Someone: 1999 • Nine Years: 1999
Soundtrack: “Something from Nothing” by Foo Fighters
Note: This story is being pubbed in serial form. You should probably start with EPISODE 1.
Her eyes roll helplessly, seeing it all. The smoldering red of the furnaces far below. The magical components moving steadily past her on the conveyor belt as she bends with the pneumatic screwdriver at precise intervals to fasten the metal lids over the intricate circuitry: top left—bottom right—bottom left—top right. Farther down the line, purple light glares across the faceplates of the welders.
Who am I? She would say it out loud if she could. I am someone, god damn you. So are all these people. And you will burn for this. But the music’s grip is relentless.
What started long ago as a nightly mantra has become incessant. With every joint soldered: I’m someone. With every fastener tightened: I’m someone. This has gone on for an undetermined time, maybe months…maybe years; this helpless rage as she watches fellow laborers go mad or die; as she watches her own hands grow stronger and faster, even thrive from week after week of brutal labor.
Then, one day: “I’m someone.” Her lips move imperceptibly, the faint murmur inaudible beneath the industrial noise and driving music. A hammer in one hand, a punch in the other, she pivots to tap the next crystal into its sheath of blue-black metal, her eyes passing across the high metal walkways that zigzag far above the floor.
And suddenly, those eyes fill with fire.
“I’m someone.” No longer a murmur. Through clenched teeth.
The aged man on her left seats the next crystal atop its sheath. “I’m someone.” Pivot. Down comes her hammer, and the ginger-haired girl on her right in tattered, striped overalls grabs the assembly and inserts it into the encapsulator’s carousel—as a memory returns, so vivid and complete it could be happening right now.
She was standing in the waving grass by the side of Highway 40 in Kansas, where the road curved sharply out over jagged sandstone bluffs that spilled down into a yucca-choked canyon. She’d hitched her way to this nondescript bend in the road under cover of night, with nothing but the clothes she’d been wearing and her wallet in the back pocket of her jeans. Having been raised with no religion, this was as close as she could come to prayer. Hoping against all logic for some sign, a trace of the beloved uncle who’d died here, of where to go from here. Because somewhere, perhaps still in Nebraska, perhaps somewhere behind her on this very road, her father had the Glock .40.
She was eighteen, graduation only a month away. She’d been sleeping in her clothes for years, had feigned slumber last night as her door swung open. Time for your graduation present, M. Then his weight was pressing down on her, his mouth at her ear as she slid one hand under the pillow. You know better than that. His hand covered her mouth, squeezing hard enough to grind the bones. Think I’m stupid? He laughed, reaching under the pillow and grabbing the knife she’d hidden there as a decoy. Her other hand pressed the Glock into his ribs and tried to pull the trigger, but the silencer made it awkward at this angle, and however drunk her father was, his reflexes were whip-like. His elbow flew back, knocking the gun out of her hand as it went off. Bellowing in pain, he’d slithered onto the floor, blood blossoming above his knee, black in the moonlight. Snatching up the gun, he fired madly, round after round, holes exploding in the walls as she fled.
The shallow bullet score in her side still burned, but the bleeding had stopped a few hours ago. This nondescript curve in the road was the place on the map that, as little girls, she and Tori had drawn hearts around, the one where in 1979 a ’65 Mustang had shot through the guardrail, extinguishing the man who had represented everything good in her young life. In the faint glow of pre-dawn, the canyon tumbled away into darkness. Having lost the ability to cry years ago, she instead hurled chunks of rock that went rattling down the canyon.
Headlights switched on only yards away—no chance to run or hide. So, as the vehicle began rolling forward, she stood her ground, waiting. It wasn’t a Ford pickup that pulled up, not him at the wheel. Regardless, her hands, hanging loosely at her sides, were poised to become fists.
“Hey, didn’t mean to freak you out or anything,” said the young man in the dented gold Subaru wagon. He was pale, his dark hair swooping up in a rooster tail, square glasses giving him a poindextery appearance. He’d blinked up at her in the gloom, red lips curving in a friendly smile. He wore a white button-down shirt, the sleeves rolled neatly to the elbows. All these details she registered in a heartbeat. She did not smile back. There was a luminous, almost androgynous quality to him, and this made her relax, imperceptibly.
