Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

  “Get this.” Priest tore a glazed doughnut in half and shoved it in his mouth. “There’s an old magic shop in town. Some weird guy owned it. The waitress at the diner said he was always traveling and bringing back all kinds of bizarre junk for his store.”

  Alara scrunched up her nose. “I hate magicians. They’re just a step above mimes and clowns.”

  Priest finished off the other half of the doughnut. “You’re not the only one. They found the shop owner dead in the store two weeks ago. When we asked how he died, she just kept saying it was too horrible to talk about.”

  “That’s helpful.” Alara took a doughnut out of the box, careful not to touch the pink cardboard. “Did the waitress mention a box?”

  Priest shook his head. “No. But she did say it took a while before his body was discovered.”

  She perked up. “That’s weird.”

  “Not really,” Lukas said. “No one ever went in the store because the place smelled like cat piss.”

  “It could be a coincidence,” I said.

  Jared tossed an untouched doughnut back in the box. “He didn’t have any cats.”


  The Box

  A thick layer of dust coated the shop windows, which displayed a collection of unmagical-looking items: cheap black top hats and polyester capes, a corroded birdcage with a fake dove inside, silver linking rings, and a wooden ventriloquist’s dummy. Yellow police tape ran across the door, where a plastic sign was flipped to CLOSED.

  Breaking and entering in the middle of the day was risky, but every choice we made now felt like a risk. Jared parked in the back alley, hoping no one would see us, while Priest picked the lock with a piece of wire rigged specifically for the purpose.

  The door swung open, and the nauseating stench of ammonia hit us.

  Alara gagged. “You’ve gotta be kidding. I’m not going in there without a gas mask.”

  “Your call.” Jared walked inside. The dusty haze of daylight followed him, revealing dozens of overflowing boxes, crates, and metal storage shelves.

  Priest flipped a switch and fluorescent lights above us illuminated an enormous storage room filled with even more junk. “This guy was a total hoarder.”

  The whole place felt like the inside of Pandora’s box, something best left undisturbed.

  I touched the handle of the nail gun tucked in the back of my jeans for reassurance. “This doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who’d have a wine cabinet.”

  Lukas tipped over a trash can full of dismembered doll parts, the tiny flesh-colored arms and legs sticking out of the top. “It can be any kind of box.”

  “Someone get a reading. I can’t stand this much longer,” Alara mumbled, her nose buried in the crook of her arm. It hadn’t taken her long to reconsider her position on urine-infested magic shops.

  I reached for an EMF and my elbow hit something hard.

  A huge vanishing cabinet with a crimson door loomed behind me. Inside, a painting of a snake twisted around bits of broken mirror and colored glass glued along the walls, its mouth open and ready to strike.

  “Guys… this is a lot bigger than a wine cabinet.”

  Priest and Jared walked toward me, Priest’s eyes glued to his EMF. “Hopefully, whatever’s living in there isn’t. The needle’s going crazy.”

  Jared’s eyes locked on mine, and my heart sped up. Until his expression changed, and I realized he wasn’t looking at me anymore.

  He was looking behind me.

  “Kennedy, move!” he shouted.

  A rush of cold air burst from the box, knocking me over. It swept past me and stopped in front of Alara—the torso of a man with bare milk-white skin marred by black bruises. But this thing wasn’t a man. Its head was shaved and the vertebrae in its spinal column strained against the skin as if it was a size too small.

  But where the bones ended, so did the human form—and its waist disappeared into a thick blur of white smoke.

  I forced my legs to move, stumbling over the clutter.

  The dybbuk whipped around, following the sound. I pressed my hand against my mouth, stifling a scream as I stared into the blackened recesses where its eyes should’ve been.

  It reached for Alara. Her body rose off the floor as if the dybbuk was using some kind of telekinetic power to control it. She screamed, and the force slammed her against the wall. Alara’s head banged against the concrete, and she slid to the floor without a sound.

