This is the first story in what was going to be The Dansk Finanzbar Chronicles, a series of loosely related short stories in the wonderful tradition of Raymond Chandler although my protagonist was not a private eye but a dreamer, a person who can change reality by dreaming about it, often involuntarily. Long story short, it didn’t work as I expected, so I turned it into a novel. This first story, along with a few others, I think, is good enough on its own, so I’m sharing it.
Author’s note: The ‘z’ in Finanzbar is German and not Danish but hey, that’s how I dreamed it and besides it’s a federation, so there.
“What happens if you—no, listen, listen—if you take all kids away? Do you know?”
I shook my head. I was nothing if not polite and I knew James was going through a rough patch: his wife had their baby three months ago. The purple bags under his eyes sent a clear enough message and I didn’t need to ask if everything was okay at home: James was on his third beer already and we’d only come an hour ago.
“Damn right, you don’t. You don’t have any kids, you lucky bastard.” James poured the rest of the contents of the bottle into his mouth and burped. “I’ll tell you want happens, Lars: the world becomes a much nicer place, that’s what happens. What’s the time, I need to order another one but I promised Martina I’ll be home by eight.”
The clock above the bar had bad news for my friend. It said ten past seven.
“I’ll get a cab,” James murmured and picked up the remote control in the shape of a pizza slice. Pepperoni. I’ve always found this slightly offensive and more than slightly annoying. When it opened, this neighborhood branch of Dansk Finanzbar polled its clients to see what exact pizza to put on the order remotes. The result was pepperoni. I didn’t believe this. Nobody I know likes pepperoni pizza better than, well, any other. And the most ridiculous part of it? DF doesn’t even serve pizza. It serves sandwiches. But here we are, with pepperoni remotes. It was supposed to be amusing.
“So, how’s Martina been doing?” I nodded to his questioning look and he punched another beer in the remote before pressing “Order”. I used to have a thing for Martina before she got together with James. I was too busy to pursue it at the time, though. The memory, or rather that toxic “What might have been” thought, hurt whenever it resurfaced—whenever I saw the happy couple—but less and less frequently these days because we didn’t see each other that often now that they had decided to really give family life a go. And I had my job and the occasional utilitarian hook-up. That was enough. It was convenient and I didn’t risk emotional attachment.
“She’s okay, I guess,” James said, staring at the empty beer bottle on the table. “Neither of us sleeps a lot. But it could’ve been worse, judging by what her friends were telling her before Nora was born.” James’ eyes were red and dull, not just because of sleeplessness, but they lit up when the tray with the beers stopped by the table. “God, I needed this.”
“Slow down, Jim,” I said. I took the empty bottles and moved them to the tray and then I took my second beer and set it on the table. “Maybe it’d be better to be a bit late instead of getting home soaked.” I hated giving unwanted advice as much as I hated receiving it but James was drinking too fast and this beer was not the friendly 3% variety. It had a solid 13% of alcohol in it. A new brand, they launched it last year—specially made for the Dansk Finanzbar chain. It could hit you pretty heavily if you weren’t careful and cab or no cab, I knew Martina would be less than happy to see James this way. They were my friends and no, I didn’t still hold a torch for her or anything. They were just friends. That’s what I told myself every time that other thought tried to sneak in. Just friends.
“Yeah, you’re right.” He closed his fingers around the bottle’s, hiding its light-sucking black label from view. “It’s just that sometimes I wish we could have our old lives back, you know? Yeah, I’m sure everybody says this when they have their first kid but it feels a bit better when I say it, you know?”
“Whatever works,” I said and tipped the bottle to him before taking a solid mouthful. “I’m sure things will smooth out eventually.”
“Yeah,” James said, gazing at the row of ATMs and account-opening machines that took up most of the wall with the bar. There were only a couple of people there at this time of day, a middle-aged man at the ATM and a teen opening an account. Two months ago, when they lowered the minimum age for that, Dansk Finanzbar had temporarily become uninhabitable for its non-banking clients. Luckily, the first wave of new bank account holders washed over quickly enough and we could return to our routine.
I lived in the building across the street. I considered the place part of my home so it was really annoying when the teenagers invaded this part but now, listening to James, seeing how harrowed he looked, I began to like my problems, all of them, even the crushing weight I sometimes felt when I woke up in the middle of the night, as if someone—a full-bodied, heavy-boned someone—was sitting on my chest. If I were a poet I’d call it the crushing weight of loneliness and write a thousand-line poem about it. Probably. But I’m not a poet. I’m a financial analyst. Forex.
