10 BC, Somewhere in the desert outside of Thebes
GIMLE hit the ground with an almighty thump. His breath whooshed out of him, and daggers of light pierced his eyes as they adjusted to the bright sunlight. It took several moments before he was able to stand and orient himself. When he did, his eyes widened in wonder. He stood in the middle of a small cluster of gnarled trees, their sparse branches curled up toward the sky, providing little shade from the white-yellow heat of the sun. Around him stretched an arid landscape of sand and scrub, broken only occasionally by another small copse of trees. It was like nothing he’d ever seen. His skin quickly began to shine with sweat as his body fought futilely to cool itself. To say he was inappropriately dressed for the weather would be an understatement. Used to the cold and crisp climate of his native Asgard, Gimle wore tightly fitted woolen leggings, a long belted tunic of multilayered and insulated silk, and sturdy, fur-lined boots. Asgard in its warmest season could only be described as “temperate.” Over the millennia his people, the Felan, had developed a certain level of immunity to the cold. Unfortunately for Gimle, they were ill-accustomed to the heat. Gimle eased himself back into the shade of the trees and undid the laces of his silk tunic. He briefly contemplated removing his boots, but one look at the baking-hot sand around him had him reconsidering the idea.
He’d done it. There could be no other explanation for the sights around him. He’d made his way through the portal. Ever since a rift between Asgard and an alternate world—what the elders called the Morkaland, or “dark land”—had been discovered a few years ago, Gimle had been unable to think of anything else. The earliest reports from those who’d been approved to voyage through one of the stable portals the elders had created had not been promising. They described a world full of pain and suffering populated by a race of creatures who, though they looked not unlike the Felan, were cruel and thoughtless. The elders had been shocked by what they’d heard and had been debating ever since how they should best proceed.
These reports had done nothing to dampen Gimle’s enthusiasm. An unexplored world! He was young enough to be unconcerned about the reported dangers—by Felan reckoning he was only eighteen. He had been seeking a way to traverse across one of the portal’s well-guarded barriers ever since.
Perhaps it was his youth that had made the guards overlook, or dismiss, his presence day in and day out at the site of the newest portal. He wasn’t the only young Felan who gathered there to stare into the shining abyss and wonder what could possibly lie on the other side. His patience had been rewarded eventually when a large animal had unwittingly crossed over to Asgard. It looked nothing like the native animals found on the plains of Asgard or the beasts who inhabited the mountainous peaks to the north. It was covered in fine, soft hair, brown and black in coloring, with thickly lashed eyes, and a large wet snout. It made a distressed lowing sound when it stumbled through the portal. The guards had been thrown into a frenzy, unsure whether to attack the animal, herd it back through the portal, or alert the elders. In the end, the resulting confusion had allowed Gimle, who had stood watching, fascinated, on the sidelines, to sneak through the portal. That had only been a few minutes ago, or had it been hours? Days? The trip across had been disorienting, and he found himself unsure how much time had passed since he’d left Asgard. Long enough that his stomach was rumbling pretty aggressively, but then again, Gimle was always hungry.
He knew his absence would eventually be noted by those who shared his dwelling space, but he hoped no one would guess what he’d done. He wanted time to explore this new world before anyone came to seek him out. Unfortunately, he hadn’t been at all prepared for the trip. The carefully gathered bag of supplies he’d been hoarding lay abandoned under his bed at home, and so here he stood with nothing but the uncomfortably hot clothes on his back.
For a brief moment he considered turning back. The climate seemed spectacularly hostile, and he had no idea what sort of inhabitants he’d find in this land. Given everything the elders had told them, the people here were to be approached cautiously—if at all. He swallowed the lump of fear in his throat, took a deep breath, and began walking. In an attempt to stay slightly cool, he chose to walk with the sun at his back toward a distant hill. Around him he could see little evidence of civilization, and he hoped this particular portal didn’t open into an uninhabited area. While he was fascinated by the plants around him and alternately fearful and excited by the feel of the hot sun on his neck, what really interested him were the people he might encounter here in this new world. What would they look like? Would they be friendly? Would he be able to communicate with them? From all accounts, the people here spoke an indecipherable language. The previous visitors had been able to communicate, but only with great difficulty. The Felan had an unerring ear for languages, and Gimle only hoped he would be able to learn the local language somewhat successfully. He had a lot of questions to ask. After all, it wasn’t everyday that you found yourself in a new and alien world on the other side of a portal through space.
