The raven boys, p.30

The Raven Boys, page 30

 part  #1 of  The Raven Cycle Series

 

The Raven Boys
 



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Page 30

 

  "I don’t think these fish are real," Gansey said softly.

  It was such a ridiculous thing to say that Blue turned to look at him again. He was tipping his hand back and forth as he watched the water.

  "I think they’re here because I thought they ought to be here," Gansey said.

  Blue replied sarcastically, "Okay, God. "

  He twisted his hand again; she saw the fish’s forms flash in the water once more. Hesitant, he went on: "At the reading, what was it that the one woman said? With the hair? She said it was about — perception — no, intention. "

  "Persephone. Intention is for cards," Blue said. "That’s for a reading, for letting someone into your head, to see patterns in the future and the past. Not for fish. How could intention work on a fish? Life isn’t negotiable. "

  He asked, "What color were the fish when we arrived?"

  They’d been black and silver, or at least they had looked it in the reflection. Gansey, she was certain, was reaching for signs of inexplicable magic, but she wasn’t going to be swayed so easily. Blue and brown could look black or silver, depending on the light. Nonetheless, she joined him, crouching in the moist dirt beside the pool. The fish were all dark and indistinct in the shadow of his hand.

  "I was watching them and wondering how they’d gotten here and then I remembered that there was a kind of trout that often live in smaller creeks," Gansey said. "Wild brook trout, I think they’re called. I thought, that would make a little more sense. Maybe they were introduced by man, somehow, in this pool, or a pool farther up the stream. That’s what I was thinking. Brook trout are silver on top and red on the bottom. "

  "Okay," she said.

  Gansey’s outstretched hand was very still. "Tell me there were no red fish in this pool when we arrived. "

  When she didn’t answer, he looked at her. She shook her head. There’d definitely been no red.

  He pulled his hand back quickly.

  The tiny school of fish darted and leapt for cover, but not before Blue saw that every one of them was silver and red.

  Not a little red, but bright red, sunset red, red as a dream. Like they had never been any other color.

  "I don’t understand," Blue said. Something in her ached, though, like she did understand, but couldn’t put words to it, wrap her thoughts around it. She felt like she was a part of a dream this place was having, or it was a part of a dream of hers.

  "I don’t, either. "

  They both turned their head at the same time then, at the sound of a voice from their left.

  "Was that Adam?" Blue asked. It seemed strange that she had to ask, but nothing felt very definite.

  Again they heard Adam’s voice, more clearly this time. He and Ronan stood on the other side of the pool. Just behind him was an oak tree. A man-sized rotten cavity gaped blackly in its trunk. In the pool at his feet was a reflection of both Adam and the tree, the mirror image colder and more distant than reality.

  Adam rubbed his arms fiercely, as if chilled. Ronan stood beside him, looking over his shoulder at something Blue couldn’t see.

  "Come here," Adam said. "And stand in there. And tell me if I’m losing my mind. " His accent was pronounced, which Blue was beginning to learn meant that he was too bothered to hide it.

  Blue peered at the cavity. Like all holes in trees, it looked moist and uneven and black, the fungus in the bark still working away at enlarging the crater. The edges of the entrance were jagged and thin, making the tree’s continued survival seem miraculous.

  "Are you okay?" Gansey asked.

  "Close your eyes," Adam told him. His arms were crossed, his hands gripping his biceps. The way he was breathing reminded Blue of what it felt like to wake after a nightmare, heart pounding, breath snagging, legs aching from a chase you never really ran. "After you stand in there, I mean. "

  "Did you go in there?" Gansey asked Ronan, who shook his head.

  "He’s the one who pointed it out," Adam said.

  Ronan said, flat as a board, "I’m not going in there. " When he said it, it sounded like principle instead of cowardice, like his refusal to take a card at the reading.

  "I don’t mind," Blue said. "I’ll go. "

  It was hard for her to imagine being intimidated when surrounded by a tree, no matter how strange the forest around it might be. Stepping into the cavity, she turned so that she faced the outside world. The air inside the cavity smelled damp and close. It was warm, too, and although Blue knew it must be because of the rotting process, it made the tree seem as warm-blooded as her.

  In front of her, Adam’s arms were still gripped around himself. What does he think will happen in here?

  She closed her eyes. Almost at once, she could smell rain — not the scent of rain coming, but the living, shifting odor of a storm currently waging, the wide-open scent of a breeze moving through water. Then she became aware that something was touching her face.

  When she opened her eyes, she was both in her body and watching it, nowhere near the cavity of the tree. The Blue that was before her stood inches away from a boy in an Aglionby sweater. There was a slight stoop to his posture, and his shoulders were spattered darkly with rain. It was his fingers that Blue felt on her face. He touched her cheeks with the backs of his fingers.

  Tears coursed down the other Blue’s face. Through some strange magic, Blue could feel them on her face as well. She could feel, too, the sick, rising misery she’d felt in the churchyard, the grief that felt bigger than her. The other Blue’s tears seemed endless. One drop slid after another, each following an identical path down her cheeks.

