Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia

  Liv was staring at me. “What are you doing here, really? Because I’m fairly certain you aren’t concerned about my social life.”

  “You’re wrong.” I was still holding the pie tin.

  She took it, opening the foil and breaking off a piece of pie. “Delicious. So there is nothing new I should know about?” She broke off another corner. Amma’s pie was a good distraction.

  “What do you know about the Wheel of Fate?”

  She looked surprised. “Funny you should ask.” And just like that, the subject of Liv’s personal life was closed, and we returned to her favorite subject—anything else.


  “I’ve been thinking about it ever since we found the Temporis Porta.” Liv pulled out her red notebook and opened it to a page in the middle. There was a sketch of three perfectly formed circles, each divided by spokes set in varying patterns. “This was all I could remember from the door.”

  “That looks right. You said it was some kind of code?”

  She nodded. “I’m not certain, because you opened the door without using them. But I’ve been researching the symbol in Macon’s library.”


  She pointed at the drawing. “The repeated circle. I think it has something to do with what you’re calling the Wheel of Fate.”

  “And the Temporis Porta?”

  “I think so. But there’s one thing I can’t understand.”

  “What is it?” Something Liv didn’t understand was a bad sign.

  “The door opened by itself. You didn’t even touch any of the circles. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.”

  I remembered the rough feel of the rowan wood beneath my forehead.

  “And I couldn’t go through it at all.”

  “But you said you didn’t understand why.” I wasn’t sure where she was going with this.

  “Whatever the Wheel of Fate is, I think it has something to do with you, not me.”

  I let her believe it, but I knew better. I could still hear Amma’s voice, echoing in my head.

  The Wheel of Fate crushes us all.


  Fractured Soul


  Lena was screaming, and I couldn’t find her. I tried to run, but I kept falling because the ground was moving beneath my feet. The pavement on Main was shaking so hard that dirt and rocks were flying up into my eyes. The road rolled on, and it felt like I was standing on the edge of two tectonic plates battling it out.

  I stood there, one foot on each plate, while the world shook and the chasm between the plates widened. The crack was so big I knew I was going to fall. And it was getting bigger.

  It was only a matter of time.

  “Ethan!” I heard Lena’s voice, but I couldn’t see her.

  I looked through the crack and saw her—far below me.

  And then I was falling….

  My floor hit me harder than usual.


  I heard her voice, groggy and half asleep.

  I’m here. It was just a dream.

  I flipped over onto my back, trying to catch my breath. I balled up the sheet and threw it across the room.

  Everything’s fine.

  I knew I didn’t sound very convincing.

  Seriously, Ethan. Is your head okay?

  I nodded, even though she couldn’t see me.

  My head’s fine. It’s the Earth’s tectonic plates I’m worried about.

  She didn’t answer for a moment.

  And you’re worried about me.

  Yeah, L. And you.

  She knew when I woke up screaming her name that she had suffered another violent, frightening end in one of my dreams we hadn’t shared since the Seventeenth Moon. And the dreams were getting worse, not better.

  It’s because of everything we went through last summer, Ethan. I’m still reliving it, too.

  But I didn’t tell her it was happening to me every night, or that she wasn’t the one in danger this time. I didn’t think she wanted to know how much reliving I was doing. I didn’t want her to feel like it was getting in the way of living.

  There was something else getting in the way of living, at least for me. The answer to the question that Amma wouldn’t give me and I couldn’t figure out. But I was pretty sure there was someone else who knew, and I finally had enough guts to go see him.

  The only question left was whether or not I could get him to tell me.

  It was pitch-black outside as I pulled the front door closed behind me. When I turned around, Lucille was sitting on the porch, watching me.

  “Didn’t get enough of the Tunnels last time?” Lucille cocked her head to one side, her standard answer. “Let’s get going.”

  I heard a rip. Actually, it sounded more like a nasty tear.

  I spun around. I wasn’t ready for another visit from Abraham. But this time it wasn’t him—far from it.

  Link was lying on his back, caught in the bushes. “Man, this Travelin’ thing takes some serious practice.” He climbed out of the bushes and brushed himself off. “Where we headed?”

  “How did you know I was going somewhere? Were you fishing around in my head?” If he was, he was dead.

  “I told you before, I don’t wanna mess around in that Temple a Doom.” He brushed off his Iron Maiden T-shirt. “I don’t sleep, remember? I was wanderin’ around outside, and I heard you sneakin’ downstairs. It’s one of my superpowers. So, where are we goin’?”

  I wasn’t sure if I should tell him. But the truth was I didn’t want to go alone. “New Orleans.”

  “You don’t know anybody in—” Link shook his head. “Dude, why does it always have to be graveyards and crypts with you? Can’t we hang out somewhere that isn’t full a dead bodies?”

  Another question I couldn’t answer.

  The tomb of voodoo queen Marie Laveau was exactly the same. I stared at the Xs carved into the door, and wondered if we should leave our own—in case we never came back out. But there was no time to think about it, because Link had the door open in seconds and we were inside.

  The rotted, crooked stairs were still there, leading down into the darkness. So were the smoke and the putrid smell that clung to your skin, even after you took a shower.

