Her spirit cast adrift, Kieli finds herself trapped in the world of Harvey's past and witnessing the worst day of a young Ephraim's life. Can she - with a little help from Harvey in the land of the living - find her way back to her body? Perhaps more importantly, is there anything she can do for the spirits who have taken her under their wing?
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Kieli, Vol. 6 (novel)The Sunlit Garden Where It Began (Part 2)
By Kabei, Yukako
Yen PressCopyright © 2012 Kabei, Yukako
All right reserved.
THE SUNLIT GARDEN WHERE IT BEGAN, THE NIGHTTIME LABYRINTH WITH NO END
Episode 3: Neverland-II
We got word that your mother’s just passed away.
Wondering to himself whether he would have wanted to go home if he’d had any memories of his parents when he came back to life, Harvey suddenly remembered hearing someone tell him that.
He’d found himself thinking about the past a lot these last few days. Maybe it was Christoph’s influence. Defining “rebirth” just as the true first time—in other words, the time when he’d first become an Undying—he’d been sure he had almost no memories from before his rebirth. (He’d actually died and come back to life several more times after that, not that it was his favorite thing to think about, and he hadn’t lost any memories those times. He figured having your core taken out must be more like being in suspended animation.) And yet, when he finally buckled down after all these years and probed his mind for anything he might remember from before his death, he sometimes surprised himself by abruptly discovering new things—just fragments, tiny bits and pieces—buried down there near the bottom of his memories. It was like finding an old book that had been gathering dust in the basement for decades and then opening it, only to see all the pages fall out of its disintegrated binding and spill onto the floor every which way, so that he couldn’t tell what order they should go in anymore.
Still, he couldn’t find a single direct memory of his parents in the “pages” he’d gathered. But if he remembered someone telling him she’d “passed away,” that must mean that if nothing else, by the time he died his mother was already gone. In other words, going home had never been an option in the first place. He felt a little deflated.
He didn’t know exactly how old he’d been when he’d heard the news, but he got the impression he’d heard it at school, as a kid (even the fact that he’d gone to school was a revelation, although now that he thought about it, it was only logical). From what he could guess of the circumstances, his mother must have been hospitalized or something.
We got word that your mother’s just passed away.
The person saying it had been his homeroom teacher or someone, in a voice filled with sympathy. He didn’t remember what his reaction had been. Or rather, he got the feeling that maybe he hadn’t shown any particular reaction.
Anyway, that piece of his memory was fuzzy, and he couldn’t call up a mental picture of the conversation. There was just one scene that his memory did have full visuals for, though: himself, probably that same day, standing on the landing of the stairwell and silently crying. It was an oddly clear little picture, though faded. He’d gone through the whole day just like always, and then long after school let out, when the building was empty, he’d cried all by himself.
… Apparently that was the kind of kid he’d been. I could laugh; that sounds so much like “me.”
It was the eighth night of the Colonization Days holiday. There were only two more left. We should leave Westerbury the day after tomorrow, he thought, walking back into Shiman’s camp to find Nana standing under the light. She ran up to him as soon as she caught sight of him.
“Harry, welcome ba—”
But before she could finish, she tripped and fell flat on her face, squashing the radio around her neck, which cried, “Ow!” (as if it could possibly hurt!).
Fortunately, Nana bounced right back to her feet, so Harvey thought she must be fine—until he saw the blood oozing steadily out of some pretty amazing scrapes on both of her knees. He sighed and started walking toward her. Nana was standing in place, looking down at her legs with no reaction whatsoever; but as soon as he picked her up, her arms came up to cling around his neck and she started bawling, as if it had only now occurred to her.
“Talk about delayed reaction.” It kind of made him wonder if kids calculated the timing of their crying. Turning his face slightly away from the voice wailing right into his ear, he dropped his gaze to the radio squashed between them. “Where’s Kieli?” He got a burst of peeved static instead of a verbal answer. Apparently the Corporal had been ditched again today.
“Nana, what happened?”
Harvey looked up to see Nana’s mother running up to them from the trailers—she must have heard the crying—so he abandoned his conversation with the radio. “She tripped and fell.”
“Oh dear. I feel bad that you’re always having to help, but thank you.” As he relinquished the fussy child and lifted the radio off of her neck, he tried asking her mother instead.
“Isn’t Kieli here?”
“Oh, no, she’s not. I saw her leaving as I got back this evening.”
Harvey sighed. “Thanks…”
What is that girl doing…? He was about to walk away when a voice piped up, “She went to go see her man!”
