The golden spiral, p.1
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       The Golden Spiral, p.1

           Lisa Mangum
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The Golden Spiral


  © 2010 Lisa K. Mangum

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher, Shadow Mountain®. The views expressed herein are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of Shadow Mountain.

  All characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Mangum, Lisa.

  The golden spiral / Lisa Mangum.

  p. cm.

  Summary: When Dante, a Master of Time, is sent into the past to find Zo, Tony, and V, Abby knows that he will need her help to prevent the trio from destroying time itself, but soon things start to change as Zo targets Abby's past.

  ISBN 978-1-60641-635-8 (hardbound : alk. paper)

  1. Fantasy fiction, American. [1. Time travel—Fiction. 2. High schools—Fiction. 3. Schools—Fiction. 4. Interpersonal relations—Fiction. 5. Good and evil—Fiction.] I. Title.

  PZ7.M31266537Fol 2010

  [Fic]—dc22 2010003447

  Printed in the United States of America

  Worzalla Publishing Company, Stevens Point, WI

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  For Tracy

  Roll the Bones—track 2

  Table of Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Acknowledgments

  Reading Guide

  Prologue

  The middle passage. He’s been here before. Once, long ago—no, wait . . . not so long ago. He shakes his head. It’s hard to remember anything, swallowed up in this narrow throat of darkness.

  A flash of white obscures his vision and he remembers.

  A girl. Brown hair, brown eyes, a mouth sculpted to smile. He sees worry and fear in her eyes. And something else. A locket is fastened securely around her neck like a collar. Or a noose. He knows this girl. He struggles with his memory, forcing it to offer up a name.

  Abby. Of course. Heat like a dying sun scorches through him at the thought of her name, turning the white flash red.

  As the redness bleeds into black, he draws a trembling hand across his eyes. He made promises to the girl. To find. To bind. Promises he intends to keep.

  Another streak of white flashes through his vision. Another memory. This one of sound. Is she yours? A high-pitched banshee wail of music. We’ll never be like them ever again, and the sooner you realize that, the better off you’ll be. The quiet click of a key turning in a lock. I couldn’t have done this without you. A low-throated laugh of success.

  This time his memory is more cooperative, comfortable and familiar. His mouth is still heavy with the taste of victory. He savors the sweetness.

  He remembers other encounters, other conversations with Dante, but those were the ones that counted. Had he ever truly been a threat? Or merely an annoyance? Dante had certainly done his best to stop him. Though if that was the best he had to offer, well, then there was no need to worry.

  He made promises to Dante, too. Of vengeance. Of damna-tion. Promises he intends to keep as well.

  Somewhere in the far distance he can hear footsteps. Not his. He hasn’t moved in this middle passage since the door closed behind him—how long ago? He shakes his head again. It doesn’t matter. All that matters now is what waits for him in the darkness.

  He counts the steps, easily identifying and discarding the echoes, concentrating on the actual, individual footfalls. There. He tilts his head, listening with his whole body. A second set of footsteps rings through the stillness in a fleeting harmony. Good. Everyone is accounted for.

  Words float through his mind: The gang’s all here. Something he heard once? Something he has yet to hear?

  There is no rush. He knows where they are going. Or perhaps he should say when.

  The footsteps clatter around him; they sound like bones rattling in the wind. He knows exactly who those footsteps

  belong to, and he wonders why they don’t take more care to disguise themselves. He wonders why they even bother walking when it’s possible to slide—now here, now there—with the merest of thoughts. He considers the possibility they haven’t discovered that fact yet.

  He remembers the first time the door closed behind him. The stench of his branded flesh. The taste of the cold, empty air. The weight of uncertainty, of limited options. Exiled from the river of time, he was once a prisoner bound to the bank.

  But now, the door has closed behind him a second time, and everything is different. He looks down at his hands, marveling that the tattooed chains encircling his wrists have turned from black to gold. They are beautiful. Like the golden torques worn by the kings of old.

  He laughs a little at the thought. There is no more old or new; the words have lost their meaning. There is only here and now. There is only what he wants. There is only him in this dark place, waiting to be born again into the light. The world is waiting for him to change it like Prometheus bringing down fire from the gods.

  The air around him is still cold and metallic, but now when he draws a deep breath, it turns his body into a sword, all edges and violence. This time the uncertainty is gone. This time his options are limitless.

  Embraced by the river of time, he has broken the bonds of the bank forever.

  He can feel the ebb and flow of the river of time inside him now. He can see the possibilities unfolding with every breath. The sense of freedom and power is overwhelming.

  He knows the others are feeling the same thing. He knows it will make them reckless, unpredictable. They do not have his control or his command. Without his leadership and guidance, they will squander this gift, they will waste this power. He cannot let that happen. He has plans.

  He feels a grin slide across his face, and he takes a step forward.

