Jeremy didn’t sleep well that night.
His dreams were punctuated by the image of a window, illuminated in the darkness. He stood behind the glass, longing to run away but knowing he had to break it open and fall through. Over his shoulder he felt a malevolence bearing down upon him, but he dared not turn around and face it. Finally, as he began to feel something grab his shoulders, Jeremy raised a hammer and shattered the window. He dove through into the abyss beyond, a howl of rage trailing in his wake.
This vision played out several times during his slumber, and he woke each time he began to fall. As he scanned the dimness of the room it took him a moment to get his bearings and remember where he was. He tried to sit up in bed and recall the dream, but exhaustion overcame him and he slipped sleep once more. He didn’t remember after dawn broke the next morning, but as he slipped back into the dream one time a voice spoke to him, “The window is shattered, there is no return.”
“Lad,” Jeremy felt a gentle nudge on his shoulder, which jolted him into a sitting position. “Whoa! No need to panic, lad, it’s just me.”
He breathed deeply and settled his nerves. “Sorry, Walter. I didn’t sleep well.”
“Can’t say as I blame ya, after all you’ve been through.”
“I guess. I was having nightmares. They kept waking me.”
Jeremy nodded. “Well, I think it was one nightmare. I was trying to get away from something, and I jumped and… there was falling.”
Walter sat on Jeremy’s bed and patted his shoulder. “Doesn’t sound pleasant, lad. You should have woke me.”
“It was just a nightmare. Like you said, I’ve been through a lot.”
“Yes, well, the night has gone and it’s another beautiful day in Shelter. Time to get up and moving, lad, we’d best be on our way.”
“All right, save some breakfast for me.”
“Oh no. No more late starts on this trip! We’re eatin’ on the road, you get up so we can get out.” Walter got up and shut the door as he exited the room. When it had latched, Jeremy stretched and climbed from his bed. After donning his outfit for the day, a clean pair of comfortable grey trousers and a pale yellow shirt Ama had picked for him the evening before, he emerged from his room.
“Well, you are a sight, Jeremy.”
Jeremy smiled, “Thank you Ama.”
“Walter told me you were having nightmares last night.”
“Yah, one. It kept waking me up.” Jeremy stiffled a yawn, “I’m ok now, just tired.”
Ama regarded him for a moment before holding out a piece of jerky for him. “All right, then. Take this for breakfast, I have water, tea, and fruit for the journey as well. Next time you have a nightmare, however, please write it down before you forget. Your mind could be giving you some clues about what happened to you.”
Jeremy accepted the jerky with a nod. “If you say so, Ama. I will.”
“Good. Now, Elyse has already loaded our baggage on to our horses, and Walter has inspected his wares for tampering – untrusting soul that he is.”
“I still have to make living, Meddle. Besides, Elyse saw some pottery she liked as I was inspectin’. That’s a win all ‘round.”
“If you you say so, Old Fox.” Walter, smile on his face, rummaged through a pack on the table and pulled out an apple. He smiled as he began to crunch through it’s tough skin. Ama rolled her eyes but turned back to Jeremy instead of continuing her exchange with Walter. “What I mean to say, Jeremy, is we allowed you to sleep in a bit. We’re ready to go now, if you are.”
“Now. Umm, sure. It’s just that. I, uh, if I could take moment to…”
“Second door on the left, lad, next to the bath room.”
“Right, thanks Walter.” Jeremy bounded away to the identified door as Walter chuckled. A few minutes later he returned, noticeably relieved. “OK, I guess I’m ready.”
“Good, let’s be off, then.” Ama picked up the pack off the table, and pointed out a similar one on the floor for Jeremy to take up. Walter had his already strapped across his own back, and lead the trio down the steps, punctuating their departure with the juicy crunch of his breakfast.
The trio made their way through the hotel lobby, and untethered their horses once they arrived on the street. Walter tipped a young man who had been paid to keep an eye on his goods, and then they were off. They strolled down Shelter’s main street, which was being swept clean of the previous night’s refuse. Most shops were closed, but a few were open, expelling the smells of coffee and fresh baked break out into Shelter’s unique atmosphere. Jeremy was sure these scents served as Shelter’s alarm clock, just passing by caused his stomach to grumble with desire.
“Sorry, lad.” Walter smiled as he pretended to pull him away from a particularly fine scented bakery. “Maybe next time we pass through I’ll let you get a treat. Meddle won’t even let me get coffee.”
“You’re the one who wanted to be off with no distractions, Walter. I’m only holding you to your own instructions.”
“Coffee ain’t a distraction, Meddle, it’s a necessity!”
Ama smiled, but said nothing and continued walking. Walter sighed and followed.
Soon, they passed through the settlement and were climbing the few switchbacks which led back up to The Boulevard tunnel. About a half-hour after they exited the hotel, the tunnel stretched before them once more. Jeremy turned and smiled at the view of the settlement below. He hadn’t been in Shelter long, but knew it was a special place. Turning from the sunlight which was falling through Shelter’s crystal roof, Jeremy faced the tunnel and prepared to continue his journey.
Before he could take a step to follow Ama and Walter, who had already begun down the path, Jeremy spotted something which made him shudder.
Out of the corner of his eye he noticed a shadow dancing through several nearby evertorches. Almost as if it were waiting for him to follow.