About the Author

Liz Harmer

Books by this Author
The Amateurs
Excerpt

At first, the public had been told that port worked like a revolving door, that it went both ways. PINA quoted people who reported that they’d evaporated and come back, and that the experience was glorious. Carpe diem, they said. You haven’t lived! Someone claimed to have been among the Arawak people before Columbus. Someone claimed to have witnessed the cave painters in Lascaux.

Marie had snorted in disbelief, sitting in front of her TV with the chopsticks in her hand hovering over a bowl of noodles. These so-called travellers had been in the Bahamas before Columbus, and they’d gone prehistoric, and yes, they were wearing appropriate costumes and had unruly facial hair, but they didn’t give any information about those times and places. What was it really like? Marie chewed sardonically, pointed her chopsticks at the screen. No. It was not believable. These people were awestruck and dumbstruck, but they knew nothing at all. Or they were manic for environmentalism. “You have no idea what it’s like with all the trees!” they said. Green so green it made your eyes hurt. Green so green it will make you grow leaves and buds. Contagious green.

This talk of colour had come close to tempting Marie. It was pathological to not be tempted at all. People around her had acquired a missionary zeal. “I want to see everything.” Marie’s sister Claudine’s eyes had gleamed. “I want to see the Mayans! The ancient Egyptians!” Gasp. “Shakespeare!”

So time and space was just an enormous sponge cake you got absorbed into? PINA—through Doors or his favourite mouthpiece, Brandon Dreyer, who was said to be the source of the corporation’s weird poetry—claimed that this new tech had broken through the shell of perceived reality, which was like an egg they’d all been fertil­ized in. Now they ought to—had an obligation to —poke their heads through and look around. “The present is over!” PINA proclaimed.

Claudine had gone, and not come back. Marie imagined her— when she felt optimistic—walking around Elizabethan streets in rags.

“The present is over!”

One by one, sometimes in groups of two, sometimes whole families together, the people disappeared. The slogan was meant to persuade them that it was passé to live in the here and now, but it had ended up being prescient. This present, this reality, the original reality, was kaput. All things had ground to a halt. You didn’t notice people disappearing until one day the streets seemed hollowed out, the space between one person and the next walking down the side­walk had grown too long. The gaps were everywhere. Marie’s shop door stopped chiming its happy heave-ho. The newspaper in the stand outside was three days old. Then four days. Then five.

Everyone in the group had reasons to grieve. At first the gather­ings at the church had been like AA meetings. Hi, I’m Marie, and I’ve been left behind. Today I was thinking about how much I miss the smell of street meat. Hi, I’m Lillian, and I’ve been left behind. Will I ever get another letter in the mail? Hi, I’m Bonita, and Hi, I’m Philip, and Hi, I’m Rosa, and Hi, I’m Mo.

close this panel
Show editions
close this panel

User Activity

more >
X
Contacting facebook
Please wait...