Nemesis

There are two dominoes still missing.

It seems somehow incredible that he could have miscounted before, even amidst the panic and chaos of departure. But the fact remains, and it chafes under his eyelids when he tries to sleep. Kirby must have hidden them; tomorrow he will scour the other rooms, get everything in both trunks realigned the way it should be, and then-

And then.

He thinks of a second retreat, of strangers and lost alleyways and the road into oblivion.

He thinks of the stakes, the tool-belt strung up around Tom's bedstead. Imagines the wooden point under his sternum, imagines the force behind it driving home as he leans into each press-up. The ease with which the thought occurs is appalling, exhilarating. It condenses the whole universe into one, practised motion.

The blistered skin bands tight around his upper arm, threatening to split.

Another two hundred press-ups and his body declares exhaustion; the next time he rises, it is light outside. The pain has receded to a muted threat, one that grows louder as he struggles into his shirt. Yesterday's clothes are creased in all the wrong places, but he can't yet bring himself to open another suitcase. It would admit too many chances.

Downstairs the kitchen door is ajar. Annie spoons formula into a bottle; Tom is trimming advertisements from this week's magazines. He glances up as Hal enters, and does an exaggerated double-take.

"Bloody hell, mate. You look like som'un I used to dig them graves for. What happened? You seen another ghost?"

"Hal?" Both pairs of eyes are on him, now. Their concern sits heavier than their anger ever did. You should be afraid, he thinks. Why can't you be afraid for this?

"Nothing. Just- I slept badly. Too much of that...cake."

"Oh- I've got something for you." Annie gestures at him with the spoon, running through to the hallway. She returns bearing a picture-frame; edged in oak, a little scratched. "For Leo. You know, 'cos Kirby-" She swallows the remaining words, and compensates with a quick pat at his shoulder. It takes every ounce of willpower not to flinch.

"Thank you. Annie."

Hal traces the wood's grain with his fingertips.

He is turning to dust from the inside out.