“Geez.” Jay wiped his eyes. “This show’s more emotional than I remembered.”
“Eh.” Dan shrugged. “We’ve already seen Lucille’s parents die. I can’t get worked up over it twice.”
“But now Lucille has to condemn them herself,” said Jay. “Even if they’re just copies, the pain is redoubled through Lucille’s perspective.”
“I think the viewer takes Charlie’s and Daisuke’s perspective,” said Dan. “We know for sure Bunjiro and Lucia are dead and gone, and we’re worried Lucille doesn’t believe us. Then we’re relieved because she’s two steps ahead of us and more determined than ever.” Jay nodded doubtfully. “What do you think, Bob? Was your first episode emotionally resonant?”
Bob blinked. “What?” Both eyes were bloodshot.
“Is that cricket treating you alright, Bob?” Jay pat his shoulder. “You wanna finish your chicken nuggets?”
Bob had forgotten his food. He grinned with new hunger. He stuffed his apple pie in his mouth. He spoke as he chewed: “That show looked cool.”
“It has campy charm,” agreed Jay.
Bob munched chicken nuggets as he watched the end credits. His eyes lingered on each still image. “I’m so high—I can’t see that as anything but a drawing,” he said. “That’s not a giant robot, it’s a drawing of a giant robot. That’s not a space-laser, that’s a drawing of a space-laser. That’s not the moon, it’s—”
“When I get high,” Dan interrupted, “people look like awkward primates. Our cheek-bones seem simian. We walk like upright apes. Our language is like monkeys alerting each other to hawks and snakes.”
“What do you see, Jay?” Bob ate cheese-puffs from Jay’s bag. “Are you having centipede-flashbacks like Dan said?”
Jay rubbed his eyes at Bob and Dan. It was like seeing faces for the first time. “I need some air.”
“Try the back porch,” said Bob. “The view’s beautiful!”
“Bob, how’s your internet connection?” Dan sat up. “I’ll bet I can find the first episodes of LuLu’s dubbed online.”
Jay stepped out on Bob’s back porch, a concrete step overlooking grass. In the distance a forest crawled up the Bighorn Mountains. Stars flocked around a full moon.
Jay counted his fingers. “One, two, three, four, five,” he counted on his left hand. “Six, seven, eight, nine, ten,” he counted on his right. “I’m awake.”
Still, his hands were flat and matte one moment then shimmered with fingerprints the next. He accepted his altered state and tried to relax.
When he lowered his hands, he found a cloud on the horizon. He watched it morph faster, it seemed, than any ordinary cloud. He thought it looked like a white fox. The fox stepped over the forest onto the grass with the misunderstanding of a Magritte. “JayJay! Are you hallucinating too?”
Jay rubbed his eyes and ears. The white fox remained. He sat on the step and covered his mouth. “Faith?”
“Yeah! I haven’t seen you in—” She couldn’t complete the thought, so she shook her head. “Ages, I guess.”
“You were struck by lightning.”
Faith’s smile faltered. “I was, huh.”
“Did it hurt? Are you okay?”
“It didn’t. I’m fine, I think.” She sat on her haunches at Jay’s feet. “I don’t know what’s real anymore.”
“I hope I’m real,” said Jay.
“You and me both,” she sighed. “Wanna smoke?”
Before he could refuse, Faith pawed behind her ear for a bug she’d tucked there. It was a cockroach. “I guess I could smoke. Where’d you get that?”
“Mars, I think. Roaches are the only smokes I can dig up. Got a lighter?”
Jay lit the cockroach with an orange lighter as Faith held the roach’s butt in her vulpine muzzle. “Faith, I don’t think you’re on Mars, and I don’t think you’re hallucinating.”
Faith had obviously practiced smoking as a fox. She tongued the roach over each canine to make space in her muzzle to blow smoke. She let Jay take the roach. “What do you mean, JayJay?”
“I think you’re dead.” Jay puffed. He’d seen cockroaches before—mostly in Eastern Asia—but he’d never smoked one. It was spicy and harsh. “No offense.”
“None taken. That makes sense.” Faith bonked her head on Jay’s knee. “I miss you guys.”
“We all miss you.” Jay gave her the roach. As a child, Jay scratched his cat Django just before the ears, and now he scratched Faith the same way. She smiled and closed her eyes. “Dan and Bob are inside, but it might be inappropriate to bring you in.”
“Hmpf,” puffed Faith. “I understand.”
“They just started watching the first episode of LuLu’s. We shouldn’t interrupt.”
“Ha. Yeah. That’s why.” Faith leaned her head into Jay’s hand to guide his scratching. “I’ll have to go back soon. Back to the Mountain.”
“Are you a Zephyr, whatever that means?”
“I wish.” She puffed again and let Jay take the roach. “I’m a Will-o-Wisp.”
“Is Beatrice there?”
Faith lowered her muzzle in melancholy. Jay hugged her, and she slung a paw over his shoulder. “Let me tell you what I remember.”