Amanda Lisle lives in Brooklyn, New York, where works as an editor, reads internet literary journals like an
addict, and spends lots of time writing at the Cocoa Bar. She has had stories published in the literary journals
Forge, in/vision, and Sunken Lines.
Hannah, the clouds are turning purple like the earth.
Janey. You were napping.
What are you weaving? Where’s Momma?
She’s at Center Basket with the Olders.
I dreamed the caravan crashed into a mountain. Too high up. People died.
We’re okay, Janey. Go get Momma.
I tightened my grip on the corner rope of the lookout basket and the bristles hurt my palm. The landscape was far below, mesas
with clusters of shattered pale yellow ridges swirling into light and dark purple ravines, not a territory safe for landings. Juno,
the tall kid, was looking at me with those eyes of his, blue-black, with long lashes and lids dark around the edges like he painted
them, the way girls do for Exchanges. He moved like there was a different kind of energy working through him, not like anyone
in my home ‘van. His hair was dark and flame-curly against the sky.
Behind Juno the clouds swayed. The wind was up; we’d be going faster now, on to nowhere. I could see the jagged black teeth
of mountains aways back of him, framed by the ropes. We were gathered in the Lookout, an end basket, floor just wide enough
for four to sit cross-legged in a circle, but we were all standing now, me with my back against one side, Juno against the other,
and the other two, a girl — Mina — and her boy against a third. Those two kissed when adults weren’t looking, though we were
all about fifteen and she’d be Exchanged at sixteen whether they liked it or not.
Juno was looking at me with his elbow propped almost the height of his head on the wicker ledge. I was thinking I lost more
that I loved. But I wouldn’t say. Mina had her arm looped around her boy. Her hair was short and her cheeks splotchy to match
her pink nose. She peeked at me from beyond the beak-nosed profile of her boyfriend.
“We think we can trust you,” she said. “You’re tough like us.”
On account of I survived, they thought I was tough. Stay tough, Momma had said on the mountain. All those people pressed
around us so close. Snow everywhere and wind that cut. We’d made a tent from the clothes of the dead. And the others
clustered against us for body-heat, people I’d grown up around but had never touched so much. And still I was shivering,
shivering and sweating at once. Momma’s hot breath in my hair, Stay tough. Baby, stay tough.
“Tell,” Juno said.
“Half us died in the crash,” I said, leaning against the wicker ledge and looking off. Far to the left another caravan was sailing in
the sky, black and gray air-balloons lined up in the sky all stuck together, X-marks and L-marks on the balloon faces where
repairs had been made. Eighty, maybe eighty-five baskets with bridges between, and lookout baskets like this one T-ed off on
“And the mountain,” Juno said.
“We got blown too high up before we crashed. There weren’t any settlements, no Inghchas, nothing.” I paused. “It was cold.”
“More people died on the mountain,” Mina said.
I sniffed and wiped my nose on the back of my hand. “More, yeah.”
“Any of yours?”
They were all mine.
“We were a hundred twenty-three before. Only thirty-three went back up.” Juno was looking, his look saying Tell. “My sister,” I
said. “She was eight.”
“Your mom went over quota,” Mina said. Her voice had finality. Condemning. I cut her a look she’d have to think about a while.
“Lucky we picked you up,” her boy said, his hand grazing her belly. “You’d’ve had to stay with the Inghchas as a slave or
something. Or fall. Any survivors fall?”
“Eighteen,” I said.
Juno whistled. “They shoulda waited,” he said. I turned and looked over the edge. We had left the mesas behind, the purple land
underneath with its curls of darker purple. People lived down there once.
“Was it a station there, where you were saved, or flat-out Inghcha-ville?” the girl asked.
“Flat-out Inghcha-ville,” I said. My eyes traced the S-curve of a deep purple river below. The fire screamed above us, a three-
second blast. We heard the popping of the other fires down the line, and the caravan swung upward with a lazy gesture. I
pulled my sweater around me, tying at the belt, and sucked on my lip. The S-curve of the river popped out in starbursts like it
had hair that had been electrified. I thought about my little blue sister Janey on the mountain. She had a dream once that our
caravan crashed into a mountain and I died in the snow. Close but no cigar, as Daddy said before he fell so long ago. Inside my
chest something hurt, but still I didn’t cry for her.
