劇透 - :
“You look like a troll took a dump on your face,” Lanos remarked, lounging in his seat, feet up on the dash and crossed at the ankles.
“Gee, thanks,” Allie Fiddich shot back without lifting her hands from the wheel or her gaze from the road and the route mapped out in translucent green on the windshield. “I love you, too.”
The elf beside her snorted at that, and Allie smothered a smile, determined to make him think she was angry with him, at least for a minute. It was no use, though. They’d been partners for three years now. He knew her too well.
“Seriously,” he continued, some of the mocking fading from his tone, “you okay? You look beat.”
“I’m fine.” She pushed back a lock of hair that had sprung loose from the ponytail, swaying in her peripheral vision like an albino snake eager to strike. “Just not sleeping well, I guess.”
The cross street she wanted suddenly loomed in her vision, the blinking map indicating the turn, and she yanked the wheel hard right, sending the ambulance careening around the corner.
“Gods!” Lanos cursed, his right hand clutching at the strap above his door. “Slow it down, Allie! We’re trying to get to an accident, not be one!”
“Yeah, yeah,” she groused, but eased off the gas a little to appease him. It wasn’t like he wasn’t used to her driving by now, and they both knew she’d never had an accident. She couldn’t handle going slow, that was all—it was either nothing or full speed ahead. But maybe she had been going just a little fast.
Still, people were waiting on them. And Detroit was a big place, too big to dawdle on their way.
劇透 - :
“This is it,” Lanos remarked as Allie hit the brakes, the ambulance screeching to a halt. She pulled up onto the curb and left it there, lights spiraling, as they hopped out and studied the building. It was old, pre-UCAS for sure, with a red brick front decorated here and there by pale stone elements to match the broad steps leading up to the front door.
“Nice,” Allie said, and her partner nodded. Nicer than her place over in Dearborn, that was certain. And Lanos lived all the way out in Windsor, across the river, in one of the all-elven enclaves. “Which apartment?” she asked, reminding herself they were here to do a job.
“4D,” he answered as they took the stairs two at a time. The information was hovering in a corner of her helmet visor, of course, but she hadn’t felt like clicking on it. Since her partner had his projected directly into his corneal implants, she knew he’d already have the info on hand, and it was just easier to ask him for it. One of the other reasons they worked so well together—they both put up with each other’s idiosyncrasies.
A small, mousy woman was waiting for them, and pushed open the front door as they reached it. She’d obviously spotted the Ares logo on the ambulance, and the IDs projected from their uniforms’ breast pockets, so she knew they were legit.
“I’m the one who called,” she explained, stepping to one side so Lanos and then Allie could ease into the entrance hall. “Skulldrinker is my next-door neighbor.”
She wore an AR visor set into old-fashioned glasses that curved up at the ends and did nothing to make her plain features more interesting,
and she pushed them up her nose as she trailed Allie and Lanos past the handsome brass bars of a small elevator—Lanos didn’t even ask, knowing how much Allie hated enclosed spaces—toward the broad central staircase. “He’s not a bad man, he’s actually very nice most of the time, but sometimes he gets a little out of control. Today’s been a bad day. I heard shouting, and the sound of things breaking, and then more shouting and cursing, and more breaking, and—”
“—and you’re afraid he’s gonna hurt himself, or someone else,” Allie finished for her. The woman nodded. “Is he on anything?”
The neighbor looked away, but finally nodded again. “I think so,” she managed in a near-whisper. “I’m sorry.”
Allie exchanged a look with her partner. She knew they had to be thinking the same thing: should they or shouldn’t they?
They were paramedics. If Mr. Skulldrinker was suffering the ill effects of some drug, they could help him. If he’d hurt himself, they could help him.
But if he was upset about something and having an old-fashioned hissy fit, there wasn’t much they could do. And this should be a matter for Knight Errant, the Ares security force that handled all local law enforcement.
After a second, Allie nodded. Lanos sighed, but then shrugged. She knew he’d have her back.
Together they started up the stairs.
“We’re going to see what we can do for him,” Allie called back over her shoulder as they ascended. The woman hadn’t made a move to follow. “But if we’re not back down in ten, you need to call the Knights.” Their uniforms had built-in red buttons for just such a need, of course, but if the worst happened and neither of them were conscious to hit the link, this was a good back-up. And it gave the woman something to focus on beside her fear.
“Preferably before the angry man upstairs caves in our skulls and, well, lives up to his name,” Lanos muttered. Allie shot him a glare, but didn’t bother elbowing him. She was going to need all her energy to get up all these stairs.
