The Wicked Will Rise Page 43

This way to the Island of Lost Things, it read.

The Island of Lost Things. That sounded at least slightly better than the Fog of Doubt. Actually, it sounded like it had possibilities. I kicked the side of the canoe and found it surprisingly sturdy, and as Ozma and I exchanged a glance, I sensed that we were both wondering the same thing.

If we were headed for the Island of Lost Things, was it to find something that had gone missing, or did it mean we, too, were lost?

No. I felt, for the first time, like I was found.


I rowed until my arms felt like they were about to fall off and then rowed some more while Ozma mostly dozed, every now and then waking up just long enough to look around, see that nothing much had changed, and slide back into a blissed-out nap.

I had started out paddling toward the mountains on the other side of the water, under the assumption if I just kept going in one direction long enough, I’d find the island eventually. But the mountains—which had loomed so huge in the distance from the beach—were now somehow growing smaller as I moved toward them, sinking into the horizon line until they had disappeared.

Even with a paddle, that left me pretty much up a creek. I was sitting in the middle of a smooth, almost motionless plate of water that reflected the sky to the point where it was hard to tell which was which. I couldn’t even head back to where I’d started: with nothing in any direction except water, it was impossible to tell where I’d come from.

I felt like I had rowed out to the end of the world and found myself right back at the beginning of it.

The only thing I had to guide me was the sun—not that it seemed very trustworthy at the moment either. While the mountains had been busy doing their amazing disappearing act, the sun’s movement in the sky had been speeding up, and now it was rising and sinking and rising and sinking over and over, like a time-lapse animation brought to life.

I guess it was possible that someone was going crazy with the Great Clock back in the Emerald City, but somehow I didn’t think so. When I was little, and my mom had told me about the International Date Line, I’d imagined it as a real line, painted down the middle of the world, and that if you stood with your feet on either side of it and looked at your watch, it would get so confused that the hands would start spinning around, out of whack. This felt something like that—like we were trapped in a place where time didn’t know which way was up anymore.

“I thought you were supposed to be the one leading the way,” I snapped at Ozma, who was still oblivious in her slumber, her hand dangling out of the boat, her fingers dragging in the water. “How about waking up and helping me out here?”

She sighed in her sleep and turned the other way.

Out of ideas, I tried casting a pathfinder spell, but when I conjured up the usually trusty ball of energy to guide us, all it did was flutter around in confusion, then sputter out.

I stared out at the water in frustration. “At least it’s not telling me what a loser I am,” I mused aloud. Secretly, I kind of wished it would, if only for the change of pace. A few Fantasms might not have been pleasant, but they would have given me someone to talk to other than myself and Sleeping Beauty over here.

The sound of my own voice made me feel giddy to the point of near drunkenness, and I began to giggle. “I guess I should have known that the Island of Lost Things wouldn’t be easy to find,” I said. “It would almost be funny, right? I mean, if we weren’t so totally, completely, utterly lost.”

Then my giggles became hysterical laughter. I wasn’t laughing at my joke (which wasn’t really a joke even) but from sheer joy. Because at the exact moment that my words escaped my mouth, I saw it: against the hot-pink silver dollar of the plunging sun, a tiny, crescent-shaped sliver of land had made itself suddenly apparent. Roused by my whooping, Ozma yawned, stretched, and rubbed her eyes, sitting up and cracking her neck from one side to the next.

“Finders keepers,” she said groggily.

I was too overjoyed to be annoyed at her nonsense. Now that I had spotted it, I began to paddle again in earnest and the island was approaching rapidly, rising up out of the water like some reverse Atlantis.

It made such perfect sense that I felt stupid for not thinking of it earlier. Duh. You couldn’t find the Island of Lost Things until you had gotten yourself lost beyond any hope of finding. If I’d given up an hour, or a day ago, it would have appeared that much quicker. So much for quitters never win.

But the sight of a destination—any destination!—had energized me, and I pushed myself as hard as I could, gaping when I realized that the island, while small, was actually something like a city, complete with a cluster of tall, boxy, and downright American-looking high-rises shooting up into the sky.

As the island grew nearer and nearer, I noticed all sorts of detritus floating in the water. There were old, soggy books, loose papers, pieces of clothing, wooden toys, and other stuff I didn’t recognize. Soon, there was so much of it that you couldn’t see the water at all.

The boat began to drag, so I jumped overboard, into the muck, and began pulling it, behind me, with Ozma still in it, trying not to think about what I was wading through. Before long, I was crawling ashore onto blessed, wonderful, dry land.

I mean, there must have been land somewhere underneath all the junk strewn about. This beach was in serious need of a caretaker, considering that the whole shoreline was heaped with piles upon piles of what appeared to be trash. It struck me that maybe there wasn’t any land underneath it. Maybe the island was just one big landfill.

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