Read The Island of Excess Love Online

Authors: Francesca Lia Block

The Island of Excess Love

BOOK: The Island of Excess Love
7.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

The author and publisher have provided this e-book to you for your personal use only. You may not make this e-book publicly available in any way.
Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author's copyright, please notify the publisher at:
us.macmillanusa.com/piracy
.

 

I would like to thank Laurie Liss, Christy Ottaviano, Jeffrey Hirsch, Amy Allen, Allison Verost, April Ward, Neil Swaab, George Wen, Lara Stelmaszyk, Jasmine, and Sam.

 

For Christy

 

 

One day—who knows?—even these will be grand things to look back on.

 

From Virgil's
The Aeneid

 

CONTENTS

 

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Acknowledgments

Dedication

Epigraph

Prologue

  1. Conflagration

  2. Omens

  3. The Trojan Horse

  4. Pen's Destiny

  5. The Ghost Ship Sails

  6. Maelstrom

  7. Cadavers

  8. The Flower Cradle

  9. The King

10. Abominations

11. The Island of the Shades

12. The Return

Author's Note

Praise for Love in the Time of Global Warming

Copyright

 

 

 

 

T
HE VERY YOUNG ALCHEMIST
stared at the people flying off the buildings on the TV screen. For one heart-banging beat he wondered if they had discovered the magic spell to make them fly.

It was not that.

The plane had crashed through the buildings.

His mother came in, turned off the TV, and told him to go to his room and get ready for school.

Instead he went to his sister's room; she was seated on the floor, her three black hound dogs sitting upright behind her, her black, red, and yellow-striped snake asleep in its cage. Black candles burned and a sketchbook lay open. There was an image on the page of a naked man and woman holding each other in a fountain. The man wore antlers on his head and the woman was missing one eye. Next to it was another image—two skeletons in the same intertwined position with roses growing on and among their bones. A third image was of a young boy with a white dove, both surrounded by symbols.

His sister looked up at him pale-bluely, her eyes so like his that it sometimes confused him.

“Did you see the TV?” he said.

“I felt sick all night,” she answered.

He didn't know what this meant. That she'd seen it? That she hadn't because she was sick? That she was sick because she knew what happened before it happened? The last option was not unlikely if you happened to be his sister.

“Can I stay here?” he asked.

She shrugged and he sat down on the floor with her. The curtains were drawn and the room was dim although it was morning. Her hair seemed to be the only source of light.

“This world sucks,” he said.

His sister ignored him.

“What are you doing?”

She looked up and stared at him again with her faintly shining eyes. “Witchcraft. Magic. What do you think I'm doing?”

“I want to learn.”

“You don't learn it. You either have the gift or not.”

“What are you going to do?”

The three dogs, who had remained almost motionless, began to bay, as if at the full moon of her presence. “I'm going to change the world,” she said.

She never did. Not even in the little ways that everyone does, except by changing his world when she left it. The gift? He achieved it. But by then it was too late.

 

1

 

CONFLAGRATION

 

N
OW THAT
I
CAN
no longer believe in God or gods or goddesses, I pray each night to my dead mother, Grace, that we will survive another day and be able to stay here in the pink house on the edge of the world, that my friends and my brother and I will be safe, the plants in our garden will continue to grow, and the water in our spring will not dry up. As far as the rest of the planet after the Earth Shaker? I don't even know where to begin.…

My parents weren't religious, but before each meal when Venice and I were little we would hold hands and say, “Thank you for the food, god and goddess,” our own tiny prayer. I guess all the myths my parents read us were a kind of religion. The myths and the images in the art books my mother collected. But there aren't many books or paintings left now. My friends and I intend to make as many of our own as possible.

Ezra—or Ez, as we call him—is our resident painter. Today he is painting another portrait of Ash who poses draped in a sheet, his feet bare and firmly planted, his dreadlocks tied back, his eyes darkly seductive. The final painting, inspired by the symbolist painter Franz von Stuck, will depict Ash as an angel winged and playing a horn; I've seen the sketches. It's appropriate to paint Ash with those broad gold wings because he told us that when the Earth Shaker hit, the wind blew him across the desert and landed him inside the body of the T-Rex statue in Cabazon where we found him. The horn in the painting will symbolize Ash's musical powers; he once charmed a monster into submission with it.

Ez has superpowers of his own; during the Earth Shaker he was able to save himself from being crushed by a toppling bookcase.

And there's the power of his art, which, in its realism and magic, seems almost as mysterious.

