She crossed to the rear of the studio where the large storage racking system still stood behind two doors. Pulling the racks out and pivoting them aside, she flicked on the soft light inside the cupboard and entered. There was a mess of old canvases at the back, and he’d told her that the painting of him and Jenny lay buried behind them. Not because it was bad, but because it had always unnerved him. Jenny found it beautiful; he just wondered where it had come from.

Trix moved canvases aside, frowning at the different sense of Jim these paintings gave her. That’s the Jim I know down there, she had to keep reminding herself. But in that case, where was the Jim who had painted all these? She shivered, shook her head, and started whistling as she searched. But the whistle made the studio feel even more deserted, so she stopped.

The painting was obvious when she saw it, but she did not recognize the place it represented. A man and woman, yes, but like no one she had ever known, their features emphasized and stylized in a strangely cartoonish manner, his enlarged penis and her rounded breasts more explicit than anything Jim had ever painted. The sex in the picture was brazen and rich, the figures painted with loving attention, but it only made her feel uneasy. She stared at their faces, but there was nothing familiar there. The man seemed to stare over her shoulder; the woman glared right back, eyes wide and harsh.

“You didn’t paint this,” she said, backing away, rolling the racks back in after her, and closing the doors. This was not Jim’s studio, at least not the Jim she knew so well. “What the fuck is this?” she shouted again. There was no reply. She wondered what she would discover back in her own apartment, and the thought of going there and seeing unknown things filled her with dread. This place lacked not only touches of Jenny and Holly but the imprint of Jim himself. And yet it was his place still.

Trix turned to run from the room, then froze.

On the pedestal beneath the wide windows stood one of her nightmares. Since a brush with death at the age of seven, she’d had disturbing dreams of an unknown city. But since her near-fatal car crash three years before, another city had intruded upon her nightmares just as powerfully—different, yet hauntingly familiar. And now here it was. She closed her eyes, fighting the queasiness that swept through her, biting the inside of her lip to prevent herself from fainting. When she looked again, she was hoping it would have changed, that she’d imagined it … but no, it was still there. And it was the only thing in the whole apartment that she truly recognized.

“I never told Jenny,” Jim said. They were sitting in the car together again, Trix panting as she tried to catch her breath. It was fear that had winded her, and uncertainty. “She never liked those paintings, but she thought they were all mine. I never told her that some of them came from you. She was weirded out enough that we both saw these two strange places in our dreams.”

“Nightmares,” Trix said.

“Whatever.” He was staring ahead, and she could tell by the set of his jaw that he was fighting hard.

“It was exact,” she said. “Just … as if you plucked it from my mind.”

“But that one was based on my dream,” he said. “I’ve done others after talking to you, but that one was …” He trailed off, shaking his head. “Last night.”

“That can’t be,” Trix said, but those words seemed weak and ineffectual in the light of what had happened. “Maybe you should go and look, see if—”

“No!” he said. “I’ve finished with that place for tonight.” He glanced sidelong at her. “Can we go to your apartment, talk this through? Try and decide what the fuck is going on?”

“My place?” She’d been trying on a blouse in the changing room of her favorite clothes shop, Francine’s, when the faint had washed over her. Something’s gone, she’d thought as she leaned against the mirror, closing her eyes and then snapping them open again when something had twisted through her. That was the best way she could think of describing it—there had been no actual pain, but it felt as if every part of her body flexed and shifted, just for an instant. And as her breath faded from the mirror’s surface, a stranger stared back at her.

Somehow, Trix had managed not to scream. She’d smiled in apology—something’s broken the mirror, and I’m looking into the next changing cubicle at a cute-looking woman with pink spiky hair and a designer torn top that I like but would never have the guts to wear—and then when the woman returned her smile she’d taken a step back—I don’t know her, she looks harmless enough, but there’s no telling just how—and then the realization as her hands traveled up over her unfamiliar body, her eyes went wide, and every move she made was imitated by the woman in the mirror. Thinner, more athletic; just as she glimpsed the unknown tattoo peering from beneath her sleeve, her palm passed across her breast and felt the piercing in her nipple. “No!” she had gasped, leaning forward and misting the mirror again.