劇透 - :
“Okay, here we go,” Allie said. They stood outside apartment 4D, listening. From inside came the sound of someone clomping about, muffled curses, and noises that sounded like furniture being shoved aside. So clearly Mr. Skulldrinker was still conscious, and still in a crappy mood.
Lanos was still gasping for breath—she’d have to tease him about that later—and Allie felt fine, so she took the lead. “Mr. Skulldrinker?” she called out, loud enough that he’d be able to hear her through the thick safety door. Too bad their med sensors couldn’t pierce the reinforced wood and metal to just show them where he was! “My name is Allie, I’m a paramedic, I work for the city. Are you in need of medical attention?”
She tried again. “Mr. Skulldrinker, we received a call that you might need help. Is that true? Do you need help?”
“We’re going to come in and just make sure you’re okay, all right?” she said, pointing at the doorknob. Lanos nodded and grasped it firmly, his long fingers wrapping around the metal knob. He muttered several words Allie couldn’t make out, but that sent a chill down her spine and a thrill up from her toes nonetheless, and with a sharp click the door unlocked. Lanos pushed it open, and slid inside, with Allie right behind him.
She could see right away that Mr. Skulldrinker had been busy. Everywhere she looked, furniture was in disarray, pictures were knocked off the wall, throw pillows and all sorts of other décor had been scattered about—it looked like a small hurricane had ripped through here.
A second later, that hurricane leaped out, snorting and snarling like a maddened boar.
Which wasn’t an inaccurate comparison, Allie found herself thinking with the part of her brain that wasn’t frozen in fear, watching as a large, powerful figure came stomping toward them from a back room. Skulldrinker was built like a typical ork, complete with heavy brow, jutting tusks, thick tufts of hair, and pointed ears. Unlike many of his brethren, he wasn’t sporting any obvious tattoos or piercings, and he wore a nice suit instead of leathers—or rags—but his big hands were still wadded into fists, and his muscles still bulged beneath his clothes.
He didn’t look very happy to see them.
劇透 - :
He also doesn’t look entirely lucid, Allie thought, studying the sweat beading his brow and the glassy look in his eyes, her visor automatically cataloging and recording the data. His neighbor had been right—he was definitely on something.
Unfortunately, that only meant he’d be even harder to reason with.
<Knights?> Lanos texted, and Allie nodded. Mr. Skulldrinker didn’t appear to be injured, so the security forces could handle this.
But he clearly had other ideas. He swung a heavy arm in a wide, fast arc, and his fist crashed into Lanos, sending him reeling backward. Then the ork turned toward Allie.
“Don’t,” she warned, her own hands rising defensively toward her face. “We’re just trying to help—”
The ork either didn’t hear her or didn’t care. His fist lashed out again, this time straight in front of him, leaping the gap between him and Allie like a missile. The blow caught her full in the chest, and now she was the one falling, arms flailing as she tried to right herself in time—
—and then, suddenly, she wasn’t.
There was what felt like a rush of wind, brisk and invigorating. Somehow Allie found herself back on her feet, centered and stable, and within arm’s reach of the crazed ork. He took another swing at her, but this time she blocked the blow, his massive arm unbelievably sliding off her much slighter limb, the force of the impact jarring her but not enough to make her shift her stance in the slightest.
Then she retaliated, her own hand balling into a fist that rocketed forward to connect with the ork’s sloping brow like a sledgehammer.
One punch. One punch was all it took. One punch that knocked Skulldrinker right off his feet, his head snapping back from the force of the blow, dismissing his consciousness so that when he dropped back to the ground it was to collapse in a heap before them, body limp, eyes shut.
She had knocked him out.
Allie paused to let that sink in. She had knocked him out. She, Allie Fiddich, had just knocked out an ork. With one punch. And her hand didn’t even hurt, which it definitely should—hell, it should be a mess, considering how tough orks were compared to humans, but nothing felt broken or even bruised. Her hand looked and felt…fine.
“You okay?” she asked Lanos, who had just righted himself.
“Fine,” he answered. “Even better if no one ever hears about what happened to me.” He eyed Allie carefully. “You?”
“Five by five,” Allie answered, an old saying she’d read in one of her books. “Let’s get him restrained and call it in.” She hit the downed ork with a hypo-spray, just to be on the safe side, then tugged a pair of zipties from one of her vest pockets. Once they’d trussed him up, the two of them struggled to get the unconscious ork back downstairs and to their ambulance.
