N: I never knew what they were.
N: I was never sure they were there at all. Not even when they came after me. When I could feel them. I felt half crazy by then. I was half crazy. So later after that little encounter by the radio tower I was pretty confident in their reality, but then again I also don’t really know what real means anymore, so.
N: Even if they were real… Did it matter?
N: Then I left and I didn’t see them again.
N: Until now.
N: That has to mean something, right? It has to.
N: I feel like it means this is all getting more dangerous.
N: I feel like this could be a whole new problem.
N: I think I need to have a gun again.
N: Okay, so one great thing about being in a police station is there are guns.
N: I stopped carrying one a little while after I… left. I just didn’t need it. Or it didn’t seem like I did. And it’s actually… It’s too easy to kill yourself that way, it’s too convenient, and I was starting to think I was doing it more than was good for me, you know?
N: Self-care is important, after all. Gotta watch out for your mental health.
N: Anyway. I broke open the locker here and I got a handgun. I’m pretty sure I remember how to use it. Maybe that was weeks ago and maybe it was years but I feel like it’s probably not the kind of thing you forget.
N: Will it do anything? I have no fucking idea. I mean… (sigh) Probably not, because this doesn’t feel that simple and I have never been that lucky. But I feel better with it. I know that’s pathetic but I do.
N: Aside from that little security blanket, I need to figure out if I stay here and try to get it to work again, or move on and look for a better option. Maybe I need a different kind of radio. Maybe a radio isn’t what I need at all. I didn’t think to try the phones when the power was on, feeling kind of stupid about that now.
N: I need to be smarter about all this. I need to get better at thinking things through.
N: Thinking things through…that’s what I keep coming back to, isn’t it? That’s how I started this whole thing. Some crazy shit happened that I had no idea how to explain, and I was always the kind of person who thought about things, so my next step was to… think. And how I did that was talking. To myself. To no one.
N: Thing is… yeah, I’ve always been the kind of person who thinks. But that’s meant that I’m not the kind of person who does. I use thinking to avoid the doing part, because the doing part is fucking scary.
N: She was… she always did things. She was that kind of person.
N: Now I’m talking about her like she’s dead.
N: I mean… looking at that other world, for all I know she could be.
N: I feel like she’s not, though. Maybe I just don’t want her to be.
N: Maybe I want her to be alive mostly because I still want some kind of fucking explanation for all this.
N: But yeah. I’m the thinking type. Then I had to be the doing type. But somewhere along the way… I feel like I got locked into doing and I stopped thinking. I’ve been drifting around in the dark for God knows how long, no direction, no purpose except some kind of vague idea I dragged with me when I started, and now I’m thinking I lost touch with that a long time ago.
N: I need to know what I’m doing and why. I need to think.
N: So that means I need to decide whether or not I’m staying here.
N: I guess… You’d think about the pros and cons, right? So what’s the pro of staying here one more cycle? I know I have a radio, the last time it did turn on even if I couldn’t get it to work right, I got a super uncomfortable bed, and I guess as far as anything goes now I’m safe. Except for…
N: I still don’t know what that means.
N: Cons are… What I said. They’re here again. Maybe they can hurt me, maybe they can’t, but if I stay here and they come back, that’s a risk.
N: The other con is I don’t get any further than I did before, and I’ve wasted another reset.
N: Wasted. Like I have a finite number of them.
N: Which I’m… really starting to feel like might be true.
N: I can’t prove it. There’s no, like, evidence of that. But I feel like… I feel like the world is shrinking again. Turning into some kind of dark fishbowl, like it did before, only this time it’s about something a whole lot deeper.
N: I’m not safe here anymore. If I ever was. I don’t know why I feel like that, I don’t know how I know that, but I do.
N: The thing is, I’m pretty sure that if I’m not safe here, I’m not safe anywhere.
N: I decided to stay.
N: One more cycle. If I don’t get it working then, I’ll… I’ll do something else. In the meantime I’ve got food, I’ve got water, I’ve got a place to sleep, it could be a lot worse.
N: Funny, because before this all happened I’d look at what’s going on right now and I’d be like no, actually it can’t get a whole lot worse than this.
N: There’s something to be said for revising your standards.
N: So I have to wait for the next reset. That’s still a few hours away. In the meantime I’m trying to rest up, but I’m also thinking again. This time what’s on my mind is how this happened to begin with. Because how did it happen? What was it that happened? I still don’t understand that.
N: I mean, that’s what I’d want my wife to tell me. If I ever tracked her down.
N: If she’s alive.
N: But yeah, something happened, and I’ll probably never understand the science but I feel like I can almost sense the rough shape of it. Like I’m in a dark room and I’m feeling my way over something big and bulky and trying to get a sense of what it looks like through touch.
N: They were trying to do something with… reality. And it went bad. And on some level she knew there was a pretty decent chance it would.
N: And she told me nothing. Didn’t warn me. Didn’t try to help me plan for it, even obliquely. Doesn’t even seem like she seriously tried to get them to call whatever it was odd. She just… let it eat us alive.
N: And now it seems like maybe it’s a lot worse than I thought it was, if all those dead people are any indication.
N: I have all these plans, I have all these things I’m trying to work through, all these variables I’m trying to untangle, but at the end of it there’s just… what do I do if I ever see her again?
N: Do I scream at her? Go at her? Tell her I’ll never forgive her? Attack her, physically? Sometimes I want to. Sometimes I fantasize about that.
N: Grab onto her and never let her go? Tell her I don’t care about what happened, I’ll forget all of it, if only she won’t leave me again?
N: Some kind of fucked up combination of both of them?
N: Any of those would be a reasonable thing to do.
N: Never thought I could be so pissed off at someone I also missed this bad.
N: But I know that even if I find her, even if she’s alive… We can’t go back to the way things were. No matter what. Even if it turns out it’s not her fault and this was all some kind of massive hallucination or something and there’s a normal, familiar world for me to go back to… I can’t go back. Not at this point. I’m not that person anymore. I turned into someone else. I looked back at my life, the life I had before this, and I saw it all differently, and I can’t unsee what I saw. About who I was. Who she was. Who we were together.
N: This world isn’t the only thing that changed.
N: Hello? Anyone hear me? Hello?
N: I slept through the fucking reset. Or it woke me up. Goddammit. I said I had to start being smarter about shit. Hello?
N: …(sigh) If I don’t get this to work this time, I literally don’t know what I—
V: (heavy static) —lo? Please respond—you can hear me—(static clears slightly) If you can hear me, please respond. If you can respond. (Tired, humorless laugh) Christ, just once.
N: (frantic, clearly pushing buttons) Fuck. Hi. Hi, yes, I hear you! I’m responding! I’m—
V: (static is clearing, voice is disbelieving but hopeful) Hello? Oh my God. Say that again? Please say that again, please say anything again.
N: I can hear you. I can— (dissolves into speechlessness, crying a little) I can’t believe this. I can’t fucking believe this. I’m actually talking to someone. I’m talking to someone real.
N: It’s not just me.