The Dream

I

Ethan Denby’s bed was moving.

Maybe.

To be fair, he’d just had a falling dream. He’d been in the treehouse in his backyard, and then it tore free from the old oak tree and tumbled into a volcano. He always woke up with a little leftover sense of motion after dreams like that. Everyone did.

But as the last traces of the dream faded away, that feeling of movement remained. Even after he sat up and shook the cobwebs from his head, the room seemed to be rushing past his face in a dizzying pan. The legs of his bed let out a high-pitched squeal, and then there was a crash.

The feeling of motion stopped. Ethan realized his bed had slammed into the wall only a split second before his head followed suit. Sparks flashed in front of his eyes.

Yup. Definitely moving.

Could it be an earthquake? He’d never been in one before, so he didn’t know what telltale signs to look for. Was he supposed to hide under something or go to a different room? They’d never done an earthquake drill at school. Tornado drills, sure, but never earthquake drills. Dallas wasn’t really what you’d call earthquake country.

Maybe he was still dreaming. Sure, he’d already dreamed his treehouse plummeted into a fiery mountaintop, but he could have dreamed he dreamed it, right? Besides, the moving bed wasn’t the only weird thing going on. Someone was banging on the door and shouting. The voice didn’t belong to anyone he knew.

It wasn’t even calling him Ethan.

“Captain! Captain Duncan!”

Ethan called to the door, “Wrong room! No captains in here!”

That was a weird thing to say, right? It sure sounded weird, but how else was he supposed to respond?

The knocking only stopped for a moment before the door burst open. White light filled the room, and Ethan lifted a hand to shield his eyes. A figure lumbered through, backlit in the blinding white rectangle. It approached the bed, a giant shadow descending on Ethan.

“It’s collapsing, Captain,” the figure rumbled. Its voice was urgent, but there was no trace of panic. “We’re all helping Buddy with the engine. You have to steer us out.”

“The . . . engine?”

Didn’t dreams normally make sense while Ethan was in them? He’d had dreams where his parents were talking armchairs, and it didn’t even seem odd until after he woke up. Once he was awake, all the logic would break apart in his head, but that didn’t matter. While he was dreaming, everything made sense.

And right now nothing made sense.

Ethan’s mind was still sluggish from sleep, and his recent collision with the wall wasn’t helping matters. Thoughts weren’t exactly racing through his head at the moment, so he found himself sitting in bed, squinting wordlessly at the shadow in his room as he considered the internal logic of dreams.

The big guy slapped him. It hurt.

“You have to move, Captain!”

Ethan rubbed his cheek. Had he ever felt real pain in a dream?

The figure slapped him again. It hurt again.

“Let’s go!”

Ethan blinked. “Am I . . . am I a captain?”

The big guy stood over Ethan, shoulders heaving as he panted. “I don’t have time for this. Come on.”

Ethan groaned. This was his dream. Why wasn’t it letting him do what he wanted? He should be flying by now, or fighting an army of ninjas, or at least slow-dancing with Lisa Thompson. People who said they could control their dreams were full of it.

The shadow lifted its arm, but Ethan raised his hands defensively. “All right, Slappy! I’m moving!” He rolled out of bed with a groan.

Slappy huffed and disappeared into the blinding light coming through the door. Ethan tried to follow, but found it difficult to keep up. Every step took too much effort, like he was walking uphill.

Great.  This was one of those dreams. Any moment now, there would be a terrifying monster chasing him, and of course it wouldn’t have the same difficulty moving.

Something jostled at Ethan’s collarbone while he struggled to reach the doorway. He took the thing in his hands and held it up to his eyes. It was a pair of goggles with tinted lenses and a frame of dull, brown metal. A rubber coating ran along the inside edges, and a worn leather strap bound them to his neck.

Ethan would have thought it weird he’d woken up wearing unfamiliar accessories, but considering his bed had already slid across the room and a guy he’d never seen in his life had slapped him around and called him captain, he didn’t think the goggles were a big deal. So he shrugged and slipped them over his eyes, tightening the leather strap to keep them in place. With the tinted lenses in place, he was finally able to look into the white light spilling through the doorway without getting a splitting headache.

A few laborious steps later, he was at the door, staring outside.

