Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia

  “Don’t you ever scare me like that again!”


  Cream of Grief

  The cream-colored paper was thick and folded eight times, with a purple satin ribbon tied around it. I found it in the bottom drawer of the dresser, just like Aunt Prue said I would. I read it to the Sisters, who argued about it with Thelma until Amma stepped in.

  “If Prudence Jane wanted the good china, we’re usin’ the good china. No sense arguin’ with the dead.” Amma folded her arms. Aunt Prue had only been gone two days. It seemed wrong to be calling her dead so soon.

  “Next you’ll be tellin’ me she didn’t want fun’ral potatoes.” Aunt Mercy wadded up another handkerchief.

  I checked the paper. “She does. But she doesn’t want you to let Jeanine Mayberry make them. She doesn’t want stale potato chips crumbled on the top.”

  Aunt Mercy nodded as if I was reading from the Declaration of Independence. “It’s the truth. Jeanine Mayberry says they bake up better that way, but Prudence Jane always said it was on account a her bein’ so cheap.” Her chin quivered.

  Aunt Mercy was a mess. She hadn’t done much of anything but wad up handkerchiefs ever since she heard that Aunt Prue had passed. Aunt Grace, on the other hand, had busied herself with writing condolence cards, letting everyone know how sorry she was that Aunt Prue was gone, even though Thelma explained that it was the other folks who were supposed to send them to her. Aunt Grace had looked at Thelma like she was crazy. “Why would they send them ta me? They’re my cards. An’ it’s my news.”

  Thelma shook her head, but she didn’t say anything after that.

  Whenever there was a disagreement about something, they made me read the letter again. And Aunt Prue’s letter was about as eccentric and specific as my Aunt Prue herself.

  “Dear Girls,” the letter began. To each other, the Sisters were never the Sisters. They were always the Girls. “If you’re reading this, I’ve been called to my Great Reward. Even though I’ll be busy meeting my Maker, I’ll still be watching to be sure my party goes according to my specifications. And don’t think I won’t march right outta my grave and up the center aisle a the church if Eunice Honeycutt sets one foot into the building.”

  Only Aunt Prue would need a bouncer for her funeral.

  It went on and on from there. Aside from stipulating that all four Harlon Jameses be in attendance along with Lucille Ball, and selecting a somewhat scandalous arrangement of “Amazing Grace” and the wrong version of “Abide With Me,” the biggest surprise was the eulogy.

  She wanted Amma to deliver it.

  “That’s nonsense.” Amma sniffed.

  “It’s what Aunt Prue wanted. Look.” I held out the paper.

  Amma wouldn’t look at it. “Then she’s as big a fool as the rest a you.”

  I patted her on the back. “No sense arguing with the dead, Amma.” She glared at me, and I shrugged. “At least you don’t have to rent a tuxedo.”

  My dad stood up from his seat on the bottom stair, defeated. “Well, I’d better go start rounding up the bagpipes.”

  In the end, the bagpipes were a gift from Macon. Once he heard about Aunt Prue’s request, he insisted on bringing them in all the way from the Highlands Elks Club in Columbia, the state capital. At least, that’s what he said. Knowing him, and the Tunnels, I was convinced they came from Scotland that same morning. They played “Amazing Grace” so beautifully when folks first arrived that nobody would walk into the church. A huge crowd formed around the front walkway and the sidewalk, until the reverend insisted they all come inside.

  I stood in the doorway, watching the crowd. A hearse—a real hearse, not Lena and Macon’s—sat parked out in front of the building. Aunt Prue was being buried in the Summerville Cemetery until His Garden of Perpetual Peace reopened for business. The Sisters called it the New Cemetery, since it had only been open about seventy years.

  The sight of the hearse brought back a memory, the first time I saw Lena drive through Gatlin on my way to school last year. I remembered thinking it was an omen, maybe even a bad one.

  Had it been?

  Looking back on everything that had happened, everything that had brought me from that hearse to this one, I still couldn’t say.

  Not because of Lena. She would always be the best thing that had ever happened to me. But because things had changed.

  We both had. I understood that.

  But Gatlin had changed, too, and that was harder to understand.

  So I stood in the doorway of the chapel, watching it happen. Letting it happen, because I didn’t have a choice. The Eighteenth Moon was two days away. If Lena and I didn’t figure out what the Lilum wanted—who the One Who Is Two actually was—there was no way to predict how much more things would change. Maybe this hearse was another omen of things to come.

  We had spent hours in the archive, with nothing to show for it. Still, I knew that was where Lena and I would be again, as soon as the funeral was over. There was nothing left to do but try. Even if it seemed hopeless.

  You can’t fight fate.

  Was that what my mom had said?

  “I don’t see my horse-drawn carriage. White horses, that’s what my letter said.” I would’ve known that voice anywhere.

  Aunt Prue was standing next to me. No glimmer, no shine. Just plain as day Aunt Prue. If she wasn’t still wearing the clothes she died in, I would’ve mistaken her for one of the guests at her own funeral.

  “Yeah, well. We had a little trouble finding one. Since you’re not Abraham Lincoln.”