THE house lay in a shallow valley. It appeared to be made of hard-baked mud of some sort and was conical in shape with a round entranceway. It looked spacious, and there were several other buildings surrounding it. One seemed to house animals while another, judging from the smoke pouring out, was a sort of cooking space. A few rangy trees surrounded the house, and several aimless birds pecked the ground outside the main entrance. There was no one in sight, but Gimle approached with caution nonetheless. He had no weapons to speak of, and the Felan didn’t believe in violence in any case, so he had to trust that whoever lived here would prove reasonably welcoming. He made his way around to the first building and stepped inside. The air smelled of animal waste and hay, a sharp tang that made Gimle recoil. In Asgard, domesticated animals were rare, and those that existed were purely for amusement. The Felan existed on a diet of protein-rich plants flavored by spicy flowers and supplemented by a variety of grains. Gimle cursed himself for his squeamishness and re-entered the building. He saw a collection of creatures not unlike the one that had enabled his trip through the portal. However, one was larger than the others, with a longer snout and legs. It looked dignified and… intelligent. Gimle approached it slowly. He knew the elders had said the inhabitants of this world were similar in physiognomy to the Felan, but he wondered as he regarded the creature if perhaps this area had a different species. He cleared his throat and addressed the creature.
“I am Gimle. I come from Asgard. I am here to learn your ways and help develop a friendship between our peoples,” he said in a dignified voice as he extended his hand to the creature. The creature made a whuffing sound out of its nostrils and nuzzled Gimle’s palm. It seemed to be expecting something. Gimle cursed himself. An offering! Of course, it was the height of rudeness to enter a dwelling without a gift. But he’d had no time. In a flash of inspiration, he untied one of the sashes attached to his silk tunic and bowed as he presented it to the creature. It regarded him with impassive eyes, then stomped its foot. Perhaps that was a sign of acceptance? Gimle moved cautiously forward and tied the sash around the creature’s neck. There was no reaction, but Gimle felt pleased. The violet sash looked quite lovely next to the creature’s dark hair. He bowed again and congratulated himself on a positive first encounter with this new world’s inhabitants. This was going rather well.
He was startled out of his reverie by a noise behind him. He spun around, his heart in his throat. A man stood in the doorway. The bright sun behind him threw him into stark relief, and Gimle was unable to properly see his face. When the young man stepped forward, Gimle was surprised. Though the man’s face was still largely shrouded in shadow, Gimle could tell he was young and very dark in coloring, but he looked remarkably… like a Felan. Gimle was reassured by this and decided to address him.
“I am Gimle. I am here from Asgard. I am here to learn your ways and help develop a friendship between our peoples,” he said, hand outstretched. The young man cautiously took Gimle’s hand in his own. Gimle was reassured at this positive sign and decided to continue. “I would welcome the opportunity to discuss your world and your customs. I am sure I can offer useful knowledge in exchange.” He felt quite sure about this last bit. Though the buildings seemed clean and well-constructed, they were rather primitive, and what he could see of the young man’s clothing was… well, ugly was the best word to describe it. Gimle knew with a few tips he could help these poor people out, allow them to foster a more civilized lifestyle.
The young man said something in a guttural language. Gimle flushed. He had momentarily forgotten that there would be a language barrier. He repeated his words, but this time slowly and slightly more loudly. This had little effect. Then he tried one of the other Felan dialects. The young man replied again, but Gimle could no more make out the words than the first time. Gimle sighed in exasperation. He’d been so eager and impatient to learn about this world that the setback frustrated him. He took a moment to collect himself and thought hard about what the elders would do in this situation. How could he connect with this man without a shared language? A shaft of sunlight pierced through one of the round openings in the wall and blinded Gimle momentarily. When his eyes adjusted to the change, he was able to finally see the young man’s face properly. Though he was rather plain, his skin was a warm coffee color and his eyes…. Gimle met his eyes and felt a pull deep down inside—it was almost painful. It felt like a part of himself had been removed, then suddenly it was back. He felt different. Larger, fuller, more complete. He gasped. The man seemed to be suffering a similar reaction. He bent slightly at the waist and clutched his heart for a moment; then he straightened, his eyes watering, and regarded Gimle with wonder.
