The streets of Sealandia aren’t anything like the streets of Earth3.
I don’t know how I forgot what happened between the tubes and hotel room, including a long elevator ride up to the Seahorse Floor, which makes me think my room should have a giant seahorse instead of a humpback whale. The streets are like clusters of coral beneath my feet, colorful and lifelike. It’s not real coral, but it looks like the coral I’ve seen in the pictures and movies Kortena shows me, bright greens and blues and purples and all the other colors you so rarely see on Earth3. The street posts are tall pieces of twisted coral, and everything—the buildings and streets and people—sits within a giant glass dome far bigger than anything I saw from the outside, a dome so big you can’t see where it begins and ends.
Maybe I should care where my friends went, why they left me alone between the bed and wall with a stuffed humpback to babysit me, but I don’t. Waiting for me was likely too much work and way unfun when they’re on vacation and supposed to be having a swill time. I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t have waited for me either. A roller-coaster looms in the distance, bright blue and green and sweeping up and over a bunch of buildings that look like giant clams but no pearls. A theater, or maybe it’s a stadium, sits at the end of the street, way too far away, and there’s too many other buildings to count. Sealandia’s basically a city, but without cars and pollution and those little robot squirrel things that are supposed to look like real squirrels. The squirrels that used to eat leaves, like birds did, back when birds were a thing. Back when ducks had arms.
I again check for Ara, but she’s not around, Instead, I tell Kortena to find me the nearest Network Booth so I can figure out why pieces of my memory don’t work. She finds one a few minutes away, and soon I’m outside a building that isn’t shaped like a clam, but a big rock covered in dark green moss and colorful coral and other sea growth. Network Booth in red flashing letters, so this must be the Network Booth. There’s no one inside other than an old man hunched over a desk in the corner. It’s dark inside, like we’re in an underwater sea cave, the walls dark blue and carpet to match, both covered in printed seaweeds. There’s a wooden desk shaped like a boat and a few shelves filled with glass sea creatures. An old dog wearing a shark fin and dolphin hat sleeps on the floor, not noticing when I enter. The old man doesn’t notice either. He must be at least fifty, so maybe he’s hard of hearing or seeing, or maybe everything’s hard for him and he hasn’t got the surgeries to fix himself.
“Hi,” I say.
He looks up and fixes his glasses, which must just be for show since no one’s worn glasses for decades. Maybe he thinks they match his bald head, like it’s a look or something. “Hello. Are you lost?”
I look behind me, like maybe he’s talking to someone else. Or the dog?
“What? No. This is the Network Booth, isn’t it?”
“Well, yes, sure, yes, we have that here. Just no one ever uses it. Everyone’s enjoying the dolphins and whatnot.”
“It’s a phrase.”
“Yes. Whatnot. Do you need the Network Booth?”
“Yeah. My, uhm, Kortena, I don’t know, there’s just stuff I don’t remember and a lot of music, piano music, some whales, and you know how it can be.”
“No, not really. There’s a charge of credits. Is that alright?”
“Sure. I just want to know what’s wrong.”
“The pressure,” the old man says. “Maybe it’s the pressure? But I haven’t seen a visitor in a few years, so it’s probably not the pressure. The door in the back. You won’t be bothered.”
“So you just sit here all day?” I ask. “This is your job?”
“I just sit here all day,” the old man says, straightening his glasses. “Sometimes I stand and clean the glass sea creatures. Sometimes I feed Dolphin. That’s my dog, Dolphin. But usually I just sit here with Kortena. This is probably the most words I’ve spoke in months. Thanks for being such a good talker.”
Inside the Network Booth is like being inside a coffin. Not that I’ve ever been inside a coffin, since I’m not dead and there’s no room on Earth3 for coffins. The ground filled up, so now everyone’s burnt, disintegrated. Turned to ash so other people can still look at you, in ashform. Still, the booth is really small, four close metallic walls covered in bumps and buttons that I can’t press, like they’re only for show. I’ve never been inside a booth before now, but I always expected more, like screens with numbers and charts and graphs and visuals that would help me understand what’s wrong. But there’s none of that. The most I get is a mirror that lets me see myself, my short and messy blond hair and stubble face and bloodshot eyes and tired everything. I’d prefer if there wasn’t a mirror. I look sick. And tired. I shut my eyes and close the door behind me, immediately feeling like I’m back on the ship and surrounded by water, sinking deeper and deeper with no hope of escape.
