Jack couldn’t sleep. Rather, he was almost afraid to. If he fell asleep, he might dream, and if he dreamed, Beth might be there, and that would mean that she would be gone when he woke up, trapped on that Other Side.
He nearly drifted off, caught himself just as the feeling of falling was overtaking him. He used that sensation to propel himself up, back to wakefulness.
He was too comfortable, so he sat up, set his bare feet on the cold wooden floor.
11:58. Nearly Beth’s Witching hour. He got up, struggling into his robe as he went downstairs.
The table was still crowded with books and papers. A pencil lay atop one of the books.
Beth wasn’t at the table. Jack peered around the corner, down at the couch. The blankets and pillows were laid out.
She wasn’t in the kitchen. The downstairs bathroom was empty.
Jack pinched himself. Nothing happened.
He checked the front door. Closed, the bolt still in place. She hadn’t gone out that way.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard the side kitchen door.
Beth was locking the top bolt when he got to the doorway. She wore her coat, and had another hat on, and a large red scarf around her neck.
“Don’t do that!” Jack said.
Beth jumped with a squeak, backing against the door.
“Jack! Are you trying to scare me back to the Other Side?”
“Me? What about you? I came down here and you were gone!”
“I went next door for my scarf and another hat. Its going to be really cold tomorrow.”
Jack sagged against the doorway. “I thought—”
“I’m fine.” She glanced at the microwave clock. “Jack, go to bed. It’s lights out. I promised your dad.”
“Are you sure? Last night—”
“Last night was last night. The veil was still parted then, but it’s mending now. I think I’m going to be okay.”
“‘Mending’?” Jack asked.
“Did I say ‘mend’? I meant—”
“‘Mend’ as in ‘fix itself.’”
“Yes,” Beth said, but Jack heard the pause before she answered.
“As in, you broke it?”
“Only a little,” she said. “I’m small.”
“I’ve been thinking about this a lot, Beth. All day. I think I’ve put some things together. And that was the last piece.”
She bit her lip.
“Want to hear what I thought of?”
“… Okay,” she said, softly.
“What if you weren’t the only thing that came through last night?”
A smile plastered itself across her lips. “Nonsense, Jack. There’s nothing else in the Otherwhere.”
“Nightmares have to come from somewhere, Beth.”
“Jack, you don’t know—”
“You said ‘They’ were going to come for you, and bring you back.”
“Jack, it’s okay. Really. It’s fine.”
“Every time you say that, it isn’t. Don’t lie to me about this.”
“Don’t interrupt me. Ari—”
“Jack, no!” she shouted. It was two strides from one side of the kitchen to the other, and Jack had completed her name again by the time Beth got to the other doorway and pressed her hand to his mouth.
He staggered back as she careened into him, catching himself on the doorway. Her eyes were wide, shining. Fear glimmered in their depths.
“Jack, you can’t just throw my name around like that!” she hissed. “Not now. Never during the witching hour.”
He held his hands up, nodding. She took her hand slowly away. It was cold, shaking.
“Lets go sit.” He helped her out of her coat, hanging it over one of the dining room chairs. Her hat and scarf joined it.
They sat on the sofa, Jack pulling the blanket up around her shoulders before he sat.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know. I feel like I don’t know anything. So tell me what I need to know to keep you safe, Beth.”
She sat still, head bowed, her fingers worrying at a fringe along the edge of the blanket. She took a deep breath, then began:
“Invoking a True Name —
“‘Invoking.’ Its like saying something, only on steroids. All words have power behind them, and the ones with a lot of power get invoked.”
“So, invoking a True Name — mine, yours, anybody’s — its like… lighting a beacon. A big bonfire, that just says ‘Here I am!’ You can’t hide. It’s like somebody shining a big search light on you from a helicopter at night.”
“And you’re hiding.”
“Only until the veil mends completely.”
“How long will that be?” Jack asked.
“Another day. Maybe two more at the most.”
“And then you’ll be safe?”
“Until the next new moon.”
The wind gusted outside, and the sound of leaves skittering across the yard was loud against the silence that sprang up between them.
Something tapped at the living room window.
Beth went pale.
It tapped at the window again. Tick, tick, tick.
“How could it have found me so quickly?” she whispered.