Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lost Convoy, Part VII: Panic in the Sky

In many ways, it was exactly like the scene had been on Earth, in its final days. Jim figured that initially the rest of the passengers simply hadn't understood the pilot's announcement, and even after Jim had gotten up, helped, and come back, it was several hours later. Maybe it was because the pilot had failed to provide a follow-up, and someone put two and two together, and wound up with eight. It was almost complete hysteria. The flight attendant looked calm by comparison.

There were things being thrown everywhere, things that were meant to be eaten, things that were meant to remain stationary. It was not at all the kind of behavior Jim might have expected from people who only had these precious things to depend on, but then, panic is pretty much the opposite of reason. Punches were being thrown. He tried to locate Clive Lockwood, but couldn't. Perhaps he had already fallen victim to this mob?

He was at a loss as to how he should react. It was behavior that was contrary to his own nature, and so while he understood how it might have begun, he had a harder time identifying with it. He became aware that Kim Jones, or so the name badge the flight attendant wore announced, finally decided to step in, which gave him the opportunity, the distraction, to look for Clive. He had every intention of returning to the cockpit, for a more intimate consultation with the pilot. What was his name again? Before he was able to do any of that, however, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked around and saw a man who must have been a good six inches taller than him.

"Gabriel Martinez," the man said. "Pleased to meet you. Now how about you explain our little rodeo?"

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lost Convoy, Part VI: Jim Brewer

Ironically, Jim Brewer had worked at the very bookstore Clive Lockwood would one day frequent, or at least call repeatedly, but like Clive, Jim was now happily retired, though sometimes he would visit the store, look into a few areas of interest.

In a previous life, as he sometimes thought of it, the store was also the last place he ever worked, but he enjoyed it, loved the comfort of being surrounded by the books and DVDs that had given him so much pleasure. He had never been an assertive personality, but he made his way with a genial attitude, a calm awareness of the way things worked, which was something he always took pride in. He had once been a mechanical engineer, and that was still his first love, but he now savored the simpler pleasures more freely. Unlike Clive, he was happily married, or had been, until the world came to an end.

He might never tell Clive or Ray, assuming how much they would end up needing him, about Judy. There really wasn't any reason. He had already grieved, privately, and there were great challenges ahead, and a good chance that he would still join her shortly. He hadn't lost his general optimism, though he found a little harder these days. He was more than grateful to have proven some use again. But he much preferred to sit calmly with the rest of the passengers, trying to let it all soak in, maybe let time pass slowly, more slowly than even retirement had allowed him to experience it. He had entered an uncharted void in his life. Wasn't that enough?

The truth was, it wasn't. Jim was always a little restless. He could remember, as a boy, taking apart his parents' toaster, and that was probably the first of many such adventures, the impetus for the rest of his life. His father had asked, calmly, if he would kindly put it back together, and to his surprise, Jim really didn't have much of a problem doing so. Thinking of that now only made him wish there was some toast. The flight attendant didn't look like she could handle requests at the moment.

Instead, Jim sat back quietly, and attempted to take a nap.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lost Convoy, Part V: The Plan

Clive didn't waste a lot of time telling Ray Patch what he thought of the situation, once he found out exactly what they were facing. It simply wasn't his style, and no matter the circumstances, he wasn't likely to change, even if he had just lost his planet, or if his one stroke of salvation appeared to have been lost.

"You have some probes?" I'd use them as satellites," he said, and that was all Ray needed. Except there was one problem. Aside from the uncanny ability to drive or pilot just about any manmade vehicle, he still didn't possess the technical know-how necessary in their predicament. Clive had another suggestion for that. "Jim Brewer. He can do that for you. I was sitting next to him. We didn't talk much, much I have him figured for just this kind of problem."

Ray thanked him profusely, and put out a call for Mr. Brewer, who took his time getting to the cockpit. He was stopped along the way by the flight attendant, Kim Jones, who was very slowly losing her mind. When Jim made it clear that he was needed with some urgency (as all the passengers had heard, but few cared to dwell on), Kim finally let him go.

In this situation, Ray was a match for Clive, and got Jim up to speed pretty quickly. Asked for an inventory of all the ship's systems and equipment, Ray was able to do that much, too. After a few moments, Jim nodded. "Yeah, it's doable."

Ray let out a sigh of relief. Clive seemed suddenly uncomfortable, as if all he wanted to do was go and sit back down, now that his input had been taken. Ray said it was okay, and turned to Jim. "You're absolutely sure about this?"