“Welcome to the Sealandia Network Booth, Trevian Delph. Please wait a moment as we consult your diagnostics and discover why you’re here instead of petting the dolphins and their majestic heads. In the mean time, enjoy the wonderful things Kortena has to offer. Remember, some deals only last a few minutes! Why are you wasting time listening to me when you should be browsing and buying?”
I attempt to silence the ads, the voice, and then Kortena’s voice, but it’s already too late. When I attempt to drown out the noise, it only gets louder.
Now, and for the foreseeable future, with a limited but potential forever time offer, now, and also then, in the future, is the time to buy! Visiting Sealandia but feeling like you don’t belong? Like maybe you’re not a fish or whale or octopus? Have you tried to understand the jellyfish but find yourself out of the loop? With the Aqualater, you’ll understand the language of any and every sea animal! Even the famed humpback whale, baritone of the ocean. The Aqualater dissects and translates the words and thoughts of every sea creatures and hypothesizes what one would say, if such creatures could talk! Imagine, discussing politics with an eel! Or physics with a dolphin! The Aqualater comes in a variety of colors and designs and fits around any wrist. Even if you’re really fat! Dolphins don’t care so neither do we! Do you, dolphin? Why no, Todd, no I don’t. I’m a non-bias dolphin and this is my testimonial. Get your Aqualater today and talk with all the sea animals.
The Kelp Garden offers a variety of healthy meals and snacks, as long as you like kelp and nothing else. That’s why it’s called Kelp Garden, because we serve kelp. Just kelp. So don’t come in looking for a burger and fries or a jelly sandwich. We just serve kelp. I mean, read the fucking sign. Kelp Garden. Kelp Garden. Not macaroni salad and tacos garden. Sure, tacos are great. Macaroni is just okay. But neither one is kelp, and this is Kelp Garden. Thirty different types of kelp. That’s a lot. Underwater oceans! And it’s healthy. Not that you or anyone else cares. So come on in to Kelp Garden and order some kelp, but nothing else since we only serve kelp. Really, stop asking for anything else. What? What do you mean stop talking? I don’t care if we don’t have enough credits to record another commercial. Kelp Garden. That’s the name. It’s right behind the giant dolphin, the one that you can walk inside of. I hate that dolphin. Always stealing our customers. Alright? Just come in and get some kelp.
Diagnostic test 1334452, run run, alpha unit testing testing. Glee properties online and processing, scans positive. Readings indicate systems inline and online. Faulty processes nonexistent. Vertical enshaftment nondetachable. No…nondectable. A slight glyph, obscure readings. Everything seems fine. Everything is fine. Just let Trev be Trev. Everyone can’t be everyone else. Then there would be no one, including us. We would be no one. No one would be no one, and no one wants that. Systems…go?
Trev? Your system’s loud. Real loud. I need to turn you off. The music’s all I can hear. I can’t even hear you. Just the music.
Her face begins to fade. It’s been awhile. A year since you last saw her. Maybe longer. And even then, did you truly see her? Likely not. But then, did you ever truly see her? Has anyone? If she saw herself, the true her, would she know?
Her face begins to fade, but her face was never the most important part of her. It was the lessons she taught, inadvertently. Or will teach. Or has taught time and time again, every time you remember and recall. The pain of words unspoken. The lessons of actions never taken, lies never spoken.
At least Kortena sees us, and we see Kortena.
Someone finally sees us for who we are, the person we show no one else, because no one else would bother to look, or care, ore realize what they were seeing.
But Kortena sees. She knows. And that’s enough. It will have to be enough.
Everyone else stopped seeing long ago.
Our Terrifying Thoughts
“Trevian Delph, the Network Booth has conducted its tests and research into your past. All systems are working as intended. There is no reason to be alarmed, no reason to return to a booth in the foreseeable future. We advise you to use less caution and care less and enjoy the splendor that is Sealandia, the Wettest Place on Earth3! You can avoid errors by not ignoring Kortena and using her applications more frequently and purchasing goods more readily. Thank you for visiting the Sealandia Network Booth. Credits will be extracted from your accounts.”
