Episode 44: Tuesday – Jackson

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Episode 44

Jackson felt better about things today. He held firm to his conclusion that there was something wrong with him and not with Roy and Jody. He might question Jody’s mental stability but Roy was solid as a rock and both of them being crazy was too far a stretch.

It was him, Jackson Gabriel. There was something wrong with him. His mother had drummed it into his head that he would have to shrug off things that he wouldn’t be able to explain. He’d done that with the bump on his head. But this time, he didn’t want to shrug it off. He wanted to know how the bump and the cut had gotten there. He wanted to know what had happened to him, when it had happened and how it had happened.

You don’t just shrug something like that off and forget about it. No matter what your mother said.

And what was going on with the meeting? How could two of his clients accuse of him of missing a meeting that hadn’t even happened and then not show up for the meeting when it was supposed to happen? Both men couldn’t have been wrong.

He’d gone through his emails. Roy was still sympathetic and Jody was suddenly apologetic and practically begging for a meeting. He sent them both the same reply.

Arial 64.JPG

It took about five minutes for Jody to get back to him.

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It took a few minutes for the meaning underlying Jody’s email to sink it, especially the delay in working on the “new ideas.”

He thinks my medical condition might be contagious. He thinks he might catch it by doing business with me online.

For the first time in years, Jackson had a good laugh.


It was late morning before Roy replied to his email.

Arial 66

Jackson thought about that. Vacation. It was something he’d never thought about before. He’d never had a vacation. He just worked every day. He went right into it as soon as he finished his home schooling, as soon as he moved into the flat. Every day. For years. Day after day of work and never a break. He knew what a vacation was. He’d read about them online but he’d never actually applied the concept to himself. It was something other people did. Something that his differentness dismissed him from. A week in Varadero? A week in Macho Pico, taking in the magic of mystical mountains? A week river-boating down the Rhine, taking in the castles and bratwurst? A week at home, sleeping in every day. He wrote back to Roy:

Arial 67

He wasn’t sure if he could get his head around this idea of a week of vacation. It seemed like such a short time to take in so much. And the concept of going somewhere distant was far beyond his comprehension.

Why is that? Why can’t I do that? Other people do.

He remembered his mother’s lectures on the differences between himself and other people but that, he’d always thought, was more to do with the way he and others thought, about how they perceived the world around them and their place in it.

I should be able to take a week of vacation and go somewhere. Anywhere. For a week.

Just then, there was a knock at the door.

He walked to the door and opened without hesitation, expecting to see his Uncle Manzer but he was surprised when he saw Mrs. Gilbert standing in the hall smiling. She looked like she always did, healthy, vibrant, lively eyes and a universe of wrinkles. She didn’t look at all like she was recovering from a heart attack.

“Mrs. Gilbert, it’s good to see you. I was going to come and visit you at the hospital but I wanted to wait until you were a bit recovered from your heart attack. But here you are, home already. I mean…”

She smiled through the wrinkles and folds, arms crossed over her chest, looking robust. “I never did like hospitals, Jackson. Place for sick people and people ready to die. And I’m not ready to die. So, how have you been while I’ve been gone? Did your Uncle Manzer drop by to see you?”

“Uh…yes, he did. And everything’s been fine. No emergencies or earth-shattering events. A couple of minor work-related incidents but everything seems to be working out well now. I can’t believe you’re here already, and looking so healthy.”

“And I’m feeling just fine, Jackson. Won’t be pushing things too hard for a while. Doctors say I still need lots of rest and I’ll be making a few changes to my diet and taking some medication, but all-in-all, I’m feeling not so bad. Just wanted to stop by to let you know I’m back and see if there’s anything you need.”

“I appreciate that Mrs. Gilbert, even though I should be the one checking to see if there’s anything you need. But now that you’re here, maybe you can help me with something.”

“And what might that be Jackson?”

“Well, it’s occurred to me lately that I’ve never been on vacation. For as long as I’ve lived here, I’ve worked every day. Every single day. I’ve never gone anywhere, never traveled. I’ve been in two places all my life: the house I grew up in with my mother and this place. I’ve never been to the tropics, to Europe, South America, the Far East, anywhere. I’ve seen all these things on the internet but never even wondered about them, never really been interested. But just this morning one of my long-term clients said that he’s going to take some time off, a vacation. He’s going to relax for a while. I started to think about this and I think maybe it’s time for me to have some relaxation. And maybe travel a bit. You know, a week on a tropical island with beaches and sun and swimming pools.”

Natalie had read the email from Roy Pickering, which was why she decided to come over right away. It looked like he was serious about this vacation thing.

“Well, Jackson, I’ve never been on a vacation myself. Always thought they were overrated and heard from so many friends about stomach problems, missing luggage, stolen cameras and purses. No…I’ve always preferred to just take my vacation in the safety and comfort of my home. Put the chores aside for a while and just relax.”

Jackson wasn’t exactly encouraged by her response but the idea was taking root; he was beginning to feel excited about the idea of a week or so away from the flat if for no other reason than to just be somewhere else.

It would give him some time to think about some of the things that had been surfacing in his life lately, things that he’d put aside and ignored for his entire life.


Well, another fire to put out.

Natalie smiled to herself. This was something that she’d never anticipated during all the planning and all the possible scenarios that she and Manzer had envisioned and devised strategies for: vacation. The idea that any of them would take time off from the work had never crossed either of their minds, especially since Manzer had been retired for so many years and Natalie had always just existed, living on money from her parents and never having a job that would come with something as exotic as vacation. It was something that didn’t fit into their lives or into the lives of the kids but it fit into the lives of others and they should have seen it coming.

Well, Nat, don’t beat yourself up over it. You and Manzer had an impossible task and you missed a few other things that took you by surprise but you always managed to work your way through it. You always find a way.

She stretched her thick legs out as she sat in the big easy chair. She yawned. She was tired. She’d been up most of the night catching up with the emails from her kids, seeing what they were getting into, wondering how she was going to work her way through all the fires.

After driving her home from the hospital, and after him trying desperately to talk her out of leaving so early, Manzer had stayed with her a while, filling her in on what the kids were up to. He seemed sad, and there was a look in his eyes that she didn’t understand but, for some reason, it worried her. “What’s on your mind, Manzer?”

He smiled. It was a warm smile. He smiled to make her know that he would do anything for her and would always be there for her no matter what. But the eyes above the smile told her that something else was up. “You’ve been doing this for over thirty years, Nat, holding everything together, keeping track and heading off disaster after disaster. I can’t even begin to imagine how you manage to do it, the energy and dedication you’ve put into keeping their lives separate but allowing them to interact with the world around them.”

She smiled but she had a good idea what was coming and she was braced for it.

Manzer sighed and leaned forward in his chair, resting his chin on his folded hands. “It’s starting to come undone, Nat. They’re starting to want normal lives, to be able to do the same things that others do, have the same kind of lives. The outside world is starting to knock at their doors.”

Tears started to well up in Natalie’s eyes. She had no idea where they came from. She wasn’t sad or heart-broken or angry or lost or anything she could really put her finger on and say, “This…this is where the tears are coming from.” Maybe they were coming from the inevitable finally arriving, the day when all her work for so many years was coming to some sort of existential intersection where the improbable was about to become still more improbable. Natalie’s life for so many years had been guided by known factors, factors that she created and controlled to prevent the unknowns from creeping in. But now the unknowns were, as Manzer put it, knocking—and knocking hard. The outside world was coming for her kids and it was becoming obvious that there was little or nothing that she could do about it.

Manzer had told a woman about the kids’ secret. He had told her because he had no other choice. She worked for an organization that could take control of everything she and the kids had. But the woman didn’t want to harm them. She would help them keep the secret. She was in love with one of them, the most unlikely one of them. And now, another woman knew. And she was also in love with one of them. Love, something she’d never counted on. She’d isolated them from it, not let it invade their lives with all the questions and improbabilities it would bring. Love, a force stronger than all her planning and manipulating. She was no longer the only woman in their lives There were now two other women in their lives and they weren’t going away.

And Jackie was planning on getting a sex change. Natalie couldn’t blame her. She’d never been right with the world or herself. It was something that had haunted every moment of her life and Natalie had to admit to herself that she was surprised that she’d borne that anguish for so long.

And now a new thought was beginning to occur to her…just as Manzer voiced it.

“Doesn’t it seem strange to you, Natalie…that so many things are suddenly happening that seem to be bringing it all to some kind of…I don’t know…a culmination? An explosion of events that will radically change things? And it’s not just from the outside world suddenly seeping in…it seems to be coming from them…like suddenly they want to be part of the world. They’re all changing…at the same time…having thoughts and asking questions that have never crossed their minds before and, if they did, they just shoved it all to the back of their heads and continued past it. They’re not doing that now. They’re wondering about things, questioning things, not letting go and not working past the things they don’t understand.”

Natalie knew he was right. “But…”

Manzer leaned forward, so huge and, Natalie thought, so beautiful and compassionate. “I could see it in each of them when I talked to them about your heart attack, the way they kept putting their hands on their heads, feeling the bump. I’ve seen their reactions to things like that in the past. They just ignored those things as though nothing had happened, as though a bandage on an arm had always been there and so what? They’d always been able to push reality out of their minds and replace it with something they could live with.”

It came to Natalie in a deluge of memories, questions and the thousands of looks in their eyes as they tried throughout their lives to fight as desperately as she did to keep them separate, to save their own lives against something they neither understood nor knew about. And this, she knew was where the tears were coming from. She looked at Manzer, “What have I done?”


He read the email back for the third time.

Arial 68

That should do it. Brief and to the point and no commitment yet on the date.

He decided to hold on to it for a while—he wasn’t sure yet when he would be leaving, how long he would be gone or even where he would be going.

And that was something he would have to start working on. Right away.

He opened his browser, clicked in the search field and held his fingers over the key board.

What to enter? Vacation? But that’s likely to bring up all kinds of vacation themes including blogs about people’s worst vacations and stupid definitions of vacations. Vacation destinations? Vacation destinations. That’s it.

He entered vacation destinations. Only one hundred and thirty-seven million results. The first was Expedia. Unfortunately, it looked like they wanted him to already know where he was going and when. He returned to the results page and scrolled till he saw…

Arial 69

Just what he needed. Ideas. And it looked like he had choices for the kind of trip he wanted. He wasn’t really the adventurous sort and casinos didn’t interest him at all. Family fun was out. He didn’t know how to ski and he wasn’t interested in shopping. Romance. He wouldn’t even know where to start. The only wellness he needed was, apparently, a vacation. Beaches and sun he could handle. He’d seen pictures of pristine beaches in tropical paradises and he could see himself strolling down a beach under a magnificent blue sky with waves washing around his feet. He clicked Beaches & Sun.

He wanted something close to home for some strange reason. Mexico, Central and South America looked good. They all had tropical beaches, sun and blue skies. He spent a few hours checking out the possibilities and finally decided on the Dominican Republic with its “glowing white sand and gorgeous blue water.”

He was jubilant. He’d found a place for his vacation. He studied the images of palm trees, beaches that spread into distant horizons and vast clouds soaring into infinite blue sky. But then as he went from picture to picture, a feeling of foreboding began to cloud his vacation joy. At first the pictures showed the land and the ocean. Now, they were beginning to head into the hotels and other places where he was beginning to see things that unsettled him.


Smiling faces everywhere. Singles, couples and groups of people. People sitting in thatched bars. People lying on the beaches under umbrellas as they sipped pina coladas. People running half naked into the ocean surf. People smiling and talking in lobbies. People.

He felt a sudden sense of foreboding. People. His stomach tightened. His chest tightened. His heart raced. People. The Dominican was full of people. They were everywhere. And there would be no way to avoid them.

He needed to find a new destination. A place to vacation by himself. A place with no people. A place where he could be alone to experience the…

What will I experience alone? Not bars. Not beaches. Not hotels.

