[Estimated reading time: 19 minutes]

Author’s note: this is a work in progress.

"I don't normally do unpacking videos," I speak from behind the camera, "but this is like something out of sci-fi, so let's do it!

"OK, the box is out. Not too big, see. Not exactly what I was expecting, but no matter. Here's the collar, charging brick, cable. Hmm. And a cute little informational pamphlet. Let's forget about that for now.

"Thor, come here buddy! Yeah, who's a good girl? You are! Gosh, you just know when the camera's rolling, don't you? Of course you do! You're gonna be a star soon, gonna need to get you an agent..."

I stop talking for a minute and swap out Thor's regular collar - already a smart thing, what with the bio-monitors, GPS, Bluetooth - and swap it out for the brand new, neon-blue silicone collar. I hold the power button until a red LED lights up next to my finger.

"OK, it's on. Let's see, it's charged, about three quarters full, good. Let's pair it with a phone," I say and double-tap my phone against the collar. A familiar crystal-clear chime sounds and the red light turns to green. "Good, paired."

Then I sit for a few seconds and look at Thor. She tilts her head and watches me as well. The collar is silent.

"Umm, yeah, not sure what to do here, hold on..." I reach for the manual and flip through it. My chest-mounted camera is staring point-blank at the glossy paper.

I'm pleasantly surprised that there are no typos and the whole thing looks to have been written by a native English speaker, but I don't share this commentary with the video and my hypothetical audience. I'm just trying, as quickly as possible because I'm in the middle of a damn video, to figure out how this thing is supposed to work!

While I'm engrossed in the collar's documentation, Thor grows impatient and walks away. She goes to the corner and comes back with an oversized piece of rope, something I routinely hold absent-mindedly as she tries to pull it out of my lazy grip.

"Play play play," an unfamiliar female voice comes from the phone. I look up into the patiently-waiting eyes of my dog.

"It works!" I yell and throw my hands up in the air.

"Throw throw!", the voice replies, Thor's face is upturned, she's looking at my upraised hands and is waiting in anticipation for the ball or the toy that I'm not holding.

I use the distraction to grab a hold of the rope in Thor's mouth and yank it almost free. Thor's jaw clamps down quickly, though.

"Mine mine mine," the phone repeats as I try to jerk and pull the rope out of Thor's mouth.

"The collar works! Would you look at that?! A sensor inside the collar," I tell my hypothetical audience, "is picking up the electromagnetic signals from Thor's brain, then they're feeding that data to an AI. The AI learns and figures out what's on the dog's mind. And damn quickly! That was like a minute! Holy shit, the future is here!"

For the next few minutes I play with Thor as the collar narrates. "Throw thing throw throw. Find roll thing! Find roll thing! Roll thing here throw!"

But it's more than just picking up on the dog's thoughts. The collar learns and quickly expands its vocabulary. It's listening to us, so when I tell Thor to bring me the ball, the collar figures out the association. Quickly it replaces "roll thing" with "ball", "thing" with "rope".

I start to identify items as I present them to Thor, calling out their names or giving them succinct descriptions: "yellow sock", "red duck", "black mustache bone".

The collar must be picking up quite a bit of context, too. I ask Thor to bring me her favorite toy. It's a white towel with cartoonish mountains on it, one that Thor brought home with her that first day six years ago. She's grown since then, so now it's more of a napkin that she likes to carry around, but still she never sleeps without it.

"White hill sheet white hill sheet white hill sheet", the phone echoes as Thor runs off to the kitchen to her crate in the corner and returns triumphant. I didn't teach the collar the word "sheet", yet it must have understood that Thor was thinking of something flat. And something obviously associated with a hill! (This is honestly even more surprising, that Thor understands the cartoon picture on the blanket, but it's not something I notice initially.)

The rest of the video is pretty much me teaching the collar the words for common things around the house that Thor interacts with: water bowl, food bowl, front door, patio door, crate. Thor and I walk around the house and I name the things that Thor looks at or paws. The collar expands its vocabulary and I marvel at this miraculous device.

Eventually I turn the video off and start cooking. Thor is as always curious about the prep and starts begging for scraps. I teach the collar the words for the various veggies I'm using.


So goes the first day and week of collar training. Thor keeps interacting with things and I keep naming them. After a few days, Thor even has me trained. I sit on the couch, next to a cardboard box full of dog toys. Thor is sitting in front of me.