The next few moments were a blur. Fleeing the changing rooms, the browsers and shoppers not staring even though something was terribly wrong, somehow remembering to pay for the new clothes she wore, the clothes she’d never have been daring enough to wear before. And then in the street outside, the instant decision—she was much closer to Jenny’s than her own apartment.

She had wandered at first, freaking out, trying to find some proof that she was hallucinating. In a bar near Kenmore Square, she had stopped and had a shot of rum, and then another, but the woman looking back at her from the mirror behind the bar remained the same punky chick she’d first encountered in that dressing room.

At last, not knowing what else to do and needing someone to hold her, to tell her she was still herself, she had gone to Jim and Jenny’s. Finding no one at home, she’d waited in Tallulah’s for them to return.

“I haven’t been back home,” she whispered. “Not since …”

“Trix,” Jim said. He was trying to comfort her, but there was desperation in his voice, too. She reached out and took his hand, and they sat silently for a few moments. He knows I’m me, Trix thought.

“I don’t know what I’ll find there,” she said.

“Maybe an answer,” Jim said. He’d leaned in sideways so that he was almost resting his head on her shoulder. Trix felt the drip of a tear, and she squeezed her eyes closed and pressed her lips together. He’s lost his wife and daughter, she thought. She’d already phoned her father and brother, several friends, and they all knew her. So far as she could tell, the only number missing from her mobile phone was Jenny’s.

“Okay,” she said. “Have you called the cops?”

“And said what?”

“That Jenny and Holly—”

“Jenny and Holly who no one else remembers?”

“I remember, Jim,” she said softly. “If it was just you, then yeah, you’d have to admit that you might have a bit of a problem. But there’s two of us. And we can’t both have been hallucinating the same thing for … however long.”

Some people emerged from Tallulah’s and came around the corner, laughing and joking as they passed the parked car. One of them glanced inside and looked away again, a nervous smile playing at her lips. They think we’re lovers, Trix thought.

“Jonathan’s dying,” Jim said into the darkness.

“What?” Trix knew Jonathan. They weren’t the best of friends—there’d always been something between them that made them not quite fit together, as if their personalities abraded each other in all the wrong places—but she knew how much Jim and Jenny loved the guy.

“Remember he was ill a few years back?”

“When he had his scare?”

“Yeah,” Jim said. “Scare. It was Jenny who persuaded him to go see the doctor.” He sat up again, wiping his face with his hands and drawing his cheeks down, as if to see more clearly. “He’d been having dizzy spells, headaches. Put them down to age, or booze. Jenny talked to him and said he should get it checked out. He did, they did a scan, found the tumor, removed it. Benign. He got better.” Jim laughed. “We were drunk a couple of years ago, and he told me he’d once gotten a blow job after showing some guy the scar across his scalp.”

“Ew,” Trix said.

“I saw him today, Trix. And he’s dying. Brain cancer, he said. And he acted … angry, as if I’d forgotten on purpose. Months to live. Because—”

“Because Jenny never told him.”

Jim nodded. “She wasn’t here to tell him.”

“I’m dreaming,” she said, and that was the only alternative, wasn’t it? She was dreaming, because this was impossible. If she spent some time and started thinking back, she’d reach the moment when she’d fallen asleep, and perhaps that would wake her again. She’d snap back into the world she knew and feel her hair with one hand, blond and cut short, not pink and spiked up. And with the other hand she’d clasp her unpierced breast, and then lift her sleeve to see the smooth, non-tattooed skin of her upper arm. But she could not think back to that moment because it did not exist. Even if she was dreaming, she might well be here forever.

“Look,” she said, turning the car’s interior light on and lifting her sleeve. It was a Celtic band, intricate and beautifully wrought.

