My mind conjured my mother’s voice.
“It isn’t you. It might be chemical or behavioral or even genetic—”
“But who in our family has had any kind of—”
“My mother,” she had said. “Your grandmother.”
That was just before she recounted my grandmother’s symptoms.
Grandmother’s symptoms. Grandmother’s doll.
“No,” Noah said, shaking his head. “It’s nonsense.”
Noah closed his eyes, and spoke as if from memory. “The idea that some experiences can be stored in our DNA and passed down to future generations,” he said. “Some people think it explains Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious.” He opened his eyes and the corner of his mouth lifted. “I’m partial to Freud, myself.”
“Why do you know this?”
“I read it.”
“In a book.”
“What book?” I asked quickly. Noah took my hand and we headed for his room.
Once inside, he scanned his shelves. “I don’t see it,” he said finally, his eyes still on the bookcases that spanned the length of his room.
“What’s it called?”
“New Theories in Genetics.” He tipped out a thick book, then replaced it. “By Armin Lenaurd.”
I joined in the search. “You don’t alphabetize,” I said as my gaze traveled over the spines.
There was no order to any of the titles, at least none I could discern. “How do you find anything?”
“I just remember.”
“You just . . . remember.” There were thousands of books. How?
“I have a good memory.”
I tilted my head. “Photographic?”
He shrugged a shoulder.
So that was why he never took any notes in school.
The two of us continued to search. Five minutes passed, then ten, and then Noah gave up and dropped down on his pristinely made bed. He lifted his guitar from its case and began aimlessly playing chords.
I kept looking. I didn’t expect the book to have all the answers, or any, really, but I wanted to know more about this and was mildly annoyed that Noah didn’t seem to care. But just as my back began to ache from crouching to read the titles on the bottommost shelf, I found it.
“Score,” I whispered. I tipped the volume out with my finger and withdrew it; the book was astonishingly heavy, with faded gold lettering on the clothbound cover and spine.
Noah’s brow creased. “Strange,” he said, watching me rise. “I don’t remember putting it there.”
I carried the book to his bed and sat beside him. “Not exactly light reading?”
“Beggars can’t be choosers.”
“It was all I had on the flight from London back to the States.”
“When was this?”
“Winter break. We went back to England to see my grandparents—my father’s parents,” he clarified. “I accidentally threw the book I was reading in with my checked luggage, and this was in the seat pouch thing in front of me.”
The book was already growing heavy on my lap. “Doesn’t seem like it would fit.”
“My father took the jet.”
I made a face.
“I would wholly embrace and mirror your disdain, but I have to say, of all the useless garbage he bleeds money on, that’s the one I’m not at all sorry about. No lines. No security misery. No rush.”
That actually did seem worth it. “You don’t have to take off your shoes or your jacket or—”
“Or be fondled by an overzealous TSA agent. You don’t even have to show ID—my father employs the pilot and crew. We literally just show up at the private airport and walk on. It’s extraordinary.”
“Sounds like it,” I murmured, and flipped open the book.
“I’ll have to take you somewhere, sometime.”
I heard a smile in his voice, but all it did was frustrate me. “I’m not even allowed to come to your house without adult supervision.”
I sighed. “Easy for you to say.” I began turning pages, but my eyes kept landing on jargon. “What else does Mr. Lenaurd think?”
“I didn’t bother to read the whole thing; it was terminally dull. What you said just reminded me of it—the author believes that some experiences we’ve never had can be passed down genetically.”
I blinked slowly as a key fit into place. “Superman,” I said to myself.
“Beg your pardon?”
I looked up from the pages at Noah. “When Daniel was trying to help me with the fake Horizons essay, he asked if the thing my fake character has—the thing I have—was acquired or if it existed from the time she—I—was born. Spider-Man or Superman,” I said, and snapped the cover closed. “I’m Superman.”
Noah seemed amused by this. “As delightful as I find that concept, I’m afraid that our unnatural attributes must have been acquired.”
He set his guitar down on the floor, and then met my eyes. “How many times have you wished someone dead, Mara? Someone who cuts you off on the highway, et cetera?”
Probably more than I should think about. I answered with a noncommittal, “Hmm.”
“And when you were little, you probably even screamed to your parents that you wished they were dead too, yes?”
Possibly. I shrugged.
“And yet they’re still here. As for myself, my ability couldn’t have gone unobserved when I was a kid; I had to get shots and things like everyone else. Surely someone would have noticed I could heal, no?”
“Wait,” I said, leaning forward. “How did you realize you could heal?”
The change in Noah’s demeanor was subtle. His languid posture stiffened even though he was stretched out on his bed, and there was something distant about his eyes when I met them. “I cut myself, and there was no trace of it the next day,” he said, sounding bored. “Anyway,” he went on, “it has to be acquired. Otherwise we would have noticed long before now.”
“But you said you’ve never been sick—”
“What we should be thinking about is why the hell the same rather unusual pendant would be in my mother’s chest of silver and sewn into your grandmother’s creepy doll.”