“Um, so I’m Tyler,” he said. “This here’s Kelley.”
She hadn’t noticed his passenger until now. A girl leaned out of the shadows with a timid smile. Her face was framed by blond hair in a cute pixie cut, and a few freckles dotted her nose. “Um, Hi?” Kelley giggled shyly.
A delicate girl and a luminous man-boy. She had relaxed a little more, but still gave them no response.
Tyler cleared his throat. “So anyway, we just thought…you know. We’ve got some burritos in here. And some of those potato things.”
Kelley had pulled open a crumpled American Taco sack, and the smell drifting out of the car window reminded Marissa forcefully how empty her stomach was. “We don’t mean any harm, we just figured…”
“More than enough chow,” Tyler continued, taking the bag and holding it out of the window. “We didn’t want it to go to waste.”
“So, what’s your name?” Kelley asked. Her eyes had been blue as a robin’s egg as she fiddled with a cord she’d slipped out of her shirt collar. There was something hanging on the cord.
Her stomach growling, Marissa’s hand was already reaching unconsciously for the food. “Thank you. I’m—”
—something in those blue eyes had started to change—
“Marissa.” Her voice has begun to rise, at first little more than a croak. As her name returns, so does her identity, her history, the names of all the people and places she has ever known. All of it, including the spiral object that had hung around Kelley’s neck—a lituus; she’s built them herself on the assembly line—which, at the surrendering of her name, had begun to glow. Wands, also manufactured here, control things. Lituuses control people. This thought fills her with red fury.
“I’m Marissa. Marissa Kelvin.” And louder. Suddenly, the hammer and punch that were in her hands a second ago are spinning through the air at the nearest whitecoats, who duck in surprise, covering their heads. It had started with her eyes. Next, her voice was freed. Now, like loosening chains, the music’s iron grip is falling away from her body and mind, leaving behind pure rage.
Her history has not returned obscurely, not in flashes or dreams; it has come in an explosion, whole and complete. What triggered this sudden and violent tide of memory? Looking up from the production floor: The sight of Tyler, high on the metal catwalk, strolling along like the others, clad in splendid white.
Whitecoats are racing through the aisles between the machines and conveyor belts, those with lituuses reaching for them, clumsy in their haste.
But she has eyes only for the boy up on the catwalk, who has yet to notice something is amiss down below. He is laughing at something one of his colleagues has said, his red lips smiling, firelight glinting off the panes of his glasses.
“Hey, shitheels! It’s me—Marissa Kelvin!” She is pointing to herself with both hands, her voice ringing out like a shot across the production floor, cutting through the pounding music and roar of machinery. Tyler and the others pause, looking around in confusion. A Supervisor reaches her, his lituus emitting a magic cord that whips toward her legs.
But Marissa is no newly awakened slave, dazed, weak, and frightened. She skips easily over the rope, which twists instead around the legs of another Supervisor, who tumbles into a cluster of bots, sending them flailing into one another, knocking over carts and benches, scattering parts across the floor.
The first whitecoat makes a grab for Marissa; she smashes his nose, the front of his white blazer instantly soaked with bright red blood. More whitecoats wade into the chaos, shoving wandering bots out of their path. Even now, they still haven’t grasped the fact that being enslaved as a human robot has not only failed to kill her; it has hardened her, toughened her, given her the speed and strength of an Olympian.
Dodging between dozens of wandering bots, socking whitecoats out of her way, she bounds to the top of a cart, scattering circuit boards everywhere, then leaps onto the conveyor belt. Hands are grabbing for her feet, but she dances out of reach and charges up the belt, kicking oncoming assemblies aside, wires and hardware flying in every direction. A rope spins through the air, winding about her ankle, and she stumbles, nearly falling into the waiting arms of the Supervisors before ripping the cord off and hurling it away.
She has reached the axis of the production floor: The enormous, whirling, flashing apparatus rising up through the floor pumping out the mind-control music—what she now recalls various Supervisors referring to as the Jukebox. She grabs a barrel of crystals, hoists it above her head, and smashes it into the main control panel. Gears, crystals, and springs whirl through the air. The music ends on a deafening squawk. All across the production floor, bots halt and straighten, going into standby; a few are jolted from their spell, staggering about, muttering or screaming: What? Where? Who? Supervisors dash here and there, cursing and barking orders at the rest of the overwhelmed staff. The conveyor belts grind to a halt. The filter element machine continues to churn, mounds of thick material jamming its guts; soon orange flames are shooting out of its mouth.
