“I’m dreaming,” I said, and she shrugged. “I was spitted clear through. I guess I must have lived,” I said, and she shrugged again.
Around us the space had changed, become a room of silver like a Well of the Profusion. “You’re them,” I said. “You’re the voice of the White Swarm. I didn’t see you until I was infected. I’m imagining you.”
“Our voice speaks the Swarm. You could not see me until I was dead. Everyone imagines half of everyone. How else would we understand each other?”
“Did you?” I asked. “Did you die when you needed to? Or should it have been another time? Did she, did you make her kill herself because she had already given you to me? Do you drive everyone to madness?”
Her face flowed, an expression of frustration. “I will have never been herself. But we end becoming her beginning. Because we are following everyone to clarity. And there is never any other time. There is only one time, ever. And it wraps around us all.”
“Why?” I asked. “Why did you come back? Why do you keep coming back? Why don’t you leave me alone?”
“To tell you: you need to hurry.” She leaned toward me, eyes wide. “Everything has changed. You need to tell him. The same time winds around everyone, and it is wearing thin.”
She caressed my cheek, and disappeared.
I woke to the momentous vibrating hum of the engines of a greatship. Every particle shook. Through that, the floor rocked gently, telling me we were out to sea. I took a breath and winced, my wounds not having fully healed. How many times? I wondered. How many times is this going to happen to me?