She spoke of the Dunink places, parts of the world that had unusual resonance with what she called “the world unseen.” Dr. Bausch felt that these were delusions based on tortured and twisted reinterpretations of events in Milly’s life; for example, she had been troubled by a bully by that name in childhood, and her brother confirmed that, before his early death from cancer, Milly’s father had regaled his children with tales of strange and beautiful things beyond the ken of mankind.

John agreed with Bausch for the most part, but there were some places where things didn’t quite fit. The bully, for instance, had spelled his name “Dunninc” but Milly had become hysterical when John suggested that she use that spelling for her Dunink places.

“The words have power, and by breaking them you unleash it!”

Then there was the detailed list of Dunink places that Milly drew up. The Belcher ribbon islands in Hudson bay, Kerguelen in the south Indian Ocean, Severnaya Zemlya in the arctic…John needed to consult a good atlas to find any of them. It didn’t seem in keeping with Milly, who had no books and had reportedly been a mediocre student before her psychotic break, more concerned with gowns than geology. She had even identified one Dunink place not by name but by number, scratching out 48°52.6′S 123°23.6′W longitude 48.8767°S latitude. It took a trip to the local library to determine what she meant by this: the coordinates were for Point Nemo, the furthest place from dry land in all Earth’s oceans.

Miranda had an impressive interview, and her resume and references had been beyond reproach. So she’d been hired. But, as is so often the case, the glowing reviews and impressive accomplishments hid a simple truth: the good people at Iowa Northwestern had been trying desperately, hungrily, to rid themselves of her.

And it was easy to see why.

She was absolutely batshit insane crazy.

The warning signs had been there for anyone who cared to look, but it wasn’t until the deal was sealed that worrying things came to light. Miranda had assured Burroughs that Elvis and Lennon were alive and well over coffee one morning, for instance. When prodded, she’d said they were on the same spacecraft in the shadow of the moon. She had an utterly unnerving habit of cutting faces out of the paper and adding them to a collage–of obituary columns. Faces of Irish Lottery winners grinned cheerily from a bulletin board in Miranda’s cube; if pressed, she said they made her feel more alive.

But none of it was enough to terminate her five-year contract early, at least not in the eyes of anybody upstairs. So she was shuffled from project to project, contributing vociferously to derailing discussion and never assigned any deliverables for fear they’d arrive in lavender ink (as had once happened on an official memo to the mayor).

That was the state of her when I was assigned team as Miranda’s team leader.