I meet with the other pregnant men on Thursdays. Our room at the civic center is between the recovering alcoholics and cancer survivors. We’re currently at eleven, now that Wallace shot himself.
The room tries to look like it’s for any ol’ support group. An institutional-sized coffee pot sits amidst literature on a card table in the back. Both the coffee and the literature are rarely touched. And the room can’t blend in; any fool can tell it’s a pregnant man meeting. The ring of seats defines us.
We sit in student desks. The wraparound ones, where a hard, cream-colored plastic desktop is attached to an even-harder, blue plastic chair with chrome tubes connecting everything, chrome tubes for legs. These student desks were originally built for left-handed students. Now they’re ideal for pregnant men. We can lean into the desks to balance the weight disparity from our unearthly, distended right sides. In the later stages of skoick pregnancy, they’re the only comfortable seats to be had anywhere.
The only thing I’m looking forward to is the student desk, when I arrive for the meeting. I hobble-waddle into the room, my left arm hanging like an anchor, my right resting on the bulbous curve blooming out of my side. I halfway slide, halfway collapse into the seat with a sigh. I’m the fourth one to arrive.
“Nick,” Jamal greets me with a nod. He’s fourteen months in, the risky time. “Hard day?” he asks.
I lean into the desk to find a good position, holding my cheek with my hand as if his question about my comfort is the most fascinating subject I’ve ever heard. “I can’t remember the last time a day’s been easy,” I reply.
“Speak for yourself, young’un,” Master Chief says, also leaning in his seat. We call him Master Chief on account of the thirty years he gave the Navy. It fits his personality better than Chester Farnum. He’s the oldest man here, at fifty-five, currently ten months pregnant like me. “I danced all the way here,” he says, flashing the biggest smile. “I swear the sidewalk lit up like I was Michael Jackson.”
We all laugh. It must be military conditioning that keeps him smiling, able to joke through the suck. Me, I count the time until I can get this thing cut out of me. One hundred seventy-six more days.
“Don’t get him started,” Carson says adjusting his wire-rimmed glasses. He sits erect, bulgeless. Carson’s one of the two postnatals left in the group and has taken it upon himself to chair the meetings in the weeks since Wallace. He points at Master Chief. “Here I thought you were growing an alien in your appendix, but apparently that hump on your side is just you full of shit.”
We all laugh some more, which only makes my lungs and stomach hurt, which for some reason makes me laugh even harder.
The other guys start to trickle in. Plumber Dan and Judah Ahlborn hobble-waddle in together, followed by Miguel, our other resident postnatal. Ryan Crisp and Syed come next. We’re at two empty seats and Carson’s saying, “let’s get started,” when the new kid, Aaron, hurries in. I scarcely remember the days I could hurry. He’s still able to wear jeans and a leather jacket instead of sweats, at four months, barely showing.
The postnatals rise and the rest of us shimmy out of the desks. We start every meeting reciting the mantra.
“I am one of the few, one of the chosen. This experience will never come again. I choose to enjoy my life supporting life. I choose the fellowship of my brothers around me. I am still me, yet more. I will always remember, while I host another life, my life is still my own.”
Perhaps its force of habit, but we all look at the remaining empty seat while we pledge, the one Wallace made empty.
“Okay,” Carson says as we navigate back into our desks. “So, who wants to start?”
When he says “start,” what he means is, who wants to continue, continue unloading all the bullshit heaped on us since the last week. Ryan Crisp, carrying heavy bags under his blue eyes and seven months of gestating alien organism, raises his hand.
“I got fired from the gym today. I guess folding towels and sitting at the front desk is too strenuous for a pregnant personal trainer.”
“They can’t do that,” Carson says, shaking his head. “Sue those clowns for discrimination.”
Ryan shakes his head. “They made firing my ass a whole presentation; slides, executives in suits that came from corporate, the works. They showed me quarterly earnings for a full year, projected earnings, quotas, subscription rates, a bunch of other trash. It was their way of saying, ‘We’re not earning enough money, we can prove it, and we’re cutting you because you’re a personal trainer who can’t train anybody and the ones who can’ll fold the towels now, thanks.’”
He barks a terse laugh. “The funny thing is, I can’t even blame them. While I was sitting at the front desk, people would come into the gym, see me and turn right back around. Then there were the ones who walked around me like they were afraid any second this thing’ll burst out of me and wrap around their faces. It was easy for them to show me their profit loss because I caused it.”
