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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

Two Steps Up, and One Step Back

“God damn, Jack,” said Ebreth. “When Coyote Jay said Jack Paris was in the Hotel, I assumed he meant--” He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. You really don’t remember anything?”

“Not much,” he admitted, “but it’s been starting to, uh, come back.” Jack Yearlate rubbed the toe of one boot awkwardly against the insole of the other, trying to think of a way to approach the subject that wouldn’t make him look like an utter moron, and then just blurted out “Val and I aren’t married, are we?”

“What?” Ebreth said. “No. No, she got pissed at you for running off on your own so she slept with someone else.”

“Oh.” Jack tried to reconcile that with the fragile sorrow of the woman he’d been remembering and couldn’t. “I thought it was something more, uh, tragic,” he said.

“Well, that was the short version,” said Ebreth. “The reason you were running off was to sacrifice yourself to your family’s archenemy to save her, and then we couldn’t undo it.”

“And that... pissed her off?” Jack scrunched his forehead up in confusion.

“It was sort of the way you did it,” Ebreth said. “I was about ready to slug you one myself. ...God damn, Jack, we all thought you were dead. Have you been in the Hotel this entire time?”

“No,” Jack said, “I--I’ve been living in Darwood... Western Nylevia?” Ebreth shook his head in nonrecognition. “It’s a small town. Just off Highway 9. I--have a wife there. Now.”

Ebreth shook his head like he still couldn’t believe all of this was happening. “Well, we’ll get you back to her,” he said, and squared his shoulders in a way Jack dimly remembered from what felt like a very long time ago. “One way or the other. Come on.”

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