The Absence of Honey





The Absence of Honey

0. Foreword

I doubt anyone but myself, Nikki or Chronos will ever read this. Perhaps Jane, or Rho, or even Sal. If you are not one of the aforementioned, it is for your sake that I include this foreword.

Although the world ends over the course of these pages, and although I am so intimately linked with that end, this is not about the end of the world. If you’re looking for a succinct account of how we got here, look to Nikki’s notes. If you’re looking for the scientific how and why then Jane might have some theories. I’m sure she would be happy to tell you.

You should read on only if you want to know who Nikki and I were and what we became. This is what I have tirelessly recorded.

These notes are about Nikki and me above all else.


1. A Fluffy Darkness

There was something in the corner of my room. Undressed at my desk, I turned the lamp on. A weak orange light suffused itself through all the room except that corner where there was a fluffy darkness. It wasn’t there when I entered the room a few hours ago but I didn’t know how long it had been there. It shifted from side to side. No matter how much I stared, I could not tell what it was. Even in my bedroom’s light, it remained unilluminated.

At the time I called it a ghost. A new ghost, one of many ghosts. I could not tell if it was looking at me, but I think it was. It was as curious about me as I was it.

“Fluffy,” I wrote in my notebook. “First sighting: 02:43, 22nd of June 2019. Description: A deep and thick darkness, looks soft, quiet. Curious (?).” I didn’t even know if there was more than one ghost who took different forms, or if any of the many I’ve seen are in fact the same. They’re were all equally lacking in features. They might all be one phenomenon.

There was a (brief) period where I wondered if they were hallucinations. When I was thirteen I, as many thirteen-year-olds were, was curious about mental illnesses. I read up about it (mostly Wikipedia articles) and noticed that what I thought was part of normal life might in fact be schizophrenia, among other things. In any case, that was the first time I realised it wasn’t normal.

I asked my brother about it a few days later, when I worked up the courage. What if I was mad?

His response wasn’t what I expected: he saw them too. And many of the same ones I had seen. That’s when I began take notes on them, so that I might compare more.

But I had no idea what they actually were. I called them ghosts, and I called myself haunted. They followed me wherever I went: school, home, on vacation, our old house, Nikki’s house. The only constant was me; I was personally haunted by these entities.

“Hello,” I said to Fluffy. “I’m Lollipop. And what brings you to my room?”

Fluffy vibrated for a few seconds then stopped. At least it did respond. I made a note of this too. “I don’t speak vibration,” I said, amused. Although it was incorrect since technically, I was vibrating (my vocal cords), just not in the same way. “I mean, I don’t understand you,” I clarified.

Fluffy vibrated, for a little longer. A pause. Then it did it again. Its mass stretched upwards as it did.

“Thanks for trying,” I told it. “Okay, do you understand me? Vibrate twice for yes, once for no.”

Fluffy vibrated once.

It took me a moment, and then I had to put my hand over my mouth to stop from laughing. Either it was playing with me, or it just vibrated whenever I spoke. “Okay, just to be sure: wait a little while and then vibrate twice for yes, once for no.”

It waited. Then it confirmed that it did in fact understand me. This was new. I’d tried communicating before, but never had such clear responses. Even with such a rudimentary form of communication, this was an opportunity to understand the ghosts.

“Do you mind if I call you Fluffy?” I asked. “Same rule as before.”

It responded no. And its frequency was a little higher than what I expected. Was it happy?

“So, can I ask where you came from? I’m very curious.”

It did not respond this time. Did it not understand the question? Or was it that I asked too much of it? Maybe there was just no simple answer to that.

Or … maybe it did not respond because it was gone. The night had passed. I got up from my desk, surprised to find my legs stiff and my butt numb, and that the sun was shining outside. My phone was dead. I had not been talking to Fluffy for more than a few minutes. Yet when I went to my cabinet and checked my watch it was almost lunch time.

When I turned back to the corner of the room, it was bare. Everything else was also as it should be: snacks and fruits in their dedicated section of my desk, carpet in more or less decent condition, clothes in a pile spilling out of the laundry basket.



***



After a brief (six hour) rest and getting some water for my throat, I checked my phone. I had two messages from Nikki. One asked me what I knew about Prometheus, Sisyphus, and Lucifer, and the other, a few hours later, asked if I was alright. I replied right away.

Me: slr, had another ‘encounter’ last night. i’ll tell you about it. also, only know the basics. prometheus brought fire from olympus, sisyphus cheated death, and lucifer rebelled against god

Nikki: Want to meet up?We can chat about it

Me: okay. where?