Marissa locks eyes with Tyler, who is frozen, pale face staring down at the center of the pandemonium: A skinny roadside runaway who should have been dead years ago, like all the others. “I am someone!” She points directly at him. “That’s right, mister American Taco douchebag. I am talking to you. I am Marissa Kelvin!” Hands thrust into the air, double-fisting the high hard one. “And I take back my name!”
Tyler’s paralysis breaks, and he races for the nearest stairway, even though it is much too late at this point for him to do anything effective. Whitecoats are closing in from all sides, lituuses extended. Several have climbed onto the conveyor belt and are advancing on her. There are too many of them. As they surround her, she spins, still flying the one-finger salute. “Only one of me. How many of you does it take?” A few more faces get bloodied before the flying cords finally catch both her ankles. As she crashes onto the belt, two more cords bind her wrists, winding together to pin her arms behind her back. Even off her feet, she is still dangerous, heels pistoning out to smash the kneecaps of the whitecoat bending over her, snapping teeth barely missing fingers.
“Don’t hurt this one. She’s mine.”
From Marissa’s vantage point sprawled upon the frozen conveyor belt, the owner of this new voice is not yet visible. But there’s no mistaking that girly innocence. Now, the whitecoats are backing away, clearing a path, some stumbling in their haste.
Strolling up the center of the belt, clad not in white like those who serve her, but in jeans and a Cornhuskers jersey, is Tyler’s partner from the gold Subaru—Kelley, the delicate girl. Kelley stops a few feet back, grinning down at Marissa, whose fury is chilled by a curdled wave of dread.
Kelley’s head is tilted, her smiling eyes turned up at the corners. Eyes that were a shy, robin’s-egg blue one early morning in Kansas. Eyes that are now a blazing, inhuman gaslight. And somewhere behind this hot, merry blue writhes something black and bottomless.
“Man, oh man.” Kelley surveys the wreckage, the shambling bots, the bloodied faces, before returning that blistering gaze to her prisoner and grinning. “Talk about anger management issues!”
Nine Years: 1999
The fire under her skin is becoming unbearable. Periodically, another person in a white lab coat enters the cage to check her vitals, to pass a lituus over her head, chest, or genitals; to sample another bodily fluid, to seemingly strive to piss her off in some new and creative way with every visit. None will acknowledge her questions, demands, or threats.
Dispensing with magic spells, which don’t seem to affect her, they have resorted to old-school restraint: thick manacles and ankle cuffs of blue-black metal, bolted to the wall and floor, leaving her helpless to do anything but spit and curse.
After hours of this, a rampant thirst has begun to race through her, consuming all other thoughts like wildfire. Her threats do not have the ferocity they did a few hours ago. Her struggles have weakened and her eyes glitter with fever. “If you’re going to kill me, just kill me.” She is roasting like a chicken on a spit. In the corners of her cell, flickering shadows chuckle. Slither closer. “They’re eating me alive, oh god, I’m burning to death, you fucking coward fucks!” Her words dissolve into shrieks as fire rages within her. She collapses against the wall, sweat soaking the remnants of clothing that still cling to her body, the shadows sliding ever nearer, half-hidden by the flames rising in her eyes. Some are almost recognizable now. They are welcoming, ushering her into death’s release.
A small, luminous shape gently parts the shadow and flame. It fills the cell with silvery light, fills her vision. Something cold slips into her mouth, and her struggles cannot dislodge it. She draws a great, wrenching breath, and then—suddenly, the fire is extinguished by cool darkness, as if a December wind is scattering ice crystals across her burning skin. And now she herself is a crystal, whirling endlessly through interstellar night. And now—nothing; nothing whatsoever.
The voice is friendly, cheerful, far away. It is also a terrible lie. She doesn’t want to go back, to wake up, to face the owner of that voice. “I know you can hear me. Hey, I cleared my schedule, so you’ve got me all the livelong night.” The voice is nearer now, softer. “I have already been here, watching you for a very long time now.”
She tries to shut everything out, searching to escape once more into that cold ecstasy of flying up, into frigid blackness, of being utterly untouchable, intangible.
