(Yes, this is a story. Yes, it's kind of silly. That's because it was also an exam, and written on a deadline. I really like it though. It makes more sense if you read the directions I was following when I wrote it.)

Cognitive Psychology Exam III

By Julia Orth

For Professor Heidi Elaine Harley's Cognitive Psychology

New College, Wednesday 29 November 2000

Anna flicked the switch on her computer monitor, and watched the rows of numbered text fade. She moaned and leaned forward, cradling her head in her hands. Surely they'd forgive her for not being able to concentrate, if she could tell them why... but of course she couldn't, and her students had been asking her about details on the final for weeks. Her eyes slid back to the computer screen. A green note was taped to the bottom of the monitor, blue gel pen, quick print: "Ms. Lewis -- please do you have any advice on how I should study? It's just hard to understand how this relates to my everyday life. - Jo"

Anna shook her head. She liked Jody, but, well, it was frustrating. How could cognitive psychology not be relevant to anyone's life? Even (especially) at times like this, Anna still found herself filtering the world through her knowledge of psychology. If only she could really understand why people acted as they did, maybe she would know what had happened, why it had. Anything would be better than not knowing... wouldn't it?

Anna got up and gazed out the window. It was getting late. She walked back to her desk, back to the window, then back to the desk where she turned on the radio. Traffic was backed up. A Spanish author was doing a book signing next weekend. Music, static, information. Wait, was that -- "…still hasn’t been found. Police report that the missing man's daughter is under special protection. The escaped prisoner is still suspected, and you are advised to be on the look out for... " *click.*

The room fell silent again. She laid her head on the desk and started crying softly. Outside the night grew darker, and the parkinglot more barren. At last Anna picked up her purse and left the office, heading down the highway towards home, and feeling thankful for automaticity (the ability to do something, like driving, automatically. When you're automatic in something, you can allocate your attention and other cognitive resources to other things while performing it), because right now she could only think of one thing.

2:00 a.m. No sleep. No work. She could have been grading papers. Or going over the new Herzing & Forestell data. She found herself holding Tyler’s bag, rubbing the knit cloth against her cheek, breathing the fading scent. She unbuttoned the bag, peering inside. A paperback novel, Above the Lower Sky by Tom Dietz. A travel tube of Crest toothpaste. A change of clothes, a deodorant stick, and another book. Slowly, she took each thing out of the bag, turning it over in her hands before setting it on the bed beside her. The second book had a blank, hard silvery cover, with some intricate black pen drawings in the lower left-hand corner. She thought she recognized it. Running her fingers over the smooth binding, she opened this book to the first page. It was a journal. His journal. Her heart beating faster, she choked on another quiet sob. She paused over the page. She felt so alone. Was it wrong to read someone else’s thoughts? Was it worse if you loved him? Better? Wha if you might never see him again? Anna began reading.

Mon 13 Oct. Started work today! The Moore Foundation lab is fascinating. I didn’t expect to have such great equipment. Got to see the dolphin–he’s gorgeous. Going to take a lot of work on my part, understanding some of the things they want me to do, but the coding will be a blast. Scientists seem a bit reserved. There’s Drs. Lucas Turner and Anna Lewis. They work with the dolphin. Dr. Gwen Ayeranden, the accoustic specialist, will probably be doing the most work with me.

Anna paused over her own name. She was vaguely aware of the rain that had just started, pattering against her window. She was aware of the lines of Tyler’s printing. (Treisman’s attenuation model of attention seemed particularly reasonable right now–the idea that the capacity of information that can make it through to your short term memory, out of everything that works its way into your sensory percetion, is limited, but that channels of information can be given varying amounts of this limited attention. Sensations that aren’t being given most of your attention are still given some analysis, and when something comes up that you may want to pay attention to, it can be passed through.) Anna’s attention seemed to lose focus for a moment, letting bits of many sensations wander through her mind.

