D&A? Esperanza stuck
the card back into the tiny stiff envelope and pulled it back
out again. The assignment didn’t change. There were the
embossed names, rising up to mock her. At least this time they
gave her an office with a window and pull-down cot. She would
need all the rest she could get. Derek and Aaron would be hard
to train. Tomorrow morning the boys would come through the door
on the left, up through the hidden staircase winding through the
outside walls of the library. Esperanza opened the thin metal
door behind her and found a janitor’s closet. It stunk of
chemicals and rust. Green film crawled on the shower with
plastic walls. They set her up behind the women’s restroom and
the janitor’s closet, Esperanza discovered upon exiting another
small door on her right.
506 JB was the closet
number. At least the bathroom was clean. She looked for
graffiti in the stalls. Most of it had been painted over, and a
few young women had made feeble attempts to etch in some new
initials and Greek letters.
The fifth floor restroom
of Vanderhouten University’s Main Library was situated by the
elevators. Esperanza always requested carrel-offices with
tinted windows so she could watch the traffic--students,
instructors, and librarians winding their way between the
bookcases. She wondered who she’d angered to get stuck behind
the janitor’s closet of the women’s john. There was never any
way to tell, with only Julian and Esperanza’s brother to
contact, and no way to communicate with the higher ups. No one
seemed to know the identities of the ones at the top. It wasn’t
necessary to complete the job.
At 3 AM, industrial
white light and the red from exit signs above the elevators
glowed off the linoleum tiles. This time, at least, they hadn’t
put her on a floor with the old newspaper archives. Lanky pages
hanging brown and brittle off of the racks. Boxes of microfiche
with tiny labels Esperanza couldn’t read from her carrel.
Watching people flip through books was much more amusing,
students and professors standing thoughtfully and skimming.
Sometimes reading entire chapters leaning against the
bookcases. Esperanza picked a book at random off of the shelf.
On the spine, a combination of letters in nonsense titles, and
on the pages inside, jumbles of words tossed across the pages to
form paragraphs. No attempts at meaning. No author. No page
numbers. Every book in the library, except for a few special
cases--maybe--were just like this one. Esperanza would take it
back to her office and use it as evidence for D&A. No one would
come looking for it anyway. All of the searches and call
numbers were just as muddled and useless as the text in this
At least the office had
a slit-of-a-window, so she wasn’t completely enclosed by four
brick walls. Even when she was well-versed in them, Esperanza
was surprised by the look and feel of new worlds. She caught a
glimpse of her face in the glass as the pane flipped down. She
still looked the same, more or less, felt the same, but she
always fit the style of the world she was in.
The slit-of-a-window led
to a less than endearing view--part of the cobblestone pavement
leading to the street and a few branches of a magnolia tree. A
light drizzle fell, the drops cloudy like an explosion of
phosphate bubbles under a light source Esperanza couldn’t see.
She stuck her face between the window and brick. The March air
was not uncomfortable, still touched with a bit of chill
fluctuating between Winter and Spring. Esperanza looked up.
The rain seemed just like it was in every story world she’d been
to. Even when coming down head on, the rain appeared to drift
Fully awake, Esperanza
shut the windows. Derek and Aaron were due in a few hours. She
wanted to be prepared. She still wondered who bothered to
recruit them, but the higher ups always turned out to be right.
They were late--of
course. D&A knocked around 9:37. They’d been scheduled for 9
AM. When they found Esperanza at her desk facing the door with
her legs crossed, they obviously had no respect for the severity
of the situation. Twins in posture, they ambled into the office
buzzard slumped, baggy jeans three sizes too big exposing plain
boxers on Derek, and Dallas Cowboy boxers on Aaron. Without any
word of greeting, they plopped down in the chairs Esperanza
placed facing her. Aaron looked at the skirt stopping just
above her knee. Esperanza tried to pull it down and put both
feet on the floor.
She twiddled her pen,
thumping it against the desk. “I know the information you
received a few days ago must have been deeply disturbing, but
you do realize you’re over half an hour late?”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry ‘bout
that.” Derek grinned. “It was a little hard findin’ the place
with all them doors, miss...”
