<Merry-Tree Publishing House is proud to present this excerpt of The Long Winter: a Memoir, the long awaited autobiography of long time WA resident and mother of superhuman medicine, Eliza Winter, available this Christmas in print, digital, and neural-pollen formats.>
It is raining in the Heap. It pours down the solar-paneled roofs of the old Byzantine arcologies, off the shingles of the artfully restored pre-Cacophony homes that dot the hills overlooking the Swan River, and finally down into my streets. It runs through the gutters, slick with the faintest chemical rainbows. The city’s pollution, made beautiful.
I might have found it perverse, if I weren’t busy trying to shield my fish n’ chips order from the downpour. Mostly, I wish I’d brought an umbrella. At least the sun is still shining between the clouds.
I make my way through the markets. Old men with animated tattoos and neon hair smile and greet me by name, just as their great-grandfathers had. Fruit-vendors hawk their organically grown produce a little louder when I walk past.
A clutch of children—mechas, if the haze surrounding them is any hint—are dancing in the rain, catching it on their tongues and eating sunshine through their skin. I hope it’s filling. A busker in a battered top-hat juggles balls of fire behind an open guitar case with hardly any coins. I’m not surprised, the man’s obviously just a pyrokinetic. There is no art to that. Still, I flick a few dollars in.1
I turn off the street and into a grove of trees, heavy with fruit despite the winter air. Most would not recognize them, if they even bothered looking closely. As I walk along the path that cuts and weaves through them, I brush my hands against their trunks, looking for signs of rot, or parasites, or more hopefully, vaccine production.
Hiding behind the trees is what looks like a time-lost pagoda, complete with an artichoke-leaf roof to ward off evil spirits—or disease, I suppose. Blame the tastes of the architect. On the second story, a wide glassless window overlooks my tiny medicinal forest2. The stained glass front doors look painfully out of place, but they were a gift from my nephew: the only part of his house to survive the battle of Cacophony.
Above them hang the words:
Hugo Venter Memorial Clinic
The waiting room is empty bar Fisher (my receptionist) and Mrs. Suzuhara. Mrs. Suzuhara is about seventy if I remember right, with skin like old paper and long white braids that cover her leather jacket like a poncho.
She looks up at me from her knitting3. “Ah, Eliza!”
I hang my old travelling cloak on the coat rack. “Mrs. Suzuhara.” I frown. “Is your sciatica still flaring up? I thought I—”
The lady throws a hand up. “So old fashioned! I’ve told you, El, it’s Katie. And I’m fine.” She pulls a wine basket out from under her seat. “Just wanted to drop this off. Some of us clinic ladies chipped in for it. It’s your birthday this week, innit?”
Mrs. Suzuhara smiles slyly. “How old?”
I sigh. “Two hundred.”
Mrs. Suzuhara walks past me, patting my shoulder. “Looking good, honey.”
I watch her got out the door. I’ve been treating her since she was a twelve year old social media influencer with scars on her wrists4.
I send Fisher home for the evening5. One member of his family or another has been working here for over forty years. It feels borderline feudal, but they are a constant. Finally, I head up to my apartment, feed the pumpkin-cat, and settle in with my soggy dinner.
“Open file memoir_1 for dictation.”
The computer console in the corner whirs to life6. No more procrastinating. It’ll already be long enough as it is.
“When you get to be my age, you must learn to live with your mistakes…”
“Two funerals in the same month,” Therese Fletcher muttered. “What’s happening to us?”
Żywie didn’t answer her fellow teacher. She was too busy watching Maelstrom at the other end of the crowd. Melusine had her arms around him, but if anything she looked more grieved than her son. Maelstrom… Maelstrom just looked confused.
He had only asked one question the day of the suicide:
“Where are we gonna bury Dad?
Mary Gillespie had fielded that one. Neither Lawrence nor Żywie could bring themselves to answer7.
Mary knelt so she was at Maelstrom’s eye-level. “A long time ago, honey, your father he—” She put her hand to her mouth, swallowing tears. “—He told us he didn’t want to be buried. Said he was worried about his… fluids affecting the soil. He was drunk, but it was a good point, and he didn’t have a will or anything written up, so we’re having him cremated. We’ll spread the ashes over the river.”
Maelstrom’s only response was to nod. “He’d like that. I’d like that.” He looked to his mother. “Then he can stay with us.”
Melusine didn’t quite make eye contact with him. “Yeah, he can.”
