“You are always traveling. Why is that?”

The man was seated on an airliner as it lifted off, and Pathosis was with him as he did so. He did not feel well enough to travel, but felt that he had no choice.

“When I was younger, I would have said that it was to see the world,” the man said, with a pained smile. “But the truth is, it all looks the same. The same buildings, the same boardrooms, the same suits. The only thing that ever changes is which side of the road people drive on.”

“Then why continue?”

This sobered the man, and he was quiet for a time as the sun set outside the airliner’s porthole. “I suppose,” he said at length, “my job has become my identity. My life. I could stop. I could probably live on what I already have. But I wouldn’t have anything to live for. I’d be rattling around the house at loose ends.”

“Is that so bad?” Pathosis said.

“It is for me,” the man sighed. He tugged at his lapels. “This suit is as much to convince the guy in the mirror as it is the people across the table. I never married, you know. Never had kids. This job, a cat, and an apartment is that there is to me. I couldn’t stand to lose it, because that would mean…”

He trailed off again, coughing drily.

“That would mean?”

“That is was all for nothing.” The businessman smiled. “I have ten years to go before they make me retire, and I might be able to string them along for a little bit even after that. I’ve still got time to make my mark.”

Pathosis did not respond. She could see the armor the man had built up around himself, the shining crystal plates deflecting what he did not, or could not, confront. She could not crack it, even as the end approached.

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