He tried a new search term: Places to vacation alone away from people.

He found 9 Introvert-Friendly Travel Destinations – Quiet Revolution. That didn’t last long. It looked like some kind of workshop or cult thing to him. The other results were all for getaway-from-it-all, budget and vacations for seniors. The whole vacation concept was suddenly not the great idea he thought it would be.

He walked to the windows and looked out at the park. It was late afternoon and the park was crowded with people and pigeons. He felt like all the energy in his body had been sapped out of him. He’d been so excited about vacationing just minutes ago and now the excitement had turned into some inexplicable sense of angst. Why was he so afraid of people? This was something he’d never been able to figure out.

But then, have I ever tried to figure it out? Have I ever asked why I’m so uncomfortable around people? Has there ever been any reason for me to fear people?

He couldn’t remember any traumatic events in his early life other than his mother dying that would lead him to fear interacting with other people. He’d never had friends when he was a child but he was already uncomfortable about people then. It was something he was born with, something that went back as far as his first memories. It was something he’d never tried to deal with.

Why is that? Why have I never asked what’s wrong with me or even tried to deal with it? I know I’m different than other people. Mom drummed that into me thoroughly enough, but why would it make me afraid of other people? No one has ever tried to hurt me. No one has ever actually threatened me.

As he stared at the people in the park, he had an idea.

Maybe it’s time to go for a walk in the park.


What the hell was I thinking? This is such a bad idea.

A large man wearing orange skin tight jogging pants and matching top smiled at Jackson as he approached him, panting and moving sluggishly. Jackson stared at him with wide open eyes. He was sure he heard the man chuckle as he jogged past him, puffing and wheezing.

What am I doing?

Staring at the joggers back, he backed up quickly…right into a woman pushing a triple baby carriage.

“Hey! Watch where you’re going!” He could barely make out her face buried under layers of synthetic fur around the border of her parka’s hood. She pushed by him, muttering something. This seemed strange to Jackson. He’d watched this woman push her carriage with the triplets every day for over a month. He watched as she stopped the carriage and picked up one crying baby after another and patted them on the back until they stopped crying. She’d seemed so patient and composed, like nothing in the world could bother her. But he had. There was nothing good about him in the things she muttered.

He stood to the side of the sidewalk, out of everyone’s way. He stared at the joggers and walkers, the carriage pushers and the hand-holding lovers. He closed his eyes and listened to them passing. He felt their presence so clearly he could have counted the number of them in a group. He stood like that for nearly an hour until he heard a voice. It was a child’s voice. He opened his eyes and saw a young girl in a plaid fall jacket looking up at him.

“Are you alright, mister?” Her eyes registered real concern.

It took him a few seconds to put her into some kind of context that he could understand enough to react to it. “Yes,” he said. “I’m fine. Thank you for asking.”

The girl smiled. “I think you were having a panic attack. My brother has them all the time and he does the same kind of thing.”

Jackson looked into the girl’s eyes and smiled. Suddenly, the fear seemed to melt away, not completely, but he didn’t feel nearly as terrified as he had.

“He takes three deep breaths and tries to think about something that makes him happy,” said the girl. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Jackson reached his hand out and put it on the girl’s head. “Thank you. That’s what I’ll do next time.”

“Next time?” said the girl. “Does that mean that you’re OK now?”

Jackson thought a moment and smiled again. “Yes, I think I’m OK this time. And I’ll remember your advice if it happens again.”

“Janie.” A woman’s voice—the girl’s mother, in a matching plaid jacket—called to her. She didn’t look upset as she walked over to where he and the girl stood. “Please don’t mind my daughter. She’s been told not to bother strangers but it’s like telling water not to flow.” She looked at her daughter and said, “Say goodbye now. We have to get to the hairdresser, maybe on time for a change.”

The girl looked up at Jackson. “I hope you don’t need to do the breathing again, mister. Nobody wants to hurt you here.”

Jackson smiled again. “I’m sure you’re right. Thank you for the advice, Janie.”

He watched as the girl and her mother walked away.  He’d never talked to strangers like that before. Even the occasions he’d met face-to-face with clients online had been carefully scripted with checklists and action items. There’d never been much time for niceties—just business.

The girl had been so open and sincere, and she’d noticed him standing there with his eyes closed, which made Jackson wonder how many others had seen him there and wondered what was wrong with him: was he some kind of weirdo? A pervert? An escapee from a mental ward? Or just someone who didn’t know how to handle people face-to-face?

And now a new feeling took hold of him: he was calm, even with all the people around him jogging and running and pushing and holding hands. He wasn’t afraid of them. The nervousness was gone. His breathing was normal. The knots in his stomach had unwound and he felt a lightness that he’d never felt before.

He looked around at the people in the park. These were people he’d watched from his window for years, people he almost knew from seeing how they acted, the times they’d run for cover when it rained, the arguments over how much space one was allowed to use for sitting and for storing parcels when there was nowhere else to sit, the meetings of strangers, the meetings of old friends, the comforting of children hurt from falls or other accidents. It occurred to Jackson that he knew these people, that he’d known them for years and that he had nothing to fear from them.

In all these years, he’d never seen one of them strike or hurt another. Argue, yes. The older ones argued over the benches. But these were good people who treated each other with respect.And now, as Jackson strolled down the sidewalk deep into the park, he was one of them.


That night, before it was time, he bookmarked a few travel sites. He wasn’t going to rush it, but he was going to go on vacation.





















Episode 43: Monday – Jack

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Episode 43

He chuckled as he read her email.

Arial 63

Not long ago, he would have taken the threats seriously. Maybe not at first but he would have found a way to make them real in his mind. Not anymore. He knew that in all likelihood, she might actually be in love with him. And in all likelihood, he was in love with her. And yes, she was right about the loneliness after all the times he’d broken their dates and fled and then wrote to her with stupid excuses trying to justify unjustifiable behavior with lies that no one in their right mind would believe. The only irrational part of her was putting up with him for so long.

And just what could he say about the state of his own mind, writing those things and expecting any sane human being to believe them? What was his state of mind all this time? Certainly not rational. But then, hadn’t that been the way he’d lived his life since childhood, having to give his credibility gap a huge amount of gap. All the things that he’d had to shove to the back of his mind and pretend they weren’t important or never happened. Like the bump on his head. He touched it. It was almost gone. The cut was completely healed.

How could I have missed something like that? How can I not remember being hurt enough to have a bump the size of an egg on my head and not remember a damn thing?   

Memory loss from the injury to the head? 

He thought about that for a moment and had to admit that it was feasible. If he were hit on the head hard enough, it might lead to memory loss. He couldn’t remember being unconscious.

But then, I wouldn’t remember that, would I? I’d be unconscious. 

He tried to remember back to the day when he first noticed the bump, where he’d waken up. He was sure it was in his bed and not on the floor. He was sure that he wasn’t dressed when he woke up. He had a clear memory of sorting through his clothing and making sure everything was safe and free of bugs and other spying devices. 

It felt like crashing into a cement wall. He knew something was wrong. He knew that he should remember and that it was time to stop forgetting. He’d been doing it all his life and he was going to put a stop to it.

He clicked Reply on her email and wrote for about an hour, telling her about everything and how he wanted to start remembering because the not remembering was ruining his life, making him paranoid about everyone and everything in the world around him. He wanted her to help him to remember.

He was almost in tears by the time he finished writing. As he clicked the Send button, he felt suffused with a sense of lightness that permeated every cell in his body. It was an almost dizzying feeling of release.

He’d told her that he wanted to meet her at the first place he hadn’t shown up, so long ago. 


Valerie tried her best not to stare at Mrs. Gilbert’s wrinkles. She’d never seen anyone as wrinkled as the woman sitting across the room from her.

“Most of the way I look was done artificially,” said Natalie.

“I beg your pardon?” said Valerie.

Natalie laughed. “The wrinkles and other physical changes. I had to do a complete makeover so that the kids wouldn’t recognize me.”

She calls them ‘the kids.’ But then, that’s what they are to her.

“I apologize if I was staring,” said Valerie, “but I’m still getting my head around all of this. It’s so…”

“I know,” said Natalie, laughing. “I don’t think there’s ever been anything like this before. Split personalities, multiple personalities, things we read about and see movies about. But his is different. Jack is actually one of seven siblings sharing one body.”

 Valerie thought about this a moment and it seemed to make sense. “When you put it that way, it makes sense. Like it’s not some kind of mental disorder. It’s actually a physical thing.”

Natalie smiled and sipped tea from an ornate cup. “It made giving birth to septuplets a lot easier but I think raising them in individual bodies would have been much easier. Except changing seven diapers every day!” Her body shook as she laughed and she spilled tea into her saucer as she replaced the cup. “And you’re right, it’s not a personality disorder at all. You might call it a physical defect, the egg developing seven separate brains, all within one brain. I’m not sure how it would all look under an X-ray or scan but it’s the way Manzer and I have always seen it.

“Then, why haven’t you told them about each other? It seems to me that it would make life a lot easier to you. And a lot easier for them.”

Natalie drew out a long sigh before answering. “I guess, because I don’t know for sure how it works, how they’re separate but one. I don’t know what effect it will have, them knowing about each other. Would they see themselves as freaks? Would all the personalities join together as one new person? I don’t think they would but I’ve never been willing to take that chance.” She looked wistfully towards the window. It was slightly open, filtering the sound of passing cars and children in the park. “And then there’s the matter of how the rest of the world would treat them. Hate to use the word again but…freaks? Or just one freak. A hoax? I can’t see the rest of the world ever accepting them as seven different people. They’ll say it’s one person with seven personalities. Sometimes, I have a hard time making the distinction myself and I love each of them individually. I’ve never doubted for a second that I had septuplets.”

Valerie sipped her coffee and nodded. “I just can’t even begin to imagine how you held all of this together for so long, even with Mr Doyle’s help.”

Natalie laughed. “It hasn’t been easy.” She sipped some more tea, thought a moment. “I won’t bore you with a lot of details. I’m sure Manzer explained all of that. But…” She looked out the window again, the wistful look giving in to something else.

She’s afraid, thought Valerie.

Natalie’s lips moved under the wrinkles as though she were going to say something but changed her mind and changed her mind again until finally her shoulders slumped and her eyes and body seemed to slouch into a deep sadness. “It’s all starting to fall apart. The outside world is coming in and they’re beginning to feel the draw of the world outside the lives I’ve built to protect them. Well…” She gestured with one hand toward Valerie. “You’re here. You found Jack. And Jack has found you. I think he’s finally gotten to the point where he can’t stop himself from meeting you. And I don’t think it was all his paranoia about THEM that stopped him from meeting you in the past. And by the way, you’ll have to admit, some of the excuses were entertaining.”

Valerie laughed. “Yes. Yes, they were. It was sometimes worth being stood up just to read the excuse for it.”

“But it wasn’t just paranoia about you being an unknown factor. He’s always been like that about everything in his life that wasn’t in his flat or childhood home. When he was a child, he checked his clothing carefully before putting it on. I think he was checking for listening or tracking devices.” 

Valerie nodded and smiled. “I’m guessing he checks his clothing even more closely now.”

They both laughed.

“I think,” said Natalie, “that something deeper was going on though. I think that his fear of meeting you was ab unconscious knowledge of his condition, that he was too different to have a relationship with a woman. I doubt that he would have been able to explain it. It was just something he was aware of at a level that he would never be able to see. And, unfortunately…” She sipped some more tea and stared out the widow for several minutes.

Valerie sipped her coffee patiently and didn’t interrupt Natalie’s train of thought, thinking it better to just let her talk about it in her own time. 

Natalie suddenly shook her head and breathed in deeply and quickly, as though she’d just been pulled from a dream. She looked into the other woman’s eyes and Valerie saw the fear back, a deep sad fear. 

“I think they’ve all responded the same way,” said Natalie. “At some level they were always aware of the others and, if not, then aware of not being around all the time. I think, as much as I tried to get them to rationalize another way of perceiving time, they knew that their experience of time would never let them be fully a part of the outside world.”