Gimle felt compelled to speak even though he knew an attempt at communication was fruitless. “Did you… did you feel that?” he said tremulously.
The man stepped back in surprise and stared at Gimle for what seemed like eternity. Finally, he took a deep breath and crossed the space between them. He took Gimle’s hands in his own and looked at him in wonder.
“Who sent you?” he asked.
Gimle started in confusion. He’d understood the man perfectly, and it seemed the man had understood him.
“I… ah, I sent myself… that is.” Gimle gathered his dignity purposefully. This was, after all, his first real contact with the local inhabitants (he didn’t count the unproductive moment he’d had earlier with the silent, brown-haired creature). “I am here from Asgard. I am here to learn your ways and help develop a friendship between our peoples,” he said with a flourish.
“Asgard?” the man said, a puzzled and slightly disappointed expression on his face. “Where is that?”
“Across the portal. You, of course, will have never been there. It’s very difficult to travel between our worlds, actually,” Gimle said modestly.
“You are from another world?” the man asked. His expression brightened at that.
“Yes, from Asgard,” Gimle said. Perhaps the elders had been right about the people here; the young man seemed a trifle slow. “I am Gimle.”
The man smiled shyly. “I am Isa,” he said.
Well, that’s progress, Gimle thought.
He was suddenly aware that the young man’s attention had been drawn to the brown-haired creature next to Gimle. The man regarded it with a puzzled and slightly amused expression on his face. Gimle flushed, certain all of a sudden that he had committed a faux pas. The young man’s expression bordered on outright laughter as the creature managed to grab hold of one end of the silk tie in its teeth, and the elaborate bow Gimle had tied came undone. What was worse, the creature then began to chew on one end of the tie. After a moment, perhaps finding it unsatisfactory in some way, it dropped it and looked at the two men. Gimle was determined not to let his embarrassment show. He saw now that the creature was not perhaps as advanced as he had supposed and hoped desperately that the young man had not heard him address it so formally, nor try to shake its… hand.
“You like horses very much, Gimle?” the man said, his eyes dancing.
“Horses?” Gimle asked. He’d never heard the word before. “Yes, well, I… yes, I suppose it appears that I do….” He couldn’t think of a thing to say. He felt laughter bubbling up inside him. He met Isa’s eyes and saw that he too was struggling to contain himself.
“He’s my favorite. His name is Rasal. He doesn’t speak much, though…,” Isa said before collapsing into giggles. Gimle could hold back no longer, and he laughed long and hard. Each time he came close to controlling himself, he imagined how he must have looked addressing the impassive Rasal so formally and adorning him with his sash. Eventually the two quieted. Gimle regarded Isa, not sure how to proceed.
“Gimle, from Asgard, I have never had a visitor from another world, nor a visitor who accorded so much respect to my beloved Rasal,” Isa said with a smile. “Welcome to my home. I am happy to have you here. I… I would like to welcome you more formally, but….” Isa stopped speaking, a shadow passed over his face, and all trace of laughter was gone. “It is complicated here. My father, he will not welcome you. Normally I warn visitors away, and for your safety I should do the same for you, but I feel I cannot send you away.” Isa stopped, took a deep breath, and regarded Gimle hopefully, his brown eyes wide with wonder. “You see, Gimle, I believe it was I who brought you here.”
RILKE shook herself awake.
She ran her hands over her face and took a deep breath, determined to put the images out of her mind.
He was so young. And Isa—Isa! But it’s all wrong… that’s not the way it happened at all.
She heard the rustle of people stirring in the next room. The noises provided a welcome distraction, a reminder that she had work to do. This was her first Behovet, or binding, and she was determined not to mess it up. She was not going to let these dreams—or her psychotic break, or whatever was going on—interfere. If she could successfully bring this binding to a close, then maybe she would feel better about what had happened. Maybe she could prove to herself that she wasn’t crazy. Then maybe the dreams would stop.
She’d arrived on Earth two days ago, after being given a binding to Javier Suarez, a writer. Javier, like most humans, had been shocked and extremely skeptical when Rilke had arrived in his home and declared she was there to help him. In retrospect, she knew perhaps she hadn’t handled the situation perfectly, but it was her first binding, and her training in the Anstalt had been… confusing. The lengthy and rigorous training program all Felan had to go through before the elders assigned them their first bond with a human was meant to prepare them for most situations that could arise during a binding, but Rilke’s experience had been far outside the norm. As a result, she’d felt lost and unprepared when she’d landed on Earth and met Javier. She knew she hadn’t explained things very clearly, and the small amount of mind magic she’d exerted to render him slightly more amenable to the idea that she, a supernatural being from another world, was there to help him had only improved the situation a little.
