That World Inverted
And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein.
THE SLEEP OF REASON
Clary stood on a shady lawn that rolled away down a sloping hill. The sky overhead was perfectly blue, dotted here and there with white clouds. At her feet a stone walkway stretched to the front door of a large manor house, built of mellow golden stone.
She craned her head back, looking up. The house was lovely: The stones were the color of butter in the spring sunshine, covered in trellises of climbing roses in red and gold and orange. Wrought iron balconies curved out from the facade, and there were two large arched doors of bronze-colored wood, their surfaces wrought with delicate designs of wings. Wings for the Fairchilds, said a soft voice, reassuring, in the back of her mind. This is Fairchild manor. It has stood for four hundred years and will stand four hundred more.
“Clary!” Her mother appeared at one of the balconies, wearing an elegant champagne-colored dress; her red hair was down, and she looked young and beautiful. Her arms were bare, circled with black runes. “What do you think? Doesn’t it look gorgeous?”
Clary followed her mother’s gaze toward where the lawn flattened out. There was an archway of roses set up at the end of an aisle, on either side of which were rows of wooden benches. White flowers were scattered along the aisle: the white flowers that grew only in Idris. The air was rich with their honey scent.
She looked back up at her mother, who was no longer alone on the balcony. Luke was standing behind her, an arm around her waist. He was in rolled-up shirtsleeves and formal trousers, as if halfway dressed for a party. His arms too were twined with runes: runes for good luck, for insight, for strength, for love. “Are you ready?” he called down to Clary.
“Ready for what?” she said, but they didn’t seem to hear her. Smiling, they disappeared back into the house. Clary took a few steps along the path.
She whirled. He was coming toward her across the grass—slender, with white-pale hair that shone in the sunlight, dressed in formal black with gold runes at his collar and cuffs. He was grinning, a smudge of dirt on his cheek, and holding up a hand to block the brightness of the sun.
He was entirely the same and yet entirely different: He was clearly himself, and yet the whole shape and set of his features seemed to have changed, his bones less sharp, his skin sundarkened rather than pale, and his eyes—
His eyes shone, as green as spring grass.
He has always had green eyes, said the voice in her head. People often marvel at how much alike you are, he and your mother and yourself. His name is Jonathan and he is your brother; he has always protected you.
“Clary,” he said again, “you’re not going to believe—”
“Jonathan!” a small voice trilled, and Clary turned her wondering eyes to see a little girl dashing across the grass. She had red hair, the same shade as Clary’s, and it flew out behind her like a banner. She was barefoot, wearing a green lace dress that had been so thoroughly torn to ribbons at the cuffs and hem that it resembled shredded lettuce. She might have been four or five years old, dirty-faced and adorable, and as she reached Jonathan, she held up her arms, and he bent down to swing her up into the air.
She shrieked in delight as he held her over his head. “Ouch, ouch—quit that, you demon child,” he said as she pulled at his hair. “Val, I said stop it, or I’ll hold you upside down. I mean it.”
“Val?” Clary echoed. But of course, her name is Valentina, said the whispering voice in the back of her head. Valentine Morgenstern was a great hero of the war; he died in battle against Hodge Starkweather, but not before he had saved the Mortal Cup, and the Clave along with it. When Luke married your mother, they honored his memory in the name of their daughter.
“Clary, make him let me go, make him—owwww!” shrieked Val as Jonathan turned her upside down and swung her through the air. Val dissolved into giggles as he set her down on the grass, and she turned a pair of eyes the exact blue of Luke’s up at Clary. “Your dress is pretty,” she said matter-of-factly.
“Thank you,” Clary said, still half in a daze, and looked at Jonathan, who was grinning down at his small sister. “Is that dirt on your face?”
Jonathan reached up and touched his cheek. “Chocolate,” he said. “You’ll never guess what I found Val doing. She had both fists in the wedding cake. I’m going to have to patch it up.” He squinted at Clary. “Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that. You look like you’re going to pass out.”
“I’m fine,” Clary said, tugging nervously at a lock of her hair.
Jonathan put his hands up as if to ward her off. “Look, I’ll perform surgery on it. No one will ever be able to tell that someone ate half the roses off.” He looked thoughtful. “I could eat the other half of the roses, just so it’s even.”
“Yeah!” said Val from her place on the grass at his feet. She was busy yanking up dandelions, their white pods blowing on the wind.
“Also,” Jonathan added, “I hate to bring this up, but you might want to put some shoes on before the wedding.”
Clary looked down at herself. He was right, she was barefoot. Barefoot, and wearing a pale gold dress. The hem drifted around her ankles like a sunset-colored cloud. “I—What wedding?”
Her brother’s green eyes widened. “Your wedding? You know, to Jace Herondale? About yea high, blond, all the girls looove him—” He broke off. “Are you having cold feet? Is that what this is?” He leaned in conspiratorially. “Because if it is, I’ll totally smuggle you over the border into France. And I won’t tell anyone where you went. Even if they stick bamboo shoots under my fingernails.”
“I don’t—” Clary stared at him. “Bamboo shoots?”
He shrugged eloquently. “For my only sister, not counting the creature currently sitting on my foot”—Val yelped—“I would do it. Even if it means not getting to see Isabelle Lightwood in a strapless dress.”
“Isabelle? You like Isabelle?” Clary felt as if she were running a marathon and couldn’t quite catch her breath.
