Humans in the Room

by J.M.A.S.

Read more about the author HERE.

Adam is looking at himself in the mirror again. It gets worse when the food comes in two bowls and the water from the tap is cloudy with things we don’t understand. Adam can’t remember things. He can’t tell me about things he remembers from before — things we normally talk about. We spend a lot of time talking about a world outside the room, but when he gets like this, he talks about the one thing inside the room that I can’t remember. 

I don’t remember meeting Adam, but Adam remembers meeting me. 

“You were in that corner,” he says. “You were in that corner, crying your eyes out and I said, ‘what’s wrong?’ You looked up and started screaming at me. Then you passed out.” 

It’s times like this I have to humour him. 

“And then what happened?”

“You woke up again. And then you screamed because, I imagine, you’d never seen another human before. Told me to get away from you a hundred times. Passed out again.” 

He cuts his hand through the air in a horizontal line. Passed out. Adam’s a gesture person. 

“— And then the third time you woke up, you said, ‘Adam.’”

“I said ‘Adam’ before I asked you what your name was?”

“No, you asked me what my name was, I said ‘my name is Adam’, and then you said, ‘hello Adam.’”

Adam is wrong of course. I know I wasn’t born here because I remember having a mom, a parent, someone. A blurry feeling of pressing my hand onto the kneecap of a long leg and looking up at a face. I can’t describe the face, so it’s hardly anything, but it’s something. Adam is wrong. It’s impossible to ignore the fact I have language, and that I had language before I met Adam. There’s absolutely no evidence to suggest Adam was the first and only other human I ever saw in my life, but I don’t like to bring this up when he’s having one of his turns and talking to the mirror.

“I came into the room so the door must have been open. And I remember seeing you in that corner, all curled up. I remember this feeling.” 

His eyes are too dark, in the mirror. He doesn’t look like himself. The reflection is tinted black, it makes everything dim and cold. Adam has a warm face normally, a. A warm gaze. Not blank and flat. 

“I remember seeing you in that corner —” he points over his shoulder. “That’s how we met, but you don’t remember that. And, you know, I remember feeling something… the door was open behind me…. but you don’t remember anything?”

“For fuck’s sake Adam.”

He whips his head around to look at me. Flat eyes: not good. 

“Sorry,” I say. “I didn’t mean that.”

Adam twists his body.

I feel fear. Cold fear. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t getting a little high off making him angry. That’s boredom for you. He takes a step toward me, and I squirm.

“So,” I say. “Your first memory of this room. Tell me. I’m in the corner, and the moment I see you, I scream because you’re the first human I’ve ever seen?” 

His eyes are twitching.

“I said I was sorry. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.” I mean it as well. 

Adam snaps out of it immediately. He loosens up and clicks his neck in a way that makes me wince. He turns back towards the mirror. 

“I’m sorry too. I don’t know why… head… Not good.”

I try for a smile. The mirrored Adam smiles back at me lopsidedly. Bland monochrome, grey lined. He asks me what he’s missing like he always does whenever we have this conversation, whenever he’s not himself. 

“What am I missing here, love,” he says. 

And I tell him what we know. I tell him what he told me:

If he remembers walking into this room with the feeling of something behind him and my first reaction is to scream,; then I wasn’t screaming at him. 

The bed is lined up in the middle of the wall. It’s a double; one mattress, two pillows. I always take the left side and Adam always takes the right. This is not by design, it’s just something we do. Something we’ve always done ever since I woke up to this strange man sleeping in the bed that I’d slept in alone my entire life. I punched him in the head really hard and he’s never let me forget it. He yelled my name and said what the fuck? Because of course, I’d forgotten who he was even though I’d already met him. Things are funny like that in this life. 

The bed is attached to the floor, and we can’t move it; the bed must stay where it is, facing the mirror. There’s a chemical toilet in the corner and a tiny sink. A shower head and a square of floor lower than the rest so the water can drain away. The walls are white. There’s an outline of a door but no handle. 