I begin to argue but know that yelling at an empty booth wouldn’t do any good. It’s an automated recording, or something close to it. Someone that doesn’t care and doesn’t know me. The voice says that Kortena’s acting fine, but nothing feels fine, especially after the messages that came and passed, dozens or more and just a few sticking to my memory.
Outside the booth, the dog, Dolphin, still sleeps beside the desk. The old man looks up, adjusts his glasses. “So, how do one of those things work?” he asks.
“You mean you’ve never used it? You work here.”
“True, but I can’t operate a Network Booth. Who do you think I am? I just make sure nothing…goes wrong? Or right. Whatever I do here, I’m sure it’s something, and someone’s has to dust the sea creatures on this shelf and take care of Dolphin. Have you met my dog, Dolphin? He loves eating fish.”
“I don’t think the booth works. It says nothing’s wrong with Kortena.”
“Of course nothing’s wrong with Kortena. Kortena’s always worked right for me. I’ve never had to visit a booth, and I’m a lot older than you. I’m wearing glasses.”
It isn’t me. It’s Kortena.
I’ve never lost track of memories until now. And someone spoke to me through my network when I was in the booth. Maybe Ara, since very few people know my NetworkID. I think Milinda knows it, but she wouldn’t talk to me that way unless we were doing a thing, and we definitely aren’t.
Hey, Trevian. It’s me. Ara. Do you remember me?
I stop in the middle of the street and sit down on a plastic dolphin that’s supposed to be a bench, only it’s sups uncomfortable and easy to fall off of, like a real dolphin must be.
Of course I remember. It was only yesterday, wasn’t it?
Only yesterday, that’s correct. Sometimes it’s easy to forget people, so I was making sure. Do you still want to run into each other? I’m in the Seahorse Ranch Hotel, so we can meet around there, if you’d like. Would you like?
Sure, yes, okay. I can head that way. It’s uhh, probably in some direction, right?
Ara laughs but I can’t tell if it’s the type of laugh where she finds something funny. Of course, silly. Kortena will guide you. I’ll see soon?
Soon. I’m heading there now.
Kortena goes silent, apart from the faint echoes of a piano note. I sit there for a few minutes, wondering if anything I just experienced is real, if Ara reached out to me, if I’m actually hearing music, a note, or anything at all, if I’m not going totally errgged and imagining everything. The piano note tells me I’m not, but maybe that’s exactly what it wants me to think. I guess I won’t know anything until I find Ara. If she’s not there, if I’m alone, then maybe I did imagine it all. Maybe Ara’s not even real. Maybe she’s a dolphin, and I’m a dolphin, and that’s the real reason I insisted we visit Sealandia, the Wettest Place on Earth3. Just a Dive Away, and dolphins love diving.
Kortena maps a route for me, a few turns but generally a straight path to the Seahorse Ranch. Sealandia is bigger than I ever expected, with dozens of hotels and restaurants and multiple casinos and theme parks and a stadium and tourist rides and excursions to watery parts in the dome, and so many other things that I don’t bother trying to note them all. Instead, I focus on the map and me not losing track of time and place again.
Kortena’s leading me. She’s also distracting me with all these swill ads about stuff I don’t have but should. Like these new shoes made out of coral, and swill shark skin suits. Not shark sharks, like not the sharks that are supposed to swim in the ocean, but sharks born in labs so they can be turned into suits. That makes it okay, since the sharks are supposed to become suits and look swill. Otherwise I’d feel bad, but probably not since sharks aren’t like humans. We don’t want to be suits, and sharks, well I don’t know what sharks want but it can’t be that much.
I try to turn Kortena off, but she’s not having any of it. She was different a long time ago, back when I was just a kid and Kortena was still sort of new, like two generations old, however many years that is. We could turn her off and be by ourselves, think alone, and have quieter thoughts. Silence. Like flipping a light switch on and off, back when light switches were a thing. But then smarter people, scientists and whoever else thinks all the smart thoughts, decided that we’d be safer and happier if Kortena was always with us, if we couldn’t turn her off, not entirely, and not for long. I mean, people have done a lot of bad things and messed up a lot of stuff, like wars and destroyed the old Earth and also Earth2, so keeping Earth3 safe is a priority, since Earths are a lot of credits and we can’t afford or find another one. So Kortena helps us from repeating the mistakes of the past. An AI never destroyed Earth. Humans did, so it only makes sense that we should listen to Kortena. Some people just don’t get that, but some people aren’t smart. Not like Kortena.