Nola was sitting on the floor of the squatter basket we’d acquired when Juno’s caravan responded to our flares from the
Inghcha camp on the death mountain. Nola was native to this ‘van. She hadn’t been chosen to have an Exchange when she was
young because of her nose. The rest of her face was pretty, but her nose jutted out at a broken angle, made for a face twice
the size of hers, and her pretty eyes tended to look crossways in its wake. She’d been stuck with me and Momma in this
squatter because her mother died and a new family took over hers. She was playing with her bird Jerry, all she ever did as far as
I could tell.
Nola had the bird perched on her finger, its green body ducking and nodding, blinking its black bead eyes. I was more fascinated
with Jerry than I wanted to be; I liked to watch her with it, could lose myself in that for hours. She held it upward now and
cooed at it, her thin mouth making a pert O under the surveillance-shadow of that nose. Jerry was an old bird, really old, Nola’s
mother’s from Land Days before the war, and that was thirty-two years ago now. I wondered why Jerry didn’t just fly away like
all the other birds I’d ever seen. Momma told me his wings were clipped, a thing they used to do in Land Days so they could
keep pretty birds in their houses.
“HIM and HER and The GENERAL,” Jerry said in Nola’s mother’s voice. “The GENERAL, Leaders bless them be.”
“He fell, and She fell, and The General flies among us,” Nola said to the bird. She glanced at me. “Say hello to Hannah,” she said
“Hello,” Jerry said. “HE fell, SHE fell.”
I sat down on the wicker floor across from Nola. “Why do we use the same word for falling and leaving?” I asked her. “In every
caravan it’s the same.” She looked at me, the green bird on her finger between us.
“What do you mean?”
“When someone falls from a ‘van, falls into the sky, we say they fell. When someone converts to Inghcha and stays on the
ground at the mountain stations, we say they fell.’ Why is it the same?”
“They are sinners,” she said. “They will have death like falling, burning while they fall.”
“That’s the same thing my mother says,” I said. I cross-hatched my fingers and stared into the spaces between. Jerry dropped
a fat bird-turd on the woven floor. “We have to live with birdshit carpeting our squatter,” I said, rising. I swung an arc from one
of the ropes, letting the bristles scratch my hands. “What if He or She of the legends didn’t really fall, but converted? Or what if
one of them jumped? What if our Leaders weren’t so sacred?”
Nola’s mouth got smaller and she lowered Jerry to her white-sweatered breast. “I’m telling your mother you said that,” she said.
“You know why you got a nice squatter? The man there threw his wife and child and then himself over the side. Just snapped
and chucked them. No one wanted that squatter,” Mina said. We were back in the Lookout basket, sitting on the floor. Her
boyfriend, Owen, sat behind her, chin on her shoulder. Juno was a Lookout at fifteen because the Olders liked him. He stood at
the corner, face propped on his hands. Scanning the land.
“He supposed to find our magical uncontaminated island?” I asked, looking up.
“When over the water,” Mina said. “Gotta look. The General says.”
“Thirty-two years,” I said. “More than twice any our lifetime. All these fucking caravans. No island.”
Mina looked at me beneath her brown bangs and then out the wicker gateway. “You aren’t supposed to say that,” she said.
There was a pause.
“Hannah’s right,” Juno said. “There’s no island.”
Mina and Owen craned their necks to look up at him. He’d said it before, I could tell. They looked at him without surprise.
“I have a book,” Juno said, still looking outward.
“We think we can trust you,” Mina said. “You have to be discreet.”
“Discreet,” I said.
“You’ve arrived at the forefront, Hannah,” Juno said, looking down. “You could be part of my trusted few. God is not as we’ve
I said nothing. I watched him. In him it seemed like a fire was always going, like his motor was always firing him higher and
higher to places we didn’t see.
“He has the sight,” Mina said. “In his dreams they come.”
“Translations,” Owen said. He kissed Mina’s cheek and looked at me half-lidded and intense, a crude Juno imitation. I thought,
Juno needs to teach him better.