And Nikki suggested we eat at Oh, Hummus!. It was a usual meeting place for us, and closer to my house than theirs. I agreed.

It was a cold day. Since I didn’t feel like being warm, I took a faded pink short-sleeved shirt from the corner of my cupboard. It was creased but looked good enough. I left my hair unbrushed.



***



“So,” Nikki asked. “A new ghost? What’s it like?”

I told Nikki about the encounter, how my sense of time got distorted, and how it vanished before it answered my final question. Nikki nodded. They wereless excited than I thought they would be.

Our food was ready, so we sat on the stools by the window to eat it. Nikki asked, “What did you name it?”

“Fluffy,” I said. “It was pure black, but the way its darkness was shaped, it looked fluffy. Like, I wanted to pet it.”

“But you didn’t.”

“Nope, I don’t know what would happen if I touched one of them. Not going to test that one out.”

“Could like … throw something at one?”

“That’s a bit rude.”

“I guess,” Nikki said, popping a falafel ball into their mouth. “Hey,” they said as soon as they’d chewed and swallowed it, “this might sound a little weird.”

I looked at their face. They stared at their food. “What is it?”

“Talk to it again, that ghost. Just make sure you do. I know you would but I’m currently unsure about some things. I need to know that you will do that, regardless of our conversation here.”

I paused for a while. I didn’t understand what they were saying and said as much. “Why would this affect anything?”

“It might.” They made a thoughtful noise before they added, “Like butterfly effect type stuff. Look, I said it would sound weird. I’m not even sure if I should be saying this much.”

“You’re not saying a lot,” I told Nikki.

“Good,” they said. “Did you figure out the connection between Lucifer, Sisyphus and Prometheus?”

Although they moved on quickly, I guessed it was fine to leave it at that. “Not really,” I said. “I haven’t thought about it much.”

“Try,” they said. “What do they have in common?”

“Defiance?”

“Yes!”

“Okay,” I said. “So, two defiant Greek figures and one Christian one. Is this a literature lesson? Part of that report you have to do?” Although Nikki studied physics, they elected to take a literature module. Just as I elected to take a physics module. I was not looking forward to classical mechanics when we went back in September.

“The report doesn’t matter.” Nikki smiled. “They were all defiant and all punished for it. They all saw unfairness too, and that was the catalyst for their defiance. They were all fighting a losing battle, yet they achieved something. Hell, Prometheus succeeded, even though he got caught.”

I waited for them to go on.

“I just … I’m not going anywhere with this,” they admitted. “It’s just something I’ve been thinking about, and I think that’s what I want to be.”

“You want to be chained up? And have your liver eaten by an eagle?” I asked.

“Not that part, ideally,” Nikki said. “I guess it’s not worth it in that case.” They went silent as they finished their salad. I watched their faint image in the window. They stared at nothing in particular as they ate. They were mechanical, as if their body was separate from their mind, which was preoccupied with other thoughts.

They finished the salad box and went to bin it, while I took the last few bites of my wrap.

“Are you still coming over tonight?” I asked.

“Yep.”

I could not see Nikki as a Prometheus, exactly. They were not generous and, most of the time, they were not kind—they could not steal the fire of Olympus for someone else. However, they would steal it for themself if they had the chance. I loved them for that ambition.



***

I had never seen more than one ghost in the space of a month.When I got back there were two ambling around Nikki parents’ garden. One was Fluffy (who I avoided staring at given what happened last time) and the other I might not have noticed. I had to force myself to imagine it was there, and I wouldn’t even have tried this if it weren’t for Fluffy clearly interacting with it.

From my perspective it felt like I was in control of the other ghost’s movements, yet when I attempted to control it, I lost mental track of it. There have been ghosts so nondescript I would have to invent features for them. This was not that. I could not invent anything. I had to imagine as it accurately I could to observe it. If my concentration lapsed, I was left wondering if I had ever seen anything at all.

It had no trouble observing me, however. Both ghosts paused and the second one looked up at me from the garden. I gave them a cautious wave.

“Hang on, I’ll head down,” I said.

You can see me,I thought, on my way down. Except it was not my own thought. It was the voice of the other entity. That’s what I suspected might be the case.

I said “Yes” aloud and in thought.

But how?my thoughts said. Those were really my thoughts.

