“I’m pregnant, Johnny. I’m pregnant, and you’re the father.”
Johnny gives his racily-dressed girlfriend, Lillith, a look up and down. With his right ring finger he dabs the lipstick at the left corner of his mouth, looks at his finger, rubs the red around with his thumb until it’s gone, and then shoots a dark-mascara-eyed look at Lillith. “Well, what do you want to do about it this time?”
Everyone laughs as Lillith, sad-eyed, looks up and says, “Johnny, I think I want to keep this one. I think I want to be a mother.” More laughter.
“A mother? You? Lilly, get straight minded! You can’t get pregnant!” Laughter. “You know that. Why in the system would you think that?”
“Because I was sick this morning, again!”
Johnny gives the camera a knowing look; laughter comes out of the floor, the chairs, ceiling, heating vents; it comes out of everything. “You’re unhinged, Lil. You’ve been sick from not taking your Somé. Take a glass of water and your reg; you’ll feel great after. Swear on it.”
Lillith doesn’t move; the apartment freezes solid and even the wallpaper stops moving. Johnny looks square at the camera, right in its glassed-over little eye; he smiles. “You want more, don’t you? I’m goin’ t’suggest you plug back into a networked comp; yer outta juice. We’ll see you next time for more of me: Johnny.” He blows a kiss. It’s all black, but for a logo, an orange with an analog clock-face imposed on the rind and a slice missing, showing the gears, always moving, always ticking, always, as long as you can plug in.
Syl can’t plug in. “No! No, no, no, you can’t fail, not now! I need the rest of Johnny! What happens to Lil?” Syl is in the dark, headpiece on. She is screaming loudly at trees, hunks of granite, and a few confused, nocturnal scurriers. She begins to cry, thinks better of it, takes off her headpiece, and then weeps as if she’s trying to end drought. She’s cold and her tears are carving canyons down her face. She turns the headpiece over in her hands. She wants to break it, to throw it and her vMod at a tree, or, no – better yet – a rock. Her blurred, make-up-blended tears make it difficult to see at night, especially with only a quarter moon, especially when the moon is lit up red for Love Day. Syl can see orange warmth through the trees – it’s the fire that Trist had made before collapsing into REM.
She’s up and walking, slowly. She’s had these boots for three weeks, but has not yet learned to walk in them. Of course, she’s only worn them four times, but you’d think that after all those hours of trotting around she’d be able to navigate a dark forest. The trouble is the damn ground. It’s all covered in sticks and rocks and the occasional toad. It isn’t the ground she’s used to. Syl could outmaneuver even the most agile of sidewalkers. She’s proud of that, but here, here it’s different. It’s dark, for one thing. There’s all sorts of crap on the ground. You don’t have to think about roots or rocks on the sidewalk; no, it’s clean, grey, and hard. On the walk from store to shop to stripmall one must only be conscious of people, the dreaded ‘P’ word. En masse, they are. They are stupid. They are incompetent. They are everything that’s wrong. Syl likes persons, not people, not the droning crowds moving without stories.
Tristram, though, he’s different than them. If he wants to stay in the Dead Zone for a while, that’s fine. Syl’s fine in the Zone. It’s just the extra things to trip over at night. It’s just that, only that. Only that and no fucking signal, no fucking networked stations, no fucking vMod, no new fucking episodes of Johnny with Lillith thinking she’s pregnant again and again and again, no fucking anything. It’s dark. It’s wet. It’s cold. It’s hard to walk at night after your vMod dies and you can’t read your calendar or your health-stats or even fucking use the eyepiece as a torch. Syl can find the camp, though. She’s already found it, in fact.
“Sylvia?” mumbles the tent. What is a tent, anyway, but a lie? It plays like it’s a home, a safe-spot, but, you see, the thing is, it’s cold in the tent, too. It’s cold everywhere. There’re no Clime-Controllers in the sky. It gets as cold as it wants to out here. Some of these things escaped Sylvia when she said “yes” or “okay” or “sure” or whatever it was.
“Yeah, Trist, it’s me,” staggers out of her mouth, trying not to shake. She’s sat down in front of the fire. She’s rubbing her hands together, warming them over the open coals.
Tristram can hear her out there. She sounds upset, but does he want to go help right now? Does he want to go out there and face Syl? Syl, who’s probably crying over her dead vMod, wanting some sort of entertainment. Where’s his kit? A somé would help, it would help immensely. He can’t go out there all irritated. He didn’t leave the kit outside, did he?
