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DUTTON BOOKS 6 ñòðàíèöà
The only time I was tempted to try to get out of the Rising was when Cassia and I were Matched. For a few months there, I played both sides in the game, doing what the Rising wanted and acting Society at the same time so that I could stay Matched to Cassia. But it didn’t take me long to realize—I wanted Cassia to choose me. In some ways, our being Matched is the biggest strike against me. How was she supposed to love me when the Society said she should?
After Cassia told me that she was falling for Ky, I realized that if he left, she’d go too. She’d jump. It wasn’t hard to recognize that the Society wouldn’t let Ky live in Mapletree Borough forever, and anywhere he went might be dangerous.
I had to send something with her: something that could help her and that would remind her of me.
So I printed out the picture from the port and went outside to get the newrose petals. But those were both things to remind her of the past. I decided that wasn’t enough. I wanted to give her something that could help her in the future and that would make her think of me.
It was kind of ironic that Ky was the one who’d told me about the Archivists. Without him, I might not have known how to trade.
All I had to give the Archivists was the silver box from my Banquet. In exchange, they gave me a piece of paper printed from one of their ports—all the information I told them from my official Matching microcard, plus a few changes and additions of my own.
Favorite color: red.
Has a secret to tell his Match when he sees her again.
That was the easy part. Getting the tablets was harder. I didn’t fully understand what the Archivists were asking of me when I agreed to the trade.
But it was all worth it. The blue tablets kept Cassia safe. She even told me that on the port: There’s something about the blue.
I roll over onto my side and stare at the wall.
The night of the Banquet, when I waited at the air-train stop with my parents and my brother, I hoped Cassia and I would be on the same train. That way we could at least ride to the City together before everything changed. And she came up the stairs, holding on to the skirt of her green dress. I saw the top of her head first, then her shoulders and the green of the silk against her skin, and finally she looked up and I saw her eyes.
I knew her then and I know her now. I’m almost sure of it.
I hurry along the edge of the white barricade, which runs near the Museum. Before the Rising boarded up the Museum’s windows, you could see the stars and scatters of broken glass. People tried to break in the night we first heard the Pilot’s voice. I don’t know what they hoped to steal. Most of us realized long ago that the Museum holds nothing of value. Except for the Archivists, of course, but they always know when it’s time to hide.
In the weeks since the Rising came to power, we have more, and we have less, than we did before.
I am late home every single day, because I always go to trade after work. Though a Rising officer might tell me to hurry along, he or she won’t issue me a citation or warn me against what I am doing, so I have a little more freedom. And, we have more knowledge about the Plague and the Rising now. The Rising explained that they made some people immune to the Plague and the red tablet from birth. Which explains Ky’s and Xander’s ability to remember everything, in spite of having taken the red tablet. It also means that, long ago, the Rising did not choose me.
And we have less certainty. What will happen next?
The Pilot says the Rising will save us all, but we have to help it happen. No traveling—we must try to keep the Plague from spreading and focus resources on curing those who are ill. That, the Pilot says, is the most important thing: stopping the Plague so that we can truly begin again. I’ve been immunized against the Plague now, as have most in the Rising, and soon, one way or the other, we’ll all be safe. Then, the Pilot promises, we can truly begin changing things.
When the Pilot speaks to us, his voice is as perfect as it was the first day we heard it on the ports, and now that we can see him too, it’s hard to look away from his blue eyes and the conviction they hold. “The Rising,” he says, “is for everyone,” and I can tell that he means it.
I know my family is all right. I’ve talked with them a few times through the port. Bram fell ill with the Plague at the beginning, but he has recovered, just as the Rising promised, and my parents were quarantined and immunized. But I can’t talk to Bram about how it felt to have the Plague—we still speak guardedly; we smile and don’t say much more than we did when the Society was in power. We aren’t quite sure who can hear us now.
I want to talk without anyone listening.
