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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Stand

Skitch sat up on the sofa with a gasp as the Hotel door slammed shut.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Lorrini, “did I wake you?”

He looked around the dark dorm room in total disorientation. “What--what am I doing here?”

“You fell asleep on the couch,” she said. “I went to Jilid’s without you--I thought it was better to let you sleep.”

“But...” Skitch shook his head dizzily. “But wasn’t I--didn’t I go to, to New Trade, this week?”

Lorrini paused. “Go back to sleep, Skitch,” she said.

“No,” he said, “wait, I--” Did I dream that entire thing while Lorrini was out at the party? Skitch had never had such a detailed dream in his life, but he supposed it had been pretty darn disjointed, now that he thought about it. Disappointment washed over him. It had been kind of exciting to think he was part of some special body of mythology, and then there was Jack coming back to life and Khyrisse saying she still loved him and everything. Just another dream. “Never mind,” he sighed. “What time is it, anyway?”

“After three,” she said, and yawned. “I don’t have any morning classes tomorrow, so I think I’m just going to sleep in, okay? There’s some coffee cake in the kitchen, and the money for Sherren is on the hutch.”

“Sherren?” Skitch practically yelped. “Lorrini, I just paid him on Thursday!”

“No, you didn’t,” she said, frowning at him. “Not unless you pawned something without telling me.”

“But--” Jilid’s birthday party, he remembered suddenly. That happened before I left! “Lorrini, what day is it?” he asked in a breathless rush.

She gave him a weird look. “Wednesday,” she said. “Well, Thursday, technically speaking.”

“No, I mean, what’s the date?”

“You’re really starting to creep me out here, Skitch.” She looked at the calendar. “It’s Thursday, August 25th. And it’s totally the middle of the night, so if you have some kind of joke to play on me, I’d really appreciate you waiting till I get some sleep, all right?”

“Thursday the 25th,” Skitch repeated numbly. It was that Thursday morning, just after paying off Sherren, that Skitch had gotten the sending from Vas to tell him Ebreth and Jack had gone missing. By evening he was on a carriage to the Northlands. Was Skitch manifesting some kind of late-bloomer precog wild talent? Had he gone back in time somehow? Or was he going to have to repeat this day over and over again like that stupid groundhog play Lorrini had dragged him to last week?

“Yes,” said Lorrini. “Good night, Skitch.” Her bedroom door closed.

“Good night,” mumbled Skitch. He sat for a few more moments, trying to make sense of it all. “It wasn’t a dream,” he said slowly, out loud. “At least, not just a dream. I wouldn’t have dreamed all that stuff about Lorrini and Sherren and the carriage ride to New Trade. So something must have happened.” He locked his fingers in his hair. “Thursday morning at three A.M. That must have been when Ebreth and Jack disappeared in the first place--Khyrisse would have noticed if Ebreth was gone longer than a day. So maybe the Hotel just kind of put us all back where we started. Warp did say the rest of us weren’t really supposed to follow them in--”

“Skitch?” called Lorrini through her bedroom door. “Don’t forget to pay Sherren tomorrow, okay?”

“I won’t,” he yelled back. Skitch thought about Warp and the Hotel for a little while longer, and about his friends in the Rat Pack, and then he got up from the couch and took the purse off the hutch and put it gently back into Lorrini’s jewelry box.

His personals were under the bed in his room. There weren’t many of them; Skitch had already sold Schneider’s decoder ring and those magic throwing knives Khyrisse bought for him in Rumi. The psychology book Asinus gave him for Yuletide was still in there. So was his mostly-empty spellbook, inscribed with the two beginner spells--light and magic missile--that Khyrisse had never totally succeeded at teaching him. He was sure that one must be worth something to someone, but just couldn’t bring himself to sell it. Maybe someday he’d suck at it less, after all. You just never knew.

Skitch pushed the books aside for now, and took out his old adventuring dagger. He had one more finger than he had last time he picked it up, but it still fit pretty well in his hand. Still shiny. Still sharp.

He put it under his pillow. “Tomorrow,” Skitch promised sleepily, “I make my stand.”

He was asleep inside of five minutes.

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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

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