Ryan shrugs. The defeated look on his face is familiar at these meetings. “I’ll be all right. It wasn’t like I was making a mint. Personal trainers get paid mostly off commission from client sessions and I had none. The government stipend takes care of the rent, and Kuumbarura makes sure I have some walking-around money. I don’t need the gym.”
“Fuck ’em,” Master Chief grunts.
“Woo woo,” we all chant, banging our fists twice on the desks.
We go around the room, airing new complaints, re-airing old ones that still feel fresh. Plumber Dan still can’t get a work contract. Judah Ahlborn’s father is still a dick. “Unsightly” is how his father describes him, which may be an improvement from the “living blasphemy” Judah was a few months ago. Syed has to stay in the back of his own restaurant, otherwise the customers get squeamish about the food. Most days, he doesn’t go at all because at twelve months it’s hard to navigate the narrow confines of the kitchen and some of the staff literally burn themselves giving him a wide berth.
The new kid, Aaron, raises his hand tentatively.
“People here have been calling me ‘crabmeat.’ I mean, back in Iowa, it would’ve been ‘alien whore’ if I had stuck around long enough to show. That’s what they called pregnant dudes on TV. Here they say ‘crabmeat.’” Aaron looks around the room with the question on his face. “Why is that?”
We all look at each other. I thought everyone knew at this point. Didn’t he have a doctor trained in xenobiology for his quinquemesterly checkups who explained all this?
How do you tell somebody their pregnancy is little more than them playing host to a mind-controlling parasite?
“Cause, we look like we would walk better if we did it sideways, like a crab,” Jamal says.
No one else speaks. Apparently, the answer to the question I posed in my head is to lie. As the kid nods slowly in acceptance, I feel my indignation rising. I lean toward Aaron.
“C’mon now,” Carson starts. I raise a hand to silence him.
“If you’re gonna chair, Carson, keep us honest. We all got enough to shoulder. Last thing we need is to come here to lie to each other. Hell, don’t we spend enough time lying to ourselves?”
I turn my attention back on Aaron.
“Scientists have studied skoick pregnancy and the closest thing they can compare it to here is a barnacle called Sacculina. When a female Sacculina locates a suitable host, most often the green shore crab, she looks for a joint in the crab’s shell. When she finds it, she sheds her own shell and—zip!—injects herself into the crab.”
Confusion clouded his features. “But there’s no he’s or she’s with the Sko’ickari. They’re nonbinary.”
“Not the point, Aaron. The point is, the barnacle invades the crab and once she’s in there, she develops a root system with tendrils shooting into the crab’s major organs: the stomach, the intestines. The brain. At that point, the Sacculina takes over the crab’s mind, forces it to take care of her.”
“You’re saying the skoick fetus in my appendix is also in my brain, making me do things?” Aaron asks. He looks around the room. “And y’all believe that? The thing’s four months old.”
Carson jumps in. “Look, all Nick’s saying is, soon you’ll have urges you can’t explain and can’t understand and maybe not even fight. You won’t want to fight them at the time. We don’t want you to freak out. It’s a natural part of this process.”
“As natural as artificial flavor!” Master Chief says with his usual smile. “But yeah, don’t let us scare you. No reason to climb out on a ledge or get depressed. Just roll with the punches. And don’t neglect your housework; clean your dishes, floors and toilets.”
Aaron looks around to all the bigger-bellied men and nods. I guess company is one of the perks of the support group. If nothing else, you can see you’re not the only one going through some out of this world weird shit. We’re what misery loves.
Carson looks at me. “Something you want to share, Nick?”
I shrug. “Not especially.”
“Your birthing partner’s leaving for Sko’icka this week, isn’t ne?”
I smile dryly. “Good of you to remember.”
His voice softens like a purring whisper. “It’ll be fine. It’s a part of the process, too. It’s okay.”
Before Wallace ended himself, he used to do this same shit. Carson’s not talking to me but past me, to what’s in me. If it bothered me seeing Wallace do it to the other guys before, I really hate it now that I’m the one being talked through.
“I actually don’t mind,” I growl.
I swear I mean it.
Also, I knew it was a stupid idea to come this week. I shouldn’t have listened to my sister. I let Kim know when she picks me up.
