Now and then a character simply invents himself, invites himself into a story, and stays. Win, who appears in both Homecoming and Tourist Trap, is such a character. But what is he? Even Marna, to whom he is most real, isn’t sure whether he is a ghost, her guardian angel, or her own slightly schizophrenic subconscious.

Who he was is no problem. Like Marna, he was a Healer, though he specialized in creating consciences for those born without empathy. He and Marna were effectively married and trying for a child at the time she went off to the isolation satellite to research a dangerous pathogen. She was protected from the unrelated epidemic that killed Win and every other inhabitant of her home planet because she was on the satellite. There is no question that he is dead.

But he starts talking to Marna. Granted she is just a little crazy after 200 years without contact with another person, and his voice might be all in her head, but he’s the one who urges her to leave the station when the life-support systems fail. Later on he keeps her company, rescues her from an avalanche, and urges her to accept a new relationship with Lai:

            By sunset Marna had meandered through most of her favorite places on the island, and reached the little meadow that was her goal. She’d come here the first time with Win, two centuries ago. It was here they had pledged to give one another a child, and here, much more recently, that she had come to die. She couldn’t actually see the sun set because of the trees surrounding the meadow, but she could and did look at the sky overhead, watching the red and gold fade from the scattered clouds and the first stars appear.

            She hadn’t really tried to contact Win before, aside from that one unplanned appeal for help after the avalanche. She felt rather silly, sitting on her sleeping bag and calling the name of a dead man into the dusk, but he was with her almost at once, arms around her and breath warm on her hair.

            Win, what shall I do? I can’t stand to be alone again. And I can’t stand to leave you, either.

            His laughter bubbled in the back of her mind. Leave me? You can shut me out, love, but you can’t leave me. Place–I’d almost forgotten that. You’ve done the job Tyr set you, and done it well. It’s time to move on, love. Go with Lai. How else can I give you the child we promised each other?

            But the crossbreeding, Zhaim…

            Part of your new task, love. His voice took on a touch of sadness. Riya’s not ours any more, Marna. Still, she deserves to be loved. That’s your job now, too. But for now you need rest. Sleep, love, and then face your new life with courage.

            And she did sleep then, deep and dreamlessly. When she woke the meadow was still beautiful, but no longer a place it would break her heart to leave. She took a last look around as she gathered up her belongings, saying good-bye, and started down the trail.

So what is Win? A ghost? A guardian angel? Marna’s subconscious?

I don’t know. As I said, he’s one of those characters who invented himelf, and he never told me.

Advertisements