Adam is still trying to remember but I’m not in the mood today. I hope they get bored with whatever they’ve given him. And I hope whatever they’ve given me wears off soon. I’m lethargic (new word). Irritable. I lie on the bed looking at the lightbulb, listening to him tell the mirror that the first time he saw me I was in the corner screaming for the hundredth time, but then he snaps out of it. Mumbles.  

He gets back into bed with me. The day passes. Morning to night. Adam gave me lots of words. Afternoon is after morning and when the second meal comes, but before evening, which is after the third meal. Night is when the light changes from yellow to blue. We sleep at night.

When we wake, neither of us can get out of bed. Not by choice this time. Sometimes, while we sleep, a small glass container appears over us and we are stuck for a while, lying there all hot and bothered and breathing in too much of each other. I can just about sit up with my head straight, but Adam has to sit hunched with the back of his neck and the knot at the top of his spine flat against this little ceiling. Eventually, the glass container will split into two perfect halves and slip away between cracks in the floor. The churn of the moving parts always makes me shiver. 

Today we are in there for hours and hours (hours and hours is a long time). My breath steams the glass and I’m so bored. 

“Let me out!” I scream, not that seriously. “Let me out!”

Adam laughs and lets out a huge vocal sigh. Ahhhh. I stare at him, but it’s not weird. He looks right back at me. There’s nothing else to look at here. 

“Do you feel like howling?” he asks.

I think about it. 

“Yeah, okay.”

We howl like wolves (wolves are animals) and we beat the glass until it disappears. Afterwards food appears. We thank the mirror.

“Tell you what I miss.”

“What do you miss, Adam?”

We’re eating something grey and disgusting. One big bowl with two spoons arrived in the slot and we split it down the middle. Things are normally better when we get one bowl to share — it means we’re not being drugged. Today however, we’re both struggling to enjoy it.

“Do you know what ice-cream is?”

“I remember what it looks like, but I don’t remember what it tastes like.” I lie.


I roll my eyes to show him I’m annoyed. 

“Go on, tell me all about it then.”

He looks up at me, grey sludge crusting around his mouth. He raises his eyebrows. 


He loves to annoy me. 

“Tell me about stupid ice-cream. What’s it like? Tell me.”

At sleep time, we’re given a little box with two new plastic toothbrushes and a tube of toothpaste. We brush our teeth together in front of the mirror, and it feels so right, like something I learnt from some ancestor.  Spit and rinse. 

After a few good days, today we get separate dinners, separate bowls with our names on. It’s not a good sign, but we don’t like to fight back. We’ve eaten from the wrong bowls before now and then didn’t get food for a week. Didn’t get enough water. Crazy. It’s better to just do as we’re told. 

Adam says they crush up things and put them in our food. Bloody pills, he says. And he mixes through the sludge with his spoon trying to sift bits out, but he can never find anything. The last time was funny, for me at least. Adam had to keep a pillow in his lap for hours and I couldn’t stop laughing.

Seeing as Adam has been messed with most recently, we assume it’s my turn to get messed with. 

“Cheers,” I say to Adam as I go to drink, like he taught me. 

Because we were good and did what we were told, the games equipment is sent through the slot.

We have a rotation of games that we play. We like ball games and play squash for hours and hours in the afternoon. When we play squash, we hit the ball at the wall with the rackets and if the ball falls to the floor on your turn you lose a point. We’ve gotten really good now. The room is tiny: get agile quick or forfeit the game.  

Adam is winning. I rest my hands on my knees, sucking in as much breath as I can. He tells me to stop hogging the air. I tell him to fuck off and he laughs, turning to get some water from the sink. I look at the triangle of his back, the sweat pooling at the hollow at the base of his spine. I feel the mirror in the corner of my eye. 

“Can I share your dinner today?” I whisper.