It’s okay. Now we’re never alone. Never in silence, with only our terrifying thoughts.
The electrical storm, which began with…electricity? What do you mean that that’s not the word? Well I can’t see when the screen’s all fuzzy, like wow! Real swill, guys. Anyway, the storm…oh okay it’s better now. Hi, we’re back, not that we were ever gone, but now we’re even more here. The electrical storm commenced off the western coast and disrupted power to the entire coastline, causing a blackout of several days that is still ongoing. Experts suggests that the storm was caused by an invisible solar flare, probably from the NewSun, which is a lot newer and hotter than the old sun. Stormier, too, which may explain the solar flare. With no solution in sight, experts suggests that everyone buys a lot of bread and milk and…
Captain’s Log 3119381832.
This is my third year out at sea, I think. I’ve forgotten the days, as well as the nights, as one blends into the next and all becomes a sea-sprayed blur. It all blends together. It turns out that Earth3’s trenches are far deeper than previously thought. Too deep to return from, the pressure too great and darkness too thick. At times I curse my abundance of supplies. Without them, I would have perished years ago. With them, I may live forever, or at least as long as human’s tend to live with minimal exercise and no exposure to the NewSun. Though that may be beneficial, as the NewSun is extremely volatile to the skin and may cause radiation poisoning, though no one likes to believe me on that fact. Of course they won’t now, as I got myself lost within the ocean.
My only hope is sending out these messages through the network, in hopes that someone, someday, hears them. Not a hope of survival, mind you, but messages of warning. This new earth, Earth3, is not the home we searched for. Oh, it’s habitable and much of our cloned species will survive here, at least in the specified and protected zones, but the sun’s not at all right, the ozone already depleted, the waters too warm, too poisoned, and too deep in my opinion. Hiding too much. Bias, since I’ll never return from these depths, but many things aren’t right and no one seems to care. I had hoped to find signs of life down here, a greater purpose, resources that would aid in our survival. If I do find them, no one will ever know. No one will ever know.
The stories and shows keep me entertained as I walk across Sealandia, the hike taking far longer than I thought it would have. For as enormous as Sealandia is, there’s not all that many people, the streets only dotted with tourists, and sometimes I feel like I’m alone, the only person on a particular street lined with stores and burger joints and milkshakes that taste like seaweed. There’s sup more employees in Sealandia than there are tourists, though they’re not just employees. They must live here, since Sealandia takes days to reach from any location. First a boat ride to the center of the ocean, to the floating rig where the underwater boats wait. Submariners, or something like that. Then we were underwater for a few days, long enough to be served multiple meals and for me to fall asleep a few times. Anyway, it dawns on me that these people don’t just come to work. They live here. They must really like dolphins. I’m sure more people will come once the anniversary parade nears. Whatever that is.
I’m thinking about this the entire way to the Seahorse Ranch Hotel, which is exactly what it sounds like—an old country-style ranch covered in seahorse decorations, big plastic seahorses and seahorses painted on the sidewalks and streets, and standing seahorses dotting the coral fields that’s supposed to resemble one of those country fields, the ones with grass and hills and the old guys with guns and hats who smoke rolled up sticks filled with smoke and ash. I forget what the smokey sticks are called, only that they were made illegal sups long before I was born, even before Earth3. I could ask Kortena, but I don’t. She’s too busy telling me about seahorses. It turns out they’re nothing like landhorses. Is there just a normal kind of horse? A bunch of robot seahorses bob up and down in the grass.
I think I’m here.
I stand around waiting for awhile. Nothing happens. Eventually I sit down on some hay and stare at the Sealandia I just walked through and everything beyond. I don’t know how many days of vacation I paid for, but hopefully it’s a lot because Sealandia is sups big. A miniature city, and that’s only what I see of it from here. More tubes lead out of the dome, some lit and others not, some straight and others curving out of view, some into the surrounding darkness of the ocean.
Are you here? I’ll be right out. I’m trying to not look ugly for you.
What? Ugly? Trust, Ara, you being ugly can’t happen. I mean, there’s a lot of things I don’t see, but that’s not one of them.
Silence for awhile as sit there playing with the hay, picking at it with my fingers.
Thanks. Now I’m blushing.
Is that good?
I don’t know. I think so? I’ll be right out.
