Jay stood very still, trying to focus on the person who meant more to him than anyone else, trying to determine if she was watching him. “I can see them,” he told Fiona in a voice not much louder than a whisper.
He wanted to ask if they were dead or alive, but Kenley Dirac was one of them and to ask Fiona if her mother was dead was utterly heartless. He didn’t think he could get the question out of his throat anyway. He settled on asking, “What does that mean?”
“”I don’t know. Don is dead. My mother…no, she’s alive.”
Dr. Dirac was wearing a dress with a neckline low enough to show moon tattoos across her chest. He was certain she never had moon tattoos across her chest before. She looked at him and Fiona with an expression that seemed utterly sorrowful. What had happened to her? Had pulling apart the shape of space and perhaps the time that went it pulled something apart in her as well?
As for his uncle…why was he with one of the world’s great physicists? Okay he was dead. Who he showed up with might mean nothing at all or maybe he’d just left one big party on the other side. That couldn’t be right. Kenley would not have attended that kind of party.
Fiona stepped forward, hands clasped, and said, “Mom?”
Dr. Dirac didn’t reply or move but she caught her daughter’s eyes with her own blank eyes.
Uncle Don walked across the threshold into the sunlight and smiled at him. “Jaegar,” Don said warmly as if greeting him on a visit to the park for lunch.
Jay decided that he wasn’t going to try to figure out the rules on conversing with non-human people which included using a name the old man never used when he was alive. “Hello Uncle Don. I’m surprised to see you since I thought you were dead. What’s up? You know anything about dragons, or where Gabe might be?”
“He might be in a city in a place called Twelfth Street,” Don replied helpfully. “Camilla might know.”
Well of course she would. Why not? Uncle Don didn’t acknowledge Fiona at all, and Dr. Dirac hadn’t said to word to either of them. Jay wondered if she could even speak. “That’s good then,” he said calmly. “Thanks. Nothing about dragons and we’re stuck with Gabe and Camilla. You know which city?”
Uncle Don stepped back. He looked concerned. That was it? Go find a city?
Dr. Dirac suddenly turned her blank face toward him and smiled, and for a moment happiness overwhelmed him. How could he possibly question her about Gabe?
He glanced away and looked out across the lake at the mountains. She would not have deliberately done something this devastating for Gabe’s sake. He wasn’t that irresistible. Was he? A theory they’d been working on together for years had been implemented for Gabe’s sake? If something had happened that happened to help Gabe, it had to be an accident.
He stopped brooding uselessly and turned to her. “Dr. Dirac, you’ve been there for me since I was a little kid and I know what you were trying to do. What’s happened? What’s Gabe got to do with it? Is there something you want me to do? Can you talk to me?”
She took a long stride toward him and in that moment he clearly recognized his teacher and the physicist he’d known and loved. “Find a way here, Jay. We look for Twelfth Street.” She crossed her arms and gave him the kind of look she used when he was nine and she was teaching him something difficult. “Ask, and come.”
Here he was again, as he’d been his entire life, presented with expectations he didn’t know how to fulfill and didn’t Here he was again, as he’d been his entire life, he was presented with something he didn’t know how to do or didn’t want to do, but she’d never asked more from him than he could give her. If she wanted him to do this, she would give him the tools to do it.
He heard Fiona move around in the leaves behind him and say in a forlorn voice, “Mom?”
Uncle Don said, “I can’t hold this for you anymore Kenley.”
She swung around and walked away, weird tattoos moving on her spine with every step she took.
Don joined her and together they walked over the brown pavers under the tiled ceiling past the chairs toward the doors in the wall.
Jay started to follow them and once again Fiona reached out and stopped him. “Don’t,” she said in a shaking voice. “Even if you can go where they’re going, it may kill you to get there and you’ll never come back.
Don disappeared behind the elevator doors. Dr. Dirac chose the door to the left that opened onto a big rock. She walked into the rock and, like Don, vanished.
In the utter quiet that followed they looked at each other, blank, until Fiona said, “I’m not giving up.”
So there it was. Was he going to abandon this girl on the shore of a lake after a confrontation with dead people? If he did, would he bring the dragons down on him again? Kenley hadn’t mentioned dragons. She had asked him for help and given him an address he was sure led to a street on the other side of the universe. If he abandoned Fiona, he would be abandoning Kenley Dirac too.
It sure would have been nice if they’d given him a damned map.
Fiona was crying now.
“Look,” he said, “I don’t know what to do but I’ve got to go home and get some things before I run off trying to figure this out. Come with me and we’ll go over this shit and see if we can come up with something rational to do about it. I’m not going to leave you here by yourself.”
She didn’t answer. She just nodded.
He started toward his car and then stopped and looked back.
The ceiling was vanishing along with the table and the vase of flowers and the two red chairs. Only one of the three doors remained – the one Dr. Dirac had walked through. The elevator had already disappeared. By the time they turned onto the harbor road he was sure the whole thing would be gone. Had could that be? It had been solid to the touch, not an illusion. They were literally bringing chairs here from somewhere outside this world.
Fiona sat in the car and looked straight ahead through the windshield, hands clasped in her lap.
Jay opened the door, trying to think of something encouraging to say. “Look, we may literally disappear if we do what your mother said and come to her; I know what that means. I need a reason why I’m going off the grid and I think I can come up with it. If we’re going to question Camilla about Gabe, you’ll have to take a run at that. I won’t do it. I’m not questioning her about Gabe.”
“No problem,” she said quietly. “I can do that. I may not be able to build doors across dimensions, but I’m an expert in creating very convincing lies.”