"Which one?" I ask Thor. "Which one, girl? Which toy? What would you like?"

Thor's nose sniffs at the box and the phone pipes up: "soccer ball soccer ball soccer ball". I rummage for the soccer ball toy in the box and toss it toward the kitchen. Thor runs off to get it and brings it back. I put the toy away and we start over again.

"Yellow sock". I throw it, she brings it back. Then "rope", "squeaky duck", and so on.

Watching the talking dogs in the ads is one thing, but actually interacting with a talking dog is something else. It feels like an intelligence, perhaps a determined and slightly simple one, is now present in the room, in Thor. I look at Thor and wonder if she could talk about other things. Eventually, maybe in a month or a year, will we be discussing the weather?

The new collar is amazing. Now Thor can clearly tell me when she is hungry or needs to go to the bathroom. I take her to the park and we get stuck there for a good three hours as random strangers gawk and ask questions. Didn't realize that Thor would be such a geek-magnet!


The idea must have started out as a small thing, an annoying dust of sand in the middle of a mussel, but over those first few days of "enhanced communication" I decide to order another smart collar, this one in the largest size they had.

It arrives a few hours later, Friday evening, but initially I am scared. I unbox it, plug it in to charge, and then for most of Saturday it just sits there. It's a beautiful navy blue collar. I'm afraid.

I finally put the collar on, on Sunday, after downing a couple of shots of tequila.

"Too quiet too quiet too quiet," my phone speaks up. It is a different voice than Thor's. This is a man's voice, and it's dripping of rage, of hate.

I look around and consider things. I'm sitting on the couch in my living room. There's a mostly-full bottle of tequila on the brown coffee table in front of me, a wet shot-glass next to it. It is quiet, but I rather like it.

"Too quiet too quiet too quiet," the phone repeats itself.

I get up and take a few shaky steps toward the LP player. I open the dusty cover and find that there's already a record in it, ready to play. I turn on the player, not really focusing on the label.

"Too weak too weak weak! Weak! Weak!"

"What the fuck?" I look bewildered at the phone. That's not what I'm thinking at all! What's wrong with it?

I hear a small whimper from the doorway, Thor is there. "Max safe? Max safe?", my phone asks, in Thor's gentle voice. In her anthropomorphized face I think I see concern.

"Yeah, you and me, kiddo," I reply as I pet Thor. I mute Thor's voice, so now the transcript of "love Max, love Max, Max love" scrolls slowly across the bottom of the phone's screen.

"Stupid dog stupid dog stupid," comes that terrifying voice. I mute it and Thor whimpers again.

I take the collar off and end my experimental misadventures for the night.

"Movin' Out" by Billy Joel starts playing. It startles me. I'm not in the mood for it anymore, if I ever was. I turn off the turntable, turn off the lights and head to bed.

But I can't sleep. How can I rest now? That voice, it gave me goosebumps. What the hell was it?

An hour later, and I still can't fall sleep.

I get up and start researching the collars online. How do they work? I obviously read the sales pitch, but how does this shit really work? An AI is learning my thoughts? Does it only work on dogs? What was that voice?

The online search is educational, but hardly illuminating: I feel even more lost. The EM sensors pick up major fluctuations in the brain, the kind of activity that happens in dogs when they are "of a single mind", the literature keeps saying. There's little mention of using the collar on humans.

I bring out the collar, put it on, power it up. It is still muted on my phone, so I just watch the transcript. "Tired sleepy tired sleepy tired go bed go bed go bed."

Obviously I need something to occupy my mind. I close my eyes and try to focus on the sound of the fountain. It is down on the plaza below, so I can hear it very well through the slightly-open window. There are other sounds, the people and cars milling about below, but I focus on the sound of burbling and falling water.

After a few minutes of this I open my eyes and look at the phone. "Dark dark dark dark TOO BRIGHT TOO BRIGHT bad bad bad ow ow," scrolls across the screen. Is the collar just picking up signals from the visual center of my brain?

I unclip the collar and remove it from around my neck, clip it back together and put it on top my head, a modern-day crown of thorns adorning my head. Once again I close my eyes and try to focus on the sounds of falling water outside.

There's a pattern, a regularity to the fountain as it alternates firing its various jets. The falling water is also impacted by the wind, so after a few minutes listening to the fountain, I'm able to pick up the slight fluctuations as gusts of wind push the water back and forth.