  He is surprised at how easy it is. This traveling through time. This effortless movement like flying, like dancing, like music. He is no longer afraid of what he has left behind, or of what might be waiting for him. After all, he knows what is waiting for him ahead in the darkness. The second door. The machine only works in pairs, he remembers. Two banks of the river, two doors. In one and out the other. It is an elegant design. Balanced. Complete. The symmetry of it makes him happy.

  It’s been a long time since he’s felt this happy. He pauses. Maybe that’s wrong. Maybe it’ll be a long time until he feels this happy again. The past and future are interchangeable now; it’s hard to tell the difference. He does know one thing, though: He was born for this. His previous life seems like nothing so much as a shadow by comparison. He can see from horizon to horizon; better, he can see beyond the curve now. He can hear the smallest droplet of time forming inside the roaring of the river. How had he lived without this power? This awareness?

  Now that he has it, he knows he will never let it go.

  He was always the brightest, deserving of their loyalty and their devotion.

  He will never let those go, either.

  He is drawing closer to the footsteps.
He can hear voices now, though just fragmented whispers of sound.

  . . . believe it . . . it’s true . . . it’s time . . .

  With a rush, the whispers coalesce into solid sentences, individual voices: Tony and V.

  He stays back a pace or two. No need to let them know he is so close. Not yet.

  “I can’t believe she came with him,” Tony says.

  V makes a noise halfway between a growl and a grunt.

  “Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad she did. We’d still be stuck there without her help.” Tony laughs, a high note wavering on the edge of hysteria. “I guess I owe Zo an apology. I shouldn’t have doubted him.”

  He frowns. Dissension in the ranks is not to be tolerated. Doubt is forbidden. He thought he had made that clear.

  “Where is Zo, anyway?” Tony asks, looking around. “I’d have thought he’d be here by now.”

  V grunts again. “I’m sure he’s coming. How much farther is it?”

  Tony laughs. “Don’t you remember?”

  “I just want to go home.” V sighs. “I’m tired of . . . all this.”

  His frown deepens. How can V be tired of this already? Things are just getting started. He is just getting started.

  “Oh, come on,” Tony chides. “Live a little. Or a lot, as the case may be.” His laugh transmutes into a giggle, high and childish.

  “What’s wrong with you?” V asks.

  “Nothing.”

  The lie is loud in the space between them.

  He shakes his head. Lies can be useful, but they must be used correctly or else they lose their power. And this is no place for lies. The machine will destroy them, squeeze them into oblivion and leave only the truth in its place. The machine is unforgiving, unrelenting. He admires that.

  He wonders if Tony knows he’s lying or if he believes his own words. He wonders if it matters.

  The darkness suddenly crackles into life, bright sparks flaring like stars spangled across the sky. The tiniest of golden glows blooms overhead, growing into a complex web of light laced through the shadows above Tony’s head. A second web appears over V’s head.

  He looks up in time to see his own golden net hovering over him. Without consciously knowing how, he dampens the light. No need to announce his presence prematurely.

  “That’s amazing,” Tony says, looking up at the golden drops. “I don’t remember that from last time.”

  “I think it’s new. Things have changed, remember.”

  Tony slaps V on the back. “Change is good. It’s a brave new world, amico mio. And we will be the masters of it.”

  V grunts again; his shoulders hunch under a shrug.

  “What? Everything is here for the taking. Don’t tell me you don’t want some of it.” Tony rubs at the golden cuffs around his wrists and laughs.

  “I can’t have what I want,” V says, shoving his hands into his pockets.

  “That’s no way to think. Listen, we’ll be to the door in no time at all”—Tony giggles again, a mad light flickering in his eyes—“and you’ll see. You’ll feel it.” He circles V, a capering jester laughing at his own unfathomable jokes.

  “I already feel it.” V frowns. “And I think you’re feeling it too much. Stop that, Tony. You’re making me nervous.”

  He agrees. There is a wrongness emanating from Tony. The edges of his body seem softer, thinner than before. He thinks of the word suffused. Of the word bloated. Of the word decomposing.

  He can feel the pressure building inside Tony. After spending all those years controlling the pressure from the river, he is surprised that Tony has missed identifying something so important to his survival. He hadn’t realized Tony was so weak.

  He wonders if he should intervene. Warn him. But he’s curious to see what they will do. How capable they are without him. He wants to know how much they need him.

  “Hurry, hurry, hurry!” Tony grabs V’s arm and pulls him forward. “We’re late, we’re late, for a very important date.”

  “Quit it,” V barks, yanking his arm away. “Stop acting so crazy.”

  There is a strange note in V’s voice but there is no time to identify it. The gold-flecked shadows overhead have ended suddenly in a hard edge. A solid wall rears up before them, tall as a tower, narrow, foreboding.

  It is the black door.

  He can see a glimmer of brass and knows that the hinges on this door only swing in. There are no elaborate designs on this slab of black. There is no need. No one ever expected anyone would lay eyes on this side of the machine.