Harvey turned to see five or six members of the troupe just making their way past him after cleaning away their card game. “I hear that passerby that helped her out the other day is pretty good-looking. You treat her so cold, she probably left you for him, huh?” teased Rat, wearing his usual grin. Behind him, Bearfoot paled and whispered, “Cut it out! I’m telling you, he’s scary…”
Before Harvey could say anything, a voice from the radio suddenly shouted, “What are you, stupid?! She would never—” He hid the Corporal behind his back and kicked him to shut him up, silently fuming, What’s gotten into you? You can’t talk in front of them! By the time he’d taken care of that, he’d forgotten what he’d intended to say to them, so his answer ended up just being “Huh.”
“ ‘Huh’?” Rat echoed. “That’s it?” He seemed disappointed.
“It’s not something for me to butt into,” Harvey spat, wishing they’d just give it a rest already. He was already stalking away by the time he’d finished the sentence.
He stopped to take a drink at the watering place out back and stuck his head under the faucet to wash his face while he was at it. He’d wanted to be alone, so it was a stroke of luck that nobody else was around—but since the radio took advantage of their solitude to launch a stream of complaints at him, it was hard to decide whether it was good luck or bad luck.
“The whole reason Kieli’s been acting weird lately is because YOU won’t take a line and stick to it, you know! Take some responsibility and try harder to find out where she’s going and what she’s doing!”
“Oh, not you too, Corporal…” Could he actually be taking what Rat said seriously? “She doesn’t want to tell me when I ask her, so what do you want me to do? Just let her do what she wants. It’s on her own head.”
“Do you actually mean that?”
“I told her to tell me if something happens. I’m not going to nag her anymore about it until she says something. She’s not a little kid anymore, so I guess she’ll take responsibility for her own actions.”
The radio gave a snort. “Yeah, you can try to sound wise all you want, but the truth is that you’re just afraid to get insistent with her, in case she calls you out for being a hypocrite.”
Harvey couldn’t think of any immediate reply to that. He froze there with the back of his head under the still-running faucet for a while before he finally reached up to turn it off, wrenching the knob more violently than strictly necessary. “… Shut up.” When he raised his head, he found himself more or less facing off against the radio, which was dangling off the pipe in front of him at eye level. Grimacing at the water that dripped down from his bangs, he shot the Corporal a hooded glare.
“Don’t blame it all on me. This isn’t about me—you’re feeling jealous because she keeps leaving you behind, aren’t you?”
He’d just said the first thing that came into his head, but apparently he’d been right, because after a short bark of static, the radio was the one to fall silent this time.
They glared sourly at each other, eye to center-of-speaker, before Harvey looked away with a sigh. It wasn’t as though the Corporal had been any less right about him, after all. It was true that the reason he hated interfering with people was that he didn’t want to be interfered with—and considering the way Kieli’d spoken to him last night, she’d definitely noticed that he wasn’t healing as fast as he should. He’d been a little unsettled by that, so when Bearfoot had shown up, he’d seized on the chance to end the conversation without ever asking where she was going.
He’d never thought he’d be able to hide it from her for long, but still, it had come out faster than he’d expected. Had he handed her direct proof, somehow? Harvey mentally tallied up his mistakes. Apart from getting called out on the cut he’d given himself bumping into that sign, he couldn’t think of anything in the last few days…
Suddenly it was just too much of a pain to worry about it. He couldn’t change anything anyway.
Giving his face and hair a perfunctory wipe-down with the hood of his parka, he shoved aside all the confusion and forced his mind to go blank. When he looked up at the sound of running footsteps, a familiar face was just rounding the corner of the trailer.
“… You again?” And what’s with the “Mr.” all of a sudden? He glared out of the corner of his eye, and Bearfoot paled, losing all his momentum and cringing nervously. (Harvey didn’t think he’d particularly threatened the guy, but apparently Bearfoot was scared of him now for some reason.)
In no time, though, he recovered enough to burst out, “The leader says to come right away!”
“Just come on!” he cried, practically stamping his feet. Harvey traded an uneasy look with the radio as he unhooked it from the water pipe. Bearfoot, meanwhile, had already taken off running, seeming too impatient to wait even for that. He was trotting back along the trailer wall, and after a beat, Harvey followed. When he turned the corner, he saw a thin crowd of performers gathering in the clearing.
Harvey squinted into the darkness beyond the clearing and came to an automatic and immediate halt. Parked there with its headlights still on was a single light truck, its body painted a shade of black that melted into the night around them. Around the back stood two or three figures in white clerical robes.
