Chapter

7

The boxing bell is going off like it’s having a fit. Dirk has to stick a finger in one ear to hear what Rose is saying over the cacophony of boos and buckets being lobbed toward center stage. He considers it all pretty fucking annoying, so he flips off the crowd and jumps the ropes. Always a good idea to abscond from the stadium before the customary show-end riot hits full swing.

The last standing robot scoops up Jake’s unconscious body and cradles him to its chest before blasting off through the roof.

On the other end of the phone, Rose lets him know what’s up.

ROSE: It’s not so much “what is up” as “what is down,” the answer to which is, proverbially: Me.

ROSE: I mean that both physically and philosophically by the way.

DIRK: You’re down philosophically?

ROSE: Yes.

DIRK: I’m not sure what that actually means.

ROSE: What doesn’t it mean, Dirk.

DIRK: Glad to see that my genetic predisposition for melodrama is still alive and well in my slime-progeny even after all these years.

ROSE: Please don’t interrupt. This is important, and I’ll need all the energy I can spare to sustain even a heavily monologic transmission of the relevant facts.

DIRK: I see. Forgive my brief, casual interjection into the conversation you initiated. Please continue.

ROSE: Thank you.

ROSE: Anyway, the matter at hand is my “condition,” with which you’re already familiar.

ROSE: I’ve struggled to devise the right way of telling you without causing undue alarm, which would unquestionably trigger the overbearing tendency of yours to “solve the problem” for me, which is not the kind of circumstance my constitution can withstand these days.

ROSE: I can barely lift a wrist to my forehead to telegraph my infirmity, of late. Your bullshit is precisely the thousand-pound feather that could knock me clean through my apartment’s plate glass window.

DIRK: This is troubling to hear, of course. But rest assured, I’m taking solace in the fact that your infirmity doesn’t seem to have spread to your vocal cords yet.

ROSE: See, Dirk? This is exactly the shit I don’t need from you on this day.

DIRK: Sorry.

ROSE: The bottom line is this.

ROSE: I am ascending, and it is terrible.

Rose adjusts her position on the couch with the body language of one about to dive into the latest gossip about a mutual friend. The mutual in this case: her tortured psyche.

ROSE: Years of refining my Seer of Light powers have cursed me with what is approaching near infinite prescience. Dwelling in this idyllic post-canon realm has worn down the barriers separating my primary consciousness from the memories and experiences of all my doomed alternate selves, which were forgotten and discarded over the due course of our journey.

ROSE: As I approach the realization of my Ultimate Self, I cannot stop the extant knowledge from seeping in. I am plagued by near constant visions from the less fortunate versions of myself, as well as a broadening view of the metatextual nature of our existence.

ROSE: Day by day I get closer to comprehending the full picture of the narrative.

ROSE: However, I am still trapped in this limited body. There is only so much strain that my very finite synapses can take.

ROSE: It drains all of my energy to keep my consciousness focused on relevant events, but even then I am losing my ability to discern what is and is not canonically relevant, let alone what is also true or essential.

ROSE: And all of this is making me incredibly fucking sick.

DIRK: Oh. Is that all?

ROSE: ...

DIRK: Well, in the spirit of full disclosure,

DIRK: Same.

Rose is silent on the line for a few moments. Dirk can hear how labored her breathing is, how thin it is. She snorts out a quick, humorless laugh.

ROSE: Really?

ROSE: That’s the hottest take you can manage?

DIRK: Of course not. They haven’t built the vessel yet that can withstand the temperatures of atmospheric entry into one of my hotter takes, let alone the hottest.

DIRK: It wasn’t a take. It was an empathetic admission toward my pitiable, similarly omniscience-stricken offspring.

DIRK: We are suffering from the same condition, Rose.

She allows several rare conversational beats to pass in silence between them, to process the admission.

ROSE: We are?

DIRK: Sure.

ROSE: It doesn’t sound to me like you’re suffering much at all.

DIRK: Well, I’m not.

DIRK: I guess I used the wrong phrase. You are suffering from it. I am adapting to it.

DIRK: I already have, really.

ROSE: When were you going to tell me this?

DIRK: When you were ready.

ROSE: So you have determined that I’m ready to receive this rather critical piece of information now, of all times?

ROSE: What distinguishes the present from the other moments you could have mentioned it?

ROSE: Were you waiting for the effects of my condition to become so unendurable that I finally felt the need to explain what was happening to me in full?

ROSE: Were you, in essence, waiting for a cry for help?

DIRK: Wow. Well, when you put it that way, it makes me sound like kind of a dick.

DIRK: But I guess it isn’t far from the truth, either.

ROSE: Unbelievable.

DIRK: Look, it’s not something you just spring on people that frivolously.

DIRK: “Hey folks, just so you know, the boundaries of my awareness are coming apart, and now I know almost everything, about everyone, everywhere.”

DIRK: “Also, the process should be tearing my body apart, but actually I’m handling it quite well. Thanks for the concern though.”

DIRK: “Anyway, just thought I’d keep y’all fuckin’ abreast. On my incomprehensible brain and all. Peace.”

ROSE: Fine. You’re a cagey guy. This isn’t breaking news.

ROSE: I’m not pissed at you, I’m just...

ROSE: So confused.

ROSE: Why aren’t you suffering the same effects as me?

DIRK: There will be time to explain all this.

DIRK: Despite whatever appearance of callousness I’ve maintained in withholding this information from you, I actually do have your best interests in mind. I don’t want to wear you out on this call.

DIRK: There’s so much more to say, but it can wait.

DIRK: For now, I’ll just mention that I’ve been alert to your problem for some time, and I’ve been devising a solution which should permanently remedy it without compromising the boon of your expanding consciousness.

ROSE: You have?

ROSE: What is it?

DIRK: Would love to tell you, but I’ve got some work to do. Why don’t you stop by my studio later so we can hash this shit out in person.

DIRK: Right now, you should get some rest.

ROSE: Actually, I’m feeling oddly invigorated suddenly. I think I’m good for more exposition, if you are.

DIRK: Can’t say I’m surprised. But no.

ROSE: Have I caught you at a bad time?

DIRK: Nah, but there is an election coming up, and my work as a political operative is going to be absolutely essential for the fate of humanity.

ROSE: I see. Wheels within wheels, I assume?

DIRK: There are always wheels. Wheels are everywhere.

DIRK: They aren’t my wheels or yours. The wheels don’t have owners or designers, but they do have caretakers.

DIRK: They won’t keep turning on their own without someone to grease the mechanism.

ROSE: What a burden it must be, to recognize oneself as the sole machinist of reality itself.

DIRK: It’s a curse, but somebody’s gotta do it.

DIRK: Save your strength. Come to my studio when you’re feeling up to it.

DIRK: Goodbye.

Dirk hangs up without waiting for a reply. He cracks his neck and tips down his shades so that he can appreciate the full brunt of the sunset: purple and orange, blending brilliantly on the horizon.

She’s right about him, he thinks. While his ecto-daughter views herself as having a somewhat deft artistic hand that lends itself naturally to a gentle push-and-pull style of influence, Dirk knows his methods are mechanical, like those of an engineer. There is nothing adaptive or interpretive about his method. Every piece has a purpose, a slot, an interlocking mechanism that is functionally pointless without the whole.

Dirk, satisfied with this moment of particularly astute self-reflection, rocks back on his heels and launches himself into the sky.

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