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Repeat After Me

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"Don't worry," murmured Sharon. "Hush, it's all right. Everything's going to be all right."

The bridge-dryad relaxed into the hug. The steel beams stopped groaning, and Sharon sighed in relief.

She looked over the dryad's shoulder, and right into Matthew's wide eyes. He gave her a thumbs-up and mouthed lunch?

"It's three in the morning," whispered Sharon.

"Exactly," whispered Matthew. "Lunchtime."

The bridge-dryad moaned wordlessly. Sharon patted her back.


'Lunch' was vegetable korma and chicken balti at a 24-hour curry place. Matthew ate with his eyes closed, his bites too big and weirdly reverent. Sharon tried not to stare.

"Is the mayoralty paying for this?" she asked.

"Probably," said Matthew. "I mean, keep the receipt, you never know."

"Am I paying for this?"

"We don't have any cash on us." Matthew engulfed another forkful of curry. "And it's really hard to get a credit card when you're dead. Can I ask you something?"

"Um," said Sharon, still trying to logic out the difficult question of ‘who, exactly, is expected to take the bill?’

"How do you do it?" asked Matthew.

Sharon waited for an elaboration, but Matthew was just looking at her expectantly. He had a speck of korma sauce on his chin.

"Use your napkin," said Sharon. "Just, there, yes. You got it. How do I do what?"

"You talked down the Millennium Bridge," said Matthew, still scrubbing at his face with the napkin. "Just talked to her. Nothing even exploded."

"I thought we were trying to avoid explosions. Kelly said—"

"Kelly never wants explosions. Explosions happen anyway. Usually." Matthew leaned in. "Give me some tips?"

Sharon thought about it. "I just, hm. Yeah. I think you just have to assume that no one wants anything to explode, and work from there."

Matthew looked disbelieving.

"It's not like people wake up and think 'oh, today I'm going to wreak havoc and ruin the London commute,'" said Sharon.

"Don't they?" Matthew waved his fork. "Hold on, I talked to Kelly about this. She called it a, uh, an intrusive thought."

"Have you been having intrusive thoughts about wreaking havoc?"

"Not wreaking," said Matthew. "I think we're getting off-topic."

"You should try self-actualization," said Sharon. "It really helps."

"What would we actualize?" asked Matthew.

"I'm Matthew, and I'm a good person," suggested Sharon. "Or, uh, we're Matthew, and we're a good...people..."

"I'm Matthew," mused Matthew, "and we're a good person."

"That's it." Sharon ate the rest of the korma before she could make any other suggestions. "Just keep saying that until you think it's really true, and the rest follows from there."

"I like you, Sharon." Matthew finished off the balti. "But you believe some ridiculous things."

Sharon shrugged. “Someone’s got to. Now, seriously, are you expecting me to pay for all this?”