“Look, I was told that I could find the person I’m looking for here,” said Davis. “This just looks like another saloon in a town full of them.” The various customers didn’t react to his outburst, save a little girl seated near the back who regarded Davis with intelligent eyes.

“You come in here whining about how you want a molder to make you a person, on the strength of a rumor you heard over a glass of whiskey, and you complain to me about it?” The bartender laughed. “You’ve got to realize, son that the Permeable Lands are just like the world outside. You’ve got to give something to get something. What have you got that anyone who could mold that well would ever want?”

Davis produced a handful of crystals and dumped them on the bar. “I think you know what these are.”

The bartender raised an eyebrow. “Another thing you’ve got to realize, son, is that the Permeable Lands aren’t like the world outside at all. What do you suppose I mean by that?”

Davis stared quizzically at the man for a moment before comprehension dawned on his face. “All the bottles behind your bar are empty,” he said. “The people in here–all of them–haven’t made so much as a sound. Saloons aren’t like that even on a quiet day. And that little girl staring at me…no one would let a kid like that into a place like this and put her at a table with four full-grown men playing poker.

“Now, that’s more like it,” said the bartender. “You’ve passed the first test.” As he spoke, the figure before Davis melted away into sand.

As did the bar, the walls, the other patrons.

Davis was left standing in an alley, covered with alkaline dust and gripping his payment in the palms of his hands. The girl was the only thing that hadn’t vanished on the wind.

“Name’s Caroline,” she said. “I’m the molder you were looking for, and you’ve interested me enough to hear you out.”