“Well then, Andrew, ought we to start with the basics? Please, take a seat.”
I had never met Bill from Fleet Safety before, but his presence disturbed me. The main office door to our left was closed, the thin light at the bottom barely visible. Bill had spread out his documents on the table before us and now sat with his hands folded, expectant. Steam rose out of the cup beside him. His suit was as black as the coffee he drank.
The incident had only occurred yesterday, but already I felt a cold spotlight on me through Bill’s wide-eyed gaze that seemed the ever-prying eyes of a public who had nothing better to do than to criticize my work. I worked for the City of Edmonton again this summer, as I had for five years, but yesterday had stood by while my coworker was killed. Killed as far as I knew, anyhow. He wouldn’t wake up. I wondered how the public would react to that.
We were in the dimly lit conference room of the Valley Yard office building, a fourty-year old City compound situated just behind the ski-hill. Usually there were other workers to join me this early in the morning at quarter to six, but I realized Fleet Safety probably wanted to handle everyone’s stories of yesterday’s incident separately. To get the facts straight, as it were. My coworkers who had been there would probably tell the events differently. Although uncomfortable and dizzy and cold, I could hear Bill’s words perfectly, as if the room were a sound booth. He was eloquent.
“…and yes, what happened, transpired, and these things do occur.”
“Are there differences between what has happened, transpired, and occurred?”
Bill’s pale blue eyes flickered, only for a moment, like nighttime water caught in a searchlight. He probably thought I was being smart, but I wanted to know what he meant. I was scared. His eyes became their pale colour again, and he softly continued,
“I think there is. Indeed, you might even tell me after we’re done here. Now” –he resumed his peremptory timbre– “I’ve already heard from most of the people who were there yesterday in the building, and from your coworkers Glen and Cam, but I’d like to hear every side of the event, at any rate. As you know, David has not woken up yet, so that concerns everyone, especially the public. The impact of the blast was less than fine. I’d like to know, from you, how it all transpired.”
“Great!” he said, widening his eyes. “Now please, as best as you can remember, Andrew, and fill in whatever else.”
“Alright,” I said.
There were four of us in the truck and Daniel got out first, bending his head so his large, curly orange hair could fit under the roof. He pulled out three shovels from the back of our truck and surveyed the dirt nonchalantly. Rob came down from the O'Neill's main office building to instruct Daniel with the new machine, so we—
“One moment please, Andrew. Not so fast! How did you get there? Where were you? Why? Details!” Bill seemed genuinely concerned.
“But shouldn’t I get to the incident? I wanted to talk about the tractor, and—”
“Yes yes, but I need to know as much as possible before the incident, because everything causes something and links to something and we must see how those causes have been linked and what has gone wrong therewith. And write about it after, too; these reports don’t just fill themselves you know. So please, let us start again.”
“Alright,” I said. “It was an early morning and a blue sky when we began to work. This summer had begun differently than the others, since we didn’t go straight to grass cutting but instead gathered seed for the damaged turf from springtime. We had driven to the O'Neill's yard. There were four of us in the truck and Daniel got out first, bending his head so his large, curly orange hair could fit under the roof. He pulled out three shovels from the back of our truck and—”
“Ah ah—not so fast there, Andrew. Tell me more, even more about the job itself. I would like to hear it.”
What the hell, I thought. I did not know what Bill was trying to get at. What use were details besides the event itself? His relentless insistence grated me. But what could I do otherwise? I had to talk because, according to him, most of the others already had… I was the last in line. So, I proceeded, and in the fashion he wanted.
It was an early morning and a blue sky when we began to work. The summer had begun differently than the others, since we didn’t go straight to grass cutting but instead gathered seed for the damaged turf from spring. It meant a slow and straightforward morning, some coffee breaks and truck driving. Working for the City of Edmonton, we might have seemed lazy to the public eye, but that was only an adjective for a kind of work the public wish they had. All we did was enjoy our work, which kept us working, which they envied.
The main stock of dirt needed for the seeding was at the O'Neill's yard, the central division of Parks nestled in the low hillsides of the main river valley of the city. Coming through the gates, we parked our truck at the East end of the compound, where sand, woodchips, black dirt, and other landscaping materials sat in sectioned off heaps. We rolled down the windows, allowing in sunlight. It came in slivers across the tall evergreens surrounding O'Neill's and carried a morning dew that made the green scents sharper but feel colder, so we sipped our coffee for warmth and company. It was too early for words.
