Matched, p.11
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       Matched, p.11

         Part #1 of Matched series by Ally Condie
Page 12


  Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

  Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.

  And as I read on, I know why it speaks to me:

  Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

  Because their words had forked no lightning they

  Do not go gentle into that good night.

  My words have forked no lightning. Grandfather even told me this, before he died, when I gave him that letter that I didn’t truly write. Nothing I have written or done has made any difference in this world, and suddenly I know what it means to rage, and to crave.

  I read the whole poem and eat it up, drink it up. I read about meteors and a green bay and fierce tears and even though I don’t understand al of it

  —the language is too old—I understand enough. I understand why my grandfather loved this poem because I love it too. Al of it. The rage and the light.

  The line under the title of the poem says Dylan Thomas, 1914-1953.

  There is another poem on the other side of the paper. It’s cal ed “Crossing the Bar,” and it was written by someone who lived even further in the past than Dylan Thomas—Lord Alfred Tennyson. 1809-1892.

  So long ago, I think. So long ago they lived and died.

  And they, like Grandfather, wil never come back.

  Greedy, I read the second poem, too. I read the words of both poems over again several times, until I hear the sharp snap of a stick near me.

  Quickly, I fold up the paper and put it away. I have lingered too long. I have to go; to make up the time I’ve lost.

  I have to run.

  I don’t hold back; this isn’t the tracker, so I can push myself hard, through the branches and up the hil . The words of the Thomas poem are so wild and beautiful that I keep repeating them silently to myself as I run. Over and over I think do not go gentle, do not go gentle, do not go gentle. It isn’t until I’m almost at the top of the hil that realization hits me: There’s a reason they didn’t keep this poem.

  This poem tel s you to fight.

  One more branch stings my face as I break through the clearing, but I don’t stop—I push out into the open. I look around for the Officer. He’s not there, but someone else is already at the top. Ky Markham.

  To my surprise, we are alone on top of the hil . No Officer. No other hikers.

  Ky’s more relaxed than I have ever seen him, leaning back on his elbows with his face tipped toward the sun and his eyes closed. He looks different and unguarded. Looking at him, I realize that his eyes are where I notice most the distance he keeps. Because when he hears me, he opens them and looks at me, and it almost happens. I almost catch a glimpse of something real before I see again what he wants me to see.

  The Officer appears out of the trees next to me. He moves quietly, and I wonder what he’s observed in the woods. Did he see me? He looks down at the datapod in his hand and then back up at me. “Cassia Reyes?” he asks. Apparently I was predicted to finish second. My stop must not have been as long as I thought.

  “Yes. ”

  “Sit there and wait,” the Officer says, pointing toward the grassy clearing at the top of the hil . “Enjoy the view. According to this, it’s going to be a few minutes before anyone else gets up here. ” He gestures to the datapod and then disappears back into the trees.

  I pause for a moment before I walk toward Ky, trying to calm down. My heart pounds, fast, from the running. And from the sound in the trees.

  “Hel o,” Ky says, when I get closer.

  “Hel o. ” I sit on the grass next to him. “I didn’t know you were doing hiking, too. ”

  “My mother thought it would be a good choice. ” I notice how easily he uses the word “mother” to describe his aunt Aida. I think about how he has slipped into his life here, how he became who everyone expected him to be in Mapletree Borough. Despite being new and different, he did not stand out for long.

  In fact, I’ve never seen him finish first in anything before, and I speak before I think. “You beat us al today,” I say, as if that fact weren’t obvious.

  “Yes,” he says, looking at me. “Exactly as predicted. I grew up in the Outer Provinces and have had the most experience with activities like this. ” He speaks formal y, as if reciting data, but I notice a sheen of sweat across his face; and the way he’s stretching his legs out in front of him looks familiar. Ky’s been running, too, and he must be fast. Do they have trackers in the Outer Provinces? If not, what did he run to out there? Were there also things he had to run from?

  Before I can stop myself, I ask Ky something that I should not ask: “What happened to your mother?” His eyes flash to me, surprised. He knows I don’t mean Aida, and I know that no one else has ever asked him that question. I don’t know what made me do it now; perhaps Grandfather’s death and what I’ve read in the woods have left me on edge and vulnerable. Perhaps I don’t want to dwel on who might have seen me back in the trees.

  I should apologize. But I don’t and it’s not because I feel like being mean. It’s because I think he might want to tel me.

  But I am mistaken. “You shouldn’t ask me that question,” he says. He doesn’t look at me, so al I can see is one side of him. His profile, his dark hair wet with the mist and the water that fel from the trees as he passed through them. He smel s like forest, and I lift my hands to my face to smel them—to see if I do, too. It might be my imagination, but it seems to me that my fingers smel like ink and paper.

  Ky’s right. I know better than to ask a question like that. But then he asks me something that he shouldn’t ask. “Who did you lose?”