It’s the third day in a row of separate bowls, and Adam shakes his at the suggestion. It’s a risk. He’s sat with his back to the mirror, and I’m sat facing him, so their line of sight is sort of blocked. We could get away with it, I say. He asks why, and I have to breathe deeply for a moment to make my words make sense. I’m seeing colours more deeply. His skin is reflecting the light in shimmers. I want to touch, and I don’t feel in control. 

“I don’t like what they’re putting in my food.” I slur. “Please.”

He stops chewing and nods. Pushes the bowl toward me slightly and stretches, makes his chest big, makes it harder to see when I take a spoonful.

When they start putting what we think are the same drugs in both bowls of food, we try to eat as little as possible. But eventually we get too hungry. 

The high is pretty good. I take to lying on the metal floor and feeling it push up cold against the skin on my back. I sing, sounding out melodies and shrieking them at the lightbulb. I watch the mirror grow and shrink and grow and shrink. Adam laughs for hours. Tells me he feels like he’s at a festival, but I can’t find my mouth to ask him what that means. He and I float about our little room, bouncing off the edges and letting ourselves be thrown back and forth. 

When we bump into each other it’s simply impossible to let go. His body is absolutely fascinating. I cannot stop touching it. His fingers make depressions in my skin. We watch ourselves, duplicated together in the mirror, and we fall back onto the bed just to lie there, clinging on for dear life. There is nothing else to do but hold and breathe and hold and breathe. My mouth can’t make any words. 

We wake up the next morning and the high is long gone. My head pounds. Adam is still holding me tightly and for a moment I let myself stay there, with my face at the top of his chest and him blowing the strands of hair on the top of my head with each breath — but then I want to get out. I pinch him awake and suddenly I’m no longer caged in his arms. But the glass container is over us.  Adam mumbles in his sleep. 

“That was weird.” I say, loudly. 

Adam is too drowsy to do more than nod. His eyes are still closed. He reaches out a hand. 

“Come back,” he slurs. “You’re still shiny.”

“Do you remember what happened?”

I tell him, not entirely coherently, that he was glowing and that it made me want to touch him. 

“Yeah…” Adam looks uncomfortable. “I remember we were lying on the bed.”


“…Did we… what did we do?”

“We just lay there,” I tell him, confidently. 

“We just lay there?”

“We just lay there.” 

I don’t understand his face. He changes the subject. Tells stories about old kings and queens on a planet called England. History. Lineage. Blood. New words. 

They keep us on the drugs, but we get very good at managing. We sit in opposite corners with our backs to each other.

When things wear off a little, we do spelling to distract ourselves. Adam runs the shower to get condensation on the mirror and has me practice my letters with the tip of my finger squeaking on the glass.

Another day. 


It’s better and worse when they reduce the dosage. Adam takes on a faint shimmer whenever he stirs the air with his hands, or when he points or rubs his head which he does a lot. He’s a man of joints and fingertips and elbows. 

We’re talking a lot at the moment. When Adam’s in a good mood and not given the bad drugs, he tells me everything he remembers about his life before this room. I think he exaggerates some things though. I can imagine lakes and waterfalls because we have tears when we cry and water in the tap. I can even imagine trees, animals even (Adam does impressions) but I can’t believe a city exists. Or existed. Adam isn’t sure anymore. 

He cries when he talks about how he knows he had a family before he came to this room. How he knows it’s right there on the edge of his brain but whenever he tries to grasp them, they vanish. It’s then, when he’s crying, that I can’t resist touching him lightly with the back of my hand, but most of the time I can. Somehow having the power to resist makes it worse. 

At night, when the light’s off, I cannot let myself move or I’ll touch him. I don’t trust it. I force myself to lie flat on my back, relaxing one muscle at a time. I start with my ankles, legs, my belly, my hands…

It was too good to last. They leave me on the frustrating glowy stuff and give Adam the thing that makes him angry and forgetful again with the glowy stuff. It’s the worst it’s ever been. He spends all day in front of the mirror and goes on and on about me screaming in the corner and how the door was open behind him. When I get a second of the real Adam, lucid, he says it’s worse because I’m shining like a dishwater bubble when I’m getting on his nerves. He hates me at the moment. 

