Dianna walked slowly, her umbrella clutched in one hand. The forecast had threatened rain as recently as the day before, and that was her flimsy excuse for clutching it so tightly when it was sunny and mild. She hoped that no one could see the terror beneath the calm mask of her face, or notice the whisper of air being drawn between her tightly clenched fingers.

“Hey, Dianna.” It was Collins. He looked pleasant, even agreeable, now that he’d cleaned himself up, per her orders. “You worried about a little sun?”

“Sun?” Dianna said blithely, missing his point entirely in her attempt to seem cool and collected.

Collins pointed at her umbrella. “Your parasol, Dr. Choi. Worried about catching a few too many rays today?”

“Oh! Yes, I never did much like the sun,” said Dianna. “A good parasol is better than sunscreen, and you don’t break out after using it.”

“Tough to swim with one, though,” laughed Collins.

“Only if you’re out of practice,” replied Dianna. “You’re quite recovered from your shock earlier?”

“Never better,” said Collins. “The seed of madness is still there, but, like you said, I’ve walled it off to keep on the task at hand. This is too important to let the impossible leak your mind out of your ears.”

“Yes, of course,” said Dianna. “If you’ll excuse me, Mr. Collins, I’m going to take some of my own advice and rest for a bit.”

Collins nodded and proceeded on his way down to the arch. When he reached it, and opened the containment doors, he found a naked and empty stone arch, with none of the technicolor cosmos that had once shone through it.

By the time the alarms began to go off in the excavation, Dianna was already at home, packing. But she did permit herself, for a moment, to open the umbrella to gaze at what lay within. Then, smiling, she set it down, with impossible galaxies in her eyes.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!