I wonder if my own thoughts are waves crashing upon the curvy shores of my brain.

I open my eyes and look at the transcript on the phone. "Water wind water wind water water water LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT phone phone text text text."

The collar does seem to work, for a somewhat limited definition of work. It's able to pick up some thoughts, possibly the "loudest" ones. I have to keep reminding myself that this thing is made for picking up dog thoughts. It's probably confused as hell at my complex brain.

Finally I succumb to my body and shuffle off to bed. Tomorrow is Monday, my first day back after a week-long staycation, and I have plans.


I bike to work with Thor running by my side. She "talks" more about the world around us, points out squirrels and crows. "It's wonderful to have such a talkative companion," I smile down at Thor.

"Love Max love Max love," is her reply.

We get to work and it's once again a repeat of the park outing: everyone wants to play with Thor and hear her talk. I leave Thor with my team while I quickly change. By the time I'm back, they have already taught the collar's AI the words "chair", "keyboard", "mouse", and "light-saber".

I'm slightly nervous about this next part, but over lunch I bring out the navy-blue collar I got myself. My team has already been prepped by playing with Thor: a few people have jokingly asked if I tried putting on her collar.

Magda is the thrill-seeker of the group, her weekends are usually full of hikes, mountain climbs, long drives to go skiing north of the border, etc. She practically yanks the collar out of my hands.

"This is safe, right?", she asks, but doesn't pause before clipping the collar around her neck and thumbing the power button.

"I tried it myself," I reply enthusiastically, "no ill effects."

Magda looks down at Thor, and my phone speaks her thoughts: "cute doggy cute doggy cute cute cute." Magda looks up in surprise and joy. "Fun fun fun." She looks outside and the phone speaks: "beautiful autumn gorgeous autumn beautiful sky".

After Magda, Paul tries on the collar. He starts out by simply looking around and having the phone relay his feelings or thoughts about our surroundings. Nothing special.

Paul looks over at Magda and the phone pipes up: "Pretty girl pretty girl yes yes yes". We all have a laugh as Paul turns away to face a wall and struggles to unclip the collar.

One after the other my team tries on the collar, and one after another we hear their thoughts, the surface details that the collar easily picks up.

When Domenica goes to put on the collar, I suggest wearing it like a crown of thorns. She looks awkwardly at me at that, but does proceed to put it on her head. "A tiara, you mean," she nudges me. (I probably shouldn't have used the crown of thorns analogy: she is a devout Christian. But for obvious reasons I wasn't thinking clearly.)

The collar works as it did for everyone else. It picks up the strongest thoughts and vocalizes them. The voices that pipe out of the phone are distinct, the pitch and frequency of each slightly different and somehow appropriate to the wearers.

I think back on the strange voice I heard last night, the voice full of rage and anger. None of my coworkers sounded like that. All had the same responses to the collar, and it didn't matter if they wore it around their necks or as a "tiara".

The rest of the workday passes in a sort of trance. I make an appointment with Terry, my neurologist, and thankfully he has a spot open on Wednesday.


I'm in Terry's office. The collar is on my neck and we are both watching the transcript on Terry's display. No audio.

The transcript is not related to what I'm doing, what I'm focusing on, or talking about. It's random and incoherent, a cacophony of concepts flowing together.

We move the collar to the top of my head and suddenly the transcript reads like my thoughts. I look at objects, the transcript describes them. I focus on sounds that Terry plays - birds, musical instruments, comedians' routines, other random stuff he finds online - and the transcript describes my thoughts about the audio.

"I'm sorry, Max, this is strange, definitely out of my wheel-house," Terry is confused. "I've heard of the collars, but I'm not a physicist. I'd like to get a look at your brain, Max. MRI first. Then CT, with the collar on." He's looking at the collar, turning it over in his hands as if trying to divine how the damn thing works. For a moment, he seems to forget about me. "Can't use the collar with the MRI, would tear this thing to shreds. Oh, and uh... yeah, it wouldn't be good for you."


Terry talks a lot. Makes me feel calm, even as I slide into the MRI machine and my shoulders are squeezed a bit. I'm a big guy and this machine is practically hugging me.

Terry goes into the observation room next door, music pipes into my headphones, and the giant machines kicks into life. Terry talks about the magnetic fields bending the path of the electrons and I try to focus on his words.

