We’re in a ramshackle farmhouse in the far north, a half-dozen of us, sleeping at odd hours because there are no clocks and the sun never sets. Though ostensibly this is a writers’ colony, we think we might be stars in a covert reality TV show, a la The Truman Show. How else to explain the complete psychological profile and multiple photos required in the submission process, and the rule that we only wear certain brands of clothing? Anything can be a camera these days — and besides, who ever heard of hummingbirds above the Arctic Circle?

I find a window no one’s looked out of before. It shows me a twelve-story Chinese pagoda in flames that do not consume it as long as I watch. Perhaps the flames are really autumn leaves, pulled upwards by extreme low pressure. Someone else needs to see this, I think, but the nearest writer turns out to be sound asleep, though his pen still inches across the paper. I go outside to look for the pagoda and get lost in a maze of streets. Eventually I come to to a town square with a big bank clock. 12:45, it says. If that’s a.m., I’ll go to a bar. If it’s p.m., I’ll go to a coffee shop.

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