You’re real, my thoughts also said. I knew that was from the other entity since, as I stepped out into the garden, I got the distinct impression its mouth was moving. This was even though I didn’t actually imagine a mouth for it.

“I guess I am,” I said. “And you’re not real?”

It didn’t comment.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

At once, I felt a little disorientated. Like how you feel after a long nap and wake up at your usual bed time. The feeling quickly faded, and I realised that experience was in fact the creatures name.

“May I call you Other?”

“Yes,” Other said. They were closer now. “You exist.” A correction of when it said “You’re real” from a few moments ago. “Yet non-existence lingers on you, pours off you. It surrounds you and envelops you. Come see me.”

I didn’t really know what to say to that.

“I’m here?”

“But I am not. You see a shadow of a shadow of myself. “

“And what are you?” I asked of them. The air got colder as I stepped towards it.

“I am not an entity,” it said. “Not in the sense of rocks and birds and people or light or paintings or frogs.”

“A nonentity,” I said. It didn’t reply exactly but I felt that it found this phrase suitable. I recalled what it said earlier. Come see me.

“And where can I find you?”

“The Hole,” was it all said.

I heard a car pull up to the driveway. My impression of Other changed from human into something far less coherent and then it was gone entirely.



***



The night had been here for a while and dark had settled. Nikki and James were anything but.

“Do you like dreaming?” James asked. He didn’t blink while he waited for our answers.

“Yes,” I said. “They’re refreshing.” Dreams were a time to reset. A night of dreams put space between me the burden of existence. Dreamless nights always felt like a waste.

“I do too,” Nikki said. “I wouldn’t call them refreshing exactly, but my best ideas come to me in dreams.”

James grinned. It seemed out of place. “So if your dreams were longer, you’d like that, right?”

“I wouldn’t mind,” I said.

Nikki met James’s stare. “I guess not. Just as long as I didn’t have to sleep longer. Is there a reason you’re asking this?”

James looked surprised. Then it was gone, replaced by that grin. “Yes there is. Would you mind dreaming if there was no life to go back to?”

“Yes,” Nikki said before James had finished the question.

“Yes,” I echoed. No life meant no Nikki. No conversations like these.

“Even you?” James asked me. “I thought you would love it. Maybe you don’t understand what I’m suggesting. I don’t mean the paltry dreams people often get. That’s subconscious vomit. I’m suggesting dreams with meaning.”I wasn’t sure he noticed himself standing.

Dreams where you speak with shadows and gods, where you travel places you wouldn’t even be able to conceive in the day time. In that kind of dream, you do what you please. There are no burdens, no consequence, only unfiltered experience, what everyone ultimately strives for. That’s the kind of dream I’m talking about.”

I almost admitted that it did sound nice, when Nikki questioned, “But you’d dream alone, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes,” James said. “How could companionship exist except for in the briefest moments?”

“If I can’t be with Nikki, then no. It sounds nice, but I couldn’t.”

“I see.” James slumped back into the chair. He titled his hand back and started upwards as he always did when he was thinking. “Thanks for indulging me. I have a lot to think about.”

That kind of behaviour wasn’t unusual for James.

“Do it anyway,” Nikki told James. “It’ll be fun.”

James brought his head forward again. “Fun? Do you know what you’re talking about?”

“Yes.” Nikki gave a sympathetic sigh when they saw how confused I was. “James is going to end the world.”

“I’m still not sure what’s going on,” I said.

“They’re right,” James said. “And how do you know that, Nikki?”

“Not telling.” Nikki went to the door, and put on their coat. “Come with me Lollipop. Pack enough for an overnight stay.”



***



Nikki rarely invited me to their house, and even more rarely did I stay over. This was not because they didn’t want me there. Their mother was just more attentive than my parents, and they preferred not having to deal with that.

I set about packing. Some random clothes, The City and The City, and my laptop. On the way out, I got my toiletries.

With my bag slung over my back, I filled up a bottle of water. On the way down, I stopped to stare into the lounge. My parents were sitting side by side, with James standing in front of them.

“There’s something I’d like to discuss with you all,” James said. “I am not your son.”

My father, Chris, shook his head. “No nonsense like that, James. Is this a joke? Can it wait? We’re working.”

“No, no, no joke,” James said. “I’ll only take a moment.”

“I really don’t care,” Harriet said. “Bother Lollipop if you have to bother someone.”

“I—,”James began.

“Harriet, where were we?” Chris said.

“The clinical categorisation of pseudopeople,” Harriet replied.