Maelstrom left to try and comfort Phantasmagoria and Myriad. They were both crying more than him.
“I will say this,” Lawrence said when the boy was out of earshot. “He’s handing this very maturely.” The old man sounded almost impressed.
Żywie didn’t know what to think. Part of her wanted to shake Maelstrom by the shoulders and scream that his father was dead. Her Maelstrom—the boy she delivered, taught to read, and comforted when neither of his parents could—he wouldn’t have been so calm and collected.
But then, Żywie’s Maelstrom—Lawrence’s Maelstrom—was hardly ever happy. He took after his father that way. And what kind of woman would wish this emptying, dizzying grief on a little boy?
Mary asked, “Should we tell him what we found in Basil’s room?”
Aside from the noose, the only thing out of place in Basil’s room was a pile of half-melted stationary. On his desk was one abandoned letter:
A ruined biro lay next to it.
There was a new cenotaph next to Adam’s now: a chess knight carved from solid jade that came up to Lawrence’s waist. Żywie was just glad it wasn’t a serpent.
How many of those will line the river? She found herself wondering. And that name gilted in silver on the horse’s brow: Basilisk. It was like putting “eczema” on a man’s headstone.
Lawrence was giving his eulogy. “In many ways, Basilisk was the glue that held our community together. He was a teacher, an administrator, and our handyman. An impressive feat, given the sharp edge of his gift.”
Żywie was having a hard time remembering what the supposed point of Basil’s “gift” was. To her, it seemed more like a knife with no handle.
“But above all else, he was one of us. Our friend. And to the first child born to us, he was a father.”
Mostly without realizing it, gazes flickered like candle flames in the wind towards Maelstrom. To Żywie’s surprise, he did not shrink from the attention.
She tried to count all the times she’d heard David call Hugo “Dad.” Then she tried to remember the times Lawrence hadn’t chastised him for it.
“We’ll likely never know why Basilisk took his own life.”
Żywie had to flood her body with endorphins not to scream. It should’ve been obvious to anyone with eyes to see, or even just a heart that loved.
Lawrence’s words began to stumble. “I—I always knew intellectually that you children would have to deal with death someday. It comes for all of us. I just thought I would go first. That’s the the natural order of things. An old man shouldn’t outlive young, strong people.”
The old man started to weep. Żywie had no doubt his tears were genuine, just as they had been for Adam.
Were they being punished? They dispose of a boy out of inconvenience, and the fates take someone they loved?
Melusine went to gently pull Lawrence aside. “Shhh, it’s alright,” she whispered to her teacher. “We can let other people talk now.”
Unlike at Adam’s memorial, there was plenty of people who wanted to say something for the deceased. Tales of soothed homesickness and movie nights and maths made almost miraculously bearable. A few tacit apologies for some off-colour jokes. Even Tiresias got up to speak8:
“I’ve seen inside a lot of people’s heads over the years. Basil wasn’t the first who topped himself. A lot of religions, Catholics, Protestants, probably more, they say God punishes people who kill themselves. Calls them sinners, or weak. Well, that’s because dead people can’t tithe. I’ll tell you this, Basil never did anything to try and make another fella’s life worse. That’s more than I can say for most. If God feels like screwing around with Hugo because he wanted to stop hurting—and he was hurting for a long time—then he should go hang.”
Melusine didn’t speak. Żywie couldn’t bring herself to be angry right then. That could wait.
Myriad picked up from the psychic. “I was Basil’s assistant pretty much all the time I knew him, but he never bossed me around or didn’t let me play less than the other kids… he was just nice.”
By some unspoken agreement, David went last. Lawrence almost had to push him out front.
The boy looked around at his teachers and schoolmates. “I’m not sure what you want me to say. I’m sad. Of course I am. But… I’m glad my dad doesn’t have to be sad anymore.”
The Institute dispersed after that. There was a lot more that could’ve been said, but if it had the funeral would’ve gone on forever. Most funerals worth having are like that.
Żywie watched Tiresias slouch his way towards what she assumed was some secret boozy hideaway9. She started after him. Tiresias seemed to notice, his stride becoming herky-jerky and hurried.
Żywie was soon upon him, grabbing the thin man by the shoulders and spinning him around to face her. His face went pale.
“What the hell, Z?”
Tiresias blinked. “…Wait, you mean about Hugo?” He seemed relieved by something. “Yes, I did. Obviously.”
