In the nineteenth century, a girl was born in a man’s world. When she told the men she’d like to write books, they laughed because books were not a woman’s business. But the girl had no trouble imagining things other people couldn’t fathom: time travel and laser guns, moon landings and invisibility, so she conceived a world where literature wasn’t under the dominion of men. It turned out she was right about things like gene engineering and interplanetary communication, but wrong about the commerce of books. So she published stories under her brother’s name and went to work for a warehouse where all the mysteries of time and space were contained inside mystical artifacts.
In the twentieth century, a girl was born in a man’s world. When she told her father she’d like to sell books, he laughed because books were not a woman’s business. He named his bookstore “Bering & Sons,” though he had no sons, and the girl learned that though the commerce of books fell under the dominion men, they could claim no sovereignty over the province of knowledge. So she taught herself four languages, fencing, martial arts and went to work for a warehouse where the universe’s full enlightenment was contained inside mystical artifacts.
The girl from the nineteenth century lost her daughter to senseless murder.
The girl from the twentieth century lost her partner the same way.
One was bronzed, the other was born, and they stumbled into each other on equal footing inside the man’s world. Helena G. Wells and Myka Bering.
One wanted to destroy the world to heal her pain, the other wanted to save the world for exactly the same reason. Helena spared the world her vengeance to save Myka. Myka withheld from the world her grace to save Helena. For if the world died, so would Myka, and Helena couldn’t bear it. And if Helena died, the world would be saved, but Myka couldn’t bear it. Time twisted in on itself to make their introduction, and space stretched out to pull them together. One said, “It seems we are forever destined to meet at gunpoint,” but she only had it half right. It wasn’t gunpoint that was their destiny; it was meeting. And so they met, again and again, without colliding, suspended in perpetuity like the white, trembling promise of a first kiss. An unspoken oath as old as night.
Boone, Wisconsin. 2012. A couple of curious things are happening in the badlands of cheese country. For starters, a petty criminal runs into a police precinct and confesses to killing a guy, even though his lawyer already got the DA to drop the case against him. His eyes are wild and his hands are hairy and it’s all very frantic neanderthal. More bizarre than that, however, is the fact that heaven has apparently opened up over the Great Lakes and gifted the land with a forensic scientist whose accent is English and whose face was crafted by God on his most enthusiastic and generous day, yet the townspeople have not prostrated themselves before her in humble supplication.
Emily Lake is the forensic scientist’s name and in her professional opinion, this petty criminal is acting real weird.
In Nowhere, South Dakota, Myka’s phone rings. She’s happy to step away from the breakfast table squabble taking place at the B&B, a squabble that comes to a close in an instant when every participant whips around to face her as she breathes “Helena?” into her phone. Breathing, by the way, is something she will only be doing at half-capacity for the foreseeable future, as the presence of Helena always causes Myka’s lungs — and other none-of-your-business organs — to whiz out of whack like the navigational instruments on a freefalling propeller plane.