“Esperanza, Derek. And
you’re Aaron.” She would have offered a handshake but shuddered
at how they might interpret her touch. Their excuse still
wasn’t valid. She shouldn’t have been surprised. She
remembered reading that the boys made an art of slacking.
“We had to sleep in,”
“I understand that
you’re busy with school, and I’m sorry we had to call you in on
the weekend, but we’re in a very dangerous position right now.”
D&A stared at her,
bored, chomped on gum. Most characters chosen for undercover
work came to Esperanza distraught and shaking. She could give
them the ten minute spiel, and they’d sit there quietly
nodding. They’d do anything asked of them, only because they
were so afraid.
But these two?
“So, what’s the deal
with all these doors, anyway?” Aaron asked.
“Didn’t you get the
information explaining all that?”
“Yeah, in our lockers.
Then this guy met us on the way home from school and said we’d
better be here today, told us all this stuff about us only we
could know. But that still don’t explain all these doors and
stories and shit.”
Esperanza nibbled the
tip of her pen.
“So,” Derek said, “what
story you from?”
“I can’t really tell you
that, but I’m from the year 2030.” Esperanza usually threw in
the last fact, just to sharpen the gravity of this reality.
“Hunh,” the boys said.
Aaron slouched forward.
“The future--does it look pretty much the same? That’s like,
what, thirty-something years from now?”
said. “Well, it doesn’t look exactly like this. The
technology’s not so advanced like some would have you believe.
I live in a different city, so I don’t know how that translates,
and the story I’m from’s animated.”
“You don’t look like no cartoon,” Aaron said.
series,” Esperanza said. “It’s not a cartoon. It’s a
series for adults.”
“You’re a porn?” Derek said.
“Nooooo. The audience
intended is adults, not children, that’s all, and it’s not all
cartoony looking like the stuff for kids.”
“How come you look so
normal then?” Aaron said.
“In my story, I’d look
normal too, ‘cause it’s animated, and I would look animated. I
can take the look of whatever story I’m in.”
Aaron hopped up from his
chair. “That’s dope! If I find the craziest place I can--”
“You’re not allowed to
cross story boundaries,” Esperanza said. “Don’t forget that, or
we’ll have to erase you. Your look wouldn’t change, either.
Anybody’d know you don’t belong.”
“So, how come you get to
change?” Aaron said.
“It’s just the way we
choose to do things,” but Esperanza couldn’t really answer that
either. “Well, you have your information. Please inform me
immediately if you find BouBreaker #1--”
Aaron started, “That’s
Esperanza threw her hand
up. “Yes, correct. Please don’t say the name.”
“Damn. Y’all paranoid,”
Esperanza shook her
head. “We, you, keep everything as quiet as you can. Those
people out there beyond the bathroom door? What do you think
would happen if they discovered the nature of their true
Maybe not an apocalypse
Revelations-style, but it would still be pretty bad.
People would go insane. Scratching themselves bloody to see if
they were really alive. Questioning everything they ever
believed. Deciding there was nothing left to live for and
inciting riots. People were crueler than they wanted to
accept. If they found out they weren’t real, would they take
revenge to soothe old wounds, knowing there’d be no divine
Esperanza’d never been
present out in the field when characters discovered what they
really were, but Alan had. He watched a woman on a busy street
during rush hour run out of her car. The oncoming truck ripped
off the driver’s side door and careened into the lane, taking
three more cars with it. Meanwhile, the woman had run onto the
sidewalk. She kicked at and pounded a brick apartment building
with her fists. She screamed “No, I’m not! I’m not!” until she
was hoarse. Then she still tried to yell, a sickening sound as
if claws had shredded her vocal cords, and the stringy membranes
rasped around in her throat.
It wasn’t completely
disastrous. The hundreds of insignificant characters populating
that story only walked by pretending they didn’t notice the
woman covered in her own tears, mucous and blood, or they stood
and watched with no effort to help--as people are wont to do.