“I can see that,” said Valerie. “It would always be there.”

“And the awareness of it has been growing. And now, I have a feeling they’re all going to start asking questions that can’t be answered without them knowing the truth, and they’re going to start doing things they will soon find out are impossible and they’re going to want to know why they’re impossible. Jackson wants to go on vacation for a week. Jackie wants to get a sex change.” All her weight sunk into her chair with a heave like a slow sigh of the body.

 “So,” said Valerie, “it’s time for them to find out?”

“I don’t know. I really don’t. I don’t know what that will do to them. I don’t know if they’ll be able to live with the knowledge or if it will drive them mad. It could affect each of them differently. I just don’t know.”

“Well,” said Valerie, “we’ll just have to work something out. In the meantime, I have a date with your son and I don’t want to be late.”


The Girl in the Blue Sweater. Weird name for a bar but it seemed to do the trick. The place was packed with an upscale crowd of mostly hipsters and hippie wannabes, as in hippies with brand new Nikes and Tommy Hilfiger jeans with an appropriate and politically correct amount of worn and torn knees. But they wore peace beads and hair band and they were doing a wonderful job of looking like they took the world seriously.

The crowd had changed but the place itself hadn’t changed a bit since the last time Jack was supposed to meet Valerie for their first date. The walls were plastered with black and white photographs of demonstrations, peace marches and outdoor rock concerts. Jack wondered if, somewhere in the building, there was a picture of a girl in a blue sweater. 

There she was. Sitting on a stool at the bar with a martini in front of her, hands cupped around it, leaning slightly forward, looking into it.

She’s so beautiful. 

She wore a low cut light yellow dress that made her blonde hair look even more blonde. The light behind her silhouetted the side of her face. She wore matching high heels, currently resting on the foot rest at the base of the bar where they highlighted her long slender legs. 

And I’ve been running away from this woman for how long?

His stomach was one very large, very tight knot. He felt as though he were walking through a cloud, as though he were detached from the reality of his life and wandering in a place that threatened to swallow him. But it felt good. He liked the tightness in his stomach, the feeling of just throwing himself off whatever cliff the cloud was leading him to. 

Fuck you Crosby. 

He was suddenly standing right behind her, a little to one side, staring at her, wondering what to do next. Without taking her eyes off her drink she said, “Have a seat, Jack. Your drink is on the way.”

He was dumbfounded. She’d just spoken to him. There was no running or turning back now. He was uncovered, in the open, caught, cornered, trapped. Finally free. He sat down on the stool beside her. She turned her head to face him. Her eyes were blue. Her lips were red. Her hair was blonde. She was smiling, looking right into his eyes.

Jack passed out. 


He had no idea how long he’d been unconscious. Apparently he hadn’t fallen on the floor, just full face onto the counter top, arms dangling down both sides. It was her laughter that woke him. He felt her hands on his head and neck, massaging him as she laughed quietly and said, “I’ve never had that effect on a man before. Now I’m beginning to understand why you’ve been standing me up all this time.”

Slowly, dizzily, he straightened up. He felt the flushing in his face. His head was spinning and he couldn’t think of anything to say. 

“It’s OK, Jack.” She kissed him on the cheek. “I know you’re not exactly the social type. And I know how much courage it took you just to come here…and to just sit beside me. And I’m happy that we finally get to meet each other in person.”

She still wants to be with me? I just passed out. She still wants to be with me?

“I…uh…yeah.” He looked up into her eyes. She was an inch or two taller than him. “Yeah, I guess you’re right, not much in the way of social skills.” There was a martini glass on the bar in front of him. He picked it up and almost emptied it. He wasn’t much of a drinker so the alcohol hit him almost instantly. A sense of euphoria settled over his head and body. His thinking seemed fuzzy.

Valerie giggled and put a hand on his arm. “Feeling better now?”

He looked at her and smiled. “Yeah. Much better.” He lifted the drink to his lips and sipped, lightly this time. “I just want to apologize for all those times I didn’t show up. Guess I deserved you doing the same thing to me.”

She smiled. “Didn’t like having the tables turned on you, did you?”

“No. But at least I wouldn’t have passed out in a public place.”

They both laughed. “I’m sorry about that,” she said. “Something came up at the last minute, something really important. I really did want to see you though.” She placed two hands on his forearm and squeezed with both. “But here we are now, together. I was almost beginning to think that this would never happen.” She giggled loudly. “Here we are. Would you like another martini?”

He nodded yes. Valerie signaled to the bartender, a short woman with long black hair and a slim body splashed with tattoos. Valerie turned to Jack, eyes wide with what seemed to Jack, excitement. “I love your comic strip, Jack. It’s so dark and well rendered. The characters are so real and the sense of mood and danger you create is so intense. And the way you talk about it in your emails…” She squeezed his arm with both hands. “I mean, the passion you put into your work. It’s so amazing. But, Jack, I think…well…I don’t want to talk about your work for a while.”


“There’s something else I want to talk to you about.”

“Sure. Anything you want to talk about. That’s OK with me. And I’ve always loved reading your emails. I feel like I’ve known you for a long time and…well…”

She smiled widely and kissed him on the cheek again. “Well, Jack, it’s about my job. You remember the man who called to me the other night? Well, he’s my boss.”



Jack’s mind was still reeling. He’d finally kept a date with her. He hadn’t run. Sure, he’d passed out. But he hadn’t run. He didn’t Crosby on her. He was happy with himself. He’d just had the most interesting evening of his life and he couldn’t remember being so relaxed. He couldn’t remember ever being so happy.

And all this time, she’d been working for them. He’d been both right and wrong to run from her.

Well, mostly wrong.

He knew that, even though she worked for a covert agency, she was never going to harm him. 

She said that she couldn’t tell him much about her work or employer, only that her job was to check out anomalies in data to determine if an investigation might be necessary. She also told him that contacting Jack on such a personal level could land her in a “shit load of trouble.” 

She told him that she felt a strong attraction towards him but had no idea why because, she assured him, he wasn’t in any way the kind of man she would normally be attracted to. 

He told her that he appreciated her candid, in fact, brutally candid honesty and asked why the hell she wanted to meet with him then?

“A feeling,” she said. “Just a feeling.”

Jack decided that he could live with that.

He asked her about the anomaly that put him on a list. She told him it was just some little thing about his birth date not matching between organizations and left it at that. The rest of the evening they talked mostly about all the dates that had never happened and Jack’s sometimes hilarious excuses. They laughed till both their faces began to twitch. She touched his arm repeatedly and kissed him on the cheek. In the car, after driving him home, she kissed him on the lips, not deep and long with a little bit of tongue-play, but enough to give him hope that something romantic might be brewing. And they were going to meet again—next time, at the second place they were supposed to meet.

He wondered about the birthdate discrepancy. Had he felt a brief sense of fear? Angst? He wasn’t sure but something about it hit a nerve. 

He decided to just let it slide and get on with things but it was the last thing he thought of before sleep enveloped him.






Episode 42: Sunday – Jackie

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Episode 42

She felt fresh after her shower. She’d tried something different today, something she’d read about while she was researching sex change operations: The Cold Shower. She’d heard that people took them but could never understand why anyone would want to subject themselves to that kind of torture. But the articles she’d read had talked about how healthy it was for the skin and the circulation, how it increased alertness, stimulated weight loss, relieved depression and eased stress. She’d just spent ten minutes in a cold shower and though it was freezing hell at first, she’d started to enjoy it after the first few minutes and now she felt vibrant. Her skin tingled.

I ‘ll have to do this more often.

Ten minutes, Jackie. You’re lucky you didn’t get hypothermia. But you’re not dizzy or sleepy-eyed, you’re awake, alert, so completely in the moment. 

She stood before the mirror, eyeing her naked body.

But still in the wrong body.

She wiggled into a pair of jeans and a plain brown t-shirt.


So far, her research had led her to conclude that it would be done in Europe. The Europeans seemed to be more open to the concept and had much more to offer in terms of surgery, treatment and support. She bookmarked another good site, one with lots of practical information and links to other sites. She saved the Word document she used to keep notes along with a list of questions. 

 She heard a knock at the door, muted, definitely not Uncle Manzer. It was still early. 

Who in hell would that be this early in the day?

She remembered the woman who’d come to her door saying they were in love and acting crazy. She wondered as she walked toward the door if she should get a knife from the kitchen. 

Why don’t the doors here have peep holes?

She stood facing the door for a moment, listening for any kind of noise that might tell her what was on the other side. Nothing. Not a sound. No movement she could perceive. No heavy breathing. She almost wished there would be some kind of sound. The dead silence was chilling. She put her hand on the knob and turned it slowly, quietly. When it was fully turned, she pulled the door open quickly.

In the hall, Krista almost jumped back, startled.

“What are you doing here?” Jackie’s immediate thought was to slam the door and call the police, but there was something vulnerable and almost endearing in the woman’s consternation. She definitely didn’t pose a threat and Jackie was bigger than her. 

“I’m sorry,” said Krista. “I know this seems strange, especially after the last time I was here, but I mean you no harm. I just want to apologize about what happened and maybe try to explain. By the way, my name is Krista.” She thrust her hand out to shake.

Jackie stared into the woman’s eyes. There was something in them that she couldn’t explain, something almost familiar beyond the last time she’d seen her, when she was acting crazy. It was like she instinctively liked the woman and her name seemed to ring a familiar bell. She opened the door a bit wider but not enough to let her in.

“Let’s get this straight,” she said. “I don’t know you and you don’t know me. If you start acting like you did last time, I’m throwing you out and calling the police.”

“Fair enough. I promise I’ll keep myself in check. Last week was just a terribly big misunderstanding.”

Last week?

She stepped back and opened the door the rest of the way. Krista walked in and took off her jacket. She wore a green plaid skirt with thick black stockings and a black turtleneck sweater. She motioned Krista to the couch and asked if she’d like a coffee.

“Coffee would be great.”

“Milk and sugar?”

“Black, please.”

A few minutes later, Jackie retuned with two steaming cups. She put one on the coffee table in from of Krista and one in front of her. “Careful, it’s hot. Really hot.”

“The way I like it.”

Jackie sat in a blue arm chair across from Krista, sipped her coffee and put the cup on the table. She looked straight into Krista’s eyes. “So, you said that everything was a misunderstanding the last time you were here.”

Krista nodded. “I’ve been having some…difficulties lately. I started seeing someone who I swear is your exact double.”

Jackie smiled. “It wouldn’t be the first time someone’s seen someone else who looks like me.” She picked up her cup and sipped again. “I must have a pretty common face, or aliens cloned me when I was a baby.”

They were both laughing when Jackie had a thought and abruptly stopped laughing. She cocked her head to the side and looked right into Krista’s eyes. “One thing seems strange to me, though.”

“What’s that?”

“How did you know that I live here?”

Krista paled. She hadn’t expected that. She was brought here by Jacky, the Thursday man. How would she have known about Jackie, the Sunday man? How would she have known where he lived? Jackie, she’d been told, rarely ever went out. There was no way that Krista could have seen her outside anytime recently.

C’mon, Krista, think. How did you know that she lives here? 

She glanced briefly to her left and saw the two tall windows. She pointed at them. “I was in the park and saw you in the window. I mean, the resemblance is so striking. It’s like you’re twins. I thought you were Jacky Carson.”

“Jacky Carson? That name rings a bell.”

“He runs a virtual photography gallery at the Frederick Street Mall.”

Jackie leaned forward and reached for her cup. “Yes! That’s it. I’ve seen that gallery. I walked through it a few months ago.” She sipped her coffee. “Amazing work.”


What the hell are you doing here? What are you doing? Are you an idiot? 

Krista had sworn to Valerie Vine that she would never tell anyone that Jacky Carson was actually seven people living in one body. It had all sounded so insane when Valerie explained it. The man she had just fallen in love with, the man she’d finally met who was going to make her happy and give her a normal life…was actually seven different people.

