Chapter no 138 – Agoraphobia‌

All the Light We Cannot See

Thirty minutes. It should take Marie-Laure twenty-one; Etienne has counted many times. Once twenty-three. Often shorter. Never longer.


It is a four-minute walk to the bakery. Four there and four back, and somewhere along the way, those other thirteen or fourteen minutes disappear. He knows she usually goes to the sea—she comes back smelling of seaweed, shoes wet, sleeves decorated with algae or sea fennel or the weed Madame Manec called pioka. He does not know where she goes exactly, but he has always assured himself that she keeps herself safe. That her curiosity sustains her. That she is more capable in a thousand ways than he is.

Thirty-two minutes. Out his fifth-floor windows, he can see no one. She could be lost, scraping her fingers along walls at the edge of town, drifting farther away every second. She could have stepped in front of a truck, drowned in a puddle, been seized by a mercenary with foulness on his mind. Someone could have found out about the bread, the numbers, the transmitter.

Bakery in flames.

He hurries downstairs and peers out the kitchen door into the alley. Cat sleeping. Trapezoid of sunlight on the east-facing wall. This is all his fault.

Now Etienne hyperventilates. At thirty-four minutes by his wristwatch, he puts on his shoes and a hat that belonged to his father. Stands in the foyer summoning all his resolve. When he last went out, almost twenty-four years ago, he tried to make eye contact, to present what might be considered a normal appearance. But the attacks were sly, unpredictable, devastating; they sneaked up on him like bandits. First a terrible ominousness would fill the air. Then any light, even through closed eyelids, became excruciatingly bright. He could not walk for the thundering of his own feet. Little eyeballs blinked at him from the cobblestones. Corpses stirred in the shadows. When Madame Manec would help him home, he’d crawl into the darkest corner of his bed and

belt pillows around his ears. All his energy would go into ignoring the pounding of his own pulse.

His heart beats icily in a faraway cage. Headache coming, he thinks.

Terrible terrible terrible headache.

Twenty heartbeats. Thirty-five minutes. He twists the latch, opens the gate. Steps outside.

You'll Also Like