Interlude 15 – Are You Listening?

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The rational part of Sam was relieved that they’d run into other people, some of them familiar. He knew he was safer now, and more likely to make it home. He was relieved Chelsea was okay.

Still, there was a small, irrational part of him that felt intruded upon. Sudden changes in routine always threw him off, and he and Lachlan had slipped into a strange kind of routine in the last day–or however long they’d been there–working together to avoid danger and try to figure out some of this place’s mysteries. When the others had arrived, the shift had felt abrupt and jarring.

He knew it wasn’t fair of him to feel intruded on, not when he and Lachlan had been the ones snooping in Mrs. Sharma’s bedroom, but he found the feeling hard to shake.

Angelina sat on the sofa, looking down at her lap. Mrs. Sharma stared her down.

“The Italian team at CPSI discovered other–look at me when I’m talking to you–other planes of existence layered with our own. How could you have known about that?”

Angelina shrugged.

“Well?” said Mrs. Sharma.

“Well, what?” said Angelina. “Like… what do you want me to say?”

Mrs. Sharma sighed, rubbing her forehead.

“I want you to answer the question.”

“I thought I already answered it,” said Angelina.

“Okay, this is going nowhere.” Mrs. Sharma sighed again. “If you’re going to insist on being difficult, we’ll focus on what you know. We can come back to how you know it later.”

“Huh?” said Angelina.

“You said you knew a way out of here. I still find that very hard to believe, but I’m willing to entertain whatever idea you have. Especially given that you know things about the nature of reality itself that should be impossible for you to know.”

“Well, this conversation has taken an unexpected twist,” Lachlan whispered to Sam.

“Yeah!” whispered Jen. “The nature of reality itself? This is like a TV show or something.”

Something that could have been irritation flashed over Lachlan’s face, and Sam wondered if Lachlan felt the intrusion too. Either that, or he was just annoyed by everyone he met.

Sam could understand that. Most people were pretty annoying.

“Like I said before,” said Angelina, “does anyone have a notebook?”

“Yeah, we have one,” said Sam.

He reached into his bag with his right hand. He felt the notebook at the bottom of the bag, but his fingers–

Oh. Right. His fingers.

His palm throbbed as he lifted the notebook with his thumb, ring finger, and little finger.

He’d found it interesting how easy it had been to adjust to his missing fingers, and how little conscious effort it had taken on his part. His hand had quickly and instinctively found workarounds, his ring finger stepping in to fulfill the purpose of his lost index finger.

Still, all the unfamiliar motions were wreaking havoc on his hand muscles, to the point where every motion of his right hand made it more sore. The notebook nearly slipped out of his grasp, but he managed to hand it to Angelina, practically dropping it into her lap.

“Thanks!” she said.

She glanced at his hand, opening her mouth as though she was going to say something, then closed it again.

“No problem,” said Sam.

“Okay!” Angelina looked around at everyone, as if to ensure she had everyone’s attention. “So it’s like this. This page is our reality, and this page is like another layer. And right now, we’re here. In between the pages…”

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