  “What do you mean?”

  “I can tel ,” he says simply. He’s looking at me now. His eyes are stil blue.

  The sun feels hot on the back of my neck and the top of my hair. I close my eyes the way Ky did earlier and tip my head back so that I can feel the heat on my eyelids and across the bridge of my nose.

  Neither of us says anything. I don’t keep my eyes closed for long, but when I open them the sunlight stil blinds me for a moment. In that moment, I know I want to tel Ky. “My grandfather died last week. ”

  “Was it unexpected?”

  “No,” I say, but real y, in some ways, it was. I did not expect Grandfather to say the things he said. But I did expect his death. “No,” I say again. “It was his eightieth birthday. ”

  “That’s right,” Ky says thoughtful y, almost to himself. “People here die on their eightieth birthday. ”

  “Yes. Isn’t it like that where you came from?” I’m surprised that the words escaped my mouth—not two seconds ago he reminded me not to ask about his past. This time, though, he answers me.

  “Eighty is . . . harder to achieve,” he says.

  I hope that the surprise doesn’t show on my face. Are there different death ages in different places?

  People cal and feet crunch from the edge of the forest. The Officer steps out of the bushes again and asks people their names as they break into the clearing.

  I shift my position to stand up and I swear I hear the compact in my pocket chink against my tablet container. Ky turns to look at me and I hold my breath. I wonder if he can tel that there are words in my head, words I am struggling to remember and memorize. Because I know that I can never open the paper again. I have to get rid of it. Sitting here next to Ky, drinking in the sun with my skin, my mind is clear— and I let myself realize what that sound in the woods meant earlier. That sharp, stick-snapping sound.

  Someone saw me.

  Ky takes a breath, leans in closer. “I saw you,” he says, his voice soft and deep like water fal ing in the distance. He is careful with his words, speaking them so they can’t be overheard. “In the woods. ”

  Then. For the first time I can remember, he touches me. His hand on my arm, fast and hot and gone before I know it. “You have to be careful.

  Something like that—”

  “I know. ” I
want to touch him back, to put my hand on his arm too, but I don’t. “I’m going to destroy it. ” His face stays calm but I hear the urgency in his tone. “Can you do it without getting caught?”

  “I think so. ”

  “I could help you. ” He glances over at the Officer as he says this, casual y, and I realize something that I haven’t noticed until now because he’s so good at hiding it. Ky always acts as though someone watches him. And, apparently, he watches back.

  “How did you beat me to the top?” I ask suddenly. “If you saw me in the woods?” Ky looks surprised by the question. “I ran. ”

  “I ran too,” I say.

  “I must be faster,” he says, and for a moment I see a hint of teasing, almost a smile. Then it’s gone, and he’s serious again, urgent. “Do you want me to help you?”

  “No. No, I can do it. ” Then, because I don’t want him to think I’m an idiot, a risk-taker for the sake of risk-taking, I say more than I should. “My grandfather gave it to me. I shouldn’t have kept it as long as I did. But . . . the words are so beautiful. ”

  “Can you remember them without it?”

  “For now. ” I have the mind of a sorter, after al . “But I know I won’t be able to keep them forever. ”

  “And you want to?”

  He thinks I’m stupid. “They are so beautiful,” I repeat lamely.

  The Officer cal s out; more people come through the trees; someone cal s to Ky, someone cal s to me. We separate, say good-bye, walk to different places on the top of the little hil .

  Everyone looks out into the distance at something. Ky and his friends face the dome of City Hal , talking about something; the Officer looks out at the Hil . The group I stand with gazes off toward the Arboretum’s meal hal and chatters about our lunch, about getting back to Second School, whether or not the air trains wil be on time. Someone laughs, because the air trains are always on time.

  A line from the poem comes to my mind: there on the sad height.

  I tilt my head back again and look at the sun through my closed eyelids. It is stronger than I am; it burns red against the black.

  The questions in my mind seem to make a humming sound, like that of the bugs in the woods earlier. What happened to you in the Outer Provinces? What Infraction did your father commit that made you an Aberration? Do you think I’m crazy for wanting to keep the poems? What is it about your voice that makes me want to hear you speak?

  Are you supposed to be my Match?

  Later, I realize that the one question that didn’t even cross my mind was the most urgent one of al : Will you keep my secret?


  The pattern in my neighborhood has shifted this evening; something is wrong. People wait at the air-train stop with faces closed, not talking to each other. They climb on without the usual greetings to those of us climbing off. A smal white air car, an Official vehicle, sits sidled up next to a blue-shuttered house on our street. My house.

  Hurrying down the metal stairs from the air-train stop, I look for more shifts in the pattern as I walk. The sidewalks tel me nothing. They are clean and white as always. The houses near mine, shut tight, tel me a little more—if this is a storm, it wil be waited out behind closed doors.

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