The leap, p.17
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       The Leap, p.17

           Jonathan Stroud
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  ‘Take his hand and leap!’ Kit shouted.

  I reached out.

  Max’s hand swung upwards.

  Our hands clasped.

  I did not leap. I pulled him up.

  And found he had no weight at all. I lost my balance, toppled backwards, and as I did so, heard Kit’s furious shouting, ‘Dance, you fool! Dance!’

  Behind it, a voice that was not Kit’s sounded out loud and shrill.

  And the music exploded into a discordant scream.

  I fell back, holding Max’s hand. All across the dance floor, the dancers froze rigid where they stood, arms out, hair flung back, heads distended, leering. Their beauty fell from them, slid from their features as their graceful bodies thinned and shrivelled to bone and gristle beneath their clothes.

  A cry of fury rose up all around and loudest of all was the scream of rage from where Kit stood. His high-pitched snarling echoed in my ears as if he was crouching by me as I fell, but I did not see his face.

  I fell. And Max fell too, towards me but away from me at the same time, free of my hand now, free of the Dance. And I saw that he was once again wearing his old T-shirt and jeans and the Nike trainers with the imprint on the soles. The sweat in his hair had turned to water and his clothes were soaked right through. The flowers in his hair were river-weed. His eyes no longer looked at me. They were passionless, serene. Then, as I watched, he drew apart and vanished from my sight.


  The music and the screaming and the shouting rose to a high crescendo. I fell away from it all with a sudden speed, and the lights of the dance went out.


  AS MY SISTER dropped, I raised a shout that echoed off the hills.

  She fell to the ground on the lip of the quarry, head flung back towards me, one foot hanging out over the edge. She didn’t move. The moonlight and the night chill spilled over her and over me. I was shivering uncontrollably.

  It took a few minutes to crawl the remaining distance balanced on one leg, one arm. My knee scuffled in the dirt. The cold numbed the pain in my arm.

  I hauled myself into a sitting position beside her. Charlie lay on her back, face looking up at the stars. Her breathing was heavy, like one in deep sleep. I brushed her fringe back from her forehead, sweeping away a few tattered grasses that had found their way into her hair.

  One of her arms was outstretched on the ground. I lifted her hand and held it in mine. Then I sat there, stroking her forehead and talking to her softly. Above us the cold moon shone down. It was high between the hills and its light flooded into the black hole of the quarry pit, filling the emptiness.

  And after a little time, my sister opened her eyes and smiled at me, and spoke my name.

  About the Author

  Jonathan is the author of the bestselling Bartimaeus sequence, as well as standalone novels Heroes of the Valley, Buried Fire, The Leap and The Last Siege. Jonathan worked as a children’s book editor before becoming a full-time writer. He lives in St Albans with his wife and young children.

  Also by Jonathan Stroud



  AN RHCP DIGITAL EBOOK 978 1 409 09648 1

  Published in Great Britain by RHCP Digital,

  an imprint of Random House Children’s Publishers UK

  A Random House Group Company

  This ebook edition published 2012

  Copyright © Jonathan Stroud, 2001

  First Published in Great Britain

  Red Fox 2001

  The right of Jonathan Stroud to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

  This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorized distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.


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  Addresses for companies within The Random House Group Limited can be found at:

  THE RANDOM HOUSE GROUP Limited Reg. No. 954009

  A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.



  Jonathan Stroud, The Leap

  (Series: # )




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