“But you hate needles nearly as much as I do,” he said softly. He didn’t sound surprised.

“Tell me about it,” she said. It had been a constant joke between them—one that Jenny always found a little weird—that she’d never liked pricks. She glanced around quickly and lifted her T-shirt. She was braless, something else she’d rarely done before. The light glinted from the ring in her nipple.

“Shit, Trix,” Jim said, startled and embarrassed for a moment. Then he saw the piercing and looked up at her as she lowered the top again.

“Fucking hate needles,” she said. She nodded down at his lap. “Think you should be checking?”

Jim smiled. It was good to see. The surreal, gentle moment of humor amid such trauma lasted only for a second, but that second seemed to clear her head a little, and in that space an idea began to form.

“Okay, my place,” she said again. “We can’t stay sitting in the car forever.”

“Right,” Jim said, and he placed both hands on the wheel.

“Er … best to start the motor.”

“Yeah.” But he made no move to turn the key, just staring ahead at the building before them. A couple passed along the sidewalk arm in arm, and Trix watched Jim’s eyes follow them. He and Jenny had a strong, safe marriage, and she knew that even though she was sitting here with him right now—the only person he’d found to acknowledge the impossible thing that had happened—he must be feeling very alone.

“It’s okay,” Trix said, and she felt tears burning behind her eyes. But she had to keep them in, because Jim was suffering more. He’d lost his entire family.

“That’s our home,” he said.

“And it will be tomorrow. But maybe for tonight it will be best to stay at mine.”

“What if they come back?” he said. “What if they find their way home and I’m not there, Trix?”

Trix had no real answer for that, though she thought: Wherever we are, Jenny and Holly have never been here. It was an odd idea, and it shocked her to think that maybe she and Jim had gone somewhere else instead of the other way around. But in some respects it seemed to fit. This was not the exact world she had known a few hours ago—there were differences close to her and Jim, and those changes must stretch farther afield—and she dreaded what she would discover when she arrived home. “Losing it won’t help them,” she said. “We need to recharge. Think it through. And maybe find someone who can help.”

“Someone?” he asked. Trix just shrugged. She remembered everything they had to do, and where they had to go. That is, if the Trix she was now would even consider such things.

“I’ll come back later,” he said, nodding at the apartment. “Tomorrow. I’ll come back.”

“Good plan,” she said.

Jim started the car and drove them across the city, and Trix watched from the windows. She searched frantically for signs of something being as wrong out there as it felt inside, but the shop names were the same. Dunkin’ Donuts wasn’t spelled differently, and the mix of old and new Boston architecture presented familiar façades. They passed Monument Square, and the Bunker Hill Monument looked exactly the same as before. But Trix couldn’t tell how high it was, nor could she read the inscriptions or identify the face on the statue standing before it.

Boston looks just the same, she thought. It’s just us who are different. But that wasn’t quite true, either. Jim’s agent, Jonathan, was dying. The brain cancer that had been cured due to Jenny’s involvement years before had run riot, and soon it would take him. “Because Jenny’s not here, and never has been,” she whispered.

“What?” It had started raining, and Jim turned on the wipers. They whispered left and screeched right, a rhythmic gasp and moan.

“Jenny and Holly,” she said. “I was just thinking aloud. It’s not just that they’re gone now, but that they’ve been gone …” Forever, she almost said. But that was too final. “Their past has been stolen, as well as their present.”

“And their future?” he asked, voice breaking on the last word.

“I’m going to help you,” Trix said. She eyed Jim in the car’s dark interior, wondering how much he had changed and where. He seemed a little thinner than before, perhaps a bit more heavily muscled, facial structure more defined. He’s a bachelor; he’ll want to take care of himself more so that the women flock to him. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, and something about the familiar smells of Boston—wet streets, car fumes, coffee, and a suggestion of Italian food—calmed her. At least the city smelled the same.