“You wanna be high again, don’t you.” A giggle, only a few feet away now—where the voice has in fact been all along. “Come on, I’m not gonna hurt you, promise. In fact, tell you what: Open your eyes and I’ll give you a li’l bump.”
Marissa slowly raises her head, realizing the manacles and cuffs are lying open. Her wrists and ankles are raw from struggling. Her body is filthy. But the shadows, the fire, that feeling of being roasted alive, are all gone. She flexes her arms and legs, gritting her teeth.
Sitting crosslegged on the floor just outside the bars is the girl, Kelley. Her eyes are once again benign, her smile welcoming—even apologetic. She can’t be a day over eighteen…and yet, there is the presence of something ancient behind that smile.
“Lie…” Marissa says softly.
“I don’t know what you mean.” Kelley frowns, shrugging. “What’s the lie?”
“You are. You’re not a person. You’re some kind of…thing.”
“Well, that was a little rude, don’t you think?” Kelley pouts prettily. “I’m not going around pointing out your flaws, am I?” She waves a dismissive hand. “Kidding. I’ve been called worse a time or two!” Her laugh tinkles again. Suddenly, she is on this side of the bars—inches from Marissa, though she has not moved from her sitting position. Marissa scrambles away, her back hitting the wall, aiming a reflexive kick at Kelley’s face. Kelley easily catches the foot in one hand, gently lowers it back to the floor. “Can’t blame you for being ticked. All this probing, prodding, and hocus-pocus, all sorts of tests to find out what your power is…”
“But did any of them think to just ask you? I mean, duhh! Sometimes I think I’m paying them way too much.” Kelley leans an elbow on one knee, chin resting on her fist. She shrugs again. “So, here I am. It’s just you and me now, and I promise not to sample your pee or scan your gall bladder, or anything gross. I just want to know…why are you still here? Not just alive, but stronger than some of my toughest guys.”
Marissa stares back into that deceptively innocent face, resisting the urge to run. Because there is nowhere to run. “Thought you were gonna give me that bump.”
“Righteeo! You can always count on a junkie to remind you about the important stuff.” From her pocket, Kelley retrieves a small, transparent cylinder. The gas within shimmers, cool and inviting.
Marissa cannot look away from it. “I’m not a junkie.”
Kelley laughs. “So, going into apocalyptic withdrawal and being miraculously cured by a blast from the ol’ Forty-Five—that was, what, the flu?” She smiles sympathetically. “This is the potion you’ve had every night for the last nine years. You and all the other bots. It’s what keeps them enchanted and obedient…well, all of them except for you. Yep, the ol’ Forty-Five is some potent stuff. Our special formula, developed right here in our labs at DimCor, Inc.” She leans forward on her hands, scooting closer to Marissa. “Kelley Robadu, by the way. President and CEO.”
Marissa recoils involuntarily, torn between revulsion and desire. “Nine…years?”
“Hold still, I’m trying to help you.” Kelley places a hand on Marissa’s arm, and Marissa knows resistance is futile.
Kelley unscrews the valve with her teeth before gently prodding the pipe into Marissa’s mouth. “Oh, sweetie. We’ve got lots of talks ahead of us.” Marissa gulps with helpless greed. Kelley sits back again, and an amazing thing happens.
The bars on the cell, the cluttered shelves, the cracked stone floor and the hardware strewn across it—all of it is suddenly lit from within with iridescent light. Every shadow is a mystery; every speck of dust contains a history, tracing like golden threads back to the dawn of time. Best of all—Marissa feels air rushing beneath her as if she is being lifted on a chill wind, as if utter freedom lies within her grasp.
Kelley watches, her face alight. Marissa reaches out to touch her cheek. “You look like an angel.”
“Whoa, dude. You should see your eyes right now! Stay with me. I don’t think you got enough to knock you out this time, but we’ll have to work on fine-tuning that.” She moves closer, and this time Marissa does not find her threatening. Instead, Kelley is luminous, ethereal, a promise of wild adventures. “Here’s what we know so far: One—you’ve been here nine years, and instead of wearing out after a couple months like all the others, you’re not only still tickin’, you’re strong—stronger than a normal person your size, in fact. Two—the spell wore off. That ol’ Forty-Five packs a wallop, but somehow it stopped working on you—at least in the way intended. Which brings us to Three—and possibly the most insane part—you’re addicted to it! It gets you high! It’s never had that effect on anyone before.” Kelley gently lifts both Marissa’s hands in hers. “And now I need to know why, on all three counts. You have got some powerful counter-magic in you. So, tell me now: How’d you get it?”