  She ignored me. “I thought I made it clear, I wanted Sissy Honeycutt ta be the one singin’ ‘Amazin’ Grace,’ just like she did at Charlene Watkins’ service. And I don’t see her. But these fellas really put some lung inta it, which I ’preciate.”

  “Sissy Honeycutt said we’d have to invite Eunice if we wanted her to sing.” That was explanation enough for Aunt Prue. We turned back to the pipers. “I think it’s the only hymn they know. I’m not sure they’re actually Southern.”

  She smiled. “’Course they ain’t.”

  The music spun out over the crowd, drawing everyone a few feet closer. I could tell Aunt Prue was pleased, no matter what she said.

  “Still, it’s a fine crowd. Biggest one I seen in years. Bigger than all my husbands’ put together.” She looked at me. “Don’t you think so, Ethan?”

  I smiled. “Yes, ma’am. It’s a fine crowd.” I pulled on the collar of my tux shirt. In the hundred-degree winter heat, I was about to pass out. But I didn’t tell her that.

  “Now, put your jacket on an’ show a little respect for the D-ceased.”

  Amma and my dad reached a compromise on the eulogy. Amma wouldn’t deliver it, but she would read a poem. When she finally told us what she was reading, nobody gave it much thought. Except that it meant we got to cross off two items on Aunt Prue’s list at the same time.

  “Abide with me; fast falls the eventide,

  The darkness deepens, Lord, with me abide.

  When other helpers fail and comforts flee,

  Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

  Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;

  Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;

  Change and decay in all around I see;

  O Thou who changest not, abide with me.”

  The words hit me like bullets. The darkness was deepening, and though I didn’t know what the eventide was, it felt like it was falling fast. It wasn’t just comforts that were fleeing, and it was more than Earth’s joys and glories that were passing away.

  Amma was right. So was the guy who wrote the hymn. Change and decay was all I could see.

  I didn’t know if there was anyone or anything who changest not, but if there was, I would do more than ask them to abide with me.

  I wanted them to rescue me.

  By the time Amma folded the paper back up, you could’ve heard a pin drop. She stood at the podium, every bit Sulla t
he Prophet as the original. That’s when I realized what she had done.

  It wasn’t a poem, not the way she had read it. It wasn’t even a hymn anymore.

  It was a prophecy.



  I was standing on the top of the white water tower, with my back to the sun. My headless shadow fell across the warm, painted metal, disappearing off the edge and into the sky.


  There he was. My other half. The dream staggered on like a movie I’d seen so many times that I started to cut and recut it myself, as it erupted into flashes—

  Hard hitting.

  Chucks kicking.




  I rolled out of my bed and landed on my bedroom floor.

  “No wonder Incubuses keep showing up in your room. You sleep like the dead.” John Breed was standing over me. From where I was lying, he looked twenty feet tall. He also looked like he could kick my ass better than I had been kicking my own in my dream.

  It was a weird thought. But what came next was weirder.

  “I need your help.”

  John was sitting in the chair at my desk, which I had started to think of as the Incubus chair.

  “I wish you guys could figure out some way to sleep.” I pulled my faded Harley Davidson shirt over my head. Ironic, considering I was sitting across from John.

  “Yeah. That’s not really an option.” He stared up at my blue ceiling.

  “Then I wish you could figure out that the rest of us need to—”

  John cut me off. “It’s me.”


  “Liv told me everything. The One Who Is Two guy—it’s me.”

  “Are you sure?” I wasn’t even sure I believed him.

  “Yeah. I figured it out today at your aunt’s funeral.”

  I glanced at the clock. He should have said yesterday, and I should’ve been asleep. “How?”

  He got up and paced across the room. “I always knew it was me. I was born to be two things. But at the funeral, I knew this was something I had to do. I felt it, when the Seer was talking.”

  “Amma?” I knew Aunt Prue’s funeral had been emotional for my family, the whole town really, but I hadn’t expected it to affect John. He wasn’t part of either of those things. “What do you mean, you always knew?”

  “It’s my birthday tomorrow, right? My Eighteenth Moon.” He didn’t sound too happy about it, and I couldn’t blame him. Considering it was bringing on the end of the world and everything.

  “Do you know what you’re saying?” I still didn’t trust him.

  He nodded. “I’m supposed to make the trade, like the Demon Queen said. My pathetic screwed-up experiment of a life for a New Order. I almost feel bad for the universe. I’m getting a bargain. Except for the fact that I won’t be around to see it.”

  “But Liv will,” I said.

  “Liv will.” He dropped back down in the chair, holding his head in his hands.


  He looked up. “Damn? That’s the best you can come up with? I’m ready to lay down my life here.”

  I almost couldn’t imagine what was going through his mind—what would make a guy like him willing to die. Almost.

  I knew what it felt like to be willing to sacrifice yourself for the girl you loved. I was going to do the same thing at the Great Barrier, when we faced Abraham and Hunting. At Honey Hill, when we faced the fires and Sarafine. I would have died for Lena a thousand times over.

  “Liv’s not going to be happy.”

  “No. She’s not,” he agreed. “But she’ll understand.”

