Noise reveals you, Todd Hewitt.”
A voice –
In the darkness –
I blink open my eyes. Everything is shadows and blur and it feels like the world’s spinning and my blood is too hot and my brain is clogged and I can’t think and it’s dark –
I blink again.
Just now, just now
we were in the square –
Just now she was in my arms –
She was dying
in my arms –
“Where is she?” I spit into the dark, tasting blood, my voice croaking, my Noise rising like a sudden hurricane, high and red and furious. “WHERE IS SHE?”
“I will be the one doing the asking here, Todd.”
That voice. His
Somewhere in the dark.
Somewhere behind me, somewhere unseen.
I blink again and the murk starts to turn into a vast room, the only light coming from a single window, a wide circle up high and far away, its glass not clear but colored into shapes of New World and its two circling moons, the light from it slanting down onto me and nothing else. “What have you done with her?”
I say, loud, blinking against fresh blood trickling into my eyes. I try to reach up to clear it away but I find my hands are tied behind my back and panic rises in me and I struggle against the binds and my breathing speeds up and I shout again, “WHERE IS SHE?”
A fist comes from nowhere and punches me in the stomach.
I lean forward into the shock of it and realize I’m tied to a wooden chair, my feet bound to its legs, my shirt gone somewhere up on a dusty hillside and as I’m throwing up my empty stomach I notice there’s carpet beneath me, repeating the same pattern of New World and its moons, over and over and over, stretching out forever.
And I’m remembering we were in the square, in the square where I’d run, holding her, carrying her, telling her to stay alive, stay alive till we got safe, till we got to Haven so I could save her –
But there weren’t
no safety, no safety at all, there was just him
and his men and they took her from me, they took
her from my arms –
“You notice that he does not ask, Where am I?”
says the Mayor’s voice, moving out there, somewhere. “His first words are, Where is she?
, and his Noise says the same. Interesting.”
My head’s throbbing along with my stomach and I’m waking up some more and I’m remembering I fought
them, I fought them when they took her till the butt of a gun smashed
against my temple and knocked me into blackness –
I swallow away the tightness in my throat, swallow away the panic and the fear –
Cuz this is the end, ain’t it?
The end of it all.
The Mayor has me.
The Mayor has her.
“If you hurt her –” I say, the punch still aching in my belly. Mr. Collins stands in front of me, half in shadow, Mr. Collins who farmed corn and cauliflower and who tended the Mayor’s horses and who stands over me now with a pistol in a holster, a rifle slung round his back and a fist rearing up to punch me again.
“She seemed quite hurt enough already, Todd,” the Mayor says, stopping Mr. Collins. “The poor thing.”
My fists clench in their bindings. My Noise feels lumpy and half-battered but it still rises with the memory of Davy Prentiss’s gun pointed at us, of her falling into my arms, of her bleeding and gasping –
And then I make it go even redder with the feel of my own fist landing on Davy Prentiss’s face, of Davy Prentiss falling from his horse, his foot caught in the stirrup, dragged away like so much trash.
“Well,” the Mayor says, “that explains the mysterious whereabouts of my son
And if I didn’t know better, I’d say he sounded almost amused
But I notice the only way I can tell this is from the sound of his voice, a voice sharper and smarter than any old Prentisstown voice he might once have had, and that the nothing I heard coming from him when I ran into Haven is still a big nothing in whatever room this is and it’s matched by a big nothing from Mr. Collins.
They ain’t got Noise.
Neither of ’em.
The only Noise here is mine, bellering like an injured calf.
I twist my neck to find the Mayor but it hurts too much to turn very far and all I can tell is that I’m sitting in the single beam of dusty, colored sunlight in the middle of a room so big I can barely make out the walls in the far distance.
And then I do see a little table in the darkness, set back just far enough so I can’t make out what’s on it.
Just the shine of metal, glinting and promising things I don’t wanna think about.
“He still thinks of me as Mayor,” his voice says, sounding light and amused again.
“It’s President Prentiss now, boy,” grunts Mr. Collins. “You’d do well to remember that.”
“What have you done with her?” I say, trying to turn again, this way and that, wincing at the pain in my neck. “If you touch
her, I’ll –”
“You arrive in my town this very morning,” interrupts the Mayor, “with nothing in your possession, not even the shirt on your back, just a girl in your arms who has suffered a terrible accident –”
My Noise surges. “It was no accident
“A very bad accident indeed,” continues the Mayor, his voice giving the first hint of the impayshunce I heard when we met in the square. “So very bad that she is near death and here is the boy who we have spent so much of our time and energy trying to find, the boy who has caused us so much trouble, offering himself up to us willingly
, offering to do anything we wish if we just save the girl
and yet when we try to do just that –”
“Is she all right? Is she safe?”
The Mayor stops and Mr. Collins steps forward and backhands me across the face. There’s a long moment as the sting spreads across my cheek and I sit there, panting.
Then the Mayor steps into the circle of light, right in front of me.
He’s still in his good clothes, crisp and clean as ever, as if there ain’t a man underneath there at all, just a walking talking block of ice. Even Mr. Collins has sweat marks and dirt and the smell you’d expect but not the Mayor, no.
The Mayor makes you look like yer nothing but a mess that needs cleaning up.
He faces me, leans down so he’s looking into my eyes.
And then he gives me an asking, like he’s only curious.
“What is her name, Todd?”
I blink, surprised. “What?”
“What is her name?” he repeats.
Surely he must know her name. Surely it must be in my Noise –
“You know her name,” I say.
“I want you to tell me.”
I look from him to Mr. Collins, standing there with his arms crossed, his silence doing nothing to hide a look on his face that would happily pound me into the ground.
“One more time, Todd,” says the Mayor lightly, “and I would very much like for you to answer. What is her name? This girl from across the worlds.”
“If you know she’s from across the worlds,” I say, “then you must know her name.”
And then the Mayor smiles, actually smiles
And I feel more afraid than ever.
Copyright © 2009 by Patrick Ness. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.