Chapter 11 - Lili and Malcolm

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They don't write 'em like that anymore

They don't write 'em like that anymore

-- Greg Kihn Band (The Breakup Song)


There was a clock on a wall, in a cheery yellow hallway in a small house on Lafa II in our universe. The house was located up a little rise, near a thicket of amplifying dishes on a much larger rise called Point Abic. The dishes had originally been used to emit regular bursts of ionizing radiation, in order to maintain the wall between our universe and the mirror.

The wall, or septum, between the two universes, is thinnest there, and Calafans could and did readily cross in between. However, thousands of years ago, the prime and mirror universe Calafans experienced an event known as speciation. That is, the two groups split into two separate and distinct species. This splitting alarmed the governments of both sides and so the dishes were erected.

They kept the two groups – silver Calafans on our side, and copper ones in the mirror – separate, until 2157; when the mirror High Priestess, the teenager Yimar, decided to throw open the doors between the two universes. This was as a byproduct of the Calafans pushing a mirror human over to our universe – Douglas Jay Hayes, who then changed his name to Douglas Jay Hayes Beckett, got married, fathered five children and lived happily on Lafa II. As of 2192, he had been dead for a good decade, and was buried in the back yard of the house that was just down the rise and next to the one with the cheery yellow hall.

But getting back to the house, and its hallway clock. The clock scrolled through the temperature – a balmy 26.67 degrees C – and then the time – 0850 hours – and then the date – May twentieth, 2192.

A man passed by the clock, stepping from the master bedroom to the kitchen. He was lean and still muscular, although his face was lined and his hair was a steely grey. His blue-green eyes sparkled like the sea. He saw a woman in the kitchen, turning the flame off from under a whistling tea kettle. He put a hand on her shoulder, and she turned around.

Her face – already pale as an early spring morning – lit up when she saw him. Her eyes were impossibly light blue. Her hair was white and her face, too, was lined. She smiled broadly. "Good morning, Malcolm."

"Good morning, Lili," his accent was British. They kissed.

"Do you have what to do this morning?" she asked.

"Nothing in particular. I'll probably weed the garden a bit. Why do you ask?"

"Well, I was thinking of going into Fep City and getting you your anniversary present."

"Ten years. It has been like the blinking of an eye," he held her close and the light from the ceiling fixture glinted off a dull grey cuff with complicated scrollwork that he wore on his left wrist. The scrollwork very nearly matched silvery tattoos that snaked up her arms.

"It's been wonderful," she agreed, "you make me very happy," she paused, "Joss might be over later with little Jay. He and Jia want to take us out for our anniversary."

"That would be lovely," Malcolm said, "now, Mrs. Reed, can you do me a favor and show me, in the garden, which are the plants we keep, and which are the weeds? Don't want to discard a carrot or anything."


"Oh, and is there room to plant tofflin?"

"Why ever would you want to plant tofflin?" Lili asked, "It's invasive."

"Doctor Sanchez said ...."

"Sanchez? Are you ill?" she was worried.

"No, not really. I just, well, certain things could be a bit better. My, uh, my performance."

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