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I hoisted my backpack onto the desk with one hand, using the motion to cover the fact that I was extracting the thumb drive with my other hand. I shoved it into my pocket as I pushed my notebook carefully back into the bag, hoping that Dr. Banks would be too distracted by the hand he could see to wonder what the hand under the desk was doing.

“They didn’t say anything,” I said. I closed my bag and tugged it back into my lap, “but they were looking at me like… like this was my fault somehow. Like if they hadn’t spent so much time and energy looking out for my health, Joyce’s health wouldn’t have been at risk. Mom even said that I wasn’t her daughter anymore. I was a stranger they’d been playing pretend with. That their real… that Sally died when she had the accident, and I’m just some other girl who took her body as my own. It wasn’t anything I haven’t thought before, when I was having a bad night. But it just hurt so much hearing it from her. It hurt so much.”

“She was right.”

My head snapped up without my willing it to, and I felt my eyes going wide with a strange combination of shock, anger, and raw terror. “What did you say?”

“I said, she was right.” Dr. Banks sat down in the chair that I had abandoned, looking at me gravely. “Sally, you have to know you are not the person you were before your accident. We are each of us the sum total of our experiences. We are shaped by our memories and by the moments we live through, and no two people are exactly the same, ever, because no two people experience exactly the same lives. Sally Mitchell died when her brain activity ceased. Sally Mitchell was born when her brain activity resumed. Maybe if the memory centers of your brain hadn’t been so profoundly damaged, you’d still be her, but they were damaged, and so you’re not her, no matter how much you might like to pretend you are. You’re someone entirely new, free of her sins and successes and emotional baggage.”

“There’s a chance my memory could come back someday,” I said, hating how weak my voice sounded, even under the steady pounding of the drums.

“And if it does, you’ll have the first Sally’s memories on top of the second Sally’s memories, and you’ll become a new person all over again. For you, recall would be a form of suicide. Maybe not if it had happened right away—then, all this would have just been a strange gap in the memory of the girl you used to be—but it’s been long enough, and you’ve lived a different enough life, that you would die if she reclaimed herself. Would that Sally have loved Dr. Kim? Would she have worked at the shelter for so long?” His gaze sharpened. “Would she have been willing to go through the broken doors at the behest of a woman she’d never met?”

“I… I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I didn’t have to feign my shock.

Dr. Banks smiled. “Don’t you?”

I gaped at him, not sure what else I could say. As I did, I realized that by putting myself behind the desk, I might have gotten access to his computer, but I had done so at the expense of my access to the door. Dr. Banks was between me and the only exit. The windows weren’t the kind that were intended to be opened. Even if I could somehow smash them before he stopped me, all that would do was allow me to plummet to my death more than twenty stories below.

“Did you really think that I wasn’t keeping a close eye on you? I’m fond of you, Sally, but you represent a huge investment in research hours and medical costs. I’m not going to let you run around willy-nilly without making sure that I have some idea of where you’re going. The shower trick was a good one, I’ll grant you that. Unfortunately for you, I’ve had that shelter bugged since the day you applied there. We got everything. Including a few key words that only one person I’ve ever known would think constituted a cypher.” Dr. Banks leaned forward in his seat, expression sharpening. “I hoped you’d lead us to her. You didn’t. And so I’m asking you: where is she, Sally?

“Where is Dr. Shanti Cale?”

The number of keystrokes that have been wasted discussing my relationship with Dr. Steven Banks is frankly appalling. There were much better things the world could have been doing with its collective time, including researching the supposed genetic structure of D. symbogenesis, the little worm without which the private lives of two scientists would never have been up for scrutiny. We were a smokescreen, one that I didn’t realize he was intentionally casting until it was too late for me to get out of the line of fire.

Were we lovers? Yes, we were. I was married at the time—I’m still married now, as far as I’m concerned—but my husband and I both knew our careers might sometimes take us down less than savory paths. Steven was a bright, ambitious man who was willing to promise me the world. I would have been a fool to deny him whatever he asked from me.

As it turns out, I was a fool anyway, but not quite in the way most people wanted to believe. I was a fool for listening to the promises he made when we weren’t in the bedroom. Those may have been the only true words he ever whispered in my ear.


I always knew that this grand experiment would eventually reach a tipping point, a stage at which our only choices were evolve or die. Unfortunately, there is no way of predicting which choice we are going to make before it is made. No one can tell you which way the singularity can go.

For the sake of my children—all my children—I pray that we can make the right decision. The only problem is, I’m not sure any single decision will be right for all them. No matter which way this goes, I am terribly afraid that half of the people I love are doomed.