It was embarrassing. She couldn’t have anyone over. They would see all four of her lined up, side by side. Hannah, Hannah, Hannah, Hannah.

Hannah had left her apartment, locking the door behind her, and when she returned from work that night, there she was. A duplicate Hannah wearing the same outfit. White T-shirt and jeans. Hannah realized she looked nothing like the face she arranged for herself in the mirror. She was a lot older and glummer, not gazing upwards, in a Princess Diana smile. She couldn’t maintain the energy.

“This is fucking weird,” she said. Second Hannah looked as scared as Hannah felt.

She wondered if this might have something to do with her headache, which was three days strong, a continuous crunch inside her skull. It had started when she opened her dad’s storage locker in Chicago and saw the reams of paper. He left Mom for this. Liko had been the one to box all the papers up for recycling. Hannah didn’t have the heart to flip through the scribbles to decipher his writing. She saw one scrap that said Crawling and nothing else and she had seen enough. She didn’t want to be disappointed when they didn’t mention her.

“You stay here,” she said to second Hannah. She left her apartment, locked the door behind her, leaned against the cold metal, and counted to thirty on the porch. She couldn’t hear anything inside. She opened the door. Second Hannah was still there. A third Hannah had materialized.

“What’s going on?” third Hannah said. They squatted on the carpet to stop their legs from shaking. Hannah didn’t know whether she could stand again.

“I’m imagining this,” she said.

“You came out of the bathroom,” second Hannah said to third Hannah.

“I remember you stepping out,” third Hannah said, gesturing at Hannah, “And then just black and I was in the bathroom and then I came out and you were over here while you came in through the door.”

“This is impossible,” Hannah said. Her selves were flushed and sweating through their T-shirts. She set the key on the carpet. She pressed her fingers against her temples.

“It’s got something to do with you closing the door and coming in,” second Hannah said, “Let’s go outside and see what happens.” 

She stood, reaching out for the two others, and pulled them up. They walked barefoot onto the porch. Hannah’s neighbor André was smoking his cigarette. He looked up, unfazed, from the Michigan City Plant brochure in his hand. Workers wanted.


Hannah locked the door. Second Hannah and third Hannah crossed their arms and stood behind her. Hannah crossed her arms as well and leaned against the door. André, perhaps sensing their distress, ground his cigarette under his foot and retreated to his apartment. Minutes passed. Again, as before, Hannah pressed her ear against the door. It was quiet. Then the doorknob turned, and the door opened. Another Hannah.

“I’m gonna need to know what the fuck is going on,” the fourth Hannah said.

“Okay, Jesus Christ, let’s just figure this out,” Hannah said. She found it hard to breathe. She could tell the others felt the same. Everybody was sucking at the air like there wasn’t enough. She ushered them inside.

Seven o’clock, right on cue, her phone rang. Liko was never late to call. Hannah grabbed her phone. For a moment, it looked as though the other Hannahs were moving to do the same, and she felt a flash of jealousy. Liko was her boyfriend, not theirs, but of course, he was also theirs. She pressed answer.

“Hey, baby, how’s it going?” Liko said. Hannah was glad they weren’t videoing. He could under no circumstances peer into this shitshow.

“It’s okay. You know.” She let silence settle. It was going to be one of those calls where he might draw out a laugh from her if he told her enough stories. Sometimes she thought he loved her more because she made him work. She could picture him leaning forward with the phone speaker close to his mouth, trying to close a few inches of the eighty miles from Chicago to South Bend, Indiana.

“Yea, I know. So Hannah—I cleared out the rest of your dad’s things. Just, well, there were some papers I didn’t know if you wanted to keep, so I kept them if you want to look at them next week.”

“Um, okay, but like, what the hell for?” She had turned the phone volume loud enough so the other Hannahs could hear.

“Well, most of it was, you know—”

“Gibberish,” Hannah said while third Hannah said, “Bullshit.”

“Yeah, yeah, but I found some of it really meaningful actually.”

Hannah heard some papers rustling.

“Like, listen, he wrote, ‘The lake laughs. Everything comes back. Everything goes away and comes back.’”

“What the fuck does that mean?” Hannah asked third Hannah let out an involuntary laugh, and Hannah moved the phone closer to her mouth so Liko wouldn’t hear. “Everything has to go away, so he had to leave Mom? To sleep under a bridge and become Buddha?”

