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to him.

"Hold on to it and focus on it as much as you can."

He had to lift his right hand with his left to position it beside the mouse. Both hands were bloody, as were hers, and she realized he'd finally ruined the smooth skin of his palms. They clasped their hands around the mouse, their fingers intertwining. His were as cold as death.

The top of Anna's faceplate came to rest against Morden's as they both focused down on the mouse, on the object grasped in their four hands. Then the darkness, which had hovered so close, seeped down into her brain and seized it like a claw. The vast, cold well expanded, swallowing her, unbearable emptiness and burning need. She plummeted downward at the speed of screams. But the falling could stop, the well could be filled, light and warmth brought into the shadow within her. John could be beside her twenty-four hours a day, proclaiming his love, listing her virtues, his love providing everything he needed, everything she needed.

Every archaeological theory of hers could be brilliant, and correct, her discoveries could change the world, end suffering, bring her peace, recognition, and fulfillment. She could bring people only happiness, no pain. Or the simplest dream, all the worse because she had believed it would come true, and now knew that it wouldn't: she could live to a ripe old age with John, their love only stronger with the passage of time, comfortable yet still passionate, sitting on a pair of rockers on a porch in Iowa. She felt each of these with the pain of a life lived in an instant and then taken away, the dark presence in her mind shuffling through her dreams, animating them with more vividness than Anna ever could. Any of these could fill the emptiness within her, fill it with a light borne of darkness, a light
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