He squinted at her. “Is that a problem? Is she a wanted criminal or something?” He looked thoughtful. “That would be kind of hot, actually.”
“Okay, I don’t need to know what you think is hot,” Clary said automatically. “Bleh.”
Jonathan grinned. It was an unconcerned, happy grin; the grin of someone who’d never really had much to worry about beyond pretty girls and whether one of his little sisters had eaten the other sister’s wedding cake. Somewhere in the back of Clary’s mind she saw black eyes and whip marks, but she didn’t know why. He’s your brother. He’s your brother, and he’s always taken care of you. “Right,” he said. “Like I didn’t have to suffer through years of ‘Oooh, Jace is so cute. Do you think he liiikes me?’?”
“I—” Clary said, and broke off, feeling a little dizzy. “I just don’t remember him proposing.”
Jonathan knelt down and tugged on Val’s hair. She was humming to herself, bundling daisies together in a pile. Clary blinked—she’d been so sure they were dandelions. “Oh, I don’t know if he ever did,” he said casually. “We all just knew you’d end up together. It was inevitable.”
“But I should have gotten to choose,” she said, in a near whisper. “I should have gotten to say yes.”
“Well, you would have, wouldn’t you?” he said, watching the daisies blow across the grass. “Speaking of, do you think Isabelle would go out with me if I asked her?”
Clary’s breath caught. “But what about Simon?”
He looked up at her, the sun bright in his eyes. “Who’s Simon?”
Clary felt the ground give way under her. She reached out, as if to catch at her brother, but her hand went through him. He was as insubstantial as air. The green lawn and the golden mansion and the boy and the girl on the grass flew away from her, and she stumbled, hitting the ground hard, jarring her elbows with a pain she felt flare up her arms.
She rolled to her side, choking. She was lying on a patch of bleak ground. Broken cobblestones jutted up through the earth, and the burned-out shells of stone houses loomed over her. The sky was white-gray steel, shot through with black clouds like vampire veins. It was a dead world, a world with all the color leached out of it, and all the life. Clary curled up on the ground, seeing in front of her not the shell of a destroyed town but the eyes of the brother and the sister that she would never have.
Simon stood at the window, taking in the view of the city of Manhattan.
It was an impressive sight. From the penthouse floor of the Carolina, you could see across Central Park, to the Met museum, to the high-rises of downtown. Night was falling, and the city lights were beginning to shine out one by one, a bed of electric flowers.
Electric flowers. He looked around, frowning thoughtfully. It was a nice turn of phrase; perhaps he should write it down. He never seemed to have time these days to really work on lyrics; time was swallowed up by other things: promotion, touring, signings, appearances. It was hard to remember sometimes that his main job was making music.
Still. A good problem to have. The darkening sky turned the window to a mirror. Simon smiled at his reflection in the glass. Tousled hair, jeans, vintage T-shirt; he could see the room behind him, vast acres of hardwood floor, gleaming steel, and leather furniture, a single elegant gold-framed painting on the wall. A Chagall—Clary’s favorite, all soft roses and blues and greens, incongruous against the apartment’s modernity.
There was a vase of hydrangeas on the kitchen island, a gift from his mother, congratulating him on playing a gig with Stepping Razor the week before. I love you, said the note attached. I’m proud of you.
He blinked at it. Hydrangeas; that was odd. If he had a favorite flower, it was roses, and his mother knew that. He turned away from the window and looked more closely at the vase. They were roses. He shook his head to clear it. White roses. They always had been. Right.
He heard the rattle of keys, and the door swung open, admitting a petite girl with long red hair and a brilliant smile. “Oh, my God,” said Clary, half-laughing, half out of breath. She pushed the door shut behind her and leaned against it. “The lobby is a zoo. Press, photographers; it’s going to be crazy going out tonight.”
She came across the room, dropping her keys on the table. She was wearing a long dress, yellow silk printed with colorful butterflies, and a butterfly clip in her long red hair. She looked warm and open and loving, and as she neared him, she put her arms up, and he went to kiss her.
Just like he did every day when she came home.
She smelled like Clary, perfume and chalk, and her fingers were smudged with color. She wound her fingers in his hair as they kissed, tugging him down, laughing against his mouth as he nearly overbalanced.
“You’re going to have to start wearing heels, Fray,” he said, lips against her cheek.
“I hate heels. You’ll either have to deal or buy me a portable ladder,” she said, letting him go. “Unless you want to leave me for a really tall groupie.”
“Never,” he said, tucking a lock of her hair behind her ear. “Would a really tall groupie know all my favorite foods? Remember when I had a bed shaped like a race car? Know how to beat me mercilessly at Scrabble? Be willing to put up with Matt and Kirk and Eric?”
“A groupie would more than put up with Matt and Kirk and Eric.”
“Be nice,” he said, and grinned down at her. “You’re stuck with me.”
“I’ll survive,” she said, plucking his glasses off and setting them on the table. The eyes she turned up to him were dark and wide. This time the kiss was more heated. He wound his arms around her, pulling her against him as she whispered, “I love you; I’ve always loved you.”
“I love you too,” he said. “God, I love you, Isabelle.”
He felt her stiffen in his arms, and then the world around him seemed to sprout black lines like shattered glass. He heard a high-pitched whine in his ears and staggered back, tripping, falling, not hitting the ground but spinning forever through the dark.