Just Once - Page 18

Every night Art went to bed berating himself for what he was doing. Every night he told himself the craziness had to stop, and it was going to stop . . . now!

Every night he lied to himself.

Every morning Art awoke with the realization that not only wouldn't he stop, in the honest light of morning, he knew that he couldn't!

Every morning that realization scared the hell out of him.

Yes, he was drawn to Annika, but that wasn't what compelled him to watch over her from afar day in and day out. Yes, he occasionally heard his heart whispering words like “love” and “forever,” but Art knew that his heart was stupid, and that he and Annika had about as much chance of a future together as he did of gaining superpowers and fighting injustice. Art knew full well that to think otherwise was to be living in a dream world.

That was the problem.

Night after night, Art's dreams tormented him with tantalizing images of what Art knew could never be, which was bad, but what was worse was what his dreams told him over and over again would be the moment he stopped watching over Annika; she would die, plain and simple.

Night after night, Art awoke with a start, his heart pounding and a scream trying to escape from his throat. How Annika would die in his absence, Art could never quite remember, the dream's details always escaping his grip like morning mist, but the certainty of what he had to do to prevent her from dying was always there. So every morning Art dragged himself out of bed and began his increasingly difficult trundle off to his day's insane quest to prevent Annika's death from . . . something, because, insane or not, it was the only way Art felt any peace after his dreams.

It would have been easier on him, of course, if he had any idea if just keeping watch over Annika would be enough, or if there would come a moment when Art would actually have to do something, and would he recognize that moment if it did? Art tried to tell himself that even if he was crazy, and all the evidence certainly supported that theory, he was at least sane enough to recognize a moment requiring action should it arrive.

He hoped.

Page 18

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