“Excellent, Andrew, just excellent. Please, continue.” Bill was writing with a gold fountain pen of thick, blueish-black ink. I hadn’t seen such beautiful handwriting before; I wondered where he’d learnt it. He paused, eyes peering up at me. I kept speaking.
Parked at O'Neill's, there were four of us in the truck and Daniel got out first, bending his head so his large, curly orange hair could fit under. He pulled out three shovels from the back of our truck and surveyed the dirt nonchalantly. “Heyyyyyy there Danny!” Rob came down from the O'Neill's main office building, moving too fast and happily to match our morning slowness in the truck, and met Daniel across the yard. They decided it would have taken us too long to shovel the dirt by hand, so he took Daniel around the corner south of the heaps to the John Deere tractors. “It’s like the 580 cutter,” Rob said to Daniel, gently waving his hand over the scene and patting him on the back. “You’ve driven the 580 for a few years now, right? This tractor’s more or less the same.”
Rob had been on a different schedule the past two years I’d seen him around the Valley Yard, the Southwest division where we mainly worked. This year he had joined our crew on the weekend shift from Friday to Monday, 6AM-4PM. Because no one wanted to work weekends in general, we were a sparse crew, even sparser this year as another Southwest yard had opened to maintain the rapidly developing stretches of southern Edmonton. Thus, the weekend shift constantly had job openings, even for Crew Leader, which Rob, having worked with the City for most of his life, decided to go for. I had never seen a man wear so much of the same flannel for work clothes, as if he were the hired lumberjack of the City. Patting him on the back, he led Daniel around the corner to the John Deeres; “I’ve cut these trees before,” suggested the assured wave of his hand. Only we had shovels instead of axes, and the “580” was a grass cutter to the tractor’s bulldozer.
The rest of us, Glen, Cam and I, had gotten out of the truck and stood in a circle with arms crossed, waiting for Rob and Daniel to get the tractor going. Glen, an older fellow with a young attitude, could hardly stand still. “I’m sure glad I’m not driving one ‘o those” he said to Cam and me, arms swinging and head turning left to right. “Ya,” we replied, which was the only response to conversation an early morning could muster. At 7:30AM we were almost two hours into our shift.
A sharp rumble cut through the air as Daniel turned the key to the tractor’s ignition. Rob was explaining the levers to Daniel while resting his arm on the tractor’s giant wheel below and to the left of the glass cage in which Daniel sat. The treads alone were thrice as thick as Rob’s arms. “Ya, maybe another day I’ll drive it, but not today,” repeated Glen. He mumbled something else to himself as he moved around the yard, dirt and gravel grinding beneath his steps. His mannerisms were erratic but in an experienced way. Older. Like a retired airport worker softly flagging down some plane only he could see.
Beep!..Beep!..Beep! Rob moved off to the side while Daniel backed up the tractor and slowly drove it towards us. Standing three metres tall, or thereabouts, and riding those monster-truck tires, it wasn’t meant for speed, though it paced quicker than you would have thought. Mainly, it boasted lift and power through an extendable front scoop. “Here she comes,” said Cam, almost inaudibly.
We had uncrossed our arms and gathered the shovels near our truck that was parked about five metres away from the black dirt heap. Our shovels could pack the dirt down in the truck, but little more than that. Should it tip over and fall, those shovels would not hold up the tractor. They were twigs against such weight. Rob, satisfied with his instructions he’d given to Daniel, went inside the O'Neill's office where a safety meeting with the other divisions’ bosses was taking place.
By now the sun shone warmer and evaporated what remaining dew there was in the air, leaving the taste of wood, dirt, and heat behind. The sweat, though, was not from the heat but from watching Daniel as we stood by. He lowered the front bin and scraped it into the dirt pile, lifted it, backed up, and dumped the contents into the truck. It sank under the weight. “There she is, boys,” said Cam. Wiry thin he was, but a good worker as well, if not someone who too often stated the obvious. He meant it comically, but it came off as nervously polite.
We were not in any particular hurry but nor were we eager to stay for longer than we needed to, since the bosses could see us outside the O'Neill's office building. New management, which we heard were in this year, had more of a public eye than a worker’s mind. Taking your time was enjoying yourself, which was not efficient, which was lazy, according to them. So, we hurried. Lowering the front, Daniel drove faster into the dirt pile, pulled out, and lifted the load three or four feet above and extended from the glass cage in which he sat with the levers. I didn’t know if Rob forgot to tell him, or if he knew and didn’t care, or if he felt hurried as we did on the ground, but Daniel’s current load was too high and heavy to turn with.