“It’s the Inghcha Bible,” Juno said. “I’m translating it.”
“Planning to fall?” I asked him.
“No,” he said. “Planning to change. I’m translating it, and they didn’t get it right.”
When I’m older I’m going to have long hair like yours and I’m not going to wear it in a pony all the time. What is a pony?
Keeps my hair out of the way, Dummy.
A real pony, like in legends.
I don’t know, exactly. Animals, I guess, like the Ingchas have in their yards and fields.
If the Inghchas have our fuel, why don’t we like them better?
They have a different God, and we don’t like Him, I guess.
If they give us the cornfuel, what do we give them?
Wool from other Ingchas. Spices. Secrets.
I turned onto my back on my mat and stared at the straw and rope ceiling a foot above my face. It creaked and bulged as above
me, Nola shifted in her sleep. I pushed my sister from my mind.
There were pictures in the book Juno had showed me, of people in colorful robes, other people with light and wings, and a script
I couldn’t read. I asked him, Can you read this? And he smiled and said he couldn’t, not alone. How do you know this is the
Inghcha Bible? I asked. In his dreams, he said, an old man in robes sat with him in a lone basket hanging from a lone balloon.
This man told him that the book was sacred to Inghchas. They had made up their own way to read the script, but their way lead
them to the wrong conclusions. The old man translated the true words.
When you read it right, he told me, the book said: “Those who swing in the sky will rule Those who lived on the mountains.”
That meant that we, the sky-dwellers, own everything, even the cornfuel. We would bring them the news; then we would
organize them under us, and the warring between Inghcha factions would end and we would cease the spy game we play,
carrying information from one mountain tribe to the next.
In order to be worshipped as Sky-Swingers, I said, we’ll have to stay in the sky. That means never finding The General’s island.
Yes, Juno said. Worship will be the point. They will provide for us because we are custodians of their souls, not because we have
their stupid secrets.
This was The Key of Light, and Juno was The Illuminator. The General would stop him, I said. Juno smiled and said, The General
continues to dream the dream of the Island. People get tired of dreaming the same dream, especially when it is someone else’
s dream. And The General has to die someday.
I followed Mina with the rags under my sweater. We walked from basket to basket. On the rags Juno had written a message,
over and over. We were giving them to all the kids of the ‘van. I thought Juno’s “teachings” were between the four of us, but
Juno said many followed him, because he had the sight.
“You’re lucky, Hannah,” Mina said, pausing at the far side of a bridge. A baby was screaming in the next squatter, its baby-howl
slung into the wind. The earth swayed between the slats of the bridge below me. A pool of blackish green swirled into a swash
of yellow. Far to the right, the black ocean. Mina stood in my way. “Juno likes you. He says he senses your power. You’re
coming in right on top.”
“I’m not ambitious.”
“When the Exchange comes, you won’t have to leave this ‘van, ‘cause you’re not from here. You could be united with Juno, the
Illuminator. Do you know what that means?”
The bridge swayed and I had a chill, right up the back of my neck. “What does it mean to you? To be Exchanged?”
She raised her chin. “It means I won’t get Owen, but I’ll be an acolyte. Spreading Juno’s word. I’ll be a leader.”
The fires flared and the baskets began to rise. I squeezed the guide-ropes in my hands. “Let me through,” I said. Mina stood
still another moment, then she moved aside. I stepped past her. The baby screamed in the squatter and I heard somebody
Juno had his own squatter, connected to his father’s. He led me into the open half. The floor-bottom was decorated like a rug,
painted like a black-and-white checkerboard.
“Hannah, you don’t trust me, but I trust you. In my dreams He speaks of your importance. But I see darkness struggling in
you. Things happened on the mountain that you haven’t told. Let me help you.”
“We crashed. It was cold. People died.”
“Yes, you’ve seen death. That’s good. It means you’re strong.”
“It means what it means. Maybe nothing.”
“What happened that you didn’t tell?”