When the bed container traps us together, he can’t look at me. He lies clinging onto the edge of the bed and screams at me to stop moving about, which I do. I sit so still for so long the muscles in my legs and shoulders cramp. Adam is breathing heavily and moving, shaking the bed. Through the glass I can see the meal that’s just arrived through the slot, hot and steaming. It can’t be long now. 

“Stop breathing.”


“Hold your breath!”

“What the fuck Adam?”

He lunges at me then. Presses down on my neck and I’m still high from what they’re giving me, so I don’t even think to fight back. His pupils are huge and beautiful and shimmering and for a tiny moment I’m gone away from here. Gone somewhere blue. 

But then Adam rolls off me almost in the same moment with a determined grunt and says nothing. He clings to the edge of the bed again and we lie there in silence.

When I wake up the bed container is gone, and Adam is sobbing into the mirror. I pretend to be asleep. I don’t hear exactly what he’s whispering, saying to them. I can’t listen to him beg, I can’t bear it, so I sit up and wish him a good morning. It comes out hoarse. Cracked. Adam looks at me and bursts into tears. I approach him and hold him without thinking. Let myself be lulled by his shine. 

Adam’s face contorts. He whispers that he’s going to stop eating for a while. This cycle of drugs is too dangerous. 

“If only we could figure out what they want,” I say. 

And it does work. Adam stops eating and he feels like himself, feels closer, he says, to whoever he was before he walked into this room. He eats nothing, sits with his back to the mirror and to the slot where bowl after bowl of food is sent through in what he says is a bid to tempt him back. I eat tiny amounts. Weeks have passed. 

I wake up and I find him lying on the floor, gazing at the ceiling. His mouth hangs open. His lips are wet, they sparkle and I blink it away. Stupid drugs. 

“I remember holding a hand and it’s not your hand,” he smiles sadly. “It was a hand the same size as my own. It could have been a man or a woman, or anyone I don’t know. But I… I just know. I wonder who it was.”

We sit in silence for hours and hours. 

When they start putting the drugs in the water again there’s nothing else to do but drink. Drink or die. 


Adam is distraught. He sits me down and tells me exactly how his hand-holding memory unfolds in his head and has me recite the description of it over and over. The curve of this thumb, the shape of the nails, the dimple of a knuckle flexing into a little mountain over his fingertip. He makes me promise that I’ll tell it to him when he forgets. Makes me promise to tell him even if he doesn’t believe me. 

When he’s satisfied with my description, he gorges on a big dinner full of drugs that will hide him from himself, then lies with his back to me. I fall asleep watching his shoulders rise and fall.

Adam tells the mirror:

“She was in that corner, and she was crying her eyes out. I had just walked in. I asked her what was wrong, and she looked up at me all wide eyed and then screamed and screamed. I felt so bad, I didn’t mean to upset her. I told her my name, my name’s Adam, and that it was okay, but she was just screaming. There was a breeze behind me. I felt it. Something. But I didn’t turn around. I guess that’s what she was screaming at. Not me. I guess I should have turned around and faced you myself, but I just couldn’t. I don’t know why. I just looked at her. I watched her scream and scream and scream. Her forehead was all crinkled and there was snot running from her nose and I could see the whites of her eyes. But I didn’t do anything. Whatever you are… I felt you go, felt the door shut behind me, and then she passed out. I turned around and you were gone.


“I did hold her hand though after that. I told her I was sorry. Put the pillow under her head. Wiped her nose.”

When Adam and I woke up the glass container was over us and Cam was stood over my side of the bed.

He was looking at me intently, his hands pressed on the glass. I screamed. Cam’s mouth was moving but we couldn’t hear him properly. 

Adam gestured at Cam, who we didn’t remember, to get away. The churning of the floor kicked in; the glass box was moving off. Adam clenched his fists. Cam seemed to understand. He crossed to the other side of the room. 