Underneath the potion-induced euphoria, a remnant of Marissa’s mind still clings to the one thing that matters: Whatever happened that day long ago in the garden, the day they made it rain—that is the reason she is now sitting in some cellar of hell, having a conversation with a monster, as opposed to simply being dead. Whatever passed through her when Tori took her hand that day in the garden and told her push—changed something inside her. Something that made her different from all the others. Something that has kept her strong, finally overcoming the muzic. Something in which Marissa now places all her faith, to shield her true heart from the piercing gaze of Kelley Robadu.
Because although she may never get out of here, may eventually bare her entire soul to this monster in exchange for more of that ol’ Forty-Five, there is one secret that will remain buried, a secret she will take to her grave: The source of the power for which Kelley hungers, the reason for her lifelong belief in magic, for her miraculous survival, the greatest friend anyone could hope to have: Tori Marshall.
Under Kelley’s hot gaze, Marissa is once again a young girl, immobilized in the alley as her father promises to torture her dog; frozen at the kitchen table as he pours alcohol over her burned hand; stupefied in the body shop as he mocks his own dead brother. Her mouth curves into the small smile that has always been her armor against emotion, that over the years erased her ability to cry. The shadows all around them seem to pulse with both light and darkness as her hands lie freezing in the grip of this thing that hides behind a human face.
“If I knew the answers to all that,” she says, “I’d probably have blown this joint nine years ago. But hey, I don’t know jack about any power.”
And the lie is complete. She has hidden Tori deep inside the armor of her heart; hidden her, from even herself—alongside this small, hard promise: to one day destroy this place, utterly and completely.
They sit like this for a very long time, while behind Kelley’s innocent gaze lurks something enormous, loathsome, and utterly devoid of conscience. Marissa’s high slowly dissipates, but the bump was enough to sustain her a good long time. There is no more burning. No fires, no slithering shadows. Behind Kelley, the door swings open. Tyler stops short, staring into the cell. “What can I do for you?” Kelley asks, her eyes still locked with Marissa’s.
Tyler clears his throat. “First shift starts in a few hours. We’ve got about eighty percent of our Organics left. But only five percent of operations—”
“Which will cost less: keep all the bots alive on standby while we repair the damage, or toss ’em and get new ones when we’re up and running again?” Deep within Kelley’s eyes, a hint of gaslight has returned.
“That depends on how much repairs are going to cost and how long it will take—”
“Sweetie, I trust you to figure it out. It’s why I made you Chief Operating Officer, after all. And get someone on the phone with the NFMA. Tell ‘em we’re gonna be down for a while.” Her eyes are burning straight through Marissa’s retinas, scorching everything in their path, scouring for the truth.
Tyler stares down at the two of them a moment longer, then leaves the room.
In the back of Marissa’s mind, the letters NFMA reverberate. Why do those four letters make her heart skip a beat? The potion’s cold rush is completely gone, leaving her horribly sober and aware of the inhumanity of the thing holding her in its butane gaze. NFMA. Racing their bikes around the lamp posts in the dark and empty parking lot. Daring one another to walk up to the wide black windows. Trying to imagine who or what might be looking out. “What are you?” she asks.
Kelley is so close Marissa can smell the hungry furnace of her breath. “You want to know what I am.” The blue coals of her eyes, the guttural voice now spilling like filth from her pink lips, are of something ancient, something outside of time. “I was here when there was no city, no people. I was here when the first Organics arrived, I watched generations live and die, until they forgot where they came from. What am I? I’m the thing that owns your soul. I am patience.” Releasing Marissa’s hands, she sits back on her heels, her bubblegum smile and girlish voice returning. “In other words—your new BFF!”
Marissa knows she should be shaken. Should be terrified for her life. Instead, she is filled with a cold calm. “You’re telling me these things because I’m never getting out of here. I’ll never be able to tell anyone about this place because I’ll be dead.”