In real life, his bedroom door opened to a hallway lined with bad caricatures his family had gotten at the state fair a few years ago. The artist had insisted on doing three individual portraits instead of one combined family picture. Ethan’s dad had grumbled about paying triple the price, and he’d grumbled even more when his portrait came out with a gigantic, bulbous nose. Ethan’s mom had only laughed and told him to lighten up. She found some frames and proudly hung the caricatures that barely looked like them in the hallway.

There were no caricatures to be found now. There wasn’t even a hallway on the other side of this door.

Instead, there was a ship.

The deck was a sleek, polished gray metal with heavy, white guardrails lining the edges. A thick, acrid haze hung over the deck. Ethan walked a little further out the door, looking for the source of the haze. Behind the cabin, a smokestack belched thick smoke.

It was as he examined the smokestack that Ethan realized why it felt like he was walking uphill.

He really was walking uphill.

The ship was tilted backwards, and it was sinking. Ethan’s heart dropped. Dream or not, the abuse from Slappy had hurt. He had no desire to learn how it would feel to drown.

Ethan rushed to the nearest guardrail. He leaned into it to look over the edge, and then he understood why the light was so bright and painful out here. It was like the time he’d gone skiing with his family. The sun reflected so brightly off the snow that he could barely walk outside without sunglasses. What he saw leaning over this guardrail couldn’t be snow with how hot it was outside, but it was just as white and just as reflective. Could it be sand? It had to be.

Whatever it was, the ship was sinking in it.

But sinking wasn’t really the right word, was it? None of the ship was actually submerged in the stuff. It was more that the surface beneath the ship was dropping, and the ship was going with it. It was like he was inside an hourglass, and the sand beneath him was rushing through the tiny hole into a vessel below. The sand cascaded down, and walls of it seemed to rise into the air as the ship dropped lower and lower.

As if things hadn’t gotten weird enough already, Ethan noticed something else. Along this side of the hull, where other ships might have oars, were three legs.

Actual legs.

They were long, spindly things with a single joint in the middle, much like the legs of an insect. They must have been at least a few hundred feet long. They skittered aimlessly, trying to find purchase against the cascading walls of sand. They weren’t doing a great job.

What was it Slappy had said? You have to steer us out? Easy enough. Ethan was steering weird spider-ships out of giant sand hourglasses every day.

Ethan rolled his eyes. He looked around the ship and eventually found a console near the front. This was no oversized steering wheel with spokes on the edges like he’d seen on the ships in pirate movies. This was an actual console, featuring an array of levers with dull, brass knobs and large, square buttons. It was like looking at a set piece from Star Trek that had been left in storage for a decade or so.

As the incline of the deck increased, Ethan struggled to climb to the console. He had to grip the guardrail to keep from falling. All around him, walls of white sand rose higher and higher.

Ethan finally made it to the console. The network of buttons and levers made no more sense from this distance than they had from afar. He wasn’t sure what he’d been hoping for, but a label under one lever that read Pull in case of collapsing sand walls would have been a nice start. He stared at the console, hands hovering uncertainly over the controls.

Suddenly, the ship jostled violently. The incline of the deck grew steeper still. Ethan tottered backwards in surprise, arms pinwheeling. He lost his footing, and then he was on his back, sliding towards the cabin he’d just exited. The console with its confusing buttons and levers shrank further and further away.

Ethan was beginning to wonder what the chances were he would just slide right back through the doorway to the cabin when he came to a stop, colliding with something that wasn’t quite as solid as the metal of the ship’s deck and walls.

“Sonny? Are you okay?”

Ethan rolled over. The thing he’d collided with was a worn leather boot. His eyes traveled up the boot to a leg, then a body, then a face. An old man stood over him, shaking his head sympathetically. His skin was covered in deep cracks. The spots left unmarked were the color and consistency of sandpaper. In striking contrast to the dark skin, he had a shock of pure white hair and a long beard that matched. He wore goggles much like Ethan’s, only they were comically oversized, giving him the appearance of a bearded insect.

“Sonny,” the man said. “If you’re going to be the captain of this ship, you need to be trustworthy at the controls. You can’t freeze up like that.”

“I . . . ”

This dream was getting out of hand.

The man uttered an almost comical “Harrumph!” and pulled Ethan to his feet. He was surprisingly strong, considering his size. The top of his head only made it to Ethan’s chest. His arms—and the rest of his body, for that matter—were bone thin, yet he’d lifted Ethan with no more difficulty than Ethan lifted his backpack every day.

