( The overgrown grass is soft under his feet, and Adam thinks as far as dreams go, this might be his favorite so far. Everything is quiet in this forest, save for the rustling of leaves and the odd snapping of branches as he walks.
He has never dreamt of this place before, doesn’t remember any camping trips on his childhood, but everything feels overly familiar here in the ways only dreams can. The leaves rustle, birds fly overhead, and Adam grins; he wishes he could stay here forever.
Against the cloudless blue sky, the birds are black shadows circling the forest silently, slowly, and when one breaks formation to land in a nearby tree, Adam thinks he can recognize it.
It’s a raven.
Something shifts on his chest, furling and unfurling somewhere around his ribcage. Adam takes a step closer, hand reaching to– he drops it, lets it hang uselessly at his side. The thought of petting a wild bird had come to him as naturally as breathing, as if that’s something he did over and over until it became muscle memory, except– Adam has never owned any kind of bird, has never owned any kind of pet, has never even known anyone who owned any sort of pet. Well, unless you counted that one guy two doors down who once tried to smuggle five caterpillars inside the dorm, but Adam usually tries very hard not to.
The raven flaps its wings, tilting its head. It looks straight at Adam, and this, too, feels familiar. He can see the bird flying out of a car window, shooting out towards the sky, and he can see it quietly landing on his own shoulder, carefully not breaking skin with its talons.
Adam blinks, the vision fades. He feels dizzy, light-headed, and this is beginning to turn into nonsensical dream shenanigans. The wind picks up, the murmur of the forest grows.
At first, he thinks it’s the raven that spoke it, but Adam had been looking at it, and the bird had not moved beyond ruffling its feathers. Memento, the whisper echoes all around him again. Suddenly, with all the certainty only dreamers have, Adam knows it’s the trees that are speaking.
Meminisse debes , they say, and it carries with the wind, urging Adam to listen. You must remember , he translates with difficulty, stilted. He hasn’t properly studied latin since high school, and his vocabulary has devolved to judiciary words. Memento, they repeat.
“What?” His own voice startles him, the english sounds clumsy, wrong, less , here. “Remember what?”
“I don’t understand,” Adam says, swallowing past the wrongness of the language barrier, because he might be aware this is a dream, but he’s living it right now, with all the urgency the trees cover each word, all the longing, all the sadness, all the aching. His vision is blurring, tears slide down his cheek without him even knowing why he’s crying. “What did I forget?”
The raven caws, loud and high-pitched, and that, too, sounds urgent, before it takes flight, making its way up to the sky. Adam watches it go until the sun is too bright, and his eyes hurt with the light.
Memento, the trees whisper, obsecro.
And then, Adam wakes up. )
The dream stays with him even after he washes off the tear tracks and goes on with his daily routine. Adam feels it weighting down on his shoulders throughout all of his early shift at the library, feels it tugging at his core during his morning lectures.
It’s the strangest thing and maybe that’s why he can’t push it out of his mind. Something nags at his whole being, ripples of a knowledge he should have. Remember, the trees had said. But what? If this is his subconscious trying to remind him of something, it’s doing an awful job.
A rational part of his brain knows he’s being stupid. It’s just a dream. It’s just a dream. But he can’t help it. Why was it in Latin? Adam is shitty at Latin. What about the raven? What does that mean? No amount of googling gives him anything close to an answer.
Adam’s being dumb, he figures. Obsessing over it so close to finals. He can’t afford the distraction, Yale doesn’t forgive distractions. So, at lunch, after wolfing down a sandwich and holing himself up in the library to study, he figures he has time for a nap until his next class.
( He’s back at the forest, and this time there’s a Lake in the clearing. The water is unnaturally still, unnaturally clear, unnaturally empty. Adam has no interest in getting near it. Even so, the idyllic feeling of the place hasn’t changed, and the familiarity of it all, down to the rocks littering the ground, wraps around him like a blanket. He’s been here before, he’s so certain of it, it echoes on his mind as surely as a law of nature. He’s been here before, enough to know every inch of it inside and out. He could count off the leaves on the trees, the ants on the dirt, the chemical components of this soil.
The raven lands on his shoulder this time.
