Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia

  I knew my sacrifice wasn’t going to make anyone happy, but it was going to save their lives. That was enough. I also knew none of the people who loved me would let me make that kind of sacrifice for them, which is why I was pulling on my jeans at one in the morning.

  I took one last look around my room—the shoe boxes stacked along the walls that held everything important to me, the chair in the corner where my mother sat when she visited me two months ago, the piles of my favorite books hidden under my bed, and the swivel chair that hadn’t swiveled the time Macon Ravenwood sat in it. I wanted to remember it all. As I swung my leg over the windowsill, I wondered if I would.

  The Summerville water tower loomed above me in the moonlight. Most people probably wouldn’t have picked this place, but this is where it happened in the dreams, so I knew it was right. I was taking a lot of things on faith lately. Knowing you don’t have much time left changes things. You get kind of philosophical. And you figure things out—more like, they figure themselves out—and everything gets real clear.

  Your first kiss isn’t as important as your last.

  The math test really didn’t matter.

  The pie really did.

  The stuff you’re good at and the stuff you’re bad at are just different parts of the same thing.

  Same goes for the people you love and the people you don’t—and the people who love you and the people who don’t.

  The only thing that mattered was that you cared about a few people.

  Life is really, really short.

  I took Lena’s charm necklace out of my back pocket and looked at it one last time. Then I reached through the open window of the Volvo and dropped it on the seat. I didn’t want anything to happen to it when this was all over. I was glad she gave it to me. I felt like part of her was here with me.

  But I was alone. I wanted it this way. No friends, no family. No talking, no Kelting. Not even Lena.

  I wanted to let things feel the way they really were.

  The way things felt was terrible. The way things were was worse.

  I could feel it now. My fate was coming for me—my fate, and something else.

  The sky ripped open a few feet from where I was standing. I expected Link to step out of the darkness with a pack of Twinkies or something, but it was John Breed.

  “What’s going on? Are Macon and Liv okay?” I asked.

  “Yeah. Everyone’s fine, all things considered.”

  “Then what are you doing here?”

  He shrugged, flipping the top of his lighter open and closed. “I thought you might need a wingman.”

  “Why? To push me over the edge?” I was only half kidding.

  He snapped the lighter shut. “Let’s just say it’s harder than you think when you’re up there. Besides, you were there with me, right?” It was twisted logic, but things were pretty twisted.

  I didn’t know what to say. It was hard to believe he was the same dirtbag who’d kicked my ass at the fair and tried to steal my girlfriend. He was a halfway decent guy now. Falling in love can do that to you. “Thanks, man. What’s it like? I mean, on the way down.”

  John shook his head. “Trust me, you don’t wanna know.”

  We walked toward the water tower. An enormous white moon blocked the light of the real one. The white metal ladder was only a few feet away.

  I knew she was behind me before John sensed her and spun around.


  Nobody else smelled like pencil lead and Red Hots. “Ethan Wate! I was there the day you were born, and I’ll be there the day you die, from this side or the other.”

  I kept walking.

  Her voice grew louder. “Either way, it won’t be today.”

  John sounded amused. “Damn, Wate. You sure have a creepy family, for a Mortal.”

  I braced myself for the sight of Amma armed with her beads and her dolls and maybe the Bible, too. But when I turned around, my eyes fell on the tangled braids and snakeskin-wrapped staff of the bokor.

  The bokor smiled back at me. “I see you haven’t found your ti-bon-age. Or have you? It’s easier to find than to capture, isn’t it now?”

  “Don’t you talk to him,” Amma snapped. Whatever the bokor was here for, it obviously wasn’t to talk me down off the ledge.

  “Amma!” I called her name, and she turned back to face me. For the first time, I could see how lost she was. Her sharp brown eyes were confused and nervous, her proud posture bent and broken. “I don’t know why you brought that guy here, but you shouldn’t be mixed up with someone like him.”