Adam was ready to launch himself at him but then Cam said our names over and over and we both stopped short. He pointed to us, pointed to the corner and pointed to the door. He mimed screaming, his palms pressed to his cheeks. 

We had already met Cam. 

We (Adam and I) are surprised there’s still only one bed. That the room hasn’t changed to reflect this new addition to the room. Adam doesn’t like the idea of Cam being supposed to sleep with us —

“— in our bed,” he whispers.

Cam is huffing and puffing, jumping in a skipping rope. The drugs make me see him like I see Adam: he glows, but it’s not the same. Cam has a slackness to his jaw and his eyes are heavy-lidded and bloodshot. He catches me looking and I turn away to go to Adam, who’s sitting in the corner with his back to the mirror.  

The day passes quicker than usual. When the light turns blue no one sleeps. 

I must have slept at some point, because I wake with my head on Adam’s lap. As I get my bearings, I realise he’s sat on the floor, propped against the wall. I look up at Adam’s chin and watch the lump in his throat bob as he swallows. I turn my head and look where he’s looking, at Cam snoring on our bed. Adam whispers my name. 


“He’s like you,” Adam hisses through his teeth. 

“He is not like me.” I spit back, too loudly. 

Cam stirs in his sleep. We wait, stricken, until he falls still again. Growls a snore. 

“He’s like you,” he repeats. “A room is all he knows.”

Adam huffs shallow breaths in and out and in and out.

“What the fuck happened in those rooms,” he murmurs. 

Cam is like us but he’s not like us. He seems to know things but not deeply. No one taught him to express. We ask him questions sat at a careful distance. Sometimes he answers with a few words, or sometimes he mimes with his hands. 

It’s not hard to communicate with him, that’s not what makes it strange. He feels different to us. It takes me a while to realise that I’m afraid of him. 

I tell Adam he can sleep, that I don’t mind, but he shakes his head, blinking. His eyes are red with too much time spent awake. He’s asked me to sit on the bed with him in the hope that the container will turn up, put something solid between us and him, but for once it’s not bothering to show. 

Cam is sat cross-legged, eating by the slot. There’s a bowl with his name on, of course. I don’t know what drugs they’re giving him, but dread to think what it does to him, how easily it must sway him. When he finishes his dinner, he licks the bowl clean with his tongue and I look away. 

“When?” he says, licking his lips. 

“When what?” I ask. 

“When we…?” he makes a movement with his hips that I don’t understand. 

“What do you mean?”

Adam stands up. 

“That’s enough,” he says. “You’re not going near her.”

Cam’s brow furrows together. Confusion. 

“Don’t understand, Adam.” 

“Try to. It’s not going to happen.”

Cam glances toward the mirror and then back again. 

“I want.”

They both look at me, and then back at each other. A pause. Cam stands up slowly, starts walking towards us. Adam covers my body with his just as the bed container snaps shut over us. Cam scoffs and beats the glass with his fists. He stalks around us, locks eyes with me. I force myself to look away. 

The mirror seems bigger and blacker than usual. Adam ignores Cam and stares directly into it. Shakes his head at it. 

“I don’t understand,” I say quietly. 

Cam whacks the glass again with a thump. Again and Again. I cringe. 

“Fuck. I’m sorry.” Adam rubs his head, raises his voice over the banging. “Cam wants to put a baby in you. Whatever’s watching us behind the mirror, the two-way glass, wants him to put a baby in you, wants me to put a baby in you. It’s why they keep us in bed together with this container sometimes, why they keep putting cocktails of drugs in us, messing with our hormones. It’s why they put Cam in here to promote… competition. It’s all because they want us to…”

“How do you know this?”

“I —”

“— Why haven’t you told me this before?”

“I think I might have. It’s not only me that forgets things, you know.”

He tells me about zoos then. Conservation. Adam remembers going to the zoo as a child. Adam was born outside of this room. 