“You could have warned us!” Żywie roared. “Hugo’s dead and you could’ve stopped it!”
“You’re talking like he was murdered, or that an anvil fell on his head or something. But Hugo did it himself, Eliza. He wanted to go.” The esper shrugged. “Who was I to stop him?”
Żywie dug her fingernails into his arms, making him wince.
“He clearly wasn’t in his right mind!” She let go of Tiresias, going limp. “We could have helped him.”
Tiresias’ nose wrinkled. “Well, I’m sure you could have.”
“What are you saying?”
“Don’t be dense, Eliza. We all know you could’ve fixed Hugo.”
She shrunk back from him. “I told him I couldn’t! The structural changes!”
Alberto laughed joylessly. “You give pumpkins fucking teeth! You’re telling me you couldn’t have made Hugo sweat saltwater? Pull the other one.”
“Why wouldn’t I have helped him if I could?”
Alberto hissed, “Lawrence. What would he have thought about you removing his student’s ‘gift’? I mean, it made Hugo suffer all the time, but it made him a new human.”
He turned away from Żywie, continuing towards his wine stash. “I meant every word I said about Hugo, Eliza. Hell, I respect him. He and Chen had more guts than any of us.” He glanced back at the healer. “They left. They don’t have to rot here until Tim realises how much much of a pervert the bossman is and packs us off to Victoria Land to hang out with the penguins.”
Eliza’s heart skipped a beat, as if someone had wrapped their hand around it. “Have you been talking to someone?”
Another hard laugh. “Why the fear? You don’t think we’re doing something wrong, do you?”
“…You knew, didn’t you?” Eliza asked quietly. “About Adam. What would happen if he came here.”
Alberto stopped again. “What you’d do to him, you mean?”
Eliza wasn’t even surprised he knew. She’d always suspected Lawrence’s mind was less secure than he claimed. “Why? Why did you tell us about him?”
“To be honest, boredom. And having a power-blocker walking around didn’t make me any more comfortable than it did Bertie.” He started walking again. “And you needed a reminder of what you’re capable of. You’ve been getting a bit high and mighty lately. Although, I’m pretty sure Adam got off easier than some of those Polish kids, Angel of Danzig.”
Tiresias left Eliza standing there, alone but for unwelcome memories. She tried to remember when that nickname hadn’t been so bitter.
I was born in a German city on a Polish shore. I think that most of all is what made monsters of us in the end. Today it is called Gdańsk10, but when I was a child, it was the free city of Danzig—not quite a part of Poland, not quite a nation itself—under the protection of the League of Nations, for all the good that did anyone11. A bit like Perth today, really.
The city rested by the Baltic Sea. The clearest memory I have of my mother is her opening the kitchen window every morning to let in the salt-breeze. Apart from that, it was also the source of all our prosperity. Once, we were Poland’s greatest sea-port, all the ocean’s wealth and trade flowing through us into the country.
If any family in Danzig depended on the sea, it was the Winters. My father was a shipwright. You wouldn’t guess it from looking at him. Daniel Winter looked like a caricature of a psychiatrist, or maybe Lawrence standing sideways. He was thin, with a neatly trimmed philosopher’s beard and large, owlish spectacles, that in my memory always seemed to be fogging over. And yet, every night he came home reeking of sweat and sawdust, with wood chips and flecks of steel under his fingernails. It was like all his strength lived in his bones.
My father loved his work. Wedding wood and steel, he called it. Amouring ships against the scratching fingers of the sea.
“It’s not just building the thing that’s the victory,” he told me once. “It’s knowing how long it will last after you let it go.”
I like to think of medicine that way.
I’m not sure when I realised how unusual the degree of control I exercised over my body was. I can’t even remember how I discovered I could extend that control. I would guess flies or cockroaches, or maybe plants. I’ve always had an affinity for those. Françoise and the other girls at the Institute used to wear my Tudor roses in their hair12.
I won’t deny how much fun I had with with my power as a little girl. I used to terrify my brothers and sisters by slowing down my breathing and heartbeat till they thought I was dead.
It was surprisingly relaxing. Like sitting at the bottom of a cool, deep pool in the dead of night, with nothing but the sound of blood flowing in my ears to disturb me. It was the only time the dark did not frighten me. Maybe that was why I enjoyed it so much. Jasper or Isobel would be shouting at my faces or trying to slam my lungs back into working order, and it would be like someone dropping in pebbles far above.
