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DUTTON BOOKS 7 ñòðàíèöà
And then I’m thinking of Cassia, that long-ago day in Oria when she jumped into the warm blue pool.
Indie breaks to the surface, wet and laughing and shivering.
Even though she’s beautiful, with a certain wildness in her eyes, I can’t help but think, I wish Cassia were here.
Indie sees it. A little of the light in her eyes disappears as she looks away from me and pulls herself from the river, reaching for her uniform and slapping hands with the others. Someone else jumps in and the crowd hollers again.
Indie shivers, wringing out her long hair.
And I think, I have to stop this. I don’t have to love Indie the way I do Cassia, but I do have to stop thinking about Cassia when I look at Indie. I know how it feels when people look right through you, or worse, see you as something or someone other than what you are.
A formation of air ships flies overhead and we all glance at the sky, a reflex now that we spend so much time there.
Indie climbs up on one of the rocks next to the river and watches the others jump in. She leans her head back and closes her eyes. She reminds me of one of the little lizards in the Outer Provinces. They might look lazy, but if you try to catch them, they’ll run away, fast as the lightning that breaks the desert sky before the summer thunderstorms.
I climb up next to her and watch the river and all the things that float and swim along it—birds, debris from the mountains. You could build a dozen boats from everything that races past in an hour or two, especially in the spring.
“Wonder if they’ll ever let either of you fly on your own,” Connor says. His voice is loud, of course, so that everyone can hear, and he comes closer, trying to intimidate us. He’s huge and hulking, at least six foot three. I’m only six feet even, but I’m much faster, so I’m not worried about a fight. He won’t catch Indie or me if we decide we need to run. “Seems like the Pilot always has the two of you paired up. Like he doesn’t think either of you can fly without the other.”
Indie laughs out loud. “That’s ridiculous,” she says. “The Pilot knows I can fly alone.”
“Maybe,” Connor says, and he’s so easy to read, the dirty thing he’s ready to say obvious before he can even spit it out, “the reason he has the two of you fly together is because you’re—”
“The best,” Indie says. “Of course. We are.”
Connor laughs. Water drips off him from his jump into the river. He looks soaked and stupid, not fine and shining like Indie. “You think a lot of yourself,” he says. “Think you’ll be the Pilot one day?” He glances over his shoulder to see if the others are all laughing, too, at how ridiculous this is. But everyone stays quiet.
“Of course,” Indie says, as if she can’t believe he’d even ask.
“We all hope for that,” a girl named Rae says. “Why not? We can dream now.”
“But not you,” Indie says to Connor. “You need a different dream. You’re not good enough to be the Pilot. And I don’t think you ever will be.”
“Really?” he says, leaning in, a sneer on his face. “And how do you know that?”
“Because I’ve flown with you,” she says, “and you never give in to the sky.” Connor laughs and starts to say something, but Indie keeps talking over him. “You’re always thinking about yourself. How it looks, what you’re doing. Who will notice.”
Connor turns away from her. Over his shoulder he says something crude about Indie—what he’d do to her and with her if she weren’t crazy. I start after him.
“It doesn’t matter,” Indie says, her tone perfectly unconcerned. I want to tell her that it’s dangerous to be so oblivious to people like Connor. But would it do any good?
The fun’s over. People start back to the camp for dry clothes. Some of the pilots and runners shiver as they walk. Almost everyone went into the river.
As we walk, Indie begins to braid her long, wet hair. “What if you could bring back anyone who’s gone?” she asks me, keeping up her line of questioning from before. “And don’t say Cassia,” she adds, with a little huff of impatience. “She doesn’t count. She’s not dead.”
It feels good to hear Indie say that, even though of course she doesn’t know for certain. Although, if Cassia sent me a message, that’s a good thing. I close my fingers around the paper again and smile.
“Who would I bring back from the dead?” I ask Indie. “Why would you ask something like that?”
Indie presses her lips together. For a moment I think she’s not going to answer, but then she says, “Anything is possible now.”