Church Soldiers… What are they doing here?
When Bearfoot jogged up close to them, Shiman turned from a conversation with one of the soldiers.
“Harvey. Just get over here.”
Shiman had to know exactly why he didn’t want to get near any Church Soldiers, and he could hear that knowledge in the man’s voice, but the commanding tone made it plain he wasn’t going to accept a refusal. When Harvey stepped cautiously toward them, the soldier who’d been speaking with Shiman took a look at Harvey’s face (at the patch over his right eye, more like), and raised his eyebrows a little. “Oh, it’s you.”
There was the casually overbearing attitude that all Church Soldiers had, but Harvey didn’t sense any particular hostility in the way he talked. He rummaged through his memories, wondering if they’d met somewhere before, and just barely managed to fish the man’s face out of one of the many memories filed under “couldn’t care much less.” He was pretty sure this guy was that platoon commander who’d been at the station the day they’d arrived in Westerbury.
He looked questioningly at Shiman.
The only answer he got was a harsh-voiced question: “Harvey, why weren’t you with Kieli today?”
Harvey had no idea what that had to do with anything, and it sure as hell didn’t explain what he’d been called here for. He didn’t try to hide the irritation on his face as he said, “No reason…” Why was everybody ganging up on him about that today?
Shiman gave a displeased sigh and broke off the conversation for a minute to scatter the performers who’d come up to see what the commotion was. “You don’t all have to stick around here. There’s nothing to worry about, so just go on about your business.” He waited to turn back to Harvey until there were a few less eyes on them.
“Westerbury isn’t a carefree little place like those country towns you find east or south of here. You can’t tell me you don’t know how dangerous it is for a girl to go wandering around downtown at night by herself.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Kieli went downtown today, didn’t she?”
“…” That’s news to me. When he clammed up instead of answering, Shiman continued, admonishing him in a low voice.
“You’re the only one she has. Be responsible and look out for her.”
“Shiman, what are you talking about?” Harvey repeated, frowning. He was getting lectured for something he didn’t even understand without getting any answers to his own questions, and it was seriously starting to piss him off. “Do I have to know what Kieli’s doing every second of the day?” he growled, half to the troupe leader and half directing a protest toward the radio. “It’s not like I’m her guardi—”
Before he could even get the sentence out, a fist flew at his right cheek out of nowhere. His guard had been down completely, not to mention the fact that Shiman, who was right-handed, had deliberately come at him from Harvey’s blind side with his left fist; by the time he figured out what was happening, the blow sent him flying. Reflex kicked in before thought, and he shot his left hand out fast enough to keep himself from hitting the ground full-on, but he’d lost hold of the radio. It tumbled away along the ground.
Never mind the pain or the rebellion some part of him must be feeling; for now he was mostly just feeling surprised at being punched. Propped there inches from a flat-assed landing on the ground, he raised his head and gaped blankly up at the other man. Shiman turned away without even sparing him a glance. Shaking out his left hand, he called out, “Bearfoot, you help carry her. You can put her in my truck.”
Bearfoot, who hadn’t gone back with the others, jumped up as if he’d been stung. Then he circled around to the back of the Church Soldiers’ truck, keeping the corner of his eye on Harvey all the while. Harvey heard him exchange formalities with the soldiers, and then before long he was climbing back down to the ground, carrying something big and heavy wrapped up in a blanket.
Shiman was still standing in front of him; over his shoulder Harvey saw the long black hair of the girl whose head was lolling on Bearfoot’s arm.
… He saw it, but that was all: His brain hadn’t caught up to his eye.
His mental gears had ground to a halt the second he’d been hit, and they wouldn’t start back up again. He’d missed his chance to stand up somehow, so he stayed sitting on the ground, watching the girl being carried away without any real reaction. Even when he saw the scrape on her cheek and the condition her clothes were in where the blanket didn’t quite cover them, for the moment, at least, he didn’t feel a thing. His eye was just superficially recording images.
After a small eternity the wheels began sluggishly moving at last, but one or two of them still didn’t quite engage…
And the first thing he registered was how grateful he was to Shiman.
If the man hadn’t hit him beforehand, he probably would’ve killed someone right then and there.
