Elegant Union (John Clark Smith) - 3

John Clark Smith
A Novel by John Clark Smith

 

II

 

8

In the morning Titus received a text from Sophia. She asked to meet her for lunch at Whispers restaurant. The topic for the lunch would be “the strange creature” they had seen at the banquet in the conference room.

Whispers, located in the Four Seasons Hotel, was a restaurant whose clientele were the wealthy or celebrities who wanted privacy. Each table was in a cove so that no one could see or hear others. There were also two private elevators that led only to the restaurant. Security guards protected the elevators and the main entrance.

When Titus arrived at the hotel reception and said he had a reservation with the mayor, he was told to go up the escalators to the fourth floor, to door 488.

Door 488 was no more than a plain door beside which a hostess sat on a stool holding a tablet. If Titus had been one of the elite or one of those who owned a table in Whispers, the hotel reception would have directed him to the elevators.

The hostess at door 488 verified his meeting with Sophia, looked at his identification, and then, in a polite but fake tone, directed him to take the escalators to the fifth floor, and wait outside the double doors at the end of the hallway.

While waiting in one of the comfortable chairs in the small waiting area, he was swallowed up in the chair cushions. Titus might have fallen asleep if not for the eight-foot carved wooded double doors. They looked more like an entrance to an ancient temple than a restaurant and contrasted with the plain walls and lack of decor around them. The story carved on the doors was of a battle. The top section showed a group of people together sitting peacefully in a circle near a lake. The trees and flowers around the lake were in full bloom. The second panel had two people off to the side, their backs to the circle. The third panel showed the two conversing with strange looking figures and pointing at the circle. The fourth panel showed the circle being attacked and some of them injured by a swarm of bees. The fifth panel was of an upright figure suspended in the air above the battle in a bee costume. The sixth panel showed a barren, parched landscape, no people, dead trees, and a dry lake.

A woman in a plain light blue blouse and a dark blue skirt and suit coat opened the doors and called his name. She led him through an environment that was so dark he felt as if he was walking up the aisles of a theatre after the play had begun. Only tiny floor lights of the passageway were visible. The darkness obscured any possible recognition of those in the coves.

When he finally was seated across from Sophia, his eyes adjusted so that he could see more clearly.

“You made it,” Sophia said. “Honestly, I’d rather just meet at some café, but this place has the best security, and the city owns two of these tables. I feel obligated to use them.”

“As long as you like the food,” Titus said.

“That’s not a problem. I tell them what I like to eat, and they make it. I’ve already ordered so let’s get your food. Unfortunately, I can’t stay long because I have an appointment back at City Hall.”

After they ordered the food and wine, Titus turned immediately to test how Sophia saw the death of Lazan.

“How did Aaron Lazan die?” he blurted out.

“My goodness! What a question. I’m surprised you’ve forgotten.”

“I haven’t forgotten. I wanted to hear it from you.”

“He set his gun against a tree, it accidentally fell and went off somehow, and he was killed.”

“An accident.”

“Officially. But some thought he committed suicide. A few thought his wife killed him. She was the only one with him when it happened. Others think one of his students followed them and used the gun to kill him. People even thought she hired the killer. Lots of theories. No evidence.”

“I never heard any of them.”

“You have to be suspicious. He was an experienced hunter.”

“I don’t even remember the funeral.”

“There were the sexual harassment accusations. Several students claimed he had molested them and threatened to kill him. If that had been substantiated, it would’ve been sufficient proof to rescind his pension and death benefit. But that came to nothing.”

“No one complained at all?”

“Of course. The university gets lots of complaints. So many, in fact, that it has a full-time detective. But complaints are not proof. Why? Do you know something?”

Titus shook his head.

“Not really,” Titus said. “Just rumors.”

“There’s always rumors. There are rumors about me, about everyone, including you.”

“I’m sure there are.”

“Several students claimed you could vanish into thin air.”

Titus laughed.

“Really?” Titus said.

“Yep. They said they were watching you and the next second you were gone.”

The food arrived.

“So, here’s the food,” Sophia spoke with some relish. “Let’s first eat.”

 

After the dinner, she gave the reason for her invitation.

“I saw the creature again. It had the same smashed head. I followed it outside and almost caught it but a group of bees threw me off. So again I failed. I took a photo and wanted to compare.”

They compared the photos. There was little doubt it was the same creature. Titus could have explained the nature of the creature, but real explanations are impossible. His work and all those associated with his work were without explanation. This secrecy especially applied to overlapping events in which his work in reality slipped into his existence as a professor.