She might have run from Valerie, thinking that she was some kind of psycho who might have been in love with Jacky as well, some kind of mall stalker who’d been watching Jacky for God knows how long but she seemed so centered so focused, so professional. That part was a bit unsettling but at the same time she didn’t seem threatening. And they were in the mall. 

On top of all that, there was Sunday. The person at Jacky’s place wasn’t Jacky, and the overall presence of the Sunday man was so different, the eyes the same, but different; the voice the same, but different; the gait the same, but different. Same body…different person. 

She wasn’t sure if she understood the mother’s reasoning in keeping the seven personalities intact and secret from each other, not wanting to lose any of them by having them all collapse into one personality, or possibly going into some kind of psycho overload and going crazy, or spending their lives as some kind of offbeat scientific aberration. But she was stuck with the consequences of that reasoning. The man she loved existed for just one day of the week—four days a month. 

What have I gotten into this time? 

And what was she doing here, talking to one of the other personalities? This one was apparently a female. She wondered about that. What must it feel like to know that she’s a woman but living in a man’s body? She seemed nice enough and seemed to have it all together but Krista couldn’t help wondering what was under the smiles and self-confidence.

Why am I doing this? 

All she could think of was that it might be a little like being with Jacky, knowing that he was in there somewhere, somewhere behind those eyes that were the same, but different.

It’s not him, Krista, it’s not him. It’s someone else. Now, get the hell out of here before you say or do something the messes everything up.


They talked for a while about Jacky’s gallery and about him, what kind of person he was and what he was doing with his art. Jackie was sure that if she ever met Jacky Carson she would like him. Krista looked at her watch after her last sip of coffee and said that she had an appointment in about an hour and that she should get going and get ready for it.

Even though Jackie felt like hugging Krista before she walked out the door, promising to drop in again sometime, she didn’t. She shook hands, wanting so much to hug. 


Jackie didn’t have any real friends, people she could call up and say, “Wanna hang out tonight? Go to a movie? Go to a bar? Get drunk? Get laid?” She’d never been to a movie, she’d never been to a bar and she’d never been drunk. She didn’t have much of a life and it had always been that way. She knew by the indoctrination from her mother that she was different than other people. She wasn’t always sure that she followed her mother’s reasoning when she’d talked about how other people experienced time and how it compared to the way she experienced—very much like Jackie had pointed out how the scheduler was all wrong. She’d warned her that there would be periods of confusion when it would be best to just shrug her shoulders and go along with things. 

And she’d just done that with the cut and bump on her head. She touched the remains of the bump just to assure herself that, yes, that had happened. There had been an accident that had created a cut and a bump. It had not been a minor accident. The cut had been serious and the bump had been big. It had been the kind of accident that she would remember, that anyone in their right mind would remember. 

So, is that the only logical conclusion…I’m not in my right mind?

“No,” she heard her mother say from deep inside her memory, “you’re in a different mind. The others are in a different mind. You’re in your right mind. Just let it slide away.”

How many times had she told Jackie to just let it slide away? How any times had Jackie had to let go of something she knew was real and pretend it had never happened or existed?

Well, not anymore. Not anymore.

She spent the rest of the day researching sex changes, where the best places to get them were, where they were legal, how much a sex change would cost, the ramifications of having one’s sex changed, the long-term effects and side-effects, the effects it would have on family (No family, no problem.). The amount of information was overwhelming. 

She made notes and organized them. She went into her finances, how much money she had, how much money it would cost and how she would make those payments. It looked like it was going to cost a lot. She might have to save for a bit. She might have to save for a while.

But she was going to get rid of that thing between her legs.



Episode 41: Saturday – Jac

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Episode 41.JPG

The bump on his head was almost gone and his fingers could no longer pick up the trace of a scab. He tried not to think about it but for some reason the thought persisted. This usually didn’t happen. He just acknowledged, accepted and put it back on the shelf. He wondered why he couldn’t let it go this time. He dropped his hand to his side.

What’s happening?

There was something going on and it bothered him that he didn’t know what it was. It wasn’t the crazy guy giving away his address. If the crazy guy wanted to kill him, he would have done it already, and if there was any chance that anyone on the planet had ever read the crazy guy’s blog, he’d be dead a hundred times over but he was still alive so therefore nobody was reading the blog.

And why would they?

Jac had seen some crazy stuff on the internet over the years but the crazy guy’s blog was right over the top, even the screaming font.

He stared out the window at the park as he leaned against the sill. He’d been standing there all morning, watching passersby, joggers, the old people on the benches, mothers and fathers pushing baby carriages, watching them closely, waiting to see if any of them looked up at the windows to his flat. But so far nobody looked up, nobody looked out of the ordinary, nobody posed a clear and present threat.

He was safe in the haven of the crazy guy’s obscurity.

But what about the crazy guy? Where is he? Why did he give my address away? If he wants me dead then how come I’m still alive? How come he hasn’t tried to kill me yet?

Where is he?

A cold shiver ran across Jac’s back and down his legs. Where was the crazy guy? Where was he hiding? How did he know where Jac was living? Did he know this before he started blogging for his death? Had he known Jac’s address all along? If so, why the sudden blog attacks, the calls for his extermination?

It occurred to Jac that it was possible that the crazy guy lived close by. Maybe he was one of the tenants in his building. He’d never met any of the other tenants. He wondered about that. It had never bothered him before because he wasn’t interested in knowing his neighbors. He just wanted to write and let the world know how hopeless life was. And given that, why make friends who were just going to die eventually?

They all die.

He’d never given it any thought. He was always too wrapped up in himself and his writing and the hopelessness of his fans’ emails and the helplessness of their parents’ insults and threats, but now it bothered him that he’d never met any of the other tenants. In all those years. Not even a glimpse. Not a “hello” or “nice day” on the stairs or in the hall. It didn’t seem right and it sent another chill into Jac’s legs.

And there it was again, a sense that something was going on and he didn’t know what it was. He didn’t like that feeling—the not knowing. He had a good firm grip on his life. He was hidden from the rest of the world, beyond its clutches. And he had no misunderstanding on that part—if the world ever caught up to him, it would be with a vengeance. But the world wasn’t catching up to him. A crazy man was. A guy who thought the whole world was going to be saved by some imaginary creature that crawls out of the internet and speaks to him.

Well, if you’re going to be hunted by someone, be glad it’s by someone who doesn’t appear to have a clue.

But it still bothered him—he sense of something brewing, an indefinable feeling that something was going on under the surface of things, just out of sight.

He suddenly had a thought. He figured, at first, that it might make him seem as crazy as the crazy guy but as it worked its way into his mind, it seemed like it might actually be worth a try.

I haven’t met any of my neighbors since I’ve lived here. Time to change that.


First, he went to the alcove at the entrance to the building. He’d never noticed it before, never thought that it was odd.

There were no mail boxes. He was certain that email hadn’t killed the postal service…yet. And 3D printers hadn’t killed off parcel delivery. He did all his business and everything else in his life online but it seemed odd that everyone else in the building was doing the same thing.

No mailboxes.

And there were no mail slots on any of the tenants’ doors.

It was odd.

Time to knock on doors.

He walked down the hall past the stained glass pouring a dazzling display of color into the stairwell. The light was both relaxing and eerie. Jac rarely went out but when he did, he found a certain pleasure in the light the window cast in spite of his fatalistic view of life. Someday that window would be gone but it would be gone, likely, long past the time he would be gone.

He walked past Mrs. Gilbert’s door. No crazy guys in there. A few feet and to the right past her door was the first door. Further down the hall was another door. Only two tenant flats on the first floor. He knocked on the first door and waited. He waited about a minute before he knocked again, a little louder this time. A minute later he wondered if he should knock again. Maybe the tenant was out. Maybe the tenant was hard of hearing or still in bed. It was still early morning. Maybe the crazy guy was curled up in a corner wondering who was knocking on his door.

He walked silently to the door at the end of the hall and knocked. No answer. He knocked again.

Is everybody out today?

Time to check upstairs.


He stood by the window, looking out at the shuffle of movement in the park.

Not a single answer.

Except for him, the building was deserted. Or inhabited by a bunch of very unneighborly people. But then, he wasn’t the most neighborly person himself. Maybe the building was inhabited with people like him.

Maybe it was time to make a comment or two on the crazy guy’s blog.

He walked over to his laptop. He read the latest blog posting.

I’m the evil of plastic?

He’d been called a lot of things by a lot of people but he’d never been called anything like this. The evil of plastic. He thought about it for a few minutes. As he thought, he felt something tumbling around inside, not his mind or body, but somewhere else. He didn’t try to identify it or its source. He just let himself feel it. He sat at his laptop for about twenty minutes feeling whatever it was as the words passed through his mind over and over again.

I am the evil of plastic.

It came automatically, as though he were in a trance with his fingers moving over the keyboard with a mind of their own.

Hours later, he read what he’d written.

They look so confused as they die, even as it begins to make sense. This is the circus nobody wants to go to, the event that casts an indefinable pall as they sit and wait, glancing at the fire jugglers’ pots of flame with a vague sense of what’s to come, but no clear certainty. Nothing tangible enough to risk the embarrassment of walking through the stares and comments. “Where’s he going?” “What’s he doing?” “Daddy, I don’t want to do this.” “What’s wrong with him? He’s going to miss it.” So they stay, aware at some level that they know they’re needed here for the event all their lives have been leading toward and there’s nothing to be done but watch the acts, cheer performers, laugh with their children…and glance occasionally at the fire pots. Knowing but not knowing. Helpless to change the course of things that haven’t happened.

When the fire starts, they know the show is on…and the curtain calls for them.

The scenes that followed were horrific, just like in his dreams, just like the feeling that crawled under the surface of his skin every moment of every day. He finished the last paragraph of the first chapter and read it back to himself.

He watches as one-by-one the players die, as one-by-one it makes sense to them and they relax into it…and it makes sense to him as the fluids in his body stop being fluids and become gas just before he explodes into lotus bits.

Maybe a bit over the top, but not bad for the first draft.

It was almost the time but before he hit the sack, he opened his email and brought up the crazy guy’s blog to leave a comment.



Episode 39: Thursday – Jacky

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Episode 39

The park bristled with early morning joggers and baby walkers, though only one of the benches was occupied—an older man with a red hunting jackets who stared into whatever invisible screen played the panoramic, technicolor movie of his life. The others would drift in later in the morning, the late risers who kept retirement hours as something they’d worked a lifetime to earn. The email from Krista didn’t make any sense. He’d read it half a dozen times but each time he read it, the less sense it made.

Arial 60

Who are you? 

The words resonated through his mind. 

Who are you? 

It was something he was beginning to wonder about more and more. He loved his life, taking pictures of city plants, processing them to bring out all the beauty his camera lens hadn’t seen with his actual eyes, spending afternoons at the mall talking to the people who bought his art. And Krista—she was the woman he’d always wanted, the woman he could laugh with, talk to, make love to and walk in the park arm in arm with her head on his shoulder.

Who are you? 

It was like an indictment, an accusation with no response he could think of. 

Who am I? Jacky Carson, photographer. 

He couldn’t think of anything else. Just, Jacky Carson, photographer. He felt there should be more, like this was just the surface of a life, the forward for a story that went much deeper than this-is-what-I-do-for-a-living. He’d had this feeling before—that something was missing, something essential, something he was aware of in others but couldn’t see in himself. Whenever he’d had these feelings, he’d turned to his mother’s advice, her long explanations about his special condition, how it placed a filter over his view of his life, how his life would always be different than the lives of others around him, how he would perceive things differently than others, how it would sometimes isolate him from the rest of the world. 

Isolate me from the rest of the world? More like I’m not even a part of the rest of the world. More like I’m some kind of freak pounding away at the doors to the world and every time someone opens the door a crack, they slam it shut as soon as I step forward. 

