No-one very important
rating: +3+x

"Why does this kind of thing happen so often in creepy houses and never in… I don't know, water parks?"

They were already on the tenth basement of this seemingly tiny house, and they had just discovered another trap door in the floor. Discreet hints, which would have escaped just about anyone but a veteran Zeta-9 Mole Rat, indicated that this was a dimensional anomaly, and not just the result of a depressed architect's drunken stupor on a Saturday night. Here and there, small details betrayed the anomalous origin of the extra rooms. An identical stain on two different slats, the second one three floors away from the first. A subtly distorted perspective in a hallway. The ever-so-slightly repetitive nature of the floor creaks, as if it were the job of a video game sound designer with a limited collection of footsteps noises due to restricted memory space.

"Or in stairwells. Have you ever been in that stairwell, you know, the one what's-his-name, uh, Parks, was talking about the other day in the van? The one with the floating face and everything?"

"I wasn't really listening. But no, I've never been there. Besides, I think they only sent Ds in there back when they were still exploring it."

"Do you think it's the same here? That it continues down to infinity?"

It was always like this when Angela was under pressure. She needed to talk to maintain some semblance of calm. It worked wonders on her. If only it didn't stress Henry out in return, it would have been perfect, really.

On the other side of the trap door was a metal ladder leading down into a suspiciously deep shaft. The walls were covered with paintings of questionable taste.

"Henry, what's the weirdest thing you've ever explored?"

"A potato sack with a dimension filled with potatoes as far as the eye can see."

"Mine was a toilet bowl. It was full of futuristic technology. To access its extra-dimensional space, you had to stick both feet in the bowl and flush. I win."

"That wasn't a contest."

"Lucky for you."

Angela lingered to illuminate some of the paintings. They'd seen more of them upstairs earlier, but they were much more sketchy and totally lacking in artistry, so much so that Henry wondered what the point of framing stick figures or punctuation marks was. The deeper they went into the basement, however, the more complex the paintings became. His team leader's headlamp revealed a landscape of intertwining open and closed eyes, painted with acrylics in a frenzy. Further down were paintings of faces that were certainly meant to be realistic, but again, smeared with such fury that the individual hairs of a crushed brush could be seen clearly in relief in each splash of color.

"I'm gonna film this for Théo, he might be interested."


Théodore Jakobsen was bored out of his mind in the mobile research station (a fancy name for a van with some equipment in it) parked outside what Zeta-9 had already dubbed "the madhouse". Very creative. He fidgeted with his red hair, absent-mindedly tapping on the edge of his chair, trying to remember a tune he'd heard earlier this month in an uncertain context, but he couldn't quite remember it. It was going plague his thoughts for the rest of the day, that was for sure.

The radio crackled.

"Théo, we're on the fourteenth damn basement and it's still going, but I think we've got the source of the anomaly right in front of us and we should stop here for now. Check this out."

Jakobsen swiveled his chair around and magnified the video feed from Alpha's helmet - the code designating Angela Rodriguez for this mission - until the slightly pixelated image of a strange wall filled the screen. Debris covered part of the floor. Plaster and even reinforced concrete had burst from the inside in places, revealing pieces of rebar, but the color of the remaining parts was unmistakable. At some point, someone had repainted it from floor to ceiling with -

Beta's sigh of disappointment - or perhaps relief? - could be heard even in the van.

"Jakobsen, we've got a wall painted in blood by a crazy artist. I was expecting something more original than a second-rate Edgar Poe short story, but considering the damage in this room, that's where the dimensional mess came from."

"Whatever it was, Beta, I don't think it's still there. The Humes level is still significantly below average, but I don't detect any difference from any of the previous rooms, when you should be at the epicenter of the phenomenon. Obviously it's a little early to draw any definitive conclusions, but I think what you just went through was somehow the footprints of something that escaped from this house quite a while ago. Some kind of reality bender, perhaps."

"Reality hasn't completely managed to "unbend" since then?"

"Something like that."

More crackling. Angela's voice.

"Like when you throw up in your suit during a gross mission and the smell never completely goes away?"

"I could have done without that metaphor, Alpha, but yeah, that's the idea."


In the end, the Foundation had just bought the plot and condemned the house. No further containment measures were necessary, really, as there was a slight memetic effect that made it impossible to pay attention to the building unless one voluntarily focused on it. Jakobsen had long wanted to write a thesis on the link between memetic effects negatively impacting human attention span and below-average Humes levels, but he had never really been able to focus on it. The irony was not lost on him in the least.

