Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia

  Why was John Breed so important to him? I remembered the way Macon and Liv had talked about John in Macon’s study. John was the key. The question was—to what?

  “I told you—”

  Abraham didn’t let me finish. He ripped, reappearing at the foot of my bed. I could see the hate in his black eyes. “Don’t lie to me, boy!”

  Lucille hissed again, and I heard another rip.

  I didn’t have time to see who it was.

  Something heavy fell on top of me, slamming down onto the bed like a bag of bricks dropped from the ceiling. My head hit the wooden frame behind me, and I bit through my bottom lip. The sickening metallic taste of blood from the dream filled my mouth.

  Over Lucille’s gnarled cries, I heard the sound of the hundred-year-old mahogany splintering beneath me. I felt an elbow jab me in the ribs, and I knew. A bag of bricks hadn’t dropped on me.

  It was a person.

  There was a loud crack as the bed frame broke and the mattress crashed to the floor. I tried to throw them off. But I was pinned.

  Please don’t let it be Hunting.

  An arm flew out in front of me, the way my mom’s always did when I was a kid and she hit the brakes of the car unexpectedly. “Dude, chill!”

  I stopped fighting. “Link?”

  “Who else would risk disintegratin’ into a million pieces to save your sorry ass?”

  I almost laughed. Link had never Traveled before, and now I knew why. Ripping must be harder than it looked, and he sucked at it.

  Abraham’s voice cut through the darkness. “Save him? You? I think it’s a little late for that.” Link almost jumped out of the broken pile of bed at the sound of Abraham’s voice. Before I could answer, my bedroom door flew open so hard it almost came off the hinges. I heard the click of the light switch, and black splotches blurred everything as my eyes adjusted to the light.


  “What the devil is goin’ on in here!” Amma was standing in the doorway, wearing the rose-patterned bathrobe I bought her for Mother’s Day, with her hair wrapped in rollers and her hand wrapped around her old wooden rolling pin.

  “—hell,” Link whispered. I realized he was practically sitting in my lap.

  But Amma didn’t notice. Her eyes zeroed in on Abraham Ravenwood.

  She pointed the rolling pin at him, her eyes narrowing. She circled him like a wild animal, only I couldn’t tell who was the predator and who was the prey.

  “What are you doin’ in this house?” Her voice was angry and low. If she was afraid, she sure didn’t show it.

  Abraham laughed. “Do you actually think you can chase me off with a rolling pin, like a lame dog? You can do better than that, Miss Treadeau.”

  “You get outta my house or, the Good Lord as my witness, you’ll wish you were a lame dog.” Abraham’s face hardened. Amma turned the rolling pin so that it pointed at Abraham’s chest, like the tip of a sword. “Nobody messes with my boy. Not Abraham Ravenwood, not the Serpent or Old Scratch himself, you hear?”

  Now the rolling pin was pushing into Abraham’s jacket. With every inch, the thread of tension between the two of them pulled tighter. Link and I moved closer to Amma on either side.

  “This is the last time I’m going to ask,” Abraham said, his eyes bearing down on Amma. “And if the boy doesn’t answer me, your Lucifer will seem like a welcome reprieve from the hell I will rain down on this town.”

  He paused and looked at me. “Where is John?”

  I recognized the look in his eye. It was the same look I had seen in the visions, when Abraham killed his own brother and fed from him. It was vicious and sadistic, and for a second I considered naming a random place so I could get this monster out of my house.

  But I couldn’t think fast enough. “I swear to God, I don’t—”

  The wind blew in through the broken window, hard, whipping around us and scattering papers all over the room. Amma staggered back, and her rolling pin went flying. Abraham didn’t move, the wind blowing past him without so much as rustling his jacket, as if it was as terrified of him as the rest of us.

  “I wouldn’t swear, boy.” He smiled, a terrible, lifeless smile. “I would pray.”


  Winds of Hell

  The wind rushed through my window with a force so powerful it took everything on top of my desk with it. Books and papers, even my backpack, twisted in the air, swirling like a tornado trapped in a bottle. The towers of shoe boxes that lined my walls crashed to the floor, sending everything from comic books to my bottle cap collection from first grade flying through the air. I grabbed hold of Amma, who was so tiny I was worried she might get picked up with everything else.

