Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia

  The door opened, and Lena pulled me inside. I felt the thick curtain of power as I moved across the threshold. Link dove in after me, and the door slammed behind us. After what I had experienced outside, I was relieved to be in the house. Until I looked around.

  By now I was used to the constantly changing interior of Ravenwood Manor. I had seen everything from historic plantation antiques to classic horror-movie Gothic in this room, but I was completely unprepared for this.

  It was some sort of supernatural bunker, the Caster equivalent of Mrs. Lincoln’s cellar, where she stored supplies for everything from hurricanes to the apocalypse. The walls were covered in what looked like armor—sheets of dull silver metal from floor to ceiling, and the furniture was gone. Stacks of books and velvet armchairs had been replaced by huge plastic drums and cases of candles and scotch. There was a bag of dog food that was obviously for Boo, though I had never seen him eat anything but steaks.

  A row of white jugs looked suspiciously like the supply of bleach Link’s mom kept around to “prevent infection from spreading.” I walked over and picked up one of the jugs. “What’s this? Some kind of Caster disinfectant?”

  Lena took it out of my hand and lined it up next to the others. “Yeah, it’s called bleach.”

  Link knocked on one of the plastic drums. “My mom would love this place. It would definitely score some points for your uncle. Forget about your thirty-six-hour pack and your seventy-two-hour pack. Those are for lightweights. This is some serious disaster prep. I’d say you’ve got enough for a good three weeks here. Except you don’t have a crowbar.”

  I looked at him blankly. “A crowbar?”

  “For diggin’ the bodies out a the rubble.”

  “Bodies?” Mrs. Lincoln was crazier than I thought.

  Link looked back at Lena. “And you guys don’t have any food.”

  “That is where Casters differ, Mr. Lincoln.” Macon was standing in the doorway to the dining room, looking perfectly relaxed. “Kitchen is quite capable of supplying whatever we need. But it is important to be prepared. This afternoon is certainly evidence of that.”

  He gestured toward the dining room, and we followed him in. The black claw-foot table was gone, replaced by a shiny aluminum one that looked like something from a medical research lab. Link and I must have been the last to arrive, because there were only two empty seats at the table.

  If I ignored the weird lab table and sheet metal on the walls, it reminded me of the Gathering, when I met Lena’s family for the first time. Back when Ridley was still Dark and had tricked me into bringing her into Ravenwood. It seemed almost funny now. A world where Ridley was the biggest threat.

  “Please, take a seat, Mr. Wate and Mr. Lincoln. We’re trying to determine the origin of the tremors.”

  I slipped into one of the two empty chairs beside Lena, and Link took the other. Judging from the number of people around the table, I wasn’t the only one with something on my mind, but I didn’t say that. Not to Macon.

  I know. It’s like he was expecting us. When I told him you were coming, he didn’t seem surprised. And everyone started showing up.

  Marian leaned forward, into the pool of light that fell to the table from the nearest candle. “What happened out there? We could feel it inside.”

  I heard a voice behind me. “I don’t know, but we could feel it outside, too.”

  In the shadows, I could see Macon gesture at the table. “Leah, why don’t you take the seat on Ethan’s left?” By the time I turned, an empty chair had appeared between Link and me, and Leah Ravenwood was in it.

  “Hey, Leah.” Link saluted her. Her eyes widened as she noticed the change in him. I wondered if she could sense her own kind.

  “Welcome, brother.” Her black hair fell out of the ponytail at her neck, and for a second I remembered the nurse at County Care.

  “Leah. It was you with Aunt Prue.”

  “Shh. We have more important things to discuss.” She squeezed my hand and winked, which was her way of answering the question. It had been Leah watching over my aunt for me.

  “Thank you.”

  “It’s nothing. I just do as I’m told.” She was lying. Leah was as independent as Lena.

  “You never do what you’re told.”

  She laughed. “Fine, then I do as I like. And I like to keep an eye on my family. My family, your family, it’s all the same.”