Very little useful information had emerged from the background investigation. It was impossible to trace the identity of the owner, who, judging by the contents of the cupboards and their expiration dates, seemed to have left the premises at least ten years ago. The land registry listed the plot as a vacant lot, and no one at the town hall seemed to care that there was an illegal building on it - what's more, the employee Jakobsen had called back after his first contact with the administration had already forgotten who he was, that he had already called two days earlier, and what he wanted in the first place. He had given up. After all, the best anomalies were self-contained. A lot less paperwork, and a hell of a budget savings.

The inventory of the premises had not been much more fruitful. A second, more thorough exploration had found no less than fifty paintings, several hundred mediocre drawings, and, less interestingly, a hardly appreciable mass of miscellaneous garbage, mainly made up of cheap junk food wrappers. Oddly enough, the samples had also revealed an unpleasant amount of traces of various organic matter - almost always of human origin - in every single room of the house. The bloody wall discovered in the fourteenth basement was ultimately the tip of an iceberg, as if the house itself had crushed an incredible number of people within its walls to the point of erasing almost all traces of their existence.

As for the anomaly on site, Jakobsen's first guess, for once, had proven accurate: it was only the traces left by a reality-bending entity that had since relocated. A good part of the team assumed that it was already contained by the Foundation, or even neutralized, since it had escaped. In the absence of sufficient evidence, speculation was rife. Someone even suggested a connection between the stick figures and 369-FR, but no, they were only ridiculously bad drawings.

In the end, the paintings and drawings had been inventoried and photographed (some of them remaining on site), the site classified, and the file archived.

No more excuses for not working on his thesis.


"Hello? Angela ?"

"Hey Théo, what's up?"

"Nothing fascinating. I was trying to make progress on, you know, the thing I said I wanted to write about Humes levels and attention span. And I'm vaguely trying to play the piano again. What are you up to?"

"I'm not a big fan of the team they stuck us with for this mission and I threw a glove full of blood in the senior scientist's face when he said Henry should have continued the exploration despite a broken wrist. The guy was all blue, he looked like a smurf. He wasn't happy."

"And you were fired."

"Nope. Nobody wants to work for Zeta-9. Job security."

"Hold on. Blue blood?"

"We were exploring a horseshoe crab."

"…a horseshoe crab."

"Yeah. Can't explain that in detail over the phone. Henry says hi, by the way."

"Wait, Angela, just a question, do you know a song that goes "holding your heeaaaad up, keep holding, wo-oh-oh-oh"?"

"You really can't sing. And no, I have no idea."


What was it again?

He'd been staring at the piano for a while now, his freckled hands hovering over the keys like birds of prey waiting to swoop down. It had to come back to him eventually. Not remembering the exact tune he'd wanted to play for over a month was becoming almost painful.

Google it.

He had already tried, and it hadn't worked. He was pretty sure he'd heard it at the mall as he walked past the record store. When was that again? What day? What time? If he wasn't so shy, he would have walked right into the store just to sing the tune to a clerk and ask him where it came from, but he would never have the guts to do so. People would think he was crazy.

His gaze swept over the impersonal walls of his apartment, looking for something else to do to let some steam off. It lingered on a pile of books, then on his computer where his barely started thesis still taunted him, before returning to the piano.

How could a little melody become so invasive?


Jakobsen was sipping his coffee while waiting for the results of an ongoing analysis to arrive. Today, he was just working on an anomalous object - a pencil of variable size - and he doubted he could learn anything interesting from it.
At worst, he could always draw stick figures with it.

Stick figures, huh?

There were still a few more minutes to wait before the results arrived. He might as well check something that was on his mind.
He pushed his reading glasses up his nose, opened the archive file of the "madhouse" from a week or two before, and examined the photos of the artwork found inside. Everything that had been discovered near the front door looked like a doodle, but the closer the photos got to the blood-painted wall, the more elaborate and complex the creations became.
Could the entity have been a source of inspiration?

He thoughtfully ran his fingers on his desk while closing the file, and realized that without thinking about it, he was playing the melody he had been trying to remember.

Not a moment too soon.


Apart from his work, he had only the piano.

At school he had been a fairly good student without being excellent; in high school he presented well without being particularly handsome; in his work he was conscientious but rarely brilliant - but in front of a piano, he always became something else. Oh, he wasn't good at it, not really. It was more of a hobby than a talent. No, what made the difference was that whenever he played, he really became someone. His silent movie life became a talkie. Technicolor lit up the screen. He really felt alive. It was a simple, pure joy, and that forgotten melody, which had been itching like an infected mosquito bite on his mind all this time, had just given him back that happiness.
He couldn't remember the lyrics. It didn't matter. He played it again, and again, until he was sure he wouldn't forget it again. It went up and down like a rollercoaster, and the song didn't look like much without the rest of the instruments, but it was there, at his fingertips. He could almost see its shape and colors, and its texture that crackled like that sour candy powder that came in tiny bags back when he was a kid in the nineties.

