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datatime: 2022-12-02 04:22:12 Author:RdzjDOOM

Exhausted from the emotional as well as the physical exertions of the day, Travis was soon asleep.

"What's wrong, boy?" Travis asked.

Einstein pressed his snout to the glass and mewled nervously.

Now and then the house creaked with ordinary middle-of-the-night settling noises.

"Well, I don't think it is," Travis said. "I don't think you understand how far north we've come. We had wheels, but it would have, had to follow on foot, which it couldn't have done. Whatever it was, it's far behind us, Einstein, far down there in Orange County, with no way of knowing where we've gone. You don't have to worry about it any more. You understand?"

"Are you worried that it's still after you?" he asked.

Because Travis was not much of a drinker, three beers were enough to insure against insomnia. He was asleep within seconds of putting his head on the pillow. He dreamed that he was the ringmaster in a circus where all the performing animals could speak, and after each show he visited them in their cages, where each animal told him a secret that amazed him even though he forgot it as soon as he moved along to the next cage and the next secret.

"Are you worried that it's still after you?" he asked.

"What's wrong, boy?" Travis asked.

"Are you worried that it's still after you?" he asked.

The sky was clear. The air was warm. With vivid green spring growth, the trees looked fresh; they stirred in a breeze just strong enough to take the searing edge off the hot sunlight.

The dog woofed once, quietly.

The dog dropped onto all fours and hurried out of the bedroom.

"Are you worried that it's still after you?" he asked.

Travis had to coax him back into the bedroom. There, the dog wanted to lie on the bed beside his master, and in the interest of calming the animal, Travis did not object.

Exhausted from the emotional as well as the physical exertions of the day, Travis was soon asleep.

Einstein glanced at him, then returned his attention to the moon-washed night. He whined softly, and his ears perked up slightly.

Now and then the house creaked with ordinary middle-of-the-night settling noises.

The sky was clear. The air was warm. With vivid green spring growth, the trees looked fresh; they stirred in a breeze just strong enough to take the searing edge off the hot sunlight.

The sky was clear. The air was warm. With vivid green spring growth, the trees looked fresh; they stirred in a breeze just strong enough to take the searing edge off the hot sunlight.

Travis found him at another window in the darkened living room, studying the night on that side of the house. Crouching beside the dog, putting a hand on the broad furry back, he said, "What's the matter? Huh?"

"Somebody out there?" Travis asked, getting off the bed, pulling on his jeans.

Remembering the retriever's-and his own-stark fear in the Santa Ana foothills, recalling the uncanny feeling that something unnatural had been stalking them, Travis shivered. He looked out at the night-draped world. The spiky black patterns of the date palm's fronds were edged in wan yellow light from the nearest streetlamp. A fitful wind harried small funnels of dust and leaves and bits of litter along the pavement, dropped them for a few seconds and left them for dead, then enlivened them again. A lone moth bumped softly against the window in front of Travis's and Einstein's faces, evidently mistaking the reflection of the moon or streetlamp for a flame.

At four o'clock in the morning, he woke and saw Einstein at the bedroom window. The dog was standing with its forepaws on the sill, its face limned by moonlight, staring out at the night, very alert.

Einstein nuzzled and licked Travis's hand as if reassured and grateful. But he looked out the window again and issued a barely audible whimper.

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