“You think the Rising might be able to do what the Society never could?” I ask. “You think the Rising has figured out how to bring people back to life?”
“Not yet,” she says, “but don’t you think they will someday? Don’t you think that’s the Pilot’s ultimate purpose? All the old stories and songs talk about him saving us. It might not just mean from the Society or the Plague, but from death itself—”
“No.” I speak low. “You saw those samples in the Carving. How could you bring anyone back from that? And even if you could use the sample to create someone a lot like the original person, it would never be the person themselves. You can’t bring anyone back, ever. Do you see what I mean?”
Indie shakes her head, stubborn.
Right then I feel a push at my back, shoving me off balance and toward the river nearby. I have barely enough time to reach my hand into my pocket and close my fingers around the paper before I hit water. I hold my hand up high and push off the bottom of the river as hard as I can with my feet.
But I know the paper is still wet.
The others think my fist is raised in some kind of salute, so they start cheering and calling out and raising theirs back. I have to play it off, so I call out, “The Rising!” and they all pick up the cry.
I’m certain it was Connor who pushed me. He watches from the shore with his arms folded.
Camas River runs near our camp, too, and as soon as the others are out of sight changing clothes in the barracks, I run down to the flat stones at the edge of the water, unfolding the paper as I go. If he ruined her message to me
Part of the writing at the bottom is ruined. My heart sinks. But most of it is legible, and it’s written in Cassia’s handwriting. I’d know it anywhere. She’s changed our code a little, the way we always do, but it doesn’t take long to puzzle it out.
I’m fine, but most of my papers were stolen.
So don’t worry if you don’t hear from me as often.I’ll find my way to you as soon as I can. I have a plan. Ky, I know that you’re going to want to come find me, that you’re going to want to save me. But I need you to trust me to save myself.
Spring is coming. I can feel it. I still sort and wait, but I’ve been writing letters everywhere I can.
I was right. This message is old. The Plague has sped things up and slowed others down. Trading isn’t as reliable as it used to be. How many weeks ago did she write this? One week after the Plague arrived? Two? Did she ever get my message or is it sitting in the pocket of someone lying still in a medical center?
Sometimes, when I feel that it isn’t fair that we’re telling each other our stories in bits and pieces again, I remind myself that we are luckier than most, because we can write to each other. That gift, the first of many you’ve given me, means more to me each day. We have a way to keep in touch until we can be together again.
I love you, Ky.
That’s how we always end our messages to each other. But there’s more this time.
I couldn’t afford to send two separate messages all the way to Camas. I haven’t asked this of you before; I’ve tried to talk to him in different ways so that the two of you wouldn’t have to share. But can you find a way for Xander to see this, too? The next part is for him and it’s important.
That’s when I see that the code switches into numbers partway down the page. It looks like a basic numerical code, and near the bottom of the page it blurs into waves of ink on the paper from when I fell into the river.
I’m tempted to decipher it. She knows I could, but she thinks she can trust me.
She can. I won’t ever forget the way she looked at me in that little house in the Carving, when she realized I’d hidden the map to the Rising from her. I promised myself then that I wouldn’t let fear make me into someone I didn’t want to be. Now I’m someone who can trust and be trusted.
I have to find a way to get this message to Xander, even if it’s incomplete. And even if giving it to him makes it look like I am untrustworthy because part of it is ruined.
I pin the paper down on the flat stone with a small rock so that the wind can pull the water from the page. It won’t take long for the messages to dry. Hopefully the others won’t miss me.
When I turn back, I see Indie walking across the rocks. She’s changed into a dry uniform and she sits down next to me. I keep one hand on a corner of the paper, afraid to let go in case the wind picks up and sends the message sailing. For once, Indie doesn’t say anything. Doesn’t ask any questions.
So I do. “What’s the secret?” I ask Indie.
She looks at me and raises her eyebrows. What do you mean?
