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DUTTON BOOKS 8 ñòðàíèöà
“That’s how I felt about your poem,” she says eagerly. “I wanted to show it to everyone.”
“What if we had a way to do that?” I ask. “What if we could gather together, and everyone could bring what they’d made?”
The Museum is the first place that comes to mind, and I turn and look at its boarded-up doors. If we could find a way inside, the Museum has glass cases and glowing golden lights. They are broken, but perhaps we could repair them. I imagine sliding open a door to one of the cases and pinning my poems inside, then stepping back to look.
A little shiver goes through me. No. That’s not the place.
I turn back and the girl watches me, her gaze level and measuring. “I’m Dalton Fuller,” she says.
We’re not supposed to give our names away as traders, but I’m not trading. “My name is Cassia Reyes,” I tell her.
“I know,” Dalton says. “You signed it on the poem you wrote.” She pauses. “I think I have a place that will work.”
“No one comes here,” she tells me, “because of the smell. But it’s starting to get better.”
We stand at the edge of the marsh that goes to the lake.We’re far enough away that we can only see the shore, not what might be washed up on it.
I’ve wondered about those dead fish bumping against the dock, my shins, my hands—was it a last-ditch effort on the Society’s part to poison more water, the way they did in the Outer Provinces and in Enemy territory? But why would the Society do something like that to their own lake?
As the Rising has cured the Plague, they’ve made the stillzone smaller. I’ve seen air ships lifting the pieces of the barricade back up into the sky, pulling the other pieces in more closely. Some of the buildings that were once within the barricade are now back outside of it.
The Rising brings the unused pieces of the barricade out to this vacant ground near the lake. Taken apart, the white pieces of the wall look like art in themselves—curving and enormous, like feathers dropped to earth by giant beings and then turned to marble, like bones risen from the ground and then turned to stone. They are a canyon shattered, with spaces to walk between.
“I’ve seen this from up on the air-train stops,” I say, “but I didn’t know what it looked like up close.”
In one place they’ve dropped two pieces closer together than the others. The pieces form what looks almost like a long hallway, curving toward each other, but not meeting at the top. I walk inside and the space underneath is cool and a little bit dark, with a neat line of blue sky streaming in light from above. I put my hand against a piece of the barricade and look up.
“Rain will still get in,” Dalton says. “But it’s sheltered enough that I think it would work.”
“We could put the pictures and poems on the walls,” I say, and she nods. “And build some kind of platform to hold things like your bird.”
And if someone knew how to sing, they could come here and we could listen. I stand there for a moment, imagining music echoing along the walls and out over the ruined, lonely lake.
I know I need to keep trading to get to my family, and sorting to keep my place in the Rising, but this also feels like something I have to do. I think Grandfather would understand.
I’m sending a group of new patients your way,” the head physic tells me over the miniport.
“Good,” I say. “We’re ready for them.” We have empty beds now. Three months into the Plague, things are finally tapering off, thanks in large part to the increase in immunizations provided by the Rising. The scientists and pilots and workers have all done their best and we’ve saved hundreds of thousands of people. It’s an honor to be a part of the Rising.
I go to the doors to let the transfer medics inside. “Looks like we had a minor outbreak in one of the suburbs,” one of the medics says, pushing his way in and holding on to one end of a stretcher. Sweat drips down his face and he looks exhausted. I admire the transfer medics more than almost anyone else in the Rising. Their work is physical and exhausting. “I guess they missed their immunizations somehow.”
“You can put him right over here,” I say. They move the patient from the stretcher to the bed. One of the nurses begins changing the patient into a gown and I hear her exclaim in surprise.
“What is it?” I ask.
“The rash,” the nurse says. She points to the patient and I see red stripes running across his chest. “It’s bad on this one.”
While the small red mark is more common, now and then we see the rash extending all the way around the torso. “Let’s turn him and check his back,” I say.
We do. The rash extends to the patient’s back. I glance down at my miniport to enter a notation. “Are the others like this?” I ask.
