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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

Jacks Or Better To Open

“Ebreth?” Jack called, rattling the faded blue door of the shimmering building somehow spanning Main Street. “Ebreth!”

A lightning bolt split the sky. The mathematician pushed the rainy strands of black hair back out of his eyes and exerted a jiggling clockwise vector sequence on the brass doorknob, trying to get it to catch.

“Jackson,” John Yearlate yelled, pounding on the mysterious door in the cornfield. “Jackson, wait for me. Tell me what’s going on!”

“Flark,” Jack muttered, and did a rapid scan of the building as best he could through the driving rain. No other doors that he could see. The shape of the place made his temples throb; it was larger inside than outside, somehow, and the geometry of it was... off.

“Maybe I’d better get the Rat Pack,” Jack said.

“Jackson!” John yelled into nowhere, trying to pry the window open with the phillips-head screwdriver he had in his pants pocket. So far he was just scraping up the sill. “You don’t have to face this thing alone. Come on, open the door!”

Jack hesitated with his hand on Khyrisse’s door-knocker, looking back over his shoulder at the building. No doubt about it. The luminescence had decreased at least fourfold since he’d gotten there, and it was fading more with each passing second. Planar decay, Jack guessed. Exponential. By the time he returned with Khyrisse and Val, the thing would be gone, and Ebreth with it.

“Flark it,” Jack muttered. “I’m dying in three weeks anyway.”

“Jackson!” shouted John, driving his shoulder into the door with all his might. It shuddered, but the wood panel didn’t even bow. “Come on, Jackson, we need you here!”

The building seemed to be breaking up. The carpenter gave the door another shoulder blow, hard enough to radiate pain down his biceps. “Come on, Jackson, open the damn door!”

He’d been avoiding assuming pure mathematical form since Cynosure, where his dual shadows had put a bit of a spook into them all. Ebreth had wondered if the original equation was still in existence somewhere, though repeated tests had come back negative.

There was no time to worry about that now, though.

Jack Paris dissolved into numbers and arced into the shimmering keyhole.

John could see the cornstalks waving in the moonlight through the fading outline of the blue door. This would be his last chance, he knew. John backed off three steps and threw himself into the dissolving doorframe with all the might he had, steeling himself to land uselessly in the corn as it all disappeared.

He did not.

The Hotel flashed, and was gone.

“Ebreth?” Khyrisse opened the door in her nightgown, squinting out into the rain. Nothing there but a faint, distant glow.

Something from a dream she’d had, once...

A shudder ran up her spine.

“Goddammit,” growled Jacob, arriving too late at the place John Yearlate had been. The Hotel door was gone. “It done got both them boys. Goddammit, why’s every kid got to be such a damn fool.” The farmer stared down the horizon with flinty eyes, his shoulders squared. “Nothing in there they couldn’t find in their own hearts, if they’d bother to look. But we didn’t listen, did we, Cage? Why should they.” He turned his back on the fading light. “Sure hope I see ‘em again,” Jacob said. “Sure wish I could see you again. But it’s all too late now, ain’t it.”

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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

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