He grabbed the phone so fast that it almost went flying through the room.
Well, okay. Maybe there was more to his life than his job and the piano.

"Angela! I remembered the song!"

"…Théo? Dude, it's one in the morning."


The colors of the song were creeping into his work. His days were not so monotonous anymore. All he had to do was hum a little, and everything felt better right away.

He hadn't really realized, until then, how boring his life was. Had he been vaguely depressed all this time, not to realize it? His work was interesting, of course – studying anomalies operating beyond the perception of the average civilian? Any scientist's dream. But his field of expertise, levels of reality, was sometimes so abstract that it mostly amounted to data analysis. Perhaps one day he would design the prototype for something as revolutionary as a Scranton reality anchor. Maybe he'd come up with a theory that would forever change the way the Foundation tackled the problem posed by reality benders. Shit, maybe he'd already started, who knew what his thesis would lead to?

That being said, ninety-nine percent of his days consisted of studying lists of data like a banker, or watching field teams do things a thousand times more dangerous and exciting than he would ever do.

Maybe if he had a family, he would have had an incentive to go home every evening. Or friends, to go out and have fun. That's what friends were supposed to do, right? What did they do on tv? They always went out bowling and stuff like that, right?

You hate bowling.

Of course he hated bowling. Playing alone didn't make any sense. Also, at home, there was his piano; that was motivation enough to come home every evening.

His hands ran over the black and white keys, thoughtfully, playing the same melody over and over again, more or less quickly depending on the course of his thoughts.

Maybe Angela liked bowling. Was she his friend? Did a couple of "hi"s in the hallway and a few conversations on the phone count as a friendship?

You could ask her.

A discordant note in the melody. No. He would never dare.

Without thinking about it, he introduced a variation in the tune, as if to make it his own.


Ninety-nine percent of Jakobsen's days were, in fact, very repetitive. Sometimes a minor but intriguing discovery was part of the remaining percent. Sometimes it was a surprise - good or bad - during a field mission where he was, as always, locked in a van called some snappy name.

Sometimes, it was a containment breach.

In this particular case, a D-Class had been affected by… well, to tell the truth, he didn't quite understand what it was amidst the frantic screams of the security personnel and the loudspeaker alarms. In any case, the guy was now passing through the building, literally, staff included.

He himself was about to be evacuated to one of the bunkers when the D-Class came screaming down the hallway and passed through the only security guard there, annihilating him on the spot. He had obviously already been shot a few times, judging by the state of his orange jumpsuit, but it hadn't been enough to stop him.

He was only one meter away when Jakobsen reflexively raised his hand as a protection.

And planted it straight into the skull of his assailant through the eyes.

Everything seemed to freeze for several seconds; then, the D-Class collapsed at his feet like a puppet whose strings had just been cut.

Jakobsen stared at his stained fingers with growing incomprehension.

Did he always have that much strength?

After vomiting copiously, then having a good hour and a half interview with the security, he spent a long time washing and rewashing his hand without being able to completely get rid of the repulsive sensation of his fingers piercing through the eye sockets, then the brain.


Shut up.


He got some time off to recover, and planned to use it to work on his thesis.

Twenty-four hours later, he had only written a draft of a pitch that took half a page, a checklist with a series of concepts he would have to address at some point, and several question marks. Then, he had tried to cook something to eat, and accidentally bent the handle of a pan by just grabbing it. Now he was sitting at his piano again, working on a new variation of the Melody, which in his mind was now spelled with a capital M. It didn't matter to him which song it was originally; now it was his. It was something new.

The phone rang.

Don't pick it up.

Of course he was going to pick it up. When had he started having conversations with himself?

"Théo, are you okay? Henry told me about yesterday, do you want to talk about it?"

"I… I'd rather not. I'm doing just fine, I assure you."

"If you say so. Hey, wanna hear a great story about a hole in the wall where you can magically find stuff you lost? Parks told me about that one."

"I'm all ears."


Everything was much better with the Melody. He was fine. He'd get over it, he'd stop thinking about the incident, and life would go back to normal.