The tent twitches a few times and then lights up like a paper lantern, throwing a pale green onto everything around it: more trees, more rocks, a pair of squirrel eyes which flash green-yellow and then run up one of the many trees, the fire pit, and Syl. “What’s up? Where’d you go?” asks the tent, and then it zips open, revealing Tristram.
“I couldn’t sleep; I went for a walk.”
“If you’d only take a Somé, you’d sleep fine. I’ve been out good-and-solid for a few hours. Only just woke to hear someone screaming; you, I presume.”
“It’s dead; it’s finally died.”
Tristram, a look of incomprehension pasted on him, leans half out of the tent, half-covered by the sleeping bag. “What’s died?”
“My vMod. It’s out of juice; it’s died.”
“I thought it’d died yesterday.”
“Yeah, well, now it’s really died.”
“No, I’m not sure. The only things I’m sure of right now are that my vMod’s died; I’m in a dark-ass forest; I’m cold; and all of it is your damned fault!”
“I thought you wanted to come out here. To escape, right? To be free of the signal, if only for a bit.” Must be calm, soothing. Mustn’t push her.
Syl shakes the dead vMod at Trist in a threatening fashion – at least, it might have seemed threatening if the vMod were bigger than two-centimeters by two and five long (not counting, of course, the virtual screen which projects another four centimeters out from the side). As it was at present, the vMod seemed like a white, rectangular, small pine cone. “Free of the signal? You thought I wanted that? Free of what, culture? Civilization? Why would anyone except some fucking Somé-junkie want to be free of all that?”
“Somé-junkie? You weren’t talking like that when you were on your reg! If you want to be ruled by your emotions, be my guest. I didn’t see you building a fire or setting up the tent or getting the food ready!” Trist grabs his bag and crawls back inside the tent and zips it closed. There’s a faint beep and a click from inside the tent, a water bottle opening, and a swallow as Trist takes a Somé. The zipper-LED flashes red and then green before fading off again.
Syl throws a stick at the tent. She’s not sleeping in there, not in that body-bag. She throws a hand into her bag and, feeling past her cash-clip and Somé-reg kit, pulls out her compact. The face light is all the power she’s got left. That and her Somé-reg kit, blinking in recognition, smiling at her, wanting to help. She sets to work repairing her make-up, making it look like she’s never shed a tear, making her skin perfect.
The tent lights up again, but Syl’s already gone out, away. The zipper rips open the door and Tristram steps out, clothed. He’s got to use the little-persons’ tree. He pulls a thin cylinder from his pocket and twists it at the center. Light, a clean, white daylight, fires from the rod. He stumbles away from the campsite and finds a suitable tree to piss on. His pants are warm, but ill-equipped for the quick, midnight tree-pee. In fiddling he drops the lightrod and it clicks off gently on the pine duff. It’s dark for a moment, but then a pale green filters through the trees, enough for him to find the lightrod in the evergreen detritus. Syl’s back in the tent.
She’s turned her bag opposite to his and is pushed against the opposing wall, pretending to sleep. Tristram’s already fairly calm from the Somé and accepts her with a loving smile as he flips his bag over and snuggles up to her, all stuffed in the corner.
The night is one of nothingness for Tristram. He’s dreaming, not about nothing, but of nothingness, utter and relaxing in its abyss. Syl wakes covered in sweat clinging like a wet bathing suit. She’s still stuck in the corner, pinned there by Tristram who’s grinning like an idiot. The tent is big enough for two more sets of people and yet they’re stuck in the corner. Syl tries to push Tristram away and he merffles and throws an arm around her, still grinning. It’s all Syl can do to yank some of her clothes off and try to get comfortable in her bag. It’s still hot, still oppressive.
Eventually – after Sylvia wakes and struggles a few more times – it’s dawn. The sky has that grey-blue color; the air has that good-morning bite. Syl frees herself from the tent, the zipper-LED turning green and then red and then flashing red; it’s snagged. She’s shaking the tent trying to get the zipper back down and the zipper starts to beep. Tristram wakes up and Syl abandons her cause to take a walk.
