a hyper-condensate matter, to be technical. And then there’s simply nothing at all. You might, as she’d explain to her students, describe it as the eye at the center of the storm, and the analogy was fitting, she’d chuckle, given all the unease upon Earth. Her students always watch her warily, never quite sure of whether they should laugh or sigh. Certainly, her jokes weren’t the cause of their laughter. It was her own middling, pale, puffy face. She wasn’t attractive, she knew. And that didn’t bother her. After all, she had her own Troubadour. And three decent bottles of wine. Tonight, down here in the center of the planet, beneath its gregarious roar, Dr. Henderson laid her head down on her bench-seat, a kind of padded foam berth deep in the hull of the craft. It sat beneath the cockpit, within the Troubador’s forward-most end, so that when she wiggled her toes, as she did presently, beneath the down fold of her REI, three-season sleeping bag, she knew her feet occupied the actual core of the Earth, the minutest center-point. It was the deepest the craft could go. And even with the radiant cooling, it was still a little warmer at the southernmost flanks of her berth. She could roast marshmallows down there, she thought, though the effect would be gradual, offering them a nice burn. There would be no blackened sizzle, as she’d had the last time she’d gone camping with him. The nitwit. The imbecile. Her ex-husband, the fuck. He was remarried with kids. Resting her hands behind her head, undoing the knot of her hair—she always tried to look professional going down—she had to restrain herself from taking out her smartphone again. First of all, the reception was spotty, and it was an incredible waste of time—waiting for all of her Instagram updates to load.