The park’s night watchman had found Kieli collapsed at the bottom of the footbridge, the Church Soldiers had been informed, and by sheer coincidence that platoon commander had been the one to respond. He’d recognized Kieli’s face, so she’d just been given rudimentary first aid and then transported to the camp. That much Harvey more or less grasped from the conversation Shiman and the others were having a little way off. But as he sat rolling the chipped-off fragment of one of his back teeth around on his tongue, about half of their words washed right over him without registering. He’d cut his tongue on the broken tooth. It hadn’t stopped bleeding yet, and his mouth was full of its bitter metallic taste.
The overhead light wrapped the rear of the truck in a dim glow. It wasn’t a wide space to begin with, and it was packed with luggage to boot. The truck Shiman called home was the only one to have a real, if simple, built-in bed: a perk of being troupe leader. Harvey crouched down next to it and gazed up close at the face of the girl lying on it. Though everything around them was bathed in yellow light, her scraped cheeks seemed to stand out, looking horribly pale. Suddenly Harvey felt uneasy. He touched her forehead with his left hand, and felt the relief come over him when he made out a faint but definite warmth there.
He didn’t care who’d found her. More importantly—
“… Who did they say did this?” he murmured without raising his eye. At the very edge of his peripheral vision he could see Shiman and the platoon leader, who were deep in conversation where they sat on the rim of the trailer bed, turn toward him. The platoon leader shook his head.
“They were long gone when we found her. I’m sure it was some of those downtown punks, though.”
“Huh. Downtown, eh?” repeated Harvey in an incongruously emotionless voice. That was all; he hadn’t said a word about what he planned to do next, but Shiman cut him off at the pass just as if he’d gone on speaking.
“Now look, you,” the troupe leader said sharply. “Don’t you even think about storming out there to find them right now, you understand? Stay with her.”
Harvey didn’t reply. Still without raising his head, he lightly brushed a lock of hair off her cheek. When he leaned his head in close, there was a sharp disinfectant smell. He touched his forehead to hers and mumbled, “I’m sorry…”
And that’s when he realized something was off.
He froze in that position for a few seconds before abruptly raising his head and staring hard again at the face of this girl who looked for all the world like she was just asleep.
Obviously there was no answer, but—something was wrong. “… Herbie,” whispered the radio he’d set on the pillow, pitched so that only Harvey could hear. He cast a sidelong glance at it, and they silently confirmed their thoughts with one another. Now Harvey was sure what was off.
She wasn’t there.
Somewhere behind him voices were exchanging pleasantries, and he could sense the two men at the truck entrance standing up.
At Shiman’s call, he finally turned to face them for the first time. The platoon commander had already left the truck and set off walking, but Shiman stopped in front of the entrance and jerked his chin, as though he wanted Harvey to come with him.
Harvey stood up without paying attention and whacked his head against the low ceiling. He didn’t react to that, though; he just started walking away from the bed, and then, a thought striking him, he leaned lightly back down and grabbed the radio’s strap. When he climbed out of the truck with it, Shiman was waiting outside. The troupe leader signaled with his eyes at the platoon commander’s robed back.
“We’re lucky; he’s a pretty understanding sort of guy. I’m going to the station with him for a bit while I’m paying my thanks. I trust I can leave things here to you?”
Halfway through the word, the pool of blood in his mouth got caught in his throat, and the thank-you he’d meant to say never came out. Instead, he coughed up a few gobs of blood and that shard of tooth; when Shiman looked down at them, his expression softened and he looked a little embarrassed.
“It’s fine,” Harvey said, shaking his head. He wiped the corner of his mouth with his coat sleeve. “Your hand’s probably worse off. You really let it fly.”
Shiman laughed, massaging his left hand. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve always wanted to try taking a swing at an Undying.” He flashed Harvey a grin. He might’ve said “Sorry,” but he sure didn’t seem particularly sorry. Not that Harvey could really say he cared.
“Good, so you can talk now. You’re sane, then?”
Hearing the words out of someone else’s mouth, it finally hit him how normally he was managing to respond to conversation. Harvey’s head felt so clear it surprised even him.
“I’m fine,” he repeated, more definitely. A hand reached out and ruffled his hair—not a stuffed bunny’s this time, but a normal human hand. He was released quickly, and by the time he’d shaken his head and raised his eye to look, Shiman had already turned his back and begun walking away. Harvey could see the headlights of the truck that had brought Kieli here from where it was parked across the clearing.
After the sounds of several doors opening and closing, the beams changed direction and pulled away toward the camp exit to the loud accompaniment of fossil-fuel engine noise and tires crunching over rocky ground. But the sounds faded into the night even as he watched, and soon the usual faint white noise of the camp nights returned. The atmosphere in Shiman’s troupe’s quarters seemed a little strained now, but the other troupes were probably spending their night just like they always did.
