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k Sorrow Payne didn’t have to change into widow’s weeds when Meriwether died. She had always worn black. Colors faded in her presence.

d She looked out the window at the dripping trees. The stereotypically rainy funeral was over, and the sun was trying to reappear.

k The grey tombstone, blending into the grey woods and sky, read: Meri Payne b.’54 d.’80. They had no money for more information.

d Sorrow thought it fitting, however, to have such a succinct epitaph on Meri’s grave. He’d been a succinct man. Sighing, she turned.

k Playing in the corner was all Meri left: the 5 year old twins, Rose and Thorne, the only tints not touched by Sorrow’s turpentine.

d Fraternal twins, the two were mostly opposites. Rose fit her name, red-haired and fair-skinned, with a usually sweet disposition.

k Thorne remained at sidelong, with the intent to hinder any real progress in any undertaking. His outer and inner selves were dark.

d Therefore, “playing” is a relative term when used in regard to Rose and Thorne. Sorrow walked into the kitchen, though not hungry.

k She was startled to find that the landlord, Mr Brent Spiner, had let himself in. “We’ll have to come to an arrangement,” he said.

d “An arrangement?” Sorrow asked, confused. “I thought we would continue with the same terms. What arrangement?” She took a step back.

k “You have no money,” Mr Spiner said what everyone knew, “and I have certain…needs.” He looked abashed as he told her this.

d “Needs.” Sorrow raised an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t exactly call dimensional travel a NEED. A drug, maybe, of sorts; a desire, certainly.”

k “Well, um, yes,” mumbled Mr Spiner. “But you know DimTravel requires child accompaniment, & my sis won’t let me take hers anymore…”

d “And so you want to take MINE?” Sorrow thought a moment, glancing into the other room. “Perhaps we CAN come to an agreement, at that.”

k Spiner’s pale face brightened. “Wonderful! I just need the one, you know.” He glided into the room where the children were playing.

d The children looked up, briefly. Rose felt troubled by the look in Spiner’s eye. Thorne looked askance, only barely interested.

k Mr Spiner smiled at the children, and returned to business. “I’ll pick one up in the morning. Probably be gone a week of DimTime.”

d Sorrow’s eyebrow again lifted. “A week? I think I should have some say in the duration, since you are involving my child. Two days.”

k “And I think,” said Spiner with matching eyebrows, “since it will only be a day real-time, and you still have a home…” he trailed.

d Sorrow thought it wise to concede. “Fine. Tomorrow. I’ll have Thorne ready at 8:30.” She stepped past him to open the door.”Good day.”

k Rose heard the farewell & swooped up from her game to hug Mr Spiner. He smiled, glanced at Rose then Sorrow, and left Sorrow’s home.

d Rose turned to her mother. “Thorne doesn’t like Mr Spiner, you know,” she informed her. Sorrow nodded. “Not that it matters.”

k Rose turned her red head & looked at Sorrow sideways. “But I think he’s nicer than you think.” She turned back. “I like his beard.”

d Sorrow followed Rose into the other room, and informed the children it was time for bed. “You’re up early tomorrow, Thorne,” she said.

k Thorne was none too pleased with the early bedtime nor the impending adventure. Sorrow, however, was torn between regret and relief.

d 7:30am found a sleepy Sorrow shaking Thorne awake, the scent of coffee filling the house. “I’ll fix breakfast while you get ready.”

k Thorne grunted and pulled the covers back up, but Rose leaped up out of bed. “If Thorne doesn’t get ready, can I go, Mommy?”

d Sorrow shook her head. “I think that isn’t a good idea, honey.” Smiling at Rose, she resumed shaking Thorne, removing his warm covers.

k By 8:30, a sullen Thorne was dressed, packed, & ready to resist. Rose, on the other hand, was antsy & flitting from Sorrow to window.

d Sorrow looked at the clock and sighed in annoyance. “8:45. Can’t the man EVER be on time??” Rose piped from the window, “Here he is!”

k Mr Spiner entered, hat in hand, again looking pleased as Rose hugged his legs. He patted her head as he said, “I have a cab running.”

d Sorrow stepped into the other room, where Thorne had planted himself in an overstuffed chair. “It’s time, Thorne,” she stated firmly.

k Thorne dragged himself reluctantly to his feet as Spiner attempted to reach Thorne’s bag while still captured by Rose’s arms.

d Sorrow lifted Rose, removing her arms from Spiner’s legs. “Please be careful. I’ll see you tomorrow, Thorne, try to have a good time.”

k Spiner exited, Thorne looking back dolefully at Sorrow, and Spiner with an identical look at Rose. Sorrow sunk into a chair and sighed.

d Rose climbed up into Sorrow’s lap. “Will  you read me a story,  Mommy?” she asked. “Sure, baby,” replied Sorrow. “What shall we read?”

k “Snow-White & the 7th Divorce,” Rose said picking up her favorite book. Sorrow sighed, wishing she was a divorcée instead of a widow.

d After reading three or four other stories to Rose, Sorrow got up to do some housework. It never ceased to amaze her how messy it got.

k Sorrow was disturbed to find she was enjoying shadowless housework. Thorne had never been out from underfoot before.

d She and Rose enjoyed a quiet lunch, and then, putting on a video for Rose, she went to the DimComm room and sat down at the terminal.

k “Hello, Sorrow,” said the ComVox, “Where’s your little shadow?” Sorrow’s face went stony. “That’s what I came to ask you,” she said.

d The ComVox beeped. “Searching,” it said. “Ah, here it is. Brent Spiner and Thorne Payne: Code 293520.3, en route to…” it paused.

k “Crevasse Spade,” it said. “What’s a crevasse?” asked Rose. “It’s a big crack,” said Sorrow. Rose knew ‘spade’; she’d hoed before.

d Sorrow asked the ComVox for their ETA. “They just arrived,” it reported. Rose, losing interest, went back to watching “Poppy Road.”

k “Little seeds\ In a stew\ Bring sweet dreams\ From their brew.\ Are they there?\ Do you see ’em?\ Or are they just\ O – PI – UM!”

d Rose sang along with the show’s theme song, then settled in to enjoy the animation without her twin’s usual obnoxious noises.

k

d Sorrow poked the “Yes” on the screen, then brought up a game she enjoyed – a mindless little community simulation game.

k The Sims – Clone Edition, the one place where Something that had been Meri was captured in time, without being depressingly real.

d She quickly lost herself in the on-screen drama, which she directed almost effortlessly with a few movements of her fingers.

k The ophthalvenous drug had it’s desired effect: the illusion that life isn’t pain. At that moment Meri wasn’t gone & Thorne neverwas.

d She was jarred back to reality hours later by Rose’s plaintive voice. “Mommy, what’s for supper?” Rose looked at the clock, startled.

k “Check the swinken for eggs & sausage, & if you haven’t had any yet today you can get chocomilk from the carob goat.” Rose clapped.

d As Rose skipped off toward the swinken, Sorrow turned back to the electronic remnants of Meri that so often soothed her aching heart.

k She noticed that another character had moved into the game – a blonde girl, apparently 20-something. Meri-bot seemed interested.

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