II.

You slip out into the back alley. The night is cold, but you've got a light jacket on. You left your overcoat in the restaurant but that doesn't matter now.

Things don't seem to be quite the same as when you went into the restaurant. You can't put your finger on it, but everything seems subtly off. You look up at the sky, but everything is dull gray. Clouds are covering the moon.

You fumble a cigarette out of your jacket pocket and get out your lighter. But when the flame comes it illumines a man, standing not two feet from you.

You jump back with a curse. "Jesus Christ!"

He steps forward. "I'm sorry to frighten you, Lover," he says. "Come on, let's go where there are lights."

He hustles you out of the alley towards the street, where a single lamp on the corner beams down. As you're walking, protesting all the while, you hear a huge, murmuring sound. Something crashes, and it sounds like it's got something to do with the Indian restaurant.

"What was that?" you cry.

"Nothing. Just keep going."

Once in the street, you turn to face the man. "Just who are you?" you begin to ask, but then you get a proper look at him.

He's a young man, dressed conservatively in grays and blues. The dirty white of an old shirt collar pokes up from his sweater and his pants are made from green corduroy. His back is hunched high in a large, round hillock that makes his jacket obscure his neck. He wears a hat that shades his face, but when he opens his mouth to speak, he takes it off.

The skin on the right side of his forehead, cutting back through his hair line and down under his eye, is crossed with four puckered, white scars. He blinks and looks down for a moment, then looks back up at you. As he speaks, you can't help but wonder what suffering he must have endured.

"Lover," he says.

"How do you know my name?" you butt in.

"No offense, Lover, but that's not important right now," he says. "What's important is, I need you."

"What for?" You imagine he needs a chiropractor more.

"There's been a break in the Real," he says. "Everything from Shadow is coming through, and I think you're the one to help us."

"Why me?" you ask.

"You've got Sense," he says. Somehow, you can hear the capitalizations in his voice. "The restaurant you were just in? It just collapsed. There was too much Shadow there. And, quite frankly, we think you've got sense but can't use it."

"What?" You shake your head. "What is all this, some D&D game you and your friends have come up with?"

He looks pained and plays with the brim of his hat. "No. Lover, the Shadow is this world's paramour. They've been kept separate before, but now the Tryst is finally occurring. We need your help to put a stop to it."

You try to walk away but he grabs you arm.

"We think that somehow, you're wound up in all this. We think you've brought the Tryst into being."

"Go back to your basement," you being to say. Then you see the flash of a knife in his hand.

"I don't want to hurt you," he says, "but I will if you don't listen to me. Now, what I want you to do is think over everything that's happened to you and see if you don't start seeing what's happened. I'll come to your apartment tomorrow and see how you're doing. Now, go home, think over the current state of the world and just see if things don't start to fall into place."

You turn away from him, waving curtly over your shoulder. If you dismiss all that he's said out of hand, go to section III.

If you decide to do as the hunchback told you, go to section IV.