The Rising has only facilitated communication between immediate family members. According to the Rising, the Matches of those too young to have celebrated their Contracts no longer exist, and the Rising doesn’t have time to track down individual friends for every person. “Would you rather,” the Pilot asks us, “spend time setting up communications? Or should we use our resources saving people?”
So I haven’t been able to ask Xander what his secret is, the one he mentioned on a slip of paper that I read in the Carving. Sometimes I think I’ve guessed the secret, that it’s as simple as his being in the Rising. Other times, I’m not sure.
It’s easy to imagine how people must feel when Xander comes to help them. He bends down to listen to them. Takes their hands in his. Speaks in the honest, gentle tone he used in my dream back in the canyons when he told me I had to open my eyes. Patients must feel healed just seeing him.
I sent a message to Ky and Xander after the Plague broke to let them know that I’m all right. That trade cost more than I could afford after the theft at the lake, but I had to do it. I didn’t want them to worry.
I haven’t heard anything back. Not a word written on a paper or printed on a scrap. And my trades for the I did not reach Thee poem and Grandfather’s microcard still haven’t come through. It’s been so long.
Sometimes, I think the microcard must be held in the hands of a trader gone still in a remote place; that it is lost forever. Because Bram would have sent it to me. I believe that.
When I was working in Tana Province, before I ran away to the Carving, Bram was the one who sent me a message about the microcard, and made me want to view it again. In his message, Bram described some of what he’d seen when he viewed the microcard again:
At the very end is a list of Grandfather’s favorite memories.He had one for each of us. His favorite of me was when I said my first word and it was “more.” His favorite of you was what he called the “red garden day.”
Back in Tana, I convinced myself that Grandfather had made a small mistake—that he had meant to say “red garden days,” plural, those days of spring and summer and autumn when we sat talking outside his apartment building.
But lately I’ve been convinced that that is not the case. Grandfather was clever and careful. If he listed the red garden day, singular, as his favorite memory of me, then he meant one specific day. And I can’t remember it.
Did the Society make me take the red tablet on the red garden day?
Grandfather always believed in me. He’s the one who first told me not to take the green tablet, that I didn’t need it. He’s the one who gave me the two poems—the Thomas one about not going gentle and the Tennyson one about crossing the bar and seeing the Pilot. I still don’t know which one Grandfather meant for me to follow, but he did trust me with both.
Someone waits outside the Museum—a woman standing forlornly in the gray of a spring afternoon that has not yet decided for rain.
“I want to find out more about the Glorious History of Central,” she says to me. Her face is interesting, one I’d know if I saw her again. Something about her reminds me a little of my own mother. This woman looks hopeful and afraid, as people often do when they come here for the first time. Word has spread about the Archivists.
“I’m not an Archivist,” I say. “But I am authorized to trade with them on your behalf.” Those of us who have been sanctioned to trade with the Archivists now wear thin red bracelets under our sleeves that we can show to people who approach us. The traders who don’t have the bracelet don’t last long, at least not at the Museum meeting place. The people who come here want security and authenticity. I smile at the woman, trying to make her feel at ease, and take a step closer so that she can better see the bracelet.
“Stop!” she says, and I freeze.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “But I noticed—you were about to step on this.” She points to the ground.
It’s a letter written in the mud; I didn’t leave it. My heart leaps. “Did you write this?” I ask.
“No,” she says. “You see it, too?”
“Yes,” I say. “It looks like an E.”
Back in the Carving I kept thinking I saw my name, which wasn’t true until I found the tree where Ky had carved for me. But this is real, too, a letter written deep in the mud with strong, rough strokes, as though the person who wrote also wanted to communicate intent, purpose.
Eli. His name comes to my mind, although as far as I know he never learned to write. And Eli’s not here, even though this is where he grew up. He’s out beyond the Outer Provinces, all the way to the mountains by now.
People are watching, I think. Maybe they, too, will put their hands to the stone.
“Someone can write,” the woman says, sounding awed.