And then there was that woman who mistook me for someone else. She was so sure that I was the other person. The look in her eyes as she turned away. No way was she convinced that I wasn’t him.

What was that all about? 


The mall was busier than usual and his holo gallery had a constant flow of people. It occurred to him that most of them went through it just to experience a holographic gallery, to see the walls covered with colorful images suddenly spring up around them. Often, though, they would see something they liked and used the holographic cashier to buy a picture. 

Busy as it was today, not many people were talking to Jacky, but that was OK with him. His thoughts were still bogged in the confusing email from Krista. None of it made sense. He didn’t have pink pajamas. Krista had only been to his place once, and he would never slam a door in her face.

He’d sent her an email practically begging her to meet him at the gallery. His eyes had been darting around the mall all afternoon looking for her, longing to see her long blonde hair heading toward him. He never noticed the woman watching him through the window of a coffee shop close to the exit. 


Even after a week, Valerie Vine still had a hard time getting her head around it.   

Jack Morrison is one of seven people living in the same body. He exists just one day each week: Monday. And the man I’m looking at right now, the Thursday one, is another one of them. 

She was tempted to leave the shop, walk over to the gallery and talk to him but she didn’t want to push things until she understood the situation more completely. 

And that’s why we could only meet on Mondays.

At first, she’d had a hard time believing Manzer Doyle—the enormity of seven distinct individuals living in the same body. She’d heard about multiple personalities and seen the movies for the most infamous of them but this was so methodical. It wasn’t something caused by trauma or an accident. This was how they were born. And each of them existed for just that one day. She’d encountered some strange situations and people in her work but Jack Morrison was the strangest.

She wondered also at the seemingly impossible job their mother had in keeping their identities secret from the world and from each other. Doyle had explained briefly how she’d done it, giving them a laptop with seven partitions and allowing them to sign into each of their partitions with their own passwords, steering them towards online businesses, guiding them in reconciling their concept of the passage of time with the rest of the world.

And she’d been doing it for over thirty years.

She watched the one called Jacky as the same tall blonde woman from last week walked up behind him.


Krista hadn’t slept in days. She’d missed appointments with her new clients and wasn’t even sure if she still had any clients. She couldn’t remember if she’d eaten that day or the day before. She’d stayed inside for days ignoring her phone, not answering her emails. She was sure that Jacky loved her and she knew that she loved him. But why did he want to see her just one day a week? Why did he pretend not to recognize her on Sunday? He slammed the door in her face. Why would he do that? What kind of game was he playing with her?

 She was about ten feet away from Jacky, who was looking the other way as he talked with one of his customers, when she heard a voice from her side:

“Krista. I need to talk to you.”

It was a woman almost as tall as her and with blonde hair like hers. She’d never seen the woman before. “What? Who are you?”

“Hurry,” said the woman. “Into the coffee shop over there before he sees you. My name is Valerie and I have some interesting things to tell you about Jacky Carson.”


It took Valerie about five minutes to explain the situation to Krista and almost an hour answering questions and repeating key points before she began to accept the truth. Sometimes she was in tears and sometimes she laughed. Overall she was stunned. The man she loved existed just one day of the week and was replaced by others the remainder of the week. How about that?

So, I’m not crazy. He’s crazy. No…not crazy…just…

Just what is he? How can he exist for just one day a week? Where is he the rest of the week?  

But she knew where. He was in some form of hibernation while the personalities of the others emerged for each of their days. At first she’d thought Three Faces of Eve, but this wasn’t like that. These personalities didn’t surface because of stress or some random occurrence—they had a schedule: one day a week. Every week. Week after week. Year after year. For decades.

And none of them know about the others.

She wondered about this, about how it was even possible as she approached Jacky. She wasn’t sure what she was going to say to him, how she was going to handle this. She just knew that she loved him and that she wanted to be with him, even for just one day a week.

Krista had her knife. She still wondered why the hell she’d brought a knife. 


Jacky heard his name called quietly and immediately recognized the voice. He turned to see her just inches away and didn’t have a chance to say a word before she put her arms around his neck and practically rammed her lips into his. He wasn’t sure how long they kissed but he was aware of people starting to gather around them. Krista finished the kiss with a loud wet smack and buried her head in his chest. The people who’d stopped to stare began to move on, smiling for the most part.

“I won’t leave you again,” she said. “I understand now.”

Jacky thought for a moment. It was good to feel her head on his chest and her arms around him but he wasn’t sure that he knew what she meant by understand now.

“You understand?”

She looked up into his eyes, realizing that she had to be careful about the words she used, at least for as long as he didn’t know about the others.

“I understand that you need to have time to work on your art and I shouldn’t be gobbling it all up on you. I understand that you love me and I love you and we’re going to be together.” She smiled and kissed him again.


They’d practically torn their clothes off as soon as they walked through the door to Jacky’s flat. The revelation that Jacky was actually seven people living in one body slipped away as quickly as their clothes. It wasn’t until later when they lay together with her head on his chest that she started to think about what a relationship with Jacky would mean. She would be lying with him like this only once a week. They would have dinner together once a week. They could never go on a week long vacation together. They would never spend a weekend together. He would be her weekly man. 

She’d met the Sunday one, and what a coincidence that their names sounded alike. But the one on Sunday was definitely another person. And those pink pajamas. Where did the Sunday one keep them so that Jacky would never find them? And how…?

Once again, the questions flooded her mind. It was all so complicated and weird. She couldn’t imagine how their mother had managed to keep it all secret for so many years.

And then there was the matter of Valerie Vine. She was interested in one of the personalities, the Monday one, apparently a paranoid comic strip artist who’d been standing her up on dates for ages. Would she have to share Jacky with her as Jack? It was too complicated to think about now while she could feel his chest against her face and her legs wrapped into his. 

Yes, just focus on this moment for now. There will be lots of time to figure things out later and, after tonight, you won’t be seeing him for another week. Maybe I can sneak in next week after the Wednesday one falls asleep and actually wake up with Jacky. 


Jacky didn’t know what to say or where to begin saying it. He had so many questions but he was afraid to ask, afraid that this moment with her head on his chest and her body pressed against his would suddenly dissolve in the light of answers that neither one of them wanted think about. 

He just wanted to feel her breath on his chest and the warmth of her body forever. 


So, this is how it happens. And it happens every night. 

Krista sat on the side of the bed staring at Jacky’s face. She’d lay with him for almost an hour after he’d fallen asleep and then she got up slowly, silently and dressed. It was around one o’clock that the change began. It was so slight at first. A faint twitch around the mouth, movement under the eye lids. Then the body changed, the shift in posture followed by the shifts in his face, almost like its structure was changing. It was all so subtle at first and then it all came together in just a few seconds and the man in the bed, the man she loved, was gone, replaced by a man who would rise in a few hours, put on a red dress, pretend to smoke a cigar and write romance novels under a woman’s persona. 

At least he’s not the one wearing the pink pajamas. 

She went into the living room and opened the front door, picked up the box that Manzer had put there and went to the refrigerator before she left.





Episode 38: Wednesday – Jax

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Episode 38

“You must not fail my directive.”

I must not fail.

“I have given you the key.”

I have the key.

“You must kill the vermin that poisons the masses.”

Kill the vermin.

“It must be done tonight.”


“And there will be celebration.”


“And there will be celebration.”


“And there will be…”


’m going to be saved. We’re all going to be saved.

He heard a knock at the door. He wondered who would be knocking at his door this early in the morning. He wasn’t expecting anyone. It could be Mrs. Gilbert, but she always called in the afternoon if she needed to see him about something and there were no repairs that would require a visit from Mr. Joyce. He stood up and walked to the door. As he stood before it, he wondered why there was no peep hole so that he could see who was standing in the hall waiting for him to open the door. Could it be Simon Pierce? Was Pierce on to him? He was somewhere in this building, knowing that Jax knew where he was and was coming for him. Was he, in turn, coming for Jax? Was he at the door now? Another knock. And then a voice: “Jax? Are you home? It’s Uncle Manzer.”

He opened the door.


Shortly after Manzer left, Jax was back at his computer. He felt bad for Mrs. Gilbert and he thought that maybe he should go to the hospital to visit her but Manzer had said that Mrs. Gilbert really didn’t want to see anyone while she was in the hospital.

Then he had asked Manzer about the other tenants in the building. Manzer had looked a little confused at first, possibly even flustered but Jax had persisted, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of them, which seems strange for the length of time I’ve lived here. I don’t even hear them walking in the hallways or see them leaving or entering the building.”

Manzer suddenly smiled, as if something had just occurred to him. “Well, Jax, the number of tenants has been dwindling. Mrs. Gilbert has been planning for some time now to do some extensive renovations so, when a tenant leaves, she hasn’t re-rented their flat. It’s something she’s been talking about for years now, and I sometimes wonder if she’ll ever actually do it. And as far as I know, and I’m not sure of this, you may be the only tenant currently in the building.”

The only tenant?

It didn’t make any sense. Simon Pierce had to be in the building somewhere, whether Mrs. Gilbert knew about it or not. And Manzer wasn’t entirely sure that he was the only tenant left. Whatever the case, it was his calling to find Pierce and kill him…and somehow, he would do it.

He’d tried several times to get back into Pierce’s computer but he couldn’t remember the password. In fact, he couldn’t actually remember having known the password. It had been something he’d just keyed in without being consciously aware what he was keying in. He touched he bump on his head and noticed that the cut was almost completely healed.

But aren’t they always?

If not for the bump, he might have started doubting that he’d been on Pierce’s computer and had searched the attic to find and kill him. He thought about this. Find and kill him. He had a knife. He was going to find Simon Pierce and stab him until he was dead. There would be blood. Gurgling noises. Maybe screams of horror. Begging for mercy. The feeling of the blade tearing through flesh. What would that feel like? Would he look into Pierce’s eyes as the life drifted out of them and dissipated into the air? Would his eyes be wide with terror or would they close peacefully, grateful that the agony of his life was finally over?

He rushed to the washroom and vomited for nearly an hour, most of it dry heaves.

Back at his computer, he wondered why Ratlas had given him the job of killing Pierce. He wasn’t a killer. He wasn’t an assassin. He was the carrier of the word, the message. He was like a carrier pigeon. Why would Ratlas choose him to do something he was so unequipped to do? His head was still spinning from the hour in the washroom. His whole body felt puffy and unnatural. His mind was a blank when he thought about killing Pierce. He just couldn’t see it.

It suddenly occurred to him that he hadn’t checked his email. There would almost certainly be a comment from Pierce.


Just how crazy is this?

Manzer chuckled.

He doesn’t realize that he wants to kill himself. Good thing they’ll never meet. And a good thing that he’s decided to do it himself and not hire someone else to do it.

He wondered about Jax getting access to Jac’s partition on the computer though. It shouldn’t have happened. Unless, somehow, the there was some kind of crossover between the characters. Manzer figured that, if all seven personalities occupied the same body and brain, it might be possible for one to occasionally slip into the other. In this case, Jax might be stopping himself from hiring an outside killer, knowing that he would never be able to do it himself: and thus, they both stay alive.

Unless Jax accidentally kills himself while trying to kill Jac.

Manzer smiled and chuckled at the irony.

Again he wondered about the work that Natalie had done for so many years, keeping their identities from each other, the continual balancing acts to allow each of them to function in the world outside their separate identities, knowing when things were getting out of control and devising ways to bring things back into balance. He pictured her as a juggler of lives in an act that never stopped and continuously switched the stage out from under her feet with all the pins still in the air. And the only fuel she’d ever had was her love for each of them. He’d asked her once why she was so afraid to let them just be one individual.

“That would be murder.” She’d left it at that.

But over the years, they’d discussed the dark side of the world her children were born into. None of them would ever be married. What woman would marry one man who was really six men and a woman? How would she cope with the barrage of seven personalities going through all the changes in life, the mood swings, the separate needs, the daily wants and desires of seven separate people.