“What’s the secret to flying like you do?” I ask. “Like that time when the landing gear malfunctioned and you brought the ship in fine.” We’d scraped along the asphalt of the runway, the ship’s metal belly sending up sparks, and Indie hadn’t seemed flustered at all.
“I know how spaces fit together,” she says. “When I look at things, they make sense to me.”
She’s right. She’s always had a good sense of proportion and position when it comes to concrete objects. She carried that wasp nest because she liked the way it fit together. When she climbed the walls of the canyon, she made it look easy. But still, excellent spatial reasoning alone—even if it’s practically intuition the way it is for her—doesn’t account for how good she is at flying and how fast she learned. I’m not bad myself, but I’m nothing like Indie.
“And I know how things move,” Indie says. “Like that.”
She points to another heron over the water. This one skims along the river, wings outstretched, following a current of air for as long as it lasts. I look at Indie and feel a sharp ache of loneliness for her, like she’s the bird. She knows how things fit together and move, but so few people understand her. She’s the most solitary person I’ve ever known.
Has it always been that way?
“Indie,” I ask, “did you take a tube from the Cavern?”
“Of course,” she says.
“How many?” I ask.
“Just someone,” Indie says.
“Where did you hide it?”
“I didn’t keep it for long. It got lost in the water when we went down the stream to the Rising.”
She’s not telling the whole truth. I can’t tell where the lie comes in, but there’s no way to get Indie to talk about something when she’s decided to keep her own counsel.
“You and Hunter are the only ones who didn’t,” Indie says. “Take one of the tubes, I mean.”
Of course. Because Hunter and I accept the truth about death.
“I’ve seen people dead,” I tell Indie. “So have you. When they’re dead, they’re gone. You can’t bring them back.”
We are the ones who are alive. Here. With everything to lose.
“What if you needed to get something over the walls of the barricade?” I ask Indie, changing the subject. “Would you say that’s impossible?”
“Of course not,” she says. Just like I knew she would. “There are lots of ways to do it.”
“Like what?” I ask. I’m grinning. I can’t help it.
“Climb,” Indie says.
“They’ll see us.”
“Not if we’re fast,” Indie tells me. “Or we could fly.”
“They’d catch us for sure that way.”
“Not if it’s the Pilot who sends us in,” she says.
There’s always a feeling of excitement in the medical center when the cures come in. It’s one of the few times we get to see people who are really from outside the barricade. We’ve got medics and patients coming in all the time, but the pilots and runners who bring the cures are different. They’re not tied down to the medical center or even to Camas.
And there’s a chance that we might see the Pilot. The rumor is that he brings in some of the Camas City cures himself. Apparently the landing within our barricade is one that only the best pilots can manage.
The first ship drops down from the sky onto the street they use for a runway. The pilot brings the ship to a stop yards away from the marble steps of City Hall.
“I don’t know how they do that,” one of the other physics says, shaking her head.
“Neither do I,” I say. The ship turns and comes toward us. It goes a lot slower on land than it did in the air. As I watch it come in, I wonder if someday I’ll have a chance to fly in one of those ships. There are so many things to look forward to after we get everyone cured.
We physics open the cases in the medical storage room and scan the tubes with our miniports. Beep. Beep. Beep. The Rising officers from the ships bring in the cases one after another.
I finish scanning the tubes in the first case. As soon as I do, another appears in front of me.
“Thank you,” I say, reaching out to take it from the officer. I look up.
“Carrow,” he says.
“Markham,” I say. It’s odd using his last name. “You’re in the Rising.”
“Of course,” he says. “Always.” He grins at me because we both know it’s a lie. There are about a thousand things I want to ask him but we don’t have time. We’ve got to keep the supplies moving.
Suddenly that doesn’t feel like the most important thing in the world anymore. I want to ask him how and where she is and if he’s heard from her.
“It’s good to see you,” Ky says.
“You too,” I tell him. And it is. Ky holds out his hand to shake mine and we grip tightly, and I feel him press a piece of paper into my palm.