I took a breath. The death mountain. Ms. Angly who I had always known, my lessons-teacher, her frozen pelvis. The buttons
broke in my hands. I didn’t feel them, my fingers too numb from cold. I ripped and tore and tried not to see the naked hair of
her loins. She didn’t bleed when my nails cut her thighs. Juno’s eyes were on me. His look had changed, was soft. I wanted to
tell him, but I also didn’t want to. “We had to…”
Behind him, birds in a flock were specks against the land, all following one instinct. Did they have a leader? Juno’s fingers gentle
under my chin, lifting. “I know what you’re not saying. Look at me, Hannah. I see it.”
“We took their clothes.”
“And you ate their flesh. To survive. You weren’t the first.”
What was he saying? “We didn’t eat them,” I said.
Annoyance flashed across his eyes. “That’s what happens when you’re trapped. You don’t need to deny it. I don’t think you
“We didn’t eat them. We journeyed only three days before the Inghchas found us. We had leabread from our squatters. We
were hungry, but we didn’t do that.”
Juno closed his eyes and put his hands together. The breeze fondled his hair. His lips moved without sound, as if he were
conferring with someone I couldn’t see. He opened his eyes and the power look was back. “It’s not important,” he said. “You
handled their bodies. You took their clothes. Spiritually, you consumed them. You left their un-interred bodies humiliated on the
mountain’s face. I forgive you. It’s important that you’ve understood this kind of death. Many will have to die in the times to
“I think you’re crazy,” I said.
He smiled. “You’ll see. Look, again, at the book with me.” He ducked into the covered half of his squatter. I followed. Inside the
daylight shone through the diamond-shaped holes in the sides of the small room. Juno sat on a pillow on his mat. He had pulled
his canvas bag onto his lap, woven with purple and black geometric patterns. He pulled the book from its mouth and held it out
to me. I was curious and I didn’t want to be curious. I sat beside him and took the book on my lap. The binding was red, golden
script across the front. The edges of the binding were frayed. When I opened it, the book was bigger than my lap.
On the page facing me there was a painting of a naked woman standing on a seashell, her hair waving into the breeze. Winged
figures were blowing wind on her. I forgot about Juno as I sat looking. Flowers littered the air around her. Behind her, the sea,
blue, impossible. A smile curled at the corner of her mouth. I touched my finger to her cheek. She could forgive me. I wrested
the denim from the frozen legs. I saw the forbidden hair, the gray-blue slit. My fingernails cut the flesh and it didn’t bleed.
Juno’s hand touched mine. “You feel its power,” he said. “We will lead them all, if you stand with me.” He took the book from my
lap and closed it. When he opened the lips of the bag I saw inside, pages, a wire spiral.
“You have a notebook,” I said.
He looked at me sideways. “A gift from an Older of another caravan. I knew him at a station house, when we were parked for
foul weather season. It was destiny that he gave it, Hannah. I need it for the translations. God puts the tools in my hands. One
day there will be tools for you.”
I rose and turned to look down at him in the diamond-studded light. You are crazy, I was going to say again. He was looking up
at me, those exotic eyes. The words stuck in my throat. My heart beat strangely. I turned and went out into the sun.
A stopping before we went over the ocean. Refueling, gas and water and food. The ladders were dropped, the caravan fastened
to a series of docking poles along the side of the mountain. The station houses, long and low, waited empty around the landing
field. When the caravan was secured, we climbed down. The ground felt as it always does when one comes down. Moving,
though it doesn’t move. All took careful steps.
I leaned in the door of a station house watching. My mother stood a few feet ahead on the field. She had her arms crossed
beneath her chest, her fingers visible on either side of her shoulder blades. Her hair fell in a long pony down her back. Two of
the balloons, detached from the caravan, were being brought to the ground for repairs. The soft material fell in black folds over
the gray-green grasses. Momma was known an expert in repairs in our home ‘van. They were consulting with her before
proceeding. I didn’t know if it was an honest consultation, or a courtesy. Or a test. Momma and I didn’t look at each other, had
stopped looking at each other since we joined this ‘van. She was angry because I didn’t cry for Janey. I turned and went into
the station house, where I could already smell the fresh food being prepared for cooking.
You died on the mountain.
Stop crying, Janey. I’m right here.
