Penetrating the eye of a needle with brown thread, shadowy words creep through and around his consciousness: "Don't talk to me until I'm proud of myself again."

Licks his forefinger and thumb, conjures knot at thread's end. Thinks of all the times he's ruined his own efforts through superstition. Ironically, he's never believed in that game; "Jinx! I owe you nothing."

On impulse, he begins to sew his lips together instead of the frayed edges of his jacket's pocket. He feels more satisfaction than pain. He thinks, "Better for blood to leak than damaging words about my intentions."

When he's finished, he sits in willing silence and reads about panthers stalking through heavy night. Dreams of their teeth upon his neck.

"I don't consider this a nightmare."