The mixture of gravel, dirt, and cement that made up much of the O'Neill's compound, as firm as it looked and felt, was built near the High Level Bridge amidst steep evergreens. Series of floods and landslides over hundreds and thousands of years made the valley ground anything but firm, flat. As such, O'Neill's cement, although calculated to lie even, separated in patches and ridges as the floor beneath it shifted over time. Daniel’s back left wheel rode on top of one of these ridges. But only that wheel.
The tractor tipped to the right, raising its left-side wheels into the air. Daniel reversed and turned hard, trying to counter the now-out-of-balance weight, black dirt sifting through the air on each side of the front scoop. Too late. With every counter-turn the tractor only flailed and kicked more, like a mad, bucking green horse. The final touch of gas might have evened the damn thing out and made it all fine were it not for the chemical shack just a few paces behind the tractor’s intended path. Glen waved his arms erratically. “Oh jeez! Oh jeez!” he shouted. Cam and I made furtive steps forwards, backwards, and then out of the way.
The tin shack housed gasoline, diesel, absorbent materials, and other liquids pertinent to a work yard. Although considered a weaker metal, you would not have guessed it a tin shack from the metallic thunderclap that sounded from its caving-in under the weight of the tractor’s wheels. Daniel managed to turn the key off and was scrambling out of the cage as the shack breathed in his mistake, sucking up fumes and air and time itself. All other sound receded. Inside O'Neill's building, Rob waved assuredly towards the window as he and the bosses gestured towards the yard in conversation, just out of view of the dirt piles. The panes of glass shook under his wave. He was the first running out the door and towards the fire.
Before I knew it, sirens could be heard. Uniformed men took our place, and—
—Bill stopped his pen, laid it to the side, and looked up. “Now, this is most important, Andrew. I need you to be as descriptive as possible. Do you understand?”
“But you said that the causes and what leads up to the incident are most important; so I thought that what comes after doesn’t—”
“Ah ah, no protest, no protest!” Bill rapped the table with his pen. I looked at his writing again. Every line and curve impeccably drawn. “You mentioned that time itself seemed to have been sucked up right before the explosion,” he said; “that’s amazing. Why do you think that happened? Where exactly did that occur? Could you pinpoint it? How did it transpire? Please, continue. Expand and continue. Details.”
I was starting to feel impatient, maybe angry. But I did not start to feel hot, which often came with my anger. In fact, I felt colder, still, and my vision started flickering, like it was changing lenses, adjusting for the dark, although the fluorescent ceiling lights remained bright. I heard shuffling feet and papers behind the closed office door, low voices of inaudible words. I kept speaking.
I had read and seen news about emergencies but could not appreciate their reality. I had also heard news reports about them but could not imagine their sound. The neat stories media and news outlets delivered in visual and auditory detail were understood as such because of their rendered medium. The emergency situation, however, expressed its truth as an utterly raw experience bereft of orientation.
I remembered reading somewhere that our perception of time is not uniform but indeed oriented as an after-the-fact justification of events, like looking out the back of a moving train. We moved forward but only saw what passed behind us before it dissolved into the distance. Our dealings with time consisted therefore of grasping at fading images we tried to put in order of disappearance. But in that shifting, twisting, unraveling, explosive moment at O’Neill’s yard––I don’t even know what to call it now––even that attempt at comprehension blew up in a whirlwind of fire and noise and confusion. The only idea I could salvage from its temporality was “red.” The fire, the noise, the confusion. Blended. It was all red.
Green shrapnel exploded from the wreckage with a wet, searing sound before Cam and I fell, tripping over the shovels while the shards pierced the truck behind us. Rob was already with Daniel, unconscious and fifteen feet from where he had stood trying to jump out of the tractor’s glass cage. I looked up and heard Glen shouting something loud but nonsensical while he helped Rob move Daniel to a safer position. I felt burnt dirt on my face so scraped it off and pulled Cam and myself to the others, away from the blazing heat. The dirt tasted black and metallic and lifeless. Seeing that Cam was on the phone, I heard the sirens and instructions to move inside while the firemen arrived on the scene and I tasted the dry air that water escaped too fast from and felt more alive and aware than I had ever before but equally dead from the sensory overload and wanted to just collapse. They lifted Daniel into an ambulance.
