The Law and the Profits

The bat­tered, graf­fi­tied door and the cracked lamp over­head didn’t exact­ly scream high-class estab­lish­ment. The light that raked the bounc­er not only hid his face but cement­ed the impres­sion that he was more geo­graph­i­cal fea­ture than man. The moun­tain of bone and mus­cle wrapped in a tight shirt and even tighter pants, fold­ed his arms across his chest. He lev­eled his best skep­ti­cal glare at Gilly. At first, she thought he was just pre­tend­ing he could take the mea­sure of her soul and try­ing way too hard. She thought about leav­ing. Life with­out Macro was bor­ing but at least it was com­pre­hen­si­ble. Then her heart raced, her lungs froze, and the man knew what­ev­er he want­ed to about her.

This man with the shaved head and no neck was not a bounc­er. Any­one who could actu­al­ly mea­sure souls could work a bet­ter class of bar. Any­one who could mea­sure her soul could name their price to work wher­ev­er they want­ed. It still lay in shards and the world would be made of sus­pi­cious glares, stale cig­a­rette smoke, and out of tune pianos until it healed. The life­time that would need wasn’t over yet, but he had tak­en the mea­sure of her soul any­way. His own glit­tered in near crys­talline per­fec­tion. A mere sliv­er could vault an addict into heav­en for days before she crashed again. Not that she stole any souls or did any vault­ing these days.

Rather than etched on the sur­face where even the soul blind could sense them, the oaths the man had sworn and the trust oth­ers had marked on him lay deep with­in the labyrinth of his soul. She rec­og­nized the pat­terns of oaths and chains of trust. By the time she’d made Den­ny, though, he’d noticed her mea­sur­ing him in turn. His gaze soft­ened and he nod­ded slow­ly.

Den­ny raised his face into light and spread his palms. “You got me.” His voice was soft and sweet. “But I got you, too. Few mea­sure souls as well as you, Gilly.”

She could feel Den­ny draw the net of anoth­er one of Macro’s plans tight around her. Even when she and Macro were dat­ing, Macro nev­er let her know what she was in for until it was too late. In that case, Macro and Den­ny should both expect what she’d do next.

What’s so valu­able in there that Macro needs a buff, under­cov­er angel to guard the door?”

Denny’s gaze nar­rowed. His body swelled with every deep, mea­sured breath.

Don’t call me that.” His voice became impos­si­bly qui­et. “We’re as fal­li­ble as you are.”

Don’t call you what?” She smiled. “Buff? Under­cov­er?”

She hoped that his soul would shud­der, that Macro’s part­ner would envel­op her with some sub­tle piece of soul­craft and she’d be changed. Or, alter­na­tive­ly, for once, she’d get one of them to admit they were what every­one else called them. Instead, the angel just let his arms fall to his side. Any­one who could keep their own soul that pure wouldn’t be goad­ed.

Macro hasn’t told you? Just like old times.” Den­ny pursed his lips.

For all I know, if you are guard­ing the door, it must be the way back to par­adise.” She shrugged. “That’s hard to refuse. Macro’s hard to refuse, even though Macro nev­er trust­ed me.”

We rarely mark our trust on any­one who isn’t a col­league. It’s not per­son­al.” He showed his palms again. “None of you accept the offer any­way. Too heavy a bur­den, I guess.”

I would have.” Per­haps her mis­take had been to ask for the mark of Macro’s trust.

In ret­ro­spect, maybe traf­fick­ing souls for the raw mate­r­i­al to dis­guise her own was the mis­take, as though Macro had refused her because her soul was too impure and a pure one, or a pur­er seem­ing one, any­way, would have changed Macro’s mind. It was pos­si­ble to want some­thing, or some­one, too much. And it all went to hell from there.

Your soul.”

What?” Gilly decid­ed Den­ny real­ly need­ed to stop find­ing ways to make her heart race and her lungs freeze.

What’s so valu­able in there is your soul.”

Den­ny opened the door. Light spilled onto the street. Wash­es of brass and bass mixed with the sta­t­ic of con­ver­sa­tion. One hand at the door, the oth­er behind his back, the angel nod­ded as Gilly walked into the bar.

