Shadowfever (Fever #5)

by Karen Marie Moning

YOU WISH TO KNOW ME?

POSIT YOURSELF AS THE PINPOINT CENTER OF ONE OF YOUR KALEIDOSCOPES, AND GRASP TIME AS THE COLORFUL FRAGMENTS ERUPTING FROM YOU IN A MULTITUDE OF DIMENSIONS THAT CONSTANTLY EXPAND OUTWARD IN AN EVER-WIDENING, EVER-SHIFTING, INFINITE ARRAY. SEE THAT YOU CAN CHOOSE AND EXPAND FROM ANY OF THOSE UNCOUNTABLE DIMENSIONS AND THAT, WITH EACH CHOICE, THOSE DIMENSIONS WIDEN AND SHIFT AGAIN. INFINITY COMPOUNDED EXPONENTIALLY. UNDERSTAND THAT THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS REALITY: THE FALSE GOD YOUR RACE WORSHIPS WITH SUCH BLIND DEVOTION. REALITY IMPLIES A SINGLE POSSIBLE.

YOU ACCUSE ME OF ILLUSION. YOU—WITH YOUR ABSURD CONSTRUCT OF LINEAR TIME. YOU FASHION FOR YOURSELF A PRISON OF WATCHES, CLOCKS, AND CALENDARS. YOU RATTLE BARS FORGED OF HOURS AND DAYS, BUT YOU’VE PADLOCKED THE DOOR WITH PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE.

PUNY MINDS NEED PUNY CAVES.

YOU CANNOT GAZE UPON TIME’S TRUE FACE ANY MORE THAN YOU CAN BEHOLD MINE.

TO APPREHEND YOURSELF AS THE CENTER, TO SIMULTANEOUSLY PERCEIVE ALL COMBINATIONS OF ALL POSSIBLES, SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO MOVE IN ANY DIRECTION—“DIRECTION” BEING A VERY LIMITED METHOD OF ATTEMPTING TO CONVEY A CONCEPT FOR WHICH YOUR RACE HAS NO WORD—THAT IS WHAT IT IS TO BE ME.

—CONVERSATIONS WITH THE SINSAR DUBH

1

Hope strengthens. Fear kills.

Someone really smart told me that once.

Every time I think I’m getting wiser, more in control of my actions, I go slamming into a situation that makes me excruciatingly aware that all I’ve succeeded in doing is swapping one set of delusions for a more elaborate, attractive set of delusions—that’s me, the Queen of Self-Deception.

I hate myself right now. More than I’d ever have thought possible.

I squat on the cliff’s edge, screaming, cursing the day I was born, wishing my biological mother had drowned me at birth. Life is too hard, too much to handle. Nobody told me there’d be days like these. How could nobody tell me there’d be days like these? How could they let me grow up like that—happy and pink and stupid?

The pain I feel is worse than anything the Sinsar Dubh has ever done to me. At least when the Book is crushing me, I know it’s not my own fault.

This moment?

Mea culpa. Beginning to end, all the way, I own this one, and there will never be any hiding from that fact.

I thought I’d lost everything.

How ignorant I was. He warned me. I had so much more to lose!

I want to die.

It’s the only way to stop the pain.

Months ago, on a hellishly long night, in a grotto beneath the Burren, I wanted to die, too, but it wasn’t the same. Mallucé was going to torture me to death, and dying was the only chance I had of denying him that twisted pleasure. My death had been inevitable. I saw little point in drawing it out.

I’d been wrong. I’d given up hope and nearly died because of it.

I would have died—if not for Jericho Barrons.

He’s the one who taught me those words.

That simple adage is master of every situation, every choice. Each morning we wake up, we get to choose between hope and fear and apply one of those emotions to everything we do. Do we greet the things that come our way with joy? Or suspicion?

Hope strengthens …

Not once did I permit myself to feel any hope about the person lying facedown in a pool of blood. Not once did I use it to strengthen our bond. I let the onus of our relationship rest on broader shoulders. Fear. Suspicion. Mistrust drove my every action.

And now it’s too late to take any of it back.

I stop screaming and begin to laugh. I hear the madness in it.

I don’t care.

My spear sticks up, a cruel javelin, mocking me. I remember stealing it.

For a moment, I’m back in the dark, rain-slicked Dublin streets, descending into the sewer systems with Barrons, breaking into Rocky O’Bannion’s private cache of religious artifacts. Barrons is wearing jeans and a black T-shirt. Muscles ripple in his body as he casts aside the sewer lid with the ease of a man tossing a Frisbee in the park.

He’s disturbingly sexual, to men and women alike, in a way that sets your teeth on edge. With Barrons, you aren’t sure if you’re going to get fucked or turned inside out and left a new, unrecognizable person, adrift with no moorings, on a sea with no bottom and no rules.

I was never immune to him. There were merely degrees of denial.

My respite is too brief. The memory vanishes and I am again confronted with the reality that threatens to shatter my hold on sanity.

Fear kills …

Literally.

I can’t say it. I can’t think it. I can’t begin to absorb it.