She gazed down at the book and was aware of her eyes on the page, taking in and processing words, lines, sentences she’d never seen before. (Marshall’s model of information-processing routes in reading stated that after featural-detection visual analysis of a word, the visual input is converted into graphemes--letters or letter combinations standing for phonemes (an identifiable unit of sound in aspoken language that can cause a change in semanticity), like "n" or "ph" in "phoneme," or "nn" in Anna. The graphemes can go along a phonic route, which assigns phonemes (to graphemes or a direct route that recognizes them as a known word and assigns them a pronunciation as such. Recognized words can also go through a lexico-semantic route, which breaks the word into morphemes (the smallest units of linguistic meaning in spoken language) and then assigns the morphemes semantic meaning, before passing the representation

of the word along to be assigned a pronunciation.) Anna blinked rapidly, pulling her thoughts together through a mist of fear, continuing to read, her attention focusing in, into the text.

Tues 21 Oct. Job is going well. I think I’m finally getting on with the scientists. Met beautiful woman during lunch at the park, walking her dog. Dark hair flowing across those perfect shoulders, vivid green eyes, that warm, cultivated laugh. People are pretty friendly around there. Things definitely looking up. My sister’s feeling better.

Tyler Langling had first noticed her at the park, three years back. She was taking her Shetland Sheepdog for a walk, stopping to watch the pond, or the children playing in the park. Light reflected through her hair and out of her eyes and shimmering off a casual sky blue silk shirt. Tyler was eating a hurried lunch--a Greek salad, a banana, and a smoothie from a café down the road. He didn’t want to be late getting back to his new job. Laurel had stopped to train her dog in the grass beneath some trees. "Kara, sit!" she commanded, and the stubby-tailed shelty complied, gazing at her mistress in adoration. "Good girl! Down." Kara slowly lowered herself onto the grass, watching the woman’s face closely for approval. Laurel gave the slightest of smiles. "Roll over, Kara." Excitedly, Kara wriggled her nub of a tail faster and faster, craning her neck up to watch Laurel’s response. Laurel gazed sternly at her. The little dog twitched more, before finally gaining control over herself and rolling over. She bounced to her feet and nudging her head to her mistress’s denim-clad thigh. "You’re so good, oh, youre so good!" the lady said, laughing deeply. She started walking again, the dog tagging along behind her.

She paused in front of Tyler just as he was sucking up the last of his key lime-white chocolate smoothie and glancing down at his watch. "Green Hill, good café," she commented. He stood up, rubbing his still sticky fingers together and ducking his head. Laurel gave him the once over. Tall and gangly, dull blond hair pulled back into a pony tail. Slacks, dress shirt, and barely dingy tennis shoes. Rounded glasses framed blue grey eyes that were now moving up to her, down to his hands, down the road to a small glass building complex, and back in rapid succession. He fingered his watch, while shooting her a mostly-calm smile.

"Good food. Light. I’ve been sampling the area since I got this new job, but I think I’ll become a Green Hill regular." Laurel nodded in a distracted fashion, and there was a brief silence. The shelty began licking Tyler’s shoes. "No!" Laurel snapped at her. Kara hung her head and pulled back to Laurel’s side. There was another pause. It was 12:56. "New job?" the woman asked. Tyler nodded, "I should be getting back now." "Where do you work?" "I’m a contracted programmer for the Moore foundation research lab. They’re using computer algorithms and neural networks to analyze auditory signals--bird songs, dolphin clicks, that kind of stuff." Laurel grinned. "Are those dolphins as smart as they say they are? Swimming around with those smiles on their faces… maybe they know something we don’t! Come on, Kara."

"Thats just how their heads are shaped," Tyler mumbled, waving and heading off in the opposite direction.

Thurs 6 Nov. Saw woman from park again. Her name is Laurel. Very charming, and I think we have a date!! Next Friday. Still don’t know much about her, but she’s very forceful. Articulate, lots of energy. I bet she’s some kind of corporate executive.

Anna smirked. Yeah, right, an executive. At least he was quickly dissuaded of that illusion (well, really he’d made an understandable, if not logical guess there. Specifically, he fell prey to the representativeness heuristic: making a quick guess about the probability that something is a member of a particular category by thinking of a sort-of prototype member of a category and deciding how similar this new member is to the prototype. If there’s a lot of similarity, people tend to assume that it belongs to that category. What this thinking ignores is the base rate, the probability that any given thing is a member of that particular category. If there are tens of thousands of waitresses and only a few thousand female corporate executives in this city, its more likely that Laurel’s a waitress (which indeed she was, at the time) than an executive, no matter how forceful she was. Even if a smaller percentage of waitresses have that "type-A personality" than corporate executives do, there could still be more waitresses fitting that description, since there are so many more waitresses to begin with, so it would still be more probable that someone fitting that description was a waitress. And God forbid people like Laurel get any more power than necessary. Not that I want people like Laurel waiting on me either. I hope she burns. I hope the remnants of her psyche are etched in pain.)

