Pretend to do well, pretend you can sell, pretend that you're good, pretend that you know, pretend that you made it, pretend that you're there, pretend that you're not pretending, pretend that you care, pretend that you're not an impostor, not a impostor's impostor, not an avatar not a Borg, not a hive, from a hive, with a hive, for a hive, that you're not, not at all, not a phony by far.

And so begins, my dear readers, the story of Jaffar

Looking at the stars whirling above he let the bottle fall with a clink. He'd barely held it anyway, it had rested loosely between a curled thumb and index, but it was like the centrifugal force he was staring at did it. Closing his eyes made it even worse and he found the idea of a lakeside vomit less appealing than usual. Horrendous even. He wouldn't make it to the lake at this rate, by now a typhoon was beginning to form somewhere inside, no more than a point, warming itself and spinning at slow cycles. He didn't feel it, but he acknowledged it, like a gladiator stepping for the first time on the hot sand of his demise. All he needed was a good tree to hang on to while he whispered to it the contents of his stomach. Those white, German sausages last because he'd eaten them first. White. German. Sausage. Like a Waffen Saucisse cutting through the hunger, doused in hot honey mustard and then showered in cold Sierra Nevada. Apparently it's supposed to taste better when you've earned it, but he wouldn't know about that. He told this to the tree as well, while he caressed the rough bark with his smooth city slicker hands. He felt nature. He felt himself hardening up to the bark. He felt more stable on his feet now and the centrifuge inside and outside had come to a rolling halt. Now that warmth from the belly, warming and spinning, warming and spinning, had descended lower and lower. Slow, but it got there. And he loved that tree. 

The second day, waking up inside a tent next to Rajesh, Jaffar felt dazed, confused even, a touch predictable and generally like shit. The warmth was everywhere now, he was in it, and maybe his mouth held the furnace. He thought of the lake and fumbled around for a water bottle, waking Rajesh in the process, listening to his complaints and nodding and swallowing the driest of Adam's apples. Could hell be much worse? He considered this was it and panicked about it for a moment, but then his fingers found the bottle and, as he drank the tasteless life source, he had to admit that hell would be the eternal withholding of a nearby drink. Eternal anything is already hell pretty much. 

Now he had to face the music and instead of warmth there were knots in his stomach. And instead of music he'd be listening to judgment. Going out of the tent was nevertheless liberating and he imagined himself an unfurled sail on a cutter, now coiled up, damp in the dark, now free and full with wind and purpose. A sail, yes, thought Jaffar, a sail but not a sailor. Who was the helmsman? To whom did that responsibility belong? The trees overhead were silent but he could hear voices from the table and all that breakfast talk about last night. He could see the order, too, John at the head of the table, flanked by Frank and by Cooper, then along the sides busying themselves with food, Juan, Laird, and the rest of them. Rajesh came up behind. "You good?" he asked, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Yeah I'm alright." Raj pushed off with and went over towards the voices.