Land is a strong word. One second Adam is alone, the next the bird is there, perched on his shoulder with talons digging on his shirt. “Hey, buddy,” he greets her with a smile, “did you miss me?”
He’s not sure why he says that, he’s never seen this bird before these dreams. Except– that’s not true, is it? The raven seems to know Adam like Adam knows this place. Even if Adam can’t find the right memories.
If Adam Parrish were one to believe in any kind of God, he’d say this has all happened in a past life.
Obsecro, the trees whisper again, memento.
“What?” He asks, frustration beginning to build, “what did I forget?”
Memento, obsecro, the wind carries, contristati sumus.
“Sorry for what?” Adam swallows, throat suddenly dry, “who? Who are you? Why are you sorry?”
“Please,” he begs, the feeling of loss hits him without warning. It aches deeply, like a physical wound bleeding out, and it almost brings him to his knees, “what did I forget?”
The raven caws quietly, as if she, too, had felt it. She pecks the top of Adam’s head before flying away silently, wings dark in a shade he’s never seen. He tries not to feel abandoned.
Meminisse debes, the whisper is rising, growing into a steadily louder buzzing, constristati sumus.
Memento, it grows into screaming, and Adam has to cover his ears, both of them , Magician.
Everything falls silent.
That’s a new word. Magician? It resonates somewhere deep inside his bones as if his blood were alight with lightning. Magician. What does that mean? Adam wants to ask, but before he can bring himself to speak again, the dream is dissolving under his feet. )
Adam wakes up crying again, his tears dangerously close to ruining the open notebook in front of him. He’s not surprised. It takes him a long time to stop the tears, and even longer to shake the sadness settling on the empty spaces on his ribcage.
( He’s dreaming again. Or, at least, he thinks he is.
It’s not a forest this time.
Adam is in the middle of a street, standing in the curb and staring at what must be an old, abandoned factory. Monmouth Manufacturing , reads in faded out letters.
A few cars drive past him, and with nothing else to do, Adam tries the door, walking in and climbing up the steps once it falls open. The stairs lead him to another door, locked this time, but his body takes over before his mind can finish processing everything, and Adam is jiggling the door in an easy, practiced way, causing it to give in, lock and all.
Inside, Adam blinks in surprise. It’s an apartment. There’s a couch and an impressively accurate miniature of a city made of cardboard sitting in the middle of what might be the living room. He’s not sure how, but he knows it’s fairly accurate, he knows it’s a model of this city. Henrietta, his mind supplies. Didn’t he grow up here?
The knowledge is fuzzy, covered by a dense fog. The twist in his gut, on the other hand, is sharp.
Shrugging off the odd feelings, Adam decides to keep walking, keep exploring. There’s a fridge in what might have also been a bathroom, and he shudders, nose wrinkling in distaste. That’s hardly hygienic. But what catches his eyes are the three closed doors in front of him; bedrooms, he figures. They are all identical, standard, plain-looking, and Adam can’t tell which one he should open.
Magician, the whisper returns, even without any trees here. But that’s not right, is it? There’s a mint plant sitting on the desk, surrounded by books and notebooks and maps. Memento, Magician.
A shiver runs down his spine, and Adam knows. If only he could get one of these doors to open, he’ll find his memories inside. He’s so certain of it, he knows it on his bones.
Oportet festinare the mint plant says, you must hurry, and its smell fills the air. A pair of glasses, brown hair, a diplomatic smile, flash past his eyes.
He shakes his head, focusing on the present. The three doors stand there, staring him down, and Adam suddenly wonders what will he do if he opens one of them to find it empty. He doesn’t know, cry maybe. Scream, probably.
Taking a tentative step forward, Adam follows the tugging on his core. One of the doors call to him louder than the others, and after another step closer, he can see the dents and cracks on the frame, the result of years of being slammed closed. This too, he inexplicably knows to be true.
Before he can touch the doorknob, though, before he can try and see if it’s locked. It is , he knows, even if he hopes it would yield to him. Before , a loud thud echoes through the apartment.
A bird had crashed against the window.
Adam watches the cracks growing on the glass, hurries to look down at the street. On the sidewalk, the bird lays broken, wings bent unnaturally, blood beginning to pool around it.
