55. What Miranda Read

“So let’s see if I understand: This woman—”

“Sarah Ozymandius.”

“—had the magical ability to communicate with and create plants. One day, she made one that stopped her magic from working? Then something happened, but she doesn’t say what, and she buried her seeds and notes, unable to bring herself to destroy her creation?”

Miranda nods. 

“Now you, for reasons not entirely clear, believe this is more than lunatic ramblings. And you want to grow these plants to cure Shou’s nightmare problem? Out of the goodness of your heart?”

Miranda looks at her shoes and mumbles, “For science.”

“How generous.”

Where to Begin

54. Dinner

When Lye manages to drag himself down to the dining hall, he finds two very excited teenagers waiting for him. He doesn’t have time to wonder what he did to deserve such energetic companions before they set upon him with questions. 

“How long can seeds survive if they’re not planted?” Miranda stumbles over her own words. 

“It depends,” he replies cautiously, “Why?”

“Because I think we’ve found a cure. Well, maybe a cure. If it grows.”

Lye raises one eyebrow. “A cure for what exactly?”

“A cure for—” Miranda’s gaze shutters. “Shou, tell Lye what you can do.”

He does.

Where to Begin

53. What’s in the Box

“A book,” Shou glares into the box, like he’ll be able to make something else appear, just by willing it.

Miranda glances up at him. “You don’t have to sound so disappointed. And look,” she holds up a frail-looking little burlap bag with SEEDS sewn into the front. “Not just a book.”

“It was so heavy, I just hoped it would be, I don’t know, something more interesting.”

“It’s heavy because it’s so thick. Lead, probably. If it were thinner, I doubt it would have lasted so long.” She opens the book, flips through a few pages. “It’s a journal.”

Where to Begin

52. The Box

Much later, Shou jogs into the grove where Miranda waits. “Nobody saw me.”

His hands are dirty, as are the knees of his trousers and soft-soled booties. 

The afternoon light has dunked him in liquid gold—strange and rich. A prince from a faraway, glittering world she can’t see.

How did he dress when he had a choice? Where did he go to school? How many friends did he have? 

But Miranda never asks questions she wouldn’t want to answer herself, so instead, “Great,” she says, and forces a smile. “Set it down here. I’ll take a look at the lock.”

Where to Begin

50. Secrets, Secrets, and More Secrets

Shou shreds a page between his fingers. “I was trying not to sleep because, you know.” He holds out his forearm, the criss-crossing scars bright and ugly against his skin. “It worked for a while, but…” 

“But nobody can stay awake forever,” she finishes, eyes on the ruined paper.

He can feel his cheeks start to burn. 

“I tried to once. To kill myself, I mean.”

“What happened?”

She grimaces, looks over at the bookshelves. “Clarke took over. He’s tougher to kill than I am.”

He isn’t sure what to do with this confession, so instead he asks, “Who’s Clarke?”

Where to Begin

49. The Explanation

No, he doesn’t have to know the person, but if he does, he can make the nightmare more specific. Yes, about anything. Maybe good dreams, he doesn’t know. She laughs when he says this, but he isn’t sure why. He didn’t give Jeremy a nightmare, but he agrees that would’ve been stupid. What happened was the blowback. For every nightmare he gives, he has one. When he has nightmares, the monsters bleed into reality for a few minutes but fade away when he wakes up. Yes, it hurt him. They always do.

Lastly, she asks, “Is that why you’re here?”

Where to Begin

48. The Answer

He stares at his hands like he’s written the answers on his palms. “I can give people nightmares.” He waits for her to laugh. 

She doesn’t laugh. “How?”

He shrugs. “I don’t know. I just have to think of what I want them to dream about and then I touch them. It’s like putting something in their pockets. But there’s blowback.” He winces. “Consequences.”

She stares at him with wide, hungry eyes. She lets out a shuddering breath.  “I have,” she pauses. Her cheeks are pink. She looks more alive than Shou has ever seen her before. “So many questions.”

Where to Begin