“Two things come to mind,” Titus noted. “It’s either a unique species, or at least it doesn’t group with more of its kind. And, for some reason, it wants to be around you.”

“I doubt it’s unique,” Sophia said. “Nature never makes just one. Perhaps it’s lost. Nor does it necessarily want to be around me. It wants to be around the university. I saw it when I was back in the hall when I addressed a group of alumnae.”

“What do you want to do?” Titus asked.

“We should try to capture it. Since it’s lurking around the university, please be on the lookout.”

She looked at her watch, handed him the photos, and stood up.

“Anyway,” she said,” I must go. Enjoy the food.”

Sophia said her farewells, walked quickly down the corridor, and met her security guards.

Titus quickly finished his food and remained several minutes to contemplate the situation with Ratanna. He felt responsible for her wild behavior. She was retired, but she also needed to recuperate from several events in which she and Titus were involved. Ratanna’s wandering around the university could be another way Gretchen was using to lure Titus into his work.

In a few minutes more, Titus too left. He felt more at ease once he stepped out of the double doors. The cave atmosphere of Whispers was uncomfortable. He was about to take the escalator when he noticed a woman in an old soldier’s uniform sitting in the same chair in the waiting area.

“Je vous verrai demain,”[1] she called out to him.

“I’m sorry,” he said, coming back and closer to her. “What did you say?”

“J’ai dit, ‘Je vous verrai demain,” she said, laughing.

“Je suis ici seulement parce que vous êtes ici,”[2] she said. “Charity Café?”

Titus was confused, not because she was a stranger. He recognized Louise Michel, one of the key people in the 1871 Paris Commune. He stood with her. But why would he have an appointment with her?

She came over to him.

“Nous avons été en attente pour vous...encore. 23 à la Charity?” [3]

She walked away.

“Wait,” Titus said. “I’m sorry. Are you confusing me with someone else?”

“Bien sûr non. Qui d'autre me connaîtrait? Mais tu te souviens de moi. Je suis si heureux. Nous attendons avec impatience. Demain soir.”[4]

“We?”

“Marat, Kropotkin, and Paul. Nous avons beaucoup à faire. Au revoir.” [5]

Titus watched her disappear down the escalator.

“Much work to do?” he repeated out loud.

Titus fell back on to the couch and stared ahead.

In a minute, Michel had returned.

“Oh, Thomas Paine aussi.”

She rushed off again.

As he was about to leave, the same hostess in a suit came out of the double doors.

“Lord Dalworth?” she asked, looking at him.

Titus did not answer.

“Are you Lord Dalworth?” she said. “The Duchess will see you now.”

Titus followed the hostess to another cove in Whispers, where Oriana sat dressed in a formal gown, fit for a ballroom.

Dumbfounded that she was here and dressed in a gown, Titus said nothing.

“Where have you been?” Oriana asked. “I’ve waited forty-five minutes. I was about to leave.”

“Duchess?” Titus said.

“I wanted to prepare you before you meet Ratanna.”

“Ratanna?”

She nodded.

“I have no idea what’s going on,” Titus said. “Why are you dressed like that? How did you get a table here? I need no preparation to see Ratanna. I just saw Ratanna.”

“You will. After all, you planned it, Lord Dalworth.”

“I’m leaving,” Titus said, confused first by Michel and now Oriana.

“Stop, Lord Dalworth,” she said. “Here. Have a glass of wine to calm you down. I know it’s a big decision.”

Titus took the glass, sat down, and drank some of the wine.

“What decision?”

“Lazan. And the revolution.”

Titus did leave after that statement, walked out the double doors, down the escalators, and out of the Four Seasons Hotel.

He stopped and remained on the spot when he reached the street and stood for a time pondering the previous events. Oriana was a stimulus. His memory was imploding with work now that his time as a professor was lapsing. It vaguely conjured an image of someone dressed in that gown during the French Revolution. He shook his head, hoping to shake away the pull of reality. But Lazan and the revolution?

