Past the Size of Dreaming
Her first book introduced Matilda Black and Edmund Reynolds, whose unique abilities and challenges united them-and brought them to a wonderful old "haunted house" that sheltered Edmund and his friends when they were young. Now, that House calls them to reach out to those friends-and reunite them to defeat a powerful, dangerous magic.Chapter Two
"Her ingenious plotting explores memory, the nature of recollection and personal growth." (Kirkus Reviews)
"A lasting addition to the urban fantasy canon." (Booklist)
"Chronicles the destinies of young men and women as they try to come to terms with the magic that flows through the world around them...sensuous prose and gentle humor add a graceful charm to this fantasy adventure." (Library Journal)
IN the small Oregon coast town of Guthrie, the witch Edmund Reynolds laid an Oregon map on the weather-silvered front porch of the haunted house and dropped to sit cross-legged in front of it. Late-winter sun, cool and bright, glared off the map's white background, almost drowned red and black roads, blue rivers, dark dot-and-dash state lines in light. Sun gilded Edmund's brown curls, highlighted dust on his green T-shirt and jeans, glowed in the pale hairs on his forearms.
Matt Black smiled. She had found Edmund three months earlier in a pioneer graveyard, and she had stayed with him ever since, longer than she'd stayed with anyone else she'd met in more than two decades of roaming. Across the wander years, she had let go of almost everything she had ever had except her army jacket, and she had spent most of her time talking with things instead of people. Buildings, streets, park benches, drinking fountains, trash cans, cardboard boxes, dishes, railroad tracks, toys, cars, anything shaped by humankind might have a story to tell her. Things talked with her. They liked her, and she liked them.
Maybe she had been ready for a change. It felt strange but nice to hang on to someone human.
Just now she thought Edmund looked like a god who had just been pulled out of a closet, bright and shiny but not wiped clean yet. Everything about him made her happy.
Edmund glanced up at Matt. ``Watch what happens when I try a seek spell for Julio.''
``Okay.'' She sat down beside him. Salt breeze gusted through her short hair, riffled the edge of the map. She set the toe of her sneaker on a corner of the map and leaned back, her hands flat on the porch boards.
Edmund fished a lead weight on a piece of fishing line from his jeans pocket. He murmured to the weight and kissed it, then held the string between finger and thumb, let the weight dangle above the map. ``Julio,'' he murmured. ``Julio.''
The weight circled slowly clockwise above the map. Matt waited. She had seen Edmund do search-dowsing before. The line would straighten in some direction or another, pointing them toward their quarry.
The circles spun faster, though Edmund's grip on the line didn't shift at all. Presently, the line stretched tight, the weight suspended toward the south. Matt nodded. Good. They had a line on Julio. Maybe they could get going soon. She loved staying in the haunted house, but it had been three weeks, and she was getting restless. Something inside her, stronger than anything else she knew, wanted her to keep moving. She didn't know how to quiet it.
She had promised Edmund soon after she met him that she'd help him look up his old childhood friends so he wouldn't have to face them alone when they realized how different he had become since they last saw him.
This road was bumpy, but she had already helped him find the first two friends of four, Nathan, a ghost here in the haunted house who had only been lost to Edmund because Edmund was afraid to face him again, and Susan, a friend he had met when he was in junior high here in Guthrie.
Edmund had left town after he had hurt Susan's father to protect Susan fifteen years earlier. He had scared himself and her.
Matt had gone with Edmund to search for Susan. They found her in Palo Alto using the map-seek spell. She had changed her name to Suki, and cut herself loose of her earlier life, but she came home to the haunted house with them after she and Edmund walked through their mutual past again, examined it with older eyes, changed what they could, made amends where they could, and accepted their younger selves.
They were still two friends short.
The fishing line relaxed and circled again. After half a minute, it pulled to the northwest. Relaxed. Circled for a while, and pulled east. Relaxed, circled. Then the weight jerked straight up, as though tugged by a magnet, and stretched toward the porch roof. ``Whoa, spirit,'' Edmund said. ``It never did that before.''
``Julio sure moves around a lot,'' said Matt.
``That's not it. This technique doesn't work on him.''
``How can that be?''
He cupped the weight in his hand and stared down at the map, a frown plowing a line between his brows. ``Maybe he doesn't want to be found.''
The door creaked behind them, and Suki Backstrom, blonde and elegant in a tan sweater and olive green slacks, stepped out onto the porch. After three weeks here she had lost most of her California businesswoman/PR person chic, but she still hadn't relaxed into Oregon coast casual. ``You found me, and I didn't want to be found,'' she said, leaning against the house. She crossed her arms over her chest and smiled down at Matt.
``Are you sure?'' asked Matt.
``Yes. I absolutely did not want to be found. Later I was glad you found me, but not at first.''
``Julio might have defenses,'' Edmund said slowly.
``Better defenses than you did.''
``Because of that demon thing?'' Suki frowned. ``I thought it went away after a couple of days.''
``What demon thing?'' Matt asked.
``I don't know that it ever went away,'' said Edmund. ``I think he wanted us to believe it went away. He pretended nothing happened. I asked him about it a couple of times, but he never gave me a straight answer.''
``What demon thing?'' Matt asked again.
``It went away,'' Suki said. ``He was just the way he used to be.''
Edmund shook his head.
``Nathan?'' Suki said.
Shadow and light shimmered beside her, coalesced into the shape of a teenage boy from a bygone era: white shirt, suspenders, dark knickers, black knee socks, button-sided ankle boots. Nathan's skin was underground-pale; his hair was black, and his eyes gas-flame blue. Sometimes he looked more solid than others; today his edges were pearly and translucent.
``Julio got over that demon thing, didn't he?'' Suki asked him.