“It’s easy,” I tell her. “You have the shape of things right before you.”
She shakes her head, not understanding what I mean.
“I didn’t write this, but I do know how,” I tell her. “You look at the letters. Make them with your hands. All it takes is practice.”
The woman looks worried. Her eyes are shadowed, and there is something restrained about the way she holds herself, something tense and sad.
“Are you all right?” I ask her.
She smiles; she says the answer that we grew accustomed to giving in the Society. “Yes, of course I am.”
I look out toward the dome of City Hall and wait. If she wants to say something, she can. I learned that from watching first Ky, and then the Archivists—if you don’t walk away from someone’s silence, they just might speak.
“It’s my son,” she says quietly. “Ever since the Plague came, he hasn’t been able to sleep. I tell him over and over again that there’s a cure, but he’s afraid of getting sick. He wakes all night long. Even though he’s been immunized, he’s still afraid.”
“Oh no,” I say.
“We are so tired,” the woman says. “I need green tablets, as many as this will purchase.” She holds out a ring with a red stone in it. How and where did she find it? I’m not supposed to ask. But if it’s authentic, it will be worth something. “He’s afraid. We don’t know what else to do.”
I take the ring. We’ve seen more and more of this, since the Rising took away the tablets and containers the Society gave us. Though I’m glad to see the red and the blue tablets gone, I know there are people who need the green and who are having a hard time going without. Even my mother needed it once.
I think of her, bending over my bed when I couldn’t sleep, and it sends an ache through me and reminds me of how she used to lull me to sleep with the descriptions of flowers. “Queen Anne’s lace,” she’d say, in a slow, soft voice. “Wild carrot. You can eat the root when it’s young enough. The flower is white and lacy. Lovely. Like stars. ”
Once, the Society sent her out to see flowers in other Provinces. They wanted her to look at rogue crops that they thought people might be using for food, as part of a rebellion. My mother told me how in Grandia Province there was an entire field of Queen Anne’s lace, and how, in another Province, she saw a field of a different white flower, even more beautiful. My mother talked to the growers who’d cultivated the fields. She saw the fear of discovery in their eyes, but she did her job and reported them to the Society because she wanted to keep my family safe. The Society let her remember what she’d done. They didn’t take that memory.
My mother spent her life growing things. Could the red garden day memory Grandfather talked about have something to do with her?
The spring breeze cuts around me, tearing the last of the old leaves from the branches of the bushes. It pulls on my clothes, and I imagine that if it took them from me, the last of my papers would soar out into the world, and I know it is time for me to stop holding certain things so close.
The woman has turned to look in the direction of the lake, that long stretch of water glinting in the sun.
Water, river, stone, sun.
Perhaps that is what Ky’s mother would have sung to him as she painted on the rocks in the Outer Provinces.
I press the ring back into the woman’s hand. “Don’t give him the tablets,” I say. “Not yet. You can sing to him. Try that first.”
“What?” she asks, looking at me in genuine surprise.
“You could sing to him,” I say again. “It might work.”
And then her eyes open a little wider. “I could,” she says. “I have music in me. I always have.” Her voice sounds almost fierce. “But what words would I sing?”
What would Hunter, back in the farmers’ settlement, have sung to his child, Sarah, who died? She believed in things that he did not. So what would he have said that could bridge the gap between belief and unbelief?
What would Ky sing? I think of all the places we’ve been together, all the things we’ve seen:
Wind over hill, and under tree.
Past the border no one can see.
I wonder, standing there with the mother of the sleepless child, something that I have wondered before—when Sisyphus reached the top of the hill, was there someone for him to see? Was there a stolen touch before he found himself again at the bottom of the hill with the stone to push? Did he smile to himself as he set, again, to rolling it?
I’ve never written a song, but I have started a poem before, one I could not finish. It was for Ky, and it began:
I climb into the dark for you
Are you waiting in the stars for me?