She’s staring at the ground, not at the chromed reflections of Evolution Creek, not at the swaying grass of Colby Meadow. Syl’s fed up with Kings Canyon Dead Zone. That John Muir must have been a fucking nut if he thought this was relaxing. It’s too much work, hiking through this. She’d thought it was a wonderful idea when she read about it, but it wasn’t hard to turn the pages in her warm flat. There weren’t mosquitos; the bed was soft; and her vMod had all the power it could ever need. Out here there’s not even a single signal for her vMod to syphon up.
She turns on her vMod. The screen slides out and for moment she forgets. Her heart-rate jumps a few beats-per-minute, but then thumps her chest in disgust when the orange appears, ticks once, and then slips back inside. Syl forces the vMod back into her bag, searches the ground nearby for a rock about the same size, and throws it into the creek, checking twice afterwards that she’d thrown a rock and not her vMod.
Tristram sees Syl throw the rock. He hopes it was that damn vMod, but knows it wasn’t. She needs a Somé; it’s been days since she’s taken one. Tristram takes out his reg kit and presses the smiling-face button on top. The face winks and beeps. A thin arm flips out of the reg kit with a click. It’s holding the Somé next to a small display which reads “43” in a gentle blue. “Good, plenty left,” he says to himself as he takes the tablet and throws it back with a gulp of water. He clicks the arm back in and pockets the kit.
Trist feels the wonderful, crisp air. He breathes in the forest, the creek, the meadow, every wildflower; it’s beautiful; it sings to him. He pokes at last night’s fire. The embers are there, glowing fantastically under the ash. He blows on them and they shine back. It’s time to collect some wood. He’s up and moving, feeling the perfect way the ground gives under his every step, running his hand over the thick tree bark. There’s wood everywhere on the ground, all perfectly-sized. His arms fill quickly and he blissfully lopes back to camp carrying the wood. Tomorrow night they’ll be above treeline, above three thousand meters, too, and unable to make fires. This one’ll have to be perfect and it will be, so will breakfast.
After making the perfect little teepee with the sticks, Tristram pulls a small metal container out of his pack. He takes a half-centimeter-by-centimeter, millimeter-thick, black wafer from the container and strikes it on the back of the box. The wafer sizzles and he tosses it into the middle of the teepee, which soon has flames licking up from its center. Trist’s in awe.
“You already Soméed?” Sylvia’s come back from her walk and has been watching Tristram build his fire, staring at it like it was dancing for him.
“A gram is better than a damn, Syl. You should take one; it’ll make breakfast so good. You’d be more aware of the trees and these great fucking mountains.” Tristram’s up and waving his hands at the rocky surroundings of the meadow.
“I’m fine, thanks. I don’t need to be Soméed to enjoy this.”
“You don’t look like you’re enjoying it. Just take a Somé.”
“I forgot to bring my reg kit.”
“Liar, I saw it in your bag last night; it winked at me.”
“I just don’t feel like being Soméed out of my head lately, okay?”
“Dude, Syl, I’m fine. I’m alert. I’m productive and everything is beautiful. I’m not ‘out of my head’ or anything like that.”
Sylvia is staring at wide-eyed Tristram, at his peacock blue make-up. She’s pretty sure he’s got his vMod with him and that it still has power. There’s no signal, but there are shows on it; it’s got hours of video, days of music, and Trist is pretending it doesn’t exist.
The fire is settling into a nice even burn and Tristram puts a pot of water on top of the little grill he’s set up. “Listen, brek’ll be ready soon. Can you go pump some water?”
“Why, did you forget, captain productive?” She grabs the pump and three water bottles and walks off without waiting for a reply.
Trist doesn’t say anything; he just smiles at his lovely partner. As she walks off through the knee-high grass, she couldn’t be more beautiful to him. Her thick brown hair is curling on itself and wavy, even though it’s tied back. Her skin is exquisite, perfectly tanned to a dark goldenrod. She sways with the grass, shirt blowing, billowing with the breeze. The water begins to boil and Tristram pours it into two cups and a pouch which will be full of peach-pecan grits in two minutes. He gingerly places tea-bags into the cups and directs his attention back to Sylvia, sitting next to the creek.
Syl’s hands are freezing. The water is numbing, but in a painful way. She’s pumping as quickly as she can, trying to warm herself up. She kind of wants a Somé. She kind of wants to be thrilled that the water is cold and be dreaming about how it was snow only a short time ago. She is also kind of thrilled to be able to be angry, kind of glad she’s been dreaming at night. Never mind that the dreams have been Johnny episodes on loop; they’ve been more than just black nothingness.