“Damn, I have to go,” James said when he snapped out of his contemplation of the machines and checked the clock again. He fumbled in his jeans pocket and produced a battered wallet. “Thanks for listening, Lars.”
“That’s okay, I’ll take that,” I said and reached into my pocket for my card holder but Jim shook his head violently and a little uncertainly brought a card to the reader at the center of the table. The reader beeped cheerfully. “Well, thank you, then. Send my best to Martina.”
“I will,” he said as he stood up and put his cap on. It was snowing outside, a light dusting, nothing more, but James apparently wanted to be careful with his health. Or Martina had made him wear a cap because she cared for him. I hit the brakes of that train of thought. “See you, Lars.”
“Bye,” I said and raised a parting hand. He mirrored the movement and left. I stayed to finish my beer. Tomorrow was Saturday and I had no plans beyond sleeping in. Yet now, as I sipped from my DF Neon Black—one of the stupidest brand names I’d ever seen—a grain of a plan scraped at the edge of my mind. Perhaps plan was the wrong word. It was an idea, not a plan. Plans involved deliberate actions. I only had a “what-if” moment, an image of a city without any children. No human being under the age of 14. Gone. Vanished. Like in that fairy tale about the rats. The panic. The chaos. The quiet.
I stifled an early yawn and sipped from my beer again, gazing at the row of banking machines. They’d tried to make them look nice, no harp edges, all rounded and silvery because the silver palette, apparently, was easy on the eye. Easy it might be but it was also so utterly boring I felt like screaming if I stared at the ATMs and account-openers too long. Not now, though. Now I had an idea I could play with so the color of the machines along the western wall of the bar did not bother me in the least.
When I woke up the next morning I had a vague memory of dreaming about a path across the sea. A paved bridge, broad and solid, that began on the coast and led far into the North Sea where it disappeared, I think, or dipped under the surface, like the old bridge to Sweden that was destroyed in the war. I couldn’t remember that part but walking along this dream bridge felt great, so exhilarating and relaxing at the same time. This was not my usual sort of dream. I didn’t normally sleep more than six hours and for the most part, these were dream-free. Or maybe I just didn’t remember the dreams, one therapist had told me at a party. I admit the topic interests me. Dreams are fascinating things.
While I took my three-minute shower—the authorities kept tabs on water consumption, they could say if you regularly broke this rule, and I didn’t want to be fined—and made myself the usual rye bread and herring sandwich for breakfast I kept seeing images from this dream. The completely empty bridge across the water. The splash of the waves against it. The sky, shockingly blue, and the air, surprisingly warm—I was sure the bridge was in the North Sea but the sea didn’t look like it usually did. I tried to force my brain to recall the end of the bridge, to tell me what happened next but it refused. James called when I was halfway to the subway station, on my way to work.
“Hey Jim, how’s your head?” I was in extra-high spirits, I could feel cheerfulness ooze through my skin and thought he was calling to apologize for drinking so much or leaving so early, or something.
“She’s gone.” His voice caught and it took him a second to draw in breath and release it with a sob before he continued. “Nora is gone.”
I stopped in my tracks in the middle of the street. Someone bumped into my back and mumbled something that I didn’t hear. The thought of a kidnapping lodged into my brain and I grasped it tightly. She must have been kidnapped.
“I don’t know,” he continued in that quavering, scary voice. It was scary because it sounded like the voice of someone who has been brought to the edge and pushed into the chasm—a fall he had survived. Now he was trying to crawl back in and failing, that’s how he voice sounded.
“Was she… was she kidnapped?” It was hard to gather the courage to say anything but I did. He was my friend. They both were. “Have you called the police?”
“Yes,” Jim said, his voice suddenly flat, menacingly so. “They couldn’t send anyone.”
“What?” The world around me became very quiet. It happens when I hear something so shocking my ears, I think, shut down, or part of my brain, and the noise around me disappears so I can give the shocking news my full attention. Lucky me.
It took him a while to find his voice.