  “What’s happenin’?” I could hear Link yelling from somewhere behind me, but I couldn’t see him.

  Abraham was standing in the center of the room, his voice calling into the churning black vortex. “To those who have brought destruction into my house, I invite chaos into yours.” The wind circled around him without even catching his coattails. He was commanding it. “The Order is Broken. The Door is Open. Arise, Ascend, Destroy!” His voice grew louder. “Ratio Fracta est! Ianua Aperta est! Sugite, Ascendite, Exscindite!” Now he was shouting. “Ratio Fracta est! Ianua Aperta est! Sugite, Ascendite, Exscindite!”

  The swirling air darkened and began to take shape. The hazy black forms jerked out of the spiral, as if they were climbing their way out of the vortex and hurling themselves over the edge, into the world. Which seemed pretty disturbing, considering what they were hurling themselves into was the middle of my bedroom.

  I knew what they were. I’d seen them before. I never wanted to see them again.

  Vexes—the Demons that inhabited the Underground, void of soul and shape—erupted from the wind, curling into dark forms that moved across my plain blue ceiling, growing until it seemed like they would suck all the air from the room itself. The creatures of shadow moved like a thick, churning fog, shifting in the air. I remembered the one that had almost attacked us outside Exile—the terrifying scream when it reared back and opened its jaws. As the shadows grew into beasts in front of us, I knew the screaming wouldn’t be far behind.

  Amma tried to wrestle free from my arms, but I wouldn’t let go. She would have attacked Abraham with her bare hands if I’d let her. “Don’t you come into my house thinkin’ you can bring a world a evil through one tiny crack in the sky.”

  “Your house? This seems more like the Wayward’s house to me. And the Wayward is exactly the person to show my friends the way in, through your tiny crack in the sky.”

  Amma closed her eyes, murmuring to herself. “Aunt Delilah, Uncle Abner, Grandmamma Sulla….” She was trying to call the Greats, her ancestors in the Otherworld, who had protected us from the Vexes twice before. They were their own force to be reckoned with.

  Abraham laughed, his voice carrying above the hissing wind. “No need to call up your ghosts, old woman. We were just leaving.” I could hear the rip begin before he dematerialized. “But don’t worry. I’ll see you soon. Sooner than you’d like.”

  Then he ripped open the sky and stepped through it. Gone.

  Before any of us could say a word, the Vexes shot out my open window, a single streak of black moving above the sleeping houses on Cotton Bend. At the end of the street, the line of Demons divided in different directions, like the fingers of a dark hand wrapping itself around our town.

  My room was strangely quiet. Link tried to navigate around the papers and comic books settling on the floor. But he could barely stand still. “Man, I thought they were gonna drag us down to hell, or wherever they came from. Maybe my mom is right and it is the End a Days.” He scratched his head. “We’re lucky they’re gone.”

  Amma walked over to the window, rubbing the gold charm she wore around her neck. “They’re not gone and we’re not lucky. Only a fool would think either.”

  The lubbers buzzed underneath the window, the broken symphony of destruction that had
become the sound track of our lives. Amma’s expression was just as broken, a mix of fear and sorrow and something I’d never seen before.

  Unreadable, inscrutable Amma. Staring out at the night.

  “The hole in the sky. It’s gettin’ bigger.”

  There was no way we could go back to sleep, and there was no way Amma was letting us out of her sight, so the three of us sat around the scarred pine table in the kitchen listening to the clock tick. Luckily, my dad was in Charleston, like he was most weeknights now that he was teaching at the university. Tonight would’ve sent him back to Blue Horizons for sure.

  I could tell Amma was distracted because she cut Link a slice of chocolate pecan pie when she cut one for me. He made a face and slid it onto the china plate next to Lucille’s water dish. Lucille sniffed it and walked away, curling up quietly under Amma’s wooden chair. Not even Lucille had an appetite tonight.

  By the time Amma got up to put on the water for tea, Link was so restless he was banging out a tune on the place mat with his fork. He looked at me. “Remember the day they served that nasty chocolate pecan pie in the cafeteria, and Dee Dee Guinness told everyone that you were the one who gave Emily the Valentine’s Day card no one signed?”