  Jared ran toward her. The dybbuk ripped him off his feet, using the same supernatural power that had allowed it to lift Alara without touching her, and hurled him into the metal shelves.

  “Screw this.” Lukas aimed and fired round after round of liquid salt. The bullets passed right through the dybbuk’s pale torso and dropped to the floor.

  I scrambled around the edge of the room toward Alara. She had managed to sit up, but she was still disoriented when I reached her.

  “Are you okay?”

  “It’s so strong.” Panic clung to her voice—the fearless girl I found so intimidating suddenly replaced by one as vulnerable as the rest of us.

  Lukas and Priest knelt next to Jared, who lay on the floor amid a sea of severed doll limbs.

  He’s not moving.

  There was only one way to help him. “Alara, how do we stop it?”

  She stared at me blankly.

  I grabbed her shoulders. “How do we destroy it?”

  The dybbuk laughed, and the menacing sound echoed through the room.

  It focused on Lukas and Priest, and their bodies rose in the air simultaneously. They hovered above the floor for a moment before their backs smacked against the wall, halfway between the floor and the ceiling. Their bodies slid the rest of the way up the wall, shoulders and elbows cracking against the corners of the metal shelves.

  “Alara, tell me what to do,” I pleaded.

  Her eyes darted from the dybbuk back to me. “We have to bind that thing inside the cabinet and burn it.”


  Alara blinked hard. “A binding symbol.”

  “Like the one from your journal?” I remembered it perfectly.

  She nodded. “The Wall is the easiest. But I can’t draw it without my journal, and it won’t bind that thing unless the symbol looks exactly the same.”

  Boxes crashed to the floor as Lukas dropped onto the concrete not far from where his brother’s body lay, crumpled unconscious. Lukas struggled to sit up, but he looked unsteady.

  “Screw you.” Priest thrashed wildly, still pinned halfway up the wall.

  The dybbuk threw its pale head back and demonic laughter filled the air like a thousand pins pricking my skin.

  “I can do it,” I said automatically. “I remember what it looks like.”

  Alara shook her head. “If you make a mistake—”

  The symbol formed in my mind as clearly as if I was still staring at the page. “I have a photographic memory. I won’t make a mistake.”

  “You’re serious?”

  I nodded. “Completely.”

  Alara slid the black marker out of her tool belt and handed it to me. “I’m going to distract it, but you’ll have to work fast. Then I’ll find a way to lure it into the box.”

  The dybbuk stepped in front of the wall where Priest was pinned. It let Priest fall and jerked his body back and forth across the floor like a rag doll without so much as a touch.

  I ran for the cabinet.

  I stepped inside and my eyes burned from the stench of ammonia. The snake’s open mouth was only inches away from me, shards of mirror forming perfect fangs. And something else—two round pieces of green glass edged in silver stared back from the centers of its eyes.

  Tiny splinters pushed their way underneath my nails as I worked one free. In the dim light, it looked exactly like the disk from inside the doll. Unfortunately, so did the other one. I slipped them both in my pocket and glanced behind me.

  Alara opened the plastic bottle of holy water holstered on her
belt, and dumped it over her head.

  This was her plan?

  I closed the cabinet door, pitching myself into darkness. Within seconds, panic set in and it felt like I was five years old again, hiding in the tiny crawl space in my mother’s closet. Waiting for her to come back.

  I can’t stay in here.

  My pulse thundered in my ears, but another sound was louder—a crash.

  Was it Priest this time? Or Lukas or Alara? I pictured Jared lying on the floor, and my heart ached. What if he needed a doctor?

  What if…

  A tiny crack between the hinges threw a slice of light across my boots, but there wasn’t enough room for me to bend down and draw the symbol on the floor. I was going to have to do it on the ceiling, which meant sketching blind.

  How would I know if I made a mistake?

  “Priest? Lukas? You okay?” Alara shouted, her voice muffled by the layer of wood between us.


  “Get Jared out of here,” she said.