  He grins. He loves shattering expectations. It’s important to be the first. The best.

  This is the door that will lead him into a new life. He can feel the thrumming hum of energy trapped just on the other side of the door. So close. Close enough to touch. Almost. Almost.

  The promise of power is screaming like a high wind through his ears. It will take only a touch to tame it, claim it for his own. The pull is insistent. Immediate. He lowers a hand he hadn’t realized he’d raised.

  He hears chimes ringing, a melody that is at once familiar and alien.

  It is time—in more ways than one.

  “We should wait for Zo,” V says. “He’ll want to go first.”

  “Who died and made him king?” Tony’s words slur together in a lump of sound. They knock against the shivery chimes, a discordant clash. “I’m going to do what I want for a change.” His laugh sounds like a seam ripping apart. “My way this time.”

  Tony lifts a hand, reaches for the door.

  The music swells like a rising tide. The pressure gathers, thick as a storm cloud, focused as a tornado’s funnel.

  He thinks of the word crescendo. Of corrupted.

  V takes a step back. “No, don’t—”

  Tony touches the door.

  Cataclysmic.

  A supernova of white reverses the world from dark to light in an instant. Heat floods the narrow space—a fire that doesn’t burn, but one that is deadly all the same.

  The golden stars over Tony’s head begin to wink out one by one. The delicate web strung between them begins to sag and droop, falling, fading. In the harsh white light of destruction, Tony himself grows thinner, fainter, torn apart like a cloud in the wind.

  He hears Tony scream. The laughter is ripped from his voice, and all that is left is pain. He watches Tony writhe, caught by forces he can’t see, much less stop. His body begins to disappear, an emptiness that eats away at his chest before spreading out through his arms, up his neck, down his legs. He struggles, fighting against the impossible.

  His mouth vanishes, and his scream is nothing more than a fading echo. The golden chains on his wrists shimmer like mirages. He is a faint outline against the burning white. For a moment, he holds his shape, and then the outline disperses like ashes.

  Tony is gone, unraveled. Erased from existence.

  There is no sound. Even the chimes are silent. He is alone with V. He looks at the stunned expression on V’s face, follows his gaze.

  There is a hole where the door used to be. A portal that empties out onto a familiar room, a familiar sight. The courtroom is empty tonight. He smiles. This time there will be no judge, no guards to watch them travel through the door. This time no one will ask him any questions.

  He is glad now that he didn’t intervene. If he had stopped Tony, then he would have been the one to trigger the trap. He would have been the one blasted into oblivion instead of the one to cross through the portal and step onto his homeland after more years than he cares to count.

  He walks forward. He can feel the weight of V’s gaze on his shoulders, equal parts surprise and fear. That is good. It’s good to keep people on their toes. Prepared.

  He feels he should miss Tony more than he does. Ah, well. Perhaps later. For now, V is enough. He will have to be.

  “Come, Vincenzio,” he says. “Let’s go home.”

  V hesitates for a bare moment, then falls in behind him, following in his footsteps across the thr
eshold.

  A warm ripple passes over him, into him. And then he is through. He is home.

  He draws in a deep breath, feeling free and whole. Turning, he looks back into the dark heart of the machine. The walls, the ceiling, the floor—everything glows with a white-hot light. As he watches, the light begins to spread deeper into the machine, moving with the speed of a wildfire and leaving behind only ash in its wake.

  Though he left a warning not to follow, he secretly hopes Dante disobeyed. And if he did follow, he hopes he survives the coming onslaught.

  Things are about to get interesting.

  Chapter

  1

  Is this a joke?” Jason sat down next to me on the patio steps in my backyard, a sheaf of papers in his hand. He shuffled through them, one after another, sometimes flipping a sheet upright, sometimes turning one over.

  “What’s wrong?” I asked, looking up and squinting against the early June afternoon sunshine. My purple Popsicle dripped a splash of grape onto my hand.

  “According to these directions, this”—he pointed to a series of rectangles and squares drawn in overlapping layers—“connects to this”—he shuffled to another page, this one covered with tiny circles and ovals—“but without any apparent bolts or hinges or . . . or anything.” He dropped the papers on the ground between our feet and ran his hands through his blond curls. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

  “Um, sorry?” I offered.

  “It might help if I knew what we were building. I mean, sometimes it looks like it’s some kind of a house. But not like a real house—it’s too narrow and long. And there seem to be too many doors. And no windows at all. It’s like we just have plans for a hallway and not the rest of the house. You’re not keeping something from me, are you?”

  I stuck the Popsicle in my mouth, grateful for the excuse it gave me not to respond immediately. I looked at the dozen or so small flags stuck into the ground along one edge of my backyard that outlined the parameters of the project. Jason was right; it didn’t seem to make any sense. What could possibly fit into a space twenty-four feet long, two feet wide, and eight feet tall?

  “And if I’m reading this right, then once we’re done building it, we have to burn it down. What’s that all about?”

 
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