He had a collection of classical music sheets and another of pop music somewhere in the apartment, that was for sure. He could try to find them again, for a change. To play something else. Something quite repetitive, in order to stop thinking. Ah, here it was, Clocks by Coldplay. He knew it almost by heart. Perfect. It started like-

Hmmm. He was out of practice, having played the same thing for three months. That was how the song went, right? It used to be so much easier.

He felt like he was learning to play the piano again, back when he was eight years old, and he imagined his old teacher slapping his fingers at every discordant note. It was as if he had to make a conscious effort to move each joint in his fingers. Each chord change took him a few seconds. When did this song become so complicated?

He played the Melody again - no problem. Then he switched back to Clocks - a disaster.

The clock on the wall read 3:30 a.m., and he still wasn't sleepy.


"You look like hell."

"Yeah, hello Angela, and a lovely day to you too."

"Sorry, but it's true. Also what's with the bandage?"

"I hurt my hand opening the front door. It's not often I see you in the canteen. Can I buy you something?"

"That's nice but no, thanks. I'm only drinking some tea, we'll eat on the spot at the location of the anomaly. Well, I'm saying anomaly but I don't think it's one ; it's in an underground parking lot where cars disappear. I believe they just get stolen. Are you sure you'e getting enough sleep?"

"I sleep as soundly as you can sleep after killing someone."

"Fuck, Théo. I told you to go see a shrink about that. It's no good trying to deal with it on your own."

She thinks you're weak and pathetic.

"I'm not weak."

"I never said you were."

"Yeah. No. I'm sorry. Yeah. Maybe you're right, maybe I should do that."

"You'd tell me if you were in trouble, right?"

He thought about how he hadn't slept well since way before the incident with the D-Class. He thought about all the music he couldn't play anymore, and about the Melody taking up more and more space in his life. He thought about his thesis. He thought about the impersonal walls of his apartment and the inner emptiness he felt more and more keenly day after day. He thought about his strength that he could no longer control. He thought about his inner voice with which he regularly argued.

"Yes, I promise, I'm fine. I'm fine."


The Melody was one page long, and all the variations were in his head. He had transcribed it during a seminar on, uh, he forgot what. The sheet music was on the back of a handout on "moderate or reduced field" spatial anomalies, whatever that meant. He had decorated it with highlighter strokes. It didn't have much to do with the original song anymore.

I like those highlights. Are you sure you're not interested in art?

No. His thing was music.

As you wish.

Well, truth be told, if he could play anything other than the Melody, he could say that his thing was music. It seemed like a thing of the past now. The Melody had swallowed up much of what little talent he had. How could something that had felt so natural before become so difficult, so quickly?

But it was worth it, right?

He wasn't so sure. He already had so few positive things in his life that he couldn't afford to lose any of them. Speaking of which, he'd have to get ahead on writing his thesis.

Only for it to end up in some archive that no one will read.



A small Zeta-9 team was wading through mud after rappelling down an old well leading to a large cavity. Gravity seemed to be slightly altered by the anomaly whose source they had come to identify, and the entire group felt as if they were walking on an incline that was, in reality, completely flat.

Henry turned on a light straight ahead, then shone it on the vaulted ceiling of the cavity. A small "wow" escaped Angela, several feet back. Henry turned on a scanner and checked to see if his radio was still working.

"Jakobsen, we're in a muddy cavity covered with very small bones. Maybe rats. There's an incredible amount of them, several centimeters thick."

"Charming. No variation on my instruments, though."

"All right. Moving on."

A few muffled music notes, distorted through the radio.

"Jakobsen, is that music I hear?"

"No. I mean. Yes. Sorry. I downloaded an app to play the piano on my cell phone."

Angela snorted. "This is starting to turn into an obsession."

That was the moment all the rat skeletons chose to fall from the ceiling and attack Henry.


This time, with Henry in the infirmary for serious injuries potentially infected by an anomaly related to the Black Plague, and a traumatised team, no one escaped a lengthy interview with Occupational Medicine.

Jakobsen couldn't stop talking about the Melody, which seemed to concern him far more than the condition of the injured man. His stress level, coupled with his sleepless nights, also prevented him from completely concealing his mental conversations, and the psychologist caught him talking back to himself. That would stay on his record forever. Shit.

The occupational physician then reassured him about the effects of overwork, about his mental state already considerably weakened by the incident involving the death of the D-Class, and prescribed tranquilizers that Jakobsen knew to be, in reality, anti-psychotics, as well as a sick leave long enough to become functional again.

He arrived home with no appetite, only made himself a big cup of coffee for dinner, and gulped it down with his medication. He would stay alone with his piano for a while.

This is what you wanted all along.

Was it?