The authorities got to her in time before more damage could be
done, leading everybody to believe they were taking her to a
mental institution. She was sent to the Revision Room
(Esperanza didn’t even know where that was) and erased
immediately. That was the one nice thing about characters who
were really nobodies finding out the truth. They weren’t even
minor players, just the atmosphere and surround of the story.
Those people who walked by in the distance when two major
characters dialogued at a café. Or the everybody elses who
populated the classroom, office, beach, or mall. Who would miss
them once they were permanently removed from a story?
The first full day had
now come and gone since Esperanza sent Derek and Aaron off on
their assignment. They were never protagonists, but they were
important enough to serve as sidekicks. Their absence would
certainly be felt by major characters.
She still couldn’t
figure why they were chosen. D&A didn’t have many exploits, so
when they had something to brag about, they bragged often. And
they were too nonchalant about all of this. Esperanza
remembered when she found the information packet in her
dorm-room desk. She’d been in the cafeteria taking a break from
studying for finals, and her brain was already frazzled. The
higher ups were good with mind games. The letter in the folder
told her she could tell her brother everything revealed to her
about the nature of her true condition and her assignment.
Turned out they had approached Alan just a week earlier.
Esperanza still believed the only reason they included her on
the job was because they desired Alan so badly and knew he would
share everything with her. Knowing she was never an ideal
choice kept her working hard and desperate to never screw up.
But there appeared to be
no psychological advantages over Derek and Aaron. Esperanza
tossed the book she’d been trying to read the past few hours on
the desk. The words had blurred and disintegrated on the page
until she didn’t see anything in front of her at all. Why was
she thinking about those boys so much? She had no reason to
care about them, or even like them.
She sent her brother an
e-mail before retiring to the pull-down cot in the corner for
They’ve assigned me D+A. That
seems an odd choice. Isn’t it? They don’t work very hard b/c
they’re lazy. They can talk too much and might wander where
they’re not supposed to.
I wouldn’t say that recruiting
D+A is so weird. They *hate* BouBreaker #1--they think she
“acts” too white--racial politics and nonsense. I wouldn’t
worry about it. They can stick to seomthing when motivated.
The message was waiting
in the inbox when she got up. Alan was always good about
returning e-mails. Maybe he was right. All Esperanza had were
the stories to go by. Her impressions were formed there. Alan
had more intel. Where he got it from he didn’t say because he
didn’t know, but if he told her not to worry . . . .
They’d be willing to take her
out just b/c they think she “acts” too white? That’s rough!
Esperanza heard a couple
of young women in the bathroom giggling over running water. The
cot had not been kind to her neck, and she touched her chin to
her shoulder trying to stretch out that crick. The room was
dark. The sun was on the other side of the library, not that
the slit-of-a-window did much good anyway. There was nothing to
do but wait. Esperanza couldn’t go out into the library until
very late when the janitors had gone. She stared at her laptop
screen for a while before getting one of BouBreaker #1’s books
out of her briefcase. This one was newly published and showed
up in Story #3 a few days ago. It was an encyclopedia of
characters from Story #5--this place. Esperanza couldn’t stand
this girl’s persistence or her audacity, with seemingly no care
or awareness of the consequences these books carried with them.
She wrote about all of this--all of these different stories, how
they were and were not connected, the nature of their true
condition--and sold it as fiction in #3. If she kept this up,
S#3 would find out it was all true one day. And that place was
already filled with so much tension, always on the brink of a
Esperanza threw the book into her briefcase and locked it.
Derek gave her a
sheepish smile and slumped over in the chair across from her.
“You have news for me
about our problem?” Perhaps Alan was right. This was already
over with, and Esperanza wouldn’t have to work with D&A very
much at all.
“Ah, naw,” Derek said.
“I jess wanted to chit about this, chat on that.”
Esperanza lowered the
laptop screen. “You know you shouldn’t be here unless it’s
Derek sucked his teeth.
“Yeah, I know, but I been thinkin’ ‘bout all of this.”
“Which may lead to your
“Girl, I ain’t doin’
nuthin' to get myself killed. I jess wanna know somethin’,
okay? Now, supposedly there’s this writer somewhere, and this
writer wrote all these stories--”
“OMA.” Esperanza sighed
and rolled her eyes.