“None of them listened. Those dudes spent fifteen full minutes consoling the unborn alien baby through my tough, guarded exterior.”
“Tsk.” She clicks her tongue with a shake of her head. “If only they spent twenty minutes. You would’ve broke like a window at the batting cages.”
We both laugh a bit, her leaning one arm out the window, me leaning simply to breathe a bit easier. At least she gets me. I don’t have to advertise I’m joking. She believes me when I tell her something.
“So,” she says, “what are you going to do with your time now that Seqanen’s leaving?”
I shrug. “Everything I’ve been doing, minus the extra-tingly, mind-blowing interspecies sex.”
Kim drives in silence for a spell. “So … like my life then.”
No one knows why the Sko’ickari only choose men to carry their babies. It’s the appendix the fetuses are inserted in, not the Adam’s apple. I shudder at the thought of the alternative and how that would look ten months in.
That said, skoick-female relationships are rare, a novelty in which the skoick partner won’t even attempt to procreate. The skoicks don’t deem it necessary to explain this or anything else, really. And the world governments don’t care enough to ask, just in case being too nosy compromises the trade agreement. X amount of human birthing hosts for Y amount of advanced alien technology per year.
Kim pulls up to my apartment building. “Same time next week,” she announces.
“No.” I give her the same answer I gave her last week.
“Sounds like a date,” she replies.
Seqanen is still packing when I get inside the apartment. There is nothing high tech or futuristic about the process. Two legs walking about the place with two hands grabbing things to place in a suitcase. The suitcase is cool looking: a bright orange, durable polymer material, but we were making these ourselves before the skoicks showed up.
Skoicks are seven-fingered. The digits grow longer as they get further away from the thumb, the universe’s way of confirming our pinkies are useless. Their everything angles upward. Their eyes look like teardrops, noses like rising arrowheads. Hairless, their heads curve to resemble a flame frozen in time.
Seqanen stands a foot taller than me. Like humans, skoicks come in different colors. Mine is red. Ne is wearing a blue gindara, a traditional skoick outfit that resembles an evening gown. The gindara stands in beautiful contrast to nir strawberry-hued skin.
“You’re home,” ne says with a smile. “I’m glad. I’ve nearly finished preparing, so we won’t have any distractions.”
The sight of nem placing things in the suitcase triggers emotions I’m sure aren’t mine. My body isn’t my own when it rushes over, falls at nir feet and wraps my arms around nir legs.
My head shakes. My voice says, “Don’t go. Don’t go.”
I feel Seqanen’s fingers through my hair, on my neck. It is calming.
“I must leave and build. My child can’t survive without a nest.”
My head continues to shake vigorously.
Seqanen says nothing more. Ne simply hums and strokes my hair. Eventually, the fear subsides, my muscles unlock and I can stand.
“Why me?” I ask nem.
“I chose you,” ne replies.
“I’m not a Pikachu! That’s not an answer. Why me?”
Ne chews on the question a while, long lashes batting. Those eyes, I swear they each contain universes onto themselves.
“This is that thing between our cultures that I feel I cannot explain. I did not pick you, but rather chose. ‘Chose’ is the only word your language has for it. But I’ve always chosen you, will always choose you. It is written in the stars.”
I don’t know how to respond. At ten months pregnant, it’s a little too late to say much of anything anyway.
Seqanen smiles. “I know what will cheer you up.”
Ne holds up nir fingers. They throb as they grow, elongate, split. Soon, each appendage is many-tendrilled like a cat o’ nine tails, with small nodes along their length that resemble the pods of a Venus fly trap.
I undress with thirsty abandon. Seqanen steps closer to me. The tendrils wrap around my chest and back, my neck, my legs. They snake up from my neck onto my face, into my nose and ears. One wraps around my shaft. Another snakes its way inside.
Ne opens nir mouth. Nir tongue has elongated and budded like nir fingers. I part my lips and accept these tendrils on my tongue, down my throat.
Everywhere the nodes touch radiate joy. It’s like human nerves can barely process it, like simultaneously experiencing the joyful release of orgasm and the shuddery satisfaction of the moments after at the same time.
Maybe this is why the skoicks almost exclusively choose men. If we were known to be led by our dicks before, this kind of feeling could lead a man right off a suspension bridge.
In the morning, Seqanen’s gone. Ne will spend the next five months on Sko’icka, shedding skin and secreting fluids to build the perfect post-human habitat for nir child. I don’t experience any other breakdowns or episodes. And Thursday comes.
