WILL JAN JOIN?
Sean find Jan and seeks her help. Will she join him, or (continue to) think he’s b*tsh*t cr*zy? Moreover, will Sean be able to escape the clutches of Rufus and the Mystery Woman, and their desire to get their clutches on this rock. And, what is this rock? Anyone? Please?
I was in Jan’s apartment. It was bigger than my place. Nicer than my place. Cleaner. Nice paint, lots of cool art, modern furniture, a large East-facing window with sunlight streaming through.
And It made my place feel like a dungeon decorated by a punch-drunk someone with vengeance who didn’t know the difference between expensive and pretentious.
I made a mental note about redecorating. I was going to need a new bathroom door, that for sure.
And, I’ll probably build a bonfire and throw my bed into it.
I told Jan all about what had happened.
She said, “TWO women? Both named Stacy?” And I thought, maybe I should have left that part out.
I said, “The important thing is right now, those two women and their maniac parents are after me and the Rock. Remember the rock?”
Jan’s head drooped and she said, “The Rock, again? Really Sean, you need to see a doctor.”
She gave me a look of pity and stalked off to the bathroom. I heard a hair dryer start.
While she finished getting ready, I tried on some shirts and shoes her last boyfriend left when he moved out. I showed Jan and she said, “Raphael was a body builder, so the shirts are a bit baggy. He’s also taller than you.”
I thought: Raphael’s shirts are baggy. Raphael is a body builder. He’s tall. Fuck Raphael.
Jan said, “Look, we’re supposed to be at work. We’re already late. We should go.”
Go? I wasn’t going to leave. This apartment was safe. Clean. Bright. Not a maniac in sight.
I took the rock out of my pocket and gripped it tightly, searching my intuition.
I ignored her. My intuition said, yes, work… work is the safest place right now. For some reason, my feelings speak in a strange accent.
To Jan I said, “Yes, work is good. Our office has good security. Yes. Since we got the DoE contract, they added all those security checkpoints.. And… and scanners. That’s a good idea, Jan. Okay. Yeah, yeah, let’s go. Let’s hurry. We’re late. Come on.”
Jan rolled her eyes, spun on her heel, grabbed her bag and we left. I gave the apartment one last hopeful glance as Jan locked the door.
I insisted we not use the front, so Jan led me down a back staircase into an old, dusty art studio, through a big sliding industrial door, down a hallway packed with old furniture, and onto the street. It was such a whirlwind exit that I half expected to be … on an avenue in Paris with prickly street vendors and a mime. But, nope, same city. We circled around a few times, doubled back a couple more then Jan finally stomped her foot and said, “Enough, we are late for work!”
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I kept my eyes peeled as we walked. And talked. Jan asked a lot of questions, almost as many as Cynthia usually does. They were questions like, “Have you given a lot of your stuff away lately?” and “Do you hear voices?” and “do you often have these fanciful thoughts of taking home beautiful sisters you meet at nightclubs?”
Alright, so apparently Jan was a skeptic. But I answered her questions as honestly as I could short of risking Jan thinking I was batshit crazy. I mean, Jan already thought I was crazy. If I was completely honest, then Jan would know I was crazy.
Wait, what did I just think? If I was honest she’d know I’m crazy? I’m not crazy, though plainly you couldn’t blame me if I was insane. Me? I searched my feelings again. In my mind I asked, “Hey, Computronium Rock, am I crazy?”
Then, I noticed Jan staring at me.
I said, “Did I just say that out loud?”
Jan nodded. She said, “You were talking to that Rock.” Then I realized I was holding Computronium Rock out in front of my face, on my palm, at eye level, six inches from my nose. In public.
After that, we walked in silence, Jan and I. For a bit. Then, I had an idea. I said, “Hey, hold out your hands.” Jan sighed. Her shoulders sagged. She said, “Work!”
I said, “We’ll get to work sooner if you quit resisting.”
She held out her hands.