Sometimes, though, I found myself wondering, would I be able to make it back to the surface? Would I forget which way was up? Would the water weigh me down and—
…Those were the times I hugged my siblings and meant it.
My other hat-trick was playing sick. Whenever the prospect of church or school was too much, I would stoke a fever inside myself, retch up my breakfast, maybe raise some hives if I was feeling dramatic, and spend the rest of the day reading or listening to the English pop-stations that strayed over the sea.
But that was the thing, I assumed everyone could do that. Maybe not as well as I could, but to some extent at least. I thought that illness was, essentially, a polite way of excusing yourself from the world for a little while. I think that was how I contextualized the scorn people around me heaped on the chronically infirm: they really just were work-shy. It would explain why Jesus sometimes seemed so impatient with the lepers and cripples who came to him13.
What shattered that illusion was when my youngest sister came down with meningitis.
I don’t suppose many of you reading will be terribly familiar with meningitis. Most of your grandparents would have been genetically inoculated against the germs responsible, and for those who aren’t, there’s the swarms of my changed mosquitoes and horseflies and everything else that bites.
I must have seemed like the most callous child alive. Stomping around, wondering why my parents and the doctors they dragged into our apartment were fussing over Ella’s stupid cough. Why they all insisted on whispering. The air was tangling itself in knots and I didn’t know why.
“Papa,” I asked. “When will Ella get better?”
Oh, God, I sounded so impatient.
I remember my father being silent for a very long time. “God will look after Ella, Eliza.”
Good answer, I suppose.
I marched down the stairs, pushed and shoved past my brothers and sisters, and barged into the room they left my sister to die in.
My mother was leaning over my sister’s bedside. She had clearly been holding back tears, and the sight of me broke the damn. “Eliza, you can’t—”
“Ella won’t be contagious,” the doctor told her. “Not by now.”
“But she shouldn’t see this.”
I ignored both of them, striding over to my sister’s side.
Her breath was shallow. Hollow sounding. Sweat glistened off skin marred by an almost royal purple rash. Her fingertips were turning black, and the smell of rot lingered around her.
I placed my hand on her brow. A lot of people tell me how my power feels to them. Worms or wires; being filled with hot or cold water. They rarely ask how it feels for me.
It was like Ella’s body was part of my own. I had two hearts, eight limbs, and four eyes. I could hear my own breathing, feel my own hand on her forehead. If Ella’s eyes had been open, I would have seen my own face.
I got to work. I made her sweat the filth from her blood, ordered the cells in her fingers to begin regenerating. I bullied the virus killing Ella into strengthening and fortifying her, to become a companion instead of a parasite.
My mother tried pulling me off Ella. She stopped when she saw the rash fade from her face, and the pink slowly return to her fingers.
“It’s a miracle.”
Yes, I suppose it was.
After that, everything changed. My mother and father started spreading the word of their daughter’s healing hands. And people came. I mended the crippled and the asthmatics, the blind and the deaf. I banished consumption, vanquished polio, and lice-proofed a whole generation of Danzigers.
My parents charged, of course. It might have seemed exploitive, and maybe it was, but I loved the work. The people I healed were like pages in the greatest medical textbook ever written. They taught me the language of cells, of growth and heredity. They also taught me how rough a draft the human body was. In time, I would correct this.
Personal satisfaction aside, we also needed the money. The port was the heart of Danzig. Poland allowed us to exist entirely because of it. And yet, almost as soon as the free city came into existence, they started building a whole new port. By the time I was born, Gydnia was doing more sea-trade than us, but Poland still held tight to the rights they claimed from us.
My father would rant about it often. “Polack swine! Bloodsuckers!”
I’m sorry to admit that most of the people I treated in Danzig blur together for me. I remember them as torn spines, wet lungs, or novel genes. It’s a common vice among the medical profession. But there is one I remember very clearly.
It was noon when we they knocked on our door. By then my parents had started teaching me at home to fit more healing in14. My papa opened it to find the Wallachs standing in the hallway. Frau Wallach held a wan looking toddler in her arms.
“Your daughter, the healer. Can she help our Abhy?”
Herr Wallach was a clockmaker. I’d seen him and his wife around since I could remember. But besides glimpses on the street and the odd mindless greeting, they were strangers to my family. Mostly because they were screamingly Jewish.