This time, Kim doesn’t have to work as hard to get me to the meeting. I hobble-waddle into the room and slide into the student desk, an ill-fitting glove but the only glove ever made for a misshapen hand. The two remaining postnatals, Carson and Miguel, are talking to each other near the coffee. Jealousy flashes, seeing them stand tall and erect, holding their Styrofoam cups. Look at them, just a couple of normal dudes. They could walk, not hobble, away from this room and fit in anywhere. Once I reach that stage, no way would I be here hanging out with a bunch of side-swollen crybabies.
Half the guys are already here: Jamal, Master Chief, Plumber Dan. Judah Ahlborn, Syed and Ryan Crisp come in shortly after me. We stand and give our mantra to Wallace’s empty chair. The kid, Aaron, has yet to arrive.
Master Chief dives right in.
“Fellas,” he says, “just like our boy, Nick, here, my baby’s leaving me. I tried to convince her to take me with her, but she ain’t hearing me. She told me our kid’s too underdeveloped for interstellar travel.”
Master Chief had apologized to us all the first couple of meetings about being old school. There was no “ne” or “nem” for Master Chief, no using “nir” instead of her. He had always dated a woman before this; as far as he was concerned, gender-neutral language and PC attitude could go to hell.
Unlike me last week, Master Chief seems to welcome the consolations and condolences that come from the other guys. We go around the room, where Jamal reminds us with a smile that he’s two weeks away from a neat trip to Sko’icka and the title of postnatal. In other news, Judah Ahlborn’s dad is still a cockbite but Plumber Dan finally found some work.
Aaron finally walks into the room while Plumber Dan is describing the weird, awkward angles he has to turn to get at the pipes underneath the sink. Aaron plops into the seat looking like he’s a thousand miles away. The look instantly kills Plumber Dan’s talk about P-traps.
A few moments into the newfound silence, Aaron, looking down, speaks to his student desk.
“I drank from the toilet,” he says.
I say nothing.
“After I used it, I got up and I looked at the water and shit swirl down. The new water was filling the bowl and something in my head made that rising water seem like it was the most refreshing beverage I’ll ever taste and I absolutely had to drink it. Then I was there, on all fours, head in the bowl, goddamn drinking.”
Aaron looks up from the desk and finds my eyes.
“Is that what you mean by mind control? Crabmeat?”
I nod. “Your baby is learning to drive human. Until it gets a better handle, it’ll drive on instinct.”
The traditional skoick host is an ignaruuk, a four-legged, sloth-looking creature that never evolved into sentience like the skoicks. The fetuses instinctually know how to compel the four-legged beasts and a hundred thousand years of hardwired evolutionary behavior wasn’t going to change overnight because the skoicks found what they believe are better hosts.
“Why would I want it to get a better handle?” Aaron said. “Why would I want it driving any part of me?”
“It’ll keep you from drinking out of the toilet,” I reply.
Master Chief leans toward Aaron. “I hope you listened when I told you to stay on your housework.”
Aaron looks around the room as if we all betrayed him. “This has happened to, what? All of you?”
None of us nod, but none of us shake our heads neither.
“But Bereksid never said any of this to me! Ne never said it would take over my body when ne asked my permission. What about the Dreamcall?”
Every now and then, one of us would put on our nostalgia glasses and talk about the Dreamcall. Invariably, they’re all the same, where our specific skoick birthing partner first appears to us in a dream. They bat their eyes that contain the whole universe in them at us and tell us they need us.
“It was just a dream,” I tell Aaron. “Just a call.”
No one knows if the Dreamcall is something the skoicks can do naturally or sort of advanced technology. The skoicks pick and choose what tech they share with our world and Dreamcalling hasn’t hit the access list yet.
“Oh my god,” Aaron says as he shakes his head. “Just … oh my god.” He takes off abruptly. Carson takes off after him.
We all look at each other, unsure of how to proceed. I know one thing for sure, Aaron gives me plenty to talk about when Kim picks me up.
“It was strange, Sis,” I tell her, leaning toward her as she drives. “I don’t think he has a doctor. It doesn’t seem like he’s done a lick of research on what his condition means or what to expect.”
“I remember first time you chugged the bowl,” Kim says. “That was before you converted to cleanliness as a lifestyle. You remember how your toilet used to have a dirt ring?”
