- Pages: 256 Pages
- Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
- Imprint: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
- ISBN: 9780593524251
An Excerpt From
These Deadly Prophecies
Please be patient. Toying with fate makes it hard to keep track of those hairline fractures between past, present, and future. When you spend all your time sneaking peeks at what’s yet to come, getting persnickety about the precise order of time seems pretty rich. But I must, for my own sake, try to keep this story as clear and conventionally chronological as I can. A story, properly told, can save a life. This one, if I tell it right, might even save mine.
My parents say that I spend an alarming amount of time thinking about death for someone only seventeen. Honestly, it’s a difficult subject to avoid in my line of work. It wasn’t so long ago that doing the sort of things I do after school would have gotten me burned at some stake or another. People claim that the twenty-first century has eroded the atmosphere, mysticism, and, frankly, sheer aesthetic that once elevated the practice of sorcery beyond the comprehension of mere plebes. I tell these people that if they want to hop into a time machine and get themselves murdered by history’s most notorious anti-fun police off in Puritan-ville, Salem, Massachusetts, they’re more than welcome. I’m not wild about murder, myself. Which is pretty ironic, when you consider the direction my life has taken recently.
But now I’m getting ahead of myself again. What did I tell you? Past, present, and future, all jumbled up in my head. So let’s begin at the real beginning: my pursuit of sorcery. Not just any class of sorcery, but fortune-telling. Even among sorcerers, bona fide fortune tellers are a rare breed. You have your illusionists—considered petty entertainers—and your kinetics—respectable, though a bit mainstream. But fortune tellers have always been kings among sorcerers. Why not? Hollywood might have use for another illusionist to temporarily beautify a face, and the military loves its kinetic soldiers, but if there’s one thing everyone everywhere wants, it’s the power to screw around with the future. And no one made the future their bitch half as well as Sorcerer Solomon could.
That was really why I began working for him, you see. I told my parents it was only because I didn’t get into the academic summer intensive they wanted me to take at some Ivy League school or another. Besides, I reasoned in my best Perfect Asian Daughter voice, I wanted a vacation job that I could continue working into the school year. That way, I could contribute to my college fund and develop better personal finance skills. The truth is, when the summer intensive program rejections came in, I’d never been so pleased with my own apparent mediocrity in my entire life. Because I had the one acceptance that really mattered to me: Sorcerer Solomon’s.
I won’t lie: an apprenticeship to the most notorious fortune teller on the East Coast of the United States is an extremely weird after-school gig. There are many things, good and bad, that can be said of sorcery as both discipline and profession, but the one that most folks agree on is that your average sorcerer leads a thoroughly beyond-average life. That was why I wanted to be a sorcerer in the first place.
The thing is, no sorcerer can spin real prophecies without learning to tell a true fortune from the bullshit. Sorcerer Solomon taught me this lesson by lying to me on a weekly basis. And I really do mean weekly. I had it written down in my planner and everything.
More specifically, he lied to me about the future. It was half game, half training exercise—teaching me to see the truths among his lies. It’s common enough among fortune-telling aspirants. Unlike the other branches of sorcery, fortune-telling has no sigils, no incantations to work our magic. We have only our minds. When we play the liars’ game, and guess at which future is true, all we can do is listen to a liar’s voice, empty our minds, and trust our training to show us the truth.
The Sunday where this story begins seemed the same as all the others. Eight o’clock at night, in his private parlor, just left of the sorcerer’s workshop on the fourth floor of the manor. It was a cozy little space, all dramatic velvet drapes and plush cushions tucked around a great roaring fireplace. Sorcerer Solomon fit in perfectly with all that furniture, perched in his favorite armchair, blue eyes twinkling in the glow of the flames. I never actually saw him cast the kinetics to summon fire, but every time I arrived at the parlor, the fire was there, roaring bright where only darkness had lurked a moment before.
“Well, Tabatha,” he said as I sat down, his voice crisp, his fingers steepled. “Shall I lie to you?”
And he did, a litany of predictions about kitchen appliances and teen romances, exam results and bus schedules. And I got them right, every time.
Finally, he came to the end of the list, and I knew what would come next. His favorite lie went like this: “Tabatha,” he said, once he finished with his other lies, “Tabatha, here’s a prophecy for you: I will die at the hands of my best beloved. So shall it be.”
He changed the time stamp on it every time, to keep things interesting. Sometimes, his best beloved would kill him fifty years from now. Sometimes, his best beloved, apparently too impatient to wait half a century, would simply off him tomorrow. It really depended on the old man’s mood, but he told the same lie every time: his own murder, at the hands of the person he loved most in all the world.
“Right,” I said that Sunday night, unfazed and grinning. “And when will the murder be happening this time?”
He grinned back. “Seven months from now. So shall it be.”
I opened my mouth, brimming with confidence, ready to call his bluff as ever. The intention died in my throat. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced how it feels, as a sorcerer, to spin a true prophecy. It’s as though time itself slows down for your sake. Everything swimming around inside your head sharpens. And then it begins to unfold, right there across your mind’s eye: the shape the future is going to take. The story of something, great or small, still waiting to come true.
When another sorcerer spins a prophecy, you can tell it’s real because you see that fortune the same way they do, like a secret whispered in your ear, the truth of it weighing down your bones with every word the sorcerer speaks.
I straightened my spine. “Lie,” I pronounced. Even then, the word tasted like dust inside my mouth.
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