Boundless Page 14

“I see them, in my vision.” Angela pulls me past the burghers, until we’re standing at the top of the steps looking out at the Oval and beyond it Palm Drive, the long street that’s lined with giant palm trees and marks the official entrance to the university. The sun is setting. Students are playing Frisbee in the grass wearing shorts and tank tops, sunglasses, flip-flops. Others are stretched out under trees, studying. Birds are singing, bicycles whirring by. A car makes its way around the circle with a surfboard strapped to the roof.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think: October in California.

“It happens here.” Angela stops and plants her feet. “Right here.”

I look down. “What, you mean where we’re standing?”

She nods. “I’m going to come from that direction.” She points to the left. “And I’m going to climb up these five little steps, and there’s going to be someone waiting for me, right here.”

“The man in the gray suit.” I remember her telling me.

“Yes. And I’m going to tell him, ‘The seventh is ours.’”

“Do you know who he is?”

She makes an irritated noise in the back of her throat, like I am bursting her “guess how brilliant I am” bubble by bringing up something that she doesn’t know. “It feels like I recognize him, in the vision, but he’s got his back to me. I don’t ever see his face.”

“Ah, one of those.” I think back to the days when I had my first vision, the forest fire, the boy watching it, and it was frustrating as all get-out that I could never see what he looked like. It took me a while to get used to seeing Christian from the front.

“I’m going to find out, obviously,” she says, like it’s not important. “But it’s happening. Right here. This is the place.”

“Very exciting,” I say, which is what she wants to hear.

She nods, but there’s something troubled in her expression. She chews on her lip, then sighs.

“Are you okay?” I ask.

She snaps out of it. “Right here,” she says again, like this spot has magical properties.

“Right here,” I agree.

“The seventh is ours,” she whispers.

On the way back to Roble we cut through the Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden. In among the tall trees there are dozens of sculpted wooden poles and large stone carvings done in the native style. My eye goes right to a primitive version of The Thinker, a man bent over with his huge head framed in his hands, wearing a contemplative expression. Perched on top of his head is a large black crow. As we approach, it pivots to look at me. Caws.

I stop walking.

“What is it?” Angela asks.

“That bird,” I say, my voice dropping in embarrassment at how silly this is going to sound. “This is like the fourth time I’ve seen it since I got here. I think it’s following me.”

She glances over her shoulder at the bird. “How do you know it’s the same bird?” she asks. “There are a lot of birds here, C, and birds act weird around us. That’s kind of a given.”

“I don’t know. It’s just a feeling, I guess.”

Her eyes widen slightly. You think Samjeeza might have followed you here? she asks silently, which startles me. I forgot that she can speak in my mind. Do you feel sorrow?

I feel instantly dumb that I never thought to feel for sorrow before. Usually around Sam the sorrow overwhelms me without me having to seek it out. I gaze up at the bird, slowly open the door of my mind, and wait to be flooded with Samjeeza’s sad, sweet despair. But before I can discern anything beyond my own anxiety, the bird squawks, almost in a mocking way, and flaps off through the trees.

Angela and I stare after it.

“It’s probably just a bird,” I say. A shudder passes through me.

“Right,” she says, in a voice that conveys she doesn’t believe that for a second. “Well, what can you do? I guess if it’s a Black Wing, you’ll find out soon enough.”

I guess so.

“You should tell Billy about it,” Angela says. “See if she has any, I don’t know, advice for you. Maybe some kind of bird deterrent.”

I want to laugh at her choice of words, but for some reason I don’t think it’s so funny. I nod. “Yeah, I’ll call Billy,” I say. “I haven’t checked in with her for a while.”

I hate this.

I’m sitting on the edge of my bed with my cell in my hand. I don’t know how Billy will react to the news that I’m possibly seeing a Black Wing, but there’s the high likelihood she’ll say I should run away—that’s what you do when you see a Black Wing, we’ve all been taught over and over and over again. You run. You go to someplace hallowed. You hide. You can’t fight them. They’re too strong. They’re invincible. I mean, last year when Samjeeza started showing up at my school, the adults went full lockdown on us. They got scared.

I might have to leave Stanford, is what that would mean.

My jaw clenches. I’m tired of being scared all the time. Of Black Wings and frightening visions and failure. I’m sick of it.

It makes me think of when I was a kid, maybe six or seven, and I went through a scared-of-the-dark phase. I’d lie with the covers clutched up to my chin, convinced that every shadow was a monster: an alien come to abduct me, a vampire, a ghost about to lay its chilly dead hand on my arm. I told my mom I wanted to sleep with the lights on. She humored me that way, or let me sleep in her bed, curled against the security of her warm, vanilla-scented body until the terror faded, but after a while she said, “It’s time to stop being afraid, Clara.”

“I can’t.”

“You can.” She handed me a spray bottle. “It’s holy water,” she explained. “If anything scary comes into this room, tell it to go away, and if it doesn’t go away, spray it with this.”

I seriously doubted that holy water would have any effect on aliens.

“Try it,” she dared me. “See what happens.”

I spent the next night muttering, “Go away,” and spraying shadows, and she was right. The monsters disappeared. I made them go away, just by my refusal to be afraid of them. I took control of my fear. I conquered it.

That’s how I feel right now, like if I just refuse to be afraid of the bird, it’ll go away.

I wish I could call Mom instead of Billy. What would she say to me, I wonder, if I could magically go to her, if I could run downstairs to her room in Jackson the way I used to and tell her everything? I think I know. She’d kiss me on the temple, the way she always did, and smooth the hair away from my face. She’d draw a quilt around my shoulders. She’d make me a cup of tea, and I’d sit at the kitchen counter and I’d tell her about the crow, and about my vision of the darkness, how I feel inside it, about my fears.

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