Have you ever stood on the edge of a precipice and looked over?  Have you felt that tightening in your chest, that swirling vertigo that comes at great heights?  I felt my life teeter on a brink like that the day I had the vision of my brother, and in the time that followed I was swept over the edge.

            I told Evie of my quasi-mystical experience, my vaporous encounter with our sibling, and she fell back in the grass dumbfounded.  There was a look on her face, a “how could I not have known?” kind of stupefaction.  After that moment of realization, her eyes and voice filled with terror.

            “I’ve known something was wrong in the world for a long time.  I mean, visions of the future, destructive meteor showers, faith healings, it becomes pretty obvious after awhile that reality is no longer exactly normal anymore,” she said, almost to herself in something of a mocking tone.  “I could never have guessed that someone had replaced Ethan, but somehow it makes sense, when you look at it in retrospect.”

            I was frightened just listening to her.  She was talking in this absurdly calm voice, with a faraway look in her eyes that seemed like the precursor to panic.  Genevieve was in fact starting to develop the shakes, so I hugged her tight, attempting to soothe her jangled nerves. 

            She pushed me aside almost perfunctorily and stood up.  “We have to warn them.”  Eve moved insistently towards her horse, and I feared that she was about to leave me once again.  I grabbed hold of her arms and forced her to look at me.

            “Evie, you can’t leave yet!”  I maintained, “Your horse is exhausted, you look like you’ve missed days of sleep…”  I saw her men approaching on horseback through the mists, “And your escorts deserve rest from the wearying road.  Please stay, at least one night.”

            Gradually her trance-like stare faded and she looked at me.  “Oh, Gwennie!  I’m so sorry,” my sister hugged me tight, “Things are just changing so fast.  This is just one more thing I have to tell Neal, and there was already so much.”

            “What else has happened?” I asked, disconcerted. 

            “Let’s go inside, I’ll tell you.” 

Genevieve gave directions to her men to stable the horses.  Eve slumped back exhausted in the couch, and I could see the toil of the journey in her tired expression.  I brought her a cup of tea and sat close, waiting patiently for her story to begin.

            “We rode for days,” She said after a few long sips of her hot drink, “Weeks.  The Fringe and the Outlands were unwelcoming.  We came across an ambush site, found the only survivor.  She had lost her entire family, and told me that men dressed like mine had done the deed.  I considered the idea that perhaps she was mistaken, or perhaps raiders had appropriated uniforms from corpses.  But it explained the hostility in every town, and the rumours I started hearing in taverns between here and there.  Kidnappings, thefts, murders, carried out by our soldiers in places far from our leadership.  There was… is corruption in our army.  We cannot trust anyone.”

            She stopped at this last sentence, as if considering her words.  “Anyone.”  Eve mouthed, blinking.  I stared at her in silence, wondering what was running through her head.  I took her hand in mine and gave it a gentle squeeze.

            “Eve?” I said, my voice questioning.

            “We have to leave tomorrow.”  She said, her voice sure as her eyes locked with mine in a steely gaze.  “Find us food and water, enough to last two people at least a few days.  We’ll leave before dawn, while the others are asleep.”

            “What?”  I questioned.  She covered my mouth with her hand and whispered softly into my ear.

            “Our own army cannot be trusted.  I don’t know if even these men are safe.  The Citadel itself may be compromised.  There’s a stranger wearing Ethan’s face, and Neal, Alex and Daniel knew the army best, so it’s possible even they may not be trustworthy.  The only person I can count on is you, Gwen, and I won’t leave you here with these soldiers when I don’t know if you’d be safe.”

            As my eldest sister spoke, I felt the hair at the nape of my neck stand on end as shivers of fear ran through my body.  Genevieve suspected her own husband of potentially being a murdering thief, if I understood her correctly, and that was not something she would say lightly.

            “So you believe me about Ethan?” I asked tentatively.

            “Of course I do!  We live in such strange times that it’s hard not to accept something so bizarre, and it explains the strangeness in his behaviour.  Remember how he wrote of the dark one?  The tiger?  What if somehow, I don’t know, it had come to life?”

            “That’s like the Dark Half.”  I breathed; feeling more shivers on my skin.

            “What?”  My sister asked. 

            “It’s a book, by Stephen King, here in the house.  A writer creates a pseudonym and even writes its history, and in the book he buries it in a fake funeral so he can write books under his own name.  Because Stephen King has such an odd imagination, somehow a doppelganger is born out of that grave, and it stalks the author throughout the entire novel.”

            “This isn’t a book, Gwennie.”  Eve shook her head, unable to see how my thought was relevant.

            “Ethan read that story, he must have.  It was lying somewhere in the recesses of his mind, and something happened to make it take shape…” I trailed off, unable to articulate how such a fantastical thing could have occurred.  I began to sound foolish even to myself.  “Um, never mind.  I’ve just spent too much time reading is all.”

            Genevieve shook it off.  “Then let’s get busy collecting supplies and packing.  We’ll go to bed early and get a fresh start.”

            We spent the day hiding food and gear in the barn with the horses, which needed to be rubbed down and fed.  My parents had gone to visit a neighbour’s farm, so we did not have anyone asking any questions about our behaviour.  Genevieve’s escorts had fallen asleep early, worn out by her harried ride across the continent.  She, however, was possessed of an almost manic intensity as we carried out our tasks.  Eventually we collapsed in the large bed in my room, so we would not be separated in the night.  I fell asleep easily, drained from our exertions.

            In the middle of the night however, I awoke to the sound of my sister’s sobbing.  She had put up a bold front all day, but I knew that she had finally let the realization sink in that her closest friends and her husband might well be monsters hiding behind the church they had built.  I hugged her tight, holding her as she faced a long night of fear and mourning, her body wracked with tremors and her eyes red with tears.

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