Trist should just give her his vMod. Maybe she could trade him for her reg kit. What are there, like eighty or ninety tabs left in there? He’s probably got plenty still, though. She’s going to have to play this carefully, make him want to trade, need it.
Breakfast is ready and Tristram is almost sent into bliss-shock by the fantastic aroma. He’s struck by the most brilliant idea he’s ever had: he’ll put a few Somé into the grits and Syl’ll suck ‘em down like candy. Trist looks up at Sylvia, pumping away, filling the last bottle. Time is short, must act now. He opens the tent and grabs his reg kit; it smiles and winks at him. He pulls the cartridge out of the bottom, rather than deal with all the beep-clicking involved with the dispenser arm. He taps five out into his hand. He figures five ought to do it. With five in there she’s sure to get at least one. She’s still pumping as he tosses the tablets into the grits. They dissolve almost immediately. “Whoa, shit,” he says looking gawk-eyed at the grits and stirring.
“What is it? The grits okay?”
“Oh, they’re – they look great, smell wonderful.” He can’t tell her that he dropped five tabs into the grits; she’d never talk to him again, which wouldn’t be cool since they’re two days in and ten more from their checkout point. He’ll tell her once she’s feeling the Somé; surely, she’ll thank him. Somewhere in the back of Tristram’s mind, something is counting and not being blissful.
“Got the So-munchies, do you?”
If the pills are dissolved, completely dissolved in the grits, and Trist eats his usual bit more than Syl, then he will have eaten about three more tabs – and he’s already pretty blissed out. “Yeah, yeah, I’m pretty, eh, pretty hungry.” No need to worry about it, though. Everything will work out perfectly. “Let’s eat up; we aren’t stopping again until Wanda Lake.” Make conversation, distract her. “Man, The Hermit looks nice from this angle, huh?”
“That peak right there, the round one.” Trist is pointing up at the 3767 meter peak standing triumphantly in the sun. “It’s called ‘The Hermit’ for some reason.” Eat; she needs to eat her Somé and grits.
Syl is picking up her spoon; she grabs the bag of grits and takes a deep, long smell, closing her eyes. Trist is trying so hard not to look suspicious eyeing her that he’s starting to shake. He wants so desperately for her to be happy, like he is, that he has begun to convulse. He takes a swig of the freshly-purified water that Syl brought back.
“So, how much Somé do you have left?” Sylvia says this as calmly as possible, without any hinting eyebrow movements or expressions or unwanted intonations. She looks back at Tristram while she takes a huge spoonful of the grits.
Trist is very nearly epileptic. “What do you mean? What do you mean; how much do I have left? What – what are you trying to ask me here? You asking if I’m an addict? That it? That what you’re asking me here? I have plenty left, plenty.”
He knows Syl’s plan. That can be the only explanation. He’s figured it out and Syl’s busted. Only thing to do now is come out in the open about it. “That’s not what I’m saying. I’m just – I just wanted to offer my reg kit to you, if you needed it.”
“Oh,” he blurts. What is she doing? “Thanks, I, no, I don’t need it. I’ve got plenty, thanks, though… thanks.” She doesn’t know, and she’s the most beautiful person that’s ever lived; look at her. Her eyes, her brown, caring, loving, compassionate eyes, they kill him. Trist watches her eat and is ready to cry because she’s like a fucking painting. Lancelot wasn’t crazy when he rubbed Guinevere’s hair on his face; he was on Somé.
They eat. They hungrily gulp down the grits. Syl is feeling happy and independent. She’s thinking about Tristram’s vMod, battling with feelings of the excitement she feels when she turns hers on, reminiscent of when she first got it, her beautiful, perfect vMod. She’s thinks about its shining, white exterior, about the first time she watched the virtual screen slide out.
Tristram can’t see right. His reality is swishing around in a pleasant, but at this point fairly over-stimulating, manner. How long should he wait before telling Syl about the Somé in the grits? What if she doesn’t notice – could he just keep drugging her?
Syl’s laughing, smiling, looking up into the sky, and her eyes are channeling the light and shining like the sun is stuck inside, yellows, browns, refracting. Tristram is thinking, function. Learn to function. He knows the meadow is radiant; he knows there are a thousand field mice to think about in this meadow alone; he knows they all have different goals in the now, that they are moving. He knows, too, that if Syl becomes too lucid too soon she’ll beat him to death with a large stick.