  “I think things like this are pretty hard to understand. And I’ve been trying for a while now.”

  “You know what your problem is, Mortal?”

  “The end of the world?”

  John shook his head. “You think too much.”

  “Yeah?” I almost laughed.

  “Trust me. Sometimes, you gotta trust your gut instincts.”

  “So, what does your gut want me to do?” I said it slowly, without looking at him.

  “I didn’t know until I got here.” He walked over to me and grabbed my arm. “The place you were dreaming about. The big white tower. That’s where I need to go.”

  Before I could tell him what I thought about him digging through my dreams, Incubus-style, I heard the rip and we were gone….

  I couldn’t see John. I couldn’t see anything but darkness and a silver streak of widening light. When I stepped through, I heard the ripping sound again, and saw her face.

  Liv was waiting for us on the top of the water tower.

  She stormed toward us, furious. But she wasn’t looking at me. “Are you completely insane? Did you think I wouldn’t know what you were up to? Where you’d come?” She started to cry.

  John stepped in front of me. “How did you know where I was?”

  She waved a piece of paper in the air. “You left a note.”

  “You left her a note?” I asked.

  “It just said good-bye… and some other stuff. It didn’t say where I was going.”

  I shook my head. “She’s Liv. You didn’t know she’d figure it out?”

  She held up her wrist. The dials were practically exploding off her selenometer. “The One Who Is Two? You didn’t think I would instantly know it was you? If you hadn’t walked in on me writing about it, I would never have even told you.”


  “I’ve been trying to find a way around this for months now.” She closed her eyes.

  He reached out for her. “I’ve been trying to find a way around you.”

  “You don’t have to do this.” Liv shook her head, and John pulled her close against his chest, kissing her forehead.

  “Yeah. I do. For once in my life, I want to be the guy who does the right thing.”

  Liv’s blue eyes were red from crying. “I don’t want you to go. We only just—I never had a chance. We never had a chance.”

  He put his thumb on her lip. “Shh. We did. I did.” He looked out into the night, but he was still talking to her. “I love you, Olivia. This is my chance.”

  She didn’t respond, except for the tears running down her face.

  He took a step toward me, pulling me up by the arm. “Take care of her for me, will you?”

  I nodded.

  He leaned closer. “If you hurt her. If you touch her. If you let anyone break her heart, I will find you and kill you. And then I’ll keep hurting you from the other side. Understand?”

  I understood better than he knew.

  He let go of me and took his jacket off. He handed it to Liv. “Keep it. To remember me by. And there’s something else.” He reached into one of the pockets. “I don’t remember my mother, but Abraham said this belonged to her. I want you to have it.” It was a gold bracelet with an inscription in Niadic, or some other Caster language only Liv would know how to read.

  Liv’s knees buckled, and she started sobbing.

  John held her so tight that the tips of her toes were barely touching the ground. “I’m glad I finally met someone I wanted to give it to.”

  “Me, too.” She could barely speak.

  He kissed her gently and stepped away from her.

  He nodded at me.

  And threw himself over the edge of the railing.

  I heard her voice, echoing through the darkness. The Lilum.

  The Balance is not paid.

  Only the Crucible can make the sacrifice.


  The Wrong One

  When I opened my eyes, I was back in my bedroom. I stared up at my blue ceiling, trying to figure out how I got here. We had ripped, but it couldn’t have been because of John. I knew that much, because he was lying on my bedroom floor, unconscious.

  It must have been someone else. Someone who was more powerful than an Incubus. Someone who knew about the Eighteenth Moon.

omeone who had known everything, all along—including the one thing I was just starting to figure out for myself, right now.

  Liv was shaking John, still sobbing. “Wake up, John. Please, wake up.”

  He opened his eyes for a second, confused. “What the hell?”

  She threw her arms around him. “Not hell. Not even heaven.”

  “Where am I?” He was disoriented.

  “My room.” I sat up and leaned against the wall.

  “How did I get here?”

  “Don’t ask.” I wasn’t about to try to explain that the Lilum had somehow transported us here.

  I was more worried about what it meant.

  It wasn’t John Breed.

  And there was someone I had to talk to.


  Plain English

  I knocked on the door and stood waiting in a pale yellow circle of porch light. I stared at the door, shifting my weight uncomfortably, my hands jammed in my pockets. Wishing I wasn’t there. Wishing my heart would stop pounding.

  She was going to think I was crazy.

  Why wouldn’t she? I was beginning to think so myself.

  I saw the bathrobe first, then the fuzzy slippers and the glass eye.

  “Ethan? What are you doing out there? Are you with Mitchell?” Mrs. English peeked outside, patting her plastic curlers as if there was a way to make them look more attractive.

  “No, ma’am.”

  She looked disappointed and switched to her classroom voice. “Do you have any idea how late it is?”

  It was nine.

  “Can I come in for a minute? I really need to talk to you.”

  Well, not you. Not you exactly.


  “It’ll only take a minute. It’s about The Crucible.”

  Just not the one you taught us about.

Previous Page Next Page
Should you have any enquiry, please contact us via [email protected]