Then I hear Terry gasp and I start to panic. I am still inside the MRI machine. I am trapped in a tight space, it feels like the metal tube is constricting around me, I am freaking out, and I definitely know there is no way out. The MRI seems to press in on me, more and more, and I cannot move, can only wriggle inside this suffocating monstrosity.

I am going to die here. I am dying here. I'm gasping for air but there's a pressure on my chest, it won't even let me gasp. One gasp, one gasp of air, for old times' sake!

"I can't breathe. I can't breathe."

My lungs have emptied themselves and my ribcage won't expand, can't pull the lungs open to inhale. I struggle, but that just pushes more air out of my body, precious molecules fleeing from a collapsed and dying form.

I pass out.


I wake up in a hospital bed. It's dark outside. After the MRI, much later, I conclude. The clock on the wall shows 11pm. Was I out that long?

I move to get up, and that's when I notice that my arms and legs are pinned down by thick leather straps. I am secured to the bed, and I'm not going anywhere tonight.

"Hey! Is anyone here?" I am too weak to shout, so I say it conversationally, and no one hears me.

I look around. There's a full moon tonight and my room is illuminated a stark blue. There's a bag with my clothes, they had me prepare that before I went in. I wonder how Thor and Rachel are getting along. Wonder if Rachel likes Thor's new collar. Rachel is my neighbor and she puppy-sits Thor when I go out of town or, like today, when I need to get my head scanned.

My navy blue collar is lying on the bedside table. Terry must have placed it there. I hope he doesn't blame himself for this.

A nurse walks in, calls out that I'm awake. A few minutes later, Terry comes in.

"I hear you're feeling better," is his opening line. He gets a pen-light out and checks my pupils.

"Sorry about wasting your time," I reply.

"Wasting nothing. This is one for the record books."

I don't understand, and it shows.

"Look, Max, I've got some bad news for you." He sits on a stool on the side of my bed. "You've got a tumor the size of a tangerine in your brain. It's been there a while."

"What the hell are you talking about?" This doesn't make sense. Gigantic tumor?

Terry pulls out his tablet, expands it to a full lunch-tray size and hooks it onto the overhead adjustable arm, so the tablet hangs in front of me. On it is a larger-than-life cross-section view of my head. A spherical mass sits right behind my eyeballs and glows orange. The rest of the picture is mute, almost black and white.

"That is the tumor. And this is what its EM field looked like before your panic attack," Terry taps at the screen and the view changes, a cross-section of the tumor shows up brighter than the rest and is bathed in neon blue waves. They oscillate at a steady rate. Something about the pulsing motion reminds me of a heartbeat. The animation loops on and on.

"And this is right after you passed out."

The tumor glows an almost-black blue, and there is not much in the way of waves. This animation is much shorter.

"What happened?" I am still lost.

"Max, what's the last thing you remember?"

"Being stuck inside the MRI, freaking out. Then I passed out."

"No," Terry shakes his head slowly. "You tore yourself out of the MRI. You practically destroyed the damn thing." Terry taps the tablet. I'm looking at a photo of the MRI machine, but it's open, it's missing a cover plate on the front. There is blood on the electronics inside.

Terry taps the tablet, the photo changes. The floor of the imaging room. It's a mess of blood footprints, shoe-prints, aftermath of some fight. I look up at Terry, but he's looking down at the restraints.

"Jesus, Terry, I don't remember that. That... wasn't me."

"Yeah. That's the weird thing. It wasn't you, but it was. Like somebody was moving your body, but it wasn't good old Max behind the wheel."

Another tap at the tablet and I am watching security footage of the room. Terry saved this one to the end. I get why.

On the screen I'm still inside the MRI, lying calmly. This must be before the panic attack.

And then the "I" in the video starts thrashing about and I remember what this felt like. I turn away from the screen and take a breath. When I look back, the video shows me out of the MRI, its casing in my bloody hand. I had removed a part of the machine as I pulled myself out of it, it seems.

That other version of me screams and swings the piece of machinery at the orderlies that finally appear in the room. My blood, dripping off the panel in my hand, splatters the floor and the walls in a wide arc.

