Month: August 2020

The Labyrinth Disme

There’s a ghost in my bed. She’s crying. She is the first, and it has been three days since my Burning—a ritual of my people that resulted in an ashen wound down my back. It healed into the literal shape of a ship on a sea of smoke.

When Nylin saw the ship, she said she always knew I’d be a Ferrier. Nylin’s always right, of course, like most Watchers.

“Don’t take me,” pleads the ghost. “I can’t leave them. My family.”

“I have to,” I say.

The ghost stifles her tears and rubs at her cloudy face. “What’s your name?”

I tell her my name is Gavin, but it feels like a lie. I chose the name for myself two years ago and haven’t used it since. It feels foreign to my ears, in my own voice, but the ghost doesn’t seem to notice. The Disme people don’t need names before they turn eleven.

Her name is Sen. It feels soft, like the feathered edges of her soul.

Sen is maybe nine or ten. I don’t ask because I’ll know soon.

I pluck my dime off the stack of striped, folded tarp beside my bed. Nylin had given it to me, as well as the clothes on my back, the thin mattress beneath me, the lamp that burns only one simple shade of pulsing dim, like a heartbeat.

The dime fits perfectly in my palm, despite not being a perfect circle. It is more akin to a broken ten-piece than uniform currency. The cold metal weighs heavy in my palm and I try not to tremble with it.

I hold my palm flat between Sen and me, then I call my Disme Mark forth, the way Nylin taught me.

The burn comes off my naked back in a wave of chills, as if a cold finger is running a nail down my spine. I roll my shoulders, tense, and my spine pops. The sound echoes around my tent like canon fire. My Disme Mark coils and folds over my head in swirls of black smoke, like a hood being drawn.

It crawls down my face and creeps across my arm. The Mark plateaus on the dime displayed in my palm. It is an empty, silent ship, made of smoke and charred flesh. It is as real as I am.

My ship curls itself around Sen’s wispy, white frame, collecting her. With its first passenger, the Disme ship returns to me, pasting itself onto my back where it had been burned into me not three days before, on my thirteenth birthday.

Sen is no longer in my bed, but she isn’t gone. She is on my ship and for a time, I am ten.