She barked her shin against something cold and hard. Her vision focused- but oh, it seemed to take so long- and she saw that she was standing in front of a stone of some kind. Her shin hurt. She could not make out much of the stone, as it was very dark, but it looked to have a hard edge.
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Deborah looked up.
For a moment, she thought she was still in the graveyard; that night had come to spectral non-place of her dreams. But no. This was not a dream.
Deborah shivered, and clutched her arms around herself. It was cold, and she was dressed only in her house clothes. There were no shoes on her feet. The ground was cold and wet, and her pants had soaked up the dew all the way to her knees.
Slowly, slowly, her mind fought through the sleep-fog. She was standing. Barefoot. Amidst...
All those vague splotches, set against the near-complete darkness of a moonless countryside. She was in a cemetery.
The cold speared through into her bones. She breathed in, and heard her breath whoosh into her lungs. Bright spots swam across her eyes.
Don't faint, don't faint...
The thought of falling unconscious there, in that city of the dead, was all that kept her from falling into the blackness she had come from. She bit down on her tongue. Hard. The pain helped clear her head. She could remember sitting in her living room, watching the evening sitcoms scroll by with the smae pointless, uncomprehending dithyrambs . She could remember lying down...maybe...
And then this. Was she sleepwalking? Was she-
Deborah jumped. She pivoted around, trying to look in every direction at once. All the darkness was a creature waiting to spring. She had felt it, just then. That feeling, like shadow on her face instead of sun.
She wasd being watched.
Deborah imagined she was beginning to hone that instinct. She could feel the other, the watcher, now. Like looking through two sets of eyes at once.
Was that the sleep talking? Or...
She didn't know.
But she could feel the other. When it was a person, it felt like a person. Neutral and equal. People never bothered her.
The other was terrible and strange to her. It watched her from within the shadowed bowers of the trees that lined the cemetery. She could see the outlines of those trees againstg the greenish-black sky. Being watched by such an entity was terrible. Part of her was lost to it, gone into those primordial places where the demons of the old world still hunted.
Part of her was not her, anymore.
Deborah forced herself to move. Her feet didn't want to comply. Her hands didn't want to unclench from around her midsection. She didn't listen to any of them, and instead stumbled toward the line of trees. It chilled her blood to do it, and the tiny part of her mind that still thought like a normal, rational person was all but screaming at her, but she had to. Had to. Her eyes had adjusted to the darkness, though they felt uncomfortable, and somehow strained, as though she had been staring very hard for many hours. The gate was there, and the road. The line of bone-trees followed the road exactly. Beyond the trees lay miles upon miles of field and trees. No lights.
Deborah's eyes were fixed on the scrim of bone-trees. She pushed open the cemetery gate by touch. It squalled on hinges that hadn't seen oil in years, and she heard- half-buried in the startling noise of the gate- something growl behind the line of trees.
The gate stopped moving. She realized, now, how unnaturally silent everything was. She was deep in the country. There should be animal sounds. Crickets. Something.
Deborah began to shuffle down the narrow gravel road. The only road this far out. She did not know where it went, but in the other direction, it came to a dead end before more trees. There was nothing else.
Something moved behind her, and Deborah whirled around to catch it.
The leaves of the tree whispered as they moved. There was no wind.
Dread. Deborah could have told anyone, at that moment. Dread was the worst thing a person could possibly feel. Worse than sadness, worse than pain. The knowledge that something, something truly terrible, is lurking beneath the thin scrim of reality. Worse, that it saw her, and saw her seeing it.
I believe you, Alex, she thought. Oh god...
She walked, and the watcher followed, and the world faded out for a long, long time...
There was some strata of road or way that led from the cemetery back to her old, new, familiar house. All roads led back to that house now. She felt this. By the time she arrived at her doorstep, the sky to the east had grown blue with dawn light. Deborah fished inside her pockets, but found no keys. She fished for a while longer anyway, groping and hoping...no longer thinking, or reasoning with any conscious part of her mind. She was gone, for how long she didn't know...the keys to the house were no longer important.
This was, in fact, true. When- hours of days later, she didn't know- she tried the door to the house, it opened freely. Of course. The house wanted her inside. The house was a part of the watcher. A gilded box, full of traps and larger on the inside than it was on the outside. Labrynthine. Yes.
The part of Deborah that existed in the waking world passed out, unnoticed, upon the carpeted floor of the front hallway.
The door swung shut behind her, perhaps pushed by an errant gust of wind.
"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.