Home > Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(12)

Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(12)
Author: Ransom Riggs

“How long can you keep this going?” Englebert asked her.

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I’ve never repeated something more than a few times. But for quite a while, I think.”

Tombs burst out of his tent, baffled and angry. “What are you doing?” he shouted at Ymeene. “Stop that!”

“Why should I?” she said. “I’m saving all our lives!”

“You’re only delaying the inevitable,” Tombs replied. “I order you, by authority of the council, to desist immediately!”

“A pox on your council!” said Millicent Neary. “You’re nothing but liars!”

Tombs had begun to enumerate the punishments that awaited anyone who defied the council’s orders when Eustace Corncrake marched up to him and pulled his nose, which caused Tombs’s face to turn inside out. He ran away yelping and threatening recriminations, his head all pink and soft.

Ymeene kept looping. The peculiars rallied around her, cheering her on, but worrying quietly that she would not be able to keep it going forever. Ymeene shared their concern: she had to repeat the loop every three minutes, so she could not sleep—but eventually her body would force her to, and the army that loomed perpetually in the distance would close in and finally crush them.

After two days and a night, Ymeene could no longer trust herself to stay awake, so Englebert volunteered to sit beside her, and every time her eyes fell closed he would nudge her. After three days and two nights, when Englebert began to fall asleep himself, Eustace Corncrake volunteered to sit by his side and nudge him, and then, when Eustace began to lose his battle with sleep, Millicent Neary volunteered to sit by him and drip water on his face whenever his eyes closed—so that eventually the whole camp of peculiars were sitting in a long chain, helping one another to help Englebert to help Ymeene stay awake.

After four days and three nights, Ymeene still had not missed a loop reset. She had, however, begun to hallucinate from exhaustion. She thought her lost brothers had come to see her, five goshawks flying loops of their own above the camp. They screeched words at her that made no sense:



Again! Again!

Loop-the-loop to double its skin!

She squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head, then drank some of the water Millicent Neary was dripping on Eustace Corncrake. When she looked up again her ghostly brothers were gone, but their words stayed with her. She wondered if her brothers—or some part of her own, embedded instinct—were trying to tell her something useful.

Again, again.

The answer came to her on the fifth day. Or rather an answer: she wasn’t sure if it was the right one, but she was entirely certain that she wouldn’t last another day. Before long, no amount of nudging would keep her from sleep.

So: she reset the loop. (She’d long since lost count of how many times she’d made that sun peek out from behind that cloud, but it had to be thousands.) And then, just a few seconds after having looped the loop, she made another one—inside the first loop.

The results were instantaneous and bizarre. There was a strange sort of doubling of everything around them—the sun, the cloud, the army in the distance—as if her vision had blurred. The world took a short while to come back into focus, and when it did, it was all a bit older than before. The sun was farther behind the cloud. The army was farther away. And this time it took six minutes, not three, for the sun to come out from behind the cloud.

So she looped the loop twice a second time, and then their loop was twelve minutes, and she did it a third time and it was twenty-four. And when she’d gotten it up to an hour, she took a nap. And then she looped the loop again and again, and it was like she was filling a vessel with air or water; she could feel its skin expanding to hold all this new time, until it was as tight as a drum and she knew it would hold no more.

The loop Ymeene had made was now twenty-four hours long, and it began the previous morning, long before there was an army on the horizon. Her fellow peculiars were so impressed and so grateful that they tried to call her Queen Ymeene and Your Majesty, but she wouldn’t let them. She was just Ymeene, and it was the greatest joy she’d known to have made a safe place—a nest—for her friends.

Though they were safe from the normals’ aggression, their problems were far from over. The army that had nearly destroyed them went on to terrorize peculiars across the land, and as word spread of a time loop in Oddfordshire, survivors and refugees arrived with increasing frequency.7

In a few weeks their number grew from fifty to twice that. Among them were several members of the Council of Important Peculiars (including Tombs, whose face had flipped right side out again). While they no longer seemed interested in shutting down the loop, the councilmen tried to assert their authority by insisting that no new arrivals be admitted. But everyone deferred to Ymeene—it was her loop, after all—and she wouldn’t hear of turning people away, even though the camp was bursting.

The councilmen grew angry and threatened everyone with punishment. The people grew angry, too, and accused the council of lying to trick them into going to war. The councilmen pointed their fingers at Tombs, claiming he had acted alone—though this was obviously not true—and that his deception had not been sanctioned by the other councilmen. They further pointed their fingers at Ymeene and accused her of usurping their rightful authority, an offense punishable by banishment to the Pitiless Waste. At which point the people rose up in her defense, threw mud (and possibly a bit of excrement) at the councilmen, and drove them out of the loop.8

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