Peel­ing wall­pa­per cov­ered the walls and chipped Formi­ca cov­ered the tables of par­adise, or maybe just the emer­ald city. Cus­tomers sat around the tables in mis­matched chairs with unequal legs that clicked and clacked against the vinyl tile floor. The brass and bass played on a plat­form at the far side of the room with the wood­winds and a lone vio­lin. The plat­form sagged in the mid­dle and shud­dered to the beat. A singer sipped some­thing brown from a clear tum­bler that sat in a plas­tic chair next to the mike stand, and began to sing. A rough and ragged “Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home” tore through the air, more defi­ant than free and easy. Gilly would have done it bet­ter once, but it’d be a life­time before she’d do it even this well again.

Some­one else might have been tak­en in by decor, fooled by cus­tomers in their shab­by T-shirts and jeans. Not Gilly. Their cloth­ing was tai­lored. T-shirts tapered to the waist. Sweat stains formed art­ful shapes on the sleeves. Jeans fit pre­cise­ly at the hip, waist, and thigh. Holes at the knee looked cut then frayed rather than worn.

Gilly mea­sured their souls and found what she’d expect­ed. They’d all spent part of their vast wealth to abrade away how they earned their vast wealth. Like their clothes, their souls were dis­guis­es. They’d been scraped clean, then crushed into some­thing unnat­u­ral­ly sim­ple and reg­u­lar, too sim­ple for soul­craft, but she doubt­ed any of them had ever been capa­ble of that. They were all more lat­tices than labyrinths. Well, all except one.

Macro’s soul had been annealed more times than Gilly want­ed to count. It suf­fused the angel with facets joined in com­pli­cat­ed pat­terns that were almost, but not quite, reg­u­lar. Its pat­terns grew more com­plex, its impu­ri­ties burnt away by good works. Any cus­tomer in the room could afford at most a sliv­er, if a traf­fick­er were inge­nious enough to steal it. How­ev­er, one didn’t mess with angels, even when they weren’t built like a moun­tain range.

Unlike Den­ny, Macro didn’t present with any par­tic­u­lar gen­der. E was slim with mus­cle bunched on the tor­so, arms and legs that bare­ly blunt­ed an oth­er­wise angu­lar body. As always, eir hair was buzzed tight to the scalp and eir nails glint­ed with per­fect­ly applied clear nail pol­ish. E was a lit­tle fuller, rounder than Gilly remem­bered. A dancer who’d just retired, maybe, rather than one still danc­ing eight shows a week. Some­one who was final­ly show­ing eir age, if only a lit­tle.

Pric­ing every soul in the room, Gilly?” Macro had the sort of voice that might be right for Aeneas in Les Troyens and yet be just as right for Dido in Dido and Aeneas. It made eir every accu­sa­tion sound impos­si­bly inno­cent. “Still in the busi­ness?”

Habit.” Gilly sat across from Macro. The cracked plas­tic chair squeaked as it took her weight. “Not in the busi­ness any more.”

I know.” Macro fished a vial out of a hid­den pock­et in eir t-shirt and set it on the table between them. The crys­talline liq­uid inside caught the room’s flick­er­ing light then threw it across Macro’s face in bro­ken reds and blues. “Oth­er­wise, your soul wouldn’t have healed this well. We wouldn’t be return­ing it to you.”

It wouldn’t fetch what Macro’s or Denny’s would on the mar­ket. Impu­ri­ties trapped in the crys­tal were pret­ty but messed with the high. You returned from heav­en your con­science crushed by crimes you nev­er com­mit­ted, or worse, you went through hell instead. It wasn’t beyond redemp­tion though. A traf­fick­er who knew what she was doing could bleach out the impu­ri­ties before she sold it and the next time she ordered a burg­er, she could splurge for the fries. A small city’s worth of fries.

Return it to me?” Dis­be­lief bled through the won­der in her voice. “Don’t you guys have a for­mal process for this? You have a for­mal process for sneez­ing.”

Macro sighed. “Yes, nor­mal­ly, Den­ny would couri­er it to you, forms would be signed, and he would re-ensoul you. How­ev­er, I need a favor.”

Sud­den­ly, all the pieces fell into place. The wall of mus­cle, Den­ny, at the door. His check that she could still mea­sure souls much bet­ter than most. The dive that wasn’t real­ly a dive. Her own soul in con­ve­nient, inhal­able form, suit­able for purifi­ca­tion.

You want me to lit­er­al­ly sell my own soul? The one I’ve spent years to re-earn? So you can nab some junkie?”

It said some­thing about how much Gilly still loved Macro that she hadn’t sim­ply snatched the vial then walked away. It was her soul, after all. Then again, Den­ny was also still at the door.