In my dream, Hannah, you died. Your skin was so cold.
Stoppit, Janey. I didn’t die on any mountain. I’m right here. Shut up and get Momma.
Your eyes were opened, and your skin was blue. Your pony snapped off in my hand.
Janey, I mean it. Stop.
I followed Mina’s form through the trees as the sun was setting. We weren’t supposed to leave the station, but Juno wanted us
to see the Inghcha village. I couldn’t get used to the slapping of grass against my ankles. It was always the same with landings.
We had been here three days, and still the grass felt strange to me.
Ahead the land rose and the trees cleared, and I saw Juno’s form dark against the sky. His sweater-robe was green, and he
wore his black and purple bag across his shoulder. “Here,” he said. We followed. Before him, the land dropped away to form a
dip in the side of the mountain. It was full of huts, fires burning, people moving in heavy garments the color of ash and mud.
There were fenced-off yards behind the houses.
“They dislike us because they fear us, but they don’t understand their fear,” Juno said. “We swing in the sky. Our skin is lighter
than their skin. They deal with the Nameless who come up, disfigured, from the land below, who we will not touch or come near
to. They fear that we do not come near because we’re too pure, and they fear that they are not pure. They will continue to fear
us, but we will make them love us, too. They will follow me. They don’t even know how the cornfuel they give us works.”
Juno’s voice was calm and satisfied. He took my hand and Mina’s hand, and Mina took Owen’s hand. We stood in a chain
overlooking the Inghcha village.
In one of the yards, a small dog followed a bigger dog. Back and forth along the fence the bigger dog paced, looking toward us.
She was a muscular animal with a square face and a strong jaw. The smaller dog followed her, barking, his little-dog eyes trained
on the bigger dog. In the door of the building, I saw the shape of a boy. Juno turned his head to look at me. I kept my eyes on
the bigger dog.
“It is time to take the oath,” Juno said. Still holding hands, he backed up, drawing us into a circle. Juno un-slung his bag and
squatted to the ground. We squatted, too.
“What oath?” I said.
Juno smiled. I could see his teeth, small and white. He drew a kitchen knife from the bag, its blade sheathed in cardboard.
“Blood oath,” he said. Mina offered her hand as he unsheathed the blade.
“You want us to take a blood oath?” I said.
Mina gave me a casual look as Juno took her hand. “We trust you, Hannah. You’re tough. It’s easy,” she said. With the tip of
the blade, Juno pierced her index finger at the pad. She sucked her breath in as it punctured, but she didn’t cry out. Juno took
her finger to his lip and touched the bead of blood to his bottom teeth.
Owen was next.
When it was my turn, I looked at Juno darkly and said nothing. You can’t have my blood, I thought, but I let him take my hand.
I let him pierce my finger’s flesh. I remembered Momma on the death mountain in the snow, taking the heart-shaped necklace
from Janey’s throat before we left her, naked and blue. Juno squeezed my finger and a bright red bead of blood appeared. He
took it to his mouth and touched the blood to his teeth. He closed his mouth and tasted. “Easy,” he said. “See?”
What was the oath?
The oath was in the blood. The oath was in the letting.
“Momma,” I said. She was leaning over a mender, watching the work. Before her, the silky material issued out across the field.
“What is it Hannah?” She did not turn to greet me.
“Um… Can I talk to you?” I said. I took a step forward, so I could see her profile. Her eyes were intent upon the mender. A man
in a long sweater approached, looking concerned.
“There is another balloon losing the seam,” he said as he neared us. He wore a peppered gray-black beard and a gray felt hat.
He smiled at me. She turned to him, giving me her back.
“How bad is the losing?” Momma asked him.
He shrugged. “You can see the sun through,” he said. “Holes this size.” He held up his hand, making a tiny space between the
pointer finger and thumb.
“We’ll be over the ocean thirty days?” Momma asked him.
“This seam should be fine,” she said. “I’ll come look.”
The man smiled, his cheeks pooling in wrinkles. Momma started to follow him.
“Momma,” I said. “I want to talk to you about my friend, Juno.”