  The bokor threw his head back and laughed. “We have a deal, the Seer and me. And I intend to fulfill my end a the bargain.”

  “What deal?” I asked.

  But Amma shot the bokor a look that said Keep your mouth shut. Then she waved me over, the way she used to when I was a kid. “That’s nobody’s business except mine and my Maker’s. You come on home, and he’ll go back to where he belongs.”

  “I don’t think she’s asking,” John said. He looked over at Amma. “What if Ethan doesn’t want to go?”

  Amma’s eyes narrowed. “I knew you’d be here, the devil on my boy’s shoulder. I can still see a thing or two. And you’re Dark as a piece a coal in the snow—no matter what color your eyes are. That’s why I brought some Darkness a my own.”

  The bokor wasn’t here for me or my Fractured Soul. He was here to make sure John didn’t get in Amma’s way.

  John put his hands up in mock surrender. “I’m not trying to make Ethan do anything. I came as a friend.”

  I heard the sound of bottles clinking. That’s when I noticed the string of bottles tied to the bokor’s belt, like the kind you found on bottle trees.

  The bokor held one in front of him, his hand on the corked stopper. “I brought some friends, too.” He uncorked the bottle, and a thin trail of dark mist escaped. It swirled slowly, almost hypnotically, until it formed the body of a man.

  But this Sheer didn’t look like the others I’d seen. His limbs were mangled and awkwardly bent in unnatural positions. His facial features were grotesque, and whole pieces were missing where they seemed to have rotted away. He looked like a zombie from a horror movie—torn and broken. His eyes were unfocused and vacant.

  John took a step back. “You Mortals are even more screwed up than Supernaturals.”

  “What the hell is that?” I couldn’t stop staring at it.

  The bokor threw some kind of powder on the ground around him. “One a the souls a the Unclaimed. When families don’t tend to their dead, I come for them.” Smiling, he shook the bottle in front of him.

  I felt sick. I thought trapping evil spirits in bottles was one of Amma’s crazy superstitions. I didn’t know there were evil voodoo practitioners trolling graveyards with old Coke bottles.

  The tortured spirit moved toward John, its expression frozen in a terrifying and silent scream. John opened his hands in front of him, the way Lena always did. “Back up, Ethan. I don’t know what this thing’s gonna do.”

  I stumbled back as flames surged from John’s hands. He didn’t pack as much power as Lena or Sarafine did, but there was still plenty of fire. The flames hit the spirit, enveloping it. I could see the outline of its limbs and body in the center of the blaze, its face frozen in an eternal scream. Then the mist dissipated, and the form vanished. Within seconds, the dark mist was spiraling in front of the fire, until the spirit was hovering a few feet away.

  “Guess that didn’t work.” John rubbed his hands on his jeans. “I haven’t—”

  The Unclaimed flew at John, but it didn’t stop when it reached him. The dark mist flew inside him, almost disappearing completely when John ripped. The spirit was forced out violently, like it was being sucked backward into a vacuum.

  John materialized a few feet away, shocked. He ran his hands over his body, like he was trying to see if anything was missing. The spirit was spiraling up through the mist, unfazed.

  “What did that thing
do to you?”

  John was still trying to shake it off. “It was trying to get inside me. Dark spirits need a body to posses if they’re gonna do any real damage.”

  I heard the sound of clinking glass again. The bokor was opening the bottles, and a shadowy mist rose slowly from each one. “Look. He’s got more of them.”

  “We’re screwed,” John said.

  “Amma, stop it!” I yelled. But it didn’t matter. Amma’s arms were crossed, and she looked more determined and crazy than I’d ever seen her. “You come on home with me, and he’ll fill those bottles back up faster than you can spill a glass a milk.” This time, Amma had gone so dark that I didn’t know how to find her—or bring her back.

  I looked at John. “Can’t you make them disappear, or turn them into something?”

  John shook his head. “I don’t have any powers that work on angry Unclaimed spirits.”