Of course it sounds unrea­son­able when you put it like that. But it’s all set up. They’ll be here soon and we’ll arrest them before they actu­al­ly take pos­ses­sion.” Macro took a deep breath then blew it out. “It’s not enough just to catch them in the act. They’re no ordi­nary junkies. They’re my col­leagues.”

A wait­er set two tum­blers on the table, one in front of Macro and the oth­er in front Gilly. Whiskey. It wasn’t until he set down the third and sat down that Gilly real­ized that he wasn’t a wait­er. He was Den­ny. Put him in tent-sized but­ton-down shirt and he no longer looked like some­thing rock climbers would dri­ve to New Hamp­shire to ascend on a Sat­ur­day morn­ing.

The agi­ta­tion in Gilly’s soul could open the eyes of the soul blind.” Den­ny was exag­ger­at­ing, of course, but sens­ing the state of any soul, much less her nascent one, from a dis­tance was beyond even most angels. “I fig­ured you’d need this. At least I do. I mean, an erst­while traf­fick­er and junkie whose soul has nev­er left Macro’s inspec­tion is our only hope.”

He toast­ed them, downed the whiskey in one large gulp, and slammed his tum­bler on the table. Gilly sti­fled a laugh. It was a bit much. Den­ny only pre­sent­ed as tough and impos­ing when he wasn’t try­ing to, appar­ent­ly.

So there’s a schism in Heav­en?” Gilly couldn’t help bait­ing the both of them. Maybe the metaphor was lit­er­al and that was why bring­ing it up made most of them grumpy. “What am I sup­posed to do about it?”

Den­ny glared. Macro smiled.

Well, you can take your soul and go. I sus­pect you can re-ensoul your­self although Den­ny can do it if you want.” Macro nudged the vial towards Gilly. “Or you can pose as a traf­fick­er, mea­sure my cor­rupt col­leagues who’d use your soul to dis­guise their own, tes­ti­fy, then put them away.”

Macro didn’t mea­sure well enough to pierce through a good dis­guise. Oth­er­wise, e’d have real­ized Gilly was traf­fick­ing soon­er than e actu­al­ly had. Den­ny, on the oth­er hand…

My word isn’t good enough against some of my own.” Fold­ing his arms, Den­ny slouched into his chair. His face hard­ened. “We need some­one on the out­side to cor­rob­o­rate. Maybe I’m the cor­rupt one in dis­guise.”

Den­ny rolled his eyes at his own words. He knew the state of his own soul.

And, of course, every­one will believe me.” She sipped the whiskey. “After all, when I break an oath, every­one will see my soul frac­ture, right?”

Prac­ti­cal­ly no one could see her soul at all. The utter lack was damn­ing.

Macro sim­ply tapped the vial next to the tum­bler Gilly had set down. The vial shim­mered in reds and blues through the brown of the whiskey. Of course. Soon, she’d have a soul that any­one but the soul blind could see again. If it wasn’t pure, it was pure enough. The pret­ty impu­ri­ties wouldn’t hide a bro­ken oath.

Why me? I’ve been out of the busi­ness for years now.”

Den­ny sat up with a start. He held out his palms as if he could push Gilly’s words away.

No, don’t ask Macro that.”

Why you, Gilly?” Macro stared as though e could see through her. “You tru­ly want to know?”

Gilly said “Yes” as Den­ny said “No.”

Because I was wrong not to trust you. Once you’ve been re-ensouled, I will mark my trust on you.”

Try­ing to get em to mark eir trust on her had left her emp­ty. Now that she’d giv­en up on what she still want­ed, e offered. If Macro wasn’t above using this to eir advan­tage, e also wouldn’t pre­tend it was true. Not when the cost was that Gilly’s every trans­gres­sion would also crack eir own soul.

Gilly gri­maced. Some­times, one no longer had any choice. Well, tech­ni­cal­ly she did, but she want­ed to defile Macro’s soul even less.

No one ever lis­tens to me. I tried to warn you.” Den­ny lift­ed his tum­bler, dis­ap­point­ed that it hadn’t some­how refilled itself. “So that’s a yes?”

Gilly nod­ded. The weight of Macro’s trust kept her in her seat.

I’m sor­ry.” Den­ny awk­ward­ly pat­ted her shoul­der. “Hope­ful­ly, they’ll decide you’re just a mule. We’ll be near.”

