he calendar is right there, achingly close. You’re about to sneak a look at it when the man bolts out of an open window and onto the fire escape. Pierce follows in hot pursuit, but, with a deftness possessed only by escape artists, gymnasts, and the truly, hypnotically clumsy, he gets tangled in his own trenchcoat and falls down the stairs. You crash through the window and leap across rooftops after your prey.
He jumps off a parapet at forty feet and vanishes into a shimmering, filmy brocade of air. Reality wobbles, suddenly uncertain. You take a breath and dive through its warp and weft.
You slide into a plain white room. Your quarry sits reading in an ugly, pale green recliner of formidable size. Ever so often he takes his left hand from a somber book and nudges his glasses back up the slope of his nose. With burgundy smoking jacket and pipe dangling from his lips, he looks a little like a sitcom’s idea of a sitcom’s idea of a Dad, or the affected founder of a men’s magazine of questionable journalistic value.
He catches you staring at him.
“Oh, is it this?” he asks, crossing his eyes to look at the pipe. “It’s just for show. See. Bubbles.”
He blows and sends flocks of bubbles migrating to warmer climates near the ceiling of whatever place this is.
“And another secret: this ‘somber book’ is just another Superman comic.” As he speaks, a crayon drawing of a rocket, hasty and scribbled and beautiful in its purity, explodes from his fingertips and crashes into a nearby cartoon Earth. “I like him because I think–I think he’s sort of a third-culture kid. He doesn’t have a home so he does his best wherever he finds himself. I grew up on another planet too. But, oh yeah, I should probably introduce myself. I’m Graham. I’m the Mysterious Mister G.”
He rises from the recesses of his chair and gives you a warm and hearty handshake.
“Ug. Listen to me. ‘Warm and hearty handshake?’ How do I even know? It’s probably a clammy, limpid imposition. I’m the worst. Knowing me,” he says, casting a conspiratorial glance over his shoulder, “I’m probably secretly hoping that this somehow makes me famous.”
A snowbank of emotions, equal parts guilt and sadness, covers his features and you think he might stop talking altogether. But he continues.
“Anyway, I’m sorry to make you go through all that just to get to me. And sorry I had to kill Pierce all those times. But I guess he wasn’t really your friend anyway. I made him up because he had a funny name and because these books were always bloodthirsty. I guess I thought it would be fun to try and write one, but then I got a little carried away. And then I started thinking: did girls even read these books when they were little?”
He snaps and suddenly a second chair pops into existence.
“That’s for you, if you want it. You can make up that part. But I also–you know–I also sort of thought that this whole internet dating thing is like Choose Your Adventure. You go out, have some random adventures, but there’s not really a story behind it. It’s just these knobby joints without any connective tissues holding them together.”
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: HE ONLY CAME UP WITH THAT AFTER HE’D WRITTEN MOST OF IT. HE’S TRYING TO SOUND LIKE HE HAS A POINT.]
“Quiet up there, You. Or Me. God, I’m ruining it. That’s sort of how I am though. I really like beginnings, but I can never stick the endings. If only the first hint of an idea weren’t always so fun, so necessary! I want to do a lot in life–it seems like we all do–but one thing that will be important for me is figuring out how to make my middle and ending just as fulfilling–just as happy and worthwhile–as my beginning. I wonder if that’s the challenge for a lot of people. Having a good ending can make all the difference to people just getting started.”
He sighs. In this place it’s like continents rushing together.
“OK, you’ve heard enough from me. That’s all, folks! The Mystery of Temple G wasn’t much of one at all. After all that, it’s really just beginning another story: boy meets girl. This your part now anyway. I should probably go outside and have my own adventure.”
He snaps again, his clothes transfigured into shiny reds and blues and yellows. Up, up, and away he flies, primary colors singing out across spectra, whole axes and dimensions shedding and peeling like a rocket’s scaffolding, until he becomes just another mote in the eye of an enduring yellow sun.