Chapter 1 - Foremath

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A chirping filled the air. It rose up to swirl around, floating in the sky briefly before the cycle repeated. Among those present there remained silence. No words had been spoken since the campfire settled down into a relaxed burn. The fire had reflected and perhaps fueled the energy they exchanged. A full moon illuminated from low on the horizon, staring unblinking at them from across the ocean's break.

The foreign sound had disturbed a mood of blissful aftermath.

The man spoke first. Idly, he said, "We are happy."

"Hmm..." said the woman to his left.

"Yeah," confirmed the other.

There was no intention to speak more; the moment did not require it. Surf was the provider, playing an orchestra movement upon the beach.

It began again: the chirping. After the third cycle, he said, "That is odd, you know."

"What is?"

"That a phone could have signal here. Being unreachable, that was the fun of this spot."

Zuni, "Well, Darren. Progress. They have simply put in a new tower."

Kara, "You could choose to ignore it."

The sound remained insistent. The partners' look soured to disappointment as he reached into the bag. Damage to the mood had already been done.

Acknowledging the screen, he said with restrained excitement, "It's Jillian."

"Don't answer."

Kara said, snuggling in, "It has remained his choice, Zuni. Accept that it has already been made. Be at peace." She moved to require the other woman's embrace. "We remain here, you and I. We will await his return."

Darren looked at the women. Their peace flowed with his.

A finger swipe answered the phone. The connection must have been good as the call switched to video. He looked at the screen. The bright blue sky in the background pulled in his attention.

"Darren?!! I have been trying to reach you, like forever!"

He opened his mouth to speak but found it painful. Breath had become painful.

She continued without waiting for him to respond, "Where are you? I have looked up and down the deck but couldn't find you or Zuni. They won't let us leave here. I am at the orange station. What color are you at?"

He hadn't heard most of the words. Thinking about breathing brought awareness of pain. His leg throbbed. A cough brought on piercing sharp pain.

"Are you injured?"

No response.

"Darren, what color station are you at?"

He managed the sound, "Orange?"

"What?!! No. I am at orange. What color are you and Zuni at?"

"Color?"

"Yes. What color?!"

Darren looked around. The beach was gone. Kara was gone. Zuni was here, but the image was horrible. The nightmare had returned. He turned away, closing his eyes, and pressed into the seat.

He said aloud, "Please, let this go away. I want to be back at the beach. I want to be back with Kara and Zuni." The distant sound of surf began to return. Light was brightening. Pain was receding.

The sound of Jillian was jarring, interrupting the soliloquy. "Darren! What are you talking about? What beach?!! I don't understand you. Is Zuni there? Can you give the phone to her!"

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