And now one of them was planning on getting a sex change at a time when the outside world was beginning to barge in with a fury that Manzer couldn’t imagine any amount of juggling bringing it back in tune. The pins were about to fly in whatever direction they would fly.

And Natalie was in the hospital.


Jax’s hands were shaking as he opened his blog and saw the comment.

Of all the people to leave comments, it has to be the greatest of evils that must be purged from the firmament to stop its flow of vitriol into the veins and arteries of the world.

His skin crawled as he read the comment.

Fuck you.

Blood boiled into his face. He felt a tingle across the top of his head. A deep shake ignited through his entire body.

Once again, he desecrates The Word and Its Forms and Meanings. And from the very structure where it originates. Simon Pierce must die.

He closed his eyes, opened himself to it, and let his fingers flow into the letters and words, carrying their message.




There Simon Pierce. Shudder in the knowledge.


Tonight is the night. If all the other flats are vacant, then there is only one other place he can be hiding—the basement. This time I’ll be ready.

He knew what he had to do this time. He needed to put together a kit:


Granola bar.


He laid the kit on the kitchen table, pondering it, thinking about what else he might need. He thought about mace but he had no idea where to buy it. But he did have the knife. He had no idea about the lighting arrangements in the basement so the flashlight might come in handy. He had no idea why he included the granola bar but it just seemed right. He thought about rope but he decided that he didn’t want to take Pierce prisoner, he just wanted to kill him. He stuffed the objects in to a leather pouch.

Before he left his flat to kill Simon Pierce, he went to the washroom and threw up.


It had taken him about fifteen minutes to find the door to the basement. He’d never realized how big the building was and it seemed more than a little strange that he was currently the only tenant besides Mrs. Gilbert.

The stairs leading into the basement were steep and led into a musky darkness. He found the light switch and flicked it. Nothing happened. He wondered how Mr. Joyce could have missed something like this but he countered this thought by assuming that, if someone were living in the basement, then Mr. Joyce wouldn’t be going there and he wouldn’t have known about the light. He felt a thrill. It was beginning to appear more likely that Simon Pierce was using the basement as his headquarters. He reached into the leather pouch and pulled out the flashlight. He thought a moment and pulled out the knife. It felt solid in his hand. He felt safer, assured. Soon the plague of Pierce would be gone. The world would be free of the one who would undo the good that Ratlas was trying to accomplish, the one who would diminish The Word and Its Forms and Meanings. He left the pouch and the granola bar on the top step. There would be time for feasting when Simon Pierce was dead.

He felt a need to throw up again. He breathed in deeply three times and the feeling passed. It was time to kill Simon Pierce. He turned the flashlight on and stepped down slowly. He felt a cobweb on his right cheek.

Just the kind of place a demented soul would hide to conduct his war on everything good in the world.

He bounced the flashlight beam onto the walls, ceiling and floor as he descended. When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he shone the light quickly into the darkness to the left and right. With the exception of a huge ancient-looking furnace, the basement was empty.

No. He has to be here. He has to be here. Somewhere in here.

He saw a wooden, crate-like door at the far end of the basement.

There you are.

He shone the light on the floor and started to walk slowly, carefully, to the door. He tightened his grip on the knife. He thought about trying a few practice thrusts in the air but decided that was a little too dramatic. As he approached the door, he shone the light a little to his rear, giving just enough light to see the door and its latch but not enough to alert Pierce. When he reached the door, he faced a dilemma: How to open it? He had the flashlight in one hand and the knife in the other. He decided that he needed the knife more. He couldn’t imagine himself beating Pierce to death with the flashlight. That would take too much time, and he wasn’t sure how big or strong Pierce might be. The knife was the equalizer.

He bent down and lay the flashlight on the floor, stood up and reached for the door latch. At exactly that moment, an uncommonly large black spider dropped on a thread of web directly in front of his eyes.

He screamed.

It was a long, loud, fearful scream. It penetrated the walls and the beams in the ceiling. When it finally tapered to a whimper, the spider was gone. He couldn’t see the thread of webbing and wondered if the spider, frightened by his scream had climbed back up into the ceiling or if it was on the floor…or on his clothing. With his free hand, he frantically brushed the front of his shirt. When he finally calmed down and was able to think rationally again, his first thought was that he might have lost the element of surprise. He reached out to the door latch, pressed down and flung the door open.

He faced a pitch dark room. He picked up the flashlight and aimed it into the darkness. The room was empty except for a single uncovered light in the ceiling. He flicked a switch to his right and the light came on, illuminating an empty room.

This can’t be. He has to be here. He has to be here somewhere.

He checked the floor for trapdoors. No trapdoors. He checked the ceiling for pull-down staircases. No pull-down staircases. No windows to crawl through if he’d heard Jax’s scream. Simon Pierce wasn’t in the basement. The other flats were unoccupied. Mrs. Gilbert was planning on renovations so she hadn’t let them out to new tenants.

But I found his address. I found it on his computer.

He started to wonder about that, about how something like that could happen, right out of the blue, for no reason. How would he know the password? His mind flew off in a dozen directions. He felt weak and exhausted. Simon Pierce would have to wait for another time to die. Jax had to figure out what was going on, why he was so sure he’d gotten into his personal computer and why he thought the demon was living in the same building as himself.

Besides, it was almost the time and he was sure he had to throw up once more.




Episode 37: Tuesday – Jackson

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Episode 37

Jackson didn’t spend much time wondering about the bump on his head. He didn’t even look at it in the mirror. This kind of thing had happened before and he’d long since learned that it was best to just let it pass. Everything healed. 

Besides, his stomach and chest were tight with stress. He was actually going to go outside and meet two of his clients, in a coffee shop, with other people sitting at tables, eyeing him as he walked in. And what if an argument broke out between Jody and Roy? What if they started yelling? What if there were a fight? They might all end up in jail. And they would certainly be noticed. His stomach felt like a piece of petrified stone. Nothing seemed real. The room wasn’t spinning but he had a sense of movement that didn’t feel right. He felt like he was going to be sick but he hadn’t eaten yet so there was nothing to vomit. Why had he agreed to this meeting? Why hadn’t he just stood up to the two of them and told them to stick to the normal routine? But it was too late now. He’d already made the commitment. He had to go through with this. He had to go to the meeting, to the coffee shop, outside. But how would he get there? He thought for a moment.

Taxi. I’ll call for a taxi.

Outside the window, light rain cast a grey pallor over the park. It didn’t stop a few of the seniors who’d brought umbrellas and towels to wipe the water off the benches. The runners looked exactly the same. Just another day on the running route. Two mothers with umbrellas pushed their baby carriages. He walked across the floor to his work station and turned on his laptop. There would be plenty of taxi companies online.

In a few minutes, he had one and wrote down the number. He didn’t expect any mail from Jody and Roy since he sent his confirmation but he checked his email anyway. 

What the hell? 

There were about a dozen emails from them, mostly from Jody.

What is this?

He opened the first of the emails. It was from Roy.

Arial 56

What? What’s he talking about? 

He opened an email from Jody.

Arial 57

What is going on here? The meeting’s not till nine. What are these two talking about? And what does this asshole mean by my recent behavior? And he’s looking forward to my compliance? 

There were still about a dozen more emails. He decided to skip to the end and opened the last one from each of them, Roy’s first.

Arial 58

Have they both gone out of their minds? The meeting’s not for another two hours. Another two hours!   

He opened the last of Jody’s emails.

Arial 59

Jackson felt like his mind was spinning, like his whole world was spinning. None of it made any sense to him. The meeting wasn’t for another two hours, yet both men had sent emails accusing him of not showing up. It made no sense. He read through the other emails, one of them from Jody accusing him of going for days without getting back to him with an explanation. How could days have passed on something that hadn’t even happened yet? He put his hand on his head and felt the bump. 

And what’s that all about? How did I cut my head? How do these things happen? He recalled a conversation with his mother. It was in the big kitchen many years ago.

“You’re a very special person, Jackson.”

“Why is that, Mom? Why am I a special person?” He smiled sheepishly. She’d said this to him so many times. He had it all memorized word for word but he never tired hearing it. 

“It’s your mind, honey. It operates at a much different level than the minds of other people. It’s almost…”

“…like it operates in a different world.” He giggled.

“That’s right, Jackson. It’s like a gift that will allow you to do things that others can’t.” She put her hand on top of his. “But there will be things that might confuse you, things that come from people who don’t have your abilities, people who live on a different plane of being from yours. There will be misunderstandings and times when things happen that you may not be able to explain. When this happens…”

“…just shrug it off and move past it.” He giggled again. “It’s the others who aren’t making sense. Because they’re in a different world.”

They’d had that talk so many times and it had always made sense to him. It was like the bump on his head. It was there, but he had no idea what had happened or when it had happened. And this had happened many times in the past. What always bothered him, though, was that this didn’t seem to be from the outside world, from the others. This was something that had happened to him, something that he’d done. It was his head, his bump. He’d been personally injured and he should remember how it had happened and when. But, as in the past, there was no memory, no clues, nothing. Something had happened to him and he didn’t have a trace of memory of it. Just like every other time.

And now he was being accused of missing a meeting that hadn’t even happened yet. 

And now there was a knock at the door. He assumed it would be Mrs. Gilbert as he opened the door and was surprised to see Manzer Doyle facing him, his massive body cutting off most of the view through the doorway. His smile seemed so out of kilter with his body, warm and friendly, and completely unimposing.

“So,” he said, “are you going to invite your Uncle Manzer in?”

It took Jackson a few seconds to grasp the situation before he almost jumped to attention and swung the door fully open. “Yes! Yes, Uncle Manzer. Come in.” He moved aside to let the huge man into the room. “Would you like a coffee or something?”

“That would be good, but I’m afraid I have a lot of things to do this morning and right into the afternoon. I’ll be here for a few days, so maybe sometime soon.” His chest heaved as he sighed and the smile fell from his face. “But now, I’m afraid I have some bad news.”

“What is it, Uncle Manzer?”

“It’s Mrs. Gilbert.” He paused for a second. “She’s OK now, but she had a heart attack and she’s in the hospital. She’ll be out soon but in the meantime, I’ll be managing a few things in her place. Mr. Joyce is on a weeklong canoe trip somewhere in the middle of nowhere with no way to contact him.”

Jackson almost lost his balance.

Is the whole world coming undone?

“A heart attack? Mrs. Gilbert? But I was just talking to her. She was the picture of health. When did this happen?”

Manzer thought about this for a moment. Jackie had had a hard time believing that she would miss something as dramatic and obvious as an ambulance coming to the building and taking someone away. He decided to change the facts a little. 

“Apparently, she felt something coming on and took a taxi to the hospital. She arrived there just in time. The heart attack started in the admissions room. It seems that she was in the right place at the right time.”

“I wish she had come to see me, though, so that I could have gone to the hospital with her. Why wouldn’t she have done that? I mean, something that serious and just taking a cab by herself?”

“Well, you know Mrs. Gilbert, always looking after others and refusing to let anyone look after her. Besides, everything turned out alright. She survived the heart attack, and that’s the important thing.”

“Would have been nice if she’d mentioned something, though.”

“She most likely felt a sense of urgency and probably wasn’t thinking her clearest.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. So, she’ll be home soon?”

“That’s what the doctors say. She’s a strong woman and she hates hospitals.”

Manzer stayed for a few more minutes, assuring Jackson that if he needed anything he would be there for him. As soon as he walked out the door, Jackson was back at his computer trying to figure out what was going on with Jody and Roy. The meeting was in another hour and he had a slew of emails accusing him of missing it.


It was late. Jackson had been staring at his laptop screen most of the day. Since he’d returned from the coffee shop, he vaguely remembered going to the washroom, making a sandwich at some point, but most of the day was obscured by a deep funk. Too many things had happened over the years, and the things his mother had told him to explain those things weren’t as assuring as they used to be. He wanted to know how he’d received the bump on his head. Something as traumatic as an accident that would cause a bump the size of the one on his head would be something not easily forgotten. There had to have been blood and intense pain. How could he forget that?

