To an outsider, seeing Blight Manor for the first time was an unforgettable experience. The mansion stuck out like a sore thumb among the surrounding Bonesbourough, especially the clawlike central spire that stretched towards the sky. Even from the street a person could see the epic stained glass windows that lined the top and the strange red moss that crawled up the ancient brick exterior.
But for Amity, toiling up the long entrance path after a tiring day at school, it was routine.
She actually hated how big the house was; once she entered, it took her several minutes just to climb up two stories and find her room. And even in such a huge house her bedroom was sandwiched right between her twin siblings’. Some nights it was hard to get to sleep with the racket their mock battles and over-the-top illusion spells made. Nearly nightly Amity would find herself covering her ears with her pillow and wondering why Edric and Emira had to practice their magic so loudly. (She blamed the AP Illusions classes they were taking this semester.) Soon, though, she’d have distracted herself. Thoughts and daydreams that mostly involved Luz would dance through her mind and lull her to sleep.
After Luz had gone her separate way, Amity had stayed in the forest, leaned against a tree, and shut her eyes, quickly losing herself in thought. Contemplating calmed her. She knew she had a lot to deal with- more than a standard witch would be able to deal with. But she wasn’t a standard witch. She was talented, and she knew she could nip this time-travel thing right in the bud. She’d tried her best to come up with a stable plan for guaranteed girlfriend-getting success but she found that this timeline was just as confusing as the last. Who knew how much she’d unknowingly change things just by possessing knowledge of the future?
Now, as dusk was creeping over the spire of the mansion Amity stood outside the manor’s huge double door and waited. She didn’t have a key to get in (her parents didn’t trust her with the ability to enter the house while they were gone… something about discouraging her or the twins from going out and “partying”) so she was stuck pulling her cowl down around her upper arms to keep the wind chill out. Any minute now her parents would appear at the front window…
And speak of the Titan. At that instant there was a loud creak as the door was pushed open. Looking up, Amity was met with the steely golden eyes of her father, Alador. A pang of anger shot through her chest. Every time she saw him, she was overwhelmed with disgust at how much she looked like him. She hated that he bore almost no resemblance to her twin siblings. She hated that they shared the same bright eyes and the same prodigious magical talent and, occasionally, the same hair color (though the alternative wasn’t much better).
“Amity,” her father growled. “You’re late.”
“As you can see, it’s already dusk.” Alador pointed up at the red-orange sky. His steely eyes didn’t leave his daughter’s. “Where have you been?” Be looked down at her wrist, bound in a cast. “You’ve been so irresponsible that you e hurt yourself?”
“In the woods,” Amity tried. “Studying. And I just... tripped earlier. While I was taking my abomination to school.”
Alador nodded. “Funny you should say that about studying.”
He avoided the question. “Why don’t you come inside? You’ll catch your death of a cold out here. Cold winds seem to be blowing in from the Skeletal Sea tonight.” Alador’s tone was less than inviting, and Amity’s heart hammered her chest as she crept past him and into the manor’s lobby, slouching under the weight of her book bag. She’d reached the bottom of the staircase when Alador spoke again.
“Bodhia called me today.”
Freezing, Amity silently begged her heart to stop pounding so loudly. Surely even the twins could hear it from their bedroom. “Oh?” she asked, trying her best to sound nonchalant, though she knew it wouldn’t work, especially in front of her father.
“Boscha saw you in the woods while she was walking home from school.”
With Luz? Please, stars…
“You were sitting on the ground, and your head was buried in your arms, and according to Boscha, you were crying very loudly.”
Oh. Amity’s throat went dry and she found herself unable to respond. That’s not the worst case scenario, but that’s still… bad.
Alador raised one perfectly manicured eyebrow. “Care to explain what made you so upset?”
“Not really,” Amity whispered.
“Miss Amity.” Alador took one threatening step towards his daughter. Amity backed up against the banister and curled one arm around it. She fixed her eyes at the ground, avoiding Alador’s gaze like it was the Islean Plague.