As if to disrupt that peaceful silence, grating, ear-splitting static began to stream from the speaker of the radio dangling from his hand.
“… Who the hell did this?… I swear I’ll kill the bastard…!”
“Corporal,” he admonished quietly, but the static only got louder, and black particles spewed forth from the radio’s speaker in time with its snarling breaths, swirling together to form the face of an enraged soldier.
“Corporal, calm down,” Harvey repeated, sighing. “Don’t YOU tell me to calm down!” The fuzzy soldier’s mouth moved in concert with the howl of the speaker. “That’s why I told you to worm it out of her! This is all your fault for being so goddamn indecisive!”
“I know it’s my fault.”
“Then where do you get off looking so calm and—”
“Shut up and calm the hell down!” Harvey shouted back abruptly, jabbing his fist straight out to the left and slamming it into the side of the truck. The impact made a resounding bang and rocked the whole vehicle. A split second later the body of the radio swinging from his hand by its strap crashed into the wall, and the noise-cloud scattered like a swarm of insects dispersing.
The static cut off. Suddenly the mood was broken, and everything around them was quiet. Harvey stayed stiff for a while, clenched fist still pressed into the truck wall. Then:
“You calm now?” he muttered in a low voice.
“… Yeah.” The radio’s voice answered him back in the same lowered tones, and at that Harvey finally peeled his fist away from the wall and lowered his arm. The wall was more than a little warped, and some of the paint had come off, but it was an old truck to begin with. Probably nobody would notice as long as he didn’t say anything. A little of the radio’s paint had peeled off too, bringing it that much closer to junk.
Any other day, the girl sleeping in the truck might’ve jumped awake in a panic, but fortunately—if “fortunately” was a word he could use for this—there was no sign of her stirring.
Harvey’s left hand began to throb insistently. Maybe he’d cracked a bone. He didn’t shut out the pain, though; he just let it be.
“I’m heading out to look for Kieli. You stay here.”
“Don’t be stupid! Of course I’m coming with—”
The radio’s anger was rising again, but Harvey cut it off. “Somebody’s got to keep an eye on this one too, and you know it,” he reasoned quietly. “I’m asking you because you’re the only one I can trust.”
There were no more objections after that.
His left hand throbbed. When he clenched it into a tight fist it hurt even worse, but in exchange his mind cleared. Harvey felt as though he should probably be surprised at how coolheadedly he was managing to think right now.
For maybe the first time he could remember, he was very seriously thinking about how to best kill someone he’d never even seen.
Kieli had entered boarding school the spring she was eight years old, when her grandmother died. Up until that point she’d never been to a real school; she’d just gone to a Church “playscheme” program two or three times a week. Considering that she’d been plunged into third grade with so little experience, not to mention the fact that (and this was probably the more important reason) she’d begun to grow introverted pretty much overnight, it seemed only natural that she’d had a hard time making any friends.
Now she found those memories springing to her mind as she walked slowly down the corridor, killing time.
She’d been far shorter than the average child; she remembered the top shelves of the lockers, the latches on the windows, and the flyers on the bulletin board all being too high up for her to reach, even when she stood on her toes. But now, walking down a hallway of classrooms for about that same grade level, everything was within easy reach. Nothing came higher than chest level.
Kieli’d come to this school just a few hours earlier, so it shouldn’t have held any memories for her, but for some reason the smell of it made her feel nostalgic. The long corridors, the dusty overhead lights, the thin tin-plated lockers, the bulletin board covered with ragged posters—they were all old and faded, but it was easy to tell that they’d been well loved and well used for many years. It all made for a tender scene that harmonized with the sandy sky outside the windows.
While she’d been getting her scrapes disinfected in the nurse’s office earlier, she’d heard a little bit about this ruined city and the school. (And “a little” really meant a little… the redheaded boy didn’t particularly like explaining things. Kieli couldn’t say that was unexpected.) Most of the students had evacuated once the street fighting had gotten worse. There were less than ten still at the school, all of them orphans. There wasn’t a single teacher left, either. A school where children lived all by themselves…
And apparently this place really was South Westerbury after all. But in the South Westerbury Kieli knew, the War had ended long ago, and there was a theme park standing over the ruins of this city.
