The Tunnels (I/IV)

In January, 1974, the Pandora Squad began putting things of great value in the tunnels. Gold. Jewels. Subway trains. Ruby-studded jet zeppelins. Rare and collectible giant spiders. Promises, hopes, dreams, and silver. No one ever found out why, because the Pandora Squad promptly exceeded its budget and went defunct.

Three months passed.

Jenna has an immortal soul and a mortal nature. She demonstrates them while talking to the hero. He makes a point. Jenna dies. There’s an awkward silence.

“Clearly,” says the hero, “you’re a mortal creature, bound by time.”

Jenna slumps on the floor.

“I shouldn’t make my points so forcefully,” the hero says. It’s gallows humor. On a dead audience, it falls flat. Jenna doesn’t giggle. She just grows colder.

“. . . I should probably cremate you.”

Jenna is mortal. But she also has an immortal soul. She demonstrates that too! She reanimates her body and hops to her feet. “You don’t have to cremate me. I can be a zombie!”

He’s the hero. He’s suave. He can handle this. But it disturbs him. “Zombies rot and their body parts fall off. Maybe you could be a vampire? Then you’d be my arch-nemesis.”

“I could be an anentropic zombie,” Jenna proposes. “Instead of rotting, I’d grow ever more beautiful! And I could be a mime!”

“I don’t want you to be a mime.”

Jenna pretends to be an anentropic zombie trapped in an invisible box. “Look! I’m inside an invisible box! It’s a sealed system, so the order constantly increases. That’s my noncompliance with the principle of entropy at work!”

“I appreciate the explanation,” the hero says, “as I would not readily have derived that from your visual cues. Mimes don’t usually narrate, though.”

Jenna ignores him and pretends to be an anentropic zombie struggling against the wind. “Oh no! Bits of fashionable clothing are blowing onto me from all over and replacing my dreary cerements! But my umbrella—it’s inverted!”

The hero sighs, leans back, and closes his eyes. Once he has his equilibrium, he says, “I love you.” It’s true, but it’s also the only way to stop the narrated miming.

“You shouldn’t cremate people you love. I mean, not when they’re still moving around.”

“That’s true. I try to live my life by this rule.”

“We all should!” Jenna declares. “We could achieve a perfect world.”

“But an anentropic zombie can’t live in our house,” the hero points out. “People would talk.”

Jenna snorts. “People.”

“And I’m not sure I’m ready for it.” The hero thinks. “You could live in the tunnels.”

“Is an anentropic zombie very valuable?”

“Rarity would seem to suggest it.”

Jenna shakes her head. Her hair grows shorter but ever more beautiful. “Nope. Scarcity is an entropic measure of value. For anentropic objects, commonality would have to determine value—the arrow of time points the other way!”

The hero sighs. “You could be a ghost,” he offers. “Ghosts are rare but subject to entropy.”

“I want to exist,” Jenna says. “I want to be me. When I heard that I was dead, that was all I could think. I’m not done being me. I like myself. I’m cool. So I dragged myself back from the grave.”

The hero smiles. “Narcissist.”

“Narcissism is important,” Jenna says, firmly. “The first thing the universe said to me after I was born was, ‘love yourself.'”

“Oh?”

“Yup. ‘Love yourself. Trust yourself. Be true to yourself. Oh, and, by the way, you can no longer absorb nutrients through your belly button.'”

The hero smiles. “I’m glad you came back.”

“I can’t live with you?”

“You’re dead.”

Jenna closes her eyes for a moment, and then opens them. “Depreciation is a function of entropy,” she says. “So I’m a good investment, at least.”

“I’m sure that’ll do.”

“Yay!” Jenna says. “I get to live in tunnels!”

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