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The preface catapults us right into a race against time – literally a ticking clock tower.
We learn that the narrator (Bella) is trying to save the life of someone she loves. She believes she will fail, because her legs won’t move fast enough to beat the hands of the clock, ticking toward "the end of everything" (Preface.1).
As the bell in the clock tower tolls, Bella knows it’s too late. "I was glad something bloodthirsty waited in the wings. For in failing at this, I forfeited any desire to live" (Preface.5).
We’re left to wonder if we’ve just witnessed the last moments of Bella’s life and that of the loved one she’s trying to save.