  Before I could say anything else, Ridley burst into the room, wearing something that looked more like underwear than clothes. The candles flamed up for a second; Ridley still managed to have an effect on this room.

  “I don’t see my name on any of the place cards. But I know I was invited to the party. Right, Uncle M?”

  “You’re more than welcome to join us.” Macon sounded calm. He was probably used to Ridley’s outbursts by now.

  “What exactly are you wearing, sweetheart?” Aunt Del raised a hand to her eye, as if she was having trouble seeing any clothes on Ridley’s body at all.

  Ridley unwrapped a piece of gum, tossing the wrapper onto the table. “So, which is it? Welcome or invited? I like to know the size of the snub. I sulk better that way.”

  “Ravenwood is your home now, Ridley.” Macon tapped his fingers impatiently but smiled as if he had all the time in the world.

  “Actually, Ravenwood belongs to my cousin, Uncle M. Since you gave it to her and blew off the rest of us.” She was on a serious rampage tonight. “What, no grub? Oh, that’s right. Kitchen isn’t herself. None of you supernatural types are. Ironic, isn’t it? I’m in a room full of all these über-powerful people, and you can’t manage to get dinner on the table.”

  “The mouth on that girl.” Aunt Del shook her head.

  Macon gestured for Ridley to sit down. “I would appreciate it if you could be respectful of the minor… issues we all seem to be having.”

  “Whatever.” Ridley dismissed Macon with a wave of her hot-pink nails. “Let’s get this party started.” She hitched up the strap of whatever it was she had on. Even by Ridley’s standards, she wasn’t wearing much.

  “Aren’t you cold?” Aunt Del whispered.

  “It’s vintage,” Ridley snapped.

  “From what? The Moulin Rouge?” Liv stood in the doorway, her arms full of books.

  Ridley flicked Liv’s braid as she stepped past Liv to the nearest open seat. “As a matter of fact, Pippi—”

  “Please.” Macon silenced both of them with a look. “I’m impressed with the theatrics, Ridley. A bit less so with the costume. Now, if you’d take a seat.” Macon sighed. “Olivia, thank you for joining us.”

  Ridley squeezed into the chair that had appeared next to Link, ignoring him as attentively as possible. He winked. “Don’t know what kinda store Moo Landrews is, but if they get one at the mall in Summerville, I’m gettin’ your birthday present there.” Ridley kept her eyes fixed in front of her, pretending not to notice him noticing her.

  Macon began. “Olivia, did you feel the tremors?”

  I kept my eyes trained on Macon’s face. But I heard Liv sit down and toss what I imagined was her red notebook onto the table and begin winding the gears on her selenometer. I knew all of her sounds, the way I knew Link’s or Amma’s or Lena’s.

  “If you don’t mind, Sir Macon.” Liv pushed a stack of books and papers across the table toward him. “With that last one, I wanted to make sure I had the exact measurements.”

  “Go on, Olivia.” Lena tensed when Macon said Liv’s name. I could feel it, coming in waves at me from her direction.

  Liv kept talking, oblivious. “Basically, it’s getting worse. If the numbers are accurate, there’s a singular energy attracted to this house.” Great. All I needed was for Liv to start talking about attraction.

  “Interesting.” Macon nodded. “So it is growing stronger, as we suspected?”

  The “we” must have gotten to Lena.

  I’m so tired of her.

  “Liv?” Crap. I accidentally said her
name out loud. What was wrong with me? I couldn’t even keep Kelting and talking straight. Lena stared at me, stunned.

  “Yes, Ethan?” Liv was waiting for me to ask her a question.

  The whole table turned in my direction. I had to come up with something. What were we talking about?


  “I was wondering…”

  “Yes?” Liv looked at me expectantly. I was glad Reece wasn’t in the room, even if her powers were out of whack. A Sybil would see what I was feeling.

  And I didn’t need a selenometer to prove it or measure it for me. Even though we would never be anything more than friends, Liv and I would always mean something to each other.

  My stomach contracted. This time, it wasn’t killer bees. More like Vexes gnawing on my internal organs.