“All the kids in town have disappeared, Lars, and I… I don’t know what to think. I mean we talked about it jut last night and now it’s like—it’s like a fucking dream come true and it’s a nightmare, Lars, it’s a fucking scary nightmare and—”
I had to stop the outpour but I couldn’t because my hand holding the phone had gone numb and so had my skull and my legs. I could only feel my heart racing like a champion to the finish line, determined to win if it cost it its life, and my stomach churning, warning it might send its contents back to way they came any second now. I took a deep breath.
“And Martina is a wreck,” he continued, making me wince. “I gave her a Valium but she’ll wake up eventually and I’ve no fucking idea what to do. If the police can’t even spare an officer to send over here can you imagine how many kids we’re talking about? Can you?”
“Jim,” I said with all the solidity and reliability I could muster, which wasn’t a whole lot right now. “Jim, slow down. Tell me what happened.”
“Didn’t you hear me? Nora has disappeared. So have all the other children in town. All of them. The police are all over the place but they can’t take every case immediately. You should get a TV, Lars, seriously. Nobody knows what happened. They said they’ll send someone as soon as they can and that we should leave everything in Nora’s room as it was. As it was! As if we’ll start moving furniture or something.”
“Jim, I’m very sorry about all this. Try to calm down and wait for the police to tell you what’s going on, okay? Tell me if there’s anything else I could do.” It started drizzling. I glanced up at the sky, its normal gray darker from the mass of thick clouds that promised heavier rains. The drizzle was just the start. I had to get to the subway or my suit would be ruined since I never carried an umbrella. I was tying to distract myself from Jim’s horrible experience and from something else—a certainty that I did not want to feel. I did not want to, but I felt it and the least I could do in this situation was to refuse to acknowledge it, which I did.
“There’s nothing you can do, Lars,” Jim said and sniffed. “It’s… It’s hell here but we’ll survive. I guess. Just wanted to, you know, tell you after what we talked about last night.”
“It wasn’t you, James,” I said quietly not for greater effect but because all my energy had drained from me. I couldn’t speak any louder. “You didn’t magic the children away.”
I had. I was almost completely sure. It had happened before.
“Yeah,” Jim said. “You can’t magic kids away, can you?”
I clenched my teeth and closed my eyes for a second.
“No, Jim, you can’t. I have to go now but I’ll check on you guys later, okay?” I said. My head throbbed and my hands were trembling. I had to put the phone away before I broke it, I was squeezing it so hard my hand hurt.
“Yeah. Yeah, sure. Thanks, Lars, you’re a good friend.”
“Bye, Jim,” I said before he spoke another word. I would have thrown up if he had.
Five years ago, at my previous job, a colleague disappeared without a trace. She was up for a promotion to senior analyst and so was I. We were not exactly friends but we weren’t enemies, either. There was no open competition between us but there was something about Carla that annoyed the hell out of me. Later, when I thought about her disappearance, I realized I must have been attracted to her—she was a very attractive woman—but since I knew she would never date me, I resented her. Or something like that, I’m not really used to introspection. At least, I wasn’t at the time.
A day before the promotions were due to be announced, Carla didn’t come to work. Nobody knew where she was and she wasn’t picking up her phone. The police got involved after a couple of days. They never found her. I was promoted to senior analyst and a month later a handed in my notice. I couldn’t stay at the company. The night before Carla disappeared I had dreamt about her. I had dreamt about her falling into a deep pit that had opened up suddenly in the middle of the street we were walking along. I remember that dream to this day although it was slow to come back to me then. A day passed before all the details resurfaced: how she fell, screaming, how I stood, watching the black eye of the pit, and how I strained my ears to hear a thud but never did. And how I woke up more relaxed than I’d felt in months.
At first I thought it was a coincidence, of course. Who dreams of things that really happen? Outside fantasy movies, I mean. I went on thinking this for a few days but time passed and the police couldn’t find Carla and nobody had any clue what could have happened to an up and coming market researcher from a top firm without a shady past or present.
Initially, the idea I had something to do with Carla’s disappearance was vague. It was a joke. But within a fortnight I’d become convinced that was the only explanation. They would have found her otherwise, I told myself. The more time passed, the more my certainty I was responsible grew. And it had company: the gnawing frustration I could do nothing to fix things. That’s what stuck me to that street under the drizzle, phone in hand, after James hung up. I had done something horrible and I had no way of undoing it.