"As much as we're going to need," Jim replied. "I can't say for the rest of us, but we're in a pretty interesting place as it is. Things are going to go wrong. We may have survived just to die in a freak accident anyway."

Ray wished he was feeling as sanguine.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lost Convoy, Part IV: Clive Lockwood

He was at home, watching a movie, when it happened. It's really because he had nothing better to do. Clive Lockwood was a man in his late sixties, and had led a pretty full life already. He had nothing much to lose.

Clive had been a pastor in a rural parish, Methodist, though he'd never really had the conviction of faith. He spent three decades with his flock, and then retired, but had never considered what to do with all that time. His congregation had never expected much from him, just the service and a few reassuring words, and since he was socially withdrawn by nature, retirement had at first seemed to be an ideal situation for him. And then he experienced it, and Clive's attitude changed. He really didn't have anything to do. With the constant reassurance of the parish to attend to, all its functions and parishioners taking up his time, what was he supposed to do? He had no friends and no hobbies, and that was about it.

One day he went to a video store, figuring that a relic deserved to be among relics, and spent a few hours perusing the shelves, and he recognized nothing at all, so he chose one at random. The first time he attempted to watch the movie, Clive fell asleep, and he was embarrassed to discover that he had hardly made it past a half hour. So he tried again. In fact, it took three tries for him to watch the movie the whole way through, and he was pleasantly surprised to find that, all told, he had enjoyed himself. It wasn't a particularly deep movie, no great message or acting, just an experience that had amused him.

He did some research, both on the movie and what others had said about it. He found that he didn't much care about what he was supposed to think. He returned that movie and got another, one that looked similar, that would give him the same kind of experience. Two weeks later, he had watched a total of fifteen movies, and had gotten a pretty good understanding of what he most enjoyed. Then, of course, the video store went out of business.

Clive was forced to visit the city in order to find more movies. He chose a bookstore, but tried to locate titles on his computer and call ahead, because the trip took almost a whole hour, and he didn't like to sit in the car that long. The bookstore didn't seem to carry his kind of movies in quite the same way the video store had. He decided to order them. For months and then for years, this pattern continued. He didn't know that the name "Clive Lockwood" had become a little notorious in that store.

It was while he was watching one of these movies that one of his former congregants called him, and told him to turn on the news. At first, he thought she might be asking for some reassuring words, but it soon became apparent that there weren't any possible. This really was the end. He got another call, and then another, some exactly the expected kind, others that only confused him. He decided to unplug his phone, another relic, naturally.

How exactly he ended up on the frigate Clive couldn't say even when he was boarding, when the others in line were swapping their stories, nervously. Clive saw the pilot, and instinctly waved toward him, but the man seemed to be preoccupied, and no wonder. Clive was still trying to figure out how exactly he'd gotten there, hours later, after the big launch, when the pilot's voice came through on the speakers, asking for some suggestions about their situation.

It wasn't for a few minutes until Clive finally felt some clarity. He'd seen a movie like this.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lost Convoy, Part III: Ragnarok

The term that seemed to catch on with all the media outlets was Ragnarok. Ray remembered reading somewhere, once, that term, probably in a Marvel comic, something about Norse mythology. At any rate, it really was the end of the world. None of the physics he had ever known seemed to work anymore. There were thousands of people who had simply floated off into space, even. He didn't like to think about it. Here he was piloting a small remnant of humanity to an uncertain future, and he couldn't bare to think of the past.

But it kept coming back to him, an image that seemed burned into his inner eyelids, and every time he closed his eyes, he saw it again, and every time he slept, he saw it again. He couldn't avoid it. The horror! But somehow he had survived, long enough to lose track of the rest of the convoy. He checked the navigation board, to see where he was, but it was malfunctioning, and all he saw outside of the cockpit was stars, an endless wallpaper, and without the navigation computers, he could be spinning endlessly forever, or at least his corpse, and everyone else he'd brought with him. He tried to bury the guilt. But all he saw was the planet that he had once called home consume itself, over and over again. The scientists couldn't explain what had happened. There was so much rampant and spurious speculation in all the remaining newscasts, he felt ashamed for humanity. Well, this is what you get.