A raven had crashed against the window.
Adam makes a choked up noise on the back of his throat, keeps staring at the dead thing, rooted in place, unable to tear his gaze away. The blood is a deep red, oozing slowly, sluggishly– until it’s not. It turns to black gradually, and in the blink of an eye. It thins out, spreading across the concrete, running to the asphalt. The sight makes his stomach churn, nausea hitting him in an overwhelming wave. Adam is going to be sick, and he’s suddenly terrified he’s going to throw up that black liquid. Feeling worse, he can taste bile climbing up his throat, turning even bitter as it claws its way up, and the black will fill his mouth until it overflows–
Another bird flies straight to the glass, right in front of his face, and Adam startles, stumbling back with a scream. The raven slides slowly down the window, leaving a trail of black goo and a web of cracks. Another raven crashes to the right. Then, another. And another. And another.
Looking up, Adam sees a black cloud approaching fast in the distance, the flap of their wings rising to a deafening buzzing. It sounds like a swarm of hornets, but he can see them clearly now.
It’s ravens. Hundreds of them.
They begin crashing against the window, throwing themselves at the glass one after the other.
It’s going to break, Adam thinks, a little hysterically. The window won’t hold.
If he dies on his dream, will he die in real life?
Does it matter?
Their blood turns from red to black before they even begin falling down. Some of them caw, some make a gurgling sound, black pouring from their beak. They fall, even before they finish dying, they fall.
As the glass cracks dangerously, a spiderweb of fissures, Adam can see the black swirling, the trails connecting with each other, until there are dozens of thick tendrils spreading all over the window, like tiny rivers running upstream. They cover the cracks, even as the birds keep coming.
It’s trying to get in, Adam realizes.
Out of everything so far, this is what Adam is surest of: if the black goo gets inside, he’ll die.
Nulla tempus , the mint plant whispers urgently, and the sound is drowned out against the cacophony of noises drifting from outside. There is no time for what? Expergiscimini.
The glass creaks, straining against the continuing abuse. Adam can almost feel the glee oozing from the black sludge. It’s cold and malicious, and he shivers, terror gripping his heart and threatening to pull him under.
Adam can’t bring himself to move, to hide, to fight back. He can only watch helplessly as the window shakes under the pressure, cracks growing and growing and growing–
Wake up. )
He wakes up with a gasp, heart thundering on his chest. The blood on his veins feels as if replaced with lead, in a constant chemical reaction with the adrenaline running through his body.
There’s not enough oxygen in the room, and Adam thanks whatever deity there is that he doesn’t have a roommate this year. He throws off his covers, sits up, his head resting on his hands.
What the fuck is going on?
The next day, Adam finds himself sitting alone in a bar near campus, a lonely glass of vodka in front of him.
It’s the first time he stepped inside a bar since his 21st birthday, he can legally be here, and he can legally buy any drink he wants, alcohol and all. Up until now, he had an excuse ready for anyone and for himself when drinking came up, he didn’t have to think about it too much, he didn’t have to decide for himself. He could be scared in secret.
Now, Adam’s still scared, and there are far more witnesses to his indecision.
I am not my father, he thinks over and over like a mantra on his head, and this , he knows it’s true, it’s something no one can take away from him. But the smell of alcohol is washing over him in waves, sweet and overwhelming, nauseatingly strong in this place. His stomach turns dangerously, and how sad would it be if Adam threw up before even downing his first shot?
It’s a Friday night, and the bar is crowded, the shitty music almost drowned by all these voices. Adam hates it. He stares some more at the glass, watches the ice cubes melting drop by drop, wonders if he’ll pick it up before they completely melt. He doubts it.
“Are you planning on drinking that, or glare until it catches fire?” says a voice at his right, a man sliding on the empty stool beside him. “Because I can tell you right now, man, it’s not that kind of drink.”
The man seems to be around Adam’s age, blue eyes and a shaved head, and if it were any other day, if they had met in any other way, Adam doesn’t think he’d be able to find it in himself to turn him down, isn’t sure if he’d even want to. As it is, though, he’s really not in the mood. No matter how the lights catch on the blue of this guy’s eyes, or how the dangerous curve of his smirk calls for Adam’s attention. “No offense,” Adam says without glancing up, “but it’s none of your business.”