Ez took the wings from his imagination and memory but at least he has a real young man to paint, and one he adores at that. I'm not sure if there are any winged creatures in this world, let alone many other young men. In the days since Ez and Ash and Hex returned to me from the dead—or so it seemed—we haven't seen anyone else. I'm relieved every day that no one has come looking for us, trying to harm us or steal our food, but relief turns to a cold hollow in my belly when I think that there may not be anyone out there to come. There may be Giants like Kutter, the one who spared my life when I told him the story of how he was cloned by his maker, Kronen. Or Kutter's brother, Bull, whom I blinded with my only weapon at the time—a pair of scissors.

I'm more relieved about the fact that we haven't seen more Giants than about anything else. There's no way to explain what it feels like to be engulfed in those fleshy, greasy palms, to smell a Giant's fetid breath or feel their blood splash against your skin. No Giants here, though, just us, as if we're in some sort of protected zone they can't penetrate. Because I think they're out there somewhere. How else could this many humans and animals have vanished so quickly? The Earth Shaker didn't kill that many on its own. I believe there are Giants savaging what's left of the world.

Ash gazes into Ez's eyes as Ez paints him; they could do this all day. Not that I blame them; I stare at Hex any chance I get. I just don't paint well enough to capture him on canvas. So instead I tell myself this running story about him, everything he says and does. Like right now: he's reading a musty copy of
The Aeneid
by Virgil in my father's old armchair, the faint light of afternoon that has broken through the omnipresent clouds coming in the window. My beloved is dressed in his usual black clothes, his so-black-it-looks-blue hair slicked back from his face, showing off his widow's peak and making his eyes look even bigger than they normally do. Hex's skin is so pale and thin you can practically see through it and sometimes I wish I really could: look right at his heart. That heart, it saved my life, just by the fact of it surviving the end of the world and finding me.

“‘Excess of love, to what lengths you drive our human hearts!'” Hex reads aloud, as if he knows my thoughts.
The Aeneid
is the story of how the hero Aeneas founded Rome. When Hex discovered the book on my parents' bookshelves he freaked out and made us all read it; he still shares passages with us throughout the day. “As you may recall, that's when Aeneas betrays Queen Dido's love and leaves her to go start a new civilization.” Sometimes Hex likes to play schoolteacher.

“‘Excess of love,'” I say. “What is that, even? How can there be an excess of love?” I want to go over and kiss his lips. They look as soft as they feel. I imagine his sharp teeth hiding under them.

“If it blinds you to the truth. If it paralyzes you and keeps you from taking action,” he says, without looking up from his book. I realize I'm jealous of an ancient Roman poet who died in 19
B
.
C
. He was a man, too, so it shouldn't bother me; Hex is definitely all about the girls. But his remark worries me.

Sometimes, especially after losing my left eye, I wonder if I'm blind to the truth but if so I don't really care, as long as my illusion includes my loved ones.

I go over and sit at Hex's feet, running my hands up the leg of his jeans to feel the warmth on my cool skin, feel the way his calf muscles bunch up. “Come help me make dinner,” I say.

“Virgil is my new favorite poet,” he says, not really hearing me.

I pout, making my mouth look, I hope, like Ez's muse Ash's full lips always do, even in repose. I thought Hex's favorite poet was Homer, whose
Odyssey
seemed to parallel our lives to an uncanny extent. “Didn't you reread
The Aeneid
again last week?”

“Yes, but now I'm reading it for inspiration.” Hex stops and looks up at me from under the arrow of his hairline. “I'm going to write an epic poem.” And then he adds, “For you,” and grins, making me forget that I was ever annoyed with him. Hex has a way of doing that. Maybe one advantage of being alone on the planet, or at least the continent, is that I don't have to compete with any pretty girls for his attention. I'm his only muse, his only lover, and he's all mine.

“Pen!”

My little brother, Venice, is shouting my name as he tromps in from the garden with our dog, Argos. I hear two boy-feet in worn-out sneakers and four prancing paws on the kitchen linoleum. “The pumpkin's ready!”

If Ez, Ash, Hex, and I are busy with our stories and paintings, my brother has the most important work of all. He's in charge of the food supply and it's like his hands are charmed; he can coax fruits and vegetables from the slushy ground outside our home. If people once considered roses or diamonds the highest compliment, now we all feel that way about a cauliflower or an apple.

Venice's pumpkin is small and round, a glossy orange color. At another time—we call it Then—we would have carved a face and put a candle inside. Children dressed as demons would have come to our door asking for candy. Now we pray every day that real demons don't come and that there will be enough food to last us through the uncertainty ahead.

BOOK: The Island of Excess Love
7.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Someday Soon by Debbie Macomber
Guardian of My Soul by Elizabeth Lapthorne
Christmas in the Trenches by Alan Wakefield
Edge by Blackthorne, Thomas
The Black Path by Paul Burston
Feathers in the Fire by Catherine Cookson
Beggar’s Choice by Patricia Wentworth
The Right Time by Marquis, Natasha