Home > Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(10)

Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(10)
Author: Ransom Riggs

“Excuse me,” he said, “but are you making that happen?”

She spun around to see a young man wearing a short green tunic and shoes made from fish skin. It was an odd outfit, but stranger still was that he carried his head under the crook of his arm, disconnected entirely from his neck.

“Excuse me,” she replied, “but what’s happened to your head?”

“Frightfully sorry!” he said, reacting as if he’d just realized his pants were unbuttoned, and, with great embarrassment, he popped his head back onto his neck. “How rude of me.”

He said his name was Englebert, and as she had nowhere else to go, he invited her back to his camp. It was a ragged settlement of tents and open cook fires, and the few dozen people who lived there were every bit as strange as Englebert. They were so strange, in fact, that most of them had been chased out of other villages—just like Ymeene. They welcomed her even after she showed them how she could turn herself into a hawk, and in turn they showed her some of the unusual talents they possessed. It seemed she was not alone in the world. Perhaps, she thought, there was a place for her after all.

These were, of course, the early peculiars of Britain, and what Ymeene didn’t realize was that she had joined them during one of the darkest periods in their history. There had been a time when peculiars were accepted—even revered—by normal people, with whom they mixed easily. But an age of ignorance had dawned of late, and normals had grown suspicious of them. Whenever something tragic happened that couldn’t be explained by the rudimentary science of the day, peculiars were made the scapegoats. When the village of Little Disappointment woke one morning to find all their sheep burned to a crisp, did the villagers realize that a lightning storm had killed them? No, they blamed the local peculiar and drove him into the wilderness. When the seamstresses of Stitch didn’t stop laughing for an entire week, did the villagers blame the wool they had just imported, which was infested with mites that carried Laughing Flu? Of course not: they pinned it on a pair of peculiar sisters and hanged them.

Such outrages were repeated across the land, driving peculiars out of normal society and into bands like the one Ymeene had joined. It was no utopia; they lived together because they could trust no one else. Their village leader was a peculiar named Tombs, a red-bearded giant cursed with the squeaky voice of a sparrow. His tenor made it difficult for others to take him seriously, but he took himself quite seriously, and never let anyone forget that he sat on the Council of Important Peculiars.6

Ymeene avoided Tombs, having developed something of an allergy to prideful men, and instead spent her days with her funny, occasionally headless friend, Englebert. She helped him till the camp’s vegetable patch and collect wood for cook fires, and he helped her get to know the other peculiars. They took to Ymeene instantly, and she began to think of the camp as her adopted home and the peculiars as her second family. She told them about life as a hawk and amused them with her trick of repeating things—once looping a moment where Tombs tripped over a sleeping dog until the whole village hurt from laughing—and they regaled her with tales of peculiardom’s colorful history. There was, for a while, peace. It was the happiest time Ymeene could remember.

Every few days, though, the village’s tranquil bubble was punctured by woeful tidings from the outside world. Desperate peculiars arrived in a steady stream, seeking refuge from terror and persecution. Each had a familiar tale to tell: they had lived peacefully among normals their whole lives, until one day they were accused of some absurd crime and chased out, lucky to escape with their lives. (Like the unfortunate sisters of Stitch, not all were so lucky.) The peculiars welcomed the new arrivals just as they had welcome Ymeene, but after nearly a month of influx the village swelled from fifteen peculiars to fifty. There wasn’t enough space or food for things to continue this way indefinitely, and a sense of foreboding began to weigh heavily upon the peculiars.

One day another representative from the Council of Important Peculiars arrived. He wore a grim expression and disappeared into Tombs’s tent for hours, and when he and Tombs finally emerged, they gathered everyone together to deliver some distressing news. The normals had already driven peculiars out of many of their towns and villages, and now they had decided to drive them out of Oddfordshire altogether. They had assembled a force of armed fighters that would soon be on the peculiars’ doorstep. The question now was whether to fight or flee.

Needless to say, the peculiars were alarmed, and not a little hesitant.

A young woman looked around them and said, “This hill and these flimsy tents aren’t worth dying for. Why don’t we pack our things and go hide in the woods?”

“I don’t know about all of you,” said Tombs, “but I’m tired of running. I say we stand and fight. We must reclaim our dignity!”

“That is also the council’s official recommendation,” added the grim-faced councilman, nodding.

“But we aren’t soldiers,” said Englebert. “We don’t know the first thing about fighting.”

“They’re a small force, and lightly armed,” said Tombs. “They think we’re cowards who will flee at the first sign of force. But they underestimate us.”

“But won’t we need weapons?” asked another man. “Swords and clubs?”

“You surprise me, Eustace,” Tombs replied. “Can’t you turn a man’s face inside out just by pulling his nose?”

“Well, yes,” the man said sheepishly.

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