Out of the corner of his eye, he had the impression that the highlighter lines on the sheet were slightly moving.


"Angela? Aren't you bored alone at home?"

"Not really. I'm writing my memoirs."

"I'm serious."

"So am I."

"Are you? I didn't know you liked to write."

"Kind of blows your mind, doesn't it? But yeah, I write a lot in my spare time. Novels, mostly. Nothing interesting."

"I'm certain that last part isn't true. Will you let me read it sometime?"

"Uh… we'll see. Listen, Théo, I have to tell you something. I had the job earlier on the phone, they say Henry's been transferred somewhere else. They don't understand why the necrosis is spreading, and he doesn't have much time left if it goes on."


"Yeah, same, basically. Sorry for throwing it out there like that, but I thought you should know. As a coworker."

Shut up.

"Thank you for telling me. As…uh, as a friend."

An awkward silence.
She's going to hang up and never call you back.

"Théo, you know me, so I'm gonna be blunt. I know you've been hiding important, even serious stuff from me, and if you really consider me a friend, you should tell me. Otherwise, I'm just another coworker."

HA! She's got you cornered! You're going down, buddy! Hang up.

"I… it's… hard to explain and you're going to laugh at me."

"If I laugh, you have my blessing to punch the daylights out of me the next time we run into each other."

"Hm. There's, uh, a lot of stuff. I… I'm not sure where to start."

"I'm not going anywhere."

"Uh. What. What would you do if, all of a sudden, you couldn't do something that defines you as a person?"

"Like… having a disability all of a sudden?"

"I was thinking more of a hobby than a physical or mental thing."

"…Do you have trouble playing the piano?"

"I'm trying, I assure you, I'm trying but it's all fading away, slipping away, like sand, you know, like when you're a kid and you discover the beach? That disappointment you feel the first time, when you feel the sand slipping through your fingers? That feeling. Everything is fading away. I can't play the piano anymore. There's only the Melody left."

"The one you hum all the time?"

"That's the one."

He switched the phone to his other ear and realized he was shaking. It was as if floodgates had been opened all at once, and everything he'd wanted to say for months was bubbling up inside him and threatening to burst out of his body in a stream of incoherent words. He took a deep breath and grabbed the fabric of the armrest of his sofa. His index finger pierced it, through and through.

"Angela, if you ever stopped being able to do the one thing that defines you as a person, do you think you would stop being that person?"


The "tranquilizers" did not change anything, except to make him even more unable to stand still, to cause him urinary retention and to make his mouth as dry as the Sahara. All his surrounding noises seemed to be amplified. Sleeping was becoming more and more difficult, and whenever he managed to doze off, his dreams were so disturbing that he preferred to stay awake anyway.

The voice was still there.

He was pretty sure he hadn't made origami with the Melody's sheet.

While trying to brush his hair that morning, he had pulled out an entire clump of red hair. The day before, he had broken one of his fingers while grabbing a mug too quickly. The mug had exploded in his hand. His finger, however, was almost repaired already.

His gaze lingered on the file of his thesis on Humes levels and attention span, and he began to realize something he should have noticed much earlier. He hadn't been paying attention. Ironically.

With growing anguish, he walked over to the phone.

That won't change anything.

A pile of books fell at his feet, but he stepped over it.

She won't pick up.

He dialed the number anyway.

"Angela, how can I be sure this is all due to overwork?"

"Is 'this' the stuff we talked about last time for two hours?"

"It is."

"Uh, I mean, my job is to wade through crap and try not to die from a fluctuation in reality, so psych stuff isn't really my thing; that being said, it could also be depression."

He stared at the Melody folded into a crane origami.

"That's just it, I need an opinion from someone who's experiencing this on the ground on a daily basis."

"What do you mean?"

"How-how can I be sure this is all in my head, or due to an anomalous entity?"


Jakobsen was curled up under his bathroom sink. He hadn't slept a wink in seventy-two hours after his latest conversation with Angela, but now that he was pretty sure he knew what was happening to him, the prospect of falling asleep from exhaustion before he could figure out what to do terrified him.

The phone rang. He unfolded himself and ran to the living room, ignoring the voice. He had to make a conscious effort to pick up the phone with measured gestures, lest he accidentally break something, including his own fingers.

"Théo? I was finally able to explain the situation to your boss. Apparently they're going to send a team to your place tomorrow but I don't think they took me very seriously when they saw your recent medical records. Don't leave your apartment until then, though."

"It's not like I want to leave it anyway."

"Has there been any change?"