And this thing with Jody and Roy. What was that all about? He’d gone to the Floret Coffee Shop and arrived there exactly on time but neither men were there. It didn’t make any sense that they would be angry at him for not making it to a meeting that hadn’t even happened. And when he tried to make it happen, they weren’t there. 

Just before it was time, it finally sunk in on him. There was nothing wrong with the rest of the world. 

There was something wrong with him.











Episode 36: Monday – Jack

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Episode 36

And there it was again. Another injury without explanation. Another piece of his life evaporated into…where? It hadn’t happened for a long time, at least nothing this serious. It was a big bump and strangely the cut was almost healed. How could he have gone this long without noticing it? A small cut to one of his fingers, a scraped knee or some other minor injury he could understand not noticing but this was over the cliff. 

Someone was messing with his head. Someone was somehow controlling his mind, robbing him of his memories and he was sure that he knew who was behind it.

Vine. Valerie Vine. The man had called her Valerie. And he was so obviously government or some sort of agency.

He should have known better. All the signs were there and the PDF confirmed that the covert glances and signals, the repeated attempts to meet and the patience with each failed meeting were all part of something going on under the surface of things. Why would any woman in her right mind put up with all that? 

Unless it was a trap. Unless she was luring him into the thing he’d been evading all his adult life. Crosby would have been disappointed with him. He’d played right into her hands, their hands. He’d been a fool. An idiot. 

 So why the hell did he still love her? 


Valerie Vine was still shaken from her crazy episode at the mall. She’d been so sure that the man at the holographic gallery was Jack. He even had a similar name. But there was nothing of Jack in those eyes. Nothing of Jack in his posture or presence. Even his voice was different. And he genuinely did not recognize her. There was no way he could have feigned that so convincingly. She’d come onto him completely unexpected. There would have been a fraction of an instant in which something in his eyes would have given him away. But there wasn’t. The man she’d seen at the mall was not Jack. He was someone else.

But the resemblance was uncanny.

And then there was that little matter of the day thing. The only contact she’d ever had with Jack was on Monday. He’d long ago said something about that being his only day to have any contact with others. The rest of the days, even weekends, he was absorbed by his comic strip and other things. She’d always passed that off as an eccentric artist thing, which didn’t seem so abnormal considering where she worked and the people she worked with. 

She’d never actually investigated Jack even though that was her job. She’d started, and then she’d come across his comic strip. There was something in the flow of it, the tight-knit group of kids. There almost seemed to be a sense of warmth in the midst of danger and threat. She’d changed the direction of her investigation into something more personal. She approached him through his email, as a fan. And it had grown over time. The things she wrote about were all real, things she actually felt and thought about, things from her real life. Her job excepted, of course. And she looked forward to his lame excuses for not showing up at each rendezvous almost as much as planning them. 

All-in-all, she’d been pretty much hands off with him. But something weird had caught her attention at the mall. According to the schedule of hours at Jacky Carson’s gallery, he was there every Thursday to meet with the public. Every Thursday. Just the one day a week.

It was time to look more closely at Jack Morrison on a more professional level. He hadn’t sent his usual apology and excuse for missing their meeting. She decided to send him an email asking why, and then begin looking very closely at this man who she thought she knew so intimately but had never met. And yes, she would see what he was up to the other six days of the week.


About three seconds after he opened his email, her message jumped into his Inbox. He sat for a few moments with his hands on the keyboard as a horde of thoughts galloped through his mind, none of them surviving long enough to make any sense before being trampled by the next. His hand moved slowly to the mouse pad. His finger shook as he opened the email.

Arial 53

She knows where I live. 


Manzer smiled when he read the woman’s email. Natalie had told him about the relationship between Jack and the woman who signed her emails Vine. She’d shown him some of the excuses for not showing up. Both he and Natalie agreed that whoever this woman was, she was either infinitely patient or infinitely desperate.

Again, the thought crossed his mind: how did she keep all of this together for so long, keeping seven separate people from finding out that they shared one body, and keeping their secret from the rest of the world? He imagined that there must have been so many times when the whole balancing act came close to tumbling. He was overwhelmed by the enormity of her accomplishment but he was beginning to wonder how much longer she could keep it up. And she’d just had a heart attack. She would need rest. She wouldn’t be able to keep up the pace these seven set for her. Plus, it looked like things were getting more complicated than at any time in the past. The outside world was trying to spring into their lives and it was beginning to look like there would be no stopping it. A woman Jacky had had sex with had come knocking on Jackie’s door. A woman who’d waited patiently for over a year for Jack to finally meet with him was making an ultimatum. And what were the important things she wanted to talk about? Natalie had tried to find out more about Vine but she was untraceable, almost as though she didn’t exist online. Manzer had wondered about that at first. He’d known people in various departments and agencies like that, and none of them were good news. But as time passed and nothing extreme had happened to Jack except weekly failures to actually meet with the woman, he’d assumed that she was just another eccentric like Jack and maybe she was some kind of computer geek who knew how to hide her identity. She’d made the occasional reference in her emails to data work but she’d never been very specific about her job. 

And then there was the problem with Natalie. She was going to leave the hospital early, against the advice of her doctor. She’d always been hard-headed but this time there was a lot more at stake. Her health might never return to the pre-heart attack level—just when crises beyond anything that had happened in the past were beginning to develop with the kids.

He stood up and took his empty coffee cup to the kitchen. He wondered what the kids would think if they ever came into Mrs. Gilbert’s kitchen and saw so many of the things they grew up with in their childhood house. He put the cup in the sink and decided it was time to pay a visit to Jack. 


She knows where I live.

He heard a knock at the door. 

Oh no. Who’s that? Who’s knocking on my door. What would Crosby do? 

After a couple of minutes, a slightly louder knock.

Oh no. Oh no. Oh no.

He heard a voice. “Jack, are you in there? It’s me, Uncle Manzer. Can you answer the door?”

Oh shit. He rushed to the door and opened it.

“Uncle Manzer! I didn’t expect to see you. Come in.” He stood aside to let Manzer in. 

As he made his way to the couch, he said, “I’m not sure if you’ve heard about Mrs. Gilbert.”

“I saw an ambulance take her away. Mr. Joyce was there but I didn’t get a chance to speak to him, and no one has been around since. 

“Mr Joyce is on vacation. And Mrs. Gilbert is doing very well. They got her there in time and now she’s making a swift recovery. She’s a very strong woman.”

“I’m glad to hear that. And you’re right, she is a very strong woman. She’s always been there for me whenever I’ve needed her for anything, her and Mr. Joyce.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Jack.” He shifted his weight to the right to lean on his elbow. “She’s going to be home soon but, in the meantime, I’ll be dropping in to take care of things. If there’s anything you need, let me know.”


Back in Natalie’s apartment, Manzer wondered about Jack. He’d seen Natalie being put into the ambulance but hadn’t come down, hadn’t made any inquiries, hadn’t gone to the hospital. But then, Jack was someone who had likely seen the whole incident as part of a scheme from whatever secret forces to undermine him and do whatever evil it was they did.

How does she manage to deal with all this? 


As soon as Manzer was out the door, Jack rushed back to his email.

She knows about me backing away from the meetings. But how could she not? How could I have been so stupid to think that she would believe all those lame excuses? 

She knows where I live. She’s coming here. At nine. She’s coming here. She knows where I live. And what are these important things she wants to talk about? Who’s she working for? Who was that man in the restaurant? And what does she mean by “you better be there”? That sounds like an “or else.” Or else what? But she followed it with a smile. Like she meant it playfully. Think, Jack. This has been going on for so long now. Nothing bad has ever happened to you because of her. All those long emails, all the stories and personal stuff. All of that had to be real. But she never mentioned anything about her work, what she did for a living with..data. She always kept that from you. And you never wondered why. You never stopped to think that this is how she feels about this and this is what she thinks about that, this is her story about the fish stand on Charlotte Street when she was a kid and this is her story about the time she broke her leg when she was a cheerleader. But what does she do? Who does she work for? How does she know where I live? 

She’s going to be here at nine.

He stared at the computer screen for about twenty minutes with his brain paralyzed with panic. It was like he’d known all along that it would come to something like this. He’d blanked many things out of his mind but he realized that was something he’d been doing all his life. There had been so many things that he couldn’t explain, so he’d just shrugged his shoulders and let them slide away into some faraway graveyard of unanswered questions.

She’s going to be here at nine.

He put his hand on his head and felt the bump. It was smaller, healing. The scab on the cut was almost gone. Healing.

How could I have missed the healing? 

He re-read her email. Twice.

She’s going to be here at nine?

He didn’t have a choice this time. It wasn’t a matter of her inviting him to meet at a coffee shop, bar or restaurant. She wasn’t inviting. She wasn’t suggesting. She was telling him that she was going to come to his place at nine that evening and there was no way out. He had to be there.  He had nowhere to run. After all his years of paranoia, he’d never actually devised an escape route. He’d never worked out the details of what to do if he were cornered. Where would he go? What would he do? Who would help him? He had no friends. There was Mrs. Gilbert and Mr. Joyce but, even after all the years he’d known them, he didn’t really know them. And Mrs. Gilbert was in the hospital. Mr. Joyce was on vacation. He’d never met any of the other tenants in the building. He was alone.

She’s coming here at nine. 


It was starting to get dark out. Jack looked at his computer screen, at the reply he’d sent to her. 

Arial 54

She knows where I live.


Just as Valerie was about to knock on the door, she felt a hand on her shoulder. It wasn’t threatening or tight, but it was firm and it was a large hand. She turned in its direction and looked up. The man was huge, and Valerie would have felt threatened except for his eyes. There was a warmth in them that drew her eyes immediately. He removed his hand from her shoulder and put a finger to his lips. He signaled her to follow him.

He led her downstairs to a flat facing the front of the building and extended right to the back. The interior was rustic, as though the place was lifted right out of a rural area at the turn of the nineteenth century. The man motioned toward the couch with his hand as he sat in a chair across from it. “Have a seat Ms Vine. I have an interesting story to tell you about Jack. And his siblings.” 

Valerie listened without saying a word.


Jack waited for the knock at the door. He knew it was coming. Nothing could stop it from coming. She knew where he lived. She knew everything. And she was one of them. But she meant him no harm. They were finally going to meet. 

And what then? 

Guess we’ll just have to work through that.

He felt a distant sense of relief. The charade was over. The excuses were no longer necessary. He would actually be with her, looking into her eyes as she told him the stories she’d written about. And he could tell his stories, into her eyes. He was starting to look forward to this. He looked at the time on his laptop. Nine thirty. 

Traffic. She’s probably caught in traffic, or her cab was late. Cab caught in traffic.

Another ten minutes passed. And another ten minutes. It dawned on him slowly. At first, it didn’t make sense. It was the last thing that he expected. He would never have dreamed that this could happen. He opened his email. 


For the first time in ages, Valerie Vine was having a glass of wine at home. It was something she’d stopped doing when she started working for the agency, thinking that she would need to keep a clear mind at all times in her current employment. Lately, she’d begun to doubt that and, after her conversation with Manzer Doyle, she needed a glass of wine and she needed to drink it alone. 

It was a far-fetched story, but it answered so many questions. And she would be checking things out, just to assure herself that it was true. She looked at the screen on her laptop. She felt like she should write something to him but she had no idea what. She sipped her wine. A notice jumped up on her email. 

“Well, I’ve got mail.”

It was from Jack. She opened it.

Arial 55

She laughed out loud, sipped some more wine and closed the laptop. She would get back to him tomorrow, even though he wouldn’t see her reply until next Monday.