Tyler practically bumped into her as he entered the café. The clock on the wall said 12:04. Laurel glanced over her shoulder, and smiled. Tyler gazed at her, wondering how he’d forgotten how attractive this woman was. Her red sundress and high-heeled sandals made the rest of the room seem dull and uninteresting by comparison. Tyler found himself sitting down across from her to wait for his food. "Laurel," she said briefly. "Tyler," he replied. There was what Tyler considered an awkward silence. "Still working with those dolphins, are you?" Laurel asked, with genuine interest. "I’m not actually working with animals," Tyler started to explain. "I’m writing programs for a group of psychologists who want to study the way some dolphins and some birds communicate. I’m learning a lot. I did some work on using finite state grammars (A grammatical theory suggesting grammar governed by finite-state rules, rules that limit each new word choice in a sentence to a finite set of choices, that lead to new sets of choices.) in stripped down AI models for practical use a few years ago. After that, I spent a long time doing neural-net work." (Neural networks represent structures of knowledge through "neurodes" connected to each other with differently weighted connections. Three-layer neural networks have an input layer, an output layer, and a middle hidden layer that allows two combined signals to produce a different effect than their individual values added together. These networks are often trained via a back-propagation system in which the feedback received from output signals is encoded and sent back along the connections that propagated the original signal to adjust the connection weights.) He fell quiet as the woman’s eyes began to glaze over.

She smiled. "Bird language? Is it true that dolphins speak their own little language that scientists simply haven’t figured out? Sometimes I think my dog is talking to me, with all the different little sounds and movements she makes." (Anna Lewis might refer to this idea as a naïve reference to Continuity Theory, a view of language that states that language is fundamentally just intentional communication, and human language is simply part of the spectrum of communication systems of most animals: different in degree, but not in kind.) Tyler shook his head. "Language is a pretty controversial term," he began, taking a deep breath. "It’s usually considered to be a human thing though. In fact, you could say that linguists and scientists keep changing the definition whenever it looks like a non-human might be encrouching on "our turf." Not that it’s easy to define. This guy called Hockett proposed several features–" Laurel stood up, and Tyler fell quiet again. She grinned. "I’m sure you can tell me all about it. I have to go prepare for a trip I’m taking out of town, but I’ll be back here for lunch a week from tomorrow." Then she was gone.

Anna read through many more pages, as the relationship developed at a snail’s pace. Lunch dates became dinner dates, occasional walks in the park and trips to local museums, but nothing more frequent than once or twice a week. Laurel was always beautiful, usually polite. She liked to cook and she didn’t like to go see movies. If she talked about her childhood, Tyler didn’t commit it to paper.

8 Jan. I think about Laurel often. Maybe shouldn’t have given her that

open-ended invitation. She could come by any time, or not at all. If she

really likes me, she’ll come by. We’ll see.

12 Jan. Laurel came by!! We had coffee and discussed classical artists. She must like me.

Anna shook her head in disgust. She hated Laurel more with every passing moment, each new word. (And of course, Tyler had made a logical error. Affirming the Consequent, assuming that [Q Ù [P => Q]] => P is a tautology, to put it symbolically. In plainer words, that if A happens then B will happen and B happens, that A will happen. If she really likes me, she’ll come see me [she] came by! She must like me. But that was a logical error--there were plenty of other things that could have caused her to come over. Like that she’s a deranged f---ing b-tch who’s taken away the only person I’ve ever wanted to devote my life to, and she hurt him, and she hurt him and she hurt Amy and he might never come back, might never take Amy to the beach again or step into the lab with a sea urchin puppet he found lord-only-knows-where carrying a little bag of chocolate bars, and it wasn’t fair, it was all wrong and nothing was logical anyway )

7 March. I’M GETTING MARRIED!! I asked her and she said yes and I never dreamed, I’m so excited, it’s just Amazing. Laurel, Laurel, what a name, what a woman, she’s intelligent and beautiful and so driven and dedicated, I know shell be just as committed to me, I can think of nothing else but that smile on her face. And we’re getting married! We can spend the rest of our lives together--I’ve never been so happy.