Finally, and Ray had no idea how long it'd been, the navigation board lit up again, and he could plot a direction again. He still had no contact with the rest of the fleet, and he felt resigned to that fact. Better minds than his would have to figure out how to fix that. He felt no less skilled than a child, an infant, useless, and how exactly had he been granted the fates of so many souls? He made the decision to open communications with the passengers. He had no idea what to expect, if they even guessed what had happened. He had no idea what kind of instruments they might have brought with them, or if any of them would still possess the presence of mind to utilize them. That was how he came to meet Clive Lockwood.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pure Grade

This is the world as I've always known it. There are very few secrets people can hide. I don't mean in the sense that you might know, where petty things or personal histories can be hidden. I mean that people can't falsely represent themselves. They're forced to be honest about who they are and what they're capable of doing. This is achieved by the Placard. The Placard is something everyone has to wear, sort of like a name badge. It's not too big, but it's big enough so that any piece of information someone who's talking with that person needs to know, automatically transmits exactly what they need to know, all the little details that would previously have been left unsaid, hidden away in that person's thoughts, is made plain. That little change has made a world of difference.

I'm only thirteen years old, but even I know how different things are. I know about your world because I've read about it in books, in imaginative (some would "speculative") literature. I sometimes wonder what it would be like, but I wonder about a lot of things. I'm what you'd call "thoughtful," introspective. I listen more than I talk. My Placard is usually blank. I have no use for guile, and so I guess that's why I'm drawn to your world, what you might think of mine. Lying, even when people can't get away with it, is something I hate, because people still try it anyway.

In school, you can only imagine the difference. Grades are different here, far different. Education itself is so different, and I guess I benefit inordinately in that regard, compared to what you might have experienced. The teachers can't fool the students, and the students can't fool the teachers. When a teacher wants to call on one of us, whatever response they get, they know exactly why that student got the question right, or why they got it wrong. (It's far better than a lie detector, and is invaluable in the courts, or so I'm told.) Parents tend to have more empathy, but classmates don't. They only get mad at the truth. I guess I'd get beat up or picked on wherever I was, so I can't really complain about that. Teachers have more sympathy for students when they know exactly how they learn, and can't pretend otherwise. Grading is based purely on a student's best efforts. I kind of like that.

There really isn't a concept of strangers here. Since the truth of any action is made plain pretty quickly, you know exactly who to trust right away. The Placard is always reliable. Friends are a little easier to come by, but it's not as if social activity is affected that much. People still behave much they always will, as I said. It's just, they can't lie as easily. "The truth will out;" that's a phrase I read somewhere, and it might as well be the motto of the Placards. I don't know who invented them, and I have no idea how long they've been around. They're a fact of life, like any invention. Who invented the name badge, anyway? They're too purely functional to matter that much to history. They're like plastic cups. They're like a magic marker. They're just another thing we wear.

How does it feel to allow people to bullshit (I'm sorry, I know I'm not supposed to swear, but sometimes I can't help myself, and if you could read my Placard, you would know I learned the habit much the way you would have, so there's nothing much to hide there), to misrepresent themselves? In the books, I know people in your world gain positions of authority that way all the time. It's practically the only way they can. That and an over-reliance on personality. It doesn't seem to matter if someone can actually do something. With a Placard, you would always know right away. The interview process would be easy, if a little time-consuming. You would just need to ask questions and read the Placard's comments. You would know instantly if you can trust a person to perform the tasks that would be required of them. I'm just a kid, but even I know that would probably be useful.

Right now, I'm just reading, and that's my whole world, even outside of the Placards. The world fascinates me, in all of its possibilities, both real and imagined. Maybe that's all I should really care about. That's how I should evaluate the world, or maybe just myself.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Star Child

It takes a little getting used to. He knows me as "Old Ben." Until I came to this desert planet, I'd never really thought of myself as old. I suppose if I hadn't initiated into the Jedi program at such a young age, I probably would have had a lot of people telling me I had an old spirit. But I think I aged twenty more years than I actually did, watching over Luke. He's always getting into trouble. And those foster parents of his, they're constantly denying him everything. I sometimes pray for guidance, for wisdom. I think in those moments, Yoda definitely hears me. I wonder what he's up to every now and then, but I suppose, holed up somewhere, off in his own little world, more literally than he's been able to say for hundreds of years. I often wonder what he was like as a child.

The more I've watched Luke grow, the more I've reflected on a lot of things. I try to shield myself from the outside world as much as possible. I know that's no longer my problem. I know full well that the Empire dominates, that there hasn't been a glimmer of democracy for what probably seems to everyone else far longer than I've felt older. I wonder how things could have played out differently. I sometimes want to ask Qwi-Gon personally, but he's always so distant, whenever he chooses to appear. He's a far more pure Jedi dead than he ever was alive.