Ethan tottered on his feet and said nothing.

“Have to do everything myself, don’t I?” said the tiny man, stomping his way to the console. He had no trouble at all climbing the ship’s steep incline.

The surface of the console was as high as the old man’s shoulders, but that didn’t stop him from pushing buttons and pulling levers with practiced speed. It was like watching a little kid play with toys on a counter that was just a little too tall for him.

Slowly, the deck leveled out. There was no climactic roaring of engines, no dramatic groaning and shuddering below the deck. It was like there hadn’t been anything wrong in the first place, and the ship had only crested a gentle wave. Ethan ran to the nearest guardrail and leaned over. Those giant, insectile legs had somehow stopped sliding in the cascading sand. Instead, they dug into the steep walls, pulling the ship up and out.

“I hope you’re watching this, sonny,” called the old man. “You won’t get better if you don’t learn!”

Ethan watched the old man for a moment, but he didn’t have a clue what he was doing. His hands moved over the console, dancing along the buttons and levers in a blur. If there was a pattern to what he was doing, Ethan couldn’t tell.

“All there is to it!” called the old man.

Ethan craned his neck. The ship was on solid ground now, crawling ponderously along. The legs looked almost graceful now, taking long, smooth steps through the white dunes.

The old man crossed the deck and put a hand on Ethan’s shoulder. He had to stand on his tiptoes to do it.

“If you’re going to be my captain, you have to be able to get us out of spots like that,” said the old man gravely. “Don’t make me regret promoting you.”

And then he smiled. The cracks in his face deepened, and his eyes disappeared. Ethan smiled back. He couldn’t help it.

There was a screaming rasp of rusty metal hinges behind Ethan. A hatch in the deck opened, and a scrawny teenager not much older than Ethan hoisted himself out, fastening a pair of goggles over his eyes. He was covered in sweat and greasy, black smudges.

“You had me scared for a second, Uncle Duncan!” said the boy. “What was that all about?”

Ethan recognized the next voice as Slappy’s:

“What’s gotten into you, Captain?” it growled. “You nearly killed us.”

The huge body attached to the voice emerged from the hatch, followed by a handful of others. They were all calling to him, all frustrated with him. They’d wanted him to act more quickly. They wanted to know why he was asleep in the first place. They wanted to know if something was wrong.

Somehow, this was worse than the sinking ship.

The world swam around Ethan. He felt sick. He wanted this to be over. He wanted to wake up and breathe a sigh of relief that none of it had been real, but no matter what he did, the ship wouldn’t go away.

The crowd continued to shout at him, voices merging in an unintelligible roar. Ethan was suddenly too aware of his surroundings. The hard metal deck beneath his feet. The pungent scent of smoke. The taste of drying saliva. It was all too much.

Ethan pushed through the crowd of people—all of whom felt too solid, too real to dismiss as imaginary—and ran for the cabin. He misjudged the doorway, clipping the edge with his shoulder on his way through, and felt real pain. He stumbled inside and slammed the door behind him.

There wasn’t much to this room. In one corner was the bed that had been sliding around only a few minutes ago. There was a full-length mirror, somehow unbroken from the earlier turmoil, lying face down on the floor. Besides these, the room was empty. There were no decorations, no piles of clothes, no books or papers. Just four cold, gray walls.

Ethan went to the mirror and picked it up. He scanned the walls until he found a hook, and he was just about to hang the mirror when he caught sight of his reflection. He froze, holding the mirror at arm’s length. The face looking back at him wasn’t his own. It was the face of a gaunt, bearded man.

His first thought was that he’d been mistaken. The mirror wasn’t a mirror at all, but an incredibly realistic painting or a huge photograph. But then Ethan leaned in to inspect the image, and the man in the mirror leaned in, too. He turned his head from side to side, and the man did the same. There was no other explanation for it. He wasn’t looking at a portrait, but at his own reflection.

He was now roughly three hundred percent certain he was dreaming.

Someone knocked on the door. A voice called, “Uncle Duncan? You okay in there?”

Ethan didn’t answer. He’d had enough of this. He wasn’t going to let strange men slap him, he wasn’t going to steer this weird bug-ship through walls of sand, and he certainly wasn’t going to talk to whoever it was on the other side of that door. All he was going to do was go back to bed, and when he woke up, he’d be back home with this ship only a fading memory.