“Not that we noticed,” the medic says.
The medics and I examine the rest of the new patients. None of them exhibit the acute rash, or even have the small red marks.
“It’s probably nothing,” I say, “but I’ll call in one of the virologists.”
It doesn’t take the virologist very long to respond. “What do we have?” he asks, his tone confident. I haven’t had much interaction with him, but I know him by sight and reputation as one of the best research medics in the Rising. “A variation?”
“It looks that way,” I say. “The acute viral rash, formerly small and localized, is now manifesting on dermatomes all around the torso.”
The virologist looks at me in surprise, as if he didn’t expect me to use the right language. But I’ve been here for three months. I know which words to use and, more importantly than that, I know what they mean.
We’re already gloved and masked, as per procedure. The virologist reaches into a case and pulls out a cure. “Get me a vital-stats machine,” he tells one of the other medics. “And you,” he tells me, “draw a blood sample and get a line running.”
“It’s nothing we didn’t anticipate,” the virologist says as I slide the needle into the man’s vein. The head physic watches us from the main port on the wall. “Viruses change all the time. You can see different mutations of a single virus showing up in different tissues, even in the same body.”
I hook up the fluid-and-nutrient bag and start the drip.
“For a mutation to flourish,” the virologist says, “there would have to be some kind of selective pressure applied. Something that made the mutation more viable than the original virus.”
He’s teaching me, I realize, which he doesn’t have to do. And I think I understand what he’s saying. “Like a cure?” I ask. “Could that be the selective pressure?” Could we have given this new virus the opportunity to flourish?
“Don’t worry,” he says. “What’s more likely is that we have an immune system responding uniquely to the virus.”
He looks at the patient and makes a notation in the miniport. Since I’m attending, it pops up on my miniport as well. Rotate patient every two hours to prevent skin breakdown. Clean and seal affected areas to inhibit the spread of infection. The instructions are the same as those for all the other patients. “Poor fellow,” he says. “Maybe it’s best he stays under for a while. He’s going to hurt before he heals.”
“Should we quarantine the patients from this transfer in a separate part of the center?” I ask the head physic over the port.
“Only if you’d prefer not to have them in your wing,” he says.
“No,” I say. “We can quarantine later if necessary.”
The virologist nods. “I’ll let you know as soon as we have the results from the samples,” he says. “It may be an hour or two.”
“In the meantime, start them all on the cure,” the head physic tells me.
“Nice work drawing the blood,” the virologist says as he leaves the room. “You’d think you were still a medic.”
“Thanks,” I say.
“Carrow,” the head physic says, “you’re long past due for a break. Take one now while they’re running the sample.”
“I’m fine,” I say.
“You’ve already extended your shift once,” the head physic tells me from the port. “The nurses and medics can handle this.”
I’ve started taking all my breaks in the courtyard. I even bring my food out there to eat. It’s a little patch of trees and flowers that are starting to die because no one has time to take care of them, but at least when I’m out there I know whether it’s day or night.
Also, I figure if I stay in the same place most of the time, there’s more of a chance I’ll see Lei and we can talk about our work and what we’ve noticed.
At first, I think I’m out of luck because she’s not in the courtyard. But then, right when I’m finishing my meal, the door opens and Lei comes out.
“Carrow,” she says, sounding glad. She must have been looking for me, too, which feels good. She smiles and gestures to the people in the courtyard. “Everyone else has discovered this place.”
She’s right. I can count at least fourteen other people sitting in the sun. “I’ve been wanting to talk to you,” I say. “Something interesting happened in our last transfer.”
“What was it?” she asks.
“A patient came in with a more acute form of the rash.”
“What did it look like?”
I tell her about the lesions and what the virologist said. I try to explain selective pressure to her but I do a bad job of it. Still, she catches on. “So it’s possible that the cure caused the mutation,” she says.