He loved this existence. Everything was so simple. There were so many intriguing elements. Knowing he might lose his immersion in it and his connection with it at any time, he concentrated to create a vivid memory. He began to scour the street and shops from every angle to remember how the space was filled. Across the street was the Museum. Beside him stood the Church of the Redeemer, dwarfed by the buildings around it. The cityscape had no odd features, yet soon it would appear odd, a snippet of the real. He would view the environment as if he was a monster or alien that had escaped or was released from jail after many years. What he heard from Sophia and Louise Michel, and then from Oriana, seemed to trap and confuse him, whereas everything he sensed here on the street was clear. There were no enigmas. Every color, edge, smell, line, movement, wind, fabric, stone, and glass revealed itself before him. Look at that streetlamp! That hot dog vendor! That delivery man delivering the parcels! No doubts. No questions. They existed right in front of him. They were bursting with life and energy and would be there still five minutes later, clearly present. Their appearance was how it should be. Their reality may be limited, but they had the freshness of present life.

Titus walked south through Queens Park to College Street and then caught the streetcar home. Every inch of the streetcar and the people in it were subjects of his analysis. How the buses and streetcars knelt to allow customers to climb up on to the stairs. How young women all crowded near the driver, how narrow was the path between the seats, how hard were the plastic seats, and how close he sat to the person beside him. The people were from every race and nationality, a global village. Young and old, parents with babies, youths carrying their skateboards, people reading, looking out the window, but rarely anyone talking to another. Ah, existence.

A homeless man sat down next to him on the streetcar. The man smelled as if he bathed in the fluids of feces, urine, cinnamon, and alcohol. His clothes and face were very soiled.

Titus gagged but turned to the vagrant and smiled.

Seeing the smile, the homeless man stood up and moved to another seat.

While riding on the streetcar, Titus looked at many of the places he often saw or visited: the drug store, the Spanish restaurant, the coffee shop, the Ethiopian café, the smartphone seller, the second-hand book and record shop, the plant-based dessert café, and the alternative school. Each neighborhood was unique: From University Avenue to Spadina on College the street was filled with students and staff of the university. After Spadina, in the area in which he lived, it was residential and Little Italy. The identity of each place became clearer. He had the urge to take photos of every building, every sidewalk crack, and wave at strangers to let them know he had been among them and how exciting the environment was to him.

When Titus left the streetcar, he again remained as if frozen for several minutes. He took several deep breaths.

“Are you OK?” a stranger asked. “Can you move? Has your back seized up?”

Titus smiled.

“No, I’m fine,” Titus said. “No worries.”

So much is seen, he thought, when he did not move. As he swiveled around, he noticed a man hiding behind bushes around the naturopath’s clinic. A woman ran out of a house a few doors up Palmerston yelling at the man walking after her. They argued on the sidewalk outside the gynecologist’s clinic, then she stomped off and walked north on Palmerston. Nests were being built high in the large tree near the corner and in the crevice where two of the large trees met. Eyes of squirrels and birds were staring at him. Beehives were in the hallow of trees. In the quiet nooks of bushes and trees, rustling in the grass, hiding in the alleyways, resting in the eaves of buildings, walking by him, or flying above, there was existence. Their secrets he had not ignored as a professor. They whispered about reality.

Knowing his connection with them would soon change, the glaring immediateness of his home environment once again saddened him and had an effect beyond the senses. He had come to feel existence in a deeper way, perhaps because he knew it was slipping away and because he knew he did not really belong in it. Gretchen had let him stay for a while and for a while he had come to believe he belonged. The inherent deception of existence was pleasurable.

Titus walked south on Palmerston to his apartment, once again looking in every cubby hole for elements of its identity and what those elements had meant to him. His neighborhood seemed to glare back at him. Were they offended by his stares, as if he was a peeping tom, a fraud, and had no right to disturb its privacy? Was he not allowed to look? Can existence be offended?

Palmerston changed its name at College Street to reflect the change in income of the homeowners. North of College to Bloor, it was Palmerston Boulevard, with old, beautiful three-story homes with attics, many of them now converted into several apartments for university students. South of College Street to Queen was Palmerston Avenue, where there were mostly single-family homes for the middle class or those with lower incomes. Some of them also were turned into small bachelor or one-bedroom apartments. Squeezed in that row of homes, on the east side, was one three-story building, number 337, built for six one-bedroom apartments. Each apartment was reached from a central staircase. Titus lived on the third floor.

His initial sense of release when he escaped from Whispers and his attention to what he knew he would not experience in the same way, in which his everyday life experience was heightened, this revelation ended once he turned down and walked the path to his building. The helpless feeling, as if he had left something unfinished or had disappointed someone without knowing what he had done, returned as he climbed the stairs to his apartment. He could tell something was happening in and to him. His experience of the energy of what once was everyday was diminishing quickly as he entered his apartment. He wished he could return to that feeling and once again absorb existence. One side of him had respected, as if for the first time, all the aspects and objects of his existence and the people in it. Yet now another side of him had begun to find this neighborhood, the streetcar, the people, and everything he was perceiving as alien, as if he and they did not belong on this street, as if it was a phase and would soon be replaced by another phase, and especially that it was banal and not worth his attention. One side of him was rapidly masking the wishes of the other side. His real responsibilities were calling out to him.