The video has no sound, or more likely Terry muted it, so I don't hear whatever is said. The orderlies try to reason with past-me, ask him to put down the MRI panel, but he doesn't let go. They advance, slowly, a step at a time, and it looks like "he" is OK with that. Then suddenly he jerks, leaps toward the closest orderly, swinging the panel in his arm. The motion is too quick, and all I really notice is the orderly falling to the ground. I turn away from the screen. Terry reaches over and powers it down, folds the screen and puts it away. Show and tell is over.

"Jesus. Is that guy OK?"

"Broken nose, concussion, but he'll be fine."

"Did I hurt anyone else?"

"No," Terry replies with a sigh of relief, "we got some sedatives into you before you could do any more damage, to yourself or others. You've been out for a while."

I look down and for the first time notice the gauze pads around my right hand, right arm, some more gauze covers the knuckles on my left hand.

"Bet you never saw anyone claw their way out of an MRI before, eh?"

"No," Terry replies slowly, "that's a new one. It's late. Why don't you get some rest. We'll keep you overnight, keep an eye on you. And tomorrow we'll finish what we started, we'll take a look at your brain again. How does that sound?"

"Like shit, Terry."

"Yeah. Sorry, Max. I wish it was better news."

I look down at the straps that hold me to the bed, then look at Terry questioningly. I wonder what he sees in my eyes as he nods and starts to undo the restraints. "The bathroom's right there," he nods to a door on the right side of the room, away from the exit.

I walk unsteadily to the bathroom and Terry helps me, holding my hand. The bathroom is single occupancy, has a handrail and the alarm string. Terry leaves me alone in there.

I think for a while.

What the hell happened to me in that MRI? Who was that person who beat up an orderly? Why couldn't I remember any of that?

Shit, I just now remember Thor. I told Rachel I'd be back in a few hours, and now it's almost midnight.

"Terry!" I call out to him.

"Everything OK in there?" He sounds worried.

"Yeah, yeah, it's good. Can you pass me my phone? I need to call my dog-sitter."

His sigh of relief is loud, even behind the door.

Rachel is glad to hear from me. She was getting worried after not hearing from me all day. She's more than happy to keep Thor at her place.

"I should be back tomorrow," I tell her, but wonder if that's true.

There are messages for me from my team. Domenica wishes me well, I thank her. Paul sends a short personal message. I reply with a movie quote that somehow works here. Magda asks how my appointment went, asks about Thor. Her message is about eight hours old now. I text her back, say that they found a tumor and I'm spending the night at the hospital. I text her the hospital and my room number.


I don't sleep much, tossing and turning for a while, before once again getting up and doing research on my phone.

I pull up the scan of the tumor, toss it up on the wall and study it, look at the monstrosity from every possible angle. It is a large spherical tumor behind the eyes.

A tumor this large, and I am still able to reason about it? Remind me of that old quote: "If the human brain was simple enough to be understood, we wouldn't be able to understand it". Seems appropriate.


Terry comes back after breakfast, and this time with an entourage: three other doctors and an administrative type, a woman in a dark formal outfit.

The doctors are neuro types or something like that. Consulting on my case, Terry explains. We say our hellos but they're quiet and, I get the feeling, very eager to peek inside my noggin.

Terry introduces the woman in the formal outfit, Alice West. She's chief neurologist from BW, the company that makes the talking collar. That surprises me. She notices my expression.

"I'm local. Terry contacted BW yesterday with some questions regarding our collar tech, so they connected the two of us. Thank you so much for allowing me to be here."

While we're talking, Magda appears outside the hospital room and looks through the window plaintively. Terry is expecting her, it seems, as he waves for her to come in. Magda approaches and gives me a nervous hug. I thank her for coming.

Terry is running the show now and he can't wait to get started, so he wheels over to my bed what looks like a portable CT scanner - a large donut with a head-sized hole - and attaches it to the overhead arm, then swings the arm around so the machine is directly over my head. It's ready to descend around me, like a mini-MRI.

"Max, are you ready?" Terry asks.

I nod and the scanner is lowered over my head. It's not very tight, I don't feel closed in, can still move, but it is unnerving.

They start the scanner and I just sit with this metallic donut buzzing around my head. I don't have to hold any of it up, thankfully, due to the automatic arm on which it hangs.

They have me say sequences of letters, numbers. I talk about fishing for a while and they ask sometimes probing, sometimes intimate questions. We stop after about twenty minutes of this, then Terry turns off the scanner and moves it up, gives me a moment to breathe.