“Here,” I say, and I pull a charred stick from my sleeve and a paper from my wrist.
I write carefully. No words have ever come to me so easily, but I can’t make a mistake in writing them out or I’ll have to go back to the Archivists for more paper. And I have the poem all in my head, right now, so I write quickly for fear that I might lose some of it.
I always thought my first finished poem would be for Ky. But this seems right. This poem is between the two of us, but also for others. It is about all the places you find someone you love.
Newrose, oldrose, Queen Anne’s lace.
Water, river, stone, and sun.
Wind over hill, under tree.
Past the border none can see.
Climbing into dark for you
Will you wait in stars for me?
I have turned one of the beginnings I wrote for Ky into an ending. I have written something all the way through. After a moment of hesitation, I write my own name at the bottom of the page as the author.
“Here,” I say. “You can put music behind it, and it will be your own.” And it strikes me that this is how writing anything is, really. A collaboration between you who give the words and they who take them and find meaning in them, or put music behind them, or turn them aside because they were not what was needed.
She doesn’t take it at first. She thinks she has to offer me something in return.
At that moment I realize that the idea I had about trading art was all wrong.
“I am giving it to you for your son,” I say. “From me. Not from the Archivists. And not as a trader.”
“Thank you,” the woman says. “That’s very kind.” She seems surprised and gratified, and she slides the paper up into her sleeve, imitating me. “But if it doesn’t work—” she begins.
“Then come back,” I say. “I’ll get the green tablets for you.”
After I leave the woman, I make my way to the Archivists’ hiding place to see if they have more work for me, and to check on my things. After the theft of my belongings, I asked the Archivist to store my case for me. They keep it somewhere back in a hidden room, one I’ve never even seen. Only a few of the Archivists have keys.
They bring me out my case and I look inside. Once filled with priceless pages, my case now holds a roll of paper from a port, a pair of Society-issued shoes, a white shirt that was once part of some Official’s uniform, and the red silk dress I wore when I thought I would see Ky at the lake. The poems I have left I keep with me always. Together, everything does not make up an impressive collection, but it’s a start. It’s only been a few weeks. Either the Rising will take me to the ones I love or I will find a way to do it myself.
“It’s all here,” I say to the Archivist helping me. “Thank you. Is there any further trading you need me to do today?”
“No,” he says. “You’re welcome, as always, to wait outside the Museum to see if anyone approaches you.”
I nod. If I hadn’t talked the woman out of the trade earlier today, I’d be on my way to another item for my collection.
I tear off a long strip of port paper from the roll and wrap it around my wrist, under my plainclothes. “That will be all,” I say to the Archivist. “Thank you.”
The head Archivist catches my eye as I come out from the shelves. She shakes her head. Not yet. My poem and the microcard still haven’t come through.
Sometimes I wonder if the head Archivist is the real Pilot, steering us into the waters of our own want and need and helping us come out safely in little boats filled with different things for each person, the items we need to begin our true, right lives.
It’s not impossible.
What better place to run a rebellion than down here?
When I climb the steps and emerge above ground, I smell grass coming up, and feel night coming down.
Back in the City, I’m not sure I can do it. I’ve held on to the poem for so long. Perhaps I’m spending and giving too much now.
But my biggest regrets are from saving and holding back. I kept my poems too long and they were stolen; I never taught Xander or Bram to write. Why didn’t I think to do that? Bram and Xander are smart; they could learn on their own, but sometimes it is good to have someone help you in beginning.
I creep out into the dark and unroll the spool of paper from my wrist. I drape the paper along the smooth, cool metal surface of one of the benches in the greenspace, and then I write, pressing down carefully with a charcoaled stick. They’re so easy to make if you know how, a dip of a branch into the incinerator. When I finish, my hands are black and cold and my heart feels red, warm.
The branches of the trees hold out their arms and I drape the paper over them. The wind moves gently, and it seems the trees cradle the words as carefully as a mother would a small child. As carefully as Hunter held Sarah when he carried her to her grave in the Carving.