Once in his apartment, he took a worn copy of the Yi Jing off the bookshelf, calmed himself to enter a state of contemplation, and threw the yarrow sticks. The use of the Yi Jing as an oracle did not interest him. He consulted it to understand if he was in harmony or settled in spirit with what was beyond or outside him, the nameless. Once again, the seventeenth hexagram, Sui, “following,” appeared. This hexagram implied that to act, he must accord with each time, each shift. Certain actions only accord properly at certain times. One must follow the waves of the universe to know when to act. ‘Following’ meant conjoining at the right time in the right way. Rightness was the key.

In response to this point, he threw the sticks again, and for the first time, hexagram sixteen, Yu, called “harmony,” appeared. ‘Harmony’ results only if one has acted when one must act. It also says beware of prolonged inactivity.

These revelations encouraged him to lay on his bed that night and consider the results. The Yi Jing was a complex connector. Was it saying he was abiding by those ideas, or was it saying he was not, or did it perhaps have a different message? He concluded, because of the appearance of hexagram sixteen, that he was at fault, not surprising considering his reluctance to leave existence.

 

9

 

Titus and Oriana sat in a corner of a large windowless underground room lit by three florescent lights. One was flickering and near the end of its life. A group of nine men—President Truman, General Eisenhower, Lt. General Leslie Groves, Generals Leahy, Nimitz, and Lemay, Secretary of State Byrnes, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and Under Secretary Bard—were at one end of a long table. At the other end of the table were Emperor Hirohito with Generals Kotohito, Sugiyama, and Tojo, Admiral and Prime Minister Suzuki, plus pilot Mitsuo Fuchida, who was in the Pearl Harbor attack force.

In the middle of the table a large map of Japan was spread out. Beside it was a handwritten list of cities in Japan.

“What is the name of that poor city, Groves, where the atrocities took place?” the President asked, staring directly at Hirohito. “And how many were killed?”

“Nanking, Mr. President,” General Groves said. “The Nanking Massacre. We’ll never know for sure, but it’s estimated three hundred thousand died.”

The President’s group all turned their heads toward the Japanese group at the end of the table.

“Atrocities, Mr. President,” Groves added, “atrocities against women and children.”

The Emperor nodded to Suzuki.

“One hundred thousand civilians killed in the American fire-bombing of Tokyo,” Suzuki said.

“Atrocities,” the Emperor said. “The work of barbarians.”

For a long minute, the President and the Emperor stared at each other.

“Do you surrender?” the President said quietly and without emotion.

The Emperor nodded to Tojo to answer.

“We do not surrender,” General Tojo said. “To cede our people to barbarians would be a most dishonorable and immoral act.”

The Emperor nodded to Suzuki again.

“You have bombed over seventy of our cities,” Suzuki said. “You have killed at least 350,000 of our people, most of them innocent people who had no connection to the armed forces. You are trying, unsuccessfully, to humiliate us. The people of Japan have been grossly injured. How would surrender heal that wound?”

“Hold out longer,” Kotohito whispered to Suzuki. “The longer the war, the better the terms.”

“If you do not surrender,” the President said, “you will witness the worst weapon of all time, a weapon that will devastate Japan.”

“Worse than the destruction of one hundred thousand in a day in Tokyo?” the Emperor replied.

“The Russians are encroaching on Manchuria,” Stinson said.

“And we will defeat them!” General Sugiyama shouted, “as we defeated them in 1905. The Russians then made the mistake you are making. They underestimate us. We have weapons that you know nothing about. We will surprise you, just as we surprised you at Pearl Harbor. Acknowledge that we are superior.”

Sugiyama quickly stood up and bowed to the Emperor.

“Forgive me,” Sugiyama said to the Emperor.

The Emperor nodded and Sugiyama returned to his seat.

“What is this?” Oriana asked Titus. “Why are we here?”

“To help me.” Titus said. “Gretchen’s way. It’s 1945. The negotiation with Japan for surrender. This was the last straw for Ratanna.”

“Who did Ratanna nurture?”

