LEAVING THE MUSEUM, TERRI began the long walk back to the ferry terminal. Her mind was troubled as she desperately tried to internalize everything she'd learned from Charlie, especially his final warning.
What does all this really mean? she asked herself . If I give the box back to Mom, will it eventually destroy her? I can't let that happen. But what else can I do?
As she walked, the box seemed to grow heavy in her tote and, unbidden, visions of the small bone knife surfaced to plague her mind. Waiting at the curb for a traffic light, she suddenly found herself overcome by a wave of dizziness and the ordinary street scene in front of her began to blur and shift out of focus. She closed her eyes tightly, willing the vertigo to stop. When she opened them again, all was back to normal and the light was now green. As she stepped into the street, she checked her watch.
I need to eat something , she thought. I haven't had anything since early this morning. Maybe I should stop and grab something quick.
She glanced around but there were no fast food places close by. Determined to make the next boat, she put her hunger aside and continued walking but was unable to shake off a vague feeling of unease.
Concentrating on the activity around her, she stumbled when she was, once again, hit by sense of disequilibrium, this time accompanied by a sharp pang of nausea. She stopped and leaned against a lamppost, desperately trying to regain her balance and keep herself from vomiting in the gutter.
What's happening? This can't be just hunger.
Confused and a little frightened, she closed her eyes and tried to focus her mind. When she began feeling steady and in control again, she took a deep breath, opened her eyes and looked around.
Oh my God! What's happening?
Turning her head left and right, she stared in disbelief as the shops that lined the street begin to shimmer and change. She clung to the lamppost, her sense of fear escalating as everything that made up the real world suddenly started to liquefy, melting slowly away and disappearing into the pavement beneath her feet.
She closed her eyes again in a desperate attempt to make reality return, but when she opened them, all she saw before her was a barren landscape. The people and buildings were gone and what remained was only scorched earth, reeking of desolation.
As she stared at the scene around her, shadowy shapes began to pull themselves from the raw earth, hovering strangely above the ground, their soulless eyes staring at her, their mouths gaping.
She shrank back as their foul breath assailed her nostrils and she fought to keep from vomiting in the street. Suddenly, the shapes reached out for her, whispering her name. Frozen in sheer terror, she watched as the strange phantoms grew larger and began to sinuously drift toward her, their arms stretching out as if wanting to enfold her in some sort of foul embrace.
She opened her mouth to scream, and as she did, the busy downtown street came rushing back, appearing before her eyes in sharp and vivid detail. The shadows were gone - vanished!
Uncomprehending, she stood still for a moment, rubbing her eyes and trying to wrap her mind around what had happened. Shaking her head and breathing deeply, she was about to continue on toward the terminal when the street in front of her again began to shimmer, fading away like a bad dream - and then the shadows were back and closing in on her.
Filled with terror, she began to run, unmindful of what direction she was going, but determined not to let the darkness reach her and swallow her soul like it had her father's.
Panic fueling her body, she wove her way through the empty streets, her heart beating wildly. Feeling the hot, decaying breath of the shadows close behind, her adrenalin surged and she picked up her pace.
But it was all to no avail. They were gaining on her and there was no way to elude them. Praying desperately for a miracle, she stopped running and turned to face the darkness.
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