“It’s from her,” Ky says in a low voice so the others can’t hear. Before anyone can tell us to get back to work, he heads for the door. After he disappears, I glance over at the rest of the people delivering cures and find a girl with red hair watching me.
“You don’t know me,” she says.
“No,” I agree.
She tilts her head, scrutinizing me. “My name is Indie,” she says. She smiles and it makes her beautiful. I smile back and then she’s gone, too.
I shove the paper into my pocket. Ky doesn’t come back again, at least not that I see. I can’t help but feel like we’re playing at the tables back in the Borough, when he was throwing the game and I was the only one who knew. We’ve got another secret. What does it say on that paper? I wish I could read it now, but my shift isn’t over. When you’re working, there isn’t time for anything else.
Ky and I were friends almost from the beginning of his time in the Borough. At first, I was jealous of him. I dared him to steal the red tablets, and he did. After that we respected each other.
I remember another time when Ky and I were younger. We must have been thirteen or so, and we were both in love with Cassia. We stood talking near her house pretending to care what the other was saying but really waiting to see her when she came home.
At some point we both stopped pretending. “She’s not coming,” I said.
“Maybe she went to visit her grandfather,” Ky said.
“She’ll come home eventually,” Ky said. “So I don’t know why it matters so much that she’s not here now.”
Right then I knew we were feeling the same thing. I knew we loved Cassia, if not exactly the same way, then the same amount. And the amount was: completely. One hundred percent.
The Society said that numbers like that don’t exist but neither Ky nor I cared. I respected that about him, too. And I always admired the way he didn’t complain or get upset about anything even though life couldn’t have been easy for him in the Borough. Most people there saw him as a replacement for someone else.
That’s something I’ve always wondered about: What really happened to Matthew Markham? The Society told us that he died, but I don’t believe it.
On the night Patrick Markham went walking up and down the street in his sleepclothes, it was my father who went out and talked him into going back home before anyone called the Officials.
“He was out of his mind,” my father whispered to my mother on our front steps after he took Patrick home. I listened through the door. “He was saying things that couldn’t possibly be true.”
“What did he say?” my mother asked.
My father didn’t speak for a while. Right when I thought he wasn’t going to tell her, he said, “Patrick kept asking me, Why did I do it?”
My mother drew in her breath. I did too. They both turned around and saw me through the screen. “Go back to bed, Xander,” my mother said. “There’s nothing to worry about. Patrick’s home now.”
My father never told the Officials what Patrick said. And the neighborhood knew that Patrick wandered the street that night because he was grieving his son’s death—no need to give any of us a red tablet to explain that away. Besides, his distress reminded us all of the need to keep Anomalies away from everyone else.
But I remember what my father whispered to my mother later that night when they came down the hall together. “I think I saw something else in Patrick’s eyes besides grief,” my father said.
“What?” my mother asked.
“Guilt,” my father said.
“Because it was at his workplace that everything happened?” my mother asked. “He shouldn’t blame himself. He couldn’t have known.”
“No,” my father said. “It was guilt. Real, intelligent guilt.”
They went into their room and I couldn’t hear anything more.
I don’t think Patrick killed his son. But something happened there that I haven’t been able to puzzle out.
When my shift finally ends, I head for the small courtyard. Each medical wing has one, and it’s the only place where we have access to the outdoors. I’m lucky: The only other people here are a man and woman deep in conversation. I walk to the other side of the courtyard to give them privacy and turn my back so they can’t see me open the paper.
At first, all I do is stare at Cassia’s writing.
It’s beautiful. I wish I knew how to write. I wish she’d taught me. A little surge of bitterness goes through me like someone’s shot it right into my veins with a syringe. But I know how to get over the feeling: remember that it doesn’t do any good. I’ve been bitter before about losing her and it never gets me anywhere. More importantly, that’s not the kind of person I’ve spent my life trying to become.
It takes me only moments to decipher the code—a basic substitution cipher like we learned back when we were kids and the Society tested us to see who could sort the best. I wonder if anyone else figured it out before the message got to me. Did Ky read it?