I… guess I must be a wandering spirit now, huh…
The other Kieli lying on the ground hadn’t looked dead. She hadn’t exactly observed things very carefully, since she’d fled in confusion almost right away, but that Kieli hadn’t seemed obviously dead to her like the corpses of those soldiers she’d seen in the ruins. The spirit leaving the body—after Bearfoot had told her about his ability, it had occurred to her that she might have it, too; so, since getting here, she’d been figuring that maybe she’d unconsciously done it. Half figuring, and half hoping like mad.
Still, that didn’t explain what this space she was in now was…
When she ran her fingers over one of the hallway’s window frames, it felt cold and real. She’d gotten her wounds treated just like normal, too. The antiseptic had stung, and she’d cried out a little before she could stop herself.
She could understand that this was apparently the town back in the War era, but she had no idea what’d happened, what kind of space she’d wandered into, how to get home, or even if she could get home.
Harvey… I want to go home…
Thrusting her hands into her coat pockets, she trudged down the hallway with her head lowered. Now that she’d noticed how oversized her sixteen-year-old self was for the younger kids’ hallway, alongside the nostalgia came a feeling that she was a lone outsider, alienated from this place. It made the at-loose-ends feeling even keener.
“Aw, isn’t it time yet?”
“Just a little longer!”
Bright, excited voices and a warm, milky scent wafted to her from the other end of the hallway. Kieli lifted her head to see a sliding door a little way in front of her. It was wider than the normal classroom doors, and above it was a green sign with the word LUNCHROOM painted in white ink.
She walked past it and peeked quietly inside through the open hallway window.
“Yay, it’s got milk in it today!”
“It’s for our guest.”
“You’re in the way! If you’re going to stand there, carry that for me.”
There wasn’t much equipment left in it, but it seemed to be a kitchen, just as the sign had said. Five or six kids were pushing at each other as they gathered in front of a stockpot on a commercial stove that stood a little too high for a child to use.
At first Kieli thought they must all be working together to cook, but when she looked closer she saw that only about two of them were actually working; the rest were just chatting or peering into the pot and trying to sneak a taste. Aluminum bowls filled with milky-white soup were crammed so closely together on the counter that they rattled against each other, and the one on the end looked so much like it was going to fall off any moment that Kieli found herself getting anxious.
“Hey, Sarah’s putting more of the good stuff in Joachim’s soup than anyone else’s!” teased one of the younger boys.
“Cut it out, that’s not true!” the girl standing at the pot doing most of the work denied, red-faced. Kieli figured she must be in sixth or seventh grade. Her shyness was so cute that Kieli forgot the circumstances long enough to let out an embarrassed laugh of her own.
“Joachim”… they must mean the same Joachim…
She remembered the corpse-robbing boy who’d brought her here from the ruins of the battlefield. He’d certainly had the same cold blue-gray eyes as that Joachim.
And then there was the other one…
“Tick, tock, tick, tock!” Kieli heard an excited young voice sing to herself. She tore her eyes from the lunchroom and turned around to see the redheaded boy and the girl he’d called Elisha walking side by side up the hallway. Big bandages adorned the bare knees that peeked out from under Elisha’s jumper. Ephraim had patched Kieli up first without giving her any choice in the matter and then kicked her out of the nurse’s office, which was the whole reason she’d been wandering the hallways at loose ends.
“Tick, tock, tick, tock!”
Elisha had been crying just a little while ago, but it seemed like she was as good as new already. She was stressing the rhythm of the “tick, tock” bit a little and half-marching to the sound of her own voice. One foot lifted high in the air on each “tick,” and on the “tock” it hit the floor with a loud stomp. Kieli thought that would’ve made Elisha’s legs hurt more, but she didn’t appear to mind.
“You’re making too much noise,” criticized her companion, scowling. Elisha stopped singing and turned to look up at the taller boy next to her.
“When will the school clock stop, Effy? When the old incimmerator man dies?”
“ ‘Incinerator’… you mean the janitor? He’s been dead for ages.”
“So who has to die for it to stop?”
The boy was stuck for a reply, and his fed-up expression and the way he let his gaze wander away from her were both exactly the same as Harvey’s reactions whenever Kieli asked him a difficult question. She pegged him as an eighth-or ninth-grader. He was about the same height as the boy Joachim; in other words, not too far off from her own. That made them average-sized for boys their age—a little smaller than average, in fact. Kieli’s imagination couldn’t even connect them with the two tall men she knew.
Excerpted from Kieli, Vol. 6 (novel) by Kabei, Yukako Copyright © 2012 by Kabei, Yukako. Excerpted by permission.
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