Two days later, she felt she’d made some progress—Javier seemed to mostly accept her presence—and she was beginning to develop some ideas about how she could help him deal with his problems with his partner Robin, a busy and successful real estate agent. Things were moving slowly though, and every time she thought she had the situation under control, her confidence was shaken by another of what she’d taken to calling her “episodes.” This one hadn’t even made sense. In all her other dreams, Gimle had been older, confident, and watching his behavior had helped her, but in this most recent dream, he’d been so young, so unsure, so… silly. This only served to underline that these dreams were a product of her imagination. The story of Gimle and Isa was the cornerstone of Felan lore. It was their founding myth, the reason why they were the way they were. She, like every Felan, knew the story inside out, and it had not started like that.
What is wrong with me? Why does my mind make up such ridiculous fantasies? And, more importantly, how can I make them go away?
Rilke turned, startled out of her reveries by Javier standing in the entrance to the office where she had been sleeping since her arrival. His darkly handsome face was creased with uncertainty, his eyes were puffy, and his hair was tousled. It looked like he’d also slept badly. A pang went through Rilke’s heart.
Help him, goddammit!
“Javier, good morning,” she said brightly.
Put your game face on.
“Robin just left for work. I thought I’d check to see if you… well, if you wanted something to eat,” Javier said, uncertainly offering her some toast and a coffee. “To be honest, every morning I expect to come in here and… well, for you to be gone. I still can’t wrap my head around this, this, whatever it is, bond?”
“I know it’s strange, Javier, but it’s real, and I know it’s been hard to keep my existence from Robin, but it’s better this way, trust me,” Rilke said with more confidence than she felt. As a Felan she had the ability to make herself invisible to anyone but her bond, so the dangers of Robin finding out about her were slim as long as Javier managed to keep her existence a secret. Usually the Felan tried to limit their exposure to as few humans as possible. Though they could easily pass as human—their magnificent wings conveniently collapsed and were absorbed into two small slits in their backs—their presence often elicited more questions than was desirable.
So far she’d seen little of Robin. He rose early and worked late. When he arrived home, he seemed to have little energy left for Javier, and certainly little energy to discuss any of the issues that had been plaguing Javier’s mind all day—such as why Robin was so reluctant to commit to starting a family. Javier wanted children more than anything; he always had. When he spoke about it, Rilke could see the longing all over his face; she didn’t need to have powerful Felan intuition to know that. He and Robin had agreed several months ago to look into the matter, and recently Javier had found a friend who had agreed to serve as a surrogate for them. Ever since he’d told Robin this news, Robin had been stalling. There was no other word for it, really. It was clear he was having second thoughts about the idea of starting a family, but what wasn’t clear—and what Rilke wanted to determine—was why. She had her own suspicions, and Javier certainly had his theories, but the question was: what the hell was she supposed to do about it?
RILKE’S coffee had long grown cold. Javier was working on the computer, writing, she supposed. She knew he’d been having trouble writing lately, that the draft of the follow-up to his bestseller was due imminently, and he’d only managed to write a few chapters. This was undoubtedly one of the reasons he hadn’t been sleeping, but not the major reason. She felt panic rising in her throat as she contemplated his situation. She’d been matched to him by the elders, and they didn’t make these decisions lightly or easily, so she knew there must be a reason. There must be a way she, and only she, could help him. She also knew that the depth of his pain must be profound for her to be there. Though the Felan dealt in small tragedies—the Felan-human bond was not designed to revolutionize the world; instead it simply helped to alleviate the thousands of tiny heartbreaks occurring in any given human locale at any given moment—the humans chosen for a binding had to be in some considerable pain. They also had to ask for help directly. She knew Javier had largely given up his religious ties in his adolescence, but he still believed enough in a higher power that he had prayed for help in a moment of desperation. Rilke was the answer to that prayer, or at least, she was supposed to be. Right now, she questioned how she could be the answer to anyone’s prayers. Instead, she felt like a complication, an unwanted and unsettling houseguest. She’d done nothing to help Javier since she’d arrived, and she suspected he was disturbed by her presence, both physically and mentally. It probably didn’t help that she drifted off into space so frequently.