She lowered her voice,
“Our Mutual Author. Please be quiet. Learn those
"Yeah, yeah, okay. So
OMA’s done all these stories, and that’s the worlds we live in,
and somehow, if we know where to go, we can find the doors to
all these other stories--”
Esperanza turned around
and looked back at the wall hiding them from the janitor’s
closet and women’s bathroom.
“Oh, girl, cain’t nobody
hear us beyond that door.”
“You don’t get it. I’ve
dealt with this a lot more than you.”
“Fine,” he said. Derek
grabbed the little notepad on the desk and a pen.
They both heard the
jingle for the new e-mail alert coming from Esperanza’s laptop.
Derek looked puzzled, and Esperanza realized Derek wasn’t
familiar with the technology. He stared at her laptop. She
scooted her chair in front of it and faced him. She prayed he
didn’t take it as a sign of attraction.
She grabbed the notepad
“Hey, when did I say
anything about goin’ lookin’ for other stories to enter? I
ain’t crazy, and I ain’t gonna get labeled no Boundary Breaker.
I’m nuthin' like her.”
Esperanza leaned in
towards him. “Then please, please stop asking the same
types of questions that got her into so much trouble. Why won’t
you just do what I tell you instead of loafing around looking
for problems? I wouldn’t have even assigned you in the first
place.” She ripped the two pages from the notepad and tore them
Derek stared at her,
tongue fidgeting around his front teeth. She was sure there was
an acerbic BITCH perched behind his lips, but he didn’t
let it out. He got up and went to the door leading to the
hidden staircase that wound through the outside walls of the
library. “So, I guess we’ll be in touch.”
She waited for the door
to close before opening the laptop to read Alan’s e-mail:
>>They’d be willing to take her
out just b/c they think she “acts” too
>>white? That’s rough!
I’ve been asked to take people
out too, for different reasons of course. That’s why you’re
stuck with the desk job, hermanita.
Esperanza laid her head
on the desk.
Julian: heard you got stuck
She was nodding off when
she received the IM. Julian was Alan’s nemesis since he was
five years old, which is exactly why the higher ups paired him
with her. She relished the work, thrilled by all of the
traveling between worlds. One time after she and Alan had just
watched a character being erased, Julian unwrapped a wad of
bubble gum and popped it in her mouth. Esperanza thought about
not responding. She didn’t feel like putting up with Julian’s
teasing, but there was nothing better to do.
>I’m sure you had
smoething to do with it
wish i’d thought of it, really
>Who assigned them
to me? Seriously.
with the stupid questions, you know i don’t know...
>I wish I was out
in the field. I’m tired of these stuffy old libraries. It’s
not like there’s anything to *read*.
Julian: you know you’re not
field material, could you send a bullet through someone’s
brains? mmmm...brains...there’s nothing like watching
somebody else’s gray matter dribble down the wall
>Shut up, J. I can’t believe
they paired Alan with you.
Julian: how come? he likes
watching brains splatter more than i do
Julian: we’ve got the good
cop/bad cop thing down perfect
Julian: seriously? you’d
never be able to make the decisions we have to make in the
field. killings a part of it. could you take down your *mom*
if asked? could you really watch her go through all of the fun
things we like to put boubreakers through? if you got one
perfect shot, could you put it right between her eyes?
>No, but I’m sure you
could...with a big old grin.
Julian: stick with what
you;re good at, esperanza. they picked d&a cuz d&a will get the
Shuffling and jingling
echoed in between the shelves on the fifth floor. Jerked from
her half daze, Esperanza woke up on the pull-down cot behind the
women’s restroom. She flipped her wrist. The watch read 3:17.
More jingling, and the humming of a tired man swelled through
the corridors. The song came from deep within his belly. He’d
hum it low, slow, in pain, and then notes soared with momentary
glimpses of hope.
Esperanza hopped off the
cot and crept through the janitor’s closet. There wasn’t
supposed to be anyone else here. The last of the staff left
hours ago. She hadn’t heard doors open or the whirring of
elevators. The humming was so loud, so enveloping, Esperanza
couldn’t tell where he was located on the floor. He seemed to
The library was
completely locked down. He couldn’t have found his way in
unless he used the entrance hidden in the walls, and that would
mean he also knew about the secret entrances to the other
libraries connecting all of the worlds together. He would have
to be reported...and erased.
