Jeremiah elected to sleep downstairs in the theater, and by the time I bade him goodnight and crawled back upstairs to the chamber, dawn was beginning to creep in through the windows. I spurned it as I would spurn a rabid dog, and hurried up the ladder; glad once again that there were no outside windows in my chamber. Nor was there a sleeping companion: Morphine had not returned home. I worried for her, and wondered what she could be doing under the rapily lightening sky, but there was no time for contemplation. Sleep was stealing rapidly over me, and I threw myself on the pallet, barely able to feel the blanket beneath me before the darkness swept over me.
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My eyes closed. I slept.
Somewhere deep in the strata of sleep, I heard a sound. It was not a dream-sound- it was too vague, to far away. It prodded at me- in my thinking dream-state- and I swatted at it mentally, hoping it would go away and let me rest.
It did not. It became louder: A voice, forming words that meant nothing to me. I could not- and would not- decipher them in my sleep, and I cared not for their meaning. My only concern was sleep and sleep and sleep.
Again, the sound, and now something was shaking me- a sensation against my arm. I could feel the layers of unconsciousness sloughing reluctantly off of me, and as I reached a slightly more coherent state of being, it occurred to me that the outside interference might be important to the waking-me. Knowing this, I resolved to push my way back into the waking world, and I swam up through the layers of unconsciousness- a feeling much like trying to swim through mental Jello- and came at last to something resembling semiconsciousness.
I tried to indicate this fact without rising further or opening my eyes:
"M'wk," I said. "Wzt?"
The outside voice: "Mr. Renton? Mr. Renton? Please wake up, Mr. Renton."
The shaking started again, and I battered wildly at the source, refusing to open my eyes.
"There's someone outside for you, Mr. Renton?"
"Yes, sir. A woman outside. She looks worried."
I opened one eye.
"A woman?" I said, focusing vaguely on the room around me. Directly in front of me was Christy, her hand on my shoulder, eyes wide and frightened. She saw me looking at her, and nodded vehemently.
"Yes, sir. She says she knows you."
"What is her name?" I said, concentrating on my enunciation.
"Oh, yes, she told me to tell you that!" Christy shook me again, apparently for emphasis. "She said her name was..." she cocked her head. "Um, I think, Kerissa, something like that. Oh, Mr. Renton!-"
I leapt to my feet, suddenly wide awake. "Carissa??" I said. "Here?"
"Um, yes," said Christy. "I think that was her name."
"Urgh." I put a hand to my head. "What time is it?"
"Um, I don't know..."
"Fine. Is it dark outside?"
"Oh, it's still daytime- it's afternoony, I think..." Christy cocked her head again, apparently considering the intricacies of 'afternoony', but I cut in before she could elaborate.
"Dammit," I said. My head had already begun to pound.
"Um, Mr. Renton, you should go down and talk to her. She REALLY wants to see you."
I pressed my hands against my eyes, willing the headache to go away. "Christy," I said. "I can't go out in the sunlight. It's..." I considered trying to explain my condition to her. "It's an allergy," I said.
"Oh, that's okay, then," she said.
I boggled. "What's okay?"
"It's raining outside today." Christy smiled and clasped her hands behind her back. "So you'll be okay."
I groaned inwardly. "Christy..."
To hell with it. "Nothing," I said. "I'm going to go down and talk to her now. It's likely to be a private conversation, so don't eavesdrop, okay?"
"Don't listen in on the conversation. Okay?"
She nodded. "Okay."
I considered. "Oh. Thank you, Christy."
"You're welcome!" she said.
My conscience, mollified, shut up. I slid down the ladder.
I stepped into the lobby. When seen by the light of day, it was strange, almost surreal. The building itself appeared to be cast into sepia-toned shadow; the colors of the world mixing together and fading until they formed a single, uniform gray that covered everything like a layer of dust. Nothing felt as real, as tangible, as it did during the night, and I wondered- not for the first time- what the hell I was doing in such a strange, haunted place.
Christy had not been lying. Beyond the lobby doors, I could see gray rain sheeting down into a gray and soaking world. It looked as though it had been doing so all day, and would probably continue to do so on into the evening and through the night. The slice of sidewalk just in front of the glass doors was cast into a deeper gray by the projecting marquee. The marquee also kept that particular slice of pavement dry, amidst the pouring rain. That was, most likely, why she was standing there.
Her face was the same pale, perfect visage I had looked into that night on the hill. Her dark hair was slicked with rain and lay heavy against her head. Instead of a black dress, she wore a nondesript gray hooded sweatshirt- it was my day for gray, it seemed- and a pair of blue jeans. Her eyes were haunted; marked by the heavy semicircles that accompany sleeplessness. They were very pretty eyes. Until that moment, I had not been aware of how much I missed her.
She saw me through the glass and knocked briskly, gesturing at me with the other hand. I waved back to show that I could see her, and indicated the cracked glass door nearest her. She blinked, and I made pulling motions to indicate that it was, in fact, unlocked. She nodded, once, and yanked on the doorhandle. The door opened. I was treated to a five-second slice of rainstorm sounds.
Carissa stepped through. The door swung shut, cutting off the rain.
Silence, save for the faint drip-drip-drip of her hair on the floor.
"Er-" I said.
"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.