I may have found a solution to the Wife Problem. As with so many scientific breakthroughs, the answer was obvious in retrospect. But had it not been for a series of unscheduled events, it is unlikely I would have discovered it.

A man’s alter ego is nothing more than his favourite image of himself. 

Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial and found guilty. But I was just such a girl, and my story is worth relating even if it did happen years ago.

It was a pleasure to burn.

A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State’s motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.

Imagine that you have to break someone’s arm.

Right or left, it doesn’t matter. The point is that you have to break it, because if you don’t … well, that doesn’t matter either. Let’s just say bad things will happen.

Who was blowing on the nape of my neck? 

I swung around. The tinted glass doors hissed shut. The light was bright. Synthetic ferns swayed, very gently, up and down the empty lobby. Nothing moved in the sun-smacked car park. Beyond, a row of palm trees and the deep sky.

"Sir?"

It begins, as most things begin, with a song. In the beginning, after all, were the words, and they came with a tune. That was how the world was made, how the void was divided, how the lands and the stars and the dreams and the little gods and the animals, how all of them came into the world.

They were sung.

This is a tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.

Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough, and looked don’t-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife.

June 1

Rome–New York

Dearest Diary,

Today I’ve made a major decision: I am never going to die.

I pace our cell in Eurudite headquarters, her words echoing in my mind: My name will be Edith Prior, and there is much I am happy to forget.

I wake with his name in my mouth.

There is one mirror in my house. It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs. Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day of every third month, the day my mother cuts my hair.

We’ll ask Jimmy, said Outspan. Jimmy’ll know.

Jimmy Rabbitte knew his music. He knew his stuff alright. You’d never see Jimmy coming home from town without a new album or a 12-inch or at least a 7-inch single. Jimmy ate Melody Maker and the NME every week and Hot Press every two weeks. He listened to Dave Fanning and John Peel. He even read his sisters’ Jackie when there was no one looking. So Jimmy knew his stuff.