  “Yeah.” I picked at the dried glue on the table from when I was a kid. My pie sat untouched. “Wait, what?” I hadn’t been listening.

  “Dee Dee Guinness was pretty cute.” Link was smiling to himself.

  “Who?” I had no idea who he was talking about.

  “Hello? You got so mad you stepped on a fork and crushed it? And they didn’t let you back in the cafeteria for a whole six months?” Link examined his fork.

  “I remember the fork, I think. But I don’t remember anyone named Dee Dee.” It was a lie. I couldn’t even remember the fork. Come to think of it, I couldn’t remember the valentine either.

  Link shook his head. “We’ve known her our whole lives, and she totally ratted you out in third grade. How could you forget her?” I didn’t answer, and he went back to tapping his fork.

  Good question.

  Amma brought her teacup to the table, and we sat in silence. It was like we were waiting for a tidal wave to crash down over us, and it was too late to pack or panic or run. When the phone rang, even Amma jumped.

  “Who’d be calling this late?” I said late, but I meant early. It was almost six in the morning. We all were thinking the same thing: Whatever was happening, whatever Abraham had let loose on the world—this would be it.

  Link shrugged, and Amma picked up the black rotary phone that had been on the wall since my dad was a kid. “Hello?”

  I watched as she listened to the caller on the other end of the line. Link rapped on the table in front of me. “It’s a lady, but I can’t tell who it is. She’s talkin’ too fast.”

  I heard Amma’s breath catch, and she hung up the phone. For a second, she stood there holding the receiver.

  “Amma, what’s wrong?”

  She turned around, her eyes watering. “Wesley Lincoln, do you have that car a yours?” My dad had taken the Volvo to the university.

  Link nodded. “Yes, ma’am. It’s a little dirty, but—”

  Amma was already halfway to the front door. “Hurry up. We’ve got to go.”

  Link pulled away from the curb a little slower than usual, for Amma’s sake. I’m not sure she would’ve noticed or cared if he’d skidded down the street on two wheels. She sat in the front seat, staring straight ahead, clutching the handles of her pocketbook.

  “Amma, what’s wrong? Where are we going?” I was leaning forward from the backseat, and she didn’t even yell at me about not wearing my seat belt. Something was definitely wrong.

  When Link turned onto Blackwell Street, I saw just how wrong.

  “What the he—” He looked at Amma and coughed. “Heck?”

  There were trees all over the road, torn from the ground, roots and all. It looked like a scene from one of the natural disaster shows Link watched on the Discovery Channel. Man vs. Nature. But this wasn’t natural. It was the result of a supernatural disaster—Vexes.

  I could feel them, the destruction they carried with them, bearing down on me. They had been here, on this street. They had done this, and they’d done it because of me.

  Because of John Breed.

  Amma wanted Link to turn down Cypress Grove, but the road was blocked, so he had to turn down Main. All the streetlights were out, and daylight was just beginning to cut through the darkness, turning the sky from black to shades of blue. For a minute, I thought Main Street might have made it through Abraham’s tornado of Vexes, until I saw the green. Because that’s all it was now—a green. Forget about the stolen tire swing across the street. Now the ancient oak itself was gone. And the statue of General Jubal A. Early wasn’t standing proudly in the center, sword drawn for battle.

  The General had fallen, the hilt of his sword broken.

  The black sheath of lubbers that had covered the statue for weeks was gone. Even they had abandoned him.

  I couldn’t remember a time when the General wasn’t there, guarding his green and our town. He was more than a statue. He was part of Gatlin, woven into our untraditional traditions. On the Fourth of July, the General wore an American flag across his back. On Halloween, he wore a witch’s hat, and a plastic pumpkin full of candy hung from his arm. For the Reenactment of the Battle of Honey Hill, someone always put a real Confederate frock coat over his permanent bronze one. The General was one of us, watching over Gatlin from his post, generation after generation.

  I had always hoped things would change in my town, until they started changing. Now I wanted Gatlin to go back to the boring town I’d known all my life. The way things were when I hated the way things were. Back when I could see things coming, and nothing ever came.

  I didn’t want to see this.