“So what was that?” Lanos asked as they cleared the first landing. “Was I still dizzy, or did you really put him down with one punch?” He eyed her hands, clearly expecting the one she’d used to be pulped or at least torn up.
Allie shrugged and shifted her grip so her hand wasn’t as visible. “Just got lucky, I guess.”
But deep down, she didn’t entirely believe that.
劇透 - :
“Looks like you’ve got an admirer,” Lanos told her over lunch the next day. He must have read the utter confusion in Allie’s ice-blue stare, because he laughed and waved his chopsticks toward his left. “Behind me, long hair, pale, sharp suit. Been watching you.” He grinned around his noodles. “Want me to scare him off?”
“No worries,” Allie replied, scooping up another big bite of spicy chicken and using the motion to cover her search for the man. “I’ve got this.” Her helmet sat beside her, which meant she couldn’t use its visual enhancement to get a better look, so hopefully the guy in question was close enough she wouldn’t need it.
There. He matched Lanos’s description, such as it was—tall, slender, long hair as white as her own, good suit. There was something familiar about him, though she was sure she’d never seen him in her life. And he was definitely watching her. Allie took another quick bite before setting the remains of her lunch aside and hopping to her feet. She took off at a fast walk straight at the guy, determined to get some answers.
But he saw her coming a kilometer away. She was close enough to see his thin lips curve into just the hint of a smile before he stepped back and allowed the noon crowd to swallow him up. Allie cursed under her breath. She didn’t know why or how, but she was sure this was connected to what’d happened the other night.
Unfortunately, it didn’t look like she’d be getting any answers any time soon.
劇透 - :
She glanced up from stowing her gear in her locker. “Hm?”
Tina, one of the other paramedics, grinned from under her mass of glowing red curls. “It’s my birthday, remember? We’re all going parasailing?”
“Oh. Right.” To be honest, Allie hadn’t planned to go. Not that she didn’t like Tina, but she wasn’t much of the party type. Nor did she go in for thrill-seeking. Especially if it involved heights.
“Ah, you know she won’t,” Tina’s partner Grittan said with a deep chuckle that sent the braids of his beard dancing across his broad chest. “Not Ice Queen Allie.”
Lanos materialized behind the dwarf and glowered down at him. “Watch it.”
“What?” Grittan threw up his hands, his smile wicked beneath his beard. “I’m just saying. She never deigns to mingle with us lesser mortals. Do you, Allie?”
The challenge was obvious—no one had ever accused Grittan of being subtle—and normally Allie would just roll her eyes and ignore it. But tonight she found herself grabbing her jacket out of the locker before slamming it shut and rising to her feet. “You know what?” she declared, tugging the light jacket on as she stepped closer to the others. “I’m in.”
“Really?” Lanos looked surprised, as did Grittan. That, and the fact that Tina was practically squealing with delight, made the decision worth it.
At least Allie hoped so.
劇透 - :
“Oh my gods, what am I doing?” Allie wailed. “Why can’t we just do something nice and safe, like sim-jump into active volcanoes? I’m going to die!”
“You’re fine,” Lanos assured her for the tenth time. “Just relax.” A smile tugged at his lips. “You might even enjoy this.”
She just glared at him as he ignored her complaints and entreaties and checked the straps and buckles of her harness. “Good to go,” he said at last, stepping back and giving the boat captain a thumbs-up.
Allie shrieked one final time as the boat revved its engine and shot forward—and she rose up from the water, the parasail filling with air and lofting her into the night sky.
For a second, she was terrified, looking down at the Detroit River and the city to either side of it. Her hands clutched the straps so tight her fingers were bone-white, and her legs swung frantically, desperate for anything solid to kick against.
But then the breeze tickled her cheek, the smell of the water and the crisp upper air inflated her lungs, and she breathed deep, her thrashing slowing, her cries fading away.
It was so beautiful up here! Why had she never thought to try this before?
The boat raced along, carrying her behind it, and she just floated, head tilted back, letting her pale braid flap behind her like a kite’s tail. For the first time she could remember, Allie felt totally at peace.
And then something else rose up within her, like a sea beast slowly cresting the surface.
She was hungry.
But not for food. No, this was the same burning need she felt when she was behind the wheel. The hunger for speed.
She wanted more. Faster. She wanted to race through the night, the wind whipping past her, cutting through the air like an arrow, swift and silent and deadly.