“Oh yes, yes!” Chris said. Leaning forward and flicking through his pile of notes on me. Nonpeoplew

ereperhaps the only topic that got him excited. “I remember. Tell me, how do you resolve their need for mimicry as a defining trait with the way normal people mimic others?”

Harriet flicked through a yellowed book, as if she hadn’t heard Chris. She wasn’t ignoring him.Their discussions typically involved long pauses such as these.

James resigned to the fact they would not listen and spoke anyway.

“I’m not actually real,” James told us. “Or I shouldn’t be real. I simply joined your family twenty-two years ago. I made it so you wouldn’t question it. Now, I’d like to say—”

“—the mimicry for normal people involves learning how to use their ‘personhood’ which is innate—”

“—but I have enjoyed the time I’ve spent with you,” James continued. “I’m aware you are not a typical family and that you held no love in your hearts for either of us. Regardless, you provided, and I’m grateful for that. Or for the thought, at least, since I’ve never needed to eat or sleep to survive. And Lollipop,” James says looking right at me, “I think of you as my sibling. We’re more alike than you realise, even given what I’ve just said here. In fact, I have you to thank for being here in the first place—”

“—Lollipop,” my father said to me, breaking me out of my concentration. “Ah, there you are. Tell me when you follow Nikki around what is your thought process?”

I attempted to speak but was unable to as James continued: “Tomorrow, I will begin the end of the world. I will give everyone the option to be preserved, and I thought it would only be appropriate to give you three the option first.”

“Preserved?” I questioned since my parents would not.

“Lollipop, answer me. Ignore your brother,” Chris told me, peering at me over his glasses. Then he blinked, as if realising something, and looked up at my brother like one might look at a skeleton in a museum. He said, “Although, I must admit, his behaviour is interesting. Perhaps you’re right and we should focus on that for now.” My father acknowledged James, and asked, “Where did these thoughts stem from? Are they new?”

“In fact, they might be relevant. Could Lollipop be influencing him?” Harriet questioned.

“I won’t answer that,” James said. “Just tell me, would you like to be preserved or not? To be preserved, I will pause your existence—"

“—sorry, James, you will answer that.” Harriet put her book down. “And this ending the world business. Do you have an antichrist complex?”

James caught me watching him and let out his frustration with a smile. Parents, eh? Whatcha gonna do?He wait

edfor my parents, now very interested, to exhaust themselves on questioning him. I had my own questions of course, but there was no time to get a word in.

Would I like to be preserved? was naturally the main question.

If I said yes: nothing, then a new world. A more peaceful one.

If I said no: What? Would I be threatened?

Would I like the world my brother made? I had an idea what it would be like from earlier. But I’m not sure I wanted to leave the nature of reality completely up to him. The only person I trusted with that kind of responsibility was Nikki.

“Well then,” James said to my parents. “I need to go soon, but take one of these each, and just tick the appropriate box based on your decision. Mediate on it as long as you like since once you say yes, it’s permanent.” He gave little paper squares to my parents, and then came to give one to me. On one side, it said Do you want to be preserved? and had two tick boxes beneath it for yesand

no. On the other side it explained the end of the world was nigh. Three weeks nigh.

Neither Harriet of Chris gave it a second glance.

“Any last minute questions?”

“I would like to do an evaluation,” Harriet said. “Please come to my study.”

“That’s not a question. What about you, Lollipop?”

“What will happen if I say no?” I asked. “And how do you tick these if you have impaired movement?”

James looked a little surprised, although I couldn’t tell at which question. “About the second point, don’t worry—it’s the intention that matters. This is just symbolism. There’s nothing special about these pieces of paper. You’ll have the opportunity to say yes, one way or another. Good question, though.” He did his head tilt. “And nothing will happen if you say no. Well, you will remain a part of the world and end with it in about a month. But it’s your choice to make.”

James then left and took my parents car.I don’t know if they failed to realise this, or if they accepted there was nothing they could do about it. They didn’t react either way. I pocketed my piece of paper and left for Nikki’s house.



***



Once through the town I arrived in Nikki’s neighbourhood. The houses here were smaller than the ones in mine, although not by that much. It was a somewhat complicated route to the cul-de-sac where Nikki stayed.

I was about to ring the doorbell but stopped just short when Nikki opened the door. “Shh,” they said. “Come to my room.” They were dressed in flared jeans and black crew-cut shirt.

On the way to their roon, we passed by Nikki’s mother, watching TV. “Lollipop? Nick never said you were coming. I would have tidied up more.”