Adam held me by the shoulders and made me promise to wake him the second I hear the metal begin to churn and the bed container lifting. He’s asleep on his side of the bed, snoring softly. He couldn’t stay awake any longer. 

Cam is in the corner pretending not to watch me. Adam was only meant to sleep in the afternoon but now it’s night-time and the lightbulb is blue. I’m very aware of the mirror, knowing what I know now. I sit up straighter. The bed container is going to lift in the morning, and I need to be ready…

…I wake up and Cam is on top of me and I’m about to scream when I realise his face is scarlet, that Adam’s got his arm coiled tight around his throat. 

Cam’s eyes are popping out his head. I think I’m going to watch Adam kill him when in the corner of my eye the door opens with a hiss. 

Out of the smoke I see a hand and a leg and — 

Adam and I are lying on the bed facing each other. His skin shines and it hurts my chest. Cam is gone. Neither of us remember what we saw. 

Adam sighs, “Are you scared of me?”

“No,” I lie. 

Two bowls of food clunk into the slot. Another day. We don’t move for a long while. 

Eventually Adam clears his throat. 

“I haven’t been as clear with you as I should have been.”


He closes his eyes. 

“It’s something I promised myself I would never do to you, not here, not like this, no matter what those cunts behind the mirror want. They can scratch their alien heads over it, but they won’t understand. I’m not doing it, it’s none of their business.”

I watch his face for a moment. The tiny changes of it, how it twitches and flutters. I understand the drugs now. I wish I didn’t.

“Did Cam put a baby in me?”

“No, I woke up before he could do anything. You don’t have to worry.” 

He takes both my hands within his. 

“Nothing happened to you. Nothing will ever happen to you. Not while I’m here.”

We sit for a long time. The light flicks blue and we lie there in the dark.

“They won’t stop will they.”


“…If there has to be a baby put in me, I’d rather it be from you.”

“I know.”

When the games equipment gets sent through, we play. When bottles of shampoo are sent through, we slather it onto our bodies and lather it through our hair, bore it into our scalps. We take it in turns to brush each other’s hair with clawed fingertips. When the food gets sent through, we eat as little as we can. When the light turns yellow in the morning we get out of bed and do spelling. When Adam screams at the mirror, I cover my ears and try not to cry. When the light turns blue at night we sleep with as much space between our bodies as we can muster. 

Every time Adam shines when drinking from a cup with both hands, or flicking a ball from his wrist, or lying asleep on his front with his face in the crook of his arm, I have to remind myself it’s the drugs. It’s what they want from us, what they want from me. 

I tell myself it’s not real. 

I wake and Adam is holding my hand. I try to sit up, but he pushes me back, tells me to shhh, to rest. My eyelids are all gummy as if I’ve been asleep for some time. Everything aches. My limbs seize as I try to move them. It takes me several tries to get any words out.

“What happened?” I croak.

Adam doesn’t answer. He lifts my shoulders and props me up against the pillows. Comes back with a cup of water and the food bowl, and spoons something gently into my mouth. 

I ask him again. 

“You’ve been gone for a while. I woke up one morning and you’d gone.”

“I’ve been gone?”

“…And then I woke this morning, and you were back. You’re ok now.”

After I finish eating, he brushes my hair with his fingers, coaxes out the tangles. I lean against him. Yellow bruises flower on the fleshy parts of my arms .arms. 

“I don’t remember anything,” I whisper. 

I want the mirror to show me something, explain itself, but all I can see is Adam. All I can see is myself.

Adam tells me what he remembers:

“I was lying on the bed having a nap or something and you were practising squash on the other side of the room. I was dozing for a second and then I heard the noise but I was too late. The glass container was over the bed, over me, and we were separated. It was so fast. I sat up: you put down your game and walked over to me. You were as confused as I was. We both watched the door open and there was all this smoke… I don’t remember anything else. I don’t remember them taking you. I just woke up face down on the bed and the glass container was gone. You were gone. I don’t know how long. A week maybe.”