Pages of this stuff. Disgusting. Depressing. Fickle, short-sighted, naïve, cruel humanity. Tyler’s excitement was so endearing though, he was such a trusting creature, so willing to wrap himself up in hope and love and, oh, why. Anna shuddered, passing quickly through pages of pre-wedding entries in rapid succession. They thinned out after the ceremony. There was a brief entry about how intoxicating the ceremony was, and then nothing for a few months of presumably souring marital bliss. Perhaps he hadn’t wanted to think about it, or admit it.

5 Oct. Anna from work invited me up to the whale hospital to see a sick dolphin. Still fascinated by her work.

"Tyler, you were wanting to know more about the work I do. I’m going up to the sea park’s hospital tonight to meet an associate who’s been advising the rehab program about a Common dolphin there. It’d give you a chance to see the facility without having to compete with the tourists, and there’s a place where the public can see part of the rehab tank." Anna smiled shyly, tucking her papers into a folder and turning to look at Tyler. He was looking down at the ground. "My wife will be angry if I’m late getting home," he finally said. Anna shrugged, and pushed open the door. "Wait! I’d get to see this dolphin?" Anna looked back over her shoulder. "Well, you might see him through the public observation window. Even I can’t go out by the tank, they have to be really careful about what he’s exposed to. It’s very quiet at night though, and I can introduce you to Dr. Elia." Tyler nodded, and followed Anna out to her car.

He gazed out the window quietly as she drove. "Common dolphin? Does that mean a bottlenose?" Anna laughed despite herself. "Bottlenose dolphins are often coastal, they’re easy to train and keep in captivity, so people are exposed to them more often, especially with shows like Flipper and books like Startide Rising. Because images of smiling gray bottlenoses come readily to mind, people tend to think of them as The dolphin. It’s a mistake made from what’s called the availability heuristic, basically, the assumption that something that’s more available to your mind occurs that much more often out in the world. Tursiops is common, sure, but Common Dolphins are very common too. To answer your question, they’re actually a different species, Delphinus delphis. They’re pelagic, which means they live in the open ocean, so unless you’re out on the water a lot, you don’t see them so often." Tyler nodded

Anna lapsed into silence, thinking. Too long since she’d been out on the

open water. At least she could talk about it. Displacement, one of Hockett’s design features of language, and more generally, the ability to conceive of and refer to things displaced from one’s current situation in space or time. One of those things said to separate humans and animals, quibbled over in journal articles and books on philosophy. Anna had her doubts, but sometimes she envied the hypothetical dumb brutes of what she couldn’t help feel were outdated theories ... anthropocentrism stripping them of "anthropomorphism" and leaving them locked in a present moment of instinct and stimuli, and what could be easier? No naming of longing, no feelings of guilt. What was she really doing with her life, anyway? Was she only half devoted to her research? Sometimes she felt that every moment she spent outside the lab, the water, the library, the studio was wasted time. There were a million things she could learn, more about music, more about insects, American Sign Language, boat repair, she should spend more time diving and working with audio equipment and reading and reading and reading, but most of all, time watching the waves. All those things, because she knew she had something to give the world through her research, didn’t dare to believe that her passion since she was small was itself nothing more than a result of watching Flipper and envying Sandy and Bud. Or was that even it? Shed always assumed she’d have a family by now, children. It disgusted her to think of the way her students looked at her sometimes, as if she must know exactly what she was doing. Bravo Sierra, as her pilot friend used to say.

They’d stopped at a little bookstore on the way back. That was the first time she’d really noticed how clever Tyler was, and what a wonderful sense of humor he had, when he finally relaxed. Too bad he was married, she’d thought with some amusement, but she was glad to have him for a friend.

"Tyler, where are you!" she screamed, and she heard her voice sounding small in her dark bedroom. (Total feedback, another of Hockett’s features of language, being able to receive one’s own linguistic transmissions as fully as any other listener, hear what you say and see what you sign. Why can’t I stop thinking about these terms, words and theories? I really need to finish that final.)

Fri. Got home late tonight. Laurel was very upset. I hate to see her like that. I just wish she didn’t take these things so personally. I’ll have to try harder for her. I never thought anyone would love me, and now I’m letting her down with my selfish thoughtlessness.