Xander, Cassia wrote, I wanted to tell you that I’m fine, and to tell you some other things, too. First of all, don’t ever take one of the blue tablets. I know the Rising has taken the tablets away, but if you come across any of the blue somehow, get rid of them. They can kill.
Wait. I read it again. That can’t be right. Can it? The blue tablets are supposed to save us. The Rising would have told me if that weren’t true. Wouldn’t they? Do they know? Her next sentence tells me that they do.
It seems to be common knowledge within the Rising that the blue tablets are poisonous, but I didn’t want to leave it to chance that you would find out on your own. I tried to tell you on the port and I thought you understood, but lately I’ve been worried that you didn’t. The Society told us the tablets would save us, but they lied. The blue makes you stop and go still. If someone doesn’t save you, you die. I saw it happen in the canyons.
She saw it happen. So she does know.
There’s something about the blue. She tried to tell me. I feel sick. Why didn’t the Rising let me know? The tablets could have killed her. And it would have been my fault. How could I make that kind of mistake?
The couple in the courtyard is talking louder now. I turn my back to them. I keep reading, my mind racing. Her next sentence offers some relief: at least I wasn’t wrong about her being in the Rising.
I’m in the Rising.
I tried to tell you that, too.
I should have written to you earlier, but you were an Official. I didn’t want to risk getting you in trouble. And you’ve never seen my writing. How would you know that the message was from me, even if the Archivists said that it was? And then I realized a way that I could get a message to you—through Ky. He’s seen my writing. He can tell you that this is really from me.
I know that you’re in the Rising. I understood what you were trying to tell me on the port. I should have realized—you’ve always been the first of us to do the right thing.
There is something else that I wanted to tell you in person, that I didn’t want to put down in a letter. I wanted to speak to you face to face. But now I feel that I should write to you after all, in case it is still some time before we meet.
I know you love me. I love you, and I always will, but—
It ends there. Water damage has made the rest of the message crinkled and illegible. For a second, I see red. How could it be so conveniently destroyed right at the critical spot? What was she going to say? She said she would always love me, but—
Part of me wishes the message ended right there, before that last word.
What happened? Did the paper get ruined by accident? Or could Ky have done it on purpose? Ky played fair in the games. He’d better be playing fair now.
I fold the paper back up and put it into my pocket. In the minutes that I’ve been reading the note the light has gone. The sun must have dipped below the horizon beyond the walls of the barricade. The door to the courtyard opens and Lei comes out, right as the other couple goes inside.
“Carrow,” she says. “I was hoping I would find you.”
“Is something wrong?” I ask. I haven’t seen Lei in several days. Since she wasn’t part of the Rising from the beginning, she’s not working as a physic but instead as a general medical assistant, assigned to whatever team and shift needs her most.
“No,” she says. “I’m fine. It’s good to work with the patients. And you?”
“I’m fine, too,” I tell her.
Lei looks at me and I see the same question in her eyes that I know was in mine when I had to decide whether to vouch for her or not. She’s wondering if she can trust me, and if she really knows me.
“I wanted,” she says finally, “to ask you about the red mark that the patients have on their backs. What is it?”
“It’s a small infection of the nerves,” I say. “It happens along the dermatomes in the back or neck when the virus is activated.” I pause, but she’s part of the Rising now, so I can tell her everything. “The Rising told some of us to look for it because it’s a sure sign of the Plague.”
“And it only happens to people who have actually become ill.”
“Right,” I say. “The dead form of the virus they used in the immunizations doesn’t lead to any significant symptoms at all. But when a person is infected with the live Plague virus, it involves the nerves, resulting in that small red mark.”
“Have you seen anything unusual?” she asks. “Any variations on the basic virus?” She’s trying to figure out the Plague on her own and not taking what the Rising says for granted. Which should make me uneasy about having vouched for her, but it doesn’t.
“Not really,” I say. “Now and then we do have people who come in before they’re completely still. I had one who was talking to me while I gave him the cure.”