"How do you feel, Max?", Terry asks.

"Good. I wouldn't want to spend hours in that thing, but it's not too unpleasant, you know?" Terry nods along. "What's the consensus, doc?" I shake my head towards the display that's titled away from me.

"We've got a good look at the mass," Terry replies slowly. "And a sort of baseline on the brainwave activity, but it's too early to say. Shall we try the collar now?"

I nod. Terry hands me the collar from the bedside table and motions for me to put it on top of my head. I clip it closed, hold the power button until it grows green, then set it gently on top of my head. My phone is sitting on my bedside table, and its screen is projected on the wall. The phone shows the collar's transcript app on it, and it's visible to everyone in the room.

"I'm going to lower the scanner now", Terry says, then moves the donut down to my head again. The power light of the collar illuminates the walls of the scanner.

"Tight tight tight green green green", a familiar voice emanates from the speakers.

This time Terry has me focus on specific concepts. He says "hydrant", and the voice from the speakers repeats "water" a few times. "Sun" becomes "light", and so on. I don't speak at all, just think of an idea and eventually I hear it repeated to me.

We do this for ten minutes, then Terry raises the scanner. I take the collar off my head and hold it awkwardly. Magda gives me an encouraging thumbs up from the corner. Alice West has a tight poker-face smile. The doctors are murmuring to each other as they look at the scanner's display and play with the controls.

"How was that?" Terry asks.

"Strange. Think I'm getting a hang of things, though. By the end there, I think I figured out what the collar was going to pick up. This thing can really help people out, like if someone is paralyzed," I say, directing my comment to Alice. She nods, but does not comment. I'm sure they've already considered that avenue, are probably working on the next version of their collar right as we speak. I wonder if they have someone like me in one of their labs right now, running through word-association games or whatever.

"Good, good," Terry nods along. "Let's try putting the collar around your neck now?"

I move and clip the collar around my neck. Terry lowers the CT scanner over me, and I turn on the collar.

The weird donut descends upon my head. I hate being here. I will think about something peaceful, like the beach. I'm there. I'm looking out onto the salty waves as they crash just a few feet away from me. The hot sun is always behind me, and I never burn. The spray is making my shirt cling to my body, so I take the shirt off. Oh yeah, that's better.

"Ocean ocean ocean", the room's speakers let out that same gravely and rage-filled voice as before. "Vast water water vast waves waves waves"

"Max, please try thinking of a single strongly visual concept that you associate with the following word. Screwdriver."

I think of a tool from my house, a blue-handled screwdriver that I made in high school, still with me, still working as part of my regular toolbox. I picture the screwdriver, and nothing else. It floats against a pristine white background.

"Shirt shirt shirt nude nude nude"

I keep thinking about the screwdriver and try to ignore the voice that drones on and on about water of some sort.

Someone, probably Terry, finally decides to turn the speakers off, so I am not influenced by the voice.

We run through more word association tests. Eventually I call it quits and learn that we've been at this for half an hour. Terry takes the scanner off my head and packs it up. I turn off the collar and toss it down on the bedside table.

"How was that?"

"The voice never wavers," Terry explains, as he scrolls through the transcript on the wall. The screen shows the transcript on the left side, and Terry's own tilted script on the right side. The concepts Terry asks me to imagine are unrelated to what the collar is picking up. The transcript instead is full of water and sand imagery.

"What about the CT?" I ask.

"We need to study these scans. Rest up."

The scientists wheel their equipment out and Alice West, the neurologist with BW who worked on the talking collar, follows them. Only Magda, my coworker, remains.


"Welcome to my head," I explain, and we both laugh at the strangeness of the situation.

"How are you feeling, Max?" Magda walks up to my bed and stands on my right, takes my hand in hers.

"Great, all things considered. I need a favor."

"Anything! What do you need? Is your neighbor still watching Thor?"

"Yeah, Thor's staying with Rachel." Magda nods along. "I need to know something. Do you remember when we first met?"

"Yes. It was..." Magda pauses. "Eight years ago, my first day at the studio. You showed me around, we got coffees. You bragged about your aikido. Said you were going somewhere over the weekend, a retreat. Why?"

"I don't remember that. And I don't remember taking aikido."

Magda frowns at that. "Yeah, it has been a while. Maybe seven years," she recalls, "the team showed up to one of your exhibitions."

"I can't remember that either."

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