Miranda snapped her fingers. “That’s what you’re doing when you’re meditating.”
He nodded. “I’m keeping things from changing.”
“Is that why I’m meditating too?” It made sense. Dad was making her meditate on real things.
But Dad looked cagey again. “Sort of.”
Anger flared in Miranda. She was sick of secrets. She was going to call him on it when he said, “The mad god wants to wake up. I think it’s been trying for years. It pushed Alice to stab me so I couldn’t keep it asleep anymore.”
Miranda felt confused. “I still don’t understand why we keep running.”
Once again Dad was staring at the floor. “Anytime we stop somewhere … things start to change.”
Miranda wanted to yell, but she kept her voice calm. “Then why did we stop here?”
Dad’s face turned red. “Mostly I just got tired. Fourteen years is a long time to run. I thought maybe you were ready …” He trailed off.
“Ready for what?”
He didn’t answer. She felt the old fear that he’d get angry. Though he didn’t look capable of anger anymore.
He looked out the window. “Is Alice okay?” The machine started beeping again. He forced her breathes out more regularly, but it kept on.
She was surprised. “You’re not mad at her?”
He bunched up the sheets around his waist. “It’s not her fault.”
Miranda really wanted to change the subject, to go back to a safe topic, but she needed to know. “Did you always know Alice was …” She looked back at Cindy. “Not real?”
Anger crossed Dad’s face. “She’s real.” He glanced over at Cindy. “She’s a person, Miranda. She just came into being differently than us.”
He let out a breath. “I didn’t entirely know. I can sense when things change, but I don’t always know what has changed.”
The door creaked open and a nurse leaned in. “Visiting hours are over.”
Miranda hadn’t been sure there even were visiting hours anymore.
Cindy stood up. “Okay.”
When Miranda looked back to Dad, he wasn’t looking at his hands again. “This is really important. I should have told you this before.” Tears welled in his eyes. “You have to keep doing your exercises. As long as you focus on reality I think we’ll be okay.”
Dad leaned in and whispered in her ear. His voice cracked. “If we think about it too much, it might wake up.”
A chill ran down Miranda’s back. Suddenly she felt claustrophobic. She staggered away from the bed. “I need to know one more thing.”
Dad looked at Cindy briefly, then back to Miranda.
The picture snagged on her pocket as she pulled it out. She couldn’t bring herself to unfold it. “There was a woman in this picture. Was she my real mother?”
He reached for the picture, but she couldn’t let herself let go of it. He looked to the water pitcher in the corner. “Can you get one of my pills?”
The pill bottle was marked anti-anxiety. She wondered if he’d been taking these even before Alice stabbed him.
After he swallowed the pill, he said, “Please don’t forget to do your meditation. Okay?”
She nodded and he said, “Pretend nothing has happened.”
The picture was still in her hand, but he wouldn’t look at it.
She said, “Dad…”
He looked defeated. He nodded. “The picture is of your mother.”
Her teeth hurt. She realized she was clenching her jaw. “What happened to her?”
Dad eyes filled with tears. “The woman in the photo is me, before I caught the mad god’s attention.”