.

There you are. And there he is. And now I’ll slide out of first person and relinquish control to… whoever it is who tells the story.

He wakes up tangled in July’s sheets, disoriented. Stars stare and wink at him from a window-shaped patch of darkness; he blinks and they’re ships again, drifting far out on the ocean, far from the shore. The other man is still asleep, the dark waves of his hair messily fanned out in a halo around his head. There’s a line which cuts along the left side of his face, slightly raised scar tissue. It’s cleaved his eyebrow into two halves that no longer seem to know what to do with themselves; attempts to knit themselves back into a complete arch again has resulted in futility. The scar is a pale, jagged path that ends where the highest point of the left cheekbone begins. Cloutier has never asked July how he got it. Knows that knowing would change nothing about their relationship. He does enjoy touching the scar, however. Tracing it with his fingertips. Pressing his mouth along the barely-there ridges of it as though reading its secrets.

July wakes up to Cloutier leaning over him, lips hovering over his left eye. “It’s not going to kiss you back,” he murmurs sleepily. “But if you move a little lower, there’s something here that might respond more favourably.”

“I hope you don’t mean that smart mouth of yours.”

July snorts softly in response. “If any other part of my body could kiss you back, I’m sure you’d have discovered it already.”

“You seem more sure of that than I am,” Cloutier replies. “I don’t think I’ve quite managed to kiss every inch of you yet.” He smiles, sliding his hands under July’s shirt. For warmth, nothing more than that. There’s a chill that pervades the Stasis and he brings it with him.


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