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Where the Quiet Waters Flow

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The club’s too quiet without Brandeis. Donovan used to like the quiet, the long space between customers, but now he misses the sound of piano, echoing in through the storm and the city. Now it weighs down on him, oppressive, heavy.

There’s nothing left for him in the club these days. Customers, sure. Even in number, sometimes. But none of them mean anything. At least his knee’s been doing better. He can get up the stairs to the roof without needing to stop and rest. Back down’s another story, but, well, he has the elevator for that. In unrelated news, rumor has it the bus service has undergone a shocking reversal of its trend to run later and later. Almost like it wants riders.

Akara really couldn’t be any clearer, huh? They want him out of here.

It’s not like he doesn’t know just how much of a thorn he must be in their side. He’s done his research. Brandeis may have been a not inconsiderable part of his connection to the rebel element, but Donovan still knows some people. He was able to get access to the Supercontinent security footage. Of course, being an information broker means you have to give as well as take. It’s a responsibility. Some things shouldn’t be kept secret anyway, but that didn’t make it easier to break the news to them that Brandeis was dead.

At least it kept them from looking at the footage themselves. He deleted the footage on his way out. Akara’s his problem.

Honestly, maybe he’d rather it that way. Akara’s a parasite, sure, a virus in the system, but isn’t he one too? They just do what he does, on a grander scale. And they have constraints to how much they’ll meddle. Donovan’s only constraint is that he can’t leave the club, but that’s been looking less and less real lately. He’s starting to suspect that his oh-so-mysterious disease of bad luck was entirely Akara’s influence from the start.

Donovan’s phone buzzes in his pocket. He never used to use the damned thing. Why bother, when he had real people, in the present? In the oppressive quiet of the bar, though, there’s nothing stopping him from a little sudoku. Scrolling social media. The usual. The ping of a notification is almost as good as the sound of the club’s door opening used to be. He knows he’s letting Akara into his life. Whatever. They don’t mean him harm, and it’s not like he can stop them.

Donovan swipes his phone unlocked. He could probably get it implanted now, but it works fine like this. Ain’t broke, he won’t try to fix it. There’s one new email. Looks like spam, some kind of ad for a rural manor. He opens it up anyway, takes a look at the pictures.

Get off the grid! Live life to its fullest!

Fat chance. The grid is all he has these days. He’s desperate enough to read spam email, why would he want to leave the grid behind? Akara’s his fate, he’s accepted it.

On the Supercontinent security footage, Akara had mentioned him and fate. Donovan can’t quite remember what they said. It’s three in the morning. Bar’s closed, nobody’s going to walk in on him if he takes a look at his saved copy of the video. That’s another reason to want his phone physical: Supercontinent doesn’t have much of a reason to go looking through his files. Donovan skips to the right place almost immediately. Damn, Brandeis’ face hurts to see. But he’s here for Akara this time. There.

He’s bending fate to his caprice, similar to me; at a microscopic scale in comparison, of course, but manipulating fate just the same.

Right. Akara saw the parallel too. They’re just like him, only on a grander scale, and a little bit less avoidable. Everything down to the spam email was probably their fault. Although, he supposes, if they were able to influence them, he could probably influence right back. If he wanted. Damn, he misses Brandeis. Smile on his face, penchant for danger. He’d wade right in. Well, he did, and it got him killed.

Donovan doesn’t want to think about it. He reaches under the bar and pours himself a glass, not thinking about the motions, just mixing something. It won’t be anything meaningful--unfortunately, his mixing talents don’t work on himself. He takes a slow sip.

Ping. Donovan unlocks his phone and takes a look. It’s a duplicate of the spam email--wait. What?

Apparently he just bought a manor house in rural Maine. Or something bought him one.

He types out a bemused reply to the email, sends it. The reply is immediate: sent to a no-reply address, the email bounced. Donovan rereads the various emails. There is no mention of an owner, no phone number, no other email address. He clicks the link to the real estate website. It doesn’t connect. He searches up the name of the real estate agency. Nothing. He looks up the house’s address.

There it stands, only barely visible from the road where the street-view car had driven by.

It is late, and Donovan has been drinking. He should go to bed, and this will all have gone away by morning.


The emails are still there. Still no contact information. The house still stands, shrouded by trees. Donovan’s curiosity is piqued, and he doesn’t think any of his contacts are likely to have answers. But he asks them anyway, because it is what he does.

Marcia drops by that night. She deals in society rumors, she’d have heard if this happened to anyone else. Nothing. There are more customers, though, and Donovan can’t spare much worry about it except to ask them if they’ve heard of anything like it. No one has. It doesn’t seem the usual category of spam email, either.

The next night, he gets lucky. Coburn’s an old friend, and he happens to be a realtor. Coburn readily agrees that Donovan’s situation is a strange one. Still, probably a scam. No money was transferred, as Donovan’s bank account confirms. Not worth the effort to think about. Donovan has always disliked that about Coburn, if he’s being honest. Not a care for other people’s problems. But, Coburn says, he’ll put in a word at the office. Check to see who the house’s current owner is listed as. Donovan thanks him and mixes the next customer a glass of Curiosity.

Mid-afternoon, Donovan gets an email from Coburn. The house is listed under Donovan’s name.

Donovan flips the window sign to Closed and buys a bus ticket to Maine.