“Suzuki on the Japanese side, a couple of American scientists who were advising the government, and Under Secretary Bard, at the far end. Bard was on the Interim Committee that recommended that the bombs should be dropped. Bard agreed at that time, but later changed his mind. He wanted to give the Japanese notice and tried to convince Stinson and the President of a more humanitarian approach, because he believed the Japanese would surrender without the bomb.”

At that point, they saw Fischer enter and, like Titus, sit in a corner, away from the table.

A few minutes later, Gretchen walked in. She boldly went to a vacant seat in the middle of the table. Visible only to Titus, Fischer, and Oriana, she smiled and waved.

“Couldn’t you have warned them about the future?” Oriana asked. “Why didn’t Ratanna or you act?”

“Do you think these men would believe us?” Titus asked. “Also, there’s Fischer. A debate would ensue. Nurturing is best, allowing others to decide.”

“Why not stop it all together?”

“Fischer, Gretchen, or I could do that. Yet Hirohito’s warning said it best. The bombs, he said, would not only cause the ‘collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation but would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.’ Even the enemy was warning the Americans.”

“Yet you allowed this to happen?”

“We nurtured several of them to prevent use of the bombs, but the only documented person in the power circle who offered some objections before the event was Bard. After the fact, many claimed the bombs were unnecessary. But ‘after the fact’ is not meaningful or even honest. The Strategic Bombing Survey in 1946 said the atomic bombs were unnecessary to win the war. Of course, Gretchen knew that the Japanese would have stopped on their own, but it takes a lot of courage to follow Gretchen. No one had that courage back then, including the Japanese.”

Oriana shook her head in disappointment.

“So sad,” Oriana said. “And yet the Americans went ahead and did it.”

“But consider the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

“Hardly a record to be proud of,” Oriana said. “What of the Korean War and the Vietnamese War? The clock is ticking.”

“That clock started ticking thousands of years ago. You too quickly go against the West. The clock for the Japanese started ticking long before. The Japanese had been in some kind of war from 1895 with China, Korea, Russia, and others. From 1895 to 1945, it is estimated by some scholars that the Japanese killed somewhere between 10 to 14 million people.[6] Of course, the men in this room did not know this.”

The Japanese rose and left the room.

“What a bunch of hypocrites!” the President said. “Have they already forgotten Pearl Harbor? Or Nanking? We know they have plans to attack us with biological weapons.”

“Those beasts wouldn’t hesitate to kill us,” LeMay added, “and use our bodies to wipe up the blood.”

“They’ll never surrender,” Stinson said.

“Never,” the President repeated to himself.

“But the key factor, Mr. President,” Secretary of State Byrnes said, “is that we’d have far more casualties if we don’t drop the bombs. An invasion could cost up to a million casualties.”

The President nodded as if in deep thought.

“And equally important,” Byrnes added, “it’s not just about saving lives. The awesome power of this weapon will intimidate and impress the world, especially the Soviet Union. So its destructive force is one thing; its psychological power is another.”

“Ah, such deep thinking,” Gretchen said sarcastically.

“But is it necessary?” General Leahy said. “Can’t we win without it?”

“The air war,” Bard said, “is sufficient to finish them. Is it also in our future best interests to use such a weapon?”

“Conscience speaks loudly,” Gretchen said, pointing at Bard.

“What the hell are you talking about?” the President barked back. “You sound like backpedaling Oppenheimer. You were on the Interim Committee. You approved the use of the bomb. Now you want to worry about how we’re going to look at the cost of so many American lives? Bullshit.”

“Fischer’s boy,” Titus whispered to Oriana, pointing at the President. “As is Byrnes.”

“Who is representing the people?” Oriana asked. “People want the war to end, as quickly as possible.”

“Do they?” Titus asked.

“Were the American people asked to carpet bomb Tokyo or Dresden?” Oriana said. “The leaders cry out: Kill the Japs! Destroy the Nazis! On both sides they are hardened and don’t see the human faces.”

Gretchen approached them.

“The expected result,” she lamented. “No depth, no ability to see beyond themselves and their kind, worried about their images, absolutely lacking in any foresight or awareness of history, a tragic lack of empathy. They especially failed to see how weak the Japanese were in 1945.”

Her face became sad.

“You’re talking about the Americans?” Oriana said.

“Oh no,” Gretchen replied. “All of them. Japan, Germany, Italy, the English, Russia, or whatever names they pretend are their plots of earth. The door is closing on all of them. Poor Ratanna. It broke her heart. Yours too, Titus. Your work on the Japanese has always come to nothing.”

