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Chapter 29: Wherein Rat Makes Art

I was on the floor, on my knees, with my face pressed close to the wooden floorboards. Burgen lay on my bed with his boots on as he leafed through the pages of the day's newspaper. He looked over the top of the paper and peeked at what I was doing. I knew he was feigning disinterest, but it ate him up inside – he couldn't figure out what I was up to.

"If you're not going to tell me, I'm just going to leave," he threatened.

"Then leave," I said, my voice betraying the deep concentration I was under. Over the past few hours, my clothes had become dusty and my fingers white from the chalk I was using. I wasn't worried about Burgen leaving because the strongest thing about him was his curiosity.

"It's very pretty, but that's not how you make a Spirit Portal," he tried guessing.

"Good, 'cause I'm not making a Spirit Portal." I narrowed my eyes, blurring my vision on purpose. When everything was blurred I somehow knew how I had to draw it.

"It's not how you make a Transport either. It's not how you fold space and it's not how you make a Line of Flight."

He was close but still hadn't hit the target. I added one last line and moved back, I realised with delight that it was complete. As I undid a few knots in my neck, I surveyed my masterpiece. I had had to move the bed near the wall and roll up the carpet to have enough space for it. The chalk-marks covered the entire floor, starting from the very centre and ring after ring expanding outward giving the impression of a spider's web, or perhaps white lace on a lady's – or Burgen's – dress.

I looked out the window, surprised to find that it was dark outside. I had begun my project that morning upon waking and had not felt I was able to pause until now. At some point, Burgen had come into the room bearing sandwiches, on the pretext that he was worried about me. I could barely spare him my attention, only when he almost stepped on one of the lines was I forced to react, throwing him through the air and onto my bed.

He folded up the newspaper putting it aside and admired my work as I stood up groaning and tried to coax the stiffness out of my body. "It's very pretty, your artwork."

"Magic is art," I said, grinning – it was pretty; I never knew that I knew how to draw like that. "But it's not complete." I clapped the chalk dust out of my hands, massaged my knees and back. I was a mess, and I smelled too – it was somehow summer again, the windows closed so that the humid summer air would not destroy my chalk-work.

How was it summer again? When I was younger and out there on the streets, every season was a world, summers were bright, easy but terribly short while winters were always years and years long. In here, whether it was summer, whether it was winter, whether autumn or spring – time passed by in a hurry, as if the seconds, the minutes, the hours, the days, were each chasing one another in a mad race.

And in that strange way, nearly two years passed, I changed from being about ten or eleven to being around twelve or thirteen. I grew a lot, almost overnight. I grew so fast that my bones hurt every single morning. I was still painstakingly thin, still overly-flexible and fast moving, still very quiet when I walked. But I had already surpassed the Grand Master in height and these days I fancied that I was going to be as tall as Burgen – if not taller. Like every boy my age, I was anxious and impatient to become a man.

Although, in some cultures in the world, I already was a man – I had, after all, managed to kill someone.

"Are you going to colour in between the lines now?" Burgen asked.

I smirked. "Something like that." I massaged my neck a little more, before I loosened my shoulders and fixed my eyes upon my creation. I inhaled deeply, drawing as much air as my lungs could hold, and then as I exhaled slowly – everything happened.

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