  Link coughed. “Licorice and gasoline. That’s nasty.”

  “Shh. Be quiet.”

  We reached the base of the stairs, and I could see the workshop, or whatever this awful place was called. There was a dim light coming from inside, illuminating the jars and bottles. My skin crawled at the sight of reptiles and tiny mice frantically trying to escape.

  Lucille hid behind my leg as if she was afraid she might end up in one of those jars.

  “How do we know if he’s home?” Link whispered.

  Before I could answer, a voice rose from behind us. “I am always home, in one form or another.”

  I recognized the bokor’s gravelly voice and heavy accent. He looked even more dangerous up close. His skin was unwrinkled, but scars marred his face. They looked like scratches and puncture wounds, as if he’d been attacked by a creature that wasn’t in one of those jars. His long braids were ratty, and I could see tiny objects tied into them. Metal symbols and charms, bits of bone and beads laced so tightly that they’d become part of the hair itself. He was holding his snakeskin staff.

  “We’re—we’re sorry to show up like this,” I stammered.

  “Was it a dare worth takin’?” His hand tightened on the staff. “Trespassin’ is a violation a the law. Yours and mine.”

  “We didn’t come here on a dare.” My voice was still shaking. “We came to find you. I have questions, and I think you’re the only person who can give me the answers.”

  The bokor’s eyes narrowed, and he rubbed his goatee, intrigued. Or maybe contemplating how to dispose of our bodies after he killed us. “What makes you think I have the answers?”

  “Amma. I mean, Amarie Treadeau. She was here. I need to know why.
” I had his attention now. “I think it was about me.”

  He studied me carefully. “So, you’re the one. Interestin’ you would come here, instead a to your Seer.”

  “She won’t tell me anything.”

  There was something in his expression, beyond recognition. “This way.”

  We followed him into the room with the smoke and the fumes and the lingering residue of death. Link was next to me, whispering. “You sure this is a good idea?”

  “I’ve got an Incubus with me, right?” It was a bad joke. But I was so scared, I could barely think.

  “A quarter.” Link took a deep breath. “Hope that’s enough.”

  The bokor stood behind the wooden table as Link and I stood facing him on the other side. “What do you know about my business with the Seer?”

  “I know she came to you about a spread she didn’t like.” I didn’t want to reveal everything I knew. I was afraid he would realize this wasn’t our first time here. “I want to know what the cards said. Why she needed your help.”

  He watched me carefully, as if he could see right through me. It was the way Aunt Del looked at a room when she was sorting through the layers. “That’s two questions, and only one a them matters.”

  “Which one?”

  His eyes gleamed in the dark. “Your Seer needs my help to do somethin’ she can’t. To join the ti-bon-age, mend the seams she ripped herself.”

  I had no idea what he was talking about. What seams had Amma ripped?

  Link didn’t understand either. “T-bone what? What kinda steak are we talkin’ about here?”

  The bokor’s eyes locked on me. “You really don’t know what’s waitin’ for you? It’s watchin’ us now.”

  I couldn’t speak.

  It’s watching us now.

  “What—what is it?” I barely choked out the words. “How do I get rid of it?”

  The bokor walked over to the terrarium filled with writhing snakes, and lifted the lid. “That’s two questions again. I can only answer one.”

  “What’s watching me?” My voice was shaking, and my hands—every part of me.

  The bokor lifted a snake, its body ringed in black, red, and white. The snake coiled around his arm, but the bokor held its head as if he knew it might strike.

  “I’ll show you.”

  He led us to the center of the room, close to the source of the nauseating smoke, a huge pillar that resembled a candle. It looked like it had been made by hand. Lucille crouched under a nearby table, trying to avoid the fumes—or maybe the snake or the crazy guy carrying what looked like eggshells over to a bowl at our feet. He crushed the shells with one hand, careful to keep his other hand on the head of the snake.

  “The ti-bon-age is meant to be one. Never separated.” He closed his eyes. “I will call Kalfu. We need the help of a powerful spirit.”

  Link elbowed me. “I don’t know if I like the sound a that.”

  The bokor closed his eyes and started to speak. I recognized traces of Twyla’s French Creole, but it was mixed with a language I’d never heard before. The words were muffled, as if the bokor was talking to someone close enough to hear him whisper.

  I wasn’t sure what we were supposed to see, but it couldn’t be any weirder than Aunt Prue outside her body or the Lilum inside Mrs. English’s.

  The smoke started to swirl slowly, growing denser. I watched as it curved and began to take shape.

  The bokor was chanting louder now.

  The smoke started to change from black to gray, and the snake hissed. Something was forming from the smoke. I’d seen this before, in Bonaventure Cemetery, when Twyla called my mother’s Sheer.

  I couldn’t take my eyes off the smoke. The body formed from the bottom up, just as my mom’s had. The feet and the legs.

  “What the hell?” Link tried to back up, but he tripped.

  The torso and the arms.

  The face was the final element to emerge.

  It stared back at me.

  A face I would have known anywhere.

  My own.

  I jumped away, scrambling backward.

