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“Careful! Cecil is sensitive!”

She ignores him, throwing the package down on the floor in front of the alarm clocks Myla has been blowtorching together all afternoon. “Batteries!”


“Batteries,” August repeats. “When you sold me that radio, you told me to make sure I put batteries in it. So I bought those, but—but that was in the middle of the whole kissing-induced horniness fog, so I forgot to give them to her.”


“But it still works. Her radio, her cassette player—shit, her phone, I gave her a portable battery for it weeks ago but I’ve never seen her use it. None of her electronics need batteries to work. So that means—”

“—whatever is keeping her on the train has to do with electricity,” Myla finishes. She shoves her goggles up onto her forehead. “Whoa.”


“Wait. Wow. Yeah, that would make sense. It’s not the train, it’s the line. Maybe she’s bound to—”

“The current. The electrical current of the tracks.”

“So—so whatever event threw her out of time—it might have been electrical. A shock, maybe.” She sits back on her heels, sending LaCroix cans rattling across the floor. It’s impossible to tell if they’re for Myla’s project or hydration. “But something like that, the voltage of the line—I don’t understand how it wouldn’t just kill her.”

“And she’s definitely not dead,” Niko helpfully reminds them.

“I don’t know either,” August says. “There must be more to it. But this is something, right? This is big.”

“It could be,” Myla says.

It’s a conversation that goes on for days. August jots down thoughts on her arm in the middle of finals, takes notes during shifts in her guest check pad, meets Myla at Miss Ivy’s to talk it through for the hundredth time.

“You remember the first time I tried to meet her on my own?” Myla says. She’s unpacking a to-go bag full of vegan curry and patties, Niko’s lunch. He’s in the back with a client, and Miss Ivy is on the other side of the shop, watching them warily. “And I couldn’t find her? But when you brought Niko with you, she was there.”

“Yeah,” August says. She glances at Miss Ivy. It’s probably not the weirdest topic ever discussed here. She lowers her voice anyway. “But we’ve all gone down alone and seen her at some point.”

“But not until after you introduced us. You’re the most important point of contact. We can find her because she recognizes us through you.”

“What do you mean?”

“August, you said it yourself—if she doesn’t see you for a while, she starts to come unstuck. It’s not like she’s on every train all the time—she’s flickering to the one you’re on. You’re what’s keeping her here. You’ve watched Lost—you’re her constant.”

August drops down onto a rickety stool, rattling the shelf of crystals behind it. Her constant.

“But … why?” August asks. “How? Why me?”

“Think about it. What are feelings? How does your body communicate to your brain?”

“Electrical impulses?”

“And how do you feel when you look at Jane? When you talk to her? When you touch her?”

“I don’t know. Like my heart is gonna come out of my ass and suplex me into the mantle of the earth, I guess.”

“Exactly,” she says, jabbing a plastic fork in August’s direction. She’s started in on Niko’s curry. If he doesn’t finish communing with the beyond soon, he’s not going to have a lunch. “That’s chemistry. That’s attraction. That’s, like, boner city. And that comes with all these super powerful electrical impulses between your nerve endings, all throughout that big beautiful brain of yours. If we’re right and her existence is tethered to the electricity of the line, then every time you make her feel something, every time you touch her or kiss her, every interaction you have is generating more electrical impulses, which means you’re making her more … real.”

“When we—” August realizes out loud. “The other day, when we—you know—”

“August, we’re adults, just say you got your back blown out.”

Across the room, Miss Ivy unfurls a paper fan like she does when she’s having a hot flash.

“Can you please,” August begs. “Anyway, before, right when I said I wanted to—the train broke down. So, are you saying—?”

A dirty smile dawns on Myla’s face.

“Oh my God. She literally shorted out the train because she was horny,” she says, eyes sparkling with absolute awestruck admiration. “She’s an icon.”


“She’s my hero.”

“God, so—so that’s … that’s why,” August says. “It’s a feedback loop between her and the line. That’s how she knows when the emergency lights are gonna come on and when they aren’t. That’s why the lights go crazy when she’s upset. It’s all interconnected.”

“And why your insane kissing-for-research plan worked,” Myla says. “The attraction between you two is literally a spark, and it’s the same spark that’s bringing her back into reality. She feels something, the line feels it, electrical impulses in her brain start firing, it pieces her back together. It’s you, August. You’re the reason she’s staying in one place. You’re what’s keeping her here.”

That’s … a lot, August thinks.

Jane texts her that night, Missed you today, and August thinks about her warm mouth and collarbones in the moonlight and wants, but the next day is an exam straight into a late shift. So she takes a different train, and Myla meets her at Billy’s and sits at the counter with a burger, picking up right where they left off.

“Okay, but why me?” August says.

“I thought we had gotten past your denial that she wants to eat chocolate fondue off your ass and then cosign a mortgage.”

“No, I mean, I can believe that she—she likes me,” August says in a tone that sounds like she cannot believe it at all. “But she’s been on that train so long. I’ve found Craigslist posts and personal ads—people have been falling in love with her for years. She really never had a crush on anyone before now? Why was meeting me the first time she locked into a moment in time?”

Myla swallows an enormous bite of beef. It’s not that Niko enforces a vegetarian household, it’s just that Myla enjoys meat more when Niko’s not there to look distantly sad about the environment.

“Maybe you’re meant to be. Love at first sight. It happened to me.”

“I don’t accept that as a hypothesis.”

“That’s because you’re a Virgo.”

“I thought you said virginity was a construct.”

“A Virgo, you fucking Virgo nightmare. All this, and you still don’t believe in things. Typical Virgo bullshit.” Myla puts her burger down. “But maybe there was, like, an extra spark when you met, that pulled the trigger. What do you remember about it?”