"Things that are and are not, she thinks, and the dog is a snake."
In this fantastic and fantastical debut, C.J. Lavigne concocts a wondrous realm overlaying a city that brims with civic workers and pigeons. Led by her synesthesia, Verity Richards discovers a hidden world inside an old Ottawa theatre. Within the timeworn walls live people who should not existpeople whose very survival is threatened by science, technology, and natural law. Verity must submerge herself in this impossible reality to help save the last traces of their broken community. Her guides: a magician, his shadow-dog, a dying angel, and a knife-edged woman who is more than half ghost.
With great empathy and imagination, In Veritas explores the nature of truth and the complexities of human communication.
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Verity and Jacob exchange her pleading glance for his quick grin, and she edges into the front hall while he is still talking; it takes only a moment to slip on her shoes and lift her jacket and a soft grey scarf from the coat rack near the landing. A moment later and she is out the door, sliding her hands into her pockets.
If the inside of the townhouse can be a well of confusion, marked by odd flurries of light and the snapping ozone of Jacob's ranging hobbies, then the city, as always, is a tornado. Verity stops on the front step and closes her eyes until she can reconcile the clouds that passing traffic sends snaking across her vision, and the way the sun's warmth smells of oil and cloves. Only when she finds her balance among the sounds of the street does she allow herself to look at the spreading leaves of the oak tree, which chime like bells and lightly sting her fingertips, or the slab of sidewalk that tastes of lint and soiled leather.
When the world resolves itself, the dog is waiting for her. It is a worn shred of shadow sitting patiently at the foot of the stairs, and yet it has a particular solidity, as though the earth might crumble and open beneath the weight of its feet. Verity feels the gravity pull of it, and she stills for a long breath before judging it safe to descend the steps. The dog remains sitting, its yellow eyes watching. It wags its tail once.
Verity tries to keep her gaze steady, but there's a bird in the tree chirping a streak of mauve. Then the door has opened behind her and the two children are streaming out and down the stairs. The young boy's squeals are a spike through her temple. The mother follows more sedately, hands clenched on her purse and an irritated sigh puffing her lips. She pays Verity no attention whatsoever.
"Puppy!" yells the girl. The black dog bares its teeth and she wisely detours in the opposite direction, her small feet barely wavering. She has been distracted by something crumpled and dry on the sidewalk, about ten feet away. Her brother follows. Verity just glimpses the sad remnants of a cracked dragon wing and a scaled, half-flattened tail.
"Neat!" crows the boy.
His sister runs back to the base of the spreading tree. "I need a stick," she proclaims. "Need a stick. I wanna poke it." She sets one hand against the bark of the tree's trunk and stands on tiptoe, reaching up for the branches several feet above her head.
"What are youoh, leave that alone." The children's mother finds her voice, stepping forward, her heels clicking on the steps and then the concrete until she can get a view of the sidewalk and the crushed form that has caught her son's attention. "Don't touch that, honey. It's just a dead rat. It's full of germs." She ignores the dog, but she does cast a glare back over her shoulder at Verity. "Someone should keep the property cleaner."
Verity swallows the taste of cactus thornsshe wants to say we have no ratsbut when she opens her mouth, the woman has already moved on, grabbing the little boy's hand and herding both children further down the block. Her arm is already waving as she hails a taxi.
When Verity looks back at the sidewalk, she doesn't see wings anymoreonly matted fur and the stiff wormy twig of a broken tail now naked and pink.
The dog has paced several feet away down the sidewalk, where it sits once more, waiting attentively.
"You want me to go with you," she guesses slowly.
The dog waves its tail again.
The dog only cocks its head this time, one ear turning sideways.
Verity sees the world stretching jagged and uncertain before her; in the shadow-dog's attention, she feels the pull of the magician's gaze. In the maelstrom of the city, her balance shifts.
At her back is the familiar comfort of the townhousethe careful spaces she would know blindfolded, the golden dust of the kitchen and the safety of Jacob's flashing grin. She could turn and take five short steps to refuge.
On impulse, she draws a breath and turns slightly to the side, gesturing with her chin. "The, um, dead thing on the concrete," she says. "What is it? Did you see a rat, too?"
She is, she realizes, standing on a city street, talking to a dog.
The dog looks at her. Then it wags its tail again, deliberately, and lets its black tongue spill out over its teeth.
It is, she thinks, laughing at her.
Verity sighs, and steps forward.