WHEN I FINALLY WALK OUTSIDE AFTER CHANGING into warmer clothes and rolling my bed blanket under my arm, the sun is shifted to the west and there’s not a cloud in the sky. It’s half past four, which gives me an hour and a half at best. I hate the rushed quality of Sundays, the way the day creeps by until the very moment we’re free, at which point time flies. I look to the east, andthe light reflected off the snow causes me to squint. The cave is over two rocky hills. With as much snow as there is on the ground now, I’m not even sure I’ll see the opening today. But I pull on my hat, zip up my jacket, tie the blanket around my neck like a cape, and head east.
Two tall birch trees mark the trail’s start, and my feet turn cold the second I enter the deep drifts. Theblanket-cape sweeps the snow behind me, erasing my footprints. I pass a few recognizable fixtures that show the way—a rock jutting out past the others, a tree that leans at a slightly different angle. After about twenty minutes I pass the rock formation identical to a camel’s back, which tells me I’m almost there.
I have the faint sensation of being watched, possibly followed. I turn and scan themountainside. Silence. Snow, nothing else. The blanket around my neck has done a great job of hiding my tracks. A slow, prickly feeling crawls up the
back of my neck. I’ve seen the way rabbits blend into the landscape, going unnoticed until you’re almost on top of them, and I know that just because I can’t see somebody doesn’t mean they can’t see me.
Five minutes later I finally spot the roundedshrub that blocks the entrance. The cave’s mouth looks like an oversized groundhog hole cutting into the mountain, and that’s exactly what I had mistaken it for years ago. But when I’d looked more closely I knew I was wrong. The cave was deep and dark, and back then I could see next to nothing in the little light that entered. There was an implicit desire to discover the cave’s secrets, and Iwonder if this is what caused the Legacy to develop: my ability to see in the dark. I can’t see in the dark as easily as I can in the day, but even the deepest recesses of black glow as though lit by candlelight.
On my knees, I knock away just enough snow to be able to slip down and in. I drop the bag ahead of me, untie the blanket from my neck and sweep it across the snow to hide myfootprints, then hang it on the other side of the opening to keep out the wind. The entrance is narrow for the first three meters, followed by a slightly wider passageway that winds down a steep decline large enough to navigate while standing; and after that the cave opens, revealing itself.
The ceiling is high and echoing, and its five walls smoothly transition into one another, creating analmost perfect polygon. A stream cuts through the back right corner. I have no idea where the water comes from or where it goes—springing up through one of the walls only to
disappear into the earth’s deeper depths—but the level never changes, offering a reservoir of icy cold water regardless of the time of day or season. With the constant fresh source of water, this is the perfect place tohide. From the Mogadorians, the Sisters, and the girls—even Adelina. It’s also the perfect place to use and hone my Legacies.
I drop the bag beside the stream, remove the nonperishables, and place them on the rock ledge, which already holds several chocolate bars, small bags of granola, oatmeal, cereal, powdered milk, a jar of peanut butter, and various cans of fruits, vegetables, andsoup. Enough for weeks. Only when everything is put away do I stand and allow myself to be greeted by the landscapes and faces I’ve painted on the walls.
From the very first time a brush was put into my hand at school, I fell in love with painting. Painting allows me to see things as I want to and not necessarily as they are; it’s an escape, a way to preserve thoughts and memories, a way to create...