I said, “take off your gloves.”
She took off her gloves.
She darted a dagger stare as I placed the rock on her hands. I said, “Just, just hold on to it for a minute.”
Jan sighed and said, “Sean, I’ve seen this rock before. I was in the court — yard –” Suddenly, Jan’s face changed. She had this five-mile stare. And I knew, the Rock was murmuring to her feelings. Muttering. Mumbling. And I thought, damn she looks stupid. Is that what I look like when the Rock whispers to me? Huh.
Moments later, I helped Jan to her feet and took back the rock. Jan said, “What the fuck is that thing?”
I said, “See?”
She brushed the snow off her pants and said, “Don’t ever touch me with that again!”
A few minutes later, we finally arrived at work, navigated the maze of security, and Jan convinced Joanna she and I were working on an important project together and needed the small conference room. Jan and I grabbed our laptops and went in.
We spent the morning googling everything under the sun, and a bunch of things in the darkest shadows. Computronium. Arcana. Insanity. How to size a straight-jacket for a proper fit. Do you, like, measure it like a shirt, or is it one-size-fits-all?
After a couple of hours, Jan stopped, rubbed her eyes and said, “Okay, let’s go over it again. How does it work?”
I said, “Well, I’m not totally sure, but I think if you are holding onto it, it like, connects with your brain or something.”
Jan said, “Connects how?”
I said, “I don’t know. I mean, it’s not like we can plug it in. But, if I’m not physically touching it, skin to rock, nothing seems to happen. Like, earlier, if you had your gloves on.”
Jan said, “The Internet has all this stuff about Jupiter brains and Computronium, but it’s all sci-fi stories and far-fetched Twitter theory. But, say it’s real, it would have to be like some sort of bio-tech, right? That guy at the train maybe stole it from a lab?”
Jan had told me she was skeptical. She had said she was “just helping.” But… she was talking like she believed me.
I shrugged and said, “Yeah, maybe. I really don’t know.”
She said, “You didn’t research it at all?”
“I mean, I did a little, but it was like a good luck charm. You know in Harry Potter, when he takes the Felix Felicis?”
She said, “You read Harry Potter?”
“Yeah, but the thing is, I was doing really well at work. Like, it was kindergarten shit. And going out to clubs was mind blowing. Heck, I even got you to — ”. I stopped and thought, oh no.
Jan said, “You got me to what? Wait. Oh, my God. The backrub?”
I said, “Yeah.”
Jan said, “You are an asshole. But, look, can’t you ask it? You were talking to it before.”
I said, “It doesn’t work like that. It speeds up pattern recognition, and seems to like, simulate options. But, it doesn’t just give you thoughts… I tried to guess lottery numbers and it didn’t work.”
“Oh, that would have been cool.”
“I know, right? I tried it three times. Didn’t get a single number correct.”
“What about this guy’s phone? Ivan? Maybe there is something on it?”
“No. Just found a bunch of text messages to his wife. Facetime calls. That’s it.”
Jan turned on the phone. It showed a silver Apple with a bite taken out of it, then went to a passcode screen. She typed in the passcode I gave her, that Ivan had told me.
Suddenly, the phone started buzzing. Dozens of messages came in. Jan said, “Is it always like this?” I said, “I turned it on twice. I never got a single message. What’d they say?”
But Jan wasn’t looking at the phone anymore. Jan was looking behind me. Her face changed. She said, “The Arcanans. Describe them to me.”
I said, “She’s tall, severe-looking, like a 1970s East German swimmer. He’s short, built like a brick shithouse. Early 60s, snow-white hair, like they’d seen a ghost.”
Jan said, “Shit.” I spun around. The two Arcanans, along with several dudes in suits and navy-blue windbreakers, were talking to Joanna. And Joanna was pointing to us. And the Arcanans were smiling. And the dudes in windbreakers were walking toward us.
Written, Produced and Narrated by Hans Anderson