She turned and looked at me. Her mouth curled up. “Juno. He’s a fine boy. I talked with him at Center Basket last week. They
say he’s really coming up. And he likes you.”
“A charismatic boy,” the man said, nodding. “He’ll be a real leader one day.”
There was a pause. I looked at the balloon on the ground. All of its furrows, and the places where the sun made it shiny. It
looked like a map of the world from above, at night. “Was there something else?” Momma asked.
Not looking at her, I shook my head. “No.”
Hannah, I’m not naked. I am clothed in snow and ice. Don’t be haunted.
But in your dream, Janey. We crashed into the mountain. The clouds turned purple like the earth. I died… I always
thought you had the sight.
Open your eyes now. There are more important things. It’s in your blood, but he can’t taste it. There are things you
“Why are you crying?” I asked Nola. It was morning, and I had gone to the edge of the forest to be alone. I found Nola bent
over herself on a log, six feet from the tree-line.
I looked for the bird, expected to hear him chirping out the rote of the Leaders in her dead mother’s voice. “What about him?”
She turned to me, still bent. Her hands were curled in front of her like witches’ claws. Under her huge nose, her eyes were wet
and reproachful. “You hated Jerry. Now he’s dead.”
I looked at Nola, my face drawn downward, shaking my head. “I didn’t hate him,” I said. “I’m so sorry. How did he die?”
She gazed into her hands and gave a sad shrug. “Old age, I guess,” she said. “I looked in his cage and he was dead. Lying there
I perched on the log and put my hand on her back. Then I didn’t know what to do. I traced a circle, barely touching the fabric of
her sweater. “I’m really sorry he died.” I felt the unexpected sting of a tear behind my eyes.
In the dark, through the soft sounds of sleeping, I slipped toward Juno’s mat. Here he didn’t have his own space; like the rest
of us, he slept in the rows. I stopped short, seeing through the near-total darkness that his eyes were open, gazing in my
direction. So he was expecting me, I thought, waiting. What to say? Supplicate him? Lie down beside him? I didn’t want to lie
down, and I didn’t want to want to. I crouched, waiting for him to speak, until I realized he had painted open eyes on his closed
eyelids. He was sleeping, his hand on his bag, the black-purple pattern indistinguishable in this dark.
It wasn’t difficult to slip the bag from beneath his hand. I pulled out the book and again it opened to the picture of the woman
standing on the seashell. I tore the page from the book, and the page of text behind it. I watched his face, tore so gently I
could hardly hear the tearing myself. He didn’t even wince. I reached back into the bag and took the notebook, opening it at
random and pulling out pages. This was louder. Someone nearby moved in sleep. I folded the pages into my sweater. I slid the
book and notebook back into the bag, and felt the knife shift heavily in the bottom. I took it. I lay the bag beside him. It would
be as if his hand had slipped away in sleep.
I went to the home of the two dogs. I didn’t know what I planned to do. They were not in the yard now, but as I approached
the fence, I heard them begin barking within. I pressed myself against a tree. I heard voices, and the dogs were hushed. The
door opened, and someone came out holding a small lamp. It was, I thought, the boy I had seen in the doorway.
He came to the back of the yard and stood just feet away, looking over the fence. First in an Inghcha dialect, then in my own,
he said “Hello?”
I put my hand to my breast and felt the pages there. “Hello,” I said.
He looked toward my voice. “Come,” he said, gesturing me toward the fence. I could tell he didn’t know my language well. “Step
out?” I asked. He shook his head, uncomprehending. I came nearer and gestured for him to come out his gate.
Lamp-light showed through the diamond-lattice of the fence. The boy was younger than me. I felt my feet sinking into the
grass. He unlatched the gate and took a cautious step toward me. He repeated something in Inghcha. I took his hand and
tugged. Wary, he resisted. Looked back toward his cabin. I smiled and tugged again and he followed me, holding his lamp before
We soon reached the clearing where I had taken Juno’s blood oath. I took the lamp from the boy’s hand and hung it from a
branch at the ledge overlooking his village. Then I took his hands in mine. He had blue eyes, kind and curious. I reached into my
shirt and took out the pages.