Esperanza left the
bathroom. The only light on the floor came from above the
elevators and the exit signs. She thought of calling out to
him, but BouBreakers were usually armed, and she could die just
as easily in this story as she could in her own.
Esperanza walked past
the shelves in the shadows, wondering if any change in the song
would give him away. A modulation, a shift in volume. But his
song, the rhythm, the volume, the bold, lonesome tone--all
remained constant. She crouched along the wall until she
reached the microfiche room. She looked around both corners.
Nobody there. She stood.
The song stopped.
“Where did you come
around, and she gurgled on a scream. He had not been there
before, and he was no BouBreaker she recognized. He glowed
green in the shadows, a strong black man with thick, matted
hair. His simple shirt and pants were in rags. Shackles bound
his ankles and neck, but the chains that once imprisoned him had
been broken. The busted links about his feet coiled like
snakes, and the one from his neck hung down to his abdomen.
Esperanza cleared her
throat and straightened her spine. “I work here. It’s after
hours, so there shouldn’t be anyone but staff in the building.
What are you...doing here?”
The man shifted his
weight, and the chains scraped the floor. “I’m looking for Will
“Will and Hark?”
He nodded his head once,
slowly, stately. “They need me to draw first blood.”
Esperanza spread her
lips, mouthed around hoping the appropriate words would come.
“And what is your name?”
He approached her, and
she retreated until she pinned herself against the entrance of
the microfiche room, the doorknob poking the small of her back.
He leaned forward. His eyes were covered in watery cream, and
his pupils weren’t even a part of his face, staring into this
world from another dimension.
“I’m Nat Turner. And
who are you, miss?”
“Regina,” she said
without thinking, the old standby if anyone asked for her
identity. “Really, it’s after hours. Nobody but staff is
supposed to be here.”
Without saying a word,
he started to hum and walked right through the elevator doors.
When she returned to the women’s bathroom, Esperanza found a
slip of paper on the floor, torn from her own notepad:
Julian: that whole nat
turner thing? got some info. for you
Julian: unconscious dump
Julian: espera, when’s the
last time you read the manual?
>I *know* the manual.
Julian: OMA read some book
called Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War, starring
(well, featuring) nat turner. looks like he slipped in from
memory. i’m sending you some stuff on him
>That’s nice to know. But
he’s running around the library.
Julian: is he running around
the library with his merry bandits hacking up all the white
Julian: there arn’t any
jerusalems located in your area. i don’t think you have
anything to worry about.
>You don’t have to be here
Julian: he attack you?
>No, but he’s a ghost, a
*crazy* ghost. What about that note?
Julian: note didn’t come
from anybody we know of, so theres nobody else there in the
library in the early morning besides u and him. as long as he
doesn’t have a dream or vision or something, you should be
fine. why don’t you chat him up so you keep his supernatural
“i’m hearing from God!” channel blocked?
>does this story appear in
Turner’d been prowling
around looking for Will and Hark the last two nights. No news
from D&A, so Esperanza was stuck with the ghost. She couldn’t
leave the library until they returned, and late at night, she
stood around the elevators watching Nat Turner sweep the broken
chains across the floor. She didn’t want him to come looking
for her and finding her office, discovering he could enter
Esperanza wondered why
he didn’t try to kill her. Maybe it was because she wasn’t
white. Maybe he had a vision that said she was okay, or wasn’t
worth the bother. Or maybe it was because he was waiting for
Will and Hark.
One thing was for sure:
if Nat Turner thought God told him, he wouldn’t hesitate to hack
Esperanza to bits. Julian sent her a file of Turner’s
confessions, a gesture more cruel than helpful, it seemed now.
“We started from there for Mrs. Reese's, maintaining the most
perfect silence on our march, where finding the door unlocked,
we entered, and murdered Mrs. Reese in her bed, while sleeping;
her son awoke, but it was only to sleep the sleep of death, he
had only time to say who is that, and he was no more,” he’d
said. With the instructions from one dream, one vision,
Esperanza might not wake up from her cot.