“I dreamt about Cam last night.”

“…Did you?”


The days seem longer than usual. And greyer. 

I ask Adam if there’s something wrong with the lightbulb. It’s not as bright as before, I say. 

He shrugs and carries on eating. 

Some pens and pencils arrive through the slot. Grey graphite pencils and ten pens in ten colours. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, purple, black, grey, peach. Adam says it’s a reward. 

We take to the walls. Adam shows me how to hold a pen, and he draws small things for me to copy. Trees, flowers, houses, ships, dogs, cats, deer, lion, snake, the sun. The planets in space. Labels them: Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus, Pluto. Milky Way. Universe. Space.

After that he draws the house he thinks he lived in as a child. A ‘skyline’. He labels everything in small, neat print. 

“Look at the view!” He yells, holding his pen high. 

After dinner I make him lie down on the bed. 

“Stay still.”

He obeys. Closes his eyes and doesn’t move a muscle. I take the pens and cover his whole body in patterns and shapes. 

Afterwards, I tell him that this is how I see him when I’m on the drugs. He stands in front of the mirror, marvelling. 

“I look beautiful,” he says. 

We’ve not had food in separate bowls for days and days. Adam and I feel clearer than we have ever felt. 

One morning Adam remembers the hand he was holding and who it belonged to. He shakes me awake to tell me, and at first, I don’t understand what’s happening; I’m all shivery and can’t hear properly. Adam has to wait patiently and rub my shoulder gently. He stops shouting and whispers the story about the hand. It’s the same story as before so it must have been true. About the hand with the dimples in the knuckle. A hand that is not my hand.

After that he remembers more and more of his former life. Where he was born, who he grew up with. The family on the edge of his thoughts finally return to him. His mother’s glance, his brother’s laugh.

He takes to the last portion of empty wall with a pencil and spends hours and hours sketching and shading the faces of all these people. Labels them. The ones that have wrinkles are old. The women have earrings. A few have glasses because their eyes don’t work and that’s how they see clearly. When he’s done, I stand close and take in these floating heads. Look them in the eye. 

One of the faces he spends more time on than the others. I know who it is before I ask.

With a smile he describes his partner to me, all the things they did together, all the places they visited. Bruges, Kuala Lumpur, Valencia, Rome, Vancouver, Santiago, Johannesburg, Suzhou, Reykjavik, Dublin. 

I reach out a hand to touch the face on the wall —

— “Don’t,” he says, his eyes cold and flat. “It’ll smudge.”

The morning I throw up in the shower Adam tells me he’s sorry. 

I’m sat on the bed trying to work out what he’s thinking and why he looks so sad, when the lock hisses and opens letting in a plume of smoke. It’s familiar. 

“Adam,” I say.

He goes to turn his head when I lunge forward, grabbing his forearm as tightly as I can. 

“No,” I whisper. “I’ll describe it to you so you can remember.” 

He nods. Holds my hand. We wait. 

Out of the smoke I see hands… outstretched palms…  two arms… two legs… a body… a head. 

“Adam it’s — ”

Then I see a human face, but not what the human face is hiding underneath it. 

I scream and scream and —  

“You were on the bed. You were on the bed, crying your eyes out and then — and I was…” 

“And then what? What happened?”

“You said ‘Adam.’ ”

“And what did I say after that?”

“Nothing. You were just screaming.”

“And where were you?”

“I was here in front of you. I remember seeing you on the bed. I remember this feeling. I remember feeling something… the door was open behind me, and then I turned…. you don’t remember anything?”

I can see my reflection in the mirror behind him. I look healthy: my skin is dewy, my hair is long and shiny, and my eyes are bright. I wonder if this is my prime. For a moment I think I can see something behind myself, see whatever it is that is looking at me, keeping me, looking after me so securely— so carefully. I wonder. 

But then the vision goes. I’m in the room with Adam again.