I glanced at the work we did that morning. Our shovels laid scattered around the truck, empty save for one load of dirt and much on the side, which had sifted down while Daniel had tried to steady the tractor out and corral it into submission. Moisture returned to the air as the firemen started the hose that connected to the O'Neill's building. A cold feeling began to ebb in my stomach, slow but sure and steady and something like guilt. They lifted Daniel into an ambulance.
I was driving us back to the yard at ten over the speed limit when Glen suggested, “Ah ah—not so fast there, Andrew.” He was staring out the passenger window, as was Cam in the back seat, empty of words except for that caution. Usually adrenalin made me chatty and likely to talk over everything that had caused the adrenalin but I pressed on the gas instead, only planning as far ahead as the next green light. Valley Yard was hidden behind some fence and trees just north of the ski hill and came into view after winding down the valley road and crossing the bridge and passing the parking lot where wedding parties were organized in the summer time. It was too early yet in the morning for them to begin, so I cut through the empty parking lot, gravel crunching and dust raising. Cam did not mind.
I parked, locked the entrance gate, and we went inside the Valley Yard building for debriefing before being sent home. Usually another weekday crew worked alongside our shift but it was Saturday, so the yard was empty and without prying eyes. The crews got along alright and mostly kept to themselves but took up gossip whenever available, talking and explaining away whatever part of their unfulfilled day needed fulfilling. Were they present today with searching eyes, I would have thrown gravel at them.
Inside the small, rectangular mess of the building, we clustered around Rob who was on the phone telling the others, split up for their various duties, to come to the yard at lunch. “Ya, bad one, ya…well Daniel’s at the U hospital now in emerg…more about it tomorrow; half-pay today and the rest of the afternoon off—ya. See ya.” He hung up the phone and turned to us in his chair. “So, gentlemen, here’s how it’s gonna go.”
Rob had short, thick black hair and expressive eyebrows over narrow eyes, matching the black and red of his flannel, which was now ripped on his right arm. He was and remained affable once you talked to him, despite the intimidating look. Now, however, he sat turned to us with crossed arms, which was uncomfortable while sitting bent forward. I was surprised at how fast he had helped get Daniel into the ambulance and driven back to the yard before we did. How was that possible?
“As you know, Daniel’s at the U in critical, and unconscious still, I suspect. Fred’s over there speaking to the authorities; media hasn’t caught wind of anything and O'Neill's has managed to put the fire out, but the firefighters are still there helping them control the spills and dealing with damaged cars from the shrapnel. You guys had some luck not getting hit, huh. Now—half pay and the rest of the day off. Fleet Safety will be here tomorrow at six sharp. Any questions?” He barely took a breath while glancing between us. We nodded “no” and turned around, too sapped now for much else.
Usually I left my steel-toed boots on until I made it home but they felt too heavy now, so I untied them while Glen and Cam made to leave. They had their heads down and spoke nothing as they closed the door behind them. Shutting my eyes, albeit briefly, I felt nauseous from too much coffee and not enough water. What the hell was I doing? This was not the place to sit, not after what had just occurred. I didn’t think too long before I heard rapid footsteps outside the building, and saw flashes bouncing off the walls in the office. “Son of a—” Rob blurted as he raced from the office, ahead of me, and out the door.
They must have caught wind of something because two different news vans were parked outside the building with a crowd of cameras and microphones blocking the path to my car parked around the corner.
“What exactly transpired between seven and eight this morning?”
“Who was working with them? Are you the boss?”
“Where is he now? Are you busy?”
“Please refer all questions and inquiries to our HR downtown! Make way! Please refer— ” Rob shouted and pushed and I followed behind. His flannelled arms flared left and right, shoving and chopping with an invisible axe amidst flashes and damned indecency. We were trying to get home and they were blocking the path.
“Who are you, sir? How is Daniel? Did you know him? Did this all really happen?” I did not care at all for his questions so shoved the reporter’s microphone out of the way and lunged for my car, got inside, turned the key and popped the clutch while punching into gear. Ripping through the open gates and checking my mirror, I saw the flashes dim in the swirled-up dust and dirt. I barely held off the gas despite the gnawing coldness in my stomach, and the uncertainty about the explosion. I felt incredibly tired. How did that reporter know about Daniel so quickly?
I woke up the next morning just after five. With stumbling hands and a clenched stomach, I dressed myself for work or whatever was to occur. Last night I ignored my family, ate heavily and went to bed quickly. My family had not heard anything about the incident. I had hoped to fill myself with food and sleep instead of worry, but the former had only quieted my sleep and chilled it dreamless. In place of food still sat what felt like a block of ice, having remained since the explosion and having spread to my veins and extremities. I filled a glass of water, drank it, and headed out the door. The other cars my family drove were absent from the driveway. Where were they?
