A story

Read this aloud.

Read what she gave you.

It starts with the doubt.

You can't put away the doubt. You can't deny the doubt. Tell yourself the helicopter isn't crashing. Remember you can't do anything. You're not in control. The helo is just fine. That noise is the throttle, the pilot's maneuver. That jolt is the wind, the air. You're not going to die.

She's not dead because you're not.

You don't know you're breathing until you think about it. You don't feel yourself breathing until you think about it. You don't think about it until now, when your lungs are full and empty too fast. There's not enough air but there is enough air because you're still alive.

She's not dead because you're not.

You don't know your heart is beating until you think about it. You can't feel your heart beating until you think about it. It hits the back of your chest. Inside of the wall of your chest. The clouds blasting by, cut through the props. The drop is your stomach in your throat you're not going to die. You're still alive.

She's not dead because you're not.

It makes no sense for her to be dead if you're still alive. Dead people can't find the living. If she's dead and you're dead it makes no difference.

There's not enough air but there is. Your lungs can't fill enough. Your throat is closing. You don't know it's closing until you think about it. You don't feel it closing until you think about it.

You're not going to die.

She's not dead because you're not.

Do what they tell you. Say this aloud.

Close your mouth and breathe through your nose. Your breathing won't slow unless you breathe through your nose. There's not enough air but there is enough air starve yourself for the air and your breathing will slow because you think about it. Slow your breathing by thinking about it.

Close your mouth and smile. Smile and breathe through your nose. Your heart will slow when your breathing slows because you're thinking about it. Control yourself by thinking about it.

Read this aloud.

Read what she gave you. The helo is not crashing. The rising is the wind. The falling is the wind. The screaming is the wind. Feel yourself in the wind. You can't feel it until you think about it. You're not dying, you're alive, because you're thinking about it.

Tighten your seatbelt and don't think about it. Brace yourself and don't think about it. Slow your breathing and don't think about it. You're alive and you feel it because you're thinking about it.

When you don't, you won't.

She's alive because you are.

Read what they gave you.

It makes no sense for a dead man to hunt a dead woman.

She's alive.

The helicopter lands. The pilot sweats.

She's alive but you have to move fast or it all dies.

Out of the chopper to the earth. The earth. The earth. The earth. The cool green earth.

You're down. Deployed. Radio on.

Read it aloud: "Eight-five-two. Moving."

She's alive because you are.

"Roger. Your signal. Tracking."

You know you're alive because you can think about it. She's alive because you are.

Now find her.

Wake up.

"Honey, wake up."

Wake up.

"Honey, you're having a nightmare. You're talking in your sleep. Wake up. Come on."

"What's going on?"

"You're talking in your sleep."

There she is. Right there. What's this about?

"You're talking in your sleep, honey. You woke me up."

It's cool in the dark room. Hard to see in the fuzzy white-blue. Haze in the eyes. Hands to the eyes to the rub. The back of the neck. Find the blankets. They've been kicked to the floor.

"I had the strangest dream. I was in a sort of spy helicopter coming down over some kind of battlezone. You were kidnapped or something. I had to find you. I was some kind of soldier but I didn't have any gun. It was like I was, it was like I was, was, psychic or something. I was supposed to find you and kill the people who took you with, like, my thoughts."

She can't hear you. She's sleeping.


There's a stranger in the lunch room. Have they hired that new VP?

He wades through the clots of people balancing plates and full glasses on square plastic trays. He sits next to Frank, across from you.

He introduces himself, the new VP, your new boss's boss's boss. He'd really like to get to know everyone.

"I'm Rob Weathers. They must have told you about me. I'd really like to get to know everyone."

Especially the coders.

"Especially you guys who are writing the code. You're the engine room. You know--when Kirk calls down to Scotty, 'Engine room--'? That's the way I think about you guys. You keep the ship running."

He has to thin the ranks. He looking for someone to fire. He has to cut three, maybe four.

"I want you all to know what kind of manager I am--up close. My door will always be open to you. I hope you'll take advantage of that."

He wants you to be comfortable. He can't help what he has to do, but he's going to do it.

"I know how hard you guys work. It can't be easy for you. These are not easy times."

He's not going to fire you. It's going to be Denise. And Tom. And Brad and Chuck. That's it. Not you.

Relax. Smile. Finish your lunch.


Denise comes into your cube. She sits on the side of the 'L' you don't use. She says, "You haven't been yourself lately," not knowing she's going to be fired. But you do.

"I can't explain it. I've been..." Should you tell her? Why not? You've had an affair with her. One time when you were both drunk and weak with jetlag in the middle of a two-week tour of Asia. A one-star hotel in the middle of Malaysia. Bugs and sheets covering a tea-stained mattress. Sweat. It wasn't any good for you or her.

You couldn't look each other in the eye for three weeks after.

You want to she wants to forget it. Your wife doesn't her husband doesn't nobody knows but her and neither of you bring it up, ever.

You've been depressed lately.

"You're acting like you're really depressed."

Like something bad's about to happen. You don't even know what it is, just that it's going to happen.