She’s nowhere near lucid, not yet. No, she’s spinning, arms stretched, basking. She looks at Trist and sees his make-up curl and smile at her, sees his shagged-out hair, his two-day beard. Trist, right now, is trying to control Somé like a net on a cougar – but Syl sees him as steadfast, rock-solid. His cool, grey-eyed gaze and strong chin, he knows what’s going on and it’s beautiful and it’s under control.
“Good grits, huh?” Don’t laugh, Tristram. It won’t work if you laugh.
“Far-and-away the best I have ever had.” Syl enunciates each word slowly, precisely, elegantly, like she’s relearning the language.
“We should get moving. It’s seven or eight kilometers to Wanda.” It’s sounds so familiar. Where has she heard that before? “Wanda?”
No laughing, not even an I-know-you’re-Soméed look. “Wanda Lake.”
“Oh, oh, right, let’s go, Trist. Let’s hit this dusty trail,” and she laughs and so does he and it’s everything they’ve ever wanted. Syl’s packing up her gear, sees her headpiece, sees her vMod. A sad song echoes in her mind, a cold song with a happy guitar. Ineffable loss, like that of losing a child, is somewhere in her psyche, somewhere just out of reach, smiling like I’ll-be-there-soon. She puts on the headpiece. It’s comfortable, makes her feel good. Perfectly molded earphones attach to slender visual projectors which nearly hover three centimeters from her eye, only five millimeters thick, only two millimeters deep. Right now, to Syl, it’s like she’s playing. She can’t quite remember why she likes to wear the headpiece, just that she likes to.
Tristram, he’s got the tent packed, but one of the zippers won’t stop beeping, so he’s fiddling, rapt. He’s got to pull the whole tent out of the stuff-sack. It’s a pain, but it’s the silliest little trifle right now. How he’ll deal with Syl when she comes down, he doesn’t know. That would be a good time to tell her about the special grits, not now, not while she’s Soméed. Trist finds the offending zipper. By the time his pack is on, he can only see Syl’s back and she’s yelling something about being slow.
All Trist can do is playfully jog the first stretch of the gap and then settle in a few meters behind her, thumbs in straps, mind and eyes on the trail, the mountains, the everything. Evolution Valley passes beneath them; they don’t look back. They’re going; they’re hiking and it feels great. Syl leaves the trail just after Evolution Lake.
“Don’t look! I can’t go if you watch.”
Trist sits down. He takes off his pack and takes a long drink of water. He’s feeling much better now. He’s appropriately excited, not blissed out of his head. He can hear Syl shouldering her pack, tramping back towards the trail. He waits with a happy expectancy of her eyes, smiling at him, shining.
Syl’s forgotten about the headpiece; it’s small enough to look past, through. She still feels great, once again, not blissed out, but not quite rational. There’s something lurking. It’s that feeling of loss when a good book ends and you have to walk away from the characters, or else greet them from the start, like strangers. It’s something she can’t yet articulate, because she is still a bit from the end. She’s still looking at the bright purples of wildflowers she doesn’t know. She’s still fascinated by the granite boulders apparently losing the fight to the grass, filling the cracks. She’s into it, because she’s still pretty out of it.
A small, pale rock rolls and stops at Trist’s feet. He leans down to pick it up and another hits him square in the back. “Ow, hey!”
Something like “Slowpoke!” comes from past the rise. Syl’s having fun. She’s running ahead.
Tristram yells something like, “I’m coming! I’m gonna get you; you wait!” But it isn’t really clear, because Syl is screaming. When Tristram catches up to her, her headpiece is in her hand, her face is shining with tears. Shock, shock and bitterness shoot from her and straight to Tristram.
When a battery is left to its own devices for a while it can charge up, just a bit. It has to do with the reaction of the chemicals; the battery squeezes the last bit of juice out of itself. When a battery is dead it’s typical to not put the device it’s in on ‘hold’. Why would it matter if it accidentally gets a few buttons pressed? The thing is dead.
Full and centered in Sylvia’s vision, an orange with an analog clock-face imposed on the rind, with a slice missing, showing gears, ticking, appeared. It’s a terrible thing to wake up in a dream that isn’t over; you remember all of it. It’s all so clear, just for a moment, and then it fades. The details start to screw themselves up. What kind of grits were those? What lake is this? What happened to Lillith and Johnny?