He downed Macro’s whiskey. The two angels filled her in on the details of the job, nod­ded their good­byes then made them­selves scarce, leav­ing her alone to wait. Gilly didn’t catch where they’d dis­ap­peared to.

The singer seemed to stroll through the Harold Arlen song­book. “A Sleepin’ Bee”, “Come Rain, Come Shine”, and “Right as the Rain” waft­ed through the bar one after the oth­er. The shab­by chic laughed at “I Nev­er Has Seen Snow.” Maybe it was because the air out­side was already crisp, freight­ed again with the threat of closed roads and downed pow­er lines. Maybe it was because they had no taste.

One verse into “I Won­der What Became of Me”, the man who would buy Gilly’s soul strut­ted through the door. She and the man made each oth­er the instant they met each other’s gaze.

The stocky, blond man strode to her table then sat down. A broad smile lit his face.

At first, she saw noth­ing spe­cial about his soul. More com­pli­cat­ed than the laun­dered ones here, but also more impure. Not any more than typ­i­cal, but angels this impure would have found them­selves drummed out and their souls sim­pli­fied to make soul­craft impos­si­ble. Then again, this was also how an angel would dis­guise their soul for a sting. No traf­fick­er would sell to some­one who was pur­er than the mer­chan­dise. She need­ed to peer deep­er.

You’re not who I expect­ed.” His gaze fell onto the vial, now in Gilly’s hands.

Do you have the mon­ey?” She set the vial on the table.

He nod­ded then pushed a thick enve­lope from his jack­et towards her. She slid the vial towards him. Reds and blues spat­tered across his face as he thumbed the vial. She fanned the cash in the enve­lope, pre­tend­ing to count the bills as she mea­sured him.

Beneath the grime, the man had noth­ing on Macro or Den­ny. Gilly could see the scat­tered impu­ri­ties that few else could. Still, he had a big, com­plex soul with a near reg­u­lar struc­ture devel­oped over decades of good works and soul­craft. Not all that pure for an angel was still much pur­er than any­one else, still some­thing that could send an addict to heav­en for long enough. It bore no marks of trust or oaths that iden­ti­fied him as an angel. Of course, any angel actu­al­ly out to bust a traf­fick­er would have hid­den those.

The man’s brow fur­rowed. He’d sensed her mea­sur­ing him. His hands gripped her wrists. Pain arced up her arm. The grime sloughed off. The oaths of duty and marks of trust that proved he was an angel slid to the sur­face.

We both know you’re not who we want.” His voice was as soft as his grip was hard. “Give up who you’re work­ing for and I’ll let you slide. You’ve start­ed to heal. You don’t want to ruin that by being arrest­ed again.”

This couldn’t be a real bust. Gilly refused to believe Macro would set her up. Or at least not again and not like this. She hadn’t actu­al­ly been traf­fick­ing this time. Macro wouldn’t tease her with her own soul only to snatch it away again. The man’s angel­ic soul had to be anoth­er dis­guise.

No.” She tried to pull her arm away, but his grip was too strong. “I’m work­ing for myself.”

Of course you are.” He frowned in what seemed like gen­uine regret. “You can always change your mind after we take you in.”

Scat­tered peo­ple from around the bar stood. They strolled towards Gilly, form­ing a shrink­ing cir­cle around her and the man. At the edge of her sens­es, their souls grew more com­plex. Their oaths emerged onto the sur­face. Macro and Den­ny walked with them, no sign on their face that Gilly was any­thing more than a traf­fick­er who got caught.

Con­ver­sa­tion thrummed on with­out a pause. The singer kept singing. Maybe two cus­tomers turned to look.

The com­plex­i­ty of his soul dazed her. Every facet reflect­ed every oth­er like an infi­nite hall of mir­rors. She couldn’t see any fis­sures but she could see how they might be hid­den. Jags, radi­at­ing like branch­es, inter­rupt­ed the near­ly reg­u­lar pat­tern of facets like wet streaks across a plane of glass. They couldn’t be part of the nat­ur­al vari­a­tion of the near­ly unblem­ished soul he pre­sent­ed. Not unless Macro was wrong about him being a junkie.