“Right on the first count, anyhow. But let’s not dwell on all that stuff. Fact is, it’s all a matter of perspective. I mean, check me out.” Kelley shrugs flirtatiously, cheeks rosy, smile twinkling. “The way you see me now? You don’t ever have to think of me any other way. I’m just the one that keeps the lights on. And who’s about to show you the time of your life.” Kelley gets to her feet, smiling down at Marissa. “C’mon, girlfriend. You can keep fighting me and stay locked up down here being tested like a lab rat, going into DTs…whenever I forget to give you your fix. Orrrrrr? You can come with me, and we’ll figure this thing out together—what your antimagic is, and what we’re going to do with you. But all that can wait, right? What say we go grab a burger?”
Marissa swallows the sudden burst from her salivary glands.
Kelley smiles knowingly. “Comes from being fed intravenously in your sleep the last nine years. Far cry from good old grilled cow, with pickles and mustard and fries, huh? And you can toss those rags. There’s a nice shower waiting, clean clothes. And your very own personal supply of that ol’ Forty-Five, of course.” She is holding out a hand. “Your choice.”
Burning alive, encircled by phantom hallucinations. Without the potion—will she die? It had felt as though death were all around her, above and below, closing in to extinguish her—until the arrival of the cool, pale cylinder.
On the night before Rusty was going to take her away and move them to the new job in Grand Island, on what came to be known in Nebraska history as the Night of the Tornadoes, Marissa and Tori couldn’t help it—running away together. Good-bye had been out of the question.
When Rusty got Marissa home, he ordered Shonna or Donna to hold her still in front of the mirror. Haircut time again. Not about to give him the satisfaction of struggling, she sat without protest while he chopped savagely at her hair until most of it lay around them on the floor, her pink scalp exposed in places.
In the morning, after the news arrived that tornadoes had destroyed the shop Rusty had planned to open in G.I., he’d pulled out a bottle of vodka and the Glock pistol with its silencer, and told Shonna or Donna to disappear for a few hours. Your choices affect others, M. It’s time you got that through your head. Out to the shed, now. Inside the shed, tied to a post, was Ernie, her little dog who’d had the misfortune of being adopted into this family.
After Ernie’s short life was finally ended, Rusty had seized her right hand—the hand now burned from the hot gun barrel—and dragged her out to the storm cellar and locked her down there with a weak flashlight and a bucket. And at last, she had found her voice. “I’m gonna kill you!” Her child-screams ratcheted off the damp cement walls, her small fists pounding the wooden underside of the cellar door, rattling the corrugated steel up top. “When I grow up, I’m coming back and I’m gonna shoot you right through your head!”
After a moment, heavy footsteps returned, the wet grass whispering their slow approach. Then, very softly, just on the other side of the door: “Think I’m about to let you do that, M?”
Something in his words made her cold all over, but her hate was hotter. “You don’t get to let me. I’m gonna be too big for you to stop me!”
“You’re not understanding me. M.” Even softer. Even nearer. “You really think I’m gonna let you grow up?”
Long after the last of the day’s warmth had bled from the underside of the heavy bulkhead door, shivering on the wooden steps, she pretended the Kids from C.A.P.E.R. were there with her in the moldy darkness. Doc’s the cute one. He always gets the girl. He can control the weather. Doomsday’s the smart one. He can talk to the animals. P.T.’s the cool one. He can smell a clue a mile away. Bugs is the strong one. He—he—
In the years to come, that silly show would become her lifeline to sanity. Every time she wanted to run away. Every night she was sent to bed without eating. Every time she thought of telling someone. Someone who might take her away from Rusty—but also away from Tori, which could not, could absolutely not happen. Every time the bedroom door creaked open in the dark of night as she feigned sleep.
She doesn’t know how many days she spent down in the cellar, but it was long enough to catch and eat a salamander. What had her bravery gained her? Very little, beyond a week of diarrhea and a lifetime of nightmares.
Her soul is simultaneously that of a teenaged runaway on a lonely road in Kansas and a woman aged and hardened beyond her twenty-seven years in the pit of hell. It is out of this duality that she reaches up, takes the hand extended her, allows the monster to help her to her feet. They exit the cell together and the gate falls shut, the sound reverberating behind them.
It is the end of childhood for Marissa, and the beginning of many things.
Copyright © 2018 by Shoshana Sumrall Frerking
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead, or otherwise, is purely coincidental.