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The Wishing Map
Chapter Twenty-Two: Everything (Continued)
Previously: Terrified by recurring prophetic dreams, Gina and Zack forced themselves to stay awake for days.
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When nerve endings are stressed badly enough, the functions of the brain bleed together. Zack began to smell colors and taste sounds. This might have been pleasantly hallucinogenic were it not for the fact that every blue he smelled, every cow’s moo he tasted was like a razor cut to the senses. Compared to Gina, however, he fared well.
In lieu of sleeping nightmares, her brain manufactured waking ones from everything she took in: tree limbs stabbed at her eyes, magpies jabbed at her ears, worms tunneled into her nostrils. She shifted position, moaned, begged it, whatever it was, to leave her alone.
It was the worst day in history, the day the universe turned against them. Both began to think that sleep, even sleep filled with heartless monsters and soulless Tinkurs, would be better than this. And then they saw the Inn.
The Inn at the Eastern Ridge was impressive. Fashioned from rosy ceurrish pine and blue-gray boulders, with handsomely rusted ironworks, it was on the very brink of Forest Cítuclar, overlooking the ancient walled fortress of D’nair a mile below. For the first time, Zack and Gina had a room together.
That evening, Gina went cliffside to gaze down at the valley, desperate to crowd out the images in her mind. It didn’t work. “Are you there?” she called. “If you are, take this away. I can’t do it! I’m sorry, OK? Why isn’t that enough for you? Well, it’ll just have to be, because I can’t kill this beast. I can’t save this world. Or any world! I’m just a stupid little girl. Why don’t you get that?”
Looking down at D’nair, she remembered the insane chieftain with the sixteen eyes. He was from D’nair. But there was something else… B’frona had accused her of wanting to take his dragon to D’nair. Then she thought of Puff, and every cell in her body suddenly longed to curl up in that big luxurious bed in the Dragon Manse with his protective tail draped across her, drifting in dreamless sleep. “Oh, Puff!” she sighed. And then she heard a sound that made her heart freeze.
It had come from behind her, and it was the most hideous noise she’d ever heard, clearly not human. Her spine turned to ice, the blood drained from her legs, her knees began to buckle. But somehow she had the presence to reach for her broadsword. Part of her was actually glad. At least now it would be over. She whirled around, assuming a wide-legged side stance, exposing minimum body surface just as Buigor had taught her.
And there before her stood…
…her brother and his stupid gorilla of a friend.
“Zack, you freaking little monkey-faced—“
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! It wasn’t my idea. It was Buigor’s.”
“You think this is funny? You think it’s some kind of joke to…to…”
“It wasn’t a joke! Buigor said you needed testing.”
Buigor re-created the roar that had just a moment ago stopped Gina’s heart.
“He said it was the only way to know.”
Gina shoved her sword into its sheath, and stormed between them, punching both in the stomach as hard as she could when she did.
“Did you see?” Buigor pantomimed.
Thoughts: Waiting for the thing you dread is nearly always worse than the thing itself.
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