You follow Juliet into the office lined with bare black bookshelves. She sits in the red velvet chair beside you, the white in her eyes as big as grapes. You wait with her, turning your head around the room, searching for books, any books at all.

“It sounds good, doesn’t it?” Juliet brushes her hair with an oval brush, the fat under her thumb red from her grip on the handle.

“I’m not convinced”, you say. You spot a brown paperback book on a shelf to your left, fallen over on its cover. Your eyesight is too poor to read the spine from the chair.

“Then why are you here to pay dues?” She plucks red hair out of the brush, examines it, and drops it in front of her face. You watch it flutter and fall. She looks at you. You shrug your shoulders.

The door opens behind you. A man, shorter than he first appeared to be an hour ago, walks around the chairs and to his desk. He stares between the two of you.

“We’re here to pay our dues.” Juliet pulls one hundred-dollar bill out of her purse and waves it in front of the man. He takes the money before he snaps out of his gaze at the door behind you.

“Terrific. You’re making the right choice. You really want to be on this side of history.” The man smiles and looks at you. You turn your head towards the book on the shelf, squint, and make out an O. Juliet calls to you.

“Give him the money,” she says.

“No,” you say.

“You always do this. You always embarrass me. You always fight me on the things I want to do. Don’t you want to conquer the world?”

“It won’t matter.” You turn your head back and stare at your white tennis shoes. The bottom of the man’s desk is filthy. There’s a coffee stain on the star in the rug at your feet.

“The world? No, the universe,” the man says. Juliet smiles.

“What’s the point of the dues then, if you’re going to conquer the world?” You kick your feet at the desk. The man frowns.

“The univ–“

“The universe.” You kick the desk harder.

“Everyone has to pay dues,” the man says.

Juliet turns her chair towards you. She leans in, closer than she’s ever been to you.

“I really want to do this. And I really don’t want to conquer the world alone,” she says.

“The universe,” the man says.

You look down at the red hair at Juliet’s feet, up to Juliet’s stomach, follow the fabric of her shirt up over her breasts, swallow to get past her neck, and sink into her eyes. You hand the man two fifty-dollar bills. Four years later, after the world ends and she leaves you, you stand in your own office with a star pattern area rug, holding your own copy of the conquest manifesto, and you reflect on the decision.

*

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