I have the audiobook of Angel Stakes from Julia and I’m checking it. Very few fixes required, so should be quickly returned to Audible to process.
I’ll tidy this New York story up into one post with links to all the sections in order at some later stage, but at the moment, this just follows on from the first scene with Elodie:
I’m guessing the two stories will come together in a couple of weeks.
Enjoy! (And tell me what you think…)
She dives through some shops, trots across a couple of back streets, her heart pounding and her head swiveling left and right.
No one is following her.
The streets are empty.
Am I hallucinating again?
Was Barlett even there?
She’s in Greenpoint. Surrounded by film studios. Huge square buildings. Uniform and near featureless on the outside. A different world in each of them on the inside.
Each of them like a rabbit hole.
How many rabbit holes have I gone down?
She has to believe she’s not hallucinating, or else she might as well sit down and die right here.
Her cell is purring, but it’s not the alarm this time.
She knows the phone number. A landline. From an office. If she closes her eyes for a second, she can actually see the desk, almost hidden by the piles of paper, each pile with a foliage of multi-colored Post-it notes peeking out the sides. The drooping angle poise lamp. The reference books.
She doesn’t mean to answer, but there’s an ache in her throat, and while she’s hating herself for that, her thumb swipes the little green icon.
“Yes,” she says. Meaning I’m still alive.
She can’t go back. She told him that before.
“Nate,” she says. “Why are you calling me?”
“I…” he stumbles over the words, and she suspects he changes what he was going to say. “I still care. You’re not well.”
She can hear the pain in his words.
“I know I’m not well,” she replies.
“The doctor said you should be resting at home.”
The doctor had said that. He’d said the growth in her brain was inoperable. That she would experience bizarre hallucinations. That it would be best to remain quiet in familiar surroundings. With people to look after her.
He hadn’t said she should give up and wait to die, but that’s what he’d meant.
She’d chosen not to. She couldn’t just lie in bed, dosing herself with drugs, letting the darkness creep in through the door like a tide. Wondering, every time she fell asleep, if this was the one she wouldn’t wake from.
“I can’t,” she says to Nathan, who would have taken time off from his research at the university at Ann Arbor, and would have sat with her while the long evening fell. “I free you.”
She closes her eyes again. She can imagine him sitting at the desk in the cramped little office with its single window looking out onto the campus. The view would be shrouded in snow now. Ann Arbor is white and cold and still this Christmas.
That office was the place where she developed her interest in the architecture of languages. Where she traced the roots of Sanskrit and Dravidian and Anatolian up into Proto-Indo-European and back down into Scythian and Mycenaean Greek.
The place where old languages come to die, the students joked.
The place where the close-faced federal agent had given her a frightening non-disclosure agreement and a few pages of puzzling transcript he wanted her to assess.
“Is it a code? Some kind of dialect of an old language?” he’d asked.
With nothing but the occasional headache to hold her back, she’d unleashed the full weight of her knowledge and her computing expertise. And had found, in the tangle of dead roots and archaic grammar, hints of a wondrous new language, just begging for investigation.
It was like finding gold in the pan, except the federal agent had closed the project and warned her to forget everything she’d ever known about it.
She hadn’t. She couldn’t.
Not even when the headaches and dizziness became impossible to ignore. When the doctor’s solemn words started pressing down on her, every word heavy as a boulder, every visit more and more of them, squeezing the breath from her chest, stealing the light from the day, until the only light she lived by seemed to be from her laptop screen.
And in chasing a supposedly dead language through the shadowy corners of the internet, she’d found the chance of hope, to buttress against the crushing weight of the doctor’s certainty.
Nathan is still talking, still trying to draw her back into his world. His arguments have grown cold.
“You don’t have to stay in bed,” he says. “You could come into the office when you feel up to it. I’d drive you. Take you back whenever you wanted. God knows I need the help.”
The way it is at the moment, his words spark off images in her head.
She sees herself in a different office, and suddenly knows what she needs to be doing, right now.
“I’m dead,” she says, trying to grow a hard, shiny surface on her soul. “Whatever happens. Grieve and move on, Nate. I wish you every joy. From the bottom of my heart.”
“What do you mean—”
She ends the call, cutting him off.
Go, she wants to say. Be at peace. Turn away and find a new life. She wants that charmed combination of words that will comfort him and free him at the same time, but she’s better with old, dead languages than modern English.
Or maybe with a language that is old, but not dead. A language of hope.
She starts to jog.
It’s too late to worry about attracting attention.