  “We’re not leaving you guys.” Lukas sounded as determined as she did.

  “If you want to save your brother, you will,” Alara shot back.

  “Pretty girl with an ugly soul.” The voice that answered this time didn’t belong to Lukas. It was distorted and wrong—the sound of something horrific trying on human skin.

  Working quickly, I let my mind guide the marker. I drew the first line, positioning my other hand in the center so I knew where to begin the horizontal line I needed to make next.

  The heavy metal door to the alley slammed shut.

  Someone made it out—maybe all three of them.

  But if the door was closed, the guys were locked out. I was the only one who could help Alara. I concentrated on the one thing I had always been able to do—the skill that felt more like a curse than a gift.

  My hand finally stopped when the marker finished the last line. I peeked through the crack just as the dybbuk charged Alara. When its body touched her wet skin, a hiss of white steam rose above them, and the dybbuk lurched backward. I had to get that thing away from her and into the cabinet. Fast.

  I flung open the door. “Hey, over here! I’m in your nasty box.”

  It whirled around, the blackened eye sockets facing me. “Get out!”

  “Kennedy, no!” Alara shouted.

  It was coming right at me—

  Don’t move until it steps inside.

  I pressed my hand against the false back of the cabinet, but I wasn’t quick enough.

  The impact punched the air out of my lungs. A sickening sensation gripped me, like something was crawling through my body and fighting its way out the other side. I felt the dybbuk twisting and writhing like hundreds of snakes trapped under my flesh.

  I threw my weight against the back of the box, and the wall sprang open.

  My cheek hit the concrete and I clawed at the floor, dragging myself away from the box. I rolled over and realized it didn’t matter.

  The dybbuk was trapped, its limbs jerking back each time it tried to reach outside the boundaries of the box. “What have you done, ugly soul?”

  Alara ran toward me, her long legs vaulting over upended stage props that paled in the presence of real magic. She dug through her pockets and unearthed a disposable lighter, holding it against the rotted wood. The flame fluttered and caught, climbing up the edge.

  “We have to get out of here,” she said, shoving me toward the door.

  Ash flaked in the air like peeled skin as the side of the cabinet charred, and the fire leapt from the box to the wall behind it.

  “Go.” Alara pushed me ahead of her.

  The alley door was only a few feet away when a spirit stepped out of the shadows, blocking our path.

  Deep claw marks covered the dead magician’s face and neck, as if a wild animal had attacked him. Whole sections of flesh had been peeled from his broken body, but a tired velvet suit hid the worst of the damage.

  The skin straining over the dybbuk’s bones flashed through my mind—the way it looked like it didn’t quite fit—and my stomach convulsed.

  Alara shook her head in disbelief.

  “I tried to keep it safe,” he said. “That was the only place I thought no one would find it. I never wanted it to get out.” The spirit glanced at the cabinet that was burning up and vanishing without its magician. His arm shot out toward us. “May—”

  I ripped the nail gun from my waistband and squeezed the trigger, sending a spray of cold-iron nails into his body. The magician exploded, tiny bits of purple velvet floating in the air around us.



  The van was already halfway down the block when the black smoke rose from the building, and sirens screamed in the distance. Jared was stretched out on his back with his head in my lap. He rolled toward me, his arm falling around my waist. I brushed the hair away from his bruised face.

  Jared’s eyelids fluttered.

  He winced and pulled me closer, clutching the back of my shirt as his fingers trailed across my bare skin.

  He blinked a few times before his blue eyes stared up at me, glassy and unfocused.

  “Kennedy?” he mumbled, struggling to sit up. “What happened?”

  Priest lifted one of the headphones away from his ear. “You got your butt kicked, that’s what.”

  Lukas guided the van into a deserted gas station and climbed in the back with the rest of us. “You all right?” He held up three fingers. “How many do you see?”

  “Nine.” Jared swatted his hand away. “Now tell me what happened.”

