The cold water from the stream brought Jack around. He blinked water from his eyes, sputtering. He dared not shake his head, for fear it would fall off. The cold of the water almost dulled the fiery pain that sizzled across the back of his head and down his neck.
“Jack, you were drifting off. You can’t do that. Not just because you clonked your head. If you start dreaming this close to the Dark, I don’t know what’ll happen.”
“You clonked my head,” Jack said, “And if this dark thing is going to come and eat us, I wish it would hurry up and get it over with.”
“Jack, get up! We’re so close to home! We’re almost there, we can make it.”
“Just … need to rest here for a bit,” Jack said, sitting back against one of the trees.
The trees were still rustling, surging, rushing. The fine hairs along the back of Beth's neck were standing up. The air felt charged, like it was holding its breath.
She heard snapping behind her, off in the distance, and she jumped, staring that direction.
But it wasn’t anything dark coming from that way.
Beams of light were sweeping back and forth.
She didn’t have the energy to cry out. She tried, but her voice just wouldn’t cooperate.
She had to let them know they were here. Send them a signal—
“Forgive me, Jack,” she said. “You’ll never live it down, but its the only way.” She grabbed her hat, pulled it off.
She leaned down, closed her eyes, and pressed her lips to his.
* * * * *
Jack woke up on the sofa, a cold cloth along his forehead, and a bag of ice for a pillow.
His father’s chair squeaked and burped, and jack looked over to see Beth peeking out from its depths, eyes wide in the moonlight streaming into the living room. The flecks in her eyes caught between silver and gold. She was wearing a kerchief over her head.
“What time is it?” he mumbled. His tongue felt about two sizes too big.
“Almost nine. I thought I was going to have to wake you up again. Your mom said you shouldn’t sleep for too long at a time.”
“You fell down. Twice. I couldn’t get you back up the second time. But by then your dad and sisters were out looking for us, and luckily, your dad was the one who found us.”
Was it a trick of the light, or was she blushing again?
“I feel all floaty.”
“Thats from the pills, not the conk on the head. You get to go to the hospital tomorrow so they can look inside that empty head.”
“Where is everybody?”
“Your mom and dad went into town to the pharmacy and to do some shopping. They took your sisters with them.”
“At this hour? And why is it so dark in here?”
“There’s kind of a problem with the lightbulbs right now.’
“All of them?”
“Just… all the ones I stand too close to.”
Jack tried to sit up, but managed to sort of flop over a bit to one side. He could see Beth a little clearer.
The tips of her hair was glowing softly, under the kerchief.
“Go to sleep, Jack.”
“Go back to sleep, Jack.”
Beth turned around in the chair. A muted, golden glow lent its illumination to the moonlight.