Syl can’t really move, not yet. Tristram is thinking, function, learn to function. How would he react if he were innocent? He would say, “Sylvia! Syl, what’s wrong? Are you okay?” The headpiece, why was she wearing the headpiece? She’s gone out, away from this place, lost it. Trist had given her too much… too much, too much. Her tolerance was down.
Syl’s staring straight ahead. It’s really a lovely picture. She’s weeping with Sapphire Lake beside her and Mount Huxley in the back drop. Mount Huxley, gravel-rock-slide up to sheer face, up to 3,998 meters of indifference to this situation unfolding. The clouds have flown in since this morning. The sky is grey and makes Sapphire Lake look like oil, black and crude.
In his pocket, before reality hits him, he grabs for his reg kit. When it winks at him he almost throws it into the lake; ‘almost’ is important here. His thumb slams into the smiley face; it beeps; the arm snaps out; he takes the tab; and then he closes the arm; and then he repeats.
Something is wrong. The Somé isn’t working and something is wrong. Sylvia’s crying; she isn’t moving. Something is wrong, and Sylvia’s taking her clothes off. Mt. Huxley gets a sunny spotlight and lights up over the lake of oil, thick and rippling. Trist can’t pull off his pack fast enough; he can’t unhook the straps fast enough to stop her. All that he can do is watch a graceful lope and then a perfect dive and then an amber, muscled figure cutting across the lake wearing only khaki shorts.
Syl, she’s remembering. She’s refreshed like washing your face with cold water, but not your face, every pore. Her lungs contracted when she first hit the water; she couldn’t breathe. Her skin hardened, tightened to sealskin. She is strong; she is free; she is still coming down from being blissed-out, gone.
By now Tristram’s in the Lake, too. Syl got a good hundred yards on him, but he’s thrilled by the water, so it’s fine. He watches the black ripple as his chin breaks the surface tension, watches his arms stretch forward and pull liters upon liters of water behind him. He is chasing, and she is fleeing. They’re both so locked up in it that they can’t stop.
She can stand now, but the ground hurts. She isn’t aware of Tristram, swimming towards her. She knows that her feet hurt; she knows that she is shaking. She realizes that she’s naked. In the sky the moon is still red, half behind a cloud and lit up. It’s the day after Love Day; it’s August first, and she’s standing before a large pile of stone. It’s August first, and it begins to rain.
The moon is still red, less than a quarter now, but still faintly red and hanging, pasted in the grey sky. Trist’s forgotten what’s going on; he’s enjoying a skinny-dip. He’s backstroking around the lake and everything is wonderful. It’s cold. It’s very cold, but it’s raining and that’s wonderful, just think about the water cycle. This lake was snow was a cloud was, what, maybe the ocean, maybe dinosaur pee?
Her feet leave trails of blood. She relishes the feeling of the sharp-granite moraine digging into her, tearing muscles as she climbs. The world, clarity, is on top of the peak. It’s farther away than it looks. She’s still got a kilometer to go, a kilometer of forty-five degree slope and rising. She’s never been more awake, more alive, stronger. She’s still crying; she hasn’t stopped crying, crying or bleeding from her feet, her hands, her knees. She’s slipping now, getting tired, landing on shards of granite, landing on her bare chest.
“Tristram!” It echoes and fades. “Tristram!”
Whose voice? The moon, no. No, it’s Sylvia, and Tristram stops swimming; he treads water. “What’s up, Syl?”
“Tristram…” It’s all rather dramatic. Sylvia’s about 20 meters from the peak, at the top of a 300 meter face, with her arms outstretched. She’s got blood running down her, clinging to her underarms, drying on her chest. She’s holding her vMod in her hand; she clutches it to her chest. “Tristram, I don’t blame you. I blame them.” The vMod flies from her hand. It’s anticlimactic. It’s so small that Tristram can’t even see it.
He’s back to swimming. He faintly heard Syl’s voice yell something about people and oranges and a few minutes later some rocks rolled down into the lake, presumably from Mt. Huxley. Trist can feel sadness hovering somewhere close to him; it’s waiting to strike, but has not yet gathered the strength even to coil. His reg kit winks at him, beeps, and clicks. He takes out his vMod, looks up a first-aid video, puts his shirt back on, and sits down on Sylvia’s pack.