Back then, I had tried dreaming Carla back but it hadn’t worked. Truth be told, the idea of dreaming somebody back from non-existence was ridiculous but, I thought then, wasn’t the idea of dreaming somebody out of existence jut as ridiculous? So I tried. I read about lucid dreaming. I tried techniques like keeping a dream journal and telling myself I will be aware I’m dreaming when I dream but it still sounded ridiculous and the journal remained empty because I’ve never been able to remember my dreams, with some rare exceptions.
Years later I admitted—to myself only—I didn’t really want Carla to come back. Yes, I found her attractive but she was also a threat, in more than one way, not just to my career but to my peace of mind. Yes, I was a terrible jerk and realizing that led to a flirt with depression. James was there for me. He helped me get back into the great game of life that you can never win. And now his daughter was gone and I was the one responsible for it.
I went back home and when I made sure I could talk without my voice breaking down, I called the office to tell them I was sick. I had managed to beat the urge to go online—I didn’t own a TV and whatever James said I had no plans of buying one—to learn more about the mass disappearance. I was already stressed enough. How could knowing more help me in any way? So I sat at the tiny table for two in my empty kitchen and started thinking, hard.
The most obvious difference between that dream five years ago and now was that I didn’t actually want all children in the city to disappear. I didn’t even want Nora to disappear. The idea, the image of children disappearing was just a what-if game because James had really looked exhausted. This was a horrifying idea but I refused to dwell on it. I had more pressing business. The game had stuck and now I had to unstick it and make it go away. When my phone started ringing I almost jumped.
“Hi, Lars,” the voice behind the unknown number said. Martina.
“Hi, Marti, any news about Nora?” I blurted everything out quickly before my throat closed off completely. I hadn’t seen Martina since she was five or six months pregnant with Nora. I actively avoided it. It was pathetic, this classic crush on your best friend’s wife, but so far my efforts to beat it had failed.
“Not yet, no,” she said. She was speaking with surprising calm, probably drug-induced. “But I’m calling because James is talking crap about it being his fault. He says he’d wished Nora away along with all the other kids.” Here her voice caught and she took a breath to steady it. “I can’t deal with a hysterical James right now. Can you talk some sense into him?”
This was the last thing I wanted to do but it had to be done. As I opened my mouth to say yes, an image flashed in my head: the end of the bridge across the sea. It did disappear under the surface, just like the old bridge.
“Lars, are you there?”
“Sorry, yes, I’m here. Put him on the phone.” I looked around the kitchen for a piece of paper and a pen to write this down but it was as clean as the cleaning lady had left it a day earlier. And then I remembered there was a notepad in the top drawer by the sink, and a pen, for those rare occasions when I made shopping lists. That happened whenever I had an urge to bring some order into my life, some sensible routine rather than the drop-in at the nearest supermarket after work for a six-pack and something from the hot food counter.
“Hey, Jim, what’s this Martina is telling me?” He sounded crushed. He sounded guilty. And he sounded on the edge of tears, which unnerved me. “You do know it’s not your fault, don’t you?”
“Lars,” my friend said with a quavering voice. “Can you give me a rational explanation? Anything. Can you?”
James is a software engineer. He works for the biggest IT company in the federation. He is the most rational person I know. Now he was talking about irrational things and I had nothing to say to him that would make him feel better because what had happened was outside the rational world and I was the only one who could fix it. Maybe. This “maybe” made me wince. I rubbed my suddenly itchy forehead with the tips of my fingers—they were ice-cold.
“Look, Jim, you know there has to be a rational explanation. I mean, this is real life, it’s not a movie or a videogame.” A videogame. Something you can reload. A place where you can go back in time and do things again, better. Another stupid idea—I had no clue if going back in time was possible and even if it was I didn’t know how to do it—but it was the only one I had, along with the image of the bridge going under the sea.
“I’m not so sure about that,” he said. “I’m not so sure at all.”
“Come on,” I said, working hard to mask my impatience as encouragement. My hands were clammy with cold sweat. Guilty sweat. I wanted to end this conversation, badly, so I could start thinking about my idea. “It’s probably, I don’t know, a social experiment or something but I know—I know, Jim—that it will be all right and the kids will come back. I just know, all right? And it’s not your fault. This is stupid.” The ring of certainty was sincere but I hoped he wouldn’t ask “How do you know?” so I wouldn’t have to lie. “Now go be with your wife. And call me when Nora comes back, okay?”
