A woman was standing on the edge of a cliff in a long, light blue dress with her back turned away. The dress looked like it was from another time the way it came in at the waist and reached all the way to the ground. A crowd started forming and coming into focus as the woman turned to greet them. A man stepped forward to shake her hand and security guards quickly emerged to blocked him.
The crowd murmured as they waited for what seemed like a ceremony to begin. It didn’t look like they were in a celebratory mood, though. The loud howl of a healthy baby pierced the night and the group flinched in unison. The sky was darker than black and full of star formations that looked different from anything Beth had ever seen.
The woman raised the baby above her head towards the cliff like a human Simba — except little Simba looked like he was in trouble. The woman took a breath and heaved the baby into the air.
“No!” Beth screamed into the pillow. She woke up disgusted to find her chest and neck wet with sweat. It was just a dream. She sighed and tried to go back to sleep. She rolled over with a thud onto her right arm and stared at the dim wall. This was the first night she actually let herself relax and now she was being thanked by a horrible dream.
Was that a yell?
Someone in the building heard her yelling in her sleep. Beth pulled herself up and stretched to look at her phone. It was 3 a.m. but she didn’t have the luxury of sleeping anymore; she needed to get moving.
I’ll wait until I hear it again before I go look.
As nice as it was to have somewhere safe to sleep, Beth knew she needed to get back on the road.
The silence is almost more deafening than thoughts.
Two hours into the drive and on the final stretch, Beth saw the familiar turnoff right before the Skonamish trail head. She rolled slowly up the drive, making crunchy tire pings and pops on the gravel. The silence is almost more deafening than thoughts. The cabin came into view just as a logging truck buzzed the main road with a start. Beth shifted in her seat and took a deep breath as Monie hummed in the back seat. The truck idled roughly as she pulled up close to the porch. The windows of the cabin were covered in a thick film of dusty time, making it hard to see in.
Vaughn put the book down as Amber barged into the apartment in a huff. She eyed Borg, the book and Vaughn before making a few quick sniffs and headed into the bathroom with a look of mistrust. He cradled his wrist instinctively as she softly clicked the door closed for her Saturday morning shower. Amber’s presence alone was beginning to make Vaughn feel sick. He swallowed back a tiny gag with surprise and realized everything has changed. For days he deliberated back and forth if he should break up with Amber – and after this new development with Beth – he resolved to break up with her this morning.
In the 62 minutes it took Amber to run around the lake and Beth to explain Pariswood, Vaughn packed a bag with essentials and a few clothes. He texted his boss he wouldn’t be in for a few days due to a “family emergency” and got ready for the blowout. In a hurry, Vaughn hoped he could be strong, play the asshole and leave in about 20 minutes. Borg curled up in his lap as if he knew Vaughn was leaving. He knew he couldn’t guarantee the cat’s safety, otherwise he would be taking Borg with him, so he texted his friend Jonny to pick him up.
Amber was just finishing up in the shower when she heard a knock on the front door. “Hey Jonny, thanks for this,” she heard Vaughn say through wall. She cracked the door opened and saw Vaughn handing Borg to Jonny. Her heart dropped. What is going on?
“Is Borg OK?” called Amber out from the bathroom.
“Uh ya,” Vaughn fumbled. “He’s just going to stay with Jonny for a few days while I go out of town.” Vaughn eyed Jonny with a knowing look and Jonny swiftly grabbed the cat and left.
“What is going on, Babe?” Amber was confused. Why is he going out of town?
“Can you not call me Babe? I hate that.”
“Okayyyy but –” Amber trailed off as soon as she noticed Vaughn’s packed bag and his shoes on, ready to leave. “Where are you –”
“Look, this isn’t working anymore,” Vaughn started. Amber was visibly pissed and shaking as she adjusted her towel. She was going to be in so much trouble for this.
Beth paused as a strong wave of thought rushed through her. Sometimes when Beth creates strong connections with people, she can hear their thoughts in a range much farther than expected. There was a tiny wisp of someone close to her yelling but she couldn’t quite decipher who. Very few people would be yelling so she decided it might be Amber and Vaughn fighting. Panic struck Beth that the recordings were in jeopardy but dismissed it as soon as the panic came. Vaughn will protect those files with his life.