There’s a tired sigh, and he almost looks up, because that’s not the reaction he had been expecting. The man drums his fingers on the counter, once, twice, then sighs again. “Look, there isn’t a good way to do this,” he picks up Adam’s drink, downs it in one go, and Adam is about to ask him what the fuck he thinks he’s doing, but when he turns to fully face him, the words die on his throat. It’s not that this guy is attractive, he is , but that’s not why. It’s just that his everything feels so, so familiar, more than anything on this week has felt, more than anything these whole three years have felt, that it stops him on his tracks. “But it’s time to come home, Adam.”
“How do you know my name?” He asks sharply, the surprise and the alarm are easier to process, even if they feel as wrong as the english language on his dreams. “Who the hell are you?”
Something flickers on the man’s eyes, too quickly for Adam to tell, but he looks like he needs something stronger than a cheap shot. He runs a hand over his shaved head, “what do you remember?”
Anger flares inside him, the frustration welled up from this week stoking the fire. “I’m sick of being asked this,” Adam pulls out his wallet, slamming down a few dollar bills on the bar. “I have no fucking idea what’s going on or who the fuck you are, but leave me the hell alone.”
“Wait–,” he calls, one hand hovering awkwardly, as if he had been about to grab Adam’s wrist but thought better of it. Maybe that’s why Adam pauses, maybe it has nothing to do with the way his heart sinks at the thought of walking away. “Wait. We need to talk.”
“I don’t need to do anything,” he spits out, ready to turn back around, head back to his car and drive back to his dorm. “I don’t have time for this, and I don’t even know you.”
“Yes, yes, you fucking do,” the man says, almost softly, the swearing somehow dusting off the edges of his voice, “my name’s Ronan Lynch, and we need to talk about your dreams.”
Suddenly all the loud voices, the clinking glasses, the shitty music– it fades into background noise. “Excuse me?”
“Come on, Parrish,” the man, Ronan , shakes his head irritably, “don’t play dumb. I know you’ve got to have started remembering, too. Everyone has, even Cheng.”
“How do you know about the dreams?” Adam asks, stepping closer again. If this guy has any answers, if he can tell Adam what the hell he’s forgotten, then, well, there’s no choice here. “And who is everyone?”
“Gansey. Blue. Henry.” Ronan counts off, smirking pleased when Adam reclaims his seat, “and I know because they’ve been calling me about it nonstop since it began, fuckers won’t leave me the fuck alone for five minutes.”
The cursing manages to drag a startled laugh out of Adam, and it seems to catch Ronan off guard, his lips curling in a smile for a second before he schools it back into practiced indifference. “Should I recognize any of these names?”
Disappointment washes over his eyes, “yeah, you fucking should. But look, it’s easier if you tell me what you remember and we’ll go from there.”
“Why should I trust you?”
“I don’t lie,” he says, “you’d know that if you’d just hurried up and remembered me.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, is my new found amnesia inconveniencing you?” Adam snaps, unable to bite back the sarcasm. Still, somehow this brings his world a little less off-kilter.
“It is, it really is, you have no fucking idea how inconvenient it is.”
“Well, shit, you’re lucky I forgot you’re this much of an asshole, or I would’ve left when I had the chance.” He rolls his eyes, “all I know is that I’ve been dreaming about some forest that speaks only in shitty Latin. And is adamant that I should be remembering up something.”
“Yeah, I mean,” he drags a hand across his face, “there’s been– there’s a raven sometimes. It follows me around on the forest. And sometimes, there’s– I see things. Like, flashes of memories I think. A cave? With creepy animal skeletons? And a forest, the same forest but there’s a lake, too. An abandoned factory? I don’t know, they’re not exactly helpful.”
“Cabeswater, that’s the forest’s name,” Ronan tells him, “the factory– that’s Monmouth Manufacturing, where Gansey, Noah and I lived, we turned it into a sort of flat. And the cave with the skeleton is where we found Blue’s mom,” his face darkens, mouth curling into a sneer, “and the Third Sleeper.”
Adam feels once again dizzy, a headache blooming on his mind. “There is so much to unpack there,” he laughs helplessly, “I don’t even know where to start.”