Ethan leaned the mirror against a wall, turning its reflective edge away from him. He flopped onto the bed, and its old springs creaked in protest.

But as he lay there, squeezing his eyes shut, Ethan realized sleep was a long way off. For starters, he wasn’t tired. Even worse, his entire body had begun to itch horribly. He put a hand on his shoulder. It felt like sandpaper. He didn’t even know skin could get this dry. Knowing it was probably the worst thing he could do, he began to itch his arms furiously.

That was when he noticed the bandage. He didn’t know why he hadn’t seen it before. The heavy, browning tape had been wrapped clumsily around his left wrist like a ragged sweatband. It looked like it was meant to cover a wound, though there was no blood on it. Ethan picked at the edges. Poorly wrapped as it was, the bandage was tight. It barely moved at his prodding.

It did ripple, though.

It actually rippled, like it wasn’t a bandage at all, but a tiny river running around the end of his arm. It settled back into place quickly enough, but Ethan knew what he’d seen.

He was about to unwrap the bandage to see what was underneath when the door swung open. A different figure was silhouetted in the rectangle of white light this time. It was nearly as tall as Slappy, but much skinnier.

“Look, I know you don’t like it when people come in to your quarters uninvited, but we’re all really worried about . . . ” The figure trailed off. “Oh, uh, sorry, Uncle Duncan. I didn’t realize you’d gone to bed. You doing okay?”

Ethan rolled over.

“Come on. What’s going on?”

Ethan squeezed his eyes shut.

“You know you can tell me, Uncle Duncan.”

“Stop calling me that,” Ethan said, still facing the wall.

“What—you’d prefer Captain Duncan now? I’ve always—”

“That’s not my name. My name is Ethan Denby. I’m dreaming, and I’m ready to wake up if it’s all the same to you.”

The skinny kid grabbed Ethan’s shoulder and forced him to roll over. He leaned in and shifted his goggles off his eyes to his forehead. He stared intently at Ethan.

The kid couldn’t have been older than nineteen—only a few years ahead of Ethan himself—but he seemed to have put a lot into those years. His face was leathery and cracked. All the moisture had gone from it, and wrinkles were already showing up around his eyes. The only signs he wasn’t a middle-aged man were his patchy beard and the occasional crack in his voice.

“You aren’t getting dehydrated, are you?”

“What?” Ethan tried to roll over, but the kid caught his shoulder.

“Just let me check you.”

The kid moved quickly but precisely. He pinched Ethan’s skin, felt his forehead, checked his pulse, and looked inside his mouth. He was only a few pokes and prods shy of the physical Ethan had gotten the one season he’d tried to play football.

Finally, the teenager backed off and sighed. “Well, you’re not dehydrated.” He sat on the floor, wrapping long, gangly arms around his knees. “I mean, not any more than anyone else is these days.”

And then he was silent. He stared at Ethan, running a hand through his tangle of red hair. As he stared, his expression grew graver and graver. When he finally spoke, there was no hint of playfulness left in his voice.

“You really aren’t him, are you?”

Ethan didn’t respond.

“I mean, you’ve got Uncle Duncan’s body. But you—whoever you are in there—you’re not him.”

Ethan tried to roll over again, but the teenager grabbed him. His eyes were wide.

“I’ve heard about this! It’s called a soulswap, right? Did you soulswap my uncle?” His eyes widened. “Are you . . . are you from the Cloud?”

Ethan could practically hear the capital C.

“I’m taking you to Tucker.”

II

“I’m Jackie, by the way,” said the kid. “But that’s all I’m telling you before Tucker gives you the all-clear.”

He had an iron grip on Ethan’s arm, fingers digging painfully into his bicep. He hadn’t looked Ethan in the eye since they left the cabin.

Jackie pulled Ethan down the hatch in the middle of the deck. Only a few minutes earlier, a whole crew, unfamiliar and disgruntled, had poured out of it. Now the hatch sat unused as the crew returned to their normal duties.

The only other person visible on deck was Slappy. He scowled, eyeing the two of them suspiciously. Ethan was grateful to follow Jackie down the hatch and out of sight.

Below the hatch was a flight of spiral stairs just steep enough to keep Ethan off balance as Jackie tugged on his arm. The stairs took them to what looked like a crew’s quarters. Electric lanterns hung from the ceiling, and bunk beds lined the walls. These beds, unlike the one Ethan had been in, were bolted to the floor and walls.