Jews weren’t the most popular folk in Danzig. It was 1938: I’m not sure where they would’ve been back then. There was all the usual Christ-killing, usuraring, xenophobic nonsense. But on top of that, we were German. There were always people muttering about who exactly lost us the Great War…
Frau Wallach did not wait for my father to answer. “The doctors all say it’s Tay-Sachs.” The woman bit her lip, trying not to weep. “That they can’t do anything for her.”
Papa nodded slowly. “I see,” he said. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to discuss this with my wife.”
He and Mother retreated to the kitchen. Neither invited the Wallachs in.
I could hear them debating whether or not to let me heal the girl. I don’t doubt the Wallachs heard them, too. It is an odd trait of bigots to assume the people they hate are deaf. I like to think it made me uncomfortable even then, but that might just be my memory being charitable.
I do know that I lay sprawled on our couch, kicking my feet in the air as I examined the family with probably embarrassing intensity. I hate to imagine what it was like for that poor couple, being peered at by some ignorant gentile child while her parents decided their daughter’s fate.
It was Frau Wallach who broke the silence. “So you’re the Angel of Danzig?”
I don’t remember if that nickname came about on its own or from amateur marketing. “Uh huh. I mean, I guess so.”
Abhy Wallach twitched and jerked in her mother’s arms. She did that a lot.
“Honestly, we didn’t know if you were real,” Herr Wallach said. He was trying to sound embarrassed. Better than letting the pain bleed into his voice. “But then we saw Herr Gerber. He had new fingers!”
“Fingers are easy.”
My parents emerged from their deliberations. “Our daughter will do her best for you,” my mother said. “…Do you have money?”
Herr Wallach nodded sharply. “Yes, of course.”
My father smiled. “Of course, why did I even ask?”
It would be years before I understood the look that passed over the Wallachs’ faces.
They laid Abhy out on the sofa. She was a sweet looking little thing. Very blonde curls. I hope they were helpful to her.
Taking her hand in mine, I made her a part of myself. Not only did I have to mend months and years of neural damage, I had to instruct every cell in the poor girl’s body to change without making them give up and die. Today, it would’ve taken me fifteen minutes, and most of that would’ve been waiting for the kettle to boil. Back then, it took me hours, not that I was aware of time in that state.
Eventually, I found myself sprawled on the floor, hungry and exhausted. Frau Wallach was pulling me into a hug.
“God bless you, God bless you!”
Abhy was sitting up, looking around and blinking like a child risen from a very long sleep.
My mother soon separated us. “That’s enough of that,” she said, a little too quickly.
As she fussed over me, holding water to my mouth and checking my eyes for whatever reason, I watched the Wallachs. They were clutching their daughter like they’d just pulled her from the ocean.
They gave us a grandfather clock. It was a lovely piece of work, dark wood and gilded hands. Sometimes I wonder what happened to that clock. Sometimes I wonder what happened to the Wallachs.
Żywie sat with Lawrence in his study, gripping a tumbler of scotch like she was trying to shatter it. Normally, she could metabolize alcohol faster than it could reach her brain, but tonight she wanted to be numb.
Lawrence often invited the healer for after-dinner drinks, far more often than Melusine, or even Basilisk15.
When she’d been much younger, it had made her feel very important.
Lawrence had already drained his glass, and the one before that. “I think we ought to consider the November birthday party.”
Żywie sighed. One custom the New Human Institute borrowed from other Australian care homes was celebrating all a month’s birthdays with one party. As some of the children always grumbled, Lawrence was rich enough to throw a party for every student, but the headmaster liked the communal feel of it. Plus, somehow they had managed to acquire seven students whose birthdays fell in June, and that was just excessive.
“Lawrence, after everything that’s happened, are you sure the children would even want a party?”
The old man raised his hand defensively. “I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous. Maybe even vulgar. But life must go on, Żywie. Our children are still living and growing. Basilisk wouldn’t want the children to deny themselves some joy on his count.” He closed his eyes. “Especially not Maelstrom.”
No, he wouldn’t.
Żywie nodded. “Maybe we do need this. Help the sun rise over this month.”
Lawrence went on. “I was considering barring Maelstrom from the party, given his recent behaviour, but with Basilisk’s passing…” The old man almost squirmed. “He’s been handling it so well.”
Żywie still wasn’t sure about that. When she looked at Maelstrom’s new eyes, she couldn’t tell if she saw acceptance, or repression hiding in the green. Still, she couldn’t argue the point tonight. “Yes, he has. I’m glad he can share the day with Myriad.”