“I thought it was kind of meaningful.” Hannah imagined him pushing the bridge of his glasses against his nose and frowning at the papers. That was how he approached everything: his optimization program in Chicago, his family, his tattered Tao Te Ching on the shelf over his toilet, the latest mess Fusilli had made on the carpet—close scrutiny until a way forward was clear. “Of course, it’s not totally—”

“Look, just get rid of it,” Hannah said, wondering whether she should apologize for her tone and deciding against it because it was her dad and her orphanhood they were discussing. “I don’t want to look at it.”

“Okay, baby.” Hannah could tell that Liko would just squirrel the papers under his desk and look at them later.

“How’s Fusilli?” Hannah asked. Fusilli was Liko’s poodle. She was all corkscrew curls and raw energy, the color of pasta. In fact, it was Fusilli Hannah fell in love with first at the sand dunes and then Fusilli’s owner, catching up to her breathlessly, holding her water in a dish. Sometimes, when Liko was crowding her with his concern, it was Fusilli Hannah loved the most. Fusilli didn’t ask anything of Hannah except to lick her face.

“Fusilli is good—she’s here.” Hannah heard a thud as he dropped to his knees, “Fusi, say hi!”

Hannah thought she heard some snuffling.

“She lets me brush all of her front teeth now,” Liko said.

“Nice.” Hannah looked instinctively at the other Hannahs, wondering whether they also thought Liko would bring up what he had said when she cried in front of him for the first and last time at her dad’s storage locker, as he held her against his chest and she didn’t quite catch his words.

I love you so muchlet’s get married.


I said, I love you so much, and we should get married.

Jesus Christ, my dad just died. This isn’t the time.

Hannah had pulled back from Liko and turned away. Fusilli took the opportunity to lick her face for salty residue. Her head was pounding. Liko and his attachments, the two babies he had confessed to wanting someday. Liko who never met a stray he didn’t keep. For the rest of that afternoon, until Hannah drove back to South Bend, Hannah and Liko talked only about how to get rid of her dad’s papers.

“How was work today?” Liko asked. “Any toupees?”

This drew a laugh out of all the Hannahs. Hannah pulled the phone closer to her mouth and hoped Liko didn’t hear the overlapping peals.

“Okay, no,” Hannah said. “No toupees sent to the retirement home today.”

Hannah picked products out of the bins at the local fulfillment center to mail all over her town. She was on her feet in sturdy sneakers for twelve hours most days. The work was boring, but it had a rhythm. She wasn’t like Larry and Hector and the rest, pulling their muscles from picking things too fast. The prizes didn’t entice her. She just scanned the barcodes at a steady pace, enough to meet her productivity target every hour and nothing more. She meticulously timed her peeing. She took over the forklift when Lucy asked her to, even though she hadn’t actually finished the training. She daydreamed she was lifting heavier things.

The accusations of exploitation were vastly overstated. In fact, since the war, the industries had been nationalized one after the other, and the work had only gotten easier. It had slowed. As if once the government guaranteed their survival, people stopped needing to buy things to keep them safe. Their teeth, their babies, their food were all covered. Sometimes Hannah imagined that all the products she picked went to the same house, an old woman who received more and more cardboard boxes until she was swimming in brown paper and tape. One more mascara wand, one more portable air fryer, one more polka-dotted dog harness before it was all over.

Hannah didn’t think picking out products and throwing them in cardboard boxes particularly helped her fellow citizens. It probably hurt them in the long run. Still, not everybody had the luxury to do something noble. Certainly not everybody could be Esi up at the Michigan City Plant overseeing progress with her goggles and clipboard. Esi had texted last week, Come thru Hannah the cabins are nice! Maybe they were, lining Lake Michigan, halfway between Chicago and South Bend. She had yet to see for herself.

“I’m doing an extra shift tomorrow,” Hannah said. Hector was going to be out, so he could take his wife to the doctor.

“Oh, okay. I’ll call you the day after then.”

“Don’t you have certs until Thursday?” Liko had enrolled in a staple foods process optimization program. Once he finished his certifying examinations, he would be dashing between conveyor belts at the bread factory with a lanyard and authority, directing workers on how to scrape the dough. The factory had given Liko his first job in the yeast line years ago. He had never wanted to work anywhere else.

“Well, yeah, Thursday. So I’ll call you in three days if you’re not too tired.”

Hannah knew he would send her videos of Fusilli chewing her toys in the meantime. He was reliable for that.

“Okay, goodbye,” she said. “Love you.”

“I love you too and goodbye.”

Hannah hung up. The other Hannahs were lost in thought, rooted to the carpet. Hannah inflated the air mattress in the living room. She stacked the heavy blankets on each other. There was enough room for the three of them to sleep in a row.