She tugged on the straps connecting her to the boat, but the captain either didn’t notice or didn’t care, because he didn’t speed up. The leisurely excursion continued, with Allie chafing to cut loose and really soar.
Eventually it ended, the boat powering down, and she drifted gently lower, until she was floating on the water, the parasail draped behind her like an enormous silken cape. Lanos was waiting, along with Tina and Grittan and a few of the others who had already gone.
“What’d you think?” her partner asked as he waded over to Allie and helped her unbuckle. “Great, right?”
“Yeah, it was great,” she agreed, and if her tone was less than ebullient her smile convinced him she was telling the truth. Nor was she lying, really. It had been great being up in the air, far more so than she would have believed.
But deep down, Allie knew she’d never do this again. Not because she hadn’t liked it, but because she’d liked it too much, and because it hadn’t been enough. Floating along like that had been a taunt, teasing her with what she really wanted, but then denying it to her.
She wasn’t sure she could bear to go through that again.
劇透 - :
The sky wraps around, but not stifling, not enveloping.
Cradling, but open enough to allow full freedom of movement, inviting but not restricting.
The chains still bind, but their creaking is louder now, more strident,
the links struggling against the forces pushing them outward, striving to break free.
Already there is some give to them. Soon there will be more.
Soon they will snap, and fall away, and there will be no more obstacles, no more tethers.
劇透 - :
“What’ve we got?” Allie asked as she pulled the ambulance over between two patrol cars. The Knight Errant officers had waved the ambulance through the cordon, dropping the electric warning fence they’d erected and then quickly reestablishing it, so as Allie parked and got out, all she saw around them were people in full tactical gear.
“Domestic violence,” Lanos answered. That was how they always worked, he took the calls while she drove, then filled her in when they got there. The last thing he wanted, he often said, was to distract her from her driving. “Husband, wife, two kids.”
“Injuries?” This was directed as much to the sergeant approaching them as to Lanos.
“We don’t know yet,” the security expert admitted as he reached them, looking no-nonsense in his smart black uniform. “The husband just got laid off, he and the wife got into it, he got physical, the neighbor called it in. He’s tough, was one of us till he got let go for drinking, so we weren’t taking any chances. Sent in a neuro-stun via drone, place’s been quiet since, figure he’s down and out.”
“Right, so we’re on search and rescue.” Allie tapped Lanos on the shoulder. “Let’s go.”
They headed past the Knights and inside. They’d done this sort of thing before, of course. The wife and children would’ve been knocked out as well, and who knew if he’d hurt them before that, so Allie and Lanos would go in, locate the wife and kids, assess their condition, escort them out if possible, and call for backup if not. Meanwhile the Knights would keep watch outside—once everyone else was clear they’d go in and cuff the guy, but they didn’t want to risk setting him off and endangering everyone else further.
An HRT Knight, fully decked out in tac-armor and an Ares Alpha with underbarrel grenade launcher, showed them to the apartment door, which had already been breached. Gas was still drifting out from under the partially-open door, but the room behind was only mildly hazy, which meant most of the stun gas had already dissipated. Even so, Allie pulled out her gas mask and slid it on, hooking it onto her helmet, and Lanos did the same beside her. Better safe than sorry.
Then they went in.
Even through her visor, Allie could see that everything had a seedy, rundown look to it. Most of it was neat, though. Nothing out of place, not like that ork’s the other day. Clearly this family believed in keeping up appearances.
But where were they?
“Over here!” Lanos called, and Allie turned. He’d split off, checking a room to the side, and Allie quickly caught up with him. Three figures were curled up in the far corner behind a set of bunk beds: one adult, the other two smaller. The wife and kids. Allie sighed in relief before hurrying over to help check on them.
“Vitals are strong,” she reported a minute later, reading the scan off her visor. “Unconscious, but they’ll be fine. Where is he?” They couldn’t risk waking and moving the family until they knew they had a clear exit path.
“Got to be around here somewhere,” Lanos answered. There wasn’t anyone else in this room, so they stepped back out into the main area. A kitchen lay beyond that, and there were two other doors as well. One had to be a bathroom, which would make the other the master bedroom.
They could see the whole kitchen and it was empty, so the husband had to be behind one of those two doors. Their helmets had IR capability, but gas confused the sensors, so they were stuck with operating on pure visual for now.
Allie reached the first door, quietly twisted the knob, and pushed it open. A large bed greeted her. Master bedroom. But she didn’t see anyone. She cautiously stuck her head in and looked around, but still no sign of the husband.