  “Holy crap!” Link shouted, but his voice seemed far away.

  Panic gripped me like two hands wrapping themselves around my neck. The figure started to fade.

  But before it did, the Sheer spoke. “I’m waiting.”

  Then it was gone.

  The bokor stopped chanting, the sickening candle blew out, and it was over.

  “What was that?” I was staring at the bokor. “Why is there a Sheer that looks like me?”

  He walked back to the terrarium and dropped the snake inside with the others. “It doesn’t look like you. It’s your ti-bon-age. The other half a your soul.”

  “What did you say?”

  The bokor took a match and relit the candle. “Half your soul is with the livin’, and half’s with the dead. You left it behind.”

  “Left it behind where?”

  “In the Otherworld. When you died.” He sounded almost bored.

  When I died.

  He was talking about the night Lena and Amma brought me back, on the Sixteenth Moon.


  The bokor flicked his wrist, and the match went out. “If you come back too fast, the soul can be fractured. Divided. One part a the soul goes back with the livin’, and the other half stays with the dead. Caught between this world and the Other, bound to the missin’ half until they’re brought back together.”


  He couldn’t be explaining it right. That would mean I only had half a soul. It didn’t even seem possible.

  How could a person only have half a soul? What happened to the rest of it? Where did it—

  Bound to the missing half.

  I knew what had been following me all this time, lurking in the shadows.

  Me—the other me.

  It was the reason I was changing, losing more and more of myself every day.

  The reason I didn’t like chocolate milk anymore, or Amma’s scrambled eggs. The reason I couldn’t remember what was in the shoe boxes in my bedroom, or my phone number. The reason I was suddenly left-handed.

  My knees buckled, and I felt myself pitch forward. I could see the floor rising up to meet me. A hand grabbed my arm and hauled me back to my feet. Link.

  “So, how do you get the two halves back together? Is there a spell or somethin’?” Link sounded impatient, like he was ready to throw me over his shoulder and run home.

  The bokor threw his head back and laughed. When he spoke, it felt like he was looking right through me. “Takes more than a spell. That’s why your Seer came to me. But don’t you worry, we have an agreement.”

  I felt like someone had thrown a bucket of cold water on me. “What kind of agreement?”

  I remembered what he had said to Amma, the night we followed her here. There is only one price.

  “What’s the price?” I was yelling, my voice echoing in my ears.

  The bokor lifted his skin-covered staff and pointed it at me. “I’ve told you more than your share a secrets tonight.” He smiled, all the darkness and evil within him twisting itself into a human face.

  “How come we don’t have to pay you?” Link asked.

  “Your Seer will pay enough for you all.”

  I would have asked him again, but I knew he wouldn’t tell us. And if there were deeper secrets than this, I didn’t want to know.


  Cards of Providence

  When I got home, it was way past midnight. Everyone in my house was asleep—except one person. Amma’s light was on, her room glowing between the two haint blue shutters. I wondered if she knew I was gone, and where I’d been. I almost hoped she did. It would make what I was about to do a hundred times easier.

  Amma wasn’t the kind of person you confronted. She was a confrontation all on her own. She lived by her rules, her law—the things she believed, which to her were as sure as the sun rising. She was also the only mother I
had left. And, most days, the only parent. The idea of fighting with her made me feel hollow and sick inside.

  But not as hollow as it made me feel to know I was only half of myself. Half the person I’d always been. Amma knew, and she had never said a word.

  And the words she did say were lies.

  I knocked on her bedroom door before I had time to change my mind. She opened it right away, as if she’d been waiting for me. She was wearing her white robe with the pink roses on it, the one I gave her on her birthday last year.

  Amma didn’t look at me. She looked past me, as if she could see something more than the wall behind me. Maybe she could. Maybe there were pieces of me scattered all over the place, like a broken bottle.

  “Been waitin’ on you.” Her voice sounded small and tired, and she stepped out of the doorway so I could come in.

  Amma’s room still looked ransacked, but one thing was different. There were cards spread out on the little round table under the window. I walked over to the table and picked one up. The Bleeding Blade. They weren’t tarot cards. “Reading cards again? What are they saying tonight, Amma?”

  She crossed the room and started pushing the cards into a stack. “Don’t have much to say. Think I’ve seen all there is to see.”

  Another card caught my eye. I held it up in front of her. “What about this one? The Fractured Soul. What does this one have to say?”

  Her hands were shaking so hard that it took her three tries to grab the card from me. “You think you know somethin’, but a piece a somethin’ is the same as nothin’. Neither one gets you much a anything.”

  “You mean like a piece of my soul? Is that the same as nothing?” I said it to hurt her, to bust up her soul, so she could see how it felt.

  “Where did you hear that?” Her voice was shaky. She grabbed the chain around her neck and rubbed the worn gold charm hanging from it.

  “From your friend in New Orleans.”

  Amma’s eyes went wide, and she grabbed the back of the chair to steady herself. I knew from her reaction that whatever she’d seen tonight, it wasn’t me raising souls with the bokor. “Are you tellin’ me the truth, Ethan Wate? Did you go to see that devil?”

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