"More and more noise. Everything is loud and annoying now. I can hear the power in all the electrical devices as loud as if it was played through an amp. I've unplugged almost everything except the phone and computer. I'm pretty sure I saw the Melody moving by itself too. Shut up. Sorry. I wasn't talking to you. But I'm dealing with it. I got it under control."

"You're not dealing with anything and you don't control shit. If it were possible to handle a reality bender by yourself, the Foundation would be out of business."

He tried to block out the voice, which was getting louder and harder to ignore. He sat down at the piano. Two keys were already broken.

"People are loud too, even when they're not close to me. Yesterday it was raining and I could individually hear all the drops on the glass and I felt like, like exploding something. I can hear all my joints when I move. Everything is, like, covered in noise. I can't block it out with headphones or anything, it's coming from inside my own body. Except when I play the piano. The rest of the time, I want to smash all the sources of, of - can you imagine what it would be like if I was a violent person in the first place?"

"We're going to help you. Shit, if they don't want to do it, I'm going to help you."

He wedged the phone against his shoulder and played the Melody. The noise faded slightly.

A sudden discordant note.

Hang up. She doesn't give a shit.

Wait. Dealing with a reality bender on your own?

"Paintings and stick figures."


"In that house, remember? The one with the bloody wall. Paintings and stick figures everywhere. The further you got from the basement where the wall was, the further up you went, the less creative everything got."

"I remember that. What are you gettin- oh. OH."

"The person living in that house, they were an artist. I… I thought the wall inspired them, at first, and that the, the paintings, that was why they… But it was the other way around. That thing was draining their creativity. It emptied them from the inside."

"The painted wall was an attempt at containment."

"I think it's…"

You think you're so smart, huh?

"…I think it's the entity that was in the wall that's here, with me."


The prospect of his ears being assaulted by absolutely everything outside his home was scaring him stiff, but he had to try to make a way out. It was eight o'clock at night and the containment team still hadn't shown up.

Because they don't give a fuck! They think you're nuts. Or they've already forgotten! Your thesis is about that exact thing, man.

He was going to take the bare minimum with him and abandon his apartment to this thing until the problem was fixed. He just needed to find a quiet place where he could hurt no one, including himself, while he waited until it was over.

That shouldn't concern you. At this point, you're pretty hard to track down with conventional means, and you'd heal from just about anything that didn't hit your head.

Should he go hide under a bridge? Yeah, something like that. Somewhere that wouldn't look like a locked room. And he should get something to eat, something that he wouldn't have a chance to hurt himself with. Like chips. Yeah, that would be perfect.

He gathered his things and walked with a determined step toward the front door.

At least he tried to do so.

The front door was gone.

I've been thinking about a lot of things you say in your job. And you know what? You're right about one thing.


The best anomalies are self-contained.


Jakobsen was sitting on the floor among the debris of a plate, a lighter in one bandaged hand, the phone in the other. He was staring at the origami of the Melody, which he had preventively nailed to the wall, his webcam turned in that direction, just in case.

Click, said the lighter while lighting up.
Clack, it said as he turned it off.

"According to the intervention team, you weren't in your apartment."

"I was."

"Théo, we can't help you if you lie."

"I. Was. The door, it-"

The voice spoke, and Jakobsen drew the lighter closer to his own arm in an attempt to silence it.

"Okay. Okay. You were home. Look, I know this is a bad idea, but I'm going to come by and check on you."

"I don't want you to endanger yourself by-"

"It's literally my job to endanger myself by doing stuff like this."

"It doesn't matter. I'm starting to, like, pick up on the way it works. I'm getting the hang of it. I'm making progress. I'm monitoring this thing, I'll know if it tries anything with-"

"You haven't made any progress and you aren't controlling anything. This thing is in control, and if you think you're in control, then you're being a fucking idiot. You can't contain a reality bend-"

"…Paranormal Activity?"

"Say that again?"

"Are… are you quoting Paranormal Activity to me at a time like this?"

"Didn't notice. Sorry."

Not much better than quoting The Fly. You have no idea what I went through with other hosts before I met you.
Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.

"Angela, we've seen people who could handle reality benders before. I remember a case they had with a bender neutralized by a single researcher on Site-118. I don't remember all the details but I'm, I'm under the impression that I'm in a rather similar situation."

"I remember it clear as day. The guy's name was Talloran. The skip was restructuring reality exclusively around that one guy, as far as they could understand."

"And he restored his reality. That's doable. I can-"

"Do you remember what he did to restore his reality?"

You know exactly what he did, you just don't want to admit it.
Click, said the lighter while lighting up.
Clack, it said as he turned it off.