I want to ask him, all the same, what kept him from fulfilling his potential. I think it was the same kind of poison that kept the rumors of the prophecy alive for so long, that started all of this in the first place. He was lost, and there was no one to guide him. As wise as Yoda is, he cut himself off far too much from the rest of the Council, when there was a Council, never able to trust anyone, beyond Master Windu, perhaps. It was all about trust. They refused to treat Anakin the way he deserved, because they didn't trust him. Then again, I'm not sure Qwi-Gon did, either.

Or maybe it was that he trusted his fellow Jedi too much. I sit here and watch Luke, and can't help but wonder what might have been if Qwi-Gon had trusted himself a little more, if he would have taken Anakin under his wing, defied the Council in the most complete way he ever could, and stayed here, all those years ago. Just stayed here and watched over Anakin as I watch over Luke. That boy would have known what it was to grow up, untainted by the Jedi.

I say it like that because more and more, I think the Jedi themselves were cursed. The more I reflect on the prophecy, about how Yoda's hope seems to lie in Luke, that we hadn't all fallen into the trap of some ancient prediction, just as Palpatine did. I prefer never to think of the Emperor. His only real strength is in those he is able to manipulate. Including Anakin. I think he knew from the start, perhaps out of some Sith sense, what he could do with that boy, the moment he first saw him. Would Palpatine have been dangerous without Anakin? He was still the immortal Sith Lord. He would have swayed more Jedi to his cause, one by one, each as disposable as the last, and would have fallen to us, or found some other way to discredit our cause.

If only Qwi-Gon had trusted himself...I pray that I am stronger than him. I don't often feel that I am. I watch Luke grow and I wonder, constantly, if ther's more I can do. I try to support him as best I can, but to him, I'm just..."Old Ben." I wish I could be more.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lost Convoy, Part II: Ray Patch

He woke up early, groaned when he looked at the clock, and buried his head back in the pillow. Ray Patch wasn't much for being early, and he was very much for liking his sleep. Today was a big day, but he didn't mind sticking to his routine. A few minutes passed, and he found that he was still more or less wide awake. He fought it, jamming his eyes shut and trying not to think, but the more he tried not to, the more he did. It wasn't even about the launch, either, but random things, odd speculations. What if the sky turned yellow? Would you even notice the sun anymore? And the more he tried to stop inane thoughts like that, the more he thought about them. Still, he held his resolve. He knew exactly how much time he had before he wanted to get up, and he would remain in that bed.

Finally, of course, it was time, and Ray found that he really just wanted to stay in bed. Although he hadn't been sleeping, he still felt sleepy. It was the effect of making himself stay tired, which had put him in a lazy mood. Still, he got up. He dragged himself over to the bathroom. It was funny, he had had to relieve himself for most of the time he'd lingered in bed, and even that wasn't motivation enough to alter his intentions. He'd fought the urge, rode it all the way back down to a simmer, just an impulse he could master. But after it was finally over, he did feel a little better, a little more ready to tackle the rest of the morning. He hobbled over to the kitchen, and prepared a little breakfast. Then he sat at the table and read a little more from the literary anthology of the space theorists he'd been pecking through for the past few months now. He only sometimes felt it was urgent to make real progress in it, even though he only read from it while having breakfast.

He hopped into the shower some thirty minutes later, letting the hot water settle into his body, the first time he truly felt good all morning. He casually finished up his morning ritual, and then was out the door and on the way to work before he could think of something he'd rather be doing. That was perhaps a bad way to put it, because Ray truly loved his job. He loved the sensation of flight, even if confined inside a cabin, almost literally shut off from the rest of the world. When he was in the air, or finally clearing orbit and among the stars, he could imagine that he was alone, floating through space, without a care at all. It didn't matter how routine it had gotten, after all the months when he had first entered training when it seemed every single moment brought with it a new and worse challenge. Ray really loved his job.

Well, he loved what he did specifically. If he could do his job without having to think about why he was doing it, or for whom, and who he carried, he would have been infinitely happier. He could have done without the constant feeling of irritation that swelled up in him whenever he thought about those factors. Even if he could block out most of it, there was still far too much of it that slipped past the barriers, and wormed their way into his awareness, dominating it until his serenity was effectively ruined.

Maybe that was why he liked that bed so much. He could imagine the idea of sleeping to be the perfection of what made him most happy. Still, before long, there he was, Ray Patch, aeronautical aviator, prepared to saddle up one more time.