``Got over it?'' asked Nathan.
``Put it behind him, went on with his life.''
He looked away from her at the blackberry vines in the yard. There were mounds of them so tall you almost couldn't see the street past them, or the wind-bent shore pines that shielded the houses next door from view. ``He went on with his life,'' Nathan said.
``He didn't get over the demon thing?'' Suki asked.
``I can't tell you that part. It's not my story.''
``You said you still see him sometimes,'' said Matt.
The ghost smiled. ``Once in a while I see who Julio is now.'' `
`So you know what happened, but you're just not talking? Unfair,'' said Suki. She reached out as though to tickle him, growled when her hands went right through him. He laughed anyway.
``Looks like nobody's going to tell me anything.'' Matt felt frustrated.
I'll tell you,the house whispered to her through the palms of her hands. Later.
Paradoxically, Matt wondered if she should even ask. People ought to be in charge of their own stories. She didn't even know Julio, someone Edmund and Suki had been friends with for most of their childhoods. How would Julio feel about some stranger poking into his life story? Maybe it was none of her business.
She suggested this to the house.
The house waited a moment. I'll think about that. Let's talk in dreams tonight.
Matt bit her lip. The house told her lots of things in dreams. She wasn't awake enough to say no, and she never wanted to anyway; everything the house told her was fascinating. Maybe this was its sneaky way of getting around her better self.
``We have to find Julio another way,'' Edmund said. ``Nathan, can you help us?''
``What if you're correct? What if Julio doesn't want to be found?''
``What if he's like me and doesn't know he wants to be found?'' Suki asked.
``Can you still do that thing where you get inside him? Could you find him that way?'' Edmund asked Nathan.
``Edmund'' said Nathan.
``Let's look for your other friend instead,'' suggested Matt. ``Deirdre. We can worry about Julio later.''
Edmund glanced at her, then smiled. He flattened the map with his palm, spoke to the lead weight again, kissed it, sat back, took some deep breaths and let them out slowly, then held the weight above the map. ``Deirdre. Deirdre,'' he murmured.
The weight circled for a long time, and then pulled itself to a stop. Matt and Edmund leaned closer. A tiny town in central Oregon, a clear circle that meant it was unincorporated. ``Artemisia,'' Edmund read aloud. ``What's she doing there?''
``Let's go find out.'' Matt measured distances with her thumb, muttered figures to herself. ``Looks like about two hundred seventy miles.'' She glanced at the sun. Still high in the sky. Edmund's car was great, but it didn't go very fast, and they had two mountain ranges to cross, though the first one, the Coast Range, wasn't very tall.
``We'll go tomorrow.'' Edmund glanced at Suki and Nathan. ``You want to come?''
Nathan shrugged. ``If you need me, call me up.'' Most days the only way he could get away from the haunted house was by being summoned to a se[aaance.
Suki said, ``I'd rather wait and find out if she wants to see us. You do all the intrusive stuff. Besides, I have an interview. Who knows. I might get a job.''
A job! Getting a job was like nailing your foot to the floor, Matt thought. Especially a good job. Although Suki had walked away from the job she'd held in California for several years. Matt had walked away from lots of little stopgap jobs, the kind that weren't meant to last, but she'd never had a job she wanted to keep.
Suki was different. Maybe she wanted to nail her feet to the floor here.
``Hey, good luck.'' Edmund looked at Matt. ``You'll come?''
``Of course. I'm already packed.''
THAT night Matt lay alone in one of the beds in Julio's old room. She could hear Edmund's slow sleep breaths from the other bed. After years of sleeping alone, she had gotten used to sleeping beside him, liked waking up tangled with him, snuggled up against his warmth and wrapped in his sagebrush-and-woodsmoke scent, but she had told him that tonight she needed to sleep with her dreams.
The house hummed around her. She knew it was waiting for her to fall asleep so it could talk to her. She had never known another being who could walk into her dreams, turn them into its playground, its movie screen, the way the house could. Some nights it left her alone, but some nights it took a human formnot the same shape as Nathan, but a person, someone tall, comforting, welcoming, who walked beside her on a dream version of the Guthrie beach and talked about things Matt couldn't remember when she woke up. House-as-person seemed more motherly than Matt's mother had ever been.
Matt figured seeing the house as human was a natural extension of her relationship with inanimate objects. She knew things had souls and ideas, histories, memories, and desires, voices that only she seemed able to hear. Why not see a lively thing like the house as a person?
Matt closed her eyes, pulled the covers up to her chin, and settled into her sleeping position on her back. Did you think about what I said?she thought.
Yes,whispered the house. This is Julio's story, but it's mine, too, because some of it happened to me. Matt, Julio knew me and Nathan the way you do, for different reasons. I don't think he'll mind if I tell you. At least, not this part of it. It happened fifteen years ago. Ready?
Matt's breathing slowed. She fell down into sleep, and opened her eyes somewhere else.
Reprinted from Past the Size of Dreaming by Nina Kiriki Hoffman by permission of Berkley, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2001, Nina Kiriki Hoffman. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission. “Hoffman writes about magic creatively and with great feeling...her ingenious plotting explores memory, the nature of recollection and personal growth.” Kirkus Reviews
“A lasting addition to the urban fantasy canon.” Booklist
“Hoffman chronicles the destinies of young men and women as they try to come to terms with the magic that flows through the world around them. The author’s sensuous prose and gentle humor add a graceful charm to this fantasy adventure set in the modern world.” Library Journal
“Great urban fantasy…A beautiful story. Nina Kiriki Hoffman is a wonderful storyteller who makes the written word sing. The characters drive the story as the motley crew wins the hearts of readers who will anxiously await the next installment in this fabulous series.” Harriet Klausner, The Midwest Book Review
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