The Raven Boys(5)

By: Maggie Stiefvater


Scratching quickly to catch up, Blue printed the names phonetically as Neeve solicited them. Every so often, she lifted her eyes to the path, trying to glimpse — something. But as always, there was only the overgrown crabgrass, the barely visible oak trees. The black mouth of the church, accepting invisible spirits.

Nothing to hear, nothing to see. No evidence of the dead except for their names written in the notebook in her hand.

Maybe Neeve was right. Maybe Blue was having a bit of an identity crisis. Some days it did seem a little unfair that all of the wonder and power that surrounded her family was passed to Blue in the form of paperwork.

At least I can still be a part of it, Blue thought grimly, although she felt about as included as a seeing eye dog. She held the notebook up to her face, close, close, close, so she could read it in the darkness. It was like a roster of names popular seventy and eighty years before: Dorothy, Ralph, Clarence, Esther, Herbert, Melvin. A lot of the same last names, too. The valley was dominated by several old families that were large if not powerful.

Somewhere outside of Blue’s thoughts, Neeve’s tone became more emphatic.

“What’s your name?” she asked. “Excuse me. What is your name?” Her consternated expression looked wrong on her face. Out of habit, Blue followed Neeve’s gaze to the center of the courtyard.

And she saw someone.

Blue’s heart hammered like a fist to her breastbone. On the other side of the heartbeat, he was still there. Where there should have been nothing, there was a person.

“I see him,” Blue said. “Neeve, I see him.”

Blue had always imagined the procession of spirits to be an orderly thing, but this spirit wandered, hesitant. It was a young man in slacks and a sweater, hair rumpled. He was not quite transparent, but he wasn’t quite there, either. His figure was as murky as dirty water, his face indistinct. There was no identifying feature to him apart from his youth.

He was so young — that was the hardest part to get used to.

As Blue watched, he paused and put his fingers to the side of his nose and his temple. It was such a strangely living gesture that Blue felt a little sick. Then he stumbled forward, as if jostled from behind.

“Get his name,” Neeve hissed. “He won’t answer me and I need to get the others!”

“Me?” Blue replied, but she slid off the wall. Her heart was still ramming inside her rib cage. She asked, feeling a little foolish, “What’s your name?”

He didn’t seem to hear her. Without a twitch of acknowledgment, he began to move again, slow and bewildered, toward the church door.

Is this how we make our way to death? Blue wondered. A stumbling fade-out instead of a self-aware finale?

As Neeve began again to call out questions to the others, Blue made her way toward the wanderer.

“Who are you?” she called from a safe distance, as he dropped his forehead into his hands. His form had no outline at all, she saw now, and his face was truly featureless. There was nothing about him, really, that made him human shaped, but still, she saw a boy. There was something telling her mind what he was, even if it wasn’t telling her eyes.

There was no thrill in seeing him, as she had thought there would be. All she could think was, He will be dead within a year. How did Maura bear it?

Blue stole closer. She was close enough to touch him as he began to walk again, but still he made no sign of seeing her.

This near to him, her hands were freezing. Her heart was freezing. Invisible spirits with no warmth of their own sucked at her energy, pulling goose bumps up her arms.

The young man stood on the threshold of the church and Blue knew, just knew, that if he stepped into the church, she would lose the chance to get his name.

“Please,” Blue said, softer than before. She reached out a hand and touched the very edge of his not-there sweater. Cold flooded through her like dread. She tried to steady herself with what she’d always been told: Spirits drew all their energy from their surroundings. All she was feeling was him using her to stay visible.

But it still felt a lot like dread.

She asked, “Will you tell me your name?”

He faced her and she realized with shock that he wore an Aglionby sweater.

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