It would have been perfect if things had gone half as well as they ordinarily did, but that just happened to be the day the world ended.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lost Convoy, Part I: End of the World

Ray Patch was piloting one of the frigates that carried the last remnants of humanity away from Earth. He watched as the planet grew smaller and smaller, almost as an afterthought. He could track the rest of the fleet on the navigation board, but he preferred a visual link, so there was precious little opportunity for him to feel nostalgic about losing his homeworld, which itself was about the most universally historic moment that could have happened. His frigate alone carried a little over twenty thousand souls, from across a variety of ethnic, regional, and economic distinctions, but he was alone in his cabin, and the only pilot aboard. All told, there were a million survivors, spread over a dozen frigates, which to Ray looked almost like snowflakes. It was a better image than the one he was trying to avoid.

Many of his passengers had already petitioned for an open comm line, but he had vetoed it, preferring silence in the cabin to an endless stream of suggestions, thoughts, lingering fears...If he was going to be the only one responsible for flying them into space, then he wanted to be alone with his thoughts. If anything...He corrected himself, if anything else went wrong, he wanted to be able to accept full responsibility.

From take-off, it had been a relatively smooth ride so far, something Ray was particularly proud of, given the hurried nature of the hours preceding launch. No glitches detected in the frigate's systems itself, even, which as Ray followed the reports from the rest of the fleet, hadn't necessarily been common. He was busy wondering if he should have named it already when it happened. At first, it seemed like random turbulence. Several hours into the journey, past the familiar solar system, the frigate had begun to rock. He sat a liitle more straight in the cockpit. He glanced to make sure the rest of the fleet was still there, which itself seemed to be an innocuous thought, but was startled to see that what was supposed to be a field of stars was instead a bright light. He shook his head, just to be sure. It had happened so suddenly, just a little rocking, but everything was wrong. He had officially lost contact with the rest of the convoy, and he could offer no explanation.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mysterious Skin

Caleb Muth wrote for the Anybody Daily for approximately two weeks. He quit after realizing the job wasn't exactly what it had been billed to be, falling far short of its ideals. And plus, it was hard. Caleb hadn't signed up for that shit. He thought he might simply be writing exactly what he wanted to write, opinion pieces, that sort of thing, but he was told almost immediately, even though he'd repeatedly inquired about it during the interview process, that he couldn't do that sort of thing at all.

It was another in a string of jobs that didn't turn out to be what it seemed it should be, because basically, as far as Caleb could tell, that's exactly how the job market worked. You either took a job that was available, or you didn't work. Caleb did a lot of that, not working. It never made sense to him, how such a thing as unemployment wages were even available, where those funds came from, and what they were supposed to imply. How did this money appear? Wasn't the whole idea of money to cover acknowledged transactions between two parties? What were the unemployed expected to do? Oh yes, find a job. Well, in the meantime, here's some free money!

Anyway, Caleb was always thinking about things, all sorts of crazy things, and most of the time, his thoughts really did seem to only interest, or occur to, him. He somtimes felt he was completely out of step with the rest of humanity, not in an outsider kind of way, either by choice or scarcity, but that literally, he had no kindred souls at all to find, in the whole world. Out of the billions of souls, Caleb Muth was, sadly, unique. It wasn't even that he had peculiar skills. He just existed on another wavelength.

It was tough going. Every day he'd wake up and every day he'd begin thinking all over again. He wasn't entirely out of step. He had what might be considered many common interests. But he saw those interests, and the rest of the world, as, apparently, only Caleb Muth could. He must have been born with some mysterious skin, something that identified him as his own race. Maybe he truly was an alien. Maybe he didn't belong on Earth at all. He sometimes considered the real possibility, and tried to imagine what the circumstances might have been, how he could have ended up here, all alone. He tried to picture a population of Muths.

Truth be told, and even though he had and regularly talked to a fairly good-sized family, he couldn't. He really did feel that alone.

And so, he went to sleep again, knowing exactly what lay ahead in the morning.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Redoubtable Harold Anybody

Harold Anybody got his nickname after founding the Anybody Daily, an underground newspaper that read like anything but an underground newspaper, or any other newspaper. He had founded it, naturally, based on his disgust with the state of journalism, both in print, online, and television. He liked aspects of what he saw in all these mediums, but he couldn't for the life of him figure out why it was so hard for any of them to get it all right, all in one form.

So he set up the Anybody Daily, with the intent to deliver and interpret the news, but not just what was happening, what was by the very loose definition "news." He also strove to return the business of the news to investigate, not to push certain agendas, but to literally crack the news that otherwise would never have been reported. He wanted and believed in the concept that news was a business to be taken seriously, and not something to be mailed in, or used to forward personal interests.