“I don’t have to remember,” I tell her. “I can still taste it.”
We both laugh. For a few moments, there’s only the sound of her car motor as we move through the city. Kim spares a serious glance at me.
“You remember what you told me, the day after?”
“I’m pretty sure I said, ‘If I could find a way to get this thing out of me, I’d jump on it.’”
“There’s a guy, I hear he’s a doctor who got his license pulled,” Kim says. “Pissed off the government and medical community with his views on skoick invasiveness. I hear he maybe helps guys like you, Nick.”
I raise my eyebrow. “Really?”
“Yeah, unlike most doctors, he realizes you can’t walk into his office on your own two feet and say the A word. He understands that if a man appeared in his office unconscious because the man’s sister drugged him and then she and her husband carry-dragged him there, well, that’s as good as informed consent for that doctor.”
“Yes,” I tell her. Back when Seqanen first Dreamcalled, ne didn’t explain the terms, how long I’d be this way, the things I’d be forced to do, none of this shit. Ne just exuded nir need, this crushing need that even I could feel while ne looked at me with the eyes of the world’s saddest puppy. I couldn’t say no to that and no matter how I try to look at it, I can’t help but feel manipulated—mind controlled—even from the start. Yes, abort this thing.
“No,” my mouth says a moment later.
“No?” Kim asks. “This second thoughts or second opinion?”
“No abortion. I want nem to grow.”
“Okay, no it is,” Kim says. She says nothing else for the few minutes it takes to get me to my apartment. As I grab the door handle, Kim grabs my other wrist.
“You want me to come up, make you some tea? Remember how you used to like Sleepytime? I could make you some of that.”
I never liked Sleepytime. I snatch my wrist.
“I said, no! I want nem. I’m keeping nem. You’re just jealous of us, watching nem grow while you have no child. You’ll never have a child. You’ll always be barren. No, I don’t want your help, jealous and barren. No.”
A moment later, the things I said hurt my heart. “Kim …” I begin.
“Get out.” Her hand, the one I snatched away from, is shaking violently.
Reluctantly, I listen and watch her as she peels off. I head into my apartment, which seems drab and colorless now that Seqanen’s gone. My career field is IT, configuring firewalls and doing penetration testing, which was a work-from-home job even before the pregnancy. I don’t have the same weekly work struggles as many of the guys, but I also don’t have anything to distract me from my lifeless apartment. I don’t even know if I have family any more.
I dab the moisture forming in my eyes. That kind of thing’s not going to help anybody. I call Kim and apologize when it goes to voicemail. I call again and apologize to voicemail again. I send her flowers. Then a gift card. Then another voicemail apology. Then an e-card with a fun animation that took me hours to find.
Four days into my campaign, Kim calls me.
“You know, there are less expensive ways to get to your meetings. Uber picks you up anywhere.”
“Uber?! Why take my chances with a potentially crazy driver when I get a verifiably crazy driver?”
The silence hangs between us for a moment.
“I know. Shut up. I’ll see you on Thursday.”
True to her word, Kim shows up Thursday, smiling as if nothing ever happened. God bless, I want to hug her but she’s in the car already and hugging at this stage is awkward. Instead, I lean toward her even more from the passenger seat and kiss her cheek.
“That better not be toilet-water lips,” she says.
Because of an accident on the highway, I’m the last one to arrive. Even Aaron’s here before me. Apparently, they’ve already spoken the mantra and Jamal has the floor. He’s using his time to freak everyone out.
“I don’t want to get cut open. I think it’ll be better if I stay where I am.”
This is why the fourteenth month is the risky time. The young skoick has mastered the human neural network enough to process the fact that soon someone will cut it away from the only home its ever known but not enough awareness to understand this is in its best interest. There’s been reports of fourteen-monthers running away from home, where they die as the skoick child bursts their appendix, lungs and whatever else breaking through the skin to get to open air. Just like the traditional sloth-like ignaruuk, birthing skoicks is a lethal process for the host.
“I know it’s scary,” Carson says, speaking more through Jamal than to him. “Trust me, I’ve been there. But it doesn’t hurt. And the infant can’t survive for long without the nest. Ne can survive eating your organs for two days or so before the meat spoils and becomes unpalatable. Ne needs the nest.”
Jamal takes a few calming breaths. He nods.
