Chapter 20

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THE SHRILL RING OF A TELEPHONE woke Dominic from a long black fall. He rolled over and rubbed his eyes. A television babbled on the other side of the room. The late evening light streamed through the window, and though it was pale and weak, it made his eyes squint. He hadn't pulled the curtains over his window and from beyond the panes he could see that the sky was still platinum with rain clouds. The telephone rang again. He fumbled across the nightstand to pick it up. Dragging the receiver to his ear, the television remote fell to the floor. The cord was short and dragged the telephone toward him. It bumped the lamp, nearly toppling it. He quickly sat up and caught the objects before they fell and broke. With a heavy sigh he drawled a tired hello into the mouthpiece.

"Hello there, handsome." The waitress's voice sounded hollow across the line. "Ferries are running. Better hurry up, they said they may shut down again."

"Thank you," Dominic said, trying to sit up.

As he set the receiver back in the cradle, he pushed the blankets the rest of the way off his legs and rose from the bed. He grabbed his pack and looked around the room. Lena was nowhere to be seen. The waitress's words echoed in his ears. He had no time to look for her. Slinging his pack on his shoulder, he left.

Once he'd checked out of the small inn, Dominic made his way toward the ferry docks again. The same woman stared along the cliffs. He asked for a ticket, casting his gaze about for his guardian. She was still absent. The young woman gave him his ticket and returned to her staring contest with the cliffs. Dominic made his way to the docked boat that would carry him to France. He soon stood in line, smashed up with other passengers ready to board. Suddenly he saw the girl standing at his hip, a faint and translucent ghost. With a grimace, he looked over the heads of the other passengers. He wished they were alone so he could warn her.

At last, the passengers boarded. Wandering along the wet deck, he made his way toward the back. Few people appeared interested in the seats still facing the port; they were probably more interested in where they were going than where they'd been. Either way, it made for a chance to explain that he was losing his sight.

"Where have you been?" Dominic asked the girl.

"Right beside you," Lena replied.

"I fell asleep," Dominic said, worried. He looked at the docks and graygreen water.

"I know." Lena sat down.

Lena sounded dismayed. Dominic cast a sidelong glance to see if she looked concerned. He hadn't slept much since his last lifetime. He usually didn't need sleep. Having sent him there in mortal form had had dire consequences, some still yet to manifest themselves. What if he collapsed from exhaustion when Maiel needed him most?

"Your form is becoming stronger—mortal. It's making it harder to reveal myself to you. The sight'll leave you, the more flesh you take on," Lena added.

"So you're saying I'm either getting fat or our time grows thin," Dominic said, turning and sitting down.

Passengers wandered closer. He didn't have much time to clearly understand the consequences.

"You should stay at the front, where the most people are," Lena advised.

"I'd rather stay away from them," Dominic said, taking the atlas back out and looking over the many faces of the Earth over the years.

"I sense a shadow," Lena said, staring at him.

"Even more reason. I want to see the knife coming at me. Can't do that in a crowd."

Lena stared at him hard.

Dominic sighed and put the book back in his bag. She wasn't about to let him ignore her. Her eyes bored into him like hot augers. Dragging his bag after him, he made his way toward the bow of the ferry. The horn blew and the crew made the last preparations for the crossing. He paused a moment, noticing their strange traits: long sallow faces with ragged teeth. One smiled at him and he nodded in return, continuing on. It was a passing thought, paranoia.

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