  I was still staring at the fallen General through the back window when Link slowed down. “Man, it looks like a bomb went off.”

  The sidewalks in front of the stores that lined Main were covered with glass. The windows had blown out of every one of them, leaving the stores nameless and exposed. I could see the painted gold L and I from the Little Miss window, separated from the other letters. Dirty hot-pink and red dresses littered the sidewalk, thousands of tiny sequins reflecting the bits and pieces of our everyday lives.

  “That’s no bomb, Wesley Lincoln.”


  Amma was staring out at what was left of Main. “Bombs drop from the heavens. This came from hell.” She didn’t say another word as she pointed toward the end of the street. Keep driving. That’s what she was saying.

  Link did, and neither one of us asked where we were going. If Amma hadn’t told me by now, she wasn’t planning to. Maybe we weren’t going anywhere specific. Maybe Amma just wanted to see which parts of our town had been spared and which had been forsaken.

  Then I saw the red and white flashing lights at the end of the street. Huge pillows of black smoke poured into the air. Something was on fire. Not just something in town, but the heart and soul of our town, at least for me.

  A place where I thought I would always be safe.

  The Gatlin County Library—everything that meant anything to Marian, and all that was left of my mother—was engulfed in flames. A telephone pole was wedged in the middle of its crushed roof, orange flames eating away at the wood on both sides. Water was pouring from the fire hoses, but as soon as they put out the fire in one place, another ignited. Pastor Reed, who lived down the street, was throwing buckets of water around the perimeter, his face coated in ash. At least fifteen members of his congregation had gathered to help, which was ironic, considering most of them had signed one of Mrs. Lincoln’s petitions to have books banned from the library they were trying to save. “Book banners are no better than book burners.” That’s what my mom used to say. I never thought there would come a day when I’d actually see books burning.

  Link slowed down, weaving
between the parked cars and fire engines. “The library! Marian’s gonna freak. You think those things did this?”

  “You think they didn’t?” My voice sounded far away, like it wasn’t mine. “Let me out. My mom’s books are in there.”

  Link started to pull over, but Amma put her hand on the wheel. “Keep drivin’.”

  “What?” I figured she was bringing us here because the volunteer firemen needed help pouring water on the rest of the roof so it didn’t catch fire. “We can’t leave. They might need our help. It’s Marian’s library.”

  It’s my mom’s library.

  Amma wouldn’t look away from the window. “I said keep driving, unless you want to pull over and let me drive. Marian’s not in there, and she’s not the only one needin’ our help tonight.”

  “How do you know?” Amma tensed. We both knew I was questioning her abilities as a Seer, the gift that was as much a part of her as the library was a part of my mom.

  Amma stared straight ahead, her knuckles turning white as she clutched the handles of her pocketbook. “They’re only books.”

  For a second, I didn’t know what to say. It was like she’d slapped me in the face. But like a slap, after the initial sting, everything was clearer. “Would you say that to Marian—or Mom if she was here? They’re a piece of our family—”

  “Take a look before you lecture me about your family, Ethan Wate.”

  When I followed her eyes past the library, I knew Amma hadn’t been taking stock. She already knew what we’d lost. I was the last one to figure it out. Almost.

  My heart was hammering and my fists were clenched by the time Link pointed down the street. “Oh, man. Isn’t that your aunts’ place?”

  I nodded, but I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t find the words.

  “It was.” Amma sniffed. “Keep drivin’.”

  I could already see the red glare of the ambulance and fire engine parked on the lawn of the Sisters’ house—or what used to be their house. Yesterday, it had been a proud, white, two-story Federal, with a wraparound porch and a makeshift ramp for Aunt Mercy’s wheelchair. Today, it was half a house, cut down the center like a child’s dollhouse. But instead of perfect arrangements of furniture in every room, everything in the Sisters’ house was upturned and torn apart. The blue crushed-velvet sofa was lying on its back, end tables and rocking chairs pushed up against it, as if the contents of the house had slid to one side. Frames were piled on top of beds, where they had fallen off the walls. And the eerie cutout faced a mountain of rubble: wooden boards, sheets of plaster, unidentifiable pieces of furniture, a porcelain claw-foot tub—the half of the house that hadn’t survived.

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