“It’s alright,” I said. “The house looks tidy to me.” Certainly, more than my own.

She smiled. “Oh shush, it really isn’t. Anything I can get you? Have you had dinner? We have some leftover.”

“It’s alright, mum,” Nikki said, eager to get to their room, and not hiding it. “Have a good evening.” They hurried upstairs, and I followed them into their room.

Their room was somewhat more organised than mine. By that I mean their pile of clothes was hidden behind their cupboard door, rather than out in the open, and they didn’t keep snacks on their desk. They did, however, have two booklets. They handed them both to me.

“These,” Nikki said, “are fucking insane. Just read. It’s easier.”

I sat on edge of their bed and read the first page of the first stack. It was just a bold-faced title in a large font. “A Summary Nikki and Lollipop’s Attempt to Rule the World by Nikki Towers.”

“I don’t remember writing this,”Nikki said. “But I’m sure I did. I just found them on my bed when I woke up this morning.The second one is by you.” The second

bookletof paper was at least twice as thick, and its title was: “My Friend’s Ambition by Lollipop Candi.”

“I didn’t write this either.”

“I know,” Nikki said. “But read the inside of yours first and tell me what you think.”

I read aloud, “There was something in the corner of my room. Undressed at my desk, I turned the lamp on. A weak orange light suffused itself through all the room except that corner where there was a fluffy darkness.”

It was the events of this morning,written exactly as I would write it.

“Yeah, it’s weird. Come on, read mine as well. That explains everything more clearly.”

So, I sat there scanning over Nikki’s pages. They were more concise. There would be no point in me repeating their contents here, but I will at least give the broadstrokes: The world would, in fact, end in three weeks as James announced. However, Nikki and I would not survive until then; we would enter a gap in reality known as The Hole and perish. Of course, by sending these notes we were hoping to avoid that this time around.

More than that, we hoped to exploit it.

I skipped to the night we were then experiencing. The last time, we had no idea what was going to happen until it was too late. I stayed the night, James made his announcement the next day, and then the end of the world began in Cavengatewith the creation of the first hole. The capital H Hole.

“I know what you want to talk to me about. James already offered it to you, didn’t he? Preservation?”

I handed Nikki the slip James gave me. “He said he’d announce it soon.”

“Yes, he will,” Nikki said. “When he does, we can’t be here, within his reach. We’ll have to come back to The Hole, but we can’t be stuck here.”

Go? Yes, that made sense. This was to become the epicentre, too unsafe to plan and recover in. We were stuck here last time and left without any options but hide. We needed, before anything else, somewhere secure to plan our next move.

It seemed Nikki already accepted this. Of course, they had had longer than me to process.

Nikki picked their stuffed backpack up from the corner of their room. “We have five minutes if we want to make the next bus.”

“Where to?” I asked. In less extreme circumstances, I imagined Nikki asking me to run away with them many times before.I couldn’t help but smile

. Nikki was checking bus schedules, so they didn’t notice (but you’ll read this won’t you, Nikki?).

“I have a friend who can help us. We met on Tinder.” They took my hand and raised me to my feet.

On the way out, I grabbed my own bag and asked Nikki to write a note to their mother explaining, as far as they could, what was happening. Not an easy task, since there is no way she would believe it. Nikki rightly said she would think it was a prank. I said she’d discover it wasn’t when James made his announcement.

So, Nikki wrote the note. With it, they left the piece of paper James gave me.



***



After boarding the bus, Nikki handed me a large, dark and expensive notebook. We had to scavenge for paper last time. A notebook would keep things more organised. They had their own notebook and had already written in everything they believed mattered.

“Aren’t you going to write too?” Nikki asked.

“You want me to? I thought if you had your notes, it wouldn’t matter.”

“You might pick up on things I miss. And you’re going to anyway, right?”

“Yes,” I said. “It’s important.”

I began to fill the first few pages with what happened up to now. I drew a line where the events of the previous (and only other) iteration departed from these. This was just after my encounter with Fluffy, where Nikki’s text messages were a little bit different. They didn’t ask about mythological figures, but they did invite me to Oh, Hummus!. In the previous account, I neglected to give the exact messages.

I filled the pages until we passed through the next town. By then Nikki and I were perfectly integrated as fauna of the bus. Nikki let me know we were almost there.