No need to read that. Anna flipped ahead to the next big event. There were no more dates, but Anna knew that these were from just under four years ago.

I’m going to be a Father!!!!!! Laurel told me she just found out this morning, I can hardly believe it, I’m the luckiest man in the world. Maybe this is what Laurel has needed these past years.

It’s so hard to make sure everything’s right for her. I’m just a mess in the

kitchen these days, and if I spend too much time at work I don’t have enough time for Laurel, but she’s always concerned about money, kids are expensive, aren’t they? I don’t know if I’m up to it. Laurel seems to have her doubts.

Amy, Amy, Amy, were going to call her Amy. Amy Leigh Langling. But we don’t even know her yet? What is an Amy, what does it mean? Who will she be? She’ll be a little bit of me, and a little of Laurel, and a lot that the world has never seen, and she’ll be wonderful. Is Amy the right name? Will she like it? Would she like it if we didn’t name her such? So many people called Amy, and none of them are my Amy. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…

Tyler was as sweet as any rose, so sweet when he waxed poetic, even briefly. What’s in a name? Arbitrariness, there’s nothing in the sounds of "Amy" to suggest that it was a name, that it referred to a girl, particularly a particular girl, any more than there was something in the word elephant to mimic a large gray creature with flapping ears and long trunk, or in the word kumu to mimic a tree or tree-ness, or lumba-lumba to call forth something of dolphins. The sounds assigned to meanings and meanings assigned to sounds are arbitrary in essence, another feature of language. Yet words hold learned weight, and Tyler, Tyler, Tyler holds deep and lasting beauty.

She’s the most beautiful sight I’ve ever lain eyes on. Can’t write much. It’s just too much. I’m going to go be with Laurel--and Amy.

Never seen Laurel so happy. And for such a perfect reason–we’ve been blessed with a true miracle. I’m so thankful I could take this vacation from work. Amy’s started smiling.

Anna read slowly and tenderly through the sketchy reports of Amy’s infancy, wondering what could be in her mind right now, what they were doing to take care of her. The sky outside the bedroom window began to gray only faintly with dawn, still covered with rain-laden clouds.

She’s two already! Anything but terrible. Laurel cleaned the whole house for her birthday, and made such a fantastic meal. Amy might not have noticed, but I sure did.

Laurel said I mustn’t read these fantasy stories to Amy, that she’ll end up living in an unhealthy fantasy world like me. She’s had a long day, and she’s done such a lovely job with the garden. Wish I could spend more time at home.

And that was only the beginning. Anna could almost scream. He tried so hard to see Laurel as a good person, a loving wife. Conformation bias is when you look for information that justifies what you expect or believe to be true, when you look for research or results or just daily instances that confirm what you think. It was astonishing how desperately Tyler had tried to confirm his faith in Laurel, despite whatever evidence amounted to the contrary.

Amy follows me around closely when I’m at home. Maybe I haven’t been spending enough time with her.

Had lunch with Anna Lewis from work today. Got home and found Amy sitting in her room putting cups on her dolls’ heads. I hope she’s okay. I haven’t felt so relaxed for a while. Even Laurel throwing the nice dishes after asking why I didn’t finish the lunch she packed for me didn’t bother me that much.

She hit me. I don’t know what to do.

Went to a party at Anna’s house. The Foundation has approved the ANDAR network research funding for three more years! I’m so proud of everyone. Anna’s got a nice place. She’s such a good person, her love of life is in everything she does, and she’s so honest. I bet her students at the university think she’s great.

I don’t know what to do. I need help, I need someone to help me, I have to

find someone. I got home late again. Laurel had made coffee. Thank God Amy was already in bed. She said I must be sleeping with Anna Lewis. Dr. Lewis! She’s crazy.

She threw the coffee at me. I have burns covering my chest. I don’t know where to go. I don’t want anyone to think Laurel’s a bad person, but I’m scared for Amy. I’m sure it won’t happen again.

Laurel’s so angry. She was crying. We had another fight and she shoved me against the counter. Don’t know how I’m going to hide the cut on my head. Can’t let Amy see it. I don’t want to leave Amy alone with her any more. I hope nothing’s happened yet. Amy will be fine, anyway. She hasn’t done anything wrong. If Laurel were hurting her, she’d have bruises, right, and she doesn’t have any bruises, so it must just be me.