The woman stood as always, balanced on a shell that hung in the air with the blue sea behind her. I held her out for him to see.
He touched the picture, but I saw no sign of recognition in his face. I turned to the page of text and held it up in the light.
“Do you know these words?” I asked him. “Can you read this in your language?” He looked at the page trembling in my hand
and back at me. “Can you read this?” I asked again. Annoyance broke over his face and he touched my wrist, gesturing for me
to put the pages away. I looked at the paper in my hand. Where Hope within the altogether strange, I read in Juno’s
handwriting, Restore our fallen day; O re-arrange…
Before I knew what I was doing I dropped the pages and leapt, wresting his arm behind him and shoving him against the tree. I
was so tired and so angry. I kept thinking I heard movements in the trees. There were so many noises here on the ground,
surrounding, movement everywhere. I felt my heart beating and, somehow, the need to punish him, this innocent boy. I felt the
knife heavy in my garments, against my belly.
I let him go. I sat on the grass.
The boy sat, too, his back against the tree, rubbing his arm and glowering at me. “You can’t,” I whispered. “You can’t read it at
all.” I felt the sting of tears, and saw Janey, unmoving in the snow.
His lips parted, ready to try to say something. Then he stiffened, looking into the shadows. I heard it, too. The sound of feet,
running toward us.
I drew the knife as Juno and Owen emerged from the trees. The Ingcha boy rose to flee, but Owen leapt and swung, knocking
him to the ground. Owen and Juno both brandished branches, twigs like claws curling out where they hadn’t had time to break
them away. I stood, keeping the knife before me, my eyes on Juno. Behind them, Mina stood unmoving at the treeline.
Juno sighed deeply. “I knew you would betray me, Hannah,” he said. “I hoped you wouldn’t. I wanted you on my side. You took
the blood oath.”
I stared unwavering into his eyes.
“Finish the Inghcha,” Juno said to Owen. I stood still. Owen swung hard and swift. I didn’t flinch. Again and again Owen drove
his makeshift club into the Inghcha boy. Thwack and thwack and thwack. I thought of my sister, her heart-shaped necklace,
now nestled at the neck of my Mother’s black mourning clothes. I thought of Ms. Angly, her privates exposed as I ripped the
denim from her thighs. I made a tent of their clothing over my heart. I stood still with my eyes on Juno.
“Many will die,” Juno said. “Owen.”
And then I was flying through the trees. I was swift. Even in the dark, even with the weeds and the brush slapping at my ankles.
They followed me far, as far as the cliff. I hung in the dark and they didn’t see me. I barely breathed, almost slipping from my
ledge, almost breaking twigs beneath my crouching feet. Burying my face against the rock. I heard them standing near, so near.
Despite the running, I barely breathed.
“Shame,” I heard Juno say at last. “She will perish here. She doesn’t matter anymore.”
I listened to them leave.
The next day I sat on the cliff’s edge, looking down. A river ran below, green leaves floating away on its surface. Up here on the
healthy mountain, I’d never think we lived in a poisoned world. But I have seen it from above, the purple coiling. I have seen it all
Later, from my perch atop the cliff, I watched the caravan leaving in the sky. I don’t know what he said to them that they
wouldn’t wait for me, try to find me. I don’t know what he could have said to my mother. I traveled back to the station house
by dark, and the station house was empty.
I traveled deeper into the woods, to another clearing and another cliff. I found the cave. I watch the phases of the moon at
night, and I watch caravans pass in the sky, miniature in the distance. Janey tells me there will be another phase. She says that
I know my enemy, and I will be called upon to fight as one who knows. I do not want to believe her. I sit and wait. I feed myself,
burning small fires to cook the roots and vegetables I find in the forest. I have lurked at the edges of the Inghcha village,
watching the people move, watching the dogs pace through the yards. I am responsible for the murder of the boy with kind
eyes. I have not approached their homes again.
The clouds are turning purple like the earth.
They are purple and they are pink and they are gray and they are blue.
But remember the purple earth, the purple clouds.
I will remember the purple earth. I will remember the purple clouds and the crash. I will remember your blue body.
I weep for you. But I will rise again.
I did not die.