Episode 35: Sunday – Jackie

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Episode 35

Jackie couldn’t believe the amount of material on sex change operations on the internet. There were YouTube videos, forums, chat rooms and even DIY sites. The DIY sites. Do It Yourself sex change. They were chilling. She came across a question and answer DIY site with thousands of questions from people want to know how to change their sex on their own. 

There were a lot of bad answers, like a question from a boy who said he always wanted to be a girl but couldn’t afford the operation and wanted to know how to do it himself. Some idiot actually gave him directions, suggesting that he cut his testicles off first and have lots of rags handy. And then he wished him good luck. 

What kind of psycho?

She found a blog posting about a man who wanted to be a woman all his life. He was married and had children. One day he went up to the washroom, telling his wife that he had a headache. He took some painkillers and used a home surgery kit to cut off his penis. After his ‘surgery’, he went downstairs and told his wife to call an ambulance. Apparently, the doctor told him he’d done a good job.

Yeah, give the man a medal for almost killing himself.

She scrolled down the search results, fascinated that there was so much. It was like nobody was feeling right with themselves. For the time being, everything else in her life was on hold. Finding a theater for her most recent play could wait a while. She already had two active plays out there. She had some ideas for new ones but they could stew in her subconscious for a while.

She rubbed the top of her head and started wondering again what had happened, but not for long. This kind of thing had happened before—not so much lately but it wasn’t new to her. She decided to let it drop. Thinking too hard about some things created a lot of questions and stress that led nowhere. 

Let it be. You have things to do. 

Besides, nothing about her life had ever made sense anyway. Until now. She started reading an article called  Clinical Studies On Sex Change when she heard a knock at the door. It wasn’t hard, but it wasn’t soft. It wasn’t Mrs. Gilbert. She knew her knock. Firmly soft. Just enough to get her attention but not so much as to jar her. And it wasn’t Mr. Joyce. She would definitely have been jarred. She wondered who it could be. She couldn’t think of anything she might have ordered that would be delivered. She never had visitors, unless it was one of the theater owners or a director with questions about one of her scripts. Even then, she dealt with most of those people online through email, Skype or some form of messaging. And when they wanted to meet in person, they made an appointment. This was someone without an appointment. 

Jackie stood up and walked to the door. She put her hand on the knob but didn’t turn it right away. 

Who would be calling on me in the middle of the afternoon? 

Another knock, this time a little harder. Jackie turned the knob and opened the door. Standing in the hall in a dark brown cardigan coat was a tall blonde woman with red cheeks—her blue eyes brimmed with tears. She looked Jackie up and down; she seemed to be confused. She looked Jackie in the eyes, opened her mouth and said, “Jacky?”

Who is this woman? Why is she looking at me like this and how does she know my name?

“Yes,” she said. “And who are you?”

Krista breathed in deeply, loud. She cocked her head to the side, opened her mouth, squinted her eyes and said, “What do you mean, who am I? Who do you think I am? And why are you wearing pink pajamas?”

Suddenly, Jackie didn’t like this woman. “I don’t have a clue who you are and I’m wearing pink pajamas because I’m wearing pink pajamas.” She gripped her left hand around the edge of the door ready to slam it. “I don’t know how you know my name but I think it’s time for you to leave.”

“Jacky, it’s me…Krista!”

Jackie tried to remember if she knew a Krista from one of the theaters, possibly an actress or a crew member. “Do you work for one of the theaters?”

Krista thought about this for a moment. “Theaters? Why would I be working for a theater? Jacky, if this is some kind of joke, it’s not funny. I’ve been going through hell.” Tears began to streak her cheeks. “I love you, Jacky. I love you! And I know you love me. We can make this work, Jacky.”

She stepped forward with her arms out as though to embrace her. Jackie slammed the door shut and locked it.


Krista stared at the closed door. Shock quickly dried up her tear ducts. 

He slammed the door on me. He doesn’t know who I am. And why is he wearing pink pajamas? Is he some kind of cross-dresser? He didn’t recognize me.  

Krista had no doubt that Jacky hadn’t recognized her. She could see it in his eyes, not an iota of emotion. There was nothing. A complete blank. She might have been a complete stranger. And there was something about his eyes, something she couldn’t quite point to and say, “This. Yes…this.” She didn’t know what it was except, they were different. She lifted her hand to knock on the door but just as she was about to knock her hand dropped to her side.

His eyes. What is it about his eyes? 

She stood in front of the door for several minutes, hands at her sides, staring at the wood panelling on the door, letting it slowly sink in.

Those weren’t his eyes. There was someone else behind those eyes. 

She backed away from the door, turned and ran past the stained glass window and down the stairs. Just as she came to the high double doors, one of them swung open almost hitting her in the face. She stopped running and stood still as the door opened completely and a huge elderly man bundled in a black winter coat, paisley scarf and black Russian hat appeared before her looking just as surprised as she did. After a few seconds, he smiled and moved to the side to let her out as he held the door open. She smiled back as best she could and walked past him and down the steps. 

They weren’t his eyes. What have you gotten yourself into now? 


Damn, thought Manzer as he watched Krista rush past him, cheeks glistening with tears. Looks like things are already getting out of control. 

He’d been out of town when he heard about Natalie’s heart attack and had booked the earliest flight possible to get home and check on the kids. The kids. Even in their thirties, he thought of them as “the kids.” And now the kids could be in deep trouble. Natalie, as Mrs. Gilbert, had been making sure that things ran smoothly. She monitored their computer activity, took care of their finances, shopped for some of them, rearranged the flat when they slept so that everything would appear normal for the one who woke up the next day. She’d been doing this seven days a week for all the years they’d been living here. And now, without any warning, she was in the hospital. And the kids were on their own.

She’d filled him in on what was happening with them but he hoped that she would recover quickly because he wasn’t sure if he could keep the lid on things and it looked to him that he’d arrived just when the shit was about to hit the fan. 

He came to their door and knocked. Sunday. Jackie. He heard her voice on the other side of the door. “Go away! Go away now or I’ll call the police!”

Yep, time for some serious damage control. 

He called out, “That’s no way to welcome an old friend.”

There was complete silence for a moment and then: “Uncle Manzer?” 

The door practical flew open. Manzer opened his arms and Jackie practically jumped into them. Manzer pointed with his thumb toward the doorway where Krista had left. “Friend of yours?”

“No, Uncle Manzer. I have have no idea who that was. Somebody named Krista who says she loves me and thinks that I love her. And somehow she knows my name.”

Just the sound, not the spelling. So that’s the woman Natalie said Jacky brought home, coming to see him when he doesn’t exist. This is going to be messy. 

“I’ll look into this for you, Jackie,” he said. “But right now, I have some bad news for you.”

Jackie put a hand to her lips. “What’s going on?”

“It’s Mrs. Gilbert. She’s had a heart attack.”

Jackie covered her mouth and stared for a moment at him.

“It was a close one. She somehow survived the night and Mr. Joyce found her in the morning and called an ambulance. She’s doing fine now but she’ll be in the hospital for another week or so.”

Jackie’s shoulders slumped with relief. She let out a long sigh. “I’m so glad to hear that she’s OK. She’s such a sweet person. When did it happen?”

“A few days ago. She…”

“And you said an ambulance came for her?”

“Yes. Is something wrong?”

“Not really, I guess. I just think it’s strange that I didn’t hear the ambulance arrive.”

Right. Jack was the one who would have been aware when the ambulance arrived. I’ll have to tell each of them individually except Jack.

“I think it happened at night. You might have been asleep.”

With a faraway look in her eyes, she said, “Maybe. I do sleep deeply.” She shook her head slowly. “But I didn’t think I slept that deeply. I mean, an ambulance. Sirens. Flashing lights.”

“Well, you would have been in your bedroom.” 

Such a simple situation but so  potentially dangerous. How does that woman manage to hold all this together so well? And for all these years. 

His gaze settled on the top of her head. The bandage had been removed but there was a patch of missing hair filled with a dark scab on top of a bump. “What happened to your head?”

She touched the bump and rubbed it lightly. “I’m not sure. But it’s nothing serious.”

Which means the others will have the same thing and one of them has had an accident. 

He walked over to her and took a closer look. “Well, it seems to be healing well. So, you don’t remember what happened?”

“No. It was just there.” She smiled. “But I’ve had this kind of thing happen before. I try not to even think about it.”

And that would be your mother’s training. How did she ever manage all this?

“I’m going to be in town for a while so I’ll be dropping in and checking to see that everything’s OK. How’s your next play coming along?”

The smile returned. “I’ve just finished it. I think it’s my best one yet.” Again the smile disappeared, and replaced with a faraway look. “There’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, Uncle Manzer. Can we talk?”

“Of course we can. You wouldn’t happen to have any coffee would you?”

Jackie laughed and walked quickly to the kitchen. “Have a seat, Uncle Manzer. I’ll be right back.”


A sex change? She wants to get a sex change? But then, why wouldn’t she? She’s a woman.

Jackie stared into Manzer’s eyes and he could almost feel the torment roiling inside them. This had been her life since childhood. She’d never known a moment of stability, of feeling right with herself. He touched the side of her head as he stood in the doorway. She’d told him everything, even the weird DIY stuff. She was serious. She wanted to get a sex change. 

He wondered if the others had any sense of what was happening with Jackie.


Rustic. It was a the only way to describe Natalie’s apartment. Rustic—country rustic. There was a sparse simplicity about her place, a lot of woodwork showing the actual grain as opposed to paint. No metal frames here. Most of the furniture was from the old house. She’d told him she couldn’t part with it—too many memories of her and the kids. He went up to a painting of a boy laying on the ground, back against a tree, holding a wooden fishing rod. The rod’s string led to a red and white popper floating in a pond. He reached up to the painting and turned it to a forty-five degree angle. A few seconds later, the wall swung inwards, revealing a sophisticated electronic control room with computers, monitors and control panels. 

Well, time to catch up and get things under control.






Episode 34: Saturday – Jac

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Episode 34

Jac stared at the crazy guy’s post. He read it over and over, not believing what he was seeing. How can this happen? How did this idiot find out?


This is impossible. There’s no way this loser could have cut through all the security, the firewalls, the fake paths, the complex system of routers.

He has to have someone working with him. Who would this jerk know who would work with someone who thinks that God is speaking through him to get the world to stop using plastic? He knows I live on Joslin Street. How could he possibly know that?

He stood up and walked to a window where he stood to one side, peering around the curtain at the street and park below. It was the same old same old, seniors wasting away on benches, mothers with their children, joggers. He looked for anyone suspicious, anyone pretending to read a newspaper while sneaking glances at his windows. Maybe someone leaning against a street light, smoking a cigarette, pulling their hat down to hide their eyes. Maybe one of the joggers, running by and taking pictures with their mobiles. But nothing looked out of place. It was the same scene he looked at every day.

He put his hand on his head, ran it over the cut. He’d taken the bandage off earlier. It was healed enough. Why couldn’t he remember cutting himself?

I must be going crazy. Again.

He went back to his workstation, took another look at the blog posting and opened his email. He ignored the mail from angry parents and self-righteous assholes who’d never read his books but felt obliged, after hearing stories from friends or reading a review, to write to him and tell him how outraged they were that his books weren’t banned from the face of the earth. He went straight to A. Fan.

There’s got to be a link between him and the crazy guy. He opened the email.

Arial 52

No. This guy’s all talk, not even close. He closed the email and went back to the blog to re-read the post a few more times.

How did he find me?


It was getting close to the time. He stared at the page on his screen. Circus of No Hope and all the blank space below it. He’d never had problems starting a book in the past. He just sat down in front of the laptop and started writing. The words always came. He barely had to think. It was always like his mind was on auto-pilot, like the words were already in his head trampling each other to get out. It wasn’t so much writing as it was a great spewing of words into verbal images.

What the hell is wrong with me? Where are the words?

It occurred to him that it might be the crazy guy finding him, but he’d been having a hard time starting this novel even before he’d read the post. He stared at the page a few minutes more and went to bed.