In the white light of the streetlamps, it feels that this greenspace might only live in a high flight of imagination or the depth of a dream. I wonder if I will wake up and find it all gone. These paper trees, this white night. My dark words waiting for someone to read them.
I know Ky will understand why I have to write this, why there was nothing else that would suffice.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Even if it’s a Society sympathizer who takes them down, he will see the words as he pulls the papers from the tree. Even if he burns them, they will have slipped through his fingers on the way to fire. The words will be shared, no matter what.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
There are many of them in the world, I think, good men and women with their frail deeds. Wondering what might have been, how things might have danced, if we had only dared to be bright.
I have been one of them.
I unwind more paper and see the line
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight
I weave the papers through the branches. A long loop. Up and down, my knees bending. My arms above my head, like the girls I saw once in a painting in a cave. There is a rhythm to this, a keeping of time.
I wonder if I am dancing.
Are you jumping today?” one of the other pilots asks me. Our squadron walks along the path next to the river that twists and turns through the City of Camas. At one spot in the river—down near City Hall and the barricade—the river becomes a series of falls. A gray heron slices through the swift waters near us.
“No,” I say, not bothering to hide the irritation in my voice. “I don’t see the point of it.”
“It’s a sign of unity,” he says. I turn to look at him a little more closely.
“We all work for the Rising, don’t we?” I ask. “Isn’t that all the unity we need?”
The pilot, Luke, falls silent and walks a little faster, so that I’m alone at the back of our group. We’ve been given a few hours off and everyone wanted to go into the City. For many of us, it still feels dangerous and exhilarating to walk freely through the streets of a City that used to be Society, even though the Rising has had full power in Camas for some weeks now. As expected, Camas was the first and easiest Province for the Rising to take over—so many insurgents live and work here.
Indie falls back to walk with me. “You should jump,” she says. “They all want you to do it.”
Some of the other squadrons have started jumping into the river. Though it’s officially spring now, the water comes down from the mountains and it’s frigid. I have no plans to go in the river. I’m not a coward, but I’m also not stupid. This isn’t the safe, warm blue pool of the Borough. After the Sisyphus, and what happened when Vick died—
I don’t trust the water anymore.
Many people walk the river paths today. The sun feels warm on our backs. The Rising has asked everyone to keep to their Society-assigned jobs for now, until the Plague is fully contained, so most people are at work. But still, there are childcare providers bringing little kids to throw stones into the river, and workers with foilware trays, enjoying the new freedom of eating their lunch wherever they want. All of these people must be immune or cured to walk so freely. They’re like us. They know they’re safe.
I glance at the barricade wall, which also runs near the river. Even though the Rising is firmly in control, there are still restrictions for now as to where we can go. The medics and workers behind the walls can’t come out. They eat and sleep and breathe the Plague.
Cassia told me that Xander was assigned to Camas. It’s strange that he might be on the other side of that barricade, working in the medical center. Our paths haven’t crossed in Camas, though we’ve both been here for months. I wish I had seen Xander. I’d like to talk to him. I’d be interested to hear what he thinks of the Rising—if he’s found it everything he hoped it would be.
I don’t wonder if he still loves Cassia. I’m sure that he does.
I haven’t heard anything from her since the Plague broke, but they’ve immunized everyone in the Rising who wasn’t already immune. So I think she’s safe, one way or the other. But I don’t know.
I sent her a message as soon as I could, telling her how sorry I was that I couldn’t reach her that night at the lake. I asked her if she was all right and told her that I loved her.
I traded four of my foilware pilot meals for that, and it was worth it, though I can’t do it too often or I’ll get in trouble.
The silence from Cassia is making me crazy. Every time I fly, I have to keep myself from taking off and risking everything to try to get to her. Even if I managed to steal a ship, the Rising would shoot me down. You won’t do her any good if you’re dead, I remind myself.