  “Vexes,” I said out of nowhere. Everyone was still staring at me.

  Liv nodded patiently, waiting for me to say something that made sense. “Yes. There has been a great deal more than the usual amount of activity lately.”

  “No. I mean, what if we’re assuming something’s trying to get into Ravenwood because of everything Abraham has been throwing at us?”

  Marian looked at me blankly. “My library was nearly burned to the ground. Your aunts’ house was destroyed. It’s a fairly safe assumption, wouldn’t you say?”

  Everyone in the room looked at me like I was an idiot, but I kept going. “What if we’re wrong? What if someone is doing this from the inside?”

  Liv lifted an eyebrow.

  Ridley threw up her hands. “That’s the stupidest—”

  “It’s brilliant, actually,” Liv said.

  “Of course you think so, Mary Poppins.” Ridley rolled her eyes.

  “I do. And unless you have more convincing math, you’ll have to shut up and listen to me for once.” Liv turned to Macon. “Ethan could be right. There’s an anomaly in the numbers I haven’t been able to explain. But if I were to flip everything, it makes perfect sense.”

  “Why would someone be doing this from the inside?” Lena asked.

  I kept my eyes focused on the red notebook on the table—the rows of numbers, the things that were safe and known.

  “The question isn’t why.” Macon’s voice sounded strange. “It’s who.”

  Lena glanced at Ridley. We were thinking the same thing.

  Ridley jumped out of her chair. “You think it’s me? I’m always the one who gets blamed for everything that goes wrong around here!”

  “Ridley, calm down,” Macon said. “No one—”

  But she cut him off. “Did you ever consider that the numbers on Little Miss Perfect’s crappy watch could be wrong? No, that would be impossible, because she has all of you eating out of her hand!”

  Lena smiled.

  It’s not funny, L.

  I’m not laughing.

  Macon raised his hand. “Enough. It’s quite possible something isn’t trying to get into Ravenwood at all. It may already be here.”

  “Don’t you think we’d notice if one of Abraham’s Dark creatures had breached the Bindings?” Lena sounded unconvinced.

  Macon rose from his seat, his eyes fixed on me. He was looking at me the same way he had the first night we met, when I showed him Genevieve’s locket at this table. “A valid point, Lena. Assuming we are dealing with a breach.”

  Leah Ravenwood studied her brother. “Macon, what are you thinking?”

  Macon walked around the table until he was standing directly across from me. “I’m more interested in what Ethan is thinking.” Macon’s green eyes started to glow. They reminded me of the luminescent color from the Arclight.

  “What’s going on?” I whispered to Leah, who looked shocked.

  “I knew Macon’s powers changed when he became a Caster. But I had no idea he could Mindhunt.”

  “What does that mean, exactly?” It didn’t sound good, considering that Macon was completely focused on me.

  “The mind is a labyrinth, and Macon can navigate his way through it.”

  It sounded like one of Amma’s answers, the kind that doesn’t really tell you anything. “You mean he can read minds?”

  “Not the way you’re thinking. He can sense disturbances and anomalies, things that don’t belong.” Leah was staring at Macon.

  His green pupils were glowing and sightless now, yet I knew he was watching me. It was disturbing to be seen without being seen. Macon stared at me for a long minute. “You, of all people.”

  “I what?”

  “It seems you have brought something—no, someone— here with you this evening. An uninvited guest.”

  “Ethan would never do that!” Lena sounded as surprised as I was.

  Macon ignored her, still watching me. “I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something has changed.”

  “What are you talking about?” A sick feeling was building inside me.

  Marian stood up slowly, as if she didn’t want to startle him. “Macon, you know the Order is affecting everyone’s powers. You aren’t immune. Is it possible you are perceiving something that isn’t there?”

  The green light faded from Macon’s eyes. “Anything is possible, Marian.”

  My heart was pounding in my chest. A second ago he was accusing me of bringing someone into Ravenwood, and now he had what—changed his mind?