"Théo, what did Talloran do?"

"…He killed himself in his containment cell."


The walls were immobile but seemed to be breathing.

You know, things would be a lot less unpleasant if you stopped fighting.

His outgoing calls stopped working and the tone of the phone was racking his brain.

You wouldn't have to worry about anything anymore, well, almost anything.

He could hear people saying horrible things from across the street.

I'd protect you. You've already seen what it's like, haven't you?

An extra room had appeared in the hallway. It was empty, except for a door on the opposite wall, identical in every way to his missing front door.

You could do anything you wanted without consequences.

His arteries were as loud as a super highway.

Absolutely anything, in exchange for almost nothing.

He pressed the headphones close to his ears, turned the volume up to near maximum, took a deep breath, and walked through the new door to try to buy some chips.


"Have you ever seen, in, uh, in your life, instances of walls doing stuff?"

"What kind of stuff?"

"Like, stuff that a wall is not supposed to do?"

"Uh, job-wise, since I've been assigned to this Mobile Task Force… a whole bunch of them, yeah."

"No, I mean, at home."

"At my apartment?"


"You're telling me that you're still at your apartment?"

"Yes. I went outside at some point, but I came right back after-"

"Théo, I know where you live, and when I tried to come help you yesterday, there was an old lady living in your apartment. Did you move out?"

"No, I didn't."

"Stop lying."

"I assure you I still live at the same address, Angela. Third floor, door five."


"What do you mean, four?"

"I only saw four doors on your floor, Théo."

He walked toward the piano as soon as the sounds began to become more oppressive and the voice more present. His gaze lingered on the wrappers of some food he had managed to buy the day before. On his way out of the store, he'd bumped into someone, heard bones crunching against concrete, then screams, and he'd started running, running without looking back a single time, toward his building.

He had slept four hours out of the last eighty-six. He didn't want to think about what he had seen during those four hours. Every time he did, he felt like throwing up what little food he had managed to force into his system.

The new front door now opened to a second additional empty room, this time devoid of any other door, but with a window looking out onto what was normally a load-bearing wall against the stairwell of the building.

The worst part was that he was getting used to it all.
His hands were shaking on the keys he was brushing lightly, so as not to break any more of them. He heard Angela sigh into the phone.

"Henry is dead. I didn't want to tell you before, but at the rate your situation is deteriorating, I'm afraid I won't have another chance to-"

"I figured."

"You're taking it better than I did."

"I'm taking it really hard. It's just more shit dumped into my ocean of shit. I've got it under control. Pretty much. I-I wish it would stop, but I'm dealing with it."

"There's a whole mini task force working on your case now, if that makes you feel any better. They're trying to find your apartment in the building the same way we found that house, thwarting the attention loss effect via the Humes levels measurements that you-I heard you sniffing."

"The best anomalies are self-contained, aren't they?"

"That's not funny."

Another sniffle. He curled up on his chair, hands on his head, phone wedged between his knee and ear. Of course she thought he was laughing. Angela had never heard him cry before. He hadn't heard himself cry since elementary school.

"I want it to stop. I want me to stop. Like, like a program that's fucking up. I want someone to unplug me, uninstall me, and update me."

"We're trying, okay, I'm with them right now, we're going to get you out of-"

"They're not going to do that and you know it. And anybody listening to this conversation knows that too. They, they're going to put me in a room and watch me. I used to put things in rooms too. I know how it-"

"There's got to be a way to get this thing away from you."

"It's too late. It's almost drained me completely already. I can't play anything else on the piano anymore. I don't know why it transferred itself to me and not to you when you were closer, but-but I have some ideas."

Ignore the voice IGNORE THE VOICE

"I'm not an interesting person. I was almost empty from the start. It needed room."

"…I could tell you that's not true, but you're going to say that-"

"It emptied me from the inside, what little I had, like you would do with a spoon, and now it's filled that space. I can't do anything. I can barely function. I can't control my strength. The noise is deafening. It has emptied me and filled me with noise."


"If you take this thing away, if you take away the noise that it has filled me with, what is going to be left of me? What am I going to be?"


"Where did the stars go?"

"Théo? Is that you? Shit, did you manage to make an outgoing call? There's a lot of interference, I-"

"I can't see them. Do you know what's going on? Can you contact the department of- of- whoever's in charge of- who's handling this?"

"Dude, it's three in the afternoon, it's broad daylight. Are you still at home? We're trying to-"

"It's dark out there out of the-"

"Théo, the task force has already tried to trace your calls, and it never works. I need you to tell me how we can reach you while you still can. I've contacted the-"

"There's not a single one left through the new windows. There's-"



"Théo, we're having more and more trouble reaching you. It only works when it's me, specifically, calling you, and we don't know why."

