Half Wild(The Half Bad Trilogy #2)

Half Wild(The Half Bad Trilogy #2) by Sally Green



For Indy


BOOKS BY SALLY GREEN

alf Bad

Half Wild





You’ll feel my heavy spirit chill your chest,

And climb your throat on sobs

Wild with all Regrets, Wilfred Owen





A New Day





a crossbill calls




another bird replies, not a crossbill the first bird takes over again and again




the crossbill—

shit, it’s morning

i’ve been asleep

it’s morning, very early

shit, shit, shit need to wake up need to wake up can’t believe i’ve been asl— c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h SHIT!

the noise is here. HERE!

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h that level of noise means, oh shit, someone with a mobile is close. very close. i can’t believe i’ve been asleep with hunters on my tail. and her. the fast one. she was close last night.

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h THINK! THINK!

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h it’s a mobile phone, for sure it’s a mobile phone. the noise is in my head, not in my ears, it’s to the upper right side, inside, constant, like an electrical interference, pure hiss, mobile hiss, loud, three-or-four-meters-away loud.

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h ok, right, lots of people have mobiles. if it’s a hunter, that hunter, and she could see me, i’d be dead by now.

i’m not dead.

she can’t see me.

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h the noise isn’t getting louder. she’s not moving closer. but she’s not moving away either.

am i hidden by something?

i’m lying on my side, face pressed into the ground. totally still. can’t see anything but earth. got to move a little.

but not yet. think first.

stay calm and work it out.

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h there’s no breeze, no sun, just a faint light. it’s early. the sun must be behind the mountain still. the ground is cool but dry, no dew. there’s the smell of earth and pine and . . . there’s another smell.

what is that smell?

and there’s a taste.

a bad taste.

it tastes like . . . oh no— don’t think about it don’t think about it don’t think about it

don’t think about it think about something else Think about where you are.

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h You’re lying on the ground, in the early morning, and the air is cool. You’re cold. You’re cold because . . . you’re naked. You’re naked and the top half of you is wet. Your chest, your arms . . . your face are wet.

And you move the fingers of your left hand, the tiniest of movements, and they’re sticky. Sticking together. Like they’re coated with drying, sugary juice. But it’s not juice—don’t think about it don’t think about it don’t think about it don’t think about it DON’T THINK ABOUT IT!

THINK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE!

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h THINK ABOUT STAYING ALIVE!

You’ve got to move. The Hunters are on your tail. That fast one was close. She was very close last night. What happened last night?

what happened?

NO! FORGET THAT.

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h THINK ABOUT STAYING ALIVE.

WORK OUT WHAT TO DO.

You can look, move your head a fraction to see more. The ground by your face is covered with pine needles. Brown pine needles. But the brown isn’t from the pine. It’s the color of dried blood. Your left arm is extended. It’s streaked in it. Crusted with dried brown. But your hand isn’t streaked in it, it’s thick with it.

Red.

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h You can find a stream and wash. Wash it all off.

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h You need to go. For your own safety you have to get out of here. You need to get moving. Get away.

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h The mobile phone is close, not changing. It won’t be coming closer.

But you have to look. You have to check.

Turn your head to the other side.

You can do it.

It looks a bit like a log. Please be a log please be a log please be a log please It’s not a log . . . It’s black and red. Black boots. Black trousers. One bent leg, one straight. Black jacket. Her face is turned away.

She has short light-brown hair.

It’s sopping with blood.

She’s lying as still as a log.

Still wet.

Still oozing.

Not fast anymore.

The mobile phone is hers.

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h And as you raise your head you see the wound that is her throat, and it is jagged and bloody and deep and red





Waiting





I’m back in Switzerland, high in a remote valley—not the one where Mercury’s cottage is but close to there, half a day’s hike away.

I’ve been here a few weeks now and I’ve gone back to Mercury’s valley a couple of times. The first time I retraced my steps, looking for the stream where I lost the Fairborn, the magic knife I stole from the Hunters. That Rose stole. I found the stream easily enough, and it wasn’t too hard to spot blood and some yellow stains on the ground. No Fairborn, though. I trailed up and down the stream, and all around that stained central spot: peering into bushes, looking under stones. It was getting ridiculous—I mean, looking under stones! I had to stop myself after two days’ searching. I’d started questioning if I’d ever really had the Fairborn at all; if an animal could have run off with it; if it had magically disappeared. It was getting to me. I’ve not been back to look for it since.

I’m waiting here now, in this other valley, at the cave. That was what we agreed, me and Gabriel, so that’s what I’m doing: waiting for Gabriel. He brought me here one day and hid his tin of letters in the cave—they’re the love letters between his parents, his one possession. The tin is in my rucksack now. And I’m here. And I tell myself that at least we have a plan. Which is a good thing.

It’s not much of a plan, though: “If things go wrong wait at the cave.”

And things have gone wrong—big-time.

I didn’t think we’d ever need the plan. I never thought things would go this wrong without me actually being dead. But I’m alive. I’m seventeen, a fully fledged, received-three-gifts witch. But I’m not sure who else is alive. Rose . . . Rose is dead . . . I’m certain of that; shot by Hunters. Annalise is in a death-like sleep, a prisoner of Mercury, and I know that she shouldn’t be left in that state for long or the death-like will become just plain death. And Gabriel is missing, still, weeks after we stole the Fairborn—four weeks and four days. If he was alive he’d be here and if the Hunters have caught Gabriel they’ll torture him and—

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