She was briskly walking downtown when the pressure attacked her, as if a hand were clenching and releasing her heart, clenching and releasing, clenching and releasing. It toyed with her, tantalizing her with momentary relief, before tightening its grip again. With each repetition the hand grew and expanded its control to a larger area. Its domain grew from her heart to her chest to her torso. Soon, even the brief reprieves were dutifully eliminated and replaced by the mechanical launching of sharp swords straight to her skull.

She fell to her knees, holding her real, physical hands upon her chest. Why now? Please, not now.

The sea of bankers bustling forward flowed around a fictional sphere of five-foot diameter whose singular focus was the woman. It was the flow who not only sculpted the object but prevented protected its members from seeing it. A benevolent creator.

One chance, just one chance. She gasped and exhaled a nonsensical cry. At that moment, a vertical blow had whipped her whole being. Instantly, she curled into a compact ball. But to say that it was “she” is an imprecise misnomer. The rearrangement of the constituent parts had no need for consciousness, for agency; it was the inexorable actualization of the reactants, the preconditions. However, in this shriveled, defeated position, she, with all her effort, squinted her face, to voice her final word: “Motherfuckers.”