Home > Caraval (Caraval #1)(12)

Caraval (Caraval #1)(12)
Author: Stephanie Garber

“No—” Scarlett shivered. “We—”

“We can’t keep walking around like this,” Julian cut her off. “Your lips are turning purple. We need to locate the smoke.”

“I don’t care. If my sister is still out there—”

“Your sister probably left to find the entrance to the game. We have only until the end of the day to make it inside Caraval, which means we should follow the smoke, and then do the same.” He marched ahead, bare feet crunching the snow.

Scarlett’s eyes darted around the untouched beach a final time. Tella had never been good at patiently waiting—or even impatiently waiting. But if she had gone into Caraval, why were there no signs of her?

Reluctantly, Scarlett followed Julian into the forest. Bits of piney needles stuck to toes she could no longer feel as a chestnut dirt path replaced the snow. But while her feet left damp footprints, she saw no marks from Tella’s heeled boots.

“She probably took a different route from the beach.” Julian’s teeth didn’t chatter, yet his brown skin was taking on an indigo hue, matching the trees’ distorted shadows.

Scarlett wanted to argue, but the wet fabric of her clothes was turning to ice. The forest was colder than the coastline had been. She wrapped frigid arms across her chest, but all that did was add to her chill.

A flicker of concern crossed Julian’s features. “We need to get you somewhere warm.”

“But my sister—”

“—is smart enough to already be inside the game. If you freeze out here you’re not going to find her.” Julian’s arm wrapped around Scarlett’s shoulders.

She stiffened.

His dark brows formed an offended line. “I’m just trying to keep you warm.”

“But you’re freezing too—” And practically naked.

Scarlett pulled away, half stumbling, as the forest of trees came to an end and the soft dirt floor transformed into a firmer road paved with opalescent stones, smooth as polished sea glass. The cobbled road stretched farther than she could see, multiplying into a maze of twisting streets. All were lined with mismatched, rounded shops, painted shades of jewels or pastels, and piled on top of one another like sloppily stacked hatboxes.

It was charming and enchanting, but it was also unnaturally still. The shops were all closed and the snow on their rooftops rested like dust on abandoned storybooks. Scarlett didn’t know what sort of place this was, but it was not how she imagined Caraval.

Sunset smoke still streamed in the air, but it looked as far away as when they were on the beach.

“Crimson, we need to keep moving.” Julian urged her down the curious street.

Scarlett didn’t know if it was possible for the cold to make her hallucinate, or if there was just something wrong with her head. On top of being strangely quiet, none of the signs on the hatbox-shaped shops made any sense. Each was printed in a variety of languages. Some said Open: Sometime Around Midnight. Other signs said Come Back Yesterday.

“Why is everything closed?” she asked. Her words came out in fragile puffs. “And where is everyone?”

“We just need to keep going. Don’t stop walking. We need to find somewhere warm.” Julian pressed forward, past the most peculiar shops Scarlett had ever seen.

There were bowler hats covered in taxidermy crows. Parasol holsters. Women’s headbands studded with human teeth. Mirrors that could reflect the darkness in a person’s soul. The cold was definitely toying with her vision. She hoped Julian was right and Tella was someplace warm. Scarlett continued searching for glimpses of her sister’s honey-blond hair, listening for echoes of her vibrant giggles, but every store was empty, silent.

Julian tried a few doorknobs; nothing budged.

The following row of abandoned shops boasted a series of fantastical things. Fallen stars. Seeds to grow wishes. Odette’s Ocular sold eyeglasses that saw the future. (Available in four colors.) “Those would be nice,” Scarlett muttered.

Next door to Odette’s, a banner claimed its shop proprietor could fix broken imaginations. That message floated above bottles of dreams and nightmares and something called daymares, which Scarlett imagined she was experiencing that moment as icicles formed in her dark hair.

Beside her Julian cursed. Beyond several more blocks of hatbox-shaped shops, they could almost see where the smoke came from, and now it was twisting into a sun with a star inside and a teardrop inside of the star—the symbol for Caraval. But the cold had reached into Scarlett’s bones and her teeth; even her eyelids were turning frosty.

“Wait—what—about there!” With a trembling hand, Scarlett waved Julian toward Casabian’s Clocks. At first she thought it was just the brass window lining, but behind the glass, past a forest of pendulums and weights and shiny wooden cabinets, a fireplace blazed. And a sign on the door said Always Open.

A chorus of tick-tocks, cuckoos, second hands, and windup gears greeted the frozen couple as they dashed inside. Limbs Scarlett had stopped feeling prickled from the sudden warmth, while the heated air scorched her lungs as it went down.

Her frozen vocal chords cracked as she called, “Hello?”



Only gears and cogs answered back.

The shop was round, like a clock’s face. The floor was tiled in a mosaic of different styles of numbers, while various timepieces covered almost every surface. Some ran backward; others were full of exposed wheels and levers. On the back wall several moved like puzzles with their pieces drawing together as the hour approached. A heavy glass locked box in the center of the open room claimed that the pocket watch inside wound back time. Another day Scarlett would have been curious, but all she cared about was getting closer to the roaring circle of warmth coming from the fireplace.

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