I need to control this. My brain is making up these images, so I should be able to stop them, to cut them off. It’s simply a matter of trying harder.
She’d first started seeing images of Gimle in the Anstalt, during her training session. In her first simulation, she’d been placed in a room with a wealthy, grieving mother who’d recently lost a child and was seeking solace in the arms of a manipulative con man. She’d been assessing the situation when she’d suddenly felt another presence in the room. That was when she’d seen Gimle. Or imagined him, she supposed. He had reappeared during each subsequent simulation and helped her brainstorm solutions, talked her through her moments of doubt and fear. He’d been wise and calm, and she’d trusted him implicitly. It wasn’t until she’d exited the program that she began to question her sanity. She’d resolved to bring it up with the elders, but it turned out that her time in the program had been remarkably short. In fact, she’d come close to breaking a record set by Bero—who himself enjoyed mythical status these days—for the most simulated bindings brought to a close in the shortest amount of time. She’d loved the attention and the praise and being in the thick of it, so she’d convinced herself that her visions of Gimle had merely been her subconscious way of dealing with the simulations—another part of her brain made manifest by the rigors of the training.
The problem with that theory was that the images of Gimle hadn’t ended when her training did. They’d changed, but if anything, they were more frequent, more vivid. Now she dreamed of Gimle at night and lost herself periodically in visions of him during the day. These visions were different. Instead of being able to interact with Gimle, it was as if she were a bystander watching snippets of his life play out before her in random sequence. She watched as he’d returned from his time on Earth and spoken to the elders eloquently about what he had learned there, watched as he supervised the beginnings of what would one day become the Anstalt. She’d been increasingly alarmed by the clarity and vividness of the scenes, by the lingering feeling when she snapped back to reality that part of her was still back there, but she’d chalked it up to a severe case of hero worship. She’d always idolized Gimle; all Felan did, really. They were raised on stories about him, read to from The Gimlehad, the book of his teachings, when they were children. She’d always had an active imagination and a bit of an inferiority complex, she knew that, so she rationalized that her dreams of Gimle and her “interactions” with him were merely her way of boosting her confidence. But this most recent dream was different, and it had left her feeling unsettled.
She didn’t see how or why she would have imagined Gimle and Isa’s meeting in such ridiculous, and obviously inaccurate, terms. She knew that wasn’t how it had happened, and she cherished the original story, so she couldn’t understand why her subconscious would have twisted it so. In the real story, Gimle, a young but mature man (not a silly youth swathed in silk) had sensed Isa’s pain through the portal and been unable to ignore its constant pull. He’d felt an undeniable need to ease the man’s pain. He had spoken with the elders, and they had agreed he should cross the portal and investigate this feeling. He’d arrived and found Isa, a magnificent man who’d been broken by his family’s treachery, and the two had bonded. The moment their eyes had met, the Felan world had changed forever. In the illustrated versions of The Gimlehad that children read, this moment was represented by the two men standing close together, their eyes glowing. A soft white light encapsulated them both, and Gimle’s hand rested gently alongside Isa’s face. The caption read: Gimle’s bond with Isa changed both of their worlds forever. Gimle had been wiser, confident—nothing like the immature and clueless young man from her dream who didn’t even seem to have a purpose for his journey (and whose trip across the portal had been enabled by a cow—a cow!) and, worst of all, Rilke shuddered to remember it, he’d been so clueless he’d mistaken a horse for a person. It was all wrong. It was… ridiculous. And what had Isa meant by saying it was him who had called Gimle there? That was all wrong too. It was Gimle who had initiated the bond, Gimle who had felt Isa’s pain and organized the trip. Isa had just been… a human. He was only remarkable in that he happened to facilitate the Felan discovering their remarkable gift for easing pain, their ability to bond with humans. To help these beings who, even now the Felan were forced to acknowledge, were so much less than them. That’s why it was Rilke’s responsibility to help Javier; that’s why she was here, to show him a path out of the darkness he was currently experiencing. But how?
