He tells you stories, sometimes, in exchange for a wrench or bolt or a glass of lemonade shot with chilled rum. You find him dangling from the rafters for his opener, more circus performer than your hired construction worker, his hammer swinging from arms wide open like he’s king of the whole fledgling laboratory beneath him. He narrates like Dickens rebirthed, except with less beard and more flair, sometimes with nails sticking out between his lips as he hammers the conclusion home. The tall-tales are twistedly original but familiar, the way he himself is, a faint shadow of a memory with parts slightly shifted, happy ending not quite right and insufferable grin two ticks off.

You’re not that into a whole lotta fiction, you tell him when he starts, nixing wizards and Lisbeth Salanders. There’s too much speculation on the unknown for you to rest easy. ‘Sides, the plots are dumb.

Well, he says, what if this one is real?

What if this one is about a game?