  “Mr. Wate, it seems you are not yourself. Something quite significant is missing. Which explains why I sensed a stranger in my house, even if the stranger is you.”

  Everyone was staring at me. I felt my stomach lurch, as if the ground was still moving beneath my feet. “Missing? What do you mean?”

  “If I knew, I would tell you.” Macon started to relax. “Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sure.”

  I didn’t know what Macon was talking about, and I didn’t care anymore. I wasn’t going to sit here and be accused of things I hadn’t done, because his powers were all screwed up and he was too arrogant to deal with it. My world was collapsing around me, and I needed answers. “I hope you had fun hunting, or whatever you call it. But that’s not what I came to talk about.”

  “What did you come to talk about?” Macon sat back down at the head of the table. He said it like I was the one wasting everyone’s time, which only made me angrier.

  “The Eighteenth Moon isn’t about Ravenwood or Lena. It’s about John Breed. But we don’t know where he is or what’s going to happen.”

  “I think he’s right.” Liv chewed on the end of her pen.

  “I thought you might want to know so we can find him.” I stood up. “And I’m sorry if I don’t seem like myself. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the world is falling apart.”

  Ethan, where are you going?

  This is bullshit.

  “Ethan, calm down. Please.” Marian started to get up.

  “Tell that to the Vexes that destroyed the whole town. Or Abraham and Sarafine and Hunting.” I looked right at Macon. “Why don’t you turn your X-ray vision on them?”


  I’m done here.

  He doesn’t mean—

  I don’t care what he means, L.

  Macon was watching me.

  “There are no coincidences, right? When the universe warns me about something, it’s usually my mom talking. So I’m going to listen.” I walked out before anyone could say anything. I didn’t need to be a Wayward to see who was lost.


  Rubbery Chicken

  All I could see was fire. I felt the heat and saw the color of the flames. Orange, red, blue. Fire was so many more colors than people thought.

  I was in the Sisters’ house, and I was trapped.

  Where are you?

  I looked down at my feet. I knew he would be there any minute. Then I heard the voice, through the flames below me.


  I ran down the stairs, toward the voice, but the staircase crumbled under my feet, and suddenly I was falling. As the floor gave way, I hit the
basement beneath me, my shoulder crashing through the burning wood below.

  I saw orange, red, blue.

  I realized I was in the library, when I should have been in Aunt Prue’s basement. Books were burning all around me.

  Da Vinci. Dickinson. Poe. And another one.

  The Book of Moons.

  And I saw a flash of gray that wasn’t part of the fire at all.

  It was him.

  The smoke swallowed me, and I blacked out.

  I woke up on the floor. When I looked in the bathroom mirror, my face was black with soot. I spent the rest of the day trying not to cough up ash.

  I had been sleeping even worse than usual since my argument with Macon, or whatever you’d call it. Fighting with Macon usually led to fighting with Lena, which was more painful than fighting with everyone I knew combined. But now everything was different, and Lena didn’t know what to say any more than I did.

  We tried to avoid thinking about what was happening around us—the things we couldn’t stop and the answers we couldn’t find. But it was always lurking in the back of our minds, even if we didn’t admit it. We tried to focus on things we could control, like keeping Ridley out of trouble and the lubbers out of our houses. Because when every day is the End of Days, after a while they feel pretty much like every other day, even though you know that’s crazy. And nothing is the same.

  The bugs got hungrier, the heat got hotter, and the whole town got crazier. But more than anything, it was still the heat we all noticed. It was proof that no matter who was scoring or dating or lying in a bed at County Care—underneath everything, from the minute you woke up in the morning to the minute you fell asleep, and all the minutes in between—something was wrong and it wasn’t getting better. It was getting worse.

  But I didn’t need to feel the heat outside to prove it to me. I had all the proof I needed inside—in our kitchen. Amma was practically connected to our old stove on a cellular level, and when something was going on in her head, it found its way into the kitchen. I couldn’t figure out what was going on with her, and she sure wasn’t going to tell me. I could only piece it together from the few clues she left, in the language she used the most—cooking.

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