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‘Did you ever have a cougar attack a stag?’ I’m trying to ask about Erik, but no matter how many ways I ask, Jost has no clue what I’m saying.
‘I’m sure one did,’ he says, giving me a slight shrug to let me know he’s sorry he doesn’t understand. If only my questions were as easy to follow as his body language.
And that’s when I realise the solution to our problem. It’s so simple, it never occurred to me. ‘Jost, is sight or sound more important when hunting?’ I ask excitedly.
‘What do you mean?’
‘If you were hunting, would you want to see or hear your prey?’
He understands and gives me a slight nod. ‘Sight is good, but most prefer being able to hear.’
So there it is: the Coventry listens in private quarters but, unlike in the studios, doesn’t watch. At least, that’s what Jost thinks, and he knows a lot about how things work here. Now I know what to do if I can manage it, but it means breaking a promise.
‘Well, thank you for bringing me my lunch,’ I tell him, and lead him to the door. He follows, but it’s clear he doesn’t understand. Most of the food is finished, but he usually stays longer. When I open the door and then shut it noisily before he can leave, he stays silent, waiting for me to make my point. I gesture towards the rug in front of the fire. He walks to it, and I follow behind him, concentrating hard on the strands in the room until they glimmer around me, revealing the room’s weave. The time and matter are knitted closely together, and I have to focus on the golden bands of light until I’m sure I can pinpoint just the time threads. It’s so much easier to see on the loom, but at least time always moves across, so I can find it if I look closely enough. Slowly I reach out with my wounded fingers and pull the strands and twist. The fire in the hearth roars up and crackles in the room so loudly it fills my ears. A chill dampens the air around us despite the climate control being on. I weave the tangled time into a web of golden light, and it domes us in a shimmering glow, stopping at the rug under our feet. We can still see the fire and the room through the translucent web, but we no longer hear the crackle of the logs, and the licking flames seem to slow until they are frozen, like a picture, when I connect the last bits of twisted gold.
‘What did you do?’ he whispers.
‘I wove another moment.’ I’m as surprised as he is that it worked. ‘I wasn’t sure I could.’ This is what I’d done at testing. Slipped, and caught the weave of the actual room, not the one they’d given us on the loom, and messed it up a little. I’d smoothed it right back out, but that was all it took. I’d been studying the weave around me for years, enough to know that what I’d done would be noticed by the proctors administering the test. But I’d never considered how I could use this skill until now.
‘What does that mean?’ he asks, reaching out toward the golden web, but pulling back before his hands touch it.
‘I don’t know,’ I admit.
‘Can they hear us?’
‘I don’t think so.’ Biting my lip, I gesture for him to be silent and then carefully pull the strands separating us from the nearby fire. It roars back to life. I quickly reweave them, and it stops again.
‘It’s frozen,’ he murmurs in disbelief. ‘But how?’
‘This moment exists outside of that reality. I can’t really explain it.’ But he’s staring at me like I’m a freak. I don’t blame him. It’s not supposed to work this way. ‘I know you are supposed to need a loom to weave, but I can see the weave without one.’
From the way he falls back in surprise, I can guess he’s decided that I’m definitely a freak.
‘Have you always been able to do this?’ he asks.
‘Not exactly like this, but I’ve been able to weave since I was a child.’
‘Without a loom?’ he asks in awe.
‘So you messed up the room?’ I can tell he’s having a hard time with this. I barely understand it myself.
‘These,’ I say, fingering the strands of light, ‘are time. They always move across the weave. I guess it’s because time flows forward.’
‘Can it be moved backward?’ he asks quietly, and I know what he’s thinking.
I shake my head no. As much as I wish I could turn back the weave and save my parents, for the first time part of me is glad I can’t. If I could take Jost back to save his family, would I? It’s not a decision I want to face.
‘But how do you do it without the loom?’ he asks, trying to hide his disappointment. ‘How can you even see it?’
‘I wish I knew,’ I say with a hollow chuckle. ‘Maybe then I wouldn’t be in this mess.’
‘Do they know this?’
I pause, because I’m not sure. Cormac says they saw me do it at testing, but I’ve been careful not to manipulate without a loom here. I don’t share all this with Jost though. ‘Enora told me not to tell them.’
Jost lets out a low whistle as he paces the small dome, inspecting it as closely as he can without touching it. ‘Enora is smart. What would happen if someone came into the room right now?’
‘That’s just it,’ I explain. ‘They couldn’t. That moment’ – I point to the room outside my woven moment – ‘is frozen.’
‘So we could stay here,’ he says slowly, ‘and no matter how much time passes here, no time would pass out there.’