But I’m not doing her much good by staying alive, either. I don’t know how much longer I can wait before I’ll have to risk it.
“Why not jump?” Indie asks, still needling at me. “You can swim.”
“What about you? Are you going in?” I ask Indie.
“Maybe,” Indie says. Everyone’s still a little perplexed by Indie, but more and more they also respect her. It’s hard not to after you’ve seen her fly.
I’m about to say something more to her, but then I recognize a face in the crowd. One of the traders who used to bring me notes from Cassia. I haven’t seen this particular trader in a long time. Does she have something for me today?
The way Archivists trade is different now. The Rising closed down the Society’s Museums, saying they were filled with nothing more than propaganda. So we have to wait outside of the Museums to make contact or find each other in the crowds.
The handoff is quick, as usual. She passes me, keeping her gaze level and cool, and we bump into each other slightly, the jostling normal on a crowded path. From the outside, I’m sure it all looks perfectly natural, but she’s handed off something to me—a message. “I’m sorry,” she says, meeting my eyes briefly. “I’m late.”
She’s acting as if she bumped into me because she’s in a hurry to get somewhere on time, but I know what she means. The message is late, likely because she’s had the Plague. How did she manage to hold on to the paper? Did anyone else read it while she was still?
My heart races like a rabbit in search of cover out on the plateau. This note has to be from Cassia. No one else has ever sent anything to me. I wish I could read it now. But I’ll have to wait until it’s safe.
“If you could fly anywhere, where would you go?” Indie asks.
“I think you know the answer to that,” I tell her. I slip the paper into my pocket.
“Central, then,” Indie says. “You’d fly to Central.”
“Wherever Cassia is.”
Caleb looks back at us and I wonder if he saw the exchange. I doubt it. The trader was fast. I can’t figure Caleb out. He’s the only one who brings cases back when we’re dropping off the cure. None of the other ships are taking on cargo. The commander always tells us it’s approved, but I think there’s more going on than we know. And I think Caleb has been assigned to work with Indie and me to watch one of us—but I can’t figure out which of us it is. Maybe both.
“What about you?” I ask Indie, keeping my tone light. “If you could fly anywhere, where would you go? Back to Sonoma?”
“No,” she says, as if the suggestion is ridiculous. “I wouldn’t go back to where I’m from. I’d go someplace I’ve never been.”
My fingers close around the paper in my pocket. Cassia told me once that she wears some of the pages against her skin. This is the closest I can get to touching or seeing her right now.
Indie watches me. And then, as she often does, she says something disconcerting. Unexpected. She leans closer and speaks quietly so that the others can’t hear. “I’ve been wanting to ask you. Why didn’t you steal any of the tubes when we were in the Cavern? I saw Cassia and Eli each take one. But you didn’t.”
Indie’s right. I didn’t take a tube. But Cassia and Eli both did. Cassia took her grandfather’s tube. Eli stole the one that had belonged to Vick. Later, both Cassia and Eli gave me their tubes for safekeeping. I hid them in a tree near the stream that led down to the Rising camp.
“I didn’t need one,” I say.
Indie and I stop. The rest of the group shouts and hollers. They’ve found the spot where they want to jump, a deep place downriver from one of the falls. It’s where the other squadrons have been going in and it’s close enough to the path that people can stop and watch.
“Come on,” calls Connor, one of the other pilots. He looks right at Indie and me. “You afraid?” he asks.
I don’t bother to answer. Connor’s competent, arrogant, and mediocre. He thinks he’s a leader. I know he’s not.
“No,” Indie says, and right then she strips out of her uniform, down to the fitted undershirt and shorts that we all wear, and takes a running leap into the water. Everyone cheers as she hits the surface. I catch my breath, thinking how cold it must be.
Äàòà äîáàâëåíèÿ: 2015-09-15; ïðîñìîòðîâ: 11; Íàðóøåíèå àâòîðñêèõ ïðàâ