He sighed. I squeezed the phone willing him to hang up, to end the conversation and go pour out his feelings of guilt to Martina and not me. I had work to do. I hoped like hell I had work to do.
“Yeah, okay. Thanks for, you know, listening. I’ll try.”
“Right. Talk to you later.”
I set the phone on the counter, in front of the electric kettle. I stared at it for a while, as the image of the bridge into the sea became more detailed, and I started writing in my notepad. I couldn’t think of anything better to do right now and I itched to put what I saw on paper: the large gray rectangles of the pavement, the absence of any litter anywhere as far as I could see, and, of course, the absence of any sings of human presence. The waves lapping against the concrete and finally the black mouth of the underwater tunnel.
When I stopped writing, my right hand pulsing with pain because handwriting was not a frequent physical activity these days, I had three pages full of text and I was certain it described the place where the children had disappeared. A place that didn’t exist, a ghostly Øresund bridge. And I had led them there, along the ten foot-wide, concrete block-paved bridge that stretched from the coast at the back of the Aquarium to a place five hundred yards into the sea, where it dipped into a tunnel. I couldn’t see the inside of the tunnel. All was just darkness at this point. But I had a pretty clear picture of the way leading to it. Now what?
As I stood at my kitchen counter, stooped over the notepad, my first thought, unoriginally, was to try to fall sleep and have a lucid dream. I knew the chances of that happening were slim—lucid dreaming sounded like something that required quite a bit of training if it was even possible and not just New Age crap—but they were there. Of course, with everything going on, right now I was more alert than ever. Falling asleep would be impossible without some serious help from the pharmaceutical industry and that would probably interfere with the lucid dreaming.
My second thought, as my bent back began to hurt and I stretched to appease it, was to try and forget this whole disappearance story and have a nice day at home. Have my weekly bath early. Go out and get some groceries, and cook myself lunch. Eat the lunch. Watch a movie. Maybe take a nap. And hope like hell the attention-diverting strategy works and the solution of the problem just pops into my head, like magic. I went to change out of my still slightly damp suit and into jeans and a sweater. I stopped and looked at myself in the bedroom mirror. There wasn’t much to look at—a tall, bony, angular nobody who needed a haircut, a few more pounds to smooth the angles, and had to learn to smile more often—but that was all I had.
“Am I dreaming?” I asked the empty room and, following those stupid lucid dreaming instructions, raised my hand—the right one, it still hurt a bit—and pinched my right cheek. The resulting pain was probably supposed to confirm reality and wakefulness but couldn’t you feel pain in lucid dreaming? I had to check but after I’d done the shopping. I started pushing the thought of Nora and all the other babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and primary schoolers to the back of my mind and went out. It wasn’t easy but by the time I reached the supermarket, three blocks away, food was front and center on my mind’s stage. The thought about the kids—so many kids—lurked in the shadows, tense, ready to pounce, but I worked hard to keep it there.
I smiled at the lady at the meat counter but she didn’t smile back. Her face was drawn and her eyes were red, and it was obvious she had a child under the age of 14. Embarrassment gripped me, deleting my smile instantly. I wanted to become invisible, the sooner the better. Yes, I knew she didn’t know I was responsible for her pain but I had this very powerful urge to stop being visible, to stop being seen. You know how it is with guilt—you have this nagging feeling your crime is written on your face, recorded and playing in your every gesture and movement.
“Two veal steaks, please,” I forced myself to say. The woman silently weighed two steaks without asking my opinion of their appearance and I didn’t venture one. “Thank you,” was all I said when she handed me the packed meat. From there, I went to pick a couple of zucchini, a red pepper and an eggplant. I thought hard about how I’d just sauté them together into my own version of a quick ratatouille and eat them with one of the steaks. First I’d cut then into cubes—after I wash them, of course—then I’ll start with the pepper, add the eggplant after a couple of minutes, and only when they are almost ready, throw in the zucchini. It was very fresh and very delicate, it didn’t need a lot of cooking.