>>I’ve been asked to take
people out too, for different reasons of course.
Well, you might add Derek to
that list. He asked some dumb questions the other day, and I
had to straighten him out. Who knows if it worked.
I’m sure Julian told you about
Nat Turner. Does he appear in S#5’s Archives? He really
shouldn’t be here. I know he was just on OMA’s mind or
something but he’s not a character, is he? Why did he show up
here and not some other story? Did OMA put him here on
purpose? He’s not even the real ghost of Nat Turner. He’s just
the imagined ghost of Nat Turner how OMA sees him. And what
about that note I found? Alan, could you please see if any
character information on Nat Turner is in the Archives? I
really want to know what he’s doing here. I can’t leave and I
think he might kill me.
It’s ok. It really is. That
ghost isn’t going to kill you. You’d probably already be dead
if he were. No, there’s nothing on him in the Archives for
S#5. And there is no information on him in any other story. So
he’s really not a character. Technically. Maybe OMA’s just
dreaming him. I really can’t tell you much about the note, but
if it came from anywhere, it came from Turner. Who else could
it be? Is it so bad if it really was from OMA? As for what it
said--maybe it’s about Turner’s fate. He did end up dead didn’t
he? Hang in there. BouBreaker #1 can’t hide forever, and we’ve
got one of her accomplices. D+A will probably be getting back
to you soon.
If he were not a part of
the story, if he were not a character of OMA’s making, then Nat
Turner had no business being here. The higher ups were no
help. Neither were Alan and Julian. Esperanza would have to
get rid of the ghost herself. Wide awake in her cot, she waited
for his chains to shuffle across the tiles and his humming to
invade the entire floor. The moaning song started around 3:17
AM, his usual arrival. He was freaky, but he was reliable.
“A good night to you,
Miss Regina.” He sat on a table next to the computer lab
swinging his legs. The chains clacked against the floor.
“A good night to you
too, Mr. Turner.”
“Have you seen Will and
Esperanza shook her
head, approaching him. “No. No Will and Hark. Will and Hark
aren’t coming. It’s the same every night, Mr. Turner.”
“Will and Hark will be
“No. It’s over.”
The filmy eyes darted
back and forth, searched her. “This is the Lord’s work. They
wouldn’t dare abandon it.”
“Nat, it already
happened. Look at your feet. Don’t you feel that chain around
your neck? When you set out to kill those white people, were
you in chains? You’ve already done the killing. They
already captured you and executed you.”
“No!” He slid from the
table, and his boots landed on the floor with a stomp. “We’re
setting out tonight! We will rise up and take their
freedom! You will not deter me from the will of God!”
Esperanza started to
retreat, her left shoulder turning towards the bathroom. But
she righted herself and squared her shoulders to face him.
“Nat,” she said, almost whispering, “it never happened like you
wanted. There was no great uprising. They killed over a
hundred innocent slaves for what you did.”
The ghost stood over
her, glowered down at her. Flimsy white vapor rose from his
body, drifted up from his nose and mouth as he snarled.
Esperanza’s eyes watered.
“This thing must be
done, do you understand?” he said. “They must die, every last
one of them, until my people are free. I do not care how long I
have to wait. If it is a thousand nights, I will be patient. I
will not back down from this holy work, no matter how gruesome
or terrible a thing it seems.”
Electricity sparked in
the film on his eyes. He pursed his lips together so hard his
jowls shook. Esperanza trembled under his conviction. The
ghost hardly noticed. He evaporated through the walls of the
When she returned to the
office, she fell on the cot and fell asleep immediately. She
dreamed of the library, sitting at a desk near a window
overlooking the street. Shapes began to appear on the glass.
Figures of unidentified people, walking from one end of the
window to the other. Esperanza didn’t try to identify them.
They were the colorful amorphous shapes that tricked the eyes
when they fixated on one spot for too long.