“If it even is a mutation,” I say. “None of the other patients have a similar rash. Of course, it could be that they haven’t had time for it to manifest yet.”
“I wish I could see them,” she says. At first I think she’s talking about the patients, but then I see that she’s gesturing in the direction where the mountains would be if the walls didn’t block them out. “I always wondered how people lived without mountains to tell them where they were. Now I guess I know.”
“I never missed them,” I say. All we had in Oria was the Hill and I never really cared about that. I always liked the little places—the lawn at First School, the bright blue of the swimming pool. And I liked the maple trees in the Borough before they took them down. I want to build all those things again, but this time without the Society.
“My other name is Xander,” I say to Lei suddenly, surprising us both. “I don’t think I ever told you that.”
“Mine is Nea,” she says.
“That’s good to know,” I say. And it is, even though we won’t break protocol and use each other’s first name while we’re working.
“What I like best about him,” she says, her tone and the change of subject almost abrupt, “is that he is never afraid. Except when he fell in love with me. But even then, he didn’t back down.”
It takes me longer than usual to think of the right thing to say, and before I can come up with anything, Lei speaks again.
“So what do you like about her?” Lei asks. “Your Match?”
“All of it,” I say. “Everything.” I hold my hands out to my sides. Once again, I’m at a loss for words. It’s an unfamiliar feeling and I’m not sure why it’s so hard for me to talk about Cassia.
I think Lei’s going to get frustrated with me but she doesn’t. She nods. “I understand that, too,” she says.
My time’s up and the break is over. “I’ve got to get back,” I say. “Time to see how they’re all doing.”
“This all comes naturally to you,” Lei says. “Doesn’t it?”
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“Taking care of people.” She’s looking in the direction of the mountains again. “Where were you living last summer?” she asks. “Had you already been assigned to Camas?”
“No,” I say. Back then, I was home in Oria, trying to make Cassia fall in love with me. It feels like a long time ago. “Why?”
“You remind me of a kind of fish that comes to the river during the summer,” she says.
I laugh. “Is that a good thing?”
She’s smiling, but she looks sad. “They come all the way back from the sea.”
“That seems impossible,” I say.
“It does,” she says. “But they do. And they change completely on the journey. When they live in the ocean, they’re blue with silver backs. But by the time they get here, they’re wildly colorful, bright red with green heads.”
I’m not sure what she thinks this has to do with me.
She tries to explain. “What I’m trying to say is that you’ve found your way home. You were born to help people, and you’ll find a way to do that, no matter where you are. Just like the redfish are born to find their way back from the ocean.”
“Thank you,” I say.
For a second, I think about telling her everything, including what I really did to get the blue tablets. But I don’t. “Time for me to get back to work,” I say to Lei, and I dump the last of the water in my canteen on the newroses near our bench and head for the door.
I walk along the backs of the houses in Mapletree Borough, near the food delivery tracks. Even though it’s late and no meals are being delivered, I can hear the soft scrape-whine of the carts in my mind. When I go past Cassia’s house I want to reach out and touch one of the shutters or tap on a window, but of course I don’t.
I come to the common area for the Borough, where the recreation areas are clumped together, and before I even have time to wonder where the Archivist is he appears beside me. “We’re right behind the pool,” he says.
“I know,” I tell him.This is my neighborhood and I know exactly where I am. The sharp white edge of the high dive looms in front of us. Our voices whispering in the humid night sound like locust wings grating.
He climbs over the fence swiftly and I follow. I almost say, “The pool’s closed. We can’t be here,” but, obviously, we are.
A group of people waits under the high dive. “All you have to do is draw their blood,” the Archivist tells me.
“Why?” I ask, feeling cold.
“We’re taking tissue preservation samples,” the Archivist says. “We all want control of our own. You knew this.”
“I thought we’d be taking the samples the usual way,” I say. “With swabs, not needles. You only need a little tissue.”
“This way is better,” the Archivist says.