I placed the notebook back. The majority of people around us were middle aged, with a few elderly people and one or two who might have been a bit older than us. Someone’s nails clicked against their phone, and a couple chatted to each other in Chinese at the back. The constant sound of engines and rumble of tires against the road settled me. As did Nikki’s presence—we were not touching, but we’d been sat next to each other for long enough that I could just about feel the heat from their body.

I watched as we passed the buildings. I counted the people on the streets. The town was in every way more expanded than Cavengate. The buildings were larger, and the spaces between them vaster. I saw small gangs of men, and squads of seshers and ravers. I saw bedroom lights burning in student accommodation, and a trickle of people leaving a cinema.

I let them fade. Nikki’s reflection was more important. Their eyes were closed, and their head tilted a little in my direction. Their backpack, which they kept on their lap, rose and fell as they breathed. They appeared impressively calm.It’s possible they were just shocked

but I doubted it—they were doing things, making decisions. Decisions that involved me.

I worried for them and their family. My parents would not care that I left. I would get no scolding, nor be chased. Their parents would call after them, get the police involved, and fret, and wonder what happened.Did we go wrong somewhere? Does Nick feel unloved? What did we do?

I didn’t want them to go through that. Even if, as Nikki described them, they were standard issue parents and did nothing more or less than could be expected of them.

In terms of our victory, their parents calling the police would be an issue. But the police would have their hands full by tomorrow, so perhaps not a big issue.

We were soon just beyond the town, and the outside became darker until I couldn’t tell where we were at all.

A minute or two later, Nikki opened their eyes and stretched. They lent back against their seat and clicked their neck, making my skin jump.

“Important question, what do you want to call our new world? I’m trying to come up with names.”




2. Hello Again, Chronos



The first song in my End of the World Playlist was (I Wanna) Feel It Allby The Dirty Projectors.

According to my account of this last iteration, I found that I didn’t bother to make such a playlist then. Things were more panicked. This time, I woke up several hours before James’s official announcement, and had time to reflect.

I didn’t get much further than the one song, though. I wasn’t comfortable in my clothes any more and I wanted a shower. I couldn’t have one since Carrie was either not awake or not in the house (we didn’t check either of the bedrooms when we arrived last night).

Nikki slepton the couch and was suffering no such discomfort. Until Carrie appeared, or Nikki woke, I could not have my shower. So, I went to explore what little I could of the house. I started in the kitchen,

visible from the lounge, towards the back left.

There was one night’s worth of dishes in the sink. Apart from that, the kitchen was tidy (on the surface at least, I didn’t look in the cupboards or anything despite my stomach rumbling at me).

The floor was wood, the walls were brick. On the fridge there were magnets that spelt out, “Cook me eggs, lover”; below those a grocery list (vegan, despite the magnets), and next to that a picture of a group of muddy friends. They were at some kind of festival, wearing tie-dyed clothes and big smiles. I had no idea which one was Carrie and they all looked to be in their twenties.

I stopped to watch a bird in the garden for a bit before opening the window. Startled, it flew away.

And then it flew away again.

I thought I was imagining it. Or having really intense deja vu. Then I recalled something about loops being mentioned in Nikki’s notes. Just a line. I retrieved their notes and came back to watch the bird again.

Find Chronos!!! Look out for loops. They fuck up time. Lollipop immune somehow.

I stepped out into the garden. The loop was ten seconds long. I counted it by a cats meow beyond the fence. I kneeled down. An aphid tried in vain to climb the same blade of grass repeatedly. Even the breeze against my face had a pattern to it.

The only things that weren’t affected were the clouds. They crept above us following time’s arrow as best they could.

I called, gently, “Chronos?”

It took a little while but what felt like the memory of a person walked in front of me. They were tall and their long hair curled so much—it was voluminous, unbrushed and a little knotted. They were about my age and seemed not only friendly but a little familiar.

They were not there. Or rather they were notthen.

Not at the same time I was. A few minutes before, however, they were in that spot and they had said something. What did they say?

“You’re … Lollipop?”

“You’re Lollipop.”

“Lollipop, hi.”

One of those, or something like it. The memory was old. And it ended there, to be replaced by a premonition. I was waiting for this person, Chronos. They would stand in front of me and greet and tell me it’s been a while.

I tapped my foot, waiting for them to arrive.

They were a memory again. So recent as to almost be immediate.

“We’ll talk more soon,” they said. “Tell Nikki I said hi and give them this.”They were gone and I was holding another pairs of notebooks like the ones Nikki had gotten us. The top said, Nikki’s Notes, Iteration 41.