Authors: Ilsa J. Bick
We bring stories to life
First published by Egmont USA, 2014
443 Park Avenue South, Suite 806
New York, NY 10016
Copyright © Ilsa J. Bick, 2014
All rights reserved
Typography by Torborg Davern
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Bick, Ilsa J.
White space / Ilsa J. Bick.
1 online resource. – (Dark Passages; book 1) Summary: A seventeen-year-old girl jumps between the lines of books and into the white space where realities are created and destroyed–but who may herself be nothing more than a character written into being from an alternative universe.
Description based on print version record and CIP data provided by publisher; resource not viewed.
978-1-60684-420-5 (e-Book) – ISBN 978-1-60684-419-9 (hardback) [1. Mystery and detective stories. 2. Horror stories. 3. Science fiction.] I.
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This time, you live
Father, this thick air is murderous
AT FIRST, MOM
thinks there are mice because of that
in the walls. This is very weird. Marmalade, the orange tom, is such a good mouser. But then Mom spies a dirty footprint high up on the wall of her walk-in closet.
A footprint. On the
That’s when Mom feels someone watching, too. So she turns her head real slow, her gaze inching up to the ceiling vent—and there they are: two glittery violet eyes pressed against the grate like an animal’s at the zoo.
A crazy lady is in the attic. The
The sheriff thinks she’s been hiding since fall and sneaking out for food at night:
She coulda slipped in when the contractors were here. It happens
Well yeah, okay, that might happen to normal people who live in towns and cities and don’t know how to reach through to the Dark Passages and pull things onto White Space, or travel between
. But Lizzie knows better. The crazy lady
is something out of a bad dream: a rat’s nest of greasy hair; skin all smeary like she’s taken a bath in oozy old blood. Her hands, sooty and man-sized, are hard with callus, the cracked nails rimed with grime. She smells really bad, too, like someone raised by mole rats or bears. When the sheriff tries asking questions, the crazy lady only stares and stares. She doesn’t utter one single, solitary peep.
Because she can’t. She has no tongue. No teeth. Not a thing, except this gluey, gucky, purple maw, as if the crazy lady spends all her time slurping blood jelly.
So, really, she’s just about what Lizzie expects. Which is kind of bad, considering.
DAD SWEARS UP
and down that he didn’t have anything to do with it:
I told you, Meredith. After what happened in London, I’m done
Mom isn’t having any of that.
Pulling out her panops, she extends the temple arms, flips out the two extra side lenses, and then hooks the spectacles behind her ears.
Show me your hands, Frank
Oh, for God’s …
Sighing, Dad lets Mom get a good look, front and back.
See? Not a scratch
I see, but that doesn’t prove anything. You’ve brought back hangers-on from the Dark Passages before and not realized it
. Taking a step back, Mom peers at Dad through purple lenses.
Turn around, Frank
Waste of time, I’m telling you
. Holding out his arms, Dad
does a slow turn like the tiny pink ballerina in Lizzie’s music box. (There’s nothing special about getting into
head; she’s only plastic and a little boring. No book-world, nowhere to go, no roommate, no hot shop, no mocha Frappuccinos, not even homework. That silly thing’s got nothing to do but twirl and twirl, although Lizzie loves the little brass nib that trips a hidden compartment. Just think of the secrets she could hide, the way Dad does with some of his characters.)
Nothing hanging on, is there?
. Pulling off the panops and flipping the extra side lenses shut, Mom chews her lower lip for a second.
What about the Peculiars? If one’s cracked …
Dad shakes his head.
Already checked. No dings, no nicks, not even a hairline fracture. There’s no way anything leaked out. Come on, honey, you’re the science whiz. You’ve done the calculations. Once you seal a Peculiar, nothing can get in or out, right?
When Mom nods, Dad throws out his hands, like a magician going
ta-da. See? I’ve kept my end of the bargain. I haven’t reached into the Mirror to invite or bind it since London
Unless you don’t remember. You’ve lost time before. There are six entire months from London you don’t recall at all
Oh, believe me, Meredith
. Dad’s face grows still and as frozen as the expression of one of Lizzie’s special dolls—except for his dark blue eyes. Usually so bright, they dim the way a fire does as it dies.
I remember more than you think
Mom doesn’t seem to hear.
Or maybe …
She presses a hand to her lips, like she might catch the words before they pop out of the dark and become real.
Or maybe it’s stronger and you’re healing faster. This is what the key warned us about. Every time you take it in, it leaves a little bit of itself behind, and vice versa
The manuscript doesn’t say exactly
The key says
like an old watermark. You could say that about any experience, Meredith
stains have a way of not coming out
. Mom’s jaw sets in a
don’t try to talk your way outta this one, buster
jut Lizzie knows. She saw it just last week, when Mom set out an apple pie to cool and then didn’t buy Lizzie’s explanation when she said the cat must’ve done it. (Sometimes, Lizzie thinks they really ought to get a dog; they’ll eat anything.)
Maybe it can
you activate the Mirror without you being aware or having any memory of doing it
Now, Meredith …
Dad says her name as if Mom is five, like Lizzie, and bawling her head off over a scraped knee.
You’re getting hysterical over nothing. You saw my hands. Besides, I can’t go through the Dark Passages to any other
because you have the Sign of Sure, remember? Without it, I’ve got no way of getting back to this
and I would never risk that. Sweetheart, please believe me. That woman in the attic? She’s just some weird, demented vagrant
Maybe she is
. Mom’s mouth goes as thin as one of the seams on Lizzie’s memory quilt: scraps of every bit of clothing Lizzie’s ever worn sewn into special patterns and decorated with Mom’s thought-magic glass, including the twinkly Sign of Sure, which Mom didn’t make but is like the panops and Dickens Mirror—very old and from some other
Now. Then let’s talk about you, all right? I know you, Frank. It’s been years since London, and it’s all wearing off, isn’t it? You’re having trouble with this new book. So you’re tempted, aren’t you?
When he doesn’t answer, Mom grabs his arm.
Talk to me
All of a sudden, Dad can’t look Mom in the eye.
It’s just a little writer’s block