Right out is more like fifteen minutes as I sit there listening to Kortena tell me about things I don’t need but really want but would have to pay triple the shipping costs since I’m in Sealandia. Still, a bracelet that tells me how many breaths I take seems worth it. I’m sure Kortena could tell me, but then everyone wouldn’t see the bracelet and what would be the point? A bunch of new clothes and hair colors and styles that I should pay attention to but can’t make myself. When I look up, Ara’s standing there in a yellow sundress dotted with green fish despite that there’s no sun in Sealandia. Maybe we can call it a waterdress, but I don’t think so since it’s yellow and water is never yellow and we can just pretend there’s a sun since Sealandia is so bright.
“You came,” Ara says, as if she’s surprised. “And you look splendid.”
“I do? Thanks. I think I look tired. I like your dress.” Ara looks like a movie star, one of those people who everyone has to stare at, but right now only I’m staring at her. Everyone else just passes by without a second look, like they’re blind, but they’re just focused on Kortena. Bright yellow streaks through her black hair, her green eyes glowing.
“Thank you. I’m a big fan of fish. Did you know that you’re wearing the same thing you were yesterday? Not that I’m judging you, I’m not, but did you forget to change clothes? I do that a lot too. Or are you trying to make a grandiose statement against Kortena and the preconceived notions she pushes at us? I’d also accept that answer.”
I have to look up a few words to understand what Ara’s saying, and even then I’m still confused. “I wish I just forgot,” I end up saying. “They told me nothing’s wrong, but I still think my network’s messed up. I don’t remember much after getting off the ship yesterday. Then I woke up in my hotel and my friends had left me. Then I went to the booth and rushed here, so I guess I forgot to change. Or eat. Or do much of anything.”
Ara frowns, and even her frown looks like she’s smiling. “They don’t seem like very good friends. Aren’t they supposed to take care of you?”
“I don’t know,” I say, because I don’t know how friends are supposed to act and be. “I guess so. I think I paid for them to come here, too. They left me with a giant stuffed whale, so that’s pretty swill.”
Ara’s green eye’s widen. “You paid for all of them? That’s like…a ton of credits.”
“Yeah, well my parents have a lot. It’s a long story, about a lawsuit over the Trevian soda. I don’t remember paying for my friends. I don’t even remember wanting to come, but here I am, and it’s four against one. I’m beginning to think that they’re right, that maybe I just forgot.”
“Forgot convincing everyone to come here? Forgot exchanging all of those credits? Forgot booking a hotel and planning the trip and its many details?”
“Yeah?” I say. “Though Kortena would have done most of that stuff for me, so it’s really just the credits. And I never buy my friends stuff. Especially vacations.”
“Because they’re not very good friends,” I say. “Or maybe they are. I don’t know what good friends are supposed to be.”
“I don’t think anyone knows nowadays. That’s why we’re almost always alone, even when we’re in a crowd and surrounded by people. Maybe that’s why I wanted to talk to you on the ship. You were like me. Completely alone, but you knew it, like you could feel the separation between yourself and everyone else and knew it was all of our faults, and Kortena, and she’s our fault, too. We asked for her. She evolved, and now there’s all of this.”
“And we evolved with her,” I say, since that’s what I remember other people saying, the teachers and professors in the classes I took through Kortena’s educational part. I guess people used to actually go to a building or some place to learn, but I’m not sure if I believe that. Leaving your home and listening to other people talk seems like a lot of work just to learn something, and it’s useless if you don’t actually learn, and if Kortena can’t teach me everything, nothing can. Especially not a real person.
“Did we evolve?” Ara asks. “Or devolve? I mean, look at us.”
I look at Ara. Jet black hair, dark red lips, darkly tanned skin and bright, smart eyes. “What am I looking for?” I ask.
“It was an expression.”
“Like a smile?”
Ara frowns, so maybe not like a smile. “Maybe you aren’t so different. Maybe this was all a mistake.”
“Maybe if I knew what you were talking about,” I say. “And I never said I was different. And different how? I didn’t come to Sealandia to be yelled at and called a mistake, especially by a stranger that I just met.”
“All strangers are people you just met! Then why did you come to Sealandia?”
I begin to speak, stop when I don’t have a good answer. “I told you. I don’t remember. There’s a lot I don’t remember, like most of the last few days.”
“And you don’t find that odd?”