The stairs went down another level. The faint sound of singing drifted up from below.

“Don’t mind Buddy,” Jackie muttered. He yanked Ethan into the quarters. At the far end of the room was a door. Jackie rapped on it impatiently. “Tucker! You in there?”

“Yes, come in,” said a soft voice on the other side.

The door screeched on its hinges. It opened to a smallish room with a single cot bolted to the floor. Seated on a barstool next to the cot was a balding man who Ethan assumed to be Tucker. Like Jackie, Tucker had a creased and dry face. Also like Jackie, he had the look of someone younger than his features suggested. He wasn’t quite as young as Jackie, but he was still far too young to have such deep creases in his skin.

“Duncan. Jackie.” The man nodded at each of them. His voice was soft and amiable. “What’s this about?”

“That’s the thing,” Jackie said, still holding Ethan’s arm with painful tightness. “I don’t know if this is Uncle Duncan.”

The man raised his eyebrows, creating more wrinkles on his forehead than Ethan thought possible. A faint smile played at his lips. He said, “He sure looks like Duncan.”

Jackie shook his head. “It’s Uncle Duncan’s body, but that’s not him inside. That’s someone else.”

Tucker stared at Ethan, chewing on the corner of his lip. “That’s quite an accusation.”

“You know what I think?” Jackie said.

Tucker’s eyes flicked over to Jackie, then back to Ethan. They were the most piercing blue Ethan had ever seen. The balding man’s whole body, from the slumping shoulders to the heavy wrinkles around his face, radiated weariness, but those eyes were the exception. They gleamed with intelligence and energy.

Jackie said, “We just went to Raphael, what, a week ago? Maybe two?”

“Almost two weeks,” Tucker murmured. Then, to Ethan, “Would you say you’re Duncan?”

“Just two weeks,” Jackie said before Ethan could respond. “And he’s so close to the Cloud out there. I think the Priesthood is behind this. Whatever this is.” He gestured at Ethan as if he were a pile of trash to be cleaned up.

Tucker didn’t respond. He just kept those bright blue eyes on Ethan and repeated his question: “Are you Duncan?”

“I don’t have to talk to you,” Ethan said. “This is just a dream, and I’m going to wake up any second now.”

Jackie snorted. Ethan didn’t blame him. He was starting to realize just how ridiculous he sounded.

Tucker smiled. It was a warm, weary smile. He didn’t move his lips or cheeks as much as he simply seemed to rearrange the creases in his face. “Why don’t you humor me?” he said.

Ethan sighed. “I don’t know who Duncan is. I’m Ethan. Ethan Denby from Dallas.”

Tucker nodded. Finally, he looked at Jackie. “Obviously, any time something like this happens, it’s easy to blame the Priesthood of the Cloud. That being said, I do have a theory—”

“What?” Jackie’s hand clamped down even harder on Ethan’s arm. Ethan winced.

Tucker continued as if Jackie hadn’t even spoken. “—but I’d like to check for head wounds first. All kinds of nasty stuff can happen if you rattle your brain enough. Think you could let your prisoner go for a second?”

Jackie hesitated, looked sideways at Ethan, and then reluctantly let go. Ethan resisted the urge to rub the sore spot on his arm.

Tucker gestured for Ethan to come closer, and Ethan complied. The balding man put his hands on either side of Ethan’s head, craning his neck to look for any signs of damage.

“I didn’t go to medical school, but I’ve read a few textbooks. You could say my learning has been more hands-on.” He smiled apologetically. “I’ve had more people get better under my care than I’ve had people die, so that’s something.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

“It was supposed to pass the time.” Tucker turned Ethan’s head gently from side to side. “I’m not seeing any wounds.”

He held Ethan’s head firmly so he was facing straight ahead, and looked intently at his eyes. His thin eyebrows drew close together, adding even more creases to his forehead. He held up a finger and asked Ethan to watch it as he moved it from side to side. After a minute or two of this, Tucker looked at Jackie and shrugged.

“If he does have a head injury, it’s not a bad one. Not bad enough for him to forget his own name.”

“So what’s going on?” Jackie asked.

“My guess?” Tucker licked his lips. “I think he’s been soulswapped.”

Jackie folded his arms and huffed. “That’s what I thought. So this did come from the Cloud.”

