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As he’d done on every morning since Barícolé’s curse fell upon the city, he first looked to the window on the opposite side of the street. Dark and empty, it brought a familiar worry about Galvea. They’d been friends all their lives. He couldn’t remember a day in those twelve years they hadn’t spent at least in part together — until recently. As he rubbed the blear from his eyes, the bellcart called again and fear chased away his drowsiness. Fear always followed the questioning bell.
Enoch reached for the silver handbell resting on the windowsill. Everyone knew by now: answer as soon as you hear. This was the only way to reckon the living from the soon-to-be-dead, because those unable to answer never had very long before they withered down to near nothing.
Again the approaching bell. Cling.
Enoch answered. Ting. From his parents’ room came two more replies. Ting. Ting. This had become the rhythm of their lives.
Cling. Ting. Ting. Ting.
The not-knowing was just as terrible to Enoch three months into the curse as it had been on the first night. At each ringing not knowing his answer to the question issuing from the metal of the bell. Waiting for the reassuring sound of his reply. And then the vacuum in which he waited to know his parents’ answers. The darkened window across the street was worst of all, never knowing whether Galvea’s handbell rang.