“What did he say?” Lei asks.
“He wanted me to promise him that he’d be all right,” I say. “So I did.”
She nods, and it strikes me how exhausted she looks. “Do you have a rest shift now?” I ask her.
“Not for a few hours,” she says. “It doesn’t matter much anyway. I haven’t slept well since he left. I can’t dream. In some ways, that’s the hardest part of having him gone.”
I understand. “Because if you can’t dream you can’t pretend that he’s still here,” I say. That’s what I do whenI dream: I’m back in the Borough with Cassia.
“No,” Lei says. “I can’t.” She looks at me and I hear what she doesn’t say. Her Match is gone, and nothing is the same.
Then she leans a little closer and to my surprise she puts her hand on my face, very briefly. It’s the first time someone has done that since Cassia, and I have to resist leaning into Lei’s touch. “Your eyes are blue,” she says. Then she pulls her hand back. “So are his.” Her voice is lonely and full of longing: for him.
At first the area near the Museum seems empty, and I clench my jaw in frustration. How am I supposed to earn my way out of Central if no one’s trading? I need the commissions.
Be patient, I remind myself. You never know when someone might be watching, waiting to decide whether or not they want to speak up. I’m the only trader here right now, which won’t last long. Others will come.
I see movement out of the corner of my eye, and a girl with short blond hair and beautiful eyes comes around the corner of the Museum. Her hands are cupped in front of her, holding something. For a moment I think of Indie and her wasp nest, and how carefully she always carried it in the canyons.
The girl comes closer to me. “Can I talk to you?” she asks.
“Of course,” I say. Lately, we’ve mostly done away with the passwords of asking about the History of the Society. There’s not as much need for them anymore.
She holds out her hands and there, sitting inside of them, is a tiny brown-and-green bird.
It’s so strange that for a minute I stare at the bird, which does not move in any way, except for the wind tossing its feathers gently.
They’re a shade of green I recognize.
“I made it,” the girl says, “to thank you for the words you wrote for my brother. Here.”
She gives me the bird. It’s tiny, sculpted out of mud, and then dried. It feels weighted and earthy in my palm, and the feathers, tiny torn pieces of green silk, only cover the wings.
“It’s beautiful,” I say. “The feathers—are they—”
“From the square of silk the Society sent me after my Banquet a few months ago,” she says. “I didn’t think I needed it anymore.”
She wore green, too.
“Don’t hold the bird too tightly,” she says, “it might cut you,” and then she pulls me out from under the tree’s shadow, and the parts of the bird that aren’t feathered turn starry. They glitter in the sun.
“I had to break the glass to get the silk out,” she says, “so I thought I might as well use it. I crushed it, and then, when I’d made the bird, I rolled it in the pieces. They were almost as small as sand.”
I close my eyes. I did something similar, back in the Borough, when I gave Ky the piece of my dress. I remember clearly the clean snap when I broke the scrap free.
The bird shimmers and seems to move. Glitter of glass, feathers of silk.
It looks so close to living that I have a momentary urge to toss it to the sky, to see if it will take wing. But I know I will hear only the thud of clay and see the scatter of green when it hits the ground, the shape that made it bird, flying thing destroyed. So I hold it carefully and let this knowledge rise within me like a song.
I am not the only one writing.
I am not the only one creating.
The Society took so much from us, but we still hear rumors of music, hints of poetry; we still see intimations of art in the world around us. They never did keep us from all of it. We took it in, sometimes without knowing, and many still ache for a way to let it out.
I realize all over again that we don’t need to trade our art—we could give, or share. Someone could bring a poem, someone else a painting. Even if we took nothing away, we would all have more, having looked on something beautiful or heard something true.
The breeze dances the bird’s green feathers. “It’s too beautiful,” I say, “to keep to myself.”
Äàòà äîáàâëåíèÿ: 2015-09-15; ïðîñìîòðîâ: 6; Íàðóøåíèå àâòîðñêèõ ïðàâ