THIS morning had been just like every other morning lately. The alarm went off, and Javier reached for Robin, determined to grab a few moments together before the day started, only to have Robin give his hand a brief squeeze and slide out of bed. Then he lay in bed listening to the hum of the shower, trying to summon the strength to get up. By the time Robin was out, Javier had made it into the kitchen to make coffee. Robin entered the kitchen fully dressed as usual, a waft of woodsy bodywash in his wake, his hair still damp. The sight of him still made Javier’s heart pang, despite their issues lately. He was so beautiful, and he was Javier’s. For now, at least. He couldn’t deny that deep down he was scared their time together might be nearing an end, that Robin didn’t love him anymore. Why else would he resist taking the next step? He’d seemed so keen at first. They’d talked about kids for years with excitement, and yet now that the possibility of it becoming a reality was finally in front of them, Robin seemed so reluctant. He avoided the topic studiously. It had created a distance between them. It was terrifying.
The more Javier tried to push Robin to talk about it, the less they talked—at all. Lately Robin was barely even around. He left early in the morning, preoccupied by his BlackBerry, and returned late at night and claimed he was “too tired to talk about it right now.” The weekends weren’t much better. Robin usually had to work at least one of the days, showing clients around glitzy new downtown lofts and condos. When he was at home, he always seemed to be half-present, interrupting whatever they were doing together to check his phone or send an e-mail that “just couldn’t wait.” All the rules they’d established at the beginning of their relationship to ensure they carved out time together despite busy careers had flown out the window. They barely had sex, and when they did, it was… purposeful. They’d been together long enough that they knew how to get each other off relatively quickly. There was no experimentation, no titillation—usually just an efficient trio: kissing, stroking, sucking, done. On a good night, when Robin seemed to have some energy or they’d had some wine, they might even fuck. It wasn’t that Javier wanted more kink necessarily, though in their early days they’d had their fair share of that; it was that it felt hollow, like they were going through the motions. Before, he’d always felt so close to Robin after they’d made love, reconnected and fulfilled. Now he just felt empty.
It didn’t help that he hadn’t been able to write a word, or not a decent one anyway, in months. He had a deadline looming, but all he could think about was Robin. He knew he could be an intense guy, but he’d always felt that was one of the reasons Robin loved him. Robin came from a typical WASP family, cold, distant, and he’d always said he loved Javier’s intensity, his warmth, his passion. When they’d started to get serious and discuss their future, they’d talked—casually and in a sort of dream state at first—about having a family of their own, and Robin had expressed a desire to raise their children in the sort of home Javier had grown up in, a warm, boisterous, and loving place. Now it seemed to Javier that Robin was backpedaling on those plans. He was increasingly reserved and withdrawn, more like the man he’d purportedly been before he’d met Javier. The more Robin pulled away, the more Javier was forced to consider that maybe their relationship had run its course. That perhaps they weren’t meant to be. It was easy to rationalize that, but when he really imagined his life without Robin, Javier felt like he couldn’t breathe. He loved Robin as much as he ever had. He wanted to spend his life with him, and he wanted more than anything to have a family with him. Why didn’t Robin feel the same?
And now. Now he had this… woman. Rilke. To say he’d been shocked when she’d shown up at his door was an understatement. Not only was she unusual looking, with her red-gold hair, pale luminescent skin, and light violet eyes, but she claimed to be a supernatural creature—a Felan—sent from another world to help him. Clearly, he was going nuts. He’d resisted her story for a while, and then it seemed, his rational side had just succumbed, and he’d found himself inviting her in and allowing her to stay. She did seem to know a lot about him, much of it intensely personal. And she’d been right when she’d guessed that he had asked for help from someone. That plea had been a moment of desperation. He never prayed anymore, not since he was a teenager and he’d scornfully abandoned the Roman Catholic upbringing his parents had insisted on. He wasn’t sure who he’d been praying to—God ostensibly—but he didn’t really believe in God, and he certainly didn’t believe in strange fairy-like creatures from a mystical realm that claimed to have some sort of bond with you. Yet, here she was, sitting in his office, staring into space.
She did that a lot—the staring into space thing. It seemed strange, but then again Javier didn’t have a whole lot of experience with supernatural creatures to judge her behavior against. He wanted to know what she was thinking about, but it seemed presumptuous to ask. So far she hadn’t really done much to help him, despite her claims that she was here to do just that. He didn’t really mind her being here. It was nice to have some company during the day, even if it was unusual company. You could only stare at a computer screen by yourself all day for so long without going a little crazy.
Well, I’ve obviously gone more than a little crazy, Javier thought, with a glance at Rilke.