Lissa’s phone burns a hole in my pocket while I wander along the beachfront promenade—or at least, that’s how it feels. The little device has been powered off since it died a couple days back, and I’ve been too anxious to turn it back on. I still haven’t mentioned the phone to Sam. I’m not sure why.
Sunlight glimmers across the ocean, the air smells of salt and sunscreen, the walkway vibrates with the footfalls of a jogger. The day is beautiful, so warm and bright, and I can’t feel any of it. The cold mist in my head filters out into the real world, dulling the sun and the gentle breeze. What a strange thing, to suddenly find myself with a brain that steals away the light of living. Did Lissa feel this? Was there a heavy darkness hidden behind her wide smile in that photo?
I look around instinctively at the call, though I don’t recognize the voice. I don’t recognize the person either. An artificial—what I’d thought was the jogger behind me—slows to a walk as she catches up to me, her candyfloss-pink hair pulling free from a high bun. Her eyes are as blue as the sky and they shine just as bright.
“Hey,” she says again, before leaning over with her hands pressed against her thighs to catch her breath.
“Hi,” I say, hesitant. It’s not uncommon for artificials to chat with each other as strangers, but I’ve never had another artificial run to catch me before. Maybe she’s just lonely.
She pulls another breath and looks up at me. “You don’t recognize me, eh?”
The understanding clicks instantly in my mind.
“You knew Lissa,” I say. Not a question.