His soul shud­dered. It entan­gled hers, and she found her­self want­i­ng to leave the bar with him. For now, the urge seemed more a sug­ges­tion than a com­pul­sion. She had only the tat­tered shim of soul. To com­pel her, he’d have to haul out the seri­ous soul­craft, restruc­ture her, change who she was. She’d still be arrest­ed and, worse, become some­one else. What was in the vial wouldn’t be hers any­more. It might send her to heav­en for a while, but it wouldn’t take.

She resist­ed, grip­ping the edge of her seat. No junkie was going to do any­thing to her. The cracked plas­tic dug into her hands. The urge to leave grew into a stab between the shoul­der blades. She hooked her feet around the chair’s legs. Pain shot through her calves and thighs. Her body want­ed to stand. She want­ed to sit. The man leaned back into his chair, his smile now a self-assured smirk. Only his mea­sured breaths, the slow rise and fall of his chest, betrayed any effort.

The air grew thick and the world grew dark around her. The need to do what he want­ed squeezed her head, pressed against her lungs. She forced her­self to breath out of sync with the man. Tears welled in her eyes as spikes seemed to crack her skull.

The man’s gaze nar­rowed. Sweat bead­ed then dripped down his face. Just find­ing Gilly’s soul was hard enough for most. His soul trans­formed, shift­ing from one com­plex pat­tern to anoth­er. Your actions changed your soul just as your soul changed your actions. To restruc­ture her’s, he’d inevitably change his own.

Her chair swayed in gen­tle cir­cles. Con­flict­ing desires locked her lungs. They were slabs of stone that could bare­ly take air at all. She’d lose con­scious­ness if she kept resist­ing, then they could just car­ry her away.

His soul con­vulsed. The jags that radi­at­ed across it col­lapsed, reveal­ing the fis­sures that had been there all along. Puri­fied souls had spack­led the fis­sures shut and now they seeped out like blood from wounds. Restruc­tur­ing a soul he could bare­ly sense would have stretched the one he seemed to have. The one he did have broke. His jaw clenched. His hands tight­ened and his nails dug into the table.

Dark­ness closed around Gilly. The world was a small globe cen­tered on the man. As she lost con­scious­ness, the spray of blues and greens as his soul shat­tered filled her mind’s eye.

When she woke again, sun­light splayed across her face. A firm mat­tress lay under her. A thin com­forter lay over her. Her head rest­ed on a too thin pil­low that made her neck hurt. The room was excep­tion­al­ly tidy. Not a speck of dust any­where. Books lined shelves in neat rows. The hard­wood floor gleamed. A fold­ing chair sat next to the bed.

Posters of opera pro­duc­tions were tacked on the walls, pro­duc­tions where she’d sung Pam­i­na in The Mag­ic Flute, Clara in Por­gy and Bess. Those rec­tan­gles of col­or popped against the bland wall­pa­per. She was in Macro’s bed­room. It’d nev­er occurred to her that Macro would leave the posters up.

You’re awake.” Den­ny walked in look­ing unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly rum­pled for an angel. “Macro should be back soon. When you arrest some of your own, the process is even more for­mal and involved than usu­al. We decid­ed it’d be safest to have me keep an eye on you for a while.”

You two set me up to be bust­ed, didn’t you?” She pushed her­self up to a sit. “You and Macro are the rene­gades in the war over Heav­en.”

Denny’s gaze nar­rowed at that last word. He didn’t actu­al­ly do any­thing else though beside loom.

Macro and I wouldn’t have let you actu­al­ly be processed for arrest.”

Well, I’m so relieved that I was nev­er in any dan­ger. Thank you.”

You’re wel­come.” Either he missed the sar­casm or chose to ignore it. “You. You are hard­core. Any­one else would have been sat­is­fied just to rec­og­nize how he’d dis­guised him­self. We picked up some con­verts last night thanks to you. Good work. May I mark my trust onto your soul?”

You?” Gilly decid­ed his habit of mak­ing her heart race and lungs freeze was annoy­ing. “No, I don’t need the respon­si­bil­i­ty.”

My hus­band doesn’t want me mark­ing my trust on him either. I’m a couri­er of souls. That’s already a big enough bur­den on his life.” He sat and the fold­ing chair squeaked under his weight. “You know, now that you have your soul back, it’s going to be much hard­er to stay clean, stay out of the soul trade.”

Her jaw hung. She turned her sens­es inward. Her soul now caged her, smoth­er­ing her like thick coat in a win­ter storm. Bright impu­ri­ties obscured its crys­talline struc­ture.

You re-ensouled me while I was sleep­ing?”

