I jolt awake and glance around the room. Then I get up, close the window and draw the curtains, right to the edges of the glass. In the bathroom I splash cold water on my face and stare at my pupils in the mirror: to me, that power and capacitance are still quite clear in there. Something’s building up, within the air in this town, that I should know about. I’ll go for a walk around the block, to clear my head.
“I have to go now. I have to drive to New York, to give Marc the final master recording of Sound & Vision, which Rik output today.”
“Why so late in the evening?”
“Marc says it’s safer at night.”
“But you’re a big girl now, Evelyn, I’m sure you could handle the journey in the daytime?”
“He’s not worried about me, dummy, just the master recording! He knows what gold dust it is. In fact he’s made me hire a small armoured van, just for this one trip. And get this: as soon as I’ve arrived, he’s actually going to come along in person with me to the security vault in Queens and personally take charge of locking away Sound & Vision and all the spokes-sheep masters. The Great Mogul himself, in an industrial cold-storage facility, in Queens, in the middle of the night!”
Aha! I think. I stare at her. “Er, Evelyn… You just said he’s going to lock away not just Sound & Vision but also the spokes-sheep recordings. That’s what you just said, and I found you convincing.” She closes her eyes in a longish blink, like a computer screen going momentarily blank for the duration of some necessary squirt of internal processing. “But I thought our secret spokes-sheep recordings were just Jason’s gig, happening behind Marc’s back…”
Looking at me, she puts her finger to her lips. She rises, pecks me on the cheek, chirps “Night night sweetie! Sweet dreams!” and leaves the room, pulling the door closed after her.
So Marc’s ignorance of the “secret” imagination-thieving deal was a lie.
Even the “spokes-sheep” figure itself, that ridiculous presence or absence that has loomed so comically over all my dealings here, could have been a fiction too, all along—just something cooked up by Jason for his Times Square meeting with me, designed to sound as goofy as possible in order to amuse me and distract me from enquiring any further into the uses to which the company was really going to put the fruits of all this ethically dubious spying. The G.N. could be planning to use it within their own Global Market Research and Intelligence division, which I read about in the magazine article that first informed me about Marc; or they could be selling it onward to the military, for intelligence-gathering software development; or even selling it onward for nuclear weapons research… One way or another I’ve almost certainly been a tool of the military-industrial complex, and I have to say I’m cheesed-off about it.
I sit on the window-seat in one of the shuttered window-bays and tune in to Evelyn in her van on Main Street … and as you drive, Evelyn, you feel the engine’s rhythm and you feel at peace. Stopping at a red light, you notice certain men who are out for the night, and your fingers drum the wheel and you purr within yourself and the engine purrs back. In your mind, music rises: a beat pumps, brass swells and voices float down to you, as flame lights you up inside and spills from your eyes and your fingers like a fountain. You let go all arguments, even the good ones, and picture the eyes of those around you. Brown? Blue? Green? Another colour? You project to them a picture of you stroking shut their eyes and then kissing them—you know their eyes deserve it, for your own are the same. If everybody else did this… Of course you don’t forget that their hands may stab you, while you’re stroking shut their eyes; so you’re ready all the time to dodge away or stab them back. But you dance in your mind, to make your kissing and your caution spin together, and you’re agile in your dance, so you find what love you can within the colours of their eyes, while your mirth ripples up and out and chimes between the stars! Trumpet ripples through your body, lazy and fluid, while the bright dome of stars above you spins through the aeons, and your squeak is in its symphony.
I reopen my eyes upon this darkened breakfast room, with a renewed sense of peace. Then again, what effect does she really have, when the immense pain and sadness elsewhere just carries on regardless?
For more about "The Imagination Thief" by Rohan Quine, see
For some great reviews of it, see
And to pick it up from whichever retailer you may prefer, the retailers’ links for the paperback are at
and for the ebook at