Vision in Silver Page 30

“Yes. When I lived in the compound, I could have absorbed a whole binder of images during the course of a day. But there are so many things to see in the Courtyard, doing that now would be overwhelming.” Information overload. Blanking out because her mind had shut down for a few minutes. Had shut out the images.

Her reaction to being inside the Three Ps was another confirmation that the cassandra sangue could absorb only so much before they shut down—or looked for a way to relieve the pressure building inside them.

“Why did you come in?” Lorne asked.

After going inside Sparkles and Junk, she thought she could handle going into the Three Ps, but she couldn’t get beyond the doorway. Not today. “I wrote a letter to my friend Jean. She lives on Great Island now. But it was on plain paper and sealed in an envelope.”

Had she said anything worth saying in that letter? The act of writing it had absorbed her so much she couldn’t remember what she’d said. Had she even said anything anyone else could understand, or had she rambled, caught by the fascination of watching the pen form letters?

Not the same as writing down information about the deliveries. That was simple. And it wasn’t the same as keeping lists of books she’d read or music she liked, or even writing a few thoughts about her day. None of those things had the same compulsion to continue just for the sake of continuing.

Suddenly Meg understood why the Crow had cut her hair so short. Like Meg and writing a letter, she had been ensnared by a new experience and hadn’t wanted it to end.

“You want some pretty stationary?” Lorne asked. “I have a few selections.”

How much time would be lost filling page after page?

“Too much.” Meg reached behind her for the door. Had to go back to the office, to the familiar.

“Wait right there.” Lorne hurried over to a spin rack near the counter. He quickly selected a handful of items, then returned, holding them out to her. “Postcards. A picture on the front.” He turned one over. “And blank on the other side. You put a stamp in this corner, and the person’s address here.” He pointed to the two places. “The other half is where you write a message. Confined space.”

Confined space. The words should have conjured up an image of something she should hate. Instead, she felt relief.

Meg took the postcards. “I owe you money.”

“Just take the cards today.” Lorne opened the door for her, a gesture she understood meant she was supposed to leave. “We’ll settle up later. Besides, it sounds like you’ve got a delivery,” he added as they both heard the sound of a van’s side door sliding open, then closing a moment later.

Meg hurried back to the office and reached the Private doorway in time to watch Jake pick up a pen with his beak and offer it to the deliveryman. The man nodded to Meg, took the pen from Jake, and made a notation on the paper attached to her clipboard.

A deliveryman dropping off packages. Familiar. Jake playing the pen game. Familiar.

She looked at the postcards in her hands, fascinated by the photographs of Talulah Falls. All that water pouring over the edge of the world, creating mist and rainbows.

Something new. A confined experience.

Meg dashed to the table in the sorting room and laid out the five postcards, picture side up. Three of them were of Talulah Falls. One was a deer half shrouded by a mist rising from the ground. And the last one . . . Big red rocks rising out of the ground, their tops flat.

Plateaus.

A fizz of excitement filled her. Plateau. Resting place. Stable place where things could stay the same for a while, giving the mind a chance to catch up.

Was that why, after doing so much and absorbing so much, she was struggling now? Living in the Courtyard, she absorbed more images and information in a day than she would have seen in a week at the compound. And even in the compound, although no one would have told the girls why it was done that way, there would be one week of new images, and then the next week they would look at things they had seen before.

Plateau. Resting place. She had done some of that instinctively, reaching for a magazine she’d perused before instead of looking at the new issue. But she hadn’t done enough of it because she hadn’t considered how important it was to stop before she reached overload. From now on, she would give herself more resting places.

And if she needed those resting places, so did the other girls—especially the girls who hadn’t chosen to live in the outside world.

Meg picked up the phone in the sorting room and called Merri Lee. “Merri? I figured out another bit we need to put in the Guide.”

CHAPTER 12

Firesday, Maius 11

Steve Ferryman drove out to the Gardner farm. The Simple Life folk didn’t have telephones in their houses, and they sure didn’t own digital cameras. Or any kind of camera, for that matter.

Would a drawing work as a reference for a blood prophet? Something he needed to ask.

After talking with Simon Wolfgard yesterday, he had taken his personal camera to the B and B where the five young cassandra sangue were staying and took pictures of each of the bedrooms—after he and several other men helped Margaret and Lara, the B and B’s owners, clear the rooms of everything that wasn’t considered essential or part of the room itself. He even took pictures of rooms the girls wouldn’t normally see, like the laundry room. Then he took pictures of the outside of the building and the surrounding land—parking lot, grass, gardens, anything he could think of. While he did that, Roger Czerneda, armed with the village’s new digital crime scene camera, took pictures of the village shops and public buildings, including the medical center, inside and out.

No one in Ferryman’s Landing understood why looking at images instead of the real thing made such a difference to the girls, but it did. And understanding that no change was a small change for these girls helped the adults cope with helping the girls.

“Seeing life secondhand so it doesn’t interfere with some damn prophecy,” he muttered. Of course, anyone who hadn’t seen Meg Corbyn not only functioning but thriving in the tsunami of sensory input that came with being the Human Liaison for the Lakeside Courtyard could understandably conclude that these girls needed a restricted, almost sterile environment in order to stay sane.

But they didn’t need sterile. They just needed help adjusting to a world full of sensation. And they needed that help because they’d been trained to see the world as images.

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