  Circles of smoke floated into the air as someone stepped out from the shadows. “Fortunately, I happen to have a few.” Macon Ravenwood took a couple of puffs on the cigar he was holding. “Amarie, I am disappointed. This is not your finest hour.”

  Amma pushed past the bokor, the bottles still tied to his belt rattling dangerously. She pointed a bony finger at Macon. “You would do the same thing for your niece, quicker than a sinner would steal money outta the collection plate, Melchizedek! Don’t you stand there with your high and mighty because I won’t let my boy be your sacrificial lamb!”

  The bokor released another Unclaimed spirit behind Amma. Macon watched it rise into the air. “Excuse me, sir. I’m going to have to ask you to collect your belongings and be on your way. My friend was not thinking straight when she procured your services. Grief addles the brain, you know.”

  The bokor laughed, pointing his staff at one of the spirits and guiding it in Macon’s direction. “I’m not a hired hand, Caster. The bargain she made with me can’t be undone.”

  The spirit circled once and shot down toward Macon, its mouth torn and slack.

  Macon closed his eyes and I shielded mine, anticipating the blinding green light that had almost destroyed Hunting. But there was no light. It was the opposite—a complete absence of light. Darkness.

  A wide circle of absolute blackness formed in the sky above the Unclaimed spirit. It looked like one of those satellite pictures of a hurricane, except there were no churning winds. This was a real hole in the sky.

  The Unclaimed turned as the black hole pulled it across the sky like a magnet. When the spirit hit the outer edge of the hole, it disappeared, little by little, as it was sucked inside. It reminded me of the way my hand disappeared into the grate outside the Lunae Libri, except this didn’t look like an illusion. When the spirit’s hazy fingers were finally swallowed by the void, the hole closed and vanished.

  “Did you know he could do that?” John whispered.

  “I don’t even know what he did.”

  The bokor’s eyes widened, but he wasn’t deterred. He pointed his staff at the remaining spirits one by one, and their broken forms jerked toward Macon. Ink-black holes opened up behind each of them, dragging the Unclaimed inside. Then the holes disappeared like the pop of fireworks.

  One of the empty bottles slipped out of the bokor’s hand and dropped to the ground. I heard it crack against the dry earth. Macon opened his eyes and met the bokor’s, calmly. “As I said before, your services are no longer required. I suggest you return to your hole in the ground before I create one for you.”

  The bokor opened a crude pouch and scooped a handful of the chalky white powder he had sprinkled on the ground around him. Amma backed away, raising the bottom of her dress so it didn’t drag across the powder. The bokor lifted his hand and blew the particles at Macon.

  They blew through the air like ash. But before they reached Macon, another black hole opened and sucked them in. Macon rolled his cigar between his fingers. “Sir, and I use the term loosely, unless you have something more, I suggest you take your walking stick home.”

  “Or what, Caster?”

  “Or the next one will be for you.”

  The bokor’s eyes glittered in the darkness. “This was a mistake, Ravenwood. The old woman owes me a debt, and she will pay it—in this life or the next. You should not have interfered.” He threw something to the ground, and smoke rose from the place where it hit. When the smoke cleared, he was gone.

  “He can Travel?” That was impossible.

  Macon walked toward us. “Parlor tricks, from a third-rate magician.”

  John stared at Macon in awe. “How did you do whatever you just did? I knew you could create light, but what was that?”

  “Patches of darkness. Holes in the universe, I suppose.” He answered. “It’s not a particularly pleasant business.”

  “But you’re a Light Caster now. How can you create darkness?”

  “I’m a Light Caster now, but I was an Incubus long before that. In some of us, both Light and Darkness exist. You should know that better than anyone, John.”

  John was about to say something else, when Amma called out across the thin stretch of dirt between us. “Melchizedek Ravenwood! This is the last time I’m askin’ you to stay outta my affairs. You take care a your family, and I’ll see to mine! Ethan Wate, we’re leavin’ this minute!”