"No. I know. I know. Yes. I got this. I'm dealing with it."

"Your voice sounds weird. Are you hurt?"

"I, I tried to do something. But it didn't work."

"You tried to test "something"… on yourself?"

"I've - it's not like there's any, any D-Classes in my house. To test stuff."

"I know you're still trying to contain this thing on your own. Your apartment is no longer accessible with our current methods, the anchor Psi-7 put in your building didn't spatially restore it, or it's just that the attention deficit effect has reached such a level that we can't even tell. You need to tell me what you've learned about how this thing affects your apartment from the inside and how to access it. You need to turn yourself in. We can help you. We can-"

"Stick me in, into an underground bunker under intensive observation and let me f-fucking die there."

"That's not-"

"You know that, that, you know full well that's what's gonna-"

"We can-"

"I refuse to be another Talloran, okay?! This is all I have left, THIS IS ALL THE AUTONOMY I HAVE LEFT, I REFUSE TO END UP LIKE TALLORAN, I CHOOSE NOT TO F-"



"Théo? Okay. Finally. Stay on the phone, we're testing a new method to locate you."

"Jakobsen isn't here. Can I take a message?"

"Wh-Wait, who's this?"

"Melody. No one very important. For the moment."

"Get me Théodore Jakobsen. Right now. And stop making fun of me by whispering."

"This is my real voice. Jakobsen went outside."

"Outside? I thought he couldn't-"

"He can when he's allowed. But he always comes back."





The door creaked and cracked, and three members of a small Psi-7 "Home Improvement" unit burst into the deserted apartment.

There had, in fact, been five doors on the third floor all along.

Currently, the small, two-room, 50-square-foot apartment had eleven more rooms, with nothing changed on the outside. Most of them were empty, except for a few chip wrappers. One of them contained a small pile of broken objects - a chair, a mug, a plate, a bizarrely deformed pan.

Here and there, the white walls of the main rooms were covered with notes, calculations and hypotheses. Several had traces of blood on them, as if the author had injured himself with the pen while writing. The two most noteworthy areas respectively featured a nail surrounded by burn marks and soot, and an obviously recent, much larger blood spatter, about five feet from the floor. Gamma took some samples.

On a partly broken piano, Beta found a crumpled sheet of paper folded in half, wedged between the keys.
The letters were angular, angry, as if carved in relief, and the author had obviously had to change pens several times. In some places, the paper had holes, and a whole constellation of ink stains.

"I tried to leave a longer message on my computer, but I broke too many keys, so you'll have to settle for this letter.

I think that when you do manage to get in, the extra rooms will still be there, but rest assured, Melody the reality bending anomaly itself is gone, or you probably wouldn't have gotten in so easily. I destroyed it I have destroyed its primary and secondary receptacles and it will attempt to relocate. I'm just hoping it won't target any of you.

I've used I'm If I told you what I did to get rid of it, you wouldn't believe me, or you'd try it on several dozen D's "just to see what it does", and I'd rather not have more deaths on my conscience. So no, I won't explain in detail.

I'm still feeling after-effects, but the noise is almost completely gone, so as soon as I finish writing this, I'm going to get out of here and never come back. The silence is terrifying and I feel emp everything is not completely back to normal in me. I don't think that's even possible.

Given the existing data and my own profile, it is likely that Mel the anomaly will target someone fairly isolated, with a relatively empty life outside of their work, and probably a more or less developed artistic passion, located within a five kilometer radius of anyone who has been in contact with me in the past ten months. Yes, this is going to be very complicated for you. For all intents and purposes, the password to the computer with my research is written on a post-it note in the trash can.

I guess I'm already on the People of Interest list. Good luck to those who will try to find me.

PS: Angela, if you're reading this, I'm sorry."


Angela Rodriguez closed the pdf copy of the letter, which a charitable colleague had sent her by email, and sighed. She didn't really know how to feel at the moment.

Wherever he was, she hoped that Théo would manage to rebuild his life as best he could, and to fill that emptiness he mentioned again and again.

It was ten o'clock at night, and she considered opening the file containing the novel she had been writing for a year, a scifi story about on genetic experiments that no one would probably ever read. In the end, she decided to turn the computer off and go to bed early, just in case she had trouble sleeping again. Besides, she was going on a mission tomorrow, so she might as well get some rest to minimize the chances of her premature death.

In any case, for the past few days, she had been having more and more trouble writing.

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