One of his superiors has just given him a stack of paperwork to finish up, so Cabanela rocks back in his chair and props his heels around the paper and takes inventory.

He is Special Inspector Cabanela. He often works alongside Detective Jowd.

Lately he keeps stumbling over his own memory because it tricks him, it's getting rockier and rockier like an old untamed road. He guesses it's because he's getting old, going gray in his hair and his quick wit, so now he doesn't always know what he thinks he knows. It's a little backwards, though: he's not losing things, never losing things, he still remembers from the first sweeping, judgmental look that Jowd gave him to the quirk of a bow he granted Alma, and then Jowd's sharp side-glare before Alma's smirking curtsey, to yesterday when he had to work until the sun was long down on this same paperwork. He remembers things clear as crystal, a great wide plain where he has the past organized just so until he needs to pick a memory out. There aren't just holes bubbling up under his memory. That's not it.

He is Special Inspector Cabanela, he works with Detective Jowd, he considers himself a snappy dresser. He directs a couple of people himself, but he's not exactly top of the unit. He's been a special investigator for nearly twenty years now.

His forehead crinkles because no, that's not right, it's ten. Ten years he's done this, but his head hurts a little thinking that and his joints creak in ways that feel an extra decade old.

This is what happens, new landmarks rising up out of nowhere. Like weeds sprouting overnight and you don't know if they're weeds or the plants you put there. This happens, his memory changing rather than decaying, mutating in a strange radiation. He finds himself remembering things that haven't happened, or that aren't his, usually bare tangents to the present time and occasionally so ridiculous he can't believe he's believed it for a minute. But these little things pervade, dirt collecting in the cracks of a sidewalk til they're full. So he keeps track. Takes inventory. Tells himself what is and isn't true.

He knows he should worry about this, and does on some level, but so long as he knows what's right he figures he's okay.

He's Special Inspector Cabanela who works with Jowd and has been in the SIU for ten years, almost exact. He's a little eccentric, but it keeps him young. He's got his feet crossed close to this giant stack of paperwork that's been building up over the course of the year and he guesses his new year's resolution should be to get it all in his outbox, but he doesn't know if that's going to happen. His joints are hurting all like extra age and twists they haven't been through, the office is still done up like Christmas even though it's days past, the place is next to empty at past midnight. He counts out all the facts and spreads them wide like a hand of cards, then collates them all over again. And now Jowd is watching him impatiently, because he refuses to let Cabanela ride a bike home in the rain like this, so Cabanela pulls his feet off the desk and goes forward over his papers.

When it's this early in the morning, though, lines of text kind of swim like little hungry fish. He stretches out long and pushes the papers away from him. "What a booore," he announces, and he can just feel the roll of Jowd's eyes. But it is, it so is, you don't go into the SIU hoping for late hours of filling out names and dates. He wants excitement, style, danger; he wants to track down men (and women, he supposes, let's not discriminate) who are doing real crimes, leaking government secrets, disappearing from records so it takes years of sleuthing and following paper-thin trails. Instead he's behind this wobbly desk with a stack of legalese, rain beating syncopated rhythms on the metal siding of the superintendent's office and the mounds of junk just outside and rewind, rewind. His eyes have this dim image of a junkyard throne and a fluttery dove and he's never once stepped foot in a junkyard. (And his tongue feels a shuttering slip between junkyard and graveyard, there.)

He's starting to think he should go home and sleep. It's late, anyway. He unwrenches his shoulders from how hunched they got and waves off the good detective's cocked eyebrow with a smile. "Just daydreaming, Detective." Jowd still looks at him and his eyes are these suspicious shadows. Cabanela looks at the clock like it might give him some excuse to leave. It clicks to 2:41. Cabanela sighs and pulls a page off the stack and looks hard at the walls to cement them in his head.

Special Inspector Cabanela works with Detective Jowd and has been in the SIU for ten years and is doing his paperwork. He writes names and dates and checks boxes and fills in blank lines.

The clock ticks out 2:42 and he nearly rips his throat bloody from the screams tearing out of him. Jowd's at his side in seconds but that's not what he sees or feels, not past the hateful snapped feel in his bones and the impossible ache in his back, like he was thrown into a wall from yards away. His skin sears, his body shatters, there's a smile the shape of broken glass shattering into his retinas and the minute is stretched into a thousand long years of fractures crisscrossing his skin and bones, all the world skidding to a stop and him spreading into every corner of time and pulsing with pain like he didn't know. And the thousand years are squeezed into a second and it's over in a blink, Jowd squeezing his shoulder with his eyes all heavy and intent with a gleam like he's on the brink of something. Cabanela can barely breathe, all delicate because he expects every breath to crack his ribs right off, the flash-flood not-memory still tingling like a new bruise just under his skin. He's crumpled in his chair like a thrown-away toy.

He thinks: I've gone insane.

He thinks: or I've gone sane.

Jowd's voice is a thunder rumble against the rain outside, words of concern and confusion and a little too much calm for Cabanela to think he really doesn't know. "Are you alright, are you hurt, what happened?" Cabanela just waves it off, since he's much too busy thinking hard on the slice of that smile, the black spots of space overtop, and words hissed out to worm into Cabanela's head through his bones. Gods, and with every second he focuses it just gets clearer and clearer, blowing dust off the manuscript. Sense memories trickle through in a strengthening stream. It's guilt, hate, loss that spreads cold like mist, an elastic barrier smothering him from the world (the world from him). It's black cuffs under a red jacket, it's dark plastic in a young lady's trembling fingers, it's endless pictures of space rocks and tufts of bird feathers. He squints into himself and it's this dry longing like scraping his hand along cardboard and iron bars and Jowd's so-serious eyes turned down and sad.

He looks a little harder and it's that man, barely not a boy, face drawn and wild under the weak lighting, face pale and eyes blown. It's him with his fists clenched so that the tendons pushed out, him with his mouth torn into a snarl more like an animal in a corner than one stalking its prey. Him with eyes dead behind sunglasses and fingers cold like they shouldn't be. Him right now in Cabanela's head, a voice like a high wind skipping just behind his ears, saying 'you murdered me ...'

Cabanela blinks and he's in the present and the past and the present all at once.

Jowd still has a hand on his shoulder. It's heavy as the beat of rain. There's a tense moment of quiet that isn't quiet at all.

Cabanela chokes out, "what did we /do/ to him" weaker than he knew he could, and Jowd looks about torn in half. It must be bad, what Cabanela can't see in the cracks of his second memory.

But Jowd shakes his head and says, "I had hoped you wouldn't ever remember." His grip is tight. "I'm sorry."

"What did we do to him."

So Jowd tells him.