“I need to finish my homework. Finals week is coming up-”
“You have all night. I think it’s time you and I had a little heart to heart conversation about what it means to be a Blight.”
An unexpected flash of rage pierced Amity’s heart. In any normal family, this was the part where Alador would sit her down and help her sort through her emotions with gentle words and soft praise. If this were a normal family, her father would open up his arms and Amity would melt into his embrace. Then, he’d curl his arms around her back and hold her until her sorrow had ceased. If this were a normal family, she wouldn’t have to hide her friendship with Luz in the first place.
But they weren’t a normal family. They were the Blight family. Amity had no choice but to deal with her frigid and unsupportive father, because Amity was a Blight.
And she hated herself for it.
Alador recoiled. “Excuse me?” He grimaced, and Amity could see his fangs.
She drew away from the banister and straightened her back. “I said no.” A strange sense of strength flooded her limbs, and she felt invigorated in a way she never had before. This is for Luz. This is for me. “I don’t have to tell you anything,” she said bravely.
Her father's eyes flashed with anger, bright and cold. “Miss Amity, that is no way to address your father.”
Amity shrugged. “It is now.” Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a flash of movement at the top of the stairs. There was no mistaking the forest-green hair and sky-blue sleeves of her siblings. Amity silently thanked the stars. Before Alador could make a lunge toward her, she spun on her heels and made a dash up the stairs.
Edric and Emira were waiting for her around the corner of the hallway, and as soon as they saw her, Emira grabbed her by the upper arm and they hurried down the hallway and towards her bedroom. “Lucky we saw you!” Emira whispered. She, too, noticed the cast. “Is your hand okay?” Amity managed a shaky nod.
The two girls ducked into Amity’s room and Ed followed close behind, closing the door. Amity collapsed on her bed. She pressed her face into her pillow and curled herself up into a ball, hoping that if she was small enough she’d just disappear.
She felt a weight settle down by her side, and her hand fell on her shoulder. “Not now, Em,” she grumbled. “Just leave me alone.”
“But we just heroically saved you, Mittens,” Em said.
Ed sat himself down on Amity’s other side. “We just want to make sure our favorite baby sister is okay!”
“Yeah, right.” Amity lifted her head and glared at the twins. “Just ‘cuz I don’t want to talk to Dad doesn’t mean I want to talk to you.”
“But you can tell us anything,” Em replied breezily.
“Unless it’s funny, then we’ll totally tell all your friends-”
Em shot Ed a glare, and he shut up. “I think what Edric is trying to say is that we will gladly be your confidants if something is bothering you,” she explained. “We are your only real allies, after all.”
“We heard Dad yelling at you for crying,” Ed put in. “Yeesh. Who yells at their own kid for crying?”
“Most of them wouldn’t.”
“But Dad isn’t most parents.”Amity’s tone was bitter. “He’s the worst kind of parent.”
“Were you really crying out in the woods?” Em asked.
Amity hesitated. She hadn’t really remembered crying- but as soon as Alador had mentioned it to her she’d realized it seemed plausible. As soon as she’d sunk against the trunk of that tree she’d been overcome with a tidal wave of emotions, some- okay, most- not good ones. At that moment, it had finally sunk in exactly what she’d done. She’d used a rare, powerful, and potentially dangerous time spell to take herself back three months and win Luz over once and for all. Even now, surrounded by her family, she felt more alone than ever. None of them knew what was happening. She couldn’t even tell Luz. She’d have to bear the weight of her knowledge on her shoulders alone.
Unless, that is, she didn’t have to.
She decided to answer Em’s question indirectly. “How much do you guys know about time magic?”
There was a brief silence that seemed to stretch for eons. “Uh,” Ed said helpfully after a moment. “That it’s not real?”
Em nodded. “It’s never been recorded, anyway. Why do you ask?”
“Because…” Amity fumbled for words and silently cursed herself for asking at all. Good going, Blight. Now they’re going to think you’re a nutcase, and they’ll send you off to the Conformatorium, and Luz will never think to rescue you. “I just- I think it is real. I think it is possible.”