“Of course I do. Not as odd as the constant piano music and whales singing and Kortena refusing to shut it off, but still odd.”
Ara shuts her eyes like she’s thinking real hard. When she opens them, she looks sups serious. “I have an idea.”
“We’ll go see the humpback whales. Maybe you don’t remember, but I think that’s why you came here. To hear their songs.”
“How would you know that?”
“Because you told me, silly. On the ship. Come on. I’ve been there before and remember the way.”
It doesn’t take too long to reach the whale ride. A Humpback’s Journey, the big blue and gray sign says above the dark opening, like entering the mouth of an enormous whale. The ride sits on the edge of the giant dome and must connect to the lit tubes outside. There’s too many lights to keep track of outside the dome, too many potential paths.
“You’ve been on this ride?” I ask.
Ara nods, bangs falling in front of her eyes. “This isn’t my first time in Sealandia. I love the ocean so I visit as often as I can.”
“It seems swill, even from the outside.”
“Swill,” she says, smiling for some reason. “It’s certainly that, and more. The ride gets a bit dark. You don’t mind the dark, do you?”
“Most of my friends sleep to Kortena and the nightlight that’s behind our eyelids, but I’ve always preferred darkness. You know, without the light. Being alone isn’t so bad when you’re asleep, and Kortena wakes me if it’s really important, like for a sale I can’t miss or something like that. I know I’m supposed to sleep with her help, since people aren’t so good at sleeping, but I think I manage. I’m never tired…other than lately, since I keep falling asleep. You don’t think that’s why, do you?”
“No,” Ara says. “No I do not. What about times before Kortena, when she wasn’t there to help us sleep? Does no one think of that?”
“Why would we want to think about life before Kortena?” I ask. “Some things just aren’t worth thinking about. They’ll only keep you up at night and haunt you while you’re awake.”
Ara doesn’t answer and takes my hand instead. “Come on,” she says. We enter the whale’s mouth and there’s no one in line, no one anywhere, like the ride’s deserted.
Apparently humpback whales aren’t popular.
For a limited time only, you can wear the clothes that your favorite stars considered wearing in your favorite shows and movies. Do you like jeans? How about shirts? Hats?! Dress like the actors from popular shows, such as “Teens in a Tree” and “So I Married my Sister’s Sister!” Or, at least how they almost dressed. Remember when Martha Macky planned on wearing that skirt but then she didn’t and instead wore a different skirt?Well you can own or even rent that other skirt, the one you didn’t see. Impress your friends! “Wow, I didn’t see that skirt before, but now I do!” That’s what they’ll say! Hey, isn’t that swill? We think so too. Everything’s swill. Browse through our extensive catalog and rewear all the things that were never worn but almost were!
Conflicts continue to rise over the piece of land on Earth3. No one can remember who owns the offshore island of Tiktikhuhu, an island that goes by another twenty-two different names, depending on who you ask, as all believe they have sole possession over the resource-rich island. Home to a few native medicinal plants, many countries are lobbying for ownership of the island. It already belongs to someone, but no one can seem to remember who. Even Kortena, authority on all deeds of ownership, rattles off a long list of potential owners, so long that countries not listed insist that the list is invalid and should be rectified. Inhabitants of the island insist that they’ve lived there since the development of Earth3, way back during colonization, but that doesn’t make much sense, as they’re just a small group of people who don’t even have up to date networks. Maybe ignorance was once bliss, but Kortena changed all that by making us sups smart and the opposite of ignorance, which is wisdom. Now we’re all wisdom and know that these people can’t just claim the land because they were there first. Besides, they’re not even using the medicinal plants and illnesses are at an all-time high thanks to the corroded ozone shield around Earth3. Researchers, armed with large laser guns and gas grenades, will conduct tests on the natives and…
Tempers flare like the storms of the NewSun. Burning hot, eager to explode now that all once set in stone has cracked. Perhaps she will take your hand, kiss you in the rain, remind you that the moments you want to forget are always the most unforgettable. You wanted to visit Sealandia. Everyone knows that, other than you. Everyone remembers, other than you. Memories are made and forgotten for reasons, held onto and lost when the mind cannot bear to remember. As simple as hearing the songs of the humpbacks, as playing a single note on the piano, and repeating that note for all to hear. Over and over again, until even Kortena fades to the background and goes unheard.