Over the years while driving so early on a Sunday morning through Edmonton, I noticed the eerily empty streets, lack of traffic, and the fog. It came from the Whitemud Ravine, which snaked through south to my house near Redbird neighborhood, and crept up to and closed over the grass and roads overnight in tendrils of moisture which either a fast car or sunlight eventually broke. I looked out the side window and at the fog swirling under and around my car, even creeping over the windshield. The tendrils thickened. I could barely see. They formed now into hands and crawled, covered. They’ve never done that before. I opted for speed and met the sun halfway.
Going fourty or fifty over the speed limit down 119th street surely meant punishment, if I were caught. But cops would only be at the most random places this early in the morning, so I never gave them a second thought––until, that is, they intercepted me half way down my route at an intersection void of light and life except for, now, black cars and loud blue and red lights. This never happened.
The intersection light was red anyway, so I stopped and immediately pulled the emergency brake, locking the car into place. There was not any fog here. They finished pulling around the corner and galloped north. The light turned green. Only afterwards, driving much more slowly down the hill and into the valley, I thought about their flashing lights and silent sirens, and the direction they were heading in, which eventually led to the University Hospital. I shuddered; the ice block in my stomach was not getting smaller.
It was quarter before six when I arrived at Valley Yard. Only two vehicles were there: Rob’s truck and what I assumed was one of the Fleet Safety trucks. The fog here was thick and heavy with moisture, even with the oncoming light peaking above the clouds and over the trees—it was crawling on the ground from the fence and toward the building. I saw it move.
I ran into the building. And then I met you, Bill.
Bill stopped writing and capped his pen. At least a dozen pages were spread over the table, which he shuffled together and set in a neat pile. He brought up a black briefcase and unlocked it. Pulling out a silver pocket watch by its chain, he held it up to the dim light of the conference room. “There we are,” he said, clicking it open. While he checked his watch the office door, which had been closed this entire time, opened, and Daniel, with his curly orange hair and safety vest, stepped through. “Ah, Daniel!” said Bill. “Right on time.” Another Bill, who seemed identical to the one I was talking too, stepped out from the office just behind Daniel. Daniel smiled at me and looked like he was about to talk before the other Bill prodded him. They strode towards the exit door, which I could not see, as I was facing the Bill across from me, and left.
“Now now, Andrew. He can’t hear you.”
I couldn’t breathe. What felt like the ice in my stomach had erupted into my chest, destroying any thought of warmth I could have had. My fingers numbed. But I was still here. Bill had put his papers into his briefcase and stowed it beside him and sat now with his hands folded. Expectant, never restful. Now that I looked at him, really looked, there was nothing significant at all about his facial features. Wispy brown hair, a straight nose and thin lips—I could not tell him apart from any other bureaucratic type I had ever met, which were few. It was his eyes, deep blue spotlights that set on me and would not let go, that distinguished him. I had never met Bill in my life, but he looked at me now with uncanny familiarity. He finished his coffee.
“Look, Andrew. Undoubtedly, you’re probably wondering what this is all about, but there isn’t much more time for explaining. We’re almost late, you see.”
I had a fleeting urge to run out of there. The whispers behind the closed office door rose steadily. My muscles stiffened. The feeling passed, and the whispers died down. “Where are we? Is Daniel actually alright? I thought he was still in the hospital?” I asked.
“He was. He died.” Bill waited for my response. When I couldn’t say anything, he continued. “You see, Andrew, we’re at a crossroads of sorts. Daniel…left already, as you saw, and we’re about to leave too. I just needed to set a few things straight with your story before we headed out.”
“You mean me telling you about the incident?”
“Yes, I did need to know every detail possible, particularly about afterwards, and how you handled it.”
“After you died.”
I was having enough of this conversation and really wondered where the others were and why I was the only one at the yard and why the ice in my stomach had not melted yet but instead had spread to my fingers and had stiffened my muscles to inability. I looked up at him. He grinned something awful and eternal and knowing. “I don’t understand,” I finally said.
“Andrew, think back to the accident. Think about the chemicals that were in the shack that Daniel’s tractor collided into. The fire. That explosion was large enough to shock the O'Neill's building, almost fifteen metres away. And your supposedly enhanced perception of time? Would that have happened normally? Maybe. But rarely. You were much more apt to understand it in the state you find yourself in now. And to understand it you tried.”