Two of the Hannahs were hungry and surveyed the options in the fridge. Week-old rice or overcooked asparagus. Hannah had meant to soak a whole chicken in buttermilk, but that was before she got the call about them finding her dad. We found Mr. Sidney Mok by the lagoon near the conservatory. Then, delicately, having been trained to contain familial grief while moving things along at a reasonable clip: It must have been a heart attack. Might you be able to pick up his personal effects? The chicken was still pink and pimply in its wrapper.

Hannah tossed pillows onto the blankets. Second Hannah straightened them at the head of the mattress. “This is a dream, and it’s going to be over tomorrow,” second Hannah said. The other two had gathered around the kitchen table with bowls of rice and seaweed. Hannah thought that if she sat with them and they all looked openly at one another for too many minutes, they would all cry. What could she hide from her selves? Not what she had withheld from her mother outside the morgue or what she had tried to withhold from Liko, the howling and grabbing of tissues to blow her nose, drinking hot water until her throat wasn’t raw from screaming. If she started, she didn’t know when she would stop. If they thought hard enough about it, together they might calculate how many times Liko could have passed her father ranting on a Chicago corner, thinking he was just another lunatic on the street.

“You good to sleep here?” she asked. Second Hannah looked at the pile on the carpet. She assumed second Hannah already knew how it would feel.

“We have to switch off tomorrow night.”

“Fine,” Hannah said. “We will.”

Hannah watched her self acquiesce with a nod and raised eyebrows. Hannah wondered whether it would be rude to ask all of them to strip down, so she could check each of them for the inseams, to see how much of the same all of them were. Surely one of them had to be the original. They could look in the bathroom. But Hannah hated to be touched, and most days, she hated to even be looked at. She had no way to phrase the request.

“I’m going to bed,” she said. “You all know where the bathroom is if you need it.”

Hannah closed her bedroom door. She could hear the other Hannahs shuffling and murmuring for what seemed like hours before they turned out the light. Hannah imagined all four of them with their mouths on Liko. She imagined him submitting with a characteristic sigh. She hated the thought. She closed her eyes. Tomorrow, when she woke, they would be gone.

They were still there. They complained about sleeping on the floor and wanted to sleep in the real bed the next night. It was theirs, too, they said. She had to do something. Every time she left the apartment, presumably, there would be another Hannah. They would eat through her food like locusts. Fourth Hannah had started soaking the chicken in the buttermilk without asking.

“Lucy, I quit,” Hannah said on the phone. Lucy made noises about being understaffed, so could Hannah come in the rest of the week until they set up a new schedule? Everyone’s counting on you.

“I can’t,” Hannah said. If it was that dire, Lucy could get on the floor and pick the packages herself. She wouldn’t, of course, because that would make her equal to the others. Hannah would text Larry and Hector and the rest once she knew what to say.

She had Esi’s text in her phone. She had the Michigan City Plant brochure on the kitchen table. Workers wanted at Indiana’s largest nuclear plant. The state ran the plant, so there were benefits. The hours were short, the cabins looked over Lake Michigan, and the townies who came to the plant to tour and understand the science once and for all clapped when they saw workers clad in white striding past. There was something about seeing giant towers looming over Michigan City, in the brochure, that filled Hannah with glee. Like she could actually be in America, the real America, not the Potemkin villages absorbing most of her energy—the fulfillment center, her apartment complex.

Hannah didn’t need to convince the other Hannahs. They had been dreaming of the same hours at the nuclear plant. If they accepted the miracle, if they were not afraid of the uncomfortable and the unknown, they could get on with it. The Buddhist scriptures were full of men who walked away from their wives and children in order to feed their bodies to hungry tigers. The lack of attachment was the point.

Hannah hated those men. How easy it was to give up the people you had made a promise to in order to get something shiny like enlightenment. Her dad had done it four years ago without a backward glance. At least he thought he had. He might have regretted it at the last moment as his chest heaved and he looked out at the sky in Chicago. The asphalt had swallowed him whole.

But this was the opposite. She could choose her obligations, and she liked that it was something as large as the future of the country. Powering it, anyway, becoming a worker of light or something.

“Can we at least try the chicken before we go?” fourth Hannah said.

They gathered around the kitchen table and tore into it with their bare hands. Hannah had grease on her fingers and lips, and she knew she was in no danger of crying. They tossed the bones in a heap.

“Let’s call Liko when we get there,” second Hannah said. Hannah had been dreading that, which of them would get him.

“We should settle in first,” she said. The others knew what she wouldn’t say. They’d have to tell him everything, but they lacked the language, so there was nothing to say.