(Now there’s an example of sound conditional reasoning and a faulty

premise. Logical though. There was a formal name for it, even. Modus Tollens, MT.

[[P => Q] Ù ~Q] => ~P. If A is true then B is true, and B isn’t true, so A can’t be true either, because if A were true, B would be true. A concept of formal logic that often proves difficult to apply in the real world, outside of familiar contexts.)

We’ve got a court date. I feel like such a failure, but I have to protect Amy. Laurel’s really starting to scare me, and Amy won’t leave my side when I’m home. Something bad must happen when I’m not there. I’ve started bringing her to the lab with me, but that just makes Laurel angrier.

Officially divorced. At last it’s over.

Got another phone call from Laurel. Can’t handle this. Left Amy with mom for a few weeks. I’m really nervous lately. I don’t know how unstable she really is. It’s probably all in my head.

Laurel knocked on my window last night while I was asleep. I’m sure it was her. She left a pile of shredded wedding pictures on the front doorstep. Creepy. I’m really upset. Going to see about getting a restraining order.

Haven’t slept properly for weeks. Can’t figure out what’s wrong with the latency synthesizer code.

Spent last night at Anna’s. Finally felt safe. Never realized how

happy she makes me. Don’t feel safe at home any more anyway.

Laurel left another threatening message. She knows about the weekends I spent with Anna. Going to call the police.

I’m in hell.

There was no more to that entry, no date, not another mark. It was the last entry in the book. Just the slant of the handwriting was enough, Anna felt, to bring everything back to her. She knew where he’d written it–in a waiting room at St. Maria’s.

"Let’s go for a walk," Tyler suggested, sitting up in bed and fumbling for his glasses, finding his jeans and pulling them on and walking over to the window to look out at the twilight. Anna rolled over, squinting open her eyes. Tyler hadn’t wanted to leave the house since that last phone call from her. Anna slipped out of bed and walked up behind him, wrapping her arms around him tightly, then flinching at the feel of the burn scars on his bare chest under her fingertips. Tyler stiffened, and there was a silence. "Yes, let’s go out," Anna said decisively.

They walked along the street, holding hands and silently watching the shadows deepen as the light faded. The wind hissed through early spring leaves. A dog barked. "What was that?!" Tyler spun around, casting his eyes up and down the street. Empty. Nothing. They turned the corner, walking along the forested area surrounding the small suburban enclave. "There it is again," Tyler muttered, almost to himself. Anna was concerned. He was so jumpy. He’d been through so much over the past years, but he had to find a way to get on with his life. If only Laurel were really out of the picture.

A calm voice, smooth as honey, broke through the growing night. "Stop." Tyler froze. Anna squeezed his hand. "You’ve ruined my life, you know. You’re the most selfish man I’ve ever met. I knew you were cheating on me. You’re a deceitful liar, Tyler Langling. I just want to make sure I never see you again. I want you to see where you’ve been wrong. I’ll make you understand. But I think I’ll start with your whore here.

"I will kill you."

Anna’s heart stopped. The whole world seemed to freeze and speed up again as she felt the impact of the two by four on her right temple. The trees spun, green and golden, the sky was soft and purple, there were birds flying over head, clouds sitting on the horizon. (A flashbulb memory is said to be a memory from a highly emotional, surprising event that seems detailed, accurate, and long lasting. There was little data to support the idea that these memories really are any more accurate than other memories, but studies do suggest that people believe them to be more accurate, and Anna later thought she could remember those few moments with crystal clarity.) Her head hit the concrete, the heat of a body crouching over her, the tip of a knife piercing her skin, consciousness fading. Tyler screamed and Laurel whirled towards him, haphazardly slicing through the skin on his shins. Tyler lunged for her, and the world tilted and twisted as he struggled for control, and one of the few passing cars must have called the police because after an infinite amount of time had passed, Tyler realized that some of the confusion in his head wasn’t inside it at all, but the sight and sound of police sirens all around, and Laurel was being arrested, they were taking her away and Anna was being rolled onto a stretcher and they were taking her away too. They were taking her away. But no, they were taking Tyler too, the distinctive smell of the ambulance, maybe now, after more time in the courts and more questioning and more lying to Amy that everything would be fine, maybe then this would make it be over.