“But Daniel—I saw them put him into the ambulance. He was still alive.”
“As I said, he in the hospital. You, on the other hand, never quite managed to dodge that shrapnel.”
I felt the ice in my stomach again, cold and sure. But I could not feel anything else nor relax nor flex the muscles, so I looked down, looked at the foot-long piece of green metal sticking out of my stomach, blood encrusted on the yellow lettered “John”, and on its jagged sides. “I just. I want to. I need—”
Bill let out a sigh.
“It’s alright,” he said. “Some take longer to realize than others. Your story was quite elaborate, though. Well done!” He was getting up now, grabbing his coat and making ready to leave. My voice came back.
“That’s it? You mean, everything after the explosion was made up? But how? I was there. Drove back to the yard. Rob dismissed us. I went home.”
“Not made up. Most don’t linger very long after it’s happened. They might look around for a bit, shocked of course, as you were. But then they leave with me. You, though, did not. You kept around. Searching, looking, describing. You needed to seek something out and explain its connection to yourself. Who was I to stop you? So, I followed you around for a bit, until it was time to wrap this together before I lost you.”
“But you had me tell all the details, the story. I just wanted to get to the point.”
“I encouraged you, certainly. Details help one sort out the differences between this or that, to think of the possibilities. And look what came out of it! All I did was give you a nudge, and the words flowed. All you, not me.” I looked at his briefcase. “Of course I had to record it,” he barely said out loud. “They are showing promise...”
“Who’s ‘they’? I still don’t understand. Why did it matter to let me figure out what happened? Why not just tell me I’m dead? Why the story?”
Bill opened his pocket watch and furtively squinted at the door behind Andrew, seeing through its guise. They could afford the moment. “I’m normally not supposed to,” he began, “but this time I gave you the chance to try to understand your own death. Maybe even reason with it. How you got there, as it were.” His eyes returned to Andrew. “You were wondering what the difference was between happening, transpiring, and occurring, yes? Synonyms to most. But one such as you, in a between-state of things, stuck at the crossroads until he could arrange his own story, tell his own death... you at least showed signs of beginning to understand it: the experiential differences between those words, and the power they hold. I must admit, it’s just a curiosity on my part, teasing you with the idea. The differences seem to matter not at all to the living these days, since they cannot meaningfully articulate them. You probably felt it better than you could describe it. Your memory flowing forwards, backwards, sideways, and in every other direction, nameless, encompassing the possibilities that never actually happened to you, but they had indeed transpired, you see––it’s just that they had merely occurred elsewhere. You imagine them all the time when you are living: names which seem like synonyms for the same thing, but they’re not! Every word on a different path to an unfolding totality. Redundancy names itself and nothing else. And they are indeed real, these totalities of other lives, choices, matters at hand, real insofar as they originate from you. You need but to engage the thoughts of them in their multiplicities, not reduce them immediately to comprehensible singularities––tempting as it may be––and there is another entire life just for you, with other choices, matters at hand! Yet always there is death just for you, exactly through the other choices, matters at hand. Maybe that’s it. Choosing another life carries the weight of death. Maybe that’s what they are afraid of... Funny how you people exhibit awareness of the concept of other totalities through your use of language, but you only become cognizant of its transcendental import when you’re dead. Ha! Such adroit use of a tool you don’t even understand. How human, all too human...”
Bill’s gaze drifted upwards, despondent and unheeding of Andrew, yet focused and piercing, beholding behind the insipid fluorescent light of this transitory place the vicious radiance of a captured star burning furiously for its eternal audience of one.
“Are you Death?” I finally asked, as if coming up for fresh air after having been underwater for so long.
Bill let out another sigh, stiffened his tie with his left hand, straightened his neck up, and looked at me with his blue, wide-eyed gaze for the last time. “Alas, I am just a messenger. Come.”
I could not place myself in his words. Perhaps I did not feel I needed to. I felt light. Floating. The muscle pain was gone, and so was the ice feeling—shrapnel and all. I looked over, into the now open office from which Daniel had come some minutes before and saw flashes bouncing off the walls. Camera flashes again, I thought. They got brighter. A long, bright, white light. I would walk outside, I would find another set of news-vans waiting, listening, questioning. But a large part of me knew that to be a lie. I therefore gathered my belongings, which were none, and walked through the door, which Bill had opened for me.