The dog was staring at him. He wasn't sure what had happened, or where he was, but the dog was definitely staring at him.
He was lying down, he thought, and he wasn't sure why. His head was turned to the side, which was why he could see the dog, which was still staring at him. Its eyes weren't the same colour, he thought, as the nonsense under his fingers turned into hot sand.
Where the hell was he?
The dog's eyes reflected something that wasn't him, that wasn't here. He knew that voice, those sounds.
"Spencer? Come on, open your eyes. Stay with me." She looked afraid, dark hair tied back so it did nothing to hide the terror in her eyes. He could feel her hand on his face, the lights and ceiling white behind her. Where was he?
He blinked and she was gone. The tan and grey dog was still staring at him, with its strange eyes. It cocked its head, and he wasn't sure if that was an entirely friendly look, but he thought it might be, as the desert blew in out of the strangely vacant mists. He knew desert. He knew this desert, in particular, even if the sun was strangely orange. Not orange, but orange-like. Orangey. Why was he lying in the desert in Nevada?
He caught the dog's eyes again, and his mind flooded with another place.
"Spence? Hey, there you are..." She smiled at him, and he knew her, he recognised the way her golden hair fell. He knew the smell and the white wall behind her. He could hear the sirens, and-- "No, no. Don't try to get up. Spence, don't--"
She looked away, shouting toward an open door he hadn't noticed. "He's bleeding again!"
His hand was wet, and as she broke eye contact, he was looking at the dog again.
That wasn't a dog, he realised, as it loped toward where he lay. That was a coyote. He was out in the middle of the desert with a coyote, and he had no idea how he'd gotten here, how he was getting back, or why he was having so much trouble moving. But, it had to be a dream, didn't it? He knew those women, and obviously, they knew him. He couldn't remember their names. He wouldn't have remembered his own name, but they kept calling him by it. But, they weren't here. Here, he was alone with a coyote that seemed to be watching him cautiously as it crept in from where it had stopped, much closer than where it had started.
He was hallucinating. That had to be it. He'd been hit on the head, which made a strange and terrible sense because of something he couldn't quite remember, and now he was hallucinating, which probably meant his brain was swelling.
And then the coyote spoke to him, and he was sure of it.
"How did you get here? You don't smell like honey..." it asked, in a voice that sounded almost like his own -- a similar accent, similar pacing, similar tone. His, but not his.
"Honey?" he asked, confused.
"What do you need, sugar?" the coyote joked, yipping a short laugh. "Most people come in dreams. They drink honey if they want to pay attention for it. But you..."
He watched the coyote circle him, sniffing, and he wondered where this was going. "I don't eat a lot of honey. I think I've been hit in the head."
The coyote dropped to its haunches and sat up very straight, looking around the desert as if it expected to see something. "You're dying, aren't you."
It wasn't quite a question, but he answered it as if it was. "I don't know. I keep seeing... I think it's a hospital. Someone I know said I was bleeding. I can't remember..."
"We need to get you out of here. Being here will kill you, in your condition. Maybe for good." The coyote got up, muttering to itself, as it gently seized the cuff of one pant leg in its teeth and started pulling. "Being in two places at once was never a good idea, but your kind never were great at good ideas. The next time you want to visit, use a mirror, like a rational person, would you? I think they've put in a railway station somewhere around here, too, but who knows if the train still runs, now. Minding my own business in Veilgarden, and they dropped a city on us. I bet they know in Ealing. If you can even get to Ealing from out there, now."
He had no idea what the coyote was talking about, and he was extremely sure of that. But, the coyote was a hallucination, so he wasn't sure he was supposed to know. Maybe it was better that he didn't. "If there's a railway station, shouldn't I just get on the train?"
"No, you have to go back the way you came. You can't go back without a body, and yours is still out there, but I have to keep you away from the snakes and the cats and the devils -- yes, devils, I can hear you thinking that -- until we can find you and put you back where you belong." The coyote stopped dragging and the orange sun gave way to a lovely cedar-scented shadow.
He could hear the sound of cloth being pulled away from something, and the coyote talking to someone else.
"Byers! Byers, damn it, I need help out there!"
No one replied. The sound of cloth repeated, followed by an alarmed squawk that sounded nothing like the coyote.
"Hey! This is my bathroom! Can you not? What the hell are you yelling for Byers for, anyway?"
"You'll do, Your Lordshit," the coyote teased.
"That's Lordship, you mirror-eyed menace. What the hell do you want?"
"You remember how sure your people were that the Sixth City was coming? It just fell. I have a survivor -- well, half a survivor. I need you to find the other half before the devils or the snakes do."
"You could do it faster if you used the snakes."
"The snakes will take him!" The coyote turned back to him, leaning over him. "Can you sit up? My friend needs to see your face."
"I don't think--" His eyes caught the coyote's again. He could hear the coyote as he fell, suddenly. Up through the reflection, down into nothing, out into everything.
"Do something, you obstinate prick! I'm losing him! Not again!"
Everything was white, when he opened his eyes, and in the distance something was beeping erratically.