For generations, for nearly a century, the Rofotou family had been gathering the pieces of a puzzle that they believed would unlock some grand secret of the universe, or some extravagant treasure, or at least some profound piece of wisdom. But I didn’t know anything about that before a dark-haired woman named Red came knocking on my door one day. I didn’t know why she asked to see my old dream logs. And I certainly didn’t know what any of it had to do with Mrs. Highweather.
I haven’t had the cookie dream in a long while, but I’ve always remembered it. It’s not a unique scenario. I find myself locked in the front room of a bakery overnight. The lights have been shut off for the day. But the ambient lights are still on. I particularly remember the realization that I have been left alone with all that lies before me.
It starts off dark, and all I hear is a low, subtle pulsing. Not as rhythmic and steady as a heartbeat, but more like, the whooshing and sloshing of a washing machine. Then I can make out the clicking. Click, click, click. Multiplied. Click, click, clickclickclickclickclickclick. I see myself. And I am myself at the same time. My shoulders are drooped. I can hardly keep my eyes open. My skin feels warm, too warm. I see myself noticing the sound and raising his—my—head. My eyes move to the left and my head turns slightly, but then stops. I need to see. But I don’t want to see.
I snapped awake at the sound of subdued screaming music spilling from the headphones of the teen who had just settled down on the seat next to me. I glanced over at her, and she flicked her gaze in my direction, as if daring me to say something. But I was preoccupied by the feeling that something was wrong. I shook off the disorientation and saw that I was several stops away from where I needed to be. As the subway train rolled to a stop, I leapt out of my seat and navigated my way to the doors. I was late to work, and on a day after I may have burned one bridge too many.
It figures, she thought.
One of the containers was full of sand. A kind of pretty black glittery sand. And not the crispy savory steamy dumplings that Alora had dreamt of since leaving work that evening with the smallest of coffee stains on her collar.
No, not his dream. His dreams hold no answers that make sense. It’s possible his dreams don’t hold any answers at all. Not the ones we need to find her.
It’s her dreams we need. It’s the link we need. He had something of hers from the island. But he lost it on his way to rescue. He lost it in the delirium of dehydration. Now he has only his memories, his dreams, his desperate hope. And to help him, I have only the Abacus.