“Children,” Justinian muttered, writing furiously in the notebook he seemed to always carry with him. “They’re canaries. Canaries in a mine.”
I looked over at him. “What do canaries have to do with anything?”
“Miners used to take canaries with them as a way of indicating the air quality in a mine shaft, if the canary stopped singing and died that’s how they’d know to get out.” Laila shrugged. “Don’t ask me how I know that. You accumulate a lot of random knowledge when you spend as much time online as I do.”
“So, what you’re saying is… shit hits the fan, the kids die first?”
“No, Siobhan, I’m not a monster. No matter what you’ve been taught to think about people like me. I’m saying that the kids would know first. Especially with something large-scale like this.” He pointed towards an empty lot across the street that had been repurposed as an impromptu play park by the neighborhood kids. “Notice anything odd about this picture?”
As one of the lost, he had grown up in a world that was strikingly different from the world I knew as a Daughter of Lightning. I grew up cloistered, surrounded only by my Guardians and instructors who knew how to guide the development of those like myself. Very rarely was I allowed to socialize with the other children in the facility-- very rarely did I even see them. My days were spent in training and study and contemplation, from the moment I was taken away until the moment I finally escaped my prison.
So, no. I didn’t notice anything odd about the scene in front of me. I surveyed the lot and those who were currently occupying it. Kids of varying ages, almost all of them Lost, all of them running and laughing and playing. “They seem to be having a good time,” I guessed. “Like kids do when they don’t grow up in House of Lightning facilities. What are you trying to show me?”
“Pay attention to the ones with the sidewalk chalk,” he said, finally showing me what he had been doodling in his notebook-- a complex design of interlocking circles and jagged edges. A symbol that I had seen before. A symbol that was currently being drawn by about ten children, all working seemingly independently of each other, with different colored sidewalk chalk. “Patterns, princess. It’s all about patterns.” He was right. There was a pattern, and I was too oblivious to notice it until now.
It was the symbol tattooed between my shoulder blades. The symbol embroidered on every piece of clothing that I owned between the ages of four and seventeen. The symbol of the people who made me who and what I am.
It was the symbol of the House of Lightning.