“You’re not stealing from us the way the Society does,” one of the women tells me, her voice quiet and calm. “You’re taking our blood and giving it back.” She holds out her arm. “I’m ready.”
The Archivist hands me a case. When I open it up I see sterile tubes and syringes sealed away in plastic. “Go ahead,” he tells me. “It’s all worked out. I have the tablets to give to you when you finish. You don’t need to know any more than that.”
He’s right. I don’t want to try to understand the complicated system of trades and balancing. And I certainly don’t want to know what these people have paid to be here. Is a trade like this even sanctioned by the other Archivists or is this man conducting transactions on the side? What have I stumbled into? I didn’t realize that black market blood would be the price of the blue tablets.
“You’re going to get caught,” I say.
“No,” he says. “I won’t.”
“Please,” the woman says. “I want to get home.”
I put on a pair of gloves and prepare a syringe. She keeps her eyes closed the whole time. I slide the needle of the syringe into the vein near the crook of her elbow. She makes a startled sound. “Almost done,” I say. “Hold on.” I pull the syringe back out and hold it up. Her blood is dark.
“Thank you,” she says, and the Archivist hands her a square of cotton that she presses against the inside of her arm.
When I’ve finished, the Archivist gives me the blue tablets. And then he tells the others, “We’ll be here again next week. Bring your children. Don’t you want to make sure you have samples for them, too?”
“I won’t be here next week,” I tell the Archivist.
“Why not?” he asks. “You’re doing them a service.”
“No,” I say. “I’m not. The science doesn’t exist yet to bring people back.”
If it did, I thought, I’m sure people would use it. Like Patrick and Aida Markham. If there was a way to bring their son back, they’d do it.
Back at home, using a little scalpel stolen from the medical center, I perform the only surgery I’ll likely ever do, slicing very carefully along the back of the tablets, cutting the paper from the Archivists’ port into strips, inserting them, and then holding the packages over the incinerator to melt the adhesive back together.
It takes almost all night, and in the morning I wake up to the sound of screaming in the Borough as they take Ky away. Not long after that, Cassia leaves, too, and thanks to me, she’s got blue tablets to take with her.
I walk back to my wing to check on the patients. “Any adverse reactions to the cure?” I ask.
The nurse shakes her head. “No,” she says. “Five of them are responding well. But the rest, including the patient with the rash, are not. Of course, it’s still early.” She doesn’t need to articulate what we both know: Usually we’ve seen some sort of response by now. This isn’t good.
“Has anyone else manifested with the rash?”
“We haven’t checked since they came in,” she says. “It’s been less than an hour.”
“Let’s do it now,” I say.
We turn one of the patients over carefully. Nothing. We turn another patient. Nothing.
But the third patient’s rash circles her entire body. Her lesions aren’t yet as red as those belonging to the first patient, but the reaction is certainly atypical. “Call the virologist,” I tell one of the medics. Carefully, we turn the woman back over and I catch my breath. Blood seeps from her mouth and nose.
“We have a patient with different symptoms,” I tell the head physic over the port. Before he can answer, another voice comes over my miniport. It’s the virologist. “Carrow?”
“I analyzed the viral genome taken from the patient with the circumferential rash,” he says. “It reveals an additional copy of the neural-insertion envelope protein gene. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
We have a mutation on our hands.
At dusk the evening light gilds the white of the barricade into gold, and the sky is cool and blue except for the spot where the sun burns down beyond the horizon. That’s when we gather, more of us each day. One person tells two people, and two tell four, and it increases exponentially, and within a few weeks of beginning we have what I think of as an outbreak of our own.
I don’t know who started referring to this place as the Gallery, but the name caught on. I’m glad people cared enough to name it. I like it best when I hear the whispers of those who are here for the first time, who stand before the wall with their hands over their mouths and tears in their eyes. Though I could be wrong, I think that many of them feel as I do whenever I come here.
I am not alone.
If I have a little time and can stay for a while, I show whoever wants to learn how to write. Once they’ve seen me do it, they make their own marks, clumsy at first, then definite, confident.
