Black Dawn (Chapter 4)

Maggie was dreaming. She knew she was dreaming, and that was strange enough, but what was even stranger was the fact that she knew it wasn'tan ordinary dream.

This was something…that came from outside her, that was being … sent. Some deep part ofher mind fumbled for the proper words, seethingwith frustration, even while the normal part of her was busy staring around her and being afraid.

Mist. Mist everywhere, white tendrils that snakedgracefully across her vision and coiled around herlike genii that had just been let out of lamps. She had the feeling that there were dark shapes out inthe mist; she seemed to see them looming out of the corner of her eye, but as soon as she turned they were obscured again.

Gooseflesh rose on Maggie's arms. It wasn't justthe touch of the mist. There was a noise that madethe hairs on the back of her neck tingle. It was justat the threshold of hearing, distorted by distanceor something else, and it seemed to be calling overand over again, "Who are you?"

Give me a break,Maggie thought. She shook herhead hard to get rid of the prickly feeling on herneck. This is just way too…too Gothic.Do Ialways have corny dreams like this?

But the next moment something happened thatsent a new chill washing over her, this time oneof simple, everyday alarm. Something was comingthrough the mist, fast.

She turned, stiffening. And then, strangely, everything seemed to change at once.

The mist began to recede. She saw a figure, darkagainst it, nothing more than a silhouette at first.For just an instant she thought of Miles-but thethought was gone almost as quickly as it came. Itwas a boy, but a stranger, she could tell by theshape of him and the way he moved. He wasbreathing hard and calling in a desperate voice,"Where are you? Where are you?"

So that was it. Not "Whoare you," Maggiethought.

"Where are you? Maggie! Where are you?"

The sound of her own name startled her. Buteven as she drew in a sharp breath, he turned andsaw her.

And stopped short. The mist was almost gonenow and she could see his face. His expression wasone of wonder and relief and joy.

"Maggie," he whispered.

Maggie stood rooted to the spot. She didn't knowhim. She was positive she had never seen him before. But he was staring at herasif… asif shewere the most important thing in the universe tohim, and he'd been searching for her for years untilhe'd almost given up hope. She was too astonished to moveashe suddenly erupted from stillness. In three long steps he was in front of her, his handsclosing on her shoulders.

Gently. Not possessively. Butasif he had theabsolute right to do this, andasif he needed toconvince himself she was real.

"It worked. I got through," he said.

He was the most striking person she'd ever seen.Dark hair, a little rough and tousled, with a tendency to wave. Smooth fair skin, elegant bones. A mouth that lookedasif it normally might be proud and willful, but right now was simply vulnerable.

And fearless, brilliant yellow eyes.

It was those eyes that held her, arresting andstartling in an already distinctive face. No, she hadnever seen him before. She would have remembered.

He was a whole head taller than she was, andlithe and nicely muscled. But Maggie didn't have a feeling of being overpowered. There was so muchtender anxiety in his face, and something nearpleading in those fierce, blacklashed golden eyes.

"Listen, I know you don't understand, and I'msorry. But it was so hard getting through-andthere isn't much time."

Dazed and bewildered, Maggie latched onto thelast sentence almost mechanically. "What do you mean-getting through?"

"Never mind. Maggie, you have to leave; do youunderstand that? As soonas you wake up, you getout of here."

"Leave where?"Maggie was more confused than ever, not for lack of information, but because she was suddenly threatened by too much of it. Sheneeded to remember-where had she gone tosleep? Something had happened, something involv ing Miles. She'd been worried about him….

"My brother," she said with sudden urgency. "I was looking for my brother. I need to find him."Even though she couldn't remember exactly why.

The golden eyes clouded over. "You can't thinkabout him now. I'm sorry."

"You know something a-"

"Maggie, the important thing is for you to getaway safe. And to do that you have to go as soonas you wake up. I'm going to show you the way."

He pointed through the mist, and suddenly Maggie could see a landscape, distant but clear, like afilm being projected on a veil of smoke.

"There's a pass, just below the big overhanging rock. Do you see it?"

Maggie didn't understand why she needed to see it. She didn't recognize the landscape, although it might have been anywhere in the Olympics or theCascade mountain range above the tree line.

"First you find the place where you see threepeaks together, the same height and leaning towardeach other. Do you see? And then you look downuntil you find the overhanging rock. It's shaped like a wave breaking. Do you see?"

His voice was so urgent and imperious that Maggie had to answer. "I see. But-"

"Remember it. Find it. Go and never look back. If you get away all right, the rest doesn't matter."

His face was pale now, the features carved in ice."The whole world can fall into ruin, for all I care."

And then, with the suddenness that characterizedallhis movements, he leaned forward and kissedher.

A nice kiss, on the cheek. She felt his warm, quick breath there, then his lips pressing lightly, and then a sudden quivering in them, asif he wereovercome by some strong emotion. Passion, maybe, or excruciating sadness.

"I love you," he whispered, his breath stirring thehair by her ear. "I did love you. Always remember that."

Maggie was dizzy with confusion. She didn't understand anything, and she should push this stranger away. But she didn't want to. Howeverfrightened she was, it wasn't of him. In fact, shehad an irresistible feeling of peace and security inhis arms. A feeling of belonging.

"Who are you?" she whispered.

But beforehecould answer,everythingchanged again.

The mist came back. Not slowly, but like fog rolling in, quick and silent, muffling everything. Thewarm, solid body against Maggie's suddenlyseemed insubstantial, as if it were made of fogitself.

"Wait a minute-" She could hear her voice rising in panic, but deadened by the pearly cocoonaround her.

And then…lie was gone. Her arms were holding only emptiness. And all she could see was white.