Until that moment I give you this, and the secret it contains: not all of The Demon's Covenant is written from Mae's point of view. The bits that aren't were all written by me on one sleepless night in an airport in Chicago, fueled by inspiration and buttermilk doughnuts.
I will always love Chicago for that, so I was very pleased when I was told my US tour with Holly Black would start there. Fate!
I hope you guys enjoy.
Mae sat on the floor with her back to the wall and said, “I keep trying to think of a lesson plan for humanity. I keep trying to think of any sort of plan, but I don’t have one. Nobody taught me to be human. I picked it up as I went along. I don’t even know where to start.”
She didn’t actually expect any suggestions from Nick, standing silhouetted and silent at the window.
But he said, “I thought we could start with this,” and threw a child’s copybook at her feet.
Mae stared at it for a moment, wondering if it was an old one of his or Alan’s, but when she turned it over she saw no name written on it, and when she thumbed through the pages she found writing that looked adult.
“It’s my dad’s diary,” Nick said.
Mae almost dropped the book. “Black—”
“No! I mean Alan’s father. Daniel,” he said. “Alan gave it to me after I knew everything. He said he thought it would help me to read it, and I tried, but I can’t read when I’m — disturbed.”
Daniel Ryves. Olivia had talked about him, a little. She’d said that no man ever tried as hard as he had. The guy who’d saved her and Nick when she’d run to him, who had died to protect them all from magicians, who Alan had said would’ve wanted them to help people in trouble. St. Daniel of the Shel-
ter for Women and Slightly Demonic Children.
Mae couldn’t imagine what he could have written to upset Nick.
“Well,” she said. The front of the copybook was gray and nubbly under her fingers, like worn old cardboard. “Well . . . sure.”
She opened the book to the first page and read.
'I am writing this for my son to read, after I am dead.
I have to accept that this is a possibility.
The life I have chosen for us is dangerous. Four years ago I would never have believed any of this was possible. Four years ago I thought I had suffered as much as any man could suffer, that I could never suffer more.
Four years ago I was a fool. Now I have seen magic written on the air in letters of fire, I have cut through enemies with an enchanted sword, and I have stared into the eyes of demons.
I can’t be sure I will live to explain to Alan how I could have betrayed him so completely.
I do not know how to explain it, but I want to try so that if I die he will know my last thoughts were of him: that I love him, and that I am so terribly sorry.
I am letting my child grow up in the center of a nightmare.
It happened like this.
His mother died, and I think I went a little mad. Marie did not die quickly or easily. Alan was still a baby when we started going to the hospital regularly. He was learning to talk while she was losing her hair.
I kept thinking she would get better, and then she was dead, and I felt like it was my fault.
I had been married before. I was very young, and so was my first wife. Olivia was beautiful and wild and almost never kind. We were not happy. We were not happy, but I was charmed, enchanted: I felt as if she could do magic.
Of course, I was right. I just didn’t know it then.
I missed her when she left. Even after I married Marie, even though I loved her and we were happy, sometimes I would dream of Olivia coming back to me.
Marie died, and I felt like I had betrayed her with my dreams. I felt like I’d wished her dead.
I was half mad with guilt and grief. That’s the only way I can explain what I did.
Four years ago I was sitting in front of the fire on a winter night. There was a storm shrieking outside and doors rattling through the house and a fire burning that seemed to have mocking faces hidden in its depths. Alan was sitting by the fire playing with his dinosaur cards and trying to talk to me.
I couldn’t think of a word to say to him. Marie had been dead less than a month.
I thought the pounding on the door was part of the storm but it continued, insistent and purposeful, and eventually I went to check.
I never even had the chance to invite her in. Olivia came out of the storm and out of my dreams, running into the room toward the fire as if it was the first warmth and light she had seen in years.
She looked so much older, she looked so wild and scared, I barely noticed the bundle that she let fall on the floor. I thought it was a bundle of possessions, perhaps a bundle of rags. I didn’t know. I didn’t think it mattered. Not with Olivia come back to me and so afraid. I held her hands and they were like claws. She was talking about magic and demons and darkness even as I tried to warm her, to reshape her hands into a shape that felt more human. I thought it was simply madness.
I didn’t pay attention. I am ashamed to write this now, but I was — I think I was happy. My dreams had come true. She was back, and we could heal each other. I had a wife again, and hope.
If I had only known.
While I was looking into Olivia’s mad eyes and dreaming, my son left his game and his place by the fire. I didn’t even notice as he went toward what I had thought was a bundle of rags. I didn’t notice as he turned it over and drew back the blanket, lifted it carefully in his small arms.
I only noticed when he spoke.
Too late, I turned around. I did not know what I was seeing, but even then I felt a sudden lurch of shock and dread.
I felt as if I had looked away at a crucial moment and my child had fallen into the fire and been horribly burned.
I saw my son, my Alan, my darling boy, and in his arms a creature with staring, terrible black eyes. Something that had not stirred or cried out even when Olivia threw it on the floor.
“Daddy,” Alan said, glowing. “It’s a baby.” '