I teach them printing, not the ornate cursive Ky taught me. Printing is easier because of the separate, distinct lines. It’s the joining together—the writing without ceasing and the continuous movement—that is most difficult to learn, that feels so foreign to our hands. Now and then I do write in cursive so I don’t lose the feeling of connection to what I’m putting down, and more importantly, to Ky. When I write without lifting the stick from the ground or the pencil from the paper, I’m reminded of Hunter and his people, how they drew the blue lines on their skin and then onto the next person.
“That’s harder,” a man says, watching me write in cursive. “But the regular way—it’s not bad.”
“No,” I say.
“So why haven’t we been doing it all along?” he asks.
“I think some people have,” I say, and he nods.
We have to be careful. There are still pockets of Society sympathizers who want to fight and destroy, and they can be dangerous. The Rising itself hasn’t forbidden us to gather like this, but the Pilot has asked that everyone focus attention on completing our work and ending the Plague. He tells us that saving people is what matters most, and I believe that to be true, but I think we are also saving ourselves here in the Gallery. So many people have waited a long time to create, or had to hide what they’d done.
We bring whatever we’ve made to the Gallery. There are many pictures and poems tacked to the wall with tree sap.They look like tattered flags—paper from ports, napkins, even torn pieces of cloth.
There is a woman who carves patterns on pieces of wood and then darkens them with charred ash and presses the woodcuts against paper, imprinting her world on ours.
There is a man who must have been an Official once, who has taken all his white uniforms and found a way to turn them different colors. He cuts the fabric into pieces and makes clothing in a style different from any I’ve seen, with angles and flourishes and lines that are unexpected and right. He hangs his creations from the top of the Gallery, and they look like the promises of who we might be in the future.
There is Dalton, who always brings artwork that is beautiful and interesting, fashioned from pieces of other things. Today she’s brought a person created out of bits of cloth and paper torn small and then remade into something large, with stones for eyes and seeds for teeth, and it’s beautiful and terrible. “Oh, Dalton,” I say.
She smiles and I lean in for a closer look. I smell the tangy scent of the tree sap she uses to hold all the pieces of her creations together.
“There’s a rumor,” Dalton says softly, “that at dark, someone’s going to sing.”
“Are we sure this time?” I ask. We’ve heard the rumor before. But it never seems to happen. Poems and artwork are easier to leave; we don’t have to stand before the others and see their faces as we offer up what it is we have to give.
Before Dalton can answer, someone is at my elbow. I turn, and there is an Archivist I know. Panic sets in for a moment—how did he find the Gallery? Then I remember that the Archivists are not the Society, and also that we are not competing with the Archivists for trades. This is a place of sharing.
He pulls something white from the inside of his coat and hands it to me. A piece of paper. Could it be a message from Ky? Or Xander?
What did Xander think of my message? Those were the hardest words I’ve ever had to write. I begin to open the paper.
“Don’t read it,” the Archivist says, sounding embarrassed. “Not when I’m here. I wondered—could you put it up sometime? After I leave? It’s a story I wrote.”
“Of course,” I promise him. “I’ll do it tonight.” I shouldn’t have assumed that he was only an Archivist. Of course he might have something to add to the Gallery, too.
“People come to us asking if there’s any value in what they’ve made,” he says. “I have to tell them that there isn’t. Not to us. I send them on to you. But I don’t know what you call this place.”
For a moment, I hesitate, and then I remind myself that the Gallery isn’t a secret, it can’t be kept. “We call it the Gallery,” I say.
The Archivist nods. “You should be careful about gathering in groups,” he tells me. “There are rumors that the Plague has mutated.”
“We’ve heard those rumors for weeks,” I say.
“I know,” he says, “but someday they could be true. That’s why I came tonight. I had to write this down in case we ran out of time.”