"Like you have a heavy weight on your shoulders."

Don't say it.

"Like you know something you don't want to tell anyone."

Don't tell her. Clear your mind.


Don't do it.

"Like you know things before anyone else. Like you're tapped into the corporate political structure..."

"I think I can--"

This is your head. This is your mind. You'll do what you want.

"It's like I can read people's minds. Everyone is so unhappy. I know what's going to happen and it always gets worse. It's just going to keep getting worse until--"

You just told her you could read her mind. What is she thinking?

"You can read people's minds? What am I thinking right now?"

Tigerhippoparrotfour--three--nine four six. Eight-five-two.

"Eight five two."

Roger. Your signal. Tracking.

"What did you just say?"

"I didn't say anything," she says, thinking you're crazy. The stress from work. The rumors of layoffs.

"Maybe I'm going crazy. Working too hard."

It was a mistake not trying to start a relationship with her. You're the only one she trusts. Not even her husband understands but you do, you work here. You know what it's like.

"Do you want to go for a drink after work today?"

Don't go. Don't do it.

"Yeah. That sounds good."


The amber alcohol quiets the voices. Turns it all down. Now it's smooth. Linear. No tangential thoughts. No forks in the road. No ripples. Thin. Laminar.

And when you have to think for yourself, it's very simple for both of you.

"Eight five two." Silence.

"What did you say?"

"What if none of this is what it seems?" you say, always the philosopher after a few drinks.

"Like what? Like we're all really aliens?"

"No. Not that. Think about all the conflict. Sometimes I think the whole world is really just a sort of a boxing ring. "

You know she knows she should be thinking a reply, but only because it's predictable. She's got that gleam in her eyes you saw in Malaysia. You want to she wants to touch. She waits for you. Waits for what you're going to say.

"Ever feel like you just knew what was going to happen, and then it did, but you didn't tell anyone you knew? It doesn't pay to say anything after the fact, because nobody would believe you. So only you know you anticipated."

She leans forward. You hesitate for a second. Then you don't. You kiss her. It's slow and gentle. Her lips are slightly cool. Wet before her tongue.

"Did you anticipate that?" she says.

"Rob's going to lay you off," you tell her. She pulls away for a second.

"I know. I just know. And Tom and Brad and Chuck."

"What?" she says. "You've seen the list?"

"No I haven't seen the list. There is no list. I don't think they've even decided yet. I just know. I just do."

"What else?"

"You have to think about it? I don't know how to explain it. When you're walking around in your life, you don't know you're in your body. I mean, you know you have a body, but you don't realize you're breathing until you think about it. You have to think about it and it happens. Does that make sense?"

"You're sucking up to Rob. You fucking brown-noser. You pig. You're giving him a list."

"I am not giving him a list."

She grabs her purse. Gets up so fast her thigh hits the table and knocks over your glass.

"You son of a bitch. You're using me."

"I am not using you."

"Just you wait."

She leaves. You don't know what she's going to do. Not until you sober up. Not until the ripples start. The eddys.


"Eight five two"

Roger. Your signal. Tracking.

You're on life.

There are suitcases in the foyer. You close the door behind you. It's dark inside. Call for her. Rustling from the bedroom.

Why are all the lights off?

A car pulls into your driveway. Yellow white beams through the picture window turn the living room into a swirling matrix of shadow and light. This is the man who has come to take her.

The car stops, the engine runs. She's leaving.

She's got her coat on. She picks up the suitcases.

"What are you doing?"

She's crying. She hands you a note she written. On the paper is a code. It means something for another world. It has to happen this way for you to get the information. It has to be traumatic. You have to be torn to pieces or you'll never remember. She doesn't know that's what it is, but that's what it is.

"Wait a minute. Wait a fucking minute."

Her hands shaking, barely able to speak, "Who is Denise?"

She knows. She thinks you've just come back from a hotel.

"You were out fucking her. Don't think I don't know."

"I was not. We just had a drink."

She hates you but she loves you and she hates herself for it.

"On your goddamned business trip! You think I'm an idiot."

"I don't think you're an idiot. I love you."

Nobody who loves her would treat her this way.

"Get out of my way."

All this time she's been putting off Carl. All of his advances. Flattering, but unwanted. All the time you've been away. This is what you deserve.

"Who's in the driveway?"

"I'm leaving you. Good bye."

She hates you destroyed her trust. She thought you were special. Your marriage was special. He's taking her away. They're going to the airport. He's been planning it for years, she's been resisting for years. His place in Hawaii. Way out. Way up. He'll take her by helo. You won't find her until she wants you to, until she can tell if there's anything living between you anymore.

You killed your marriage and he may kill her she doesn't know.

"Oh God. Please don't. Don't go. He doesn't love you."

She doesn't believe you do.

She gets in the car. The doors slam. The car pulls away.

Dark. Silent.

You feel like you're dying.

You're alive because she is alive.

Read what she gave you.

Read the note. Read the code.

"I loved you."

Roger. Your signal.


Find her.