She was just turning to let Lanos know the room was clear when she caught motion past him. It was the bathroom door, silently swinging open. The space beyond it was dark, and completely clear of gas—but far from empty.
劇透 - :
“Look out!” she shouted, but the gas mask muffled her words. Her partner’s sharp elf ears heard her anyway, and he started to turn, but didn’t get more than halfway around before a short, stocky figure reared up and smashed Lanos across the head with something heavy. Allie heard the crack of metal on plasteel, and her partner dropped to the ground.
“No!” she shouted. The husband—a dwarf, by his height and build and heavy beard—turned to her, grinning savagely as he raised the mace and stepped forward. Allie tried to back away, but only got a few feet before she bumped up against the living room couch. The husband stalked closer, mace ready to swing.
He was only a few feet away now, and she could clearly see his wild eyes and flared nostrils, the heaving chest and the mumbling, grunting mouth. There was definitely something wrong with him.
Allie couldn’t breathe. She ripped off her helmet, gas mask and all, locking eyes with the dwarf as he lifted his mace. He hefted it, clearly about to strike her down as well—
—and somewhere in her head Allie heard a clear, crisp sound, almost like the tone of a bell.
Or the sound of something metal finally snapping and falling away.
“You will not hurt me,” she declared in a loud, ringing voice, tossing her braid over her shoulder. She glared down at the dwarf, and suddenly it seemed as if he had shrunk or she had grown because the height difference between them increased so that she had to tilt her head forward in order to make him out. His own face had paled, his mouth falling open, eyes widening as he gazed up at her, and his hand shook around the mace.
“No…” he whispered, the first word Allie had heard him say. “Please, no.” For a second, she thought he might drop the weapon, but instead she saw his eyes narrow and his lips pull back in a sneer as he gripped the mace even more tightly. With a roar he leaped toward her, mace poised to strike.
But the blow never landed, as Allie opened her mouth to scream her defiance, daring him to do his worst—
—and electricity shot forth, arcing into the dwarf and freezing him in place, his whole body convulsing. The mace fell to the floor, but the crackling energy continued for a few seconds before finally fading away, leaving the dwarf unconscious and twitching on the floor, Lanos there beside him.
Allie felt her feet sink back down onto the threadbare carpet, a wave of exhaustion suddenly hitting her, and she staggered, resting a hand on the couch back for support.
What in the nine hells just happened?
劇透 - :
Afterward, she just stood and stared. Lanos was finishing up handing the wife and children off to nurses, but Allie couldn’t even remembering driving them back to the hospital. She must have, though, because the ambulance was in its usual spot and she was standing outside it.
“You okay?” her partner asked her once the family had been taken care of. He winced and rubbed his head. “I’m going to get checked out—you should too.” He’d been lucky—the sound Allie had heard had been his helmet shattering, not his skull, and it had dispersed the force of the blow enough to render it nonlethal, but he probably still had a concussion, if not worse.
“I’m fine,” Allie pulled herself together enough to reply. “You go on. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Yeah, okay.” He started for the hospital doors but paused. “Hey, Allie?” he asked, and she nodded. “Good work today. If you hadn’t hit him with that taser... Thanks.” This was as serious as she’d ever seen him, and Allie knew better than to blow off such a sincere statement.
Instead she just said, “Of course. You know I’ve got your back.” She watched as Lanos headed back inside.
Then she turned and took off in the other direction.
劇透 - :
Allie didn’t get very far, however. A few minutes later she was in the hospital garden, a little place out back that provided a few bushes, a few flowers, a few benches, and some grass and trees for anyone needing to escape the hospital’s sterile environment. She sank down onto one of the benches and tried to marshal her thoughts.
What was going on with her? What had happened with that dwarf? Yes, their gloves had built-in tasers, but she hadn’t activated hers. And what about that ork, for that matter? None of it made sense, but something deep within told Allie that that might not mean it was wrong. Making sense didn’t seem to have much of a relationship with the truth at the moment.
Footsteps suddenly rang out nearby, making her glance up.
It was the man she’d seen the other day, the tall one with the pale hair and the fancy clothes. “You appear to be having some difficulty,” he said as he slid onto the bench beside her, leaving a small buffer space between them. “I can help, if I may.”
Allie glared at him. “Who are you? What do you want? Have you been following me?”
But he waved the questions aside. “The past is not important,” he claimed. “It’s what we do with tomorrow that matters.”
