Noah stared at my wall. “I saw you—well, your hands, anyway—and heard your voice. I thought I was going mad. And then you showed up. Unbelievable.”
“Noah,” I said. His expression was remote. I reached out and turned his head to me. “What are you talking about?”
“Just your hands,” he said, taking my hands in his and turning them over, flexing my fingers as he inspected them. “You were pressing them against something but it was dark. Your head ached. I could see your fingernails; they were black. Your ears were ringing but I heard your voice.”
His sentences knotted together in a way that didn’t fit. “I don’t understand.”
“Before you moved here, Mara. I heard your voice before you moved here.”
The memory of Noah’s face that first day of school arranged itself into an unthinkable shape. He looked at me like he knew me because—because somehow, he did. Any words I could have spoken next vanished from my tongue, from my brain. I could not make sense of what I was hearing.
“You weren’t the first one I saw. Heard. There were two others before, but I never met them.”
“Others,” I whispered.
“Other people I saw. In my mind.”
His words sunk like a stone in the air around us.
“I was driving the first time, at night,” he said in a rush. “I saw myself hit someone; but it was on a completely different road, and it wasn’t my car. But I headed straight for her. She was our age, I think. Pinned behind the steering column. She didn’t die for hours,” Noah said, his voice hollow. “I saw everything she went through, heard everything she heard, and felt everything she felt, but was somehow still on my road. I thought it was a hallucination, you know? Like at night when you’re driving sometimes, and you imagine going over the shoulder, or hitting another car. But it was real,” Noah said, and his voice was haunted.
“The second one was very ill. He was our age as well. I dreamed one night that I was preparing food for him, then fed him, but the hands weren’t mine. He had some sort of infection and his neck hurt so badly. He was so sore. He cried.”
Noah’s face was drawn and pale. He leaned his head into his hand and rubbed it, then ran his fingers back through his hair, making it stand on end. Then he looked up at me. “And then in December, I heard you.”
The blood drained from my face.
“I recognized your voice on your first day at school. I was giddy at the impossibility of it. I thought I was going insane, imagining sick and dying people and feeling it, feeling an echo of what they must have felt. And then you showed up, with the voice from my nightmare, and you called me an ass,” Noah said, smiling faintly.
“I asked Daniel about you, and he told me, vaguely, what had happened before you moved here. I assumed that’s what I saw. Or dreamed. But I thought if—I don’t know. I thought if I knew you, I might be able to understand what was happening to me. That was before Joseph, obviously.”
My mouth felt like it was filled with sand. “Joseph?” That wasn’t real.
“A couple of weeks ago, in the restaurant, I had a—a vision, I suppose,” he said, sounding embarrassed. “Of a document, a deed from the Collier County archives.” Noah shook his head slowly. “Someone—a man wearing a Rolex—was pulling files, photocopying, and he lingered on that document. I saw it like I was the one looking straight at it,” he said, inhaling deeply. “It had a property address, a location. And when I saw it, I got a screaming headache, which is typical. I just couldn’t stand all the sounds. So I left you until it passed.” Noah raked his fingers through his hair. “A couple of days later, when I got home from school, I passed out. For hours—I was just gone. When I woke up, I felt high. And I saw Joseph asleep on the cement, before someone closed a door. And whoever it was wore the same watch.”
I sat still, my feet tucked underneath me, growing numb as Noah went on.
“I didn’t know if it was real or if I’d dreamed it, but after what happened to you, I thought it might actually be happening. In real time. Looking back, with the others, I’d always seen some indication of where they were—which hospital, which road. But I never realized it was real.” Noah’s eyes fell to the floor. Then he closed them. He sounded so tired. “And so with Joseph, I took you with me—just in case I passed out again, or something else.” His jaw tightened. “When it turned out that he was there, how could I explain that to you? I thought I was mad.” He paused. “I thought I took him.”
I heard an echo of Noah’s voice from that night. “Do whatever you have to do to wake Joseph.”
He said that before we even saw him.
“Holy shit,” I whispered.
“I wanted to tell you the truth—about me, about this—before he was even taken. But then when he was, I didn’t know what to say. I honestly I thought I was responsible somehow. That maybe I was the one hurting everyone I’d seen, and repressed the memories … or something. But then whose headlights were those in the Everglades? And why would they pull into the drive by the shed?”
I shook my head. I didn’t know. It made no sense. I’d thought I was crazy, but realized I wasn’t. I thought Joseph’s kidnapping wasn’t real, but it was.
“I didn’t take him,” Noah said. His voice was clear. Strong. But his intense stare was still fixed on the wall. Not on me.
I believed him, but asked, “So who did?”
For the first time since Noah started speaking, he turned to me.
“We’ll find out,” he said.
I tried to assemble all of this information into something that made sense. “So Joseph never texted you,” I said. My heart beat faster.
Noah shook his head, but flashed the barest suggestion of a smile at me.
“What?” I asked.
“I can hear that,” Noah said.
I stared at him, bewildered.
“You,” he said quietly. “Your heartbeat. Your pulse. Your breath. All of you.”
My pulse rioted, and Noah’s smile broadened.
“You have your own sound. Everything does; animals, people. I can hear all of it. When something, or someone’s hurt, or exhausted, or whatever—I can tell. And I think— fuck.” Noah lowered his head and tugged on his hair. “So, this is going to sound mad. But I think maybe I can fix them,” he said, without looking up. But then he did, and his eyes fell on my arm. On my shoulder.