“That reminds me. I was thinking. As important as maintaining normalcy for the children is, we also need to look to the future.” He took a deep breath. “Perhaps it’s time to talk to Melusine about having another child.”
Żywie suddenly found herself picturing a lilac triangle very hard. She sipped hard from her glass. “So soon after Basil?”
Lawrence shook his head. “Not immediately, of course. But soon. If Basilisk’s passing can teach us one thing—”
Teach? Teach us what? He killed himself!
“…It’s that we must seize our opportunities while we have them.”
Żywie tried to work out how to respond to that. She settled on a question. “Who would be the father?”
“I haven’t quite decided. It might be high time for us to see what she and Tiresias could produce.”
That image was bad enough, but Lawrence kept going:
“Of course, there’s also Linus. Or even Gwydion.”
“But—they’re so young.”
Lawrence tutted. “The age-gap between Linus and Melusine is less than ten years. And we’ve discussed this, Żywie. Those taboos don’t serve any purpose for your kind.” The man’s expression became solemn again. “I was also thinking about Panoply.”
Żywie felt something inside of her teeter, like a glass on the edge of the table. “Yes?”
“Could you, if you tried, remember that poor boy’s genetic code?”
Żywie nodded. She could have tapped Adam Sinclair’s genes out on Lawrence’s desk.
“Could you recreate it?”
“Well, perhaps then you could synthesize his… well, his seed.”
“…What would we do with it?”
“What better memorial to the boy than allowing him to contribute to the next generation? I’m sure Myriad would make an excellent mother for his child someday. I think we need to become more ambitious with our stirrupculture.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, we could be more creative with our couplings. And perhaps we’re too cautious? Fourteen, fifteen, yes, that’s a good baseline, but there are Amazon tribes where young women give birth at twelve without issue. I feel it’s important we think about how much our standards are still being influenced by cultural conditioning, you understand?”
The healer looked down into her whiskey glass, her reflection gazing up from the gold pool at the bottom. Żywie. Eliza.
“I think I do, Lawrence.” She got up from her chair. “I think I’ll head to bed now. Will you be alright here?”
Lawrence nodded. “Of course, my dear.”
Before she was out of the room, her teacher said one last thing:
“You’ve been very brave this last month. I don’t think I would have made it without you.”
She rested her hand on the doorframe. “Thank you, Lawrence.”
As soon as Eliza reached her bedroom, she locked the door behind her, dropped the needle on one of her old Billie Holiday records, buried her face in her pillow, and wept.
Bertrand Russell once said that hate was always foolish, and love was always wise. A beautiful sentiment, but one experience has not born out for me. Hate can only destroy, but unwise love, that can do far worse.
It can change you.
That was the night I realised what Lawrence’s love had done to us. Or maybe when I could finally admit it to myself. We weren’t his students anymore. I’m not even sure we were people. We were mules for DNA. Vessels for the power.
That was the night I realized I had to leave.
1. Poor boy. He might’ve attracted crowds even just sixty years ago.↩
2. Or at least it was glassless until I had the repulsion field installed. Meredith is a dear, but back then he designed with exclusively the impervious in mind. And people who didn’t need to sweep.↩
3. Old women were big into knitting when I was a girl. Funny how these things go in cycles. ↩
4. This was before social media became self-aware and the Aegis had to kill it. Good riddance. ↩
5. I technically have opening hours. Nobody has ever abided by them, nor will they ever. ↩
6. I’ve never trusted those ocular implant set-ups, sue me. ↩
7. May God have mercy on us both. ↩
8. Alberto was brought up by Italian fascists. I’ve come to view their lot as being much like Lawrence: absolute believers in the filthy baseness of the world, bar a chosen few. Alberto, though, made no such exception. Not even for himself, I think. ↩
9. I was right. ↩
10. You readers might know it as the site of St. Dominic’s Fair for almost a thousand years. I still attend now and again. Once I had a needleless tattoo stall. Led to some interesting birthmarks in coming generations, I imagine. ↩
11. The League of Nations was the predecessor to the United Nations, which in turn was collapsed during the Great Chaos. Geopolitics gets repetitive once you hit about a hundred. ↩
12. And David, once. ↩
13. Although, now that I think about it, I can see why how being asked to mend and heal every little thing could try the nerves… ↩
14. Alright, that was probably exploitive. ↩
15. For Alberto it would have just been a change of venue. ↩