Boundless Page 66

He nods. “Since I finished that class. It helps me get my mind off my crazy life.”

His crazy life, I think. How crazy could it be?

“I’m not very good at this,” I confess, gesturing to the blue vinyl circle. The morning sun is passing through the stained-glass windows, casting a riot of color onto the patterns under our feet. “I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s just not happening.”

“Here.” He pulls at something around his neck and comes away with the earbuds for an iPod, which he hands me. “Try this.”

I tentatively slip the buds into my ears. He presses play, and I’m flooded with a chorus of male voices singing in Latin. Gregorian chant.

Again, Thomas surprises me. I would have pegged him as a rap aficionado.

“Nice,” I say to him.

“I don’t know what they’re saying, but I like it,” he says. “It helps.”

I listen.

Panis angelicus fit panis hominum … Bread of angels becomes the bread of men …

Sometimes it doesn’t suck to be able to understand any language on earth.

“So now you walk,” Thomas says. “Just walk, and listen, and let your mind empty itself out.”

I do what he says. I don’t think about what I want. I don’t think about Angela or Web or Christian. I walk. The monks chant in my ears, and I hear them like I’m standing among them, and I stop for a moment in the center of the circle, and I close my eyes.

Please, I think. Please. Show me the way.

That’s when the vision hits me like a Mack truck doing seventy. And I am swept away.

17

TWO MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT

In the vision, I’m waiting for someone. I’m standing next to a long metal bench—standing because I’m too nervous to sit down. I take a few steps in one direction. Stop. Walk back the other way. Look around. Check my watch.

Two minutes to midnight.

A cloud drifts in front of the moon, which is full, circled by a hazy grayish ring. I pull my jacket tighter to me even though I’m not cold. My head is full of fear, my chest tight with it, my heart beating fast. This is crazy, I think. Foolhardy, my mother would call it. Insane. But here I am, anyway.

Sanity is overrated.

Behind me something hisses, loud and mechanical, and I turn to look. There’s a train, a sleek, silver line of cars stretched along the tracks. It rolls slowly toward me.

Maybe I’m supposed to go somewhere.

The train passes, clacking in a heavy rhythm like my heart. The brakes squeal as it glides to a stop, and the passenger doors slide open. I take a step forward and then look down the empty platform. After a moment the doors close, the engine rumbles, and the train continues on, shaking the earth with its weight, screeching and clacking until the last car passes. It rolls away into the darkness without me.

I check my watch. One minute to midnight.

When I look up again, I see a bird swoop down from the roof of the train depot, dark as a shadow. It lands on a lamppost across the tracks, swivels its head toward me, caws. It’s a crow. My heart starts to beat even faster.

“Caw,” says the crow, testing me, taunting me, calling me to join him across the tracks.

I start walking to him, and I don’t look back.

Because I know this bird.

He’s going to be my guide.

I spiral back to myself at the church. I’m stopped in the center of the circle, my face uplifted, the monks singing, singing, singing, their voices gone dark.

“Looks like it worked,” Thomas says, smiling, as I hand him back his iPod with shaky hands.

“Are you okay?”

I nod. “I have to go now.”

Boy, do I ever have to go now.

I walk to the Oval and sit down under the tree where I always study. I think Samjeeza’s name, over and over again, summoning him the only way I know how, hoping that he hasn’t given up his creepy stalking now when I’m really counting on him. And I wait.

I feel his presence before I see him. He steps out of the trees at the edge of campus, his amber eyes bewildered but curious.

“You called me,” he says.

“Yes, I did.” Although I’m as surprised as he is that it worked.

“I didn’t expect to see you here again,” he says. “You’re in some trouble with Big Brother.”

So he already knows. Of course he does. I’m sure gossip really gets around in hell. “You could say that. Anyway. I’m ready to tell you a story,” I say. “But I want something in return.”

He smiles, surprised and pleased and even more curious now. He opens his arms, palms up, and steps back in the semblance of a formal bow.

This guy is cheese to the core.

“What can I do for you, little bird?” he says.

This is it. Don’t chicken out now, I tell myself. I meet his eyes.

“The Black Wings took my friend Angela. Do you know where she is?”

“Yes. Asael has her.”

“In hell?”

“Naturally.”

I swallow. “Have you seen her?”

He nods.

“Is she all right?”

There’s a cruel twist to his mouth. “No one is all right in that place.”

“Is she … alive?”

“Physically speaking, yes, her heart was beating the last I saw her.”

“And when was that?” I ask.

He finds the question funny. “Some time ago,” he answers with a laugh.

I bite my lip. This is the insane part: Telling him my impromptu plan. Putting it all out there. Letting the chips fall where they may. The wind picks up and sends the trees into a furtive whispering, like a warning. Don’t trust him, they say.

But I trust the vision, and the vision tells me that I trust him.

Samjeeza’s getting impatient. “I told you what I know about your friend. Now tell me the story.”

“Not yet. I need something else.” I take a deep breath.

Be brave, my darling, my mother told me once. You’re stronger than you think. I can be brave, I tell myself.

“I need you to take me to Angela,” I say then. “In hell.”

He lets out a disbelieving laugh. “Whatever for?”

“So I can get her out.”

His eyes widen. “You’re serious.”

“Serious as a heart attack,” I say, which is appropriate, because I feel like I’m about to have one.

“Impossible,” he says, although his eyes take on an excited gleam.

“Why is it impossible?” I ask, crossing my arms over my chest. “Don’t you have the power to do it? You took me there before.”

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