But then the window
glowed. The glass entrapped within it a soft green
luminescence. This next figure who came marching, Esperanza
recognized him. His steps were strong, deliberate, dragging
broken chains behind them. Nat Turner played a pipe as he
marched, although Esperanza couldn’t hear the music. Julian
followed, and Alan came behind her a few paces back. Bringing
up the rear, Esperanza followed her brother. All three of them
marched in time with Turner.
Esperanza woke up to
find her head lying on her desk in the office behind the
“We must do the work.”
Nat Turner, crouched down next to her chair, vapor rising into
the stale air of the room. The pupils obscured by the film of
his eyes stared out at her from another dimension.
Esperanza got up to run,
but she tripped over her feet when the shackles around her
wrists pulled her back to the desk.
She woke up, the cot
underneath her completely soaked through.
After a quick shower in
the janitor’s closet, Esperanza started an e-mail for Alan. She
didn’t even bother to dry thoroughly. The pads of her
fingertips left the keys sticky. It was hard though, writing
that letter. She hoped the words would dance across the screen
automatically because she couldn’t find the right ones to fit.
I know you told me not to
worry, but I can’t after all that happened lats night. It’s not
that I’m worried for my life, but I still want to know why
Turner was ever here. It might be that BouBreaker #1 is like
him. We think she’s only trying to sell books because she’s an
aspiring writer. What if she wants people to come to the
truth? Then Nat Turner is symbolic of whatever freedo|
She watched the cursor
blink. She had so many theories about Nat Turner’s appearance.
They were tossing around in her head, sometimes making sense and
sometimes not. Could she word it properly so her brother would
understand? Why did she need him to know why she was so
bothered after he told her everything would be fine?
She erased that last
part and added:
What if the books she writes is
her way of spreading the truth about our condition, and they’re
her call to insurrection? She’s not much different than Nat
Turner then, and Nat Turner is a representation to some kind of
call to freedom--however she defines that freedom.
Esperanza frowned at the
screen. This was not really about BouBreaker #1, as easy a
target as she was. Nat Turner did not come to BouBreaker #1.
He had never come to her. He spoke night after night with
Esperanza, and to her alone.
I had a dream with Nat Turner’s
ghost in it. |
Did she really want Alan
to read about all of this?
I had a dream with Nat Turner’s
ghost in it. Something doesn’t make sense, Alan. If Nat Turner
isn’t supposed to be a character and he shouldn’t exist here,
how could he appear in my dreams too? Did OMA put him there?
But we were told OMA really isn’t that involved with us. He
told me I needed to get the work done in the dream. But I’m not
like Nat Turner. I don’t have the passion.|
Did Esperanza want to
have to read this herself?
I no longer fear that Nat
Turner’s ghost might kill me. I was never his target because he
is waiting for something that can never happen. I have thought
a lot about why he is here since no character information for
him appears in any of the story world Archives, nor has he ever
interacted with any characters in these worlds besides me.
Well, last night he appeared in my dream. If he is not supposed
to be here and he’s only a figment of a memory of something OMA
read, then he should not be in my dreams.
But he was in my dreams, and he
told me I must do the work. Nat Turner was fanatical because he
believed in his cause, as violent and misguided as it was. I’m
not passionate about what we’re doing. Yes, I know it’s
important. I know what will happen if characters aren’t kept in
line, and it’s important to avoid chaos at all costs. I know
you think the job’s hard sometimes, but you seem to find it more
fulfilling than I do. And Julian absolutely loves messing with
these people because she’s…well…Julian. If I’m honest though, I
am involved with all of this because I have to be.
Perhaps I am afraid that after
I have bloodied my hands until my skin is dyed red, I will
resign myself to hide in a cave just like Nat Turner. And just
like him, when the authorities come to send me off to my
punishment, I won’t even bother to fight.
will be good, as always.
When she was satisfied
that this was exactly what she wanted to say, Esperanza deleted
And on the 6th
day, they returned.
“Yo! Whassup, whassup!”
Esperanza gave them a
smile full of teeth, and she didn’t care if they misinterpreted
it. “So, I take it you have something good for me?”
“We were right for the
job,” Derek said without smiling. He folded his arms.
