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This Shoal of Space:

Zoë Calla & the Dark Starship

(World's First E-Book—Published On the Web in 1996 For Digital Download)

a Dark SF novel originally titled Heartbreaker

by John Argo


Preface   Chapter 1   Intralog  Part I-Chapter 2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33   34   35   36   37   38   39   40   41   42   43   44   45   46   47   48   49   50   51   52   53   54   55   56   57   58   59   60   61   62   63   64   65   Part II-Chapter 66   67   68   69   70   71   72   73   74   75   Outlog


Heartbreaker

Chapter 36.

She felt tired the next day, and called in sick. Made herself a large mug of tea and watched soaps, wrapped up in a heavy quilt on the couch, until she fell asleep. She awoke when a big plane droned in low overhead. Probably one of those skywriters, she thought, turning in the thimble of her blanket.

Splash...she still had this other with her, this Cold Thing under its rock in the water in her brain, and why? Because of what was on the truck that night when Frank and Attila and (???) beat Charlie to death...

After showering and eating, she drove to see Father Lawrence. He welcomed her at the rectory door. "I didn't think you'd be back so soon."

She wore jeans and her sweat jacket. Hands jammed in the belly pockets, she sidled in, welcomed by the warmth of his kitchen. An elderly woman was just finishing up some dishes. "Come into the study," he said. They sat cozy while the clock ticked. She said: "I started remembering things, Father."

His face went pasty. He folded his hands and lowered his forehead. She knew what that meant. He was starting the clock again; seal of the confessional; but that was okay, she had nothing to feel guilty about. Not anymore. She told about her session with Dr. Stanislaus. While she talked, he retrieved the box containing the sacred hosts stacked like poker chips. "What did the doctor say?"

"He said it was a healing process."

"Then let us hope it is. Come, say your confession." He prayed silently, then waited for her to recite ("I had impure thoughts ten times." "I yelled at my son." "I stole a pen from the office." "I ate lunch in the morgue, that's the library." "Father, I can't think of anything really bad I did.") and then he absolved her. "Are you ready to receive the Body of Christ?"

"I am." Afterward, she asked: "That was a test, right? If I were possessed by demons, I'd be rolling on the floor foaming at the mouth, right?"

He patted his palms together lightly. "Well, I don't know. That would be the Old Thinking. Very straightforward. Then there is the New Thinking. We've all gotten a lot smarter and more sophisticated, and maybe the Devil has too." He opened his palms, having no direct answer. "So we'll have to work together to see what is going on with you."

"What do you think, Father?"

He smiled kindly. "You're remembering terrible things and it's upsetting you. Dr. Stanislaus will help you work it out."

She drove home.

The apartment was empty and for a moment she imagined this would be what it would be like if Max were gone. She pushed the dreadful thought out of her mind. Taking the portable phone along just in case, she drew a bubble bath and slid in to soak. The warmth lulled her. She lolled, wrapping bubbles around herself. Sitting with the old book about Wallace Burtongale III, adding hot water every few minutes to keep the bath hot, she did not get much reading done. She'd forgotten her date with Chatfield. Feeling guilty, she called on the portable phone. Roger Chatfield's recorded voice sounded calm and nice.

"Hello, Roger? This is ZoŽ. I'm sorry I wasn't able to keep our— wasn't able to meet with you. Some things came up today and I had to leave work early. It was all very frustrating and I forgot to call." She couldn't think of anything else to say so she hung up. There. And if he didn't like that...

She sat back and soaked. She tried to think of pleasant things, like seventeenth century poetry or recipes. Yes, recipes, lots of them with butter and sugar and egg whites and spices, lots of spices... But where, half dozing, did she drift? Back to the office of Dr. Stanislaus. Back through the dark corridors and onto the couch. He sat again looking somewhat like a late-night talk show host with the microphone hanging over a bare table. It was so stark in that room. So much like a blank sheet of paper, waiting to be written on. But wait! There... in the ceiling that was not really a ceiling but a nest of reflections like a spider's web made of glass...

..faces...looking down...watching...

The phone trilled in her ear and she sat up with a start, splashing water all over. "Mom! Are you there!" It was Max on the recording device. She reached for a towel. "Mom, Ann's mad at us for being on the computer all the time. She's sent Jeremy to bed and she wants you to pick me up right away."

ZoŽ dripped a trail of suds into the living room, and the cool night air nipped her behind. She threw herself over the table to reach the answering machine just as it was about to shut off. "Hang on, Max. I'm coming right over!"

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Copyright © 1990-1996-2014 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.