Unsleeping
by
Martha Taylor


    There was no answer from Blair's bedroom. Jim pushed open the French doors, and saw the bed was empty. "Blair!" Jim shouted, and nothing answered him. He was alone in the loft.

    Oh, this was crazy. No way Sandburg would have gone off and left him. Just to be sure, though, he stepped out again and checked. The chain was still on the front door, and Jim felt something very cold trickle down the back of his spine. Blair wasn't in the loft, but wherever he had gone, he hadn't left by the front door. Jim turned around slowly, trying to reach out with his senses, but they seemed blocked and sluggish somehow. He moved back into Blair's bedroom, trying to be calm, forcing himself to concentrate. There was a draft in here. How had he not noticed it before? The window that overlooked the fire escape was open.

    This wasn't possible. This couldn't be possible. Moving like a sleepwalker he walked to the side of Blair's bed and looked down at the bedclothes. Sandburg wasn't big on making the bed every day. Or every week. But even he didn't sleep in a bed with the sheets yanked up from under the futon and spilled halfway across the floor. It looked as though Blair had grabbed them and tried to hang on while someone pulled him out of bed.

    Madness. Jim could never have slept through something like that. It just wasn't possible. Nevertheless, he walked slowly around and looked at the floor between the bed and the window. The geometry of the room seemed all wrong. The angles had never been square, but now they tilted and verged on the edge of insanity. Jim had to shut his eyes against a wave of vertigo, and when he could open them again, he saw the line of muddy, bare footprints leading away to the window. There was an indescribably foul smell in the room, and as Jim clapped his hand over his nose and mouth, trying to block it out, he saw that the little toe on the left foot was missing.