Hannah locked the front door with finality. They didn’t wait around to see whether another Hannah was sitting inside on the carpet. Sometimes nothing moved for years, and then everything moved at once.

They piled into the car with a few pairs of jeans stacked in the trunk. Hannah drove and second Hannah rode shotgun. They were in perfect agreement about the music second Hannah played. Long-haired nineties women on guitars who really knew how to howl. The Hannahs strained to hit the same high notes. Nobody wanted to sing backup.

As they drove west, the transmission towers looked like giants standing one after another on two legs with their hands on their hips, linked by wires in parallel lines. Inside the character for big, 大, was the character for human, 人. Hannah’s headache was gone. The land was flat. It used to be a prairie roamed by bison, and it might be again. The snow would fall on their insulated backs and not melt. They would never look up from the grass.

The two cooling towers at the Michigan City Plant looked like gray beakers looming hundreds of feet over the parking lot. Steam issued from their tops. They were solid concrete, one newly built by hundreds of workers, one converted from the plant back when it burned coal. The workers planned to build two more towers and two more reactors. The towers were already in progress.

The current reactor, under a concrete cupola, operated in a limited capacity. Eventually it would power the entire Midwest. A single rod the size of Hannah’s forearm would run Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus for ten days. The scale was beyond imagining. Esi had worked for months on the new towers. Her every other text message ended with It is what it is.

She was in a frenzy when they arrived and almost too distracted to grill Hannah about her other selves. She pulled Hannah aside.

“What the fuck is going on—who are they?” Esi had known Hannah for a decade, and she knew Hannah didn’t have sisters.

“Just—I’ll explain everything later,” Hannah said. She hadn’t even told Esi about her dad. She was waiting for the right moment. Some other goggles-and-clipboard was bobbing at Esi’s elbow, impatient for her attention. Esi waved him aside. The other Hannahs crowded in awkwardly, not sure whether she was beckoning to them.

“This is insane, as if things aren’t crazy enough with the third tower today,” Esi said, raising her clipboard and marking something on it. “Some guy was being a fucking cowboy and lifted too much, pulled something, and now he’s out of commission, and we’re going to need people in his crew at the pressure vessel, but of course he wasn’t documenting everything, so we’ve got to figure out the exact process for that section.”

She looked up at Hannah.

“You told me you were doing the forklift over at the fulfillment center, right?” Esi said.

“Well—I was doing it,” Hannah said. She had almost finished the training course.

“Can they?” Esi asked, motioning to the other Hannahs.

“Yeah, they can do it too.” Esi opened her mouth and widened her eyes and shook her head.

“Okay, you’re going to have to explain exactly what’s going on with them later, but right now, I’m putting you four in to mount concrete blocks under cooling tower three, and please, please, finish it before Thursday because that’s when the plumbers are starting to mount the pipes. Which they need to do before the electricians get in.”

She waved over another worker. “Julee, this is Hannah, my oldest friend. Hannah, this is Julee Cruz, also on forklift today. The electricians are on tower four for logistics, so you all are on your own.”

Julee looked the Hannahs over and nodded.

“You got it?” Esi asked. Goggles-and-clipboard was back, brandishing an extra clipboard.

“It is what it is,” Hannah said. Esi rolled her eyes and laughed.

“It is what it is.”

Cooling tower three was a concrete funnel raised on steel beams, finished at the top but waiting to materialize at the bottom. The Hannahs had a lot of freedom. They could figure out the best way to load a prestressed concrete block onto the forklift, unload it into the semicircle against the steel beams, secure it with external wires to the previously set blocks, and check that everything was level while simultaneously loading the next block. The Hannahs fell into a rhythm, operating two forklifts while two Hannahs stood and shouted instructions from the semicircle as it formed. They climbed each block as the stack grew. It was a dance.

Even though the third cooling tower wasn’t yet functional, they were given the white safety suits of workers in the operational reactor across the campus, which they dutifully wore. They looked like astronauts.

Other workers introduced themselves. Their names blurred. Buddy, Tracy, Roland, and the something-or-others. They bragged about the library, which they had just forced management to build. They pointed out the dance hall. They hoped the Hannahs would be assigned to cabins not too far from the parking lot. They made fun of the safety posters, hinted at the danger of the fueling rods they had handled themselves during emergencies. They assumed the Hannahs were sisters. The Hannahs, hypnotized placing every block in its spot, did not correct them.

At the end of the shift, the Hannahs parked their forklifts side by side and waved Julee over.