  Alara started talking before anyone else had a chance. “Kennedy drew the Wall in the cabinet and bound the dybbuk inside.”

  “How did you know what it looked like?” Jared asked.

  Alara answered for me. “She saw it in my journal.”

  “And you remembered it?”

  Telling people for the first time was the worst part. My memory had always set me apart from other people, creating a boundary I couldn’t cross. “I have eidetic memory—”

  “It means photographic.” Alara rushed on. “She can remember anything she sees and—”

  “Not anything,” I corrected. “Images and numbers mostly.”

  “Whatever.” Alara waved off my denial. “You basically took out that thing alone. I singed it with a little holy water, but you did the rest.”

  I listened, barely registering the fact that Alara was talking about me. “She’s exaggerating, but I did get these.”

  I opened my hand and revealed the green glass disks.

  Alara smiled. “Like I said, I was just along for the ride.”

  It was strange to hear her bragging about me. Climbing in the well to help Priest had earned me a level of respect, but it was something anyone could’ve done. Drawing the Wall was different. It required skill, and it proved I finally had something to offer.

  Priest reached for the disks and held them up to the light. “You found two?”

  “It was dark and they looked exactly the same, so I grabbed them both.”

  “I’m not sure they’ll do us much good,” Lukas said. “The clue to finding the next piece is probably ash by now.”

  Priest closed his hand around the disks. “He’s right. The other clues were close to the places we found the disks.”

  “Not all of them. The diagram of the Shift and the word Lilburn were in your journal, and parts of mine are encrypted. There has to be something—” Alara winced and pulled up her sleeve. “Oh my god.”

  Thin lines carved themselves into her skin, the same way Priest’s mark had manifested after he destroyed Millicent’s spirit. The impressions curved and one peaked into a triangle like the devil’s tail from Andras’ seal.

  The fire Alara set must have burned through the cabinet and destroyed the dybbuk by now.

  She reached in her pocket and rubbed her wrist with salt. Slowly, black lines filled the indentations. The guys pulled up their own sleeves, a
nd Alara rubbed the crystals over their arms. The salt acted like the glass disks, illuminating a code invisible to the naked eye. The four of them positioned their wrists to form the seal, only one small section missing.

  I’m about to get my mark.

  I hadn’t realized how badly I wanted it—to be part of their secret world, and my mother’s—to be one of them.

  When did it change?

  At Lilburn when Lukas saved my life, or in the well when Priest and I saved each other? When Alara trusted me to draw the Wall from memory? Or was it before that? When they lost almost everything they owned because of my mistake and still didn’t turn their backs on me?

  Maybe it was all of those moments layered between the White Stripes, a blue string, a voodoo medal, and the weight of Jared’s eyes when he looked at me.

  I inched up my sleeve slowly.

  Will it hurt?

  “Let’s see it,” Lukas said, the four of them still holding their arms together, waiting for the last Black Dove. I turned over my wrist so I could see the lines magically cutting themselves into my skin.

  It was unmarked.

  Confusion registered on their faces, mirroring my own.

  “Wait,” Priest said. “Alara’s mark only showed up a second ago, and you shot the spirit on the way out. That had to be at least a few minutes after the fire destroyed the dybbuk. Give it some time.”

  Alara raised her eyes to meet mine. There was no way the fire could have burned through the box and destroyed the dybbuk before I shot the magician and we made it out of the building.

  “I’m not one of you.” I pulled my sleeve back down.

  Lukas looked confused. “What are you talking about?”

  “Kennedy destroyed the vengeance spirit first.” Alara’s eyes dropped to the floor like it was somehow her fault.

  I wanted to disappear.

  Instead, I threw open the door and ran.

  The truth pounded me with every step. I wasn’t destined to protect the world from a demon that murdered my mother, or the missing link the Legion needed to destroy him.

  Halfway across the parking lot, a hand closed around my wrist. I spun around. Jared stared back at me, desperate and lost. “I didn’t mean to grab you.”

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