  The boy in the Aglionby sweater leaned his forehead against Blue’s. She felt the pressure of his skin against hers, and suddenly she could smell mint.

  It’ll be okay, Gansey told the other Blue. She could tell that he was afraid. It’ll be okay.

  Impossibly, Blue realized that this other Blue was crying because she loved Gansey. And that the reason Gansey touched her like that, his fingers so careful with her, was because he knew that her kiss could kill him. She could feel how badly the other Blue wanted to kiss him, even as she dreaded it. Though she couldn’t understand why, her real, present day memories in the tree cavity were clouded with other false memories of their lips nearly touching, a life this other Blue had already lived.

  Okay. I’m ready — Gansey’s voice caught, just a little. Blue, kiss me.

  Shaken, Blue opened her eyes for real, and now she saw the darkness of the cavity around her and smelled the dark, rotten scent of the tree again. Her guts were twisted with the ghostly grief and desire she’d felt in the vision. She was sick and embarrassed, and when she stepped out of the tree, she couldn’t look at Gansey.

  "Well?" Gansey asked.

  She said, "It’s … something. "

  When she didn’t elucidate further, he took her place in the tree.

  It had seemed so very real. Was this the future? Was this an alternate future? Was this just a waking dream? She couldn’t imagine falling in love with Gansey, of all people, but in that vision, it had seemed not just plausible, but indisputable.

  As Gansey turned inside the cavity, Adam took her arm and dragged her closer. He wasn’t gentle, but Blue didn’t think he meant to be rough. She did startle, though, when he wiped her face with the heel of his other hand; she had been crying real tears.

  "I want you to know," Adam whispered furiously, "I would never do that. It wasn’t real. I’d never do that to him. "

  His fingers were tight on her arm, and she felt him shaking. Blue blinked at Adam, wiping her cheeks dry. It took her a moment to realize that he must have seen something entirely different than she had.

  But if she asked him what he had seen, she’d have to tell him what she saw.

  Ronan was staring at them, raw, as if he knew what had happened in the tree, even without attempting it himself.

  A few feet away in the cavity, Gansey’s head was b
owed. He looked like a statue in a church, his hands clasped in front of him. There was something very ancient about him just then, with the tree arched over him and his eyelids rendered colorless in the shadows. He was himself, but he was something else, too — that something that Blue had first seen in him at the boys’ reading, that sense of otherness, of something more, seemed to radiate from that still portrait of Gansey enshrined in the dark tree.

  Adam’s face was turned away, and now, now, Blue knew what his expression was: shame. Whatever he had seen in his vision in the hollowed tree, he was certain Gansey was seeing it, too, and he couldn’t bear it.

  Gansey’s eyes flicked open.

  "What did you see?" Blue asked.

  He cocked his head. It was a slow, dreamlike gesture.

  Gansey said, "I saw Glendower. "

  Chapter 24

  As Adam had warned, it had not taken two seconds to explore the raven cut into the ground, follow the creek into the woods, watch the fish change colors, discover a hallucinatory tree, and return to Helen.

  According to Gansey’s watch, it had taken seven minutes.

  Helen had been furious. When Gansey told her that seven minutes was a miracle, and really, they should’ve been gone forty, it had caused such an argument that Ronan, Adam, and Blue had removed their headphones to allow the siblings to duke it out. Without the headphones, of course, the three of them in the rear seat were robbed of the power of speech. It should have created an awkward silence, but instead, it was easier without words.

  "It’s impossible," Blue said, the moment the helicopter had left the lot quiet enough to speak. "Time couldn’t have stopped while we were in the woods. "

  "Not impossible," Gansey replied, crossing the parking lot to the building. He ripped open the door to Monmouth’s first floor and shouted up into the dim stairwell, "Noah, are you home?"

  "It’s true," Adam said. "According to ley-line theory, time can be a fluid thing right on the line. "

  It was one of the more commonly reported effects of ley lines, especially in Scotland. In Scottish folklore, there was a long-held myth that travelers could be "pixy-led," or led astray by territorial fairies. Hikers would set out along a straight trail only to find themselves inexplicably lost, standing in a location they had no recollection of walking to, yards or miles away from their starting point, their watch showing minutes before or hours after they’d left. Like they’d tripped on a wrinkle in space/time.

  The ley line’s energy playing tricks.

  "What about that thing in the tree?" Blue asked. "Was that a hallucination? A dream?"

  Glendower. It was Glendower. Glendower. Glendower.

  Gansey couldn’t stop seeing it. He felt excited, or scared, or both.

  "I don’t know," he said. He pulled out his keys and swatted Ronan’s hand away when he snatched for them. It would be a cold, cold day in a Virginia summer when Ronan was allowed to drive his car. He’d seen what Ronan did to his own car and the idea of what he’d do with a few dozen more horsepower at his command was unthinkable. "But I intend to find out. Come on, let’s go. "

 
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