“It had to, somehow,” Tucker said. “Most likely, it was the Priesthood, but there’s no telling what else is in there. Could be some other group no one knows about.”

“So where’s Duncan’s soul?”

Tucker’s eyebrows knotted together again. He turned his brilliant blue eyes on Ethan. “Where did you say you were from?”

“Dallas,” Ethan muttered, trying not to look Tucker in the eye.

“Dallas . . . that was in Texas, right?”

Ethan nodded. “It is in Texas.”

Tucker looked at Jackie. “I’d say Duncan’s soul is in Texas, during whatever time Ethan is from.” He added, “Unless we’re dealing with a more complicated swap than usual.”

“This is ridiculous,” Ethan said, turning to leave. He didn’t know where he planned to go. Back to bed, maybe. He’d try sleeping again, and this time no one would come banging on the door. This time he’d fall asleep and wake up in his own bed.

Before he could leave, Tucker put a hand on Ethan’s shoulder. Gently but firmly, he turned him around. He bent forward, forcing Ethan to meet his gaze.

“Ethan, you have to trust me when I tell you you’re not dreaming.” Tucker’s voice was grave now, the warmth all but gone. “I know none of this makes any sense to you, but the world has changed since there was even a Dallas to be from.”

“Just saying that doesn’t prove anything,” Ethan said.

Tucker smiled, and this smile looked sadder and wearier than ever. “No, I guess it doesn’t. But neither does your telling us this is all a dream.” Tucker’s smile faded as he continued. “Now, you’re welcome to piddle around this ship until either you wake up or you decide you’ve been awake the whole time, but you have to know this isn’t a luxury cruise. The world is much more dangerous now than it was in the time you’re from. If you really are dreaming, then great. All of this will end, and you can get back to whatever life it is you’ve been leading. But if you’re wrong and this is really happening to you, it won’t matter what you believe about how real it is. If something happens to you out here, you won’t wake up an instant before dying. You won’t suddenly find yourself safe at home under the covers. You will die. Got it?”

Ethan stared at the balding man in front of him. He met his gaze for as long as he could stand it, and then he looked away and brushed the dry hand off his shoulder.

“Yeah, I got it.”

III

Ethan tried to sleep.

That would work, right? If he fell asleep in this dream, would he wake up in real life? It had to work, if only because nothing else had. On his way back from the bizarre meeting with Tucker, he’d tried pinching himself, opening his eyes as wide as they would go, even screaming. He’d accomplished nothing besides earning some odd looks from the crew.

So now he was trying to sleep. Only that was hard when he was so hungry. And thirsty. And when his skin itched so badly.

Everything was just too real.

Ethan took a long, deep breath, willing his heart to slow its maddening pace. This would all be over soon. He’d wake up, and if his parents weren’t still sleeping, he’d mess around on the drums for a bit before leaving for school. If they weren’t up yet, he could at least do some work on the practice pad. There was a competition coming up, and Ethan needed to be at his best.

Finally, sleep began to claim him. He tried not to notice it, tried not to chase it away, but all he wanted to do was embrace that delightful sensation of sinking deep into his bed.

He was fading . . .

IV

Two blue pinpricks cut into the blackness. At first, they were so small Ethan barely even noticed them, but then they stretched wide into big, round ovals.

With a jolt, Ethan realized was no longer sinking into his bed. He was hurtling into a great, black emptiness. Only it wasn’t emptiness, because the blue ovals were there with him. They were following him.

Watching him.

Another pair of ovals blinked open as Ethan picked up speed. Another joined them, and then another, and another. Soon Ethan was seeing more blue fire than black night. This wasn’t right. He wanted to scream, but when he opened his mouth, the breath was sucked out of him. The ovals drew closer, but they weren’t really ovals, were they?

Of course not. They were eyes.

They were eyes, and they could see him.

Ethan felt their heat. It burned his skin, but he couldn’t scream because he couldn’t breathe. He thrashed his body, trying to escape, but it was no good. He couldn’t even close his eyes to block the things out, because his lids were already squeezed shut. Those burning blue eyes were inside the black with him.

And then, with no warning, Ethan stopped falling. He didn’t jerk to a stop. He didn’t lurch forward. He was simply not falling. Like he’d been floating there in the black all along.

All the eyes but two blinked into nothingness.

A voice filled Ethan’s head.

You are ours.

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