I understand. I have learned that, even without a Plague or a mutation, time is always short. That’s why I had to write those things to Xander, even though it was almost impossible to do. I had to tell him the truth because, since time is short, it should not be spent waiting:
I know you love me. I love you, and I always will, but things can’t hold like this. They have to break. You say you don’t mind, that you’ll wait for me, but I think that you do mind, and you should. Because we’ve done too much waiting in our lives, Xander. Don’t wait for me anymore.
I hope for love for you.
I hope for this more than anything else, maybe even more than my own happiness.
And in a way, perhaps that means I love Xander best of all.
Where are we going?” Indie asks, climbing into the air ship.
It’s my turn to fly, so I sit in the pilot’s seat. “No idea,” I say. “As usual.” Once the Rising began in earnest, we stopped getting our assignments in advance. I start my equipment check. Indie helps me.
“An older ship today,” she says. “Good.”
I nod in agreement. Indie and I both prefer the older ships, which can be more temperamental than the new ones but which also have a different feel to them. When you’re piloting the new ships, sometimes you feel like they’re flying you instead of it being the other way around.
Everything is in order so we wait for our instructions. It’s raining again and Indie hums, sounding happy. It makes me smile. “It’s a good thing they have us flying together,” I say. “I never see you in the barracks or the meal hall anymore.”
“I’ve been busy,” Indie says. She leans closer to me. “After the Plague is gone,” she asks, “are you going to request to train as a fighter?”
Is that why I don’t see Indie as much? Is she planning on changing jobs someday? The fighters, the ones who cover our errand ships as we fly, have to train for years. And, of course, they learn to fight and kill. “No,” I say. “What about you?”
Before she can answer, our flight plans start coming through. Indie reaches for them but I snatch them away first and she sticks out her tongue at me like we’re kids. I look down at the plans and my heart misses a beat.
“What is it?” Indie asks, craning her neck so she can see.
“We’re going to Oria,” I say, stunned.
“That’s strange,” Indie says.
It is. The Rising doesn’t like us to pilot into Provinces where we once lived. They think we’ll want to try to get the cargo to people we know instead of letting the Rising distribute according to need. “The temptation is too high,” the commanders tell us.
“Well, it could be interesting,” Indie says. “They say Oria and Central are the places with the most Society sympathizers.”
I wonder who still lives there that I would know. Cassia’s family was sent to Keya, and my parents were taken away. Does Em’s family still live there? What about the Carrows?
I haven’t seen Xander since the time I gave him the note from Cassia. A few days after I talked with Indie about getting inside the Camas City barricade, the Rising sent us in to deliver some of the cures. I think Indie had something to do with the assignment, but whenever I ask her about it she shrugs it off. “They probably just wanted to see if we could make the landing,” she says, “since it’s one of the most difficult ones in a City.” But she’s got that glint in her eye that means she’s not telling the whole story. It worries me, but if Indie doesn’t want to tell you something, it’s pointless to keep asking.
But we made it inside the walls and helped Caleb with the cargo and I delivered Cassia’s message. It was good to see Xander again. He was glad to see me too. I wonder how long that lasted after he saw that part of the letter was ruined.
The main part of the flight is, as usual, all sky.
Then we drop lower. I aim the ship in the direction of the barricade. Though it was the Society who put up the white barriers, the Rising has left them in place for now to keep a line between the sick and the healthy.
“Oria looks like everywhere else,” Indie says, sounding disappointed.
I’ve never thought of it that way. But she’s right. That was always Oria’s most important characteristic—it was so perfectly Society that it was practically anonymous. Not like Camas, which has the mountains to set it apart, or Acadia, which has a rocky shore to the East Sea, or Central with all its lakes. The middle Provinces—Oria and Grandia, Bria and Keya—look pretty much the same.
Except for one thing.
“We do have the Hill,” I tell Indie. “You’ll see when we get closer.”
Äàòà äîáàâëåíèÿ: 2015-09-15; ïðîñìîòðîâ: 7; Íàðóøåíèå àâòîðñêèõ ïðàâ