“You guys did all that?” Julee said, admiring the semicircle they had formed, “The whole section?”

“Yeah,” Hannah said. She gestured behind her where all the Hannahs were lined up in an infinity mirror of nodding and taking off their helmets. Work went fast when synchronized.

“Hot damn. You coming to the pierogi competition?”

“To make pierogi?”

“No, they’ve made them. It’s to see who can eat the most,” Julee said. “Cafeteria in half an hour.”

“I’ll be there in a bit. Save one for me.”

The Hannahs sat on the concrete boardwalk extending into Lake Michigan, surrounded on all sides by water. Lake Michigan was laughing. Every wave was a peal against the concrete. Second Hannah and third Hannah had stripped down to their underwear and slid into the water. Chicago’s spires were a blur on the horizon. She was that much closer to Liko. She wondered whether he could sense her.

It was August, so the water was the warmest it would get all year. Hannah lowered her calves in. The waterline tickled her skin. The lake could never be still, not even for a moment. She watched second and third Hannah tread water with their arms against the concrete. Two bobbing yellow buoys against gray water and gray wall. They shouted things to each other over the waves. Later, Hannah would think about why everything happened. For the time being, fourth Hannah put her head on Hannah’s shoulder. She smelled like nothing, like oblivion.

“We could go back to the apartment and see how many more Hannahs come out,” fourth Hannah said.

“Yeah,” Hannah said. “We could have a thousand of us or ten thousand.”

“We’ll invade countries. Like run into their cities in a column a thousand Hannahs thick.”

They laughed from the belly.

“Take their men’s seed and have hundreds and hundreds of babies,” Hannah said.

“I don’t think Liko would like that.” She took off her shirt and pants and folded them carefully next to Hannah. Second and third Hannah had swum out a little farther. Their shouts were lost in the wind.

“No,” Hannah said.

“You know we can’t all have him,” fourth Hannah said. She tied her hair into a bun to keep it out of her face when she swam.

“No, we can’t.”

“One of us should go to him.”

“We’d all want to do that,” Hannah said.

Fourth Hannah nodded and dove into the water. She surfaced, facing Hannah, and swam on her back towards the others. Her arms alternated poking out of the water. Hannah thought about getting in, but she had no momentum. She thought about Fusilli and the way that dog had run across the sand dunes the first day they met. No attachments, no aversions. Dogs remembered nothing and knew everything, was what it was. Fourth Hannah and the other two swam out further. Hannah straightened her back and raised her neck to see them, three yellow dots in the waves. They had been out there too long. Hannah slid into the lake. She kicked into a breaststroke, keeping her head above the water, propelling herself in their direction. She thought she could see them a ways out.

“Hey!” Hannah shouted, angling her mouth toward the sky.

She could hear only the waves and the wind. One wave slapped her in the face. Her sinuses screamed. She thought she could see them still a bit farther out. Something was at work, deeper than her paltry existence. Her muscles burned with lactic acid. The waves didn’t stop their onslaught. She would make it or she wouldn’t. Lake Michigan was indifferent. The sky and the prairie were too. Hannah turned toward the land. The nuclear plant was the thing. It was the little project in the meantime: a gray pile fixed to the earth. Some light for the buildings. Some heat for their rooms. Something parents could raise their children by. Something workers could dance and holler under. The water was heavy, and her clothing was heavier. She wouldn’t get the other Hannahs back. She kicked against the waves until her fingertips brushed rough concrete again. She pulled herself onto the boardwalk. Fourth Hannah’s shirt and pants were still folded neatly to the side.

She coughed and nothing came up. Crawling forward over the boardwalk, she nursed her loss. As just Hannah, without even a dad, she missed her selves terribly. She took in a few deep breaths to cry, but her eyes were dry. She would explain to Esi and Julee and the others that they would need more forklift operators for the third cooling tower. Esi would grill Hannah over the appearance and disappearance of her selves as night fell, until they were both in tears and hysterics on her mattress, and Hannah could tell Esi about her dad, how he rocked her to sleep after every nightmare when she was five. In the coming months, she would apply herself, raise the cooling tower, handle the rods, enjoy the occasional pierogi, fall into her cabin every night with muscles aching.

Hannah reached into her pocket and realized her phone must have fallen out into the water while she was swimming. Once she got to the communal phone in the cafeteria, she would dial the number she had memorized. She would wrench Liko from his studies and ask him to ask her again and, yes, when he did, she would tell him about the last few days, the courage of her multiple selves attempting to move in unison, the answer to his question. Nothing lasted, but they had plenty of time.