“Sit down. I need to
get this ready.” She fidgeted with a digital recorder. “You,
of course, know you aren’t to repeat anything about the
technology you’ve seen here.”
“Of course,” they said.
“Can we ask you
something?” Aaron said. “Me and Derek been debatin’. What are
She was confused for a
moment, but then realized it was that kind of question.
She didn’t have to bother with it so much where she was from.
“Really?” They both
“That makes sense. You
look kinda Mexican, but then you got them green eyes,” Aaron
“May I ask you
something, before we begin?”
“You gonna interrogate
us?” Derek said.
“No, no. Nothing like
that....Most characters, when they find out the nature of their
true condition, they’re disoriented and it takes them a while to
feel normal again, if they ever do. You--it’s like nothing ever
Aaron grinned and
pretended he was brushing dust off his shoulders. “It’s no big
deal, is it? We found out somethin’ ‘bout the way the world
works. We’re still exactly the same.”
She smiled to herself.
“You were the right men for the job.... Shall we begin?”
>Hey, J, I think we found
BouBreaker #3. My guess is he’s waiting for BB #1 to come
home. He’s been hanging around the last couple of days
according to D+A
>Here’s the transcript:|
How close was she to cementing the erasure of another
character? To waiting out the rest of her days in quiet
resignation in that cave?
Julian: where’s it at,
She sighed, then copied
>A: Dude has been hanging
out with Malik the last couple of days. Just showed up outta
E: What does he look like?
Is he black or white? Latino?
D: Uh, dude’s black. We
don’t hang out with white cats much--they too corny. Real dark
cat, real tall.
E: Have you gotten a fix on
D: Oh, he’s real smart, and
a smartass....He’s probably gay, though. He brags about livin’
with this girl in his hotel room, but he ain’t [having sex with
this “[having sex with her]” crap?
>I will not repeat
how he said it. I’m sure you’ve already used your imagination
for that one.
Julian: i have to
give u your props, espera. excellent work. you’re getting good
Esperanza was half
asleep, nodding off at the desk. It had been a few hours since
Derek and Aaron left. A familiar knock snapped her to attention
from the door leading to the hidden staircase. Her brain shook
in her head. She pinched her nose to massage the buzzing out.
Alan walked in swirling
a key chain around his index finger.
“Hey! What are you
doing here?” She smiled and wrapped one arm around his
shoulders, avoiding getting too excited in case her brother also
turned out to be an apparition who had no business being there.
He shrugged. “Time to
“We don’t have
BouBreaker #1 yet. What about the guy
“We have him in
“So, why are we
“Well, we’re not
leaving. Not really, really. We’re going to keep #5 under
surveillance, but we figure she knows we’re waiting for her.
She hasn’t been home in a while, so if she thinks we’ve left...”
Esperanza shut down her
laptop and locked her briefcase. “Do you think she knows OMA?
Ya know, maybe she’s so hard to find because she knows OMA, and
that’s how she stays ahead of us. Or, maybe she is OMA,
and she’s really behind all of this--the higher ups, us, all of
Alan swirled the keys
around on the chain. He puffed out his cheeks and slowly let
out the air. “Nena, do you really want to be asking that?”
About the Author:
If Toiya Kristen Finley were in an alternate reality, she'd live
in Nashville, Tennessee, a few blocks away from the Vanderhouten
Library, and would probably make a point to keep a lookout for
clueless ghosts. But she doesn't, so she can't.
As for the reality she is
situated in, Toiya Kristen Finley lives in Nashville, Tennessee
near Some Other Library instead. She is unaware of its
particular haunts. Her work has been published in
Text: UR--The New Book of Masks,
The Nine Muses, and
Darker Matter. Stories
are set to appear in
GrendelSong, H. P.
Lovecraft's Magazine of Horror,
New Writings in the Fantastic,
A Field Guide to Surreal Botany,
and Farrago's Wainscot. She
is the founding and former managing/fiction editor of
Designed and created by Tony Geer.
All works copyrighted by their respective authors and artists. All other content copyright 2003-2007 Lone Star Stories.
"Another Lonely Day" image copyright Jamie Kelly.