Ed was clearly trying to hold back a giggle. Em, though, was still trying to keep her composure serious, and her voice was level as she asked Amity another question. “What does that have to do with you being upset?”
“Are you a time traveler?” Ed snickered. “Are you here to warn us about an epic witch war in the distant future or something? Sign me up! Anything to get me out of school!”
Amity sniffed. “Actually, I’m from October eighteenth.”
Now both siblings were regarding her with silent, amused curiosity, and a moment later both siblings burst out into raucous laughter. “A time traveler!” Ed wheezed as Em brushed a tear from the corner of her eye. “Mittens, you crack me up. Are you kidding with us or did you hit your head on the way home from school?”
“I’m not kidding!”Amity insisted. “I just really needed to tell someone what’s going on. When I was out in the woods- I got really overwhelmed by my thoughts. The future is really upsetting and I don’t know how to stop it.”
“Waitwaitwaitwait.” Ed inhaled sharply and quelled his laughter long enough to talk to Amity. “So let me get this straight. You’re a time traveler. From October. As in four-months-from-now October. Is there an apocalypse in October?”
“A deadly plague?”
“Murderous stinging insects the size of your hand that invade the Isles and destroy life as we know it?”
“No!”Amity forced herself to her feet and backed away from her bed. Ed and Em were staring at her now. Their eyes were round as if they thought they were watching their sister go insane. “No,” Amity repeated, calmer this time. She shut her eyes for a moment and allowed herself to breathe. In and out. In and out. It’ll be okay.
“I know you think I’m crazy, but I’m telling the truth. There’s a book on time magic at the public library-”
“Where?” the twins shouted in unison.
“- and I’m not going to tell you where, because then you might try to find it and even though you probably wouldn’t get to it, you’d certainly try, and you’d get yourselves in a lot of trouble. I don’t need to have been to the future to know that. Anyways, I was sent back here, and I… it’s a lot for me to take in. I didn’t think it was possible either. But I found the spell, and I cast it, and now I’m here. So I guess it is real.”
“That,” Em said, “is the most epic thing you’ve ever done.”
“If you did really do it,” Ed added.
“You could dunk me in truth serum and I’d say the same thing.”
Ed held both his hands up. “So let’s say, hypothetically-maybe-possibly, that you really are a time traveler from the near future, and you’ve been sent back to June to right some terrible wrong. Exactly what wrong would that be?”
Amity’s mind drifted back to Grom’s threat. That encounter seemed like a million years ago now. Some of it was fuzzy in her mind… something about fear, and… the end of the world… but Amity would never let Grom win. It didn’t matter what that stupid amorphous idiot blob had said. She’d win Luz back, and her terror at never seeing Luz again would cease. So really, she had no reason to mention Grom to her siblings.
Plus mentioning to anyone that you might have sent a deadly and powerful nightmare monster loose was probably not the best idea.
“I can’t tell you,” Amity said. “But you’ll figure it out soon enough.”
Ed crossed his arms stubbornly. “If you don’t tell me, I won’t believe you.”
Amity shrugged. “Fine. I’ll deal with this problem on my own, then, without your help. Guess you’ll just have to leave your poor sister helpless.”
Em opened her mouth, hesitated, and brushed Amity’s shoulder reassuringly. “I believe you,” she said. “A little bit.”
I guess that’s better than nothing.
Amity glanced at Ed. “What do you say? Do you promise to not think I’m crazy? And can you please not say anything to Mom and Dad so that I have a chance of actually making it all the way to October?”
Ed drew a spell-circle around his wrist. “It’s an oath. Whether you turn out to just be crazy or not.”
Her siblings’ loyalty was reassuring, but there was still a twinge of nervousness within Amity’s chest. How much was she changing the future by meddling in the past? How many disastrous consequences that she was unaware of was she meddling with?
She took a deep breath and claimed herself.
No matter what, she couldn’t show fear.