“You should call the skoick embassy,” Carson adds. “Tell them what happened this meeting. Let them know it’s time.”
As Jamal nods confirmation, Aaron raises his hand.
“Jamal should wait. This isn’t all that’s happening with this meeting.” From his leather jacket pocket, Aaron pulls a pistol.
The other eight pregnant men, me included, instinctively reach and cover our bulging sides with both arms. The sight makes Aaron laugh.
“Y’all don’t even have enough of your own mind left to cover your face or just rock back or something. No, all your energy, everything you’ve got, spent protecting the parasite.”
No one says a word as Aaron looks around the room, the revolver swiveling towards each of us in turn.
“You know why the skoicks don’t try this shit with women?” he asks. “Because they’re built to carry life naturally. Their bodies aren’t going to let this abomination grow in their appendix like a disease while their womb is lying dormant. But, dudes? We never see it coming. Haha! Like being robbed at gunpoint.”
Through the fear, I put one hand up to Aaron. “No need for the gun. It’s none of our faults. We can’t help this.”
“Don’t you think I know that, Nick?” Aaron looks around the room at the other pregnant men. “What I’m saying is, I’m here to help this. Apparently, I can’t help myself. I’ve been trying to help myself all week. Seems you need to be a postnatal like Wallace before your body’ll let you swallow a bullet. But there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to help you guys. That’s why I’m here, to help you all.”
Aaron points the gun at me, the dead center of my bulging side. He stares at it, hatred in his eyes. The gun’s dark barrel seems to gape open like the maw of the abyss. Aaron’s steady hand quivers. His brow furrows. The gun hand shakes. And shakes. And shakes.
He lowers the gun. His eyes fill up with tears.
“Even that, too,” he whispers.
Carson gets up, hugs the scared kid sitting in the student desk. The gun falls out of Aaron’s hand as he grips fistfuls of Carson’s shirt and bawls like a lost infant.
The meeting doesn’t last much longer after this. The guys come here to unload, not to strap on more trauma to carry home. I’m sure Judah Ahlborn would take a jerk dad over a desperate kid waving a gun every day of the week, including Thursdays.
The guys slowly trickle out. My sister’s held up in a department store across town, so I’ve got time to kill. Soon there’s only Carson and me.
“Poor kid,” I say. “Hard to come to terms with choice being taken away.”
Carson shrugs. “I don’t think he ever had a choice to begin with. Even before the Dreamcall.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know the skoicks don’t have a word for choice?” he asks. “My former birthing partner explained to me that they understand our word ‘choice’ as this murky area between pick and force.”
“Pick is the same thing as choose.”
He shakes his head. “Not to them. A pick is an arbitrary selection. What items you put on your plate at an all-you-can-eat buffet, which random numbers you highlighted on a losing lottery ticket, those are picks. Even those forced into conditions have picks. A slave with the option of two shirts from his meager closet. The choice of chicken or fish when you’re flying on an airplane, held captive thirty-thousand feet above the ground. To them, choice is much different.”
“So, what is it? What’s choice to them?”
“That’s the thing I don’t think they know how to really explain. I don’t think they see choice as a choice. The things that impact our lives in meaningful ways have already been decided to skoicks and they’re just waiting for time to catch up, to reveal the results.”
I look up at the ceiling. “It’s written in the stars.”
He takes his glasses off and rubs the bridge of his nose. For the first time, I notice how tired he looks, more so now than when he was carrying a skoick.
“Why do you do it?” I ask him. “You’re done. Fifteen months paid. Why do you come back and chair these meetings?”
He puts his glasses back on. A smirk plays across his face. “There’s purpose in it. I suppose I need that.”
There must not be much sense of purpose in it. As Aaron pointed out, Wallace shot himself once he had control of his body again. Chairing these meetings didn’t seem to have helped him all that much.
I realize that I’ve been so busy cursing the experience of carrying the fetus and counting the days, that I haven’t really contemplated what it meant to be postnatal. I figured life was so much better for these guys that I didn’t stop to wonder if it really was.
“How do you feel?” I ask Carson. “You know, after the full fifteen months, the months after. Hell, after this gun scare. How do you typically feel?”
He stares at me for a moment. “You really want to know?”
He looks off into space, his eyes dancing as he considers the question. For the briefest of moments, I see the whole universe contained in his eyes.
“Empty,” he says.