Home > Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(13)

Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(13)
Author: Ransom Riggs

In the weeks that followed, the peculiars looked to Ymeene for leadership. In addition to making sure the loop kept looping, she was called upon to resolve personal disputes, to cast deciding votes about which of the council’s many rules should be retained and which jettisoned, to punish breakers of what rules they kept, and so on. She adapted quickly to her new role, but was baffled by it, too. Of all the peculiars in the loop, she was the newest and the least experienced. She’d only been a full-time human for six months! But her comrades viewed her inexperience as a boon: she was fresh and unbiased, neutral and fair, and had about her a quiet, dignified wisdom that seemed more of the avian world than the human.

But for all her wisdom, Ymeene still could not solve their biggest problem: how more than one hundred peculiars could live in a space that was only three hundred feet from end to end. Once established, a loop can be made to hold more time, but not more space—and Ymeene had only enlooped their small camp’s few dozen tents. They hadn’t much food, and though their stores reappeared each day with the cycling of the loop, it was never enough to feed all of them. (Outside their loop a hard winter had set in, so there was little to be hunted or foraged; they were more likely to find a roving gang of normals than a meal, for the normals had become obsessed with finding the peculiars who had disappeared right in front of their eyes.)

Ymeene was talking it over with Englebert one night as they sat around a crowded cook fire.

“What are we to do?” she said. “If we stay here we’ll starve, and if we leave we’ll be hunted down.”

Englebert had removed his head and placed it in his lap so that he could scratch the top of it with both hands, something he did when he was deep in thought. “Could you make a larger loop someplace with plentiful food?” he asked. “If we’re careful not to be seen, we could all move.”

“When the weather thaws, perhaps. We’d likely freeze to death in any new loop I made now.”

“Then we’ll wait,” he said. “We’ll just have to starve a little, until a good thaw comes.”

“And then what?” she said. “More peculiars in need will come, and soon we’ll outgrow that loop, too. A limit will be reached. I can only handle so much responsibility.”

Englebert sighed and scratched his head. “If only you could copy yourself.”

A strange look came over Ymeene’s face. “What was that you said?”

“If you could copy yourself,” Englebert repeated. “Then you could make multiple loops, and we could spread out a bit. I worry about putting so many of us in one place. Factions will divide us and fights will break out. And if, Heaven forfend, something tragic were to happen to this loop, the population of peculiars in Britain would be halved in a single stroke.”

Ymeene was facing Englebert, but her eyes were staring past him.

“What is it?” he said. “Have you thought of a way to copy yourself?”

“Perhaps,” she replied. “Perhaps.”

The next morning Ymeene gathered the peculiars and told them she was going away for a while. Ripples of panic spread through the crowd, though she assured them she’d be back in time to reset the loop. They begged her not to go, but she insisted it was crucial to their survival.

She left Englebert in charge, assumed bird form, and flew out of her loop for the first time since its creation. Soaring over the frozen forests of Oddfordshire, she asked the same question of every bird she saw: “Do you know any birds who can turn into humans?” She searched all day and night, but everywhere she went the answer was no. She returned to her loop late that night, tired and discouraged—but not defeated. She reset the loop, dodged Englebert’s questions, and flew out again without a moment’s rest.

She searched and searched until her wings and her eyes ached, thinking: “I couldn’t really be the only creature in the world like me, could I?”

After another long day of fruitless scouting, she was almost convinced that she was absolutely unique. It was a thought that made her desperate—and desperately lonely.

Then, just as the sun was setting, and she was about to turn back toward her loop, Ymeene flew over a forest clearing and spied below her a flock of kestrels—and among them, a young woman. It all happened in a flash. The kestrels saw her and took off, scattering into the woods. In the tumult, the young woman seemed to have disappeared. But where could she have gone so quickly?

Could she have turned into a kestrel and flown away with the others?

Ymeene dove after them and gave chase, and for an hour tried to track the kestrels down—but kestrels are the natural prey of goshawks, and they were terrified of Ymeene. She would have to try another approach.

It was dark. She returned to her loop, reset it, wolfed down five ears of roasted corn and two bowls of leek soup—flying all day was hungry work—and returned to the kestrels’ woods the next morning. This time she approached their clearing not from the air as a goshawk, but on foot as a human. When the kestrels saw her they flew up into the trees and sat watching her, cautious but unafraid. Ymeene stood in the middle of the clearing and addressed them not in human language, or in go-talk (the speech of goshawks), but in the few halting words of kestrel she knew, as well as her human throat could reproduce them.

“One among you is not like the others,” she said, “and it is to that young woman that I address myself. You are both bird and human. I am afflicted and blessed with the same ability, and I would very much like to speak with you.”

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