  I shook my head. “I can’t.”

  Amma pointed at Macon with a venomous look in her eye. “This is your doin’! I will never forgive you for this, you hear me? Not today or tomorrow, or when I see you in hell for the sins we’ve both committed. For the one I’m about to commit.” Amma sprinkled something around her feet, creating a circle. The white crystals glittered like snowflakes. Salt.

  “Amarie!” Macon called out to her, but his voice was gentle. He knew she was coming unhinged.

  “Aunt Delilah, Uncle Abner, Aunt Ivy, Grandmamma Sulla. I’m in need a your intercession.” Amma stared up into the black sky. “You’re the blood a my blood, and I call you to help me fight the one whose threatenin’ what I love most.”

  She was calling the Greats, trying to turn them on Macon. I felt the weight of it—her desperation, her madness, her love. But it was too tangled with the wrong things to be right. Only she couldn’t see it.

  “They won’t come,” I whispered to Macon. “She tried to call them before, and they didn’t show.”

  “Well, perhaps they lacked the proper motivation.” I followed Macon’s eyes up beyond the water tower, and I could see the figures looming above us in the moonlight. The Greats—Amma’s ancestors from the Otherworld. They had finally answered her.

  Amma pointed at Macon. “He’s the one tryin’ to hurt my boy and take him outta this world. You stop him! Do what’s right!”

  The Greats stared down at Macon, and for a second I held my breath. Sulla had strands of beads wrapped around her wrist, like a rosary from a religion all her own. Delilah and Ivy were at her sides, watching Macon.

  But Uncle Abner was looking right at me, his eyes searching mine. They were huge and brown and full of questions. I wanted to answer them, but I wasn’t sure what he was asking.

  He found the answers somehow, because he turned to Sulla and spoke to her in Gullah.

  “Do what’s right!” Amma called out into the darkness.

  The Greats looked at Amma and joined hands. Then they slowly turned their backs to her. They were doing what was right.

  Amma let out a strangled scream and dropped to her knees. “No!”

  The Greats were still holding hands, facing the moon, when they disappeared.

  Macon put his hand on my shoulder. “I’ll take care of Amarie, Ethan. Whether she wants me to or not.”

  I started walking toward the rusty metal ladder.

  “Do you want me to come with you?” John called after me.

  I shook my head. This was something I had to do alone. As alone as you can be, when half of your soul is trailing you everywhere you go.

  “Ethan—” It was Macon. I held the side of th
e ladder. I couldn’t turn around.

  “So long, Mr. Wate.” That was it, a handful of meaningless words. All there was left to say.

  “You’ll take care of her for me.” It wasn’t a question.

  “I will, son.”

  I tightened my hands on the ladder in front of me.

  “No! My boy!” I heard Amma screaming, and the sound of her feet kicking as Macon held her back.

  I started climbing.

  “Ethan Lawson Wate—” With every ragged scream, I pulled myself higher. The same thought playing over and over again, in my mind.

  The right thing and the easy thing are never the same.



  I was standing on the top of the white water tower, facing the moon. I had no shadow, and if there were any stars, I couldn’t see them. Summerville was stretched out before me, a scattering of tiny lights, all the way to the blackness of the lake.

  This had been our happy place, mine and Lena’s. One of them, at least. But I was alone now. I wasn’t feeling happy. I wasn’t feeling anything but fear—and like I wanted to throw up.

  I could still hear Amma screaming.

  I knelt for a second, resting my hands on the painted metal. I looked down and saw a heart, drawn in black Sharpie. I smiled, remembering, and stood up.

  It is time. There is no turning back now.

  I stared out at the tiny lights, waiting to get up the courage to do the unthinkable. The dread churned in my stomach, heavy and wrong.

  But this was right.

  As I closed my eyes, I felt the arms slam into my waist, knocking the air out of me, dragging me down to the metal ladder. I caught a glimpse of him—of me—when my jaw hit the side of the railing, and I stumbled.

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