“Nice way to avoid the question,” Allie shot back, earning a flush against almost-milk-pale skin.
“Very well.” The stranger executed an odd, seemingly formal bow. “I have been following you, yes. To make sure you are safe. That is all.”
“Safe? Safe how?” She shuddered at the memory of recent events. “I nearly got flattened by an ork a few days ago. Then today I almost got taken down by a dwarf. You call that safe?”
“Neither of them could have hurt you,” he assured her, sounding as if he genuinely believed that, “and that is not the sort of safety that concerns me.” Eyes as ice-blue as her own stabbed at her; not meanly, just with laser intensity. “Tell me, what do you remember?” Allie started telling him about the ork and the dwarf, but he held up a long, slender hand. “No,” he said softly. “What do you remember?”
“I—I’ve been having these dreams,” she replied finally, not even sure why she was telling him this. “About the sky—and flying, I think. And about chains.” He nodded, and she went on, “and the chains—they were breaking.”
That earned a sigh from him. “Yes,” he agreed, pushing back his long white hair; a hue that, like her own, belied youthful features. “You are starting to break free. To remember what—and who—you truly are.” He did not seem entirely happy about this. “It is too soon, however,” he declared softly, his gaze fierce and sad all at once. “You must go back.”
“Go back? Go back where?” Allie felt a shiver of fear run through her. “Who did this to me? And what did they do to me, exactly?”
Now he smiled, and it was so sad she felt her own eyes well up in response. “Who did this?” he repeated. “You did.”
“What?” But something inside Allie told her this was true.
“You knew they were not ready yet,” the man continued. “Your presence would set certain events in motion, and to start that too soon would spell the end of all. So you hid yourself away. But you are beginning to break free, despite yourself.”
She considered that, searching for falsehood in his words, his tone, his gaze, and finding none. “So this . . . release,” she said slowly, watching him closely. “It’s bad?” He nodded. “And I knew that?” Another nod. She almost asked what she was, what she had been, what she was becoming, but some instinct stopped her. If she did ask that, and he answered, she somehow knew that would be irreversible. And if what he said was true, that would be bad for everyone. “All right,” she decided. “Then how do I stop it?”
“Only you can restore the bonds you forged,” he told her. “I can guide you, however. But are you sure?”
“If it keeps people safe, yes.” She didn’t give herself time to second-guess her choice. “What do we do?”
He frowned a second, then smoothed his face to calm again. “Close your eyes,” he instructed, and she did so, oddly finding herself completely comfortable trusting this man she’d only just met. “Picture the chains in your mind.”
That was easy enough—she could hear them grinding against each other every time she went quiet, could see their massive, rusted links every time she blinked.
“Now pour your strength into them,” he told her, his voice low and soothing and hypnotic. “Imbue them with your convictions. Will them to grow solid and closed again.”
Allie did as he said. She focused on the chains and wished for them to become strong again, to tighten around her, to grow taut. She put all of her thought into it, all of her heart, and she felt the change take hold, the chains firming and freezing, the links no longer shrieking and bending, the lengths no longer sliding and shifting. Everything settled, like a great weight sinking in on her, pinning her down.
“Good,” he said, and she wondered how he could know she’d succeeded. “You have done well. As I knew you would. You were ever the greatest of us.” She blinked, opening her eyes, but he was gone, the echo of his words fading away on the breeze.
Allie shook her head and rose to her feet. She had a fierce headache, and wanted nothing more than to go home and sleep it off. Why had she been sitting here in the hospital garden, anyway?
She staggered toward home, her limbs leaden, her eyes aching, her mind numb. Somehow she made it back to her apartment and to her couch, which she dropped onto, too exhausted to continue to the bedroom. This would do fine.
Why does my head hurt so much? What have I been doing? Everything was a blur, particularly the last few days, and trying to think about them just sent shards of pain lancing behind her eyes. Easier not to, she decided, and let her eyes droop closed. Perhaps I’ll feel better in the morning…
劇透 - :
Across the street from Allie’s building, a tall, slender man stood in the shadows, watching with more than just his eyes. At last he nodded, satisfied.
“Sleep well, Mother,” he whispered, his long white hair flowing about him in a wind that stirred nothing else. “I will see you again—some day.” His eyes glittered with more than just their normal icy blue, but no tears fell as he turned away. There was a rustling in the dark, a pale shadow darting up into the sky, and then all was quiet once more.
And back in her room, Allie dreamed of nothing—and did not know to mourn her loss.