Did you want to be awake while I jammed your soul back into you?”

Well, no. A head’s up would have been nice though.”

Apolo­gies.” He fished the now emp­ty vial out of his pant pock­et then tossed it to her. “Here, a memen­to. Forms are all tak­en care of. Don’t do any­thing with your soul I wouldn’t do.”

Is there some­thing you wouldn’t do? You were the one who extract­ed my soul in the first place.”

Plen­ty of things. I’m unwill­ing and only the unwill­ing should mess around with people’s souls.” He hunched for­ward, rest­ing his elbows on his thighs. “The col­leagues who’ve frac­tured them­selves, on the oth­er hand, are not unwill­ing, by def­i­n­i­tion. They’re a men­ace and as tempt­ed as I am to just drop them, I can’t, not unless I want to frac­ture myself too. We could use your help lock­ing them up.”

That trick only worked because I had prac­ti­cal­ly no soul. It’d be dif­fer­ent now.”

That trick’s not work­ing again no mat­ter who tries it.” He shrugged. “How­ev­er, you got two things going for you: more skill with souls than you’ll ever admit to me and my trust, even if you won’t take it. How about it?”

An angel just admit­ted he need­ed her. Any more of that and she might believe in mir­a­cles. Still, the wrong angel and in the wrong way.

Macro. Does e love me?” She saw his soul tight­en. It fold­ed backed into itself in an infi­nite regress. “You know, don’t you…”

Den­ny leaned back into the chair. He fold­ed his arms across his chest. It bunched up his tor­so, mak­ing him look top heavy, as though he’d tip over at any moment.

You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

Try me.” Gilly smirked. “You say you trust me, right?”

Den­ny pursed his lips. His gaze fell to the floor before he let it met Gilly’s again.

E trusts you with eir soul.”

That’s not what I asked, angel.”

No, e doesn’t.” Den­ny deflat­ed. His arms fell to his side. “But you’d come if e asked.”

The absurd urge to laugh bub­bled through her. She fought it down. E had said he trust­ed her, not that e loved her. So much for noth­ing.

Gilly’s gaze brushed the posters on the walls. “Maybe it works out bet­ter that e doesn’t.”

She pushed her­self out of bed. Den­ny stood, his expres­sion a cross between puz­zled and stunned.

You believe me?” His gaze nar­rowed. His mouth set in a deter­mined line.

Had to hap­pen once.” She shrugged. “Guess I’ve always known how Macro felt. Good luck with Heav­en. I’ll be root­ing for you.”

Den­ny reached the open door before she did. He wasn’t stop­ping her from leav­ing, but he made a con­vinc­ing wall even when he wasn’t try­ing. Light through the door­way framed him in a halo.

You can do a lit­tle more than root.”

Yeah, I could.” She peered around Den­ny into the liv­ing room. Immac­u­late, as always. Noth­ing blocked the door out of the apart­ment. “And maybe, one day, I will.”

She pushed past Den­ny. He didn’t fol­low her out. He didn’t need to. No mat­ter where she went, Den­ny and Macro would find her once they need­ed to bad­ly enough.

Den­ny was right, of course. Stay­ing out of the soul trade was much sim­pler back when she couldn’t muster the soul­craft to even touch a soul. She turned the vial over and over in her hand. Things were dif­fer­ent now, not bet­ter, just dif­fer­ent.

She hummed to her­self as she wait­ed in the hall­way for the ele­va­tor, Arlen’s “I Had Myself a True Love.” For the first time in for­ev­er, her soul res­onat­ed in response. Her body shook. Blood rushed to her head. Invol­un­tar­i­ly, her hands clinched into fists. The tune stum­bled for a beat. She’d learned how to sing with­out a soul. She’d learn how to sing with one again.

The ele­va­tor doors opened. Emp­ty. Part of her had expect­ed Macro to stare back at her. The rest of her sighed in relief. She stepped into the ele­va­tor. The doors slid shut and the ele­va­tor hummed its way down to the ground floor.


JohnChucutoutPostJohn Chu is a micro­proces­sor archi­tect by day, a writer, trans­la­tor, and pod­cast nar­ra­tor by night. His fic­tion has appeared or is forth­com­ing at Boston Review, Uncan­ny, Asimov’s Sci­ence Fic­tion, Apex Mag­a­zine and His sto­ry “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” won the 2014 Hugo Award for Best Short Sto­ry.