He assembled a team of crack journalists, some of whom he would otherwise have been dissatisfied with, but with the proper amount of supervision, he could ensure that they would do the job, as he saw it, exactly the way it should be done.

Now, to protect his identity, Harold never publicly revealed his last name. He called it a challenge fit for anyone who would otherwise have been fit to fill his own shoes, but since he alone had been able to, no one deserved to know the last bit of truth that would truly be worth something, but remain a scoop that would forever be just out of the grasp of the grand tradition and ambition that was reporting the news.

People took to calling him Harold Anybody because, naturally, it seemed appropriate, and it also sounded pretty good. He, of course, only scoffed at the name, and laughed it off as the last vestiges of the old regime, when it would be possible to hide the truth in plain sight, to be buried right in the middle of all the arbitrary reporting that had once been considered the news. He never allowed his newsroom to associate itself with the amateur ranks of tabloid journalism, the sensationalism that had threatened to end the news as relevant, to hand the territory over to celebrity and personal gossip, the realm of social networks.

The harder he worked, the less he had to work, and the more popular the Anybody Daily became. Begun in print, it soon expanded to digital platforms and into television, but always with a controlled, measured content with dedicated reporters. Harold himself began to fade into the background. The name Harold Anybody became a figurehead, something to add legitimacy, a rallying call, to the whole revolution. Some speculated that he had died years before he really did, but then, he had also implanted standing orders that an obituary never run on his person, even though he had revamped that whole realm as well, running entire sections on the lives of the departed, instead of worthless blurbs that hardly said anything about the diseased.

Long after his time, several generations, many decades, even a century later, the Anybody Daily continued, but there were other, equally honest papers and newsgroups, doing the same work Harold Anybody had championed. Harold himself eventually became forgotten, and many of his reforms were lost over time. When the status quo had finally come full circle, a book was published, titled simply Anybody, anonymously written by perhaps his last disciple, or some tradition that had been preserved, a cult, reminding the world of what had once again been lost.

And sometime after that, another Harold Anybody rose...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Predetermined Men

Farringdon woke up one day, years after suffering a blow to the head that had caused amnesia, and suddenly realized that he had no memory at all. He knew who he was, at least in the sense that he knew his name, but everything else had become a blank. He had regained his memory for a time, but this was different from the amnesia. It wasn't that his memories were gone, it was as if they had never existed.

Later that same day, he had a knock on his door. Unsettled enough already, and rarely accustomed to guests, he almost didn't answer. He would have been happier if he hadn't. But he did, and the man on the other side of the threshold introduced himself as a representative of the Bollards, a group of individuals he called the Predetermined Men, those who officially and technically had no histories. The man didn't go into many more details, pointedly leaving his name as much a mystery as his intentions, at least in the beginning.

Farringdon, left with a business card stamped with the organization's name and nothing else, wouldn't have thought any more of it if the man hadn't returned at the exact same time a week later, and reiterated everything, which wasn't much, of what he'd said before. After the third week, Farringdon had had enough. He demanded more. He demanded to know what the man actually wanted, since as far as he could tell, Farringdon hadn't heard anything of a request, something he was expected to do, now that he was aware of the Predetermined Men. He tried to argue that whatever was happening to him, wasn't related to the man's adventures at all, whatever they were.

The man ignored him. After the fifth visit, Farringdon hired a private investigator to tail him, but quickly read the report detailing how the man had eluded the investigator within minutes, and Farringdon knew he hadn't hired some hack. He called the local police, but they didn't know what he was talking about, and unless he clearlyt indicated "no solicitors" on his door or could provide an accurate description of the man, he was out of luck with them, too. And that was the strangest thing. No matter how regularly the man appeared, Farringdon could never remember any details about him, only that story of his.

This went on for several years. For years, Farringdon suffered these visits, just as he suffered from this relapse of his amnesia, or whatever it was. He depended fully on the state to sustain him. At least that much was taken care of. But whoever the Predetermined Men were, the Bollards, that man, he had no answers. he began to think it was all a joke, something he may even have been a part of, from the time before he lost his memory, the second time. He began making meticulous notes. He wished he'd started earlier.

The visits persisted, until late into his twilight years, the man deviated from his script for the first time. He said it was the last time he would ever come. Farringdon wanted to ask for more, but knew, the only thing he seemed to truly know anymore, that it would be futile. He in fact died the very next day.