Fischer joined them.

“What are you talking about?” Fischer asked.

Fischer pointed at Titus.

“Why is he here? I thought we left him in the library. Look at the good work I’m doing. This war will end, we can eliminate the weak, and we’ll have a more democratic future.”

“Democratic?” Gretchen said. “You think we’ll have democracy with this kind of consciousness?”

“Of course. If it brings harmony and doesn’t cause rebellion and disruption--”

“--you want everything to return to the way it was?” Gretchen said. “Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Franco’s Spain, they all would have upset your wheel cart.”

“Better than what Ratanna had planned. She--”

“—stop right there,” Gretchen said. “Does it concern ideology or history or tradition?”

“What’s he doing here, I ask again?” Fischer repeated. “Let him be the professor.”

“Ratanna chose him,” Gretchen said. “Ratanna—"

“—you chose him,” Fischer interrupted. “That…that professor almost stopped the War. “Think of Jaurès? Had I not been there, what kind of world would we have today?”

“And Leslie Groves?” Gretchen said. “That was your work too.”

“Of course. I’m at it. Day after day. As you requested. Without Groves and his Manhattan Project, would we even have had an atomic bomb? Meanwhile Ratanna and Titus were working on Bard and Oppenheimer and Suzuki and Einstein and a bunch of others to screw up the future. The bomb was necessary. It was necessary to maintain the stability of the world. It was necessary to frighten the world, to keep everything in balance, especially the Soviets, it was necessary to stop future wars.”

Titus sat quietly and listened to Fischer.

“Depends on how you see the future, doesn’t it?” Gretchen asked.

“At least it’s a future,” Fischer said. “What has Titus or that buffoon Ratanna done?”

Fischer came closer to Gretchen and spoke quietly to her, his expression revealing some worry.

“What is this? Don’t you support me?”

“Of course I do,” Gretchen said. “But I don’t support unilateral thinking.”

“By the way, where’s Wang?” Fischer asked.

“Wang is with Ratanna,” Gretchen said. “He’s assuring her. This problem of the bomb is uninteresting to Wang anyway. He questions whether any of these men are deciding through their individual minds and not based, to use his words, ‘in corporate ego, narcissism, chauvinism, fear, and aggression.’ As for whom I support, I assure you, it’s not Wang or Titus or Ratanna or you or anyone. Too unilateral. I have many visions, and no one interferes in any of them. I ask questions. There! An enigma for you.”

Gretchen left the room. Fischer followed her, hoping to draw some hint of what might please Gretchen.

“What will you do?” Oriana asked. “Will you push to change the President’s mind or the Emperor’s mind?”

“Consider how similar they are,” Titus reflected. “One man deciding the lives of millions. Same old pattern.”

“So, what will you do?” Oriana asked impatiently.

He looked at her. Oriana was not Ratanna. To Gretchen she clearly had some profound purpose, but he had yet to understand what it was.

“It’s simple for me to say, ‘nothing,’” Titus said, “but I know that wouldn’t satisfy you because you might think ‘nothing’ means ignoring what needs to be done. For my brother, he looks at what is and decides. For him it’s a simple choice. But I don’t want to think only at what is. I look at all of history and the collateral in the future. If I heavily twisted one mind to choose a single direction, I would feel as if my work was incomplete. These actions and thoughts are not my actions. ‘My’ and ‘I’ have no reality. That’s why Fischer and I rarely see eye to eye. As ironic as it sounds, he chooses existence and I try to choose reality. In his choices he is close to existence, and that is dangerous, as much as I love and have lived in existence far more than he. It’s unhealthy to think like that.”

“So this is one of your failures?” Oriana said.

“In terms of existence, yes,” Titus said. “In terms of the collateral, yes. But does it mean there’s no hope, no way to deal with collateral? The answer is no. Think of the Cuban Missile Crisis. That was collateral. There Fischer failed and I succeeded.”

“But—”

“—but it doesn’t mean I’m content. My work hasn’t satisfied me. Reality disappoints. Existence is easy.”




[1] I’ll see you tomorrow.
[2] I’m here only because you’re here.
[3] We’ve been waiting for you…again. 11 PM at the Charity?
[4] Of course not. Who else would know me? You remember me? I’m so happy. We look forward to it. Tomorrow then.
[5] We have much work to do. Goodbye.
[6] Estimates by historians R. J. Rummel and Sterling Seagrave (though challenged by others).

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