Anna didn’t see Tyler again for some time, except when they passed each other in the lab. He said he didn’t want to endanger her, but the pattern continued after Laurel was incarcerated, even after he brought Amy home. He spent the night once, but Anna woke up to find him gone, his bag still lying on her bedroom floor. The next day he said something about having nightmares. He said he wanted to go home early the next day, had to do something with Amy. Anna left him alone.

That was the last time Anna saw him. He did take the afternoon off the next day, and he was gone by the time Anna got in.



Tyler picks up Amy from her daycare center, and takes her to a friend’s birthday party before heading home. He needs some down time, needs to perform some damage control after more than five years of physical and emotional battering, guilt and fear. Maybe a nap would do him some good. Or just having a cup of tea and a good book. He pushes open the door, and stops. Something’s not right. His body tenses for a moment. But what was there to be afraid of? Laurel was gone, locked up for years, and if he’d survived her, well, there really wasn’t anything else worth being scared about. The house is quiet. He turns on the TV and goes to boil some water for the tea. Tea is comforting. So are the distant but vaguely familiar voices from the television. The afternoon news isn’t, however, and Tyler reaches to change the channel--perhaps after-school cartoons are on--but something stops him. A slick blond reporter with dark red lipstick stares into the camera. "…Three inmates, one man and two women, have escaped from the city jail. One guard is in critical condition at the hospital, and two more were injured. Two of the escaped inmates have been recaptured, but the third is still at large. If you have any information regarding…"

Tyler is frozen to the chair. It must be Laurel. Anna would call it some heuristic or something, but Tyler knew it, he knew it beyond all doubt. He had sensed her when he came in, the slightest scent of her perfume hanging in the air, she would kill him, at least he was alone, at least he wouldn’t have to see her destroy anyone else that he loved.

Oh, God. If he ran now there might still be time. Get up, walk over to the phone, call someone. He can’t.

Laurel’s footfalls on the stairs. She’s coming down. She’s holding a knife. Tyler finally stands up. He bolts forward, towards the nearest door, and outside. He doesn’t even look behind him. She’s there though, and somehow she’s gaining on him. He runs over to the tall backyard fence, clambering up the plastic playground set and pulling himself over the top, but she grabs his leg, squeezing his ankles until the lacerations from the last time crack and bleed and bleed. She slides the knife over the backs of his calves. "I know where my daughter’s staying," she comments calmly. Tyler feels his blood go cold. "Come with me," Laurel continues, and Tyler can’t think, she grabs his left leg and pulls and he falls off the fence, and she cuts through his shirt and down the front of his chest, through the burn scars. There’s more blood, but none of it seems to be on Laurel, it’s all soaking into the torn fabric, seeming to bleed back into his body. He stands up and follows her back behind the neighborhood and through a stand of trees.

Anna stares into her radio, cradling the diary in her arms. She’s been sitting there for hours, rocking back and forth. The rain has stopped, and the sun peaked over the tree tops.

"This just in: police have discovered the whereabouts of the missing Tyler Langling, although the suspected kidnapper has yet to be located." The phone rings. Anna leaps for it, fondling the receiver, pressing her ear to it, straining her attention, her every bit of being through the plastic.


"She’s dead." It was the first thing he said to her. "She walked into the ocean. She’s gone." Anna spat, trying not to picture Laurel meeting any kind of poetic fate, leaving any sort of graceful last imagine in her Tyler’s mind. Tyler squeezed her hand. Police mill around the collapsed cavern, really more of a hole in the rocks, where Tyler had been chained in place. "With each high tide, a little more blood seemed to wash away," he said vaguely, staring off into space. Seagulls wheeled above, and they turned and walked North, the sunset sparkling in the water to their left.

"Anna, I love you." Anna hears the words seem to hang in the air, imagines she feels them inside of her outside inside around everywhere. "I love you."

(Of course spoken words don’t last. Rapid fading is another one of Hockett’s 13 design features of language. Transitoriness, the fact that after you say something, it’s gone. It imposes temporal structure on spoken language, ensures privacy, influences social functions. He’ll say it again and again and again and each time it will be new, it will fade into the air and never ever leave me.)