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Chapter 1. A strange lady makes a strange arrival and stranger departure


According to the best calculations and most fevered speculations of string theorists, the universe has nine (or more recently, ten) spatial dimensions, all but three of which are compactified to indiscernible stubs. It is an abstraction too weird to be grasped, except as an ephemeral inkling. Yet it is still not weird enough to be true. For the truth is not only weirder than we think, it is weirder than we can think.


When Fenster turned into the alley, he was only hoping to slip his pursuers. He had no idea of what was at stake, or of the consequences to follow. Certainly not that this was to be his last day on Earth. Nor had he yet become suspicious of his companion, Ventena. Only later did he realize that she never intended for either of them to walk back out of that alley. But already he knew she was annoying. Especially, her inexplicable pronouncements grated.

“A son of Thoth can walk through Reflections,” Ventena said, seeming serenely unconcerned about the knife-wielding assailants who were fast approaching. She was blonde, rather attractive, looked young, and had been making pronouncements equally irritating to Fenster for hours now. Their clarity had not improved.

“Very helpful. With such sage advice, and just a couple of bucks more, I can buy me a beer,” Fenster replied. “Do you have anything to suggest of a less philosophical nature? Optimally addressing the problem at hand.”

The look she gave him was an overstated combination of disdain and condescension. But the knife she gave him was understated utilitarianism. The long, sharp, straight, double-edged blade fit into a plain grip with a wide blade guard. Controlling his surprise, Fenster took the weapon gratefully, but remained crouched behind the dumpster. The woman had said so many strange things that he had ceased to puzzle each utterance. The knife he understood. Holding it, he felt its lethal purpose, and was calmed. Still, there were at least six pursuers, and they had knives also.

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