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Aidan suspected that the stranger didn’t smile like that normally, might even be surprised if he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror.  The man looked oddly… happy.  Not lost or harried, but happy.  Aidan almost wished he hadn’t said anything, found himself thinking that things would have been better if they had never come here at all.  He felt somehow that it was his fault – their fault, his and Eve’s.  Why couldn’t they leave the man the way he was?  It would be kinder, wouldn’t it?  He might stay like this forever, or he might gradually fade away, but maybe that’s what heaven was.  Maybe the man was dead, and this was his ghost, or his soul, or spirit, or something like that, and this is where he belonged.

“I hate to be the one to tell you this…” Eve began.

The man looked away, the smile slipping, the contentment hardening into something that happiness had no part in.

“You’re going to say you’re sorry again, aren’t you.”

[Final total at the end of the day: 50, 280 words for November]

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Then there was the problem of the watch.  It had been given to her on her sixteenth birthday, one week before she had left.  It was a modern watch, designed to look like an antique, with a brushed gold band and stylized Roman numerals on an ivory face.  The problem was not that it had stopped, but rather that it had simply ceased telling the time.  She knew it was working, because she could hear it when she held it up to her ear, a steady, reassuring tick-tick-tick, like a tiny metal heartbeat.  It would have been more reassuring if the hands were moving.  Sometimes she thought they had, but when she checked again, she saw that the time had not changed.  It was always 11:59.  She had, for some time now, been making a list of all the things she would willingly give up if it would only tick over to twelve o’clock.

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Back in the vast, dripping, bare, cold expanse that the signs on the door proclaimed to be level B3, Eve knelt on the concrete floor. She seemed to be looking at something. At first Mitch thought it was just a stain, or a puddle. Then he realized she was not looking at the floor, but at her own hands, with a kind of blank bafflement, as if she had been holding something only a second before, and now it was inexplicably gone.

Mitch spun around, remembering the darkness, how it had moved, and the mouth that had opened wide, and swallowed them in, and how he had thought he would feel the teeth tearing at him, shredding him, how he had expected to be devoured, crushed, obliterated. But it hadn’t happened. It hadn’t been a dream, either – everything that had happened, had been real, in its own way, but here, on level B3, in what he realized now was nothing more or less than a prison, almost no time at all had passed. Seconds, maybe, if that.

Someone was missing, though. There had been a boy with them, but no, the boy had never been here, only there. Mitch shook his head, realized instantly that this was a mistake – the pain was back, a hot steel blade piercing his skull, severing thoughts and reason.

“Where…” he began, but could not finish the question. He had been about to ask, “where’s the kid?”, but he knew what the answer would be.

“That’s it.” Eve’s voice was as tight as her hands, which had curled into clenched fists. She rose smoothly to her feet, like a dancer, her face set, eyes dangerously bright. “I’ve had enough of this. I don’t know what’s taking them so long, but whatever it is, I don’t care. I’m done. We’re getting out, now.”

Mitch momentarily considered questioning the certainty with which Eve made this statement, then decided it was wiser not to.

“Whatever you say, ” he said. “You want to tell me how, I’m all ears.”

“Ever tried to move a mountain?” The question was unexpected, but then again, so was everything else lately.

“Not personally, no.”

“Well, ” said Eve. “There’s a first time for everything, right?”

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I’ve been so caught up with writing and rehearsals that I completely forgot I was going to post regular excerpts here.  So I decided to make up for it by posting one a day for the final 6 days of NaNoWriMo. Looking over the previous passage, I realized it was far too long for a blog post, so these will all be short and easily digestible (like cookies; although given the complete lack of either context or editing, cookies that fall into the “how did these get here, and why do they have a sign saying ‘eat me’?” category).

—–

Sometimes, in a good moment, when the sun emerged from behind the clouds and kissed the world so the grass shone green once more and winks of blue hinted at a real sky, when the puddles lay like pools of light and the telephone wires caught fire and stretched before him along the road in looping lines of molten gold – then, and only then, and only sometimes, he would remember his name.  He could no longer be sure whether the name belonged to the man in the dreams, or who he had been before the long walk began, when he had other men at his side, and at his back, but it was a name nonetheless, and so better than nothing.

In these moments, he would say it out loud, relishing in the sound of it, despite the hoarse, cracked, phlegm choked sound of his voice.  He would say it over and over, matching it to the rhythm of his steps, the beat of his heart, the drawing in and exhaling of breath, the sound his boots made against the gravel, or the packed earth, or the asphalt.  He would repeat it until his voice cleared, until the wretched, tortured sound of it smoothed, morphed into something that sounded like a real voice.  He would continue to say it, until his voice began to grown hoarse and dry once more, and then he would stop, and take a draw on his canteen.

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