I’d learned to enjoy cooking after my last girlfriend and I split up even though I didn’t do it often. Bianca was a chef and did all the cooking herself because she didn’t trust my skills. When she left—nothing too dramatic, the relationship had just run its course—I distracted myself from the inevitable pain, however bearable, by teaching myself to cook. By the time I reached the bread department I walked with a straighter back, I stepped more firmly on the ground, and I was almost smiling again. I picked up a rye loaf and, after a quick deliberation with myself, a couple of cinnamon rolls. Since I couldn’t think what else to buy I headed for the checkout. Holding the thought about the children at the back of my head became harder. Steaks didn’t need much thinking. Neither did bread. I had nothing substantial enough to think about.
I focused on watching. The boy at the checkout had very full lips. Full lips revolt me, always have. It doesn’t matter if they’re on a woman or a man, I just can’t look at them. Even disgust was welcome now, to take my mind off the one single thought it wanted to hang on to, the useless thought that gave me no clue how to end the crisis. Outside, it was still drizzling, so I tried to focus on feeling the water drops on my face and the weight of the grocery bag. The rain was unpleasantly cold and the bag was light, that’s as far as I got. I picked up the pace and five minutes later I was entering my building, eager to start cutting vegetables and beating the steaks, to do things with my hands so I could think about that.
Two hours later I sat, full to the brim, on the bench on my balcony, gazing at the backyard where normally, at this time of day, there would be kids expending what energy they had left after school or kindergarten by running around, shouting, and playing with the toys in the playground. There would be mothers with strollers coming back from longer walks. Now it was empty and it looked more eerie than I would have expected. The drizzle and the overcast sky helped but it was the emptiness that made my full stomach clench. Almost three hours had passed and I still had nothing, no idea, and no plan.
I did congratulate myself on accepting facts more quickly than last time, though. But why try and pretend it wasn’t my fault? I knew it was. If I could boast to someone about it I would. But I had no one to boast to about my superpowers. As I sat there, watching the sky and the drizzle, and the empty backyard locked in the space where four apartment buildings met, my eyelids began to weigh on my eyes and my arms, folded on my lap felt heavier. I raised one heavy hand and put one of the two cushions behind my head. Then I leaned on it and gave in to my body’s impulse to rest.
I dreamt I was a rubber band and someone was stretching me until my whole body hurt. They kept on stretching and the pain intensified. I wanted to scream but I had no mouth. I wanted to run but I had no legs. They stretched and stretched, and finally I snapped. I woke up with a racing heart but what I saw froze me in place.
“What happens if you—hello? Lars?”
I was in Dansk Finanzbar with James sitting opposite me and two bottles of beer on the small round table between us. Still incapable of speaking I managed a nod and slid my palm along the edge of the table. It felt real enough—cold and smooth, and hard—and so did the bottle I took next with a shaking hand. I sipped some beer and that felt real, too.
“Are you okay, man?” James asked again. “You’re very pale.”
“I’m fine,” I said, forcing my lungs to expel air and my mouth to articulate the sounds. “I think the kebab I had for lunch was a bit off, my stomach just flipped. Anyway, what were you saying?” Speaking was as difficult as swimming underwater in custard. But I had to act normal. I couldn’t exactly tell James I’d reloaded the day. My heart rate was still faster than usual but it was slowing down and the shaking of my hands was subsiding. I took another sip of beer.
“Yeah, finish that, it’ll help. So, I was saying, what happens if all children suddenly go away? You know, we can all have a rest.”
“No, you won’t,” I said with such conviction I surprised myself. “You’ll all worry to death.”
James’s eyebrows pulled together.
“Are you sure you’re okay, Lars?”
I ran a hand through my hair. My scalp was sweaty.
“Sorry. I think I, um, I have to address this stomach issue. Can we do this another time?” I was already standing up. I had to go or I’d have spilled everything out and James would have pronounced me clinically insane.
“Sure, yeah,” he said, his brows still knotted in puzzlement. “We’ll talk later.”
“Yeah,” I said and lurched out. I was getting dizzy. Once on the street I took a very deep breath, as deep as it would go and let it out slowly. Then I looked at my watch. September twenty-second, it said. Yesterday. The day I’d met James for a drink. The day before I’d dreamed the children away.
Head buzzing, I walked back home as fast as I could. The first thing I did was write down the dream about the rubber band in my shopping list notepad. The second thing I did was take a cold shower. The third thing I did was make myself coffee. A lot of it. I wasn’t going to sleep tonight. Just in case.
My name is Lars Miller, I’m a citizen of the Northern European Federation, and I can dream people out of existence. I can also turn time back. Lucky me.