“Ronan,” it’s a testament on how distracted Adam is that he’s missed this stranger approaching until he was standing beside Ronan, a frown on his face, “we agreed to wait until everyone was here.”
“Fuck that,” Ronan says, shrugging, “ you agreed to that, I told you I wasn’t waiting shit.”
Adam turns to look, dragging his gaze away from Ronan and the way the light dances off his eyes.
“Parrish, this is–”
“Gansey.” Adam breathes, suddenly hit by flashbacks. Dozens of memories, places where he thought he’d been alone, where he can see now made no sense for him to have been alone, are slowly being filled back with Gansey. The day he stopped to fix the Pig, walking through Aglionby halls, Monmouth Manufacturing, Nino’s, and– white noise rises just as suddenly, halting the wave of memories and bringing a sharp stabbing pain to his head. Adam distantly feels his own hands coming to clutch at his temple, hears vague sounds that might have been words.
He doesn’t know how long it takes for his head to clear out, for the pain to subside, but when he comes to himself, Adam is sitting slumped in the backseat of a cab. There’s a warm body to his right, an arm around his shoulder to keep him more or less upright. On the passenger seat, Gansey is talking quietly.
“Sorry,” Adam says, wincing as his voice breaks off at the end, and forces himself to pull away. He doesn’t know why he finds it so hard to, hates himself a little for the blush he knows must be tinting his face. “What happened?”
It hits him that he should probably be more concerned about the fact he’s in a car with two strangers, when he doesn’t remember how he got there, doesn’t know where they’re going.
Except, that’s not the first time he blacked out, is it? He’s lost time before. His freshman year is full of blanks on his memories he can’t fill, no matter how he tries to wrack his brain looking for them now. Entire weekends, vacations, extended holidays. And even before that, his high school years, it’s so fuzzy, so out of focus, so hazy, he wouldn’t be able to tell the name of his teachers.
And the thing is, meeting Gansey, it’s beginning to trickle some light on those dark spots. Where he would come up empty, there’s crumbles for him to follow, a thread for him to pull.
“You remembered Gansey, and then freaked the fuck out,” Ronan says, pulling his arm from Adam’s shoulder, crossing them over his chest. “Thought you were having a goddamn stroke or something. We’re going back to the hotel now.”
It’s something in the way Ronan had draped his arm over Adam, or maybe how he looked at him back in the bar, or maybe the flicker of emotion that flashes on his eyes every once in a while. Or, perhaps, it’s just wishful thinking. Either way, Adam can’t help blurting out, “were we friends?”
Ronan frowns, scoffing. His face becomes even more closed off as he shifts on his seat, away from Adam. “Something like that. You were better friends with Gansey, anyway.”
“Everyone is better friends with Gansey,” Adam says, pauses, “although, I’m not sure how I know that.”
“It’s true,” he shrugs, “except for the Maggot, but look how that turned out.”
“ Ronan,” Gansey warns from the passenger seat, his voice gaining an edge again. “Don’t listen to him, Adam. He’s still bitter you don’t remember him.”
“I’m sorry?” Adam offers. “To be fair, I’m pretty bitter about this whole thing, too.”
“Of course you are,” Gansey sighs, “we’ll explain better at the hotel. Jane and Henry are waiting for us.”
“ Blue, ” Gansey corrects, “Jane’s her nickname.”
“Wait, Jane is the nickname?” Adam asks, bewildered more at his lack of surprise than anything else. “God, you guys are so weird.”
Ronan laughs, a hollow, bitter noise that rattles all around the car, and Adam startles, blinking at how unhappy it sounds. “You don’t know the fucking half of it.”
Irritation bristles under his skin. Adam is well aware he doesn’t know the half of it, trust him, he’s wildly aware. He scowls, curling up on himself further away from Ronan, presses himself against the door and turns his attention to the window.
Cars pass them by quickly, a blur of colors and lights. It’s well into the night now, but New Haven is a college town, and this close to campus nothing really sleeps. Gansey seems to have resumed talking to their driver and Ronan looks done with the whole thing.
Adam sighs, watching the concrete buildings be left behind, and wishes he could see the coastline.