Crossed, p.12
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       Crossed, p.12

         Part #2 of Matched series by Ally Condie
 
Page 13

 

  I don’t think they’ll ever figure out how to do it. Even the Society can’t bring people back. But it is true that in the Society our data lives on forever, rolling over and over to become whatever numbers the Society needs. It’s like what the Rising has done with the legend of the Pilot.

  I’ve known about the rebellion and its leader for as long as I can remember.

  But I never told Cassia.

  The closest I came was the day on the Hill when I told her the story of Sisyphus. Not the Rising’s adaptation of it, but the version that I like best. Cassia and I stood in that dark green forest. Both of us had red flags in our hands. I finished the story and was about to say more. Then she asked me the color of my eyes. In that moment I realized that loving each other felt more dangerous—more like a rebellion—than anything else ever could.

  I’d heard parts of the Tennyson poem all my life. But in Oria, after I saw Tennyson’s words on Cassia’s lips, I realized that the poem didn’t belong to the Rising. The poet didn’t write it for them—he wrote it long before the Society even existed. It was the same with the story of Sisyphus. It existed long before the Rising or the Society or my father claimed it as their own.

  When I spent my days in the Borough doing the same tasks over and over, I changed the story too. I decided that it was the thoughts in your own mind that mattered more than anything else.

  So I never talked to her about how I’d heard the other poem before, or about the rebellion. Why? We had the Society trying to find its way into our relationship. We didn’t need anyone else there, too. The poems and stories we shared with each other could mean what we wanted them to mean. We could choose our own path together.

  We finally see a sign of the Anomalies: a place where they used to climb. The ground at the base of the cliff is spotted with blue fragments. I bend down to look more closely. For a moment they look like the broken casings of some kind of beautiful insects. Blue and bruised purple underneath. Broken and mixed with red mud.

  Then I realize they’re the juniper fruit from the tree growing near the wall. They’ve fallen to the ground and been crushed by someone’s boots, and the rain has blurred the footprints so that they are only vague indentations. I run my hand along the cuts in the rock and the metal bores where the Anomalies ran their climbing gear through. The ropes are gone.

  Chapter 12

  CASSIA

  As we walk, I look for something to mark Ky’s passage through this place. But I find nothing. We see no footprints, no signs of human life. Even the trees are small and stunted, and one of them bears a distinct dark scar right through its center. I feel stricken, too. Although the boy who ran to the Carving with us talked about the recent rains, I still hoped to find some of Ky’s tracks.

  And I hope to find evidence of the Rising. I open my mouth to ask Indie if she’s heard of it but something holds me back and I don’t. I’m not sure what I expect a sign of a rebellion to look like, anyway.

  There is a tiny stream, so small that it almost disappears when Indie and I both put our canteens in at the same time. The stream dries up or sinks underground entirely by the time it reaches the edge of the Carving. In staggering through the dark I did not notice when the stream began, only that it suddenly was. Pieces of driftwood wait on small sandy beaches, bone-dry, having floated in on a bigger river in a different time. I can’t stop wondering what this might look like from above: a shiny silver thread, pulled from one of the choices I saw in the Hundred Dresses, winding through the vastness of red rock that is the Carving.

  From above, Indie and I would be too small to see at all.

  “I think we’re in the wrong canyon,” I tell Indie.

  Indie doesn’t answer at first; she’s bending to pick up something fragile and gray from the ground. She holds it carefully in her hands and shows it to me.

  “An old wasp nest,” I say, looking at the thin, tissue-paper circles turning within and without each other.

  “It looks like a seashell. ” Indie opens her pack and tucks the abandoned nest safely inside. “Do you want to try and go back out?” she asks. “Go to another canyon?”

  I pause. We’ve been moving for almost twenty-four hours now, and we are out of food. We have eaten most of our two days’ ration to give us strength after our long run to the Carving. I don’t want to waste tablets on going back out, especially since I don’t know what might be following, or waiting.

  “I guess we should keep going,” I say. “Maybe we’ll see some sign of him soon. ”

  Indie nods, hoists her pack, and picks up the two knife-sharp stones she always carries while we walk. I do the same. We’ve seen the prints of animals here, though we haven’t seen a trace of an Anomaly yet.

  We haven’t seen a trace of any person—alive or dead, Aberration or Anomaly, Official or rebel.

  In the dark that night, I sit and work on my poem. It helps me keep from thinking about all I’ve left behind.

  I write another first line.

  I couldn’t find a way to fly to you so I walked every step on this stone.

  So many beginnings. I tell myself that in a way it’s good that I haven’t found Ky yet, because I still don’t know what to whisper to him when I see him, which words would be the very best ones to give.

  Indie finally speaks. “I’m hungry,” she says. Her voice sounds as hollow as the empty wasp’s nest.

  “I’ll give you a blue tablet if you want,” I tell her. I don’t know why I’m so averse to taking them, since this is precisely the type of situation Xander wanted to help me through. Maybe it’s because the boy who ran with us didn’t seem to want them. Or because I hope to have something to give Ky when I see him, since I gave away the compass. Or because Grandfather’s voice echoes in my mind from when he talked about a different tablet, the green one: You are strong enough to go without.

  Indie gives me a sharp, puzzled look.

  A thought comes to my mind and I pull out my flashlight. I shine it around, noticing again something I saw earlier and stored away in my memory: a plant. My mother didn’t teach me specific names of many plants, but she did tell me the general signs of poison. This plant shows none of those signs, and the very presence of the spikes seem to indicate that it has something within to protect. It’s fleshy and green, edged with purple. It isn’t lush like the vegetation in the Borough but it’s certainly better than the tired tumbles of sticks and leaves that many of the plants here have turned into for the winter. Some of them have small gray cocoons strung along their bare branches, memories of butterflies.

  Indie watches for a moment as I gingerly pull off one of the broad, spiked leaves. Then she crouches next to me and does the same, and we both carefully use our rock knives to scrape away the spikes. It takes a little while, but then we each have a small, skinned-looking gray-green piece of plant in front of us.

  “Do you think it’s poisonous?” Indie asks me.

  “I’m not sure,” I say. “I don’t think so. But I’ll go first. ”

  “No,” Indie says. “We’ll both try a little and see what happens. ”

  For a minute we do nothing but chew, and while it’s not the same as the food I’ve eaten all my life, Society food, it’s still enough to take the edge off and dampen the hunger. Cut me open, and you might find a girl held together not by bone, but by stringy dry sinews, ones that look like the bark that hangs off the trees here in strips.

  When nothing happens after a few moments, we both take another bite. I think of another word that might rhyme and write it down, then scratch it back out. It doesn’t work.

  “What are you doing?” Indie asks.

  “I’m trying to write a poem. ”

  “One of the Hundred Poems?”

  “No. This one is new. It’s my own words. ”

  “How did you learn to write?” Indie moves a little closer, looks curiously at the letters in the sand.

  “He taught me,” I say.
The boy I’m looking for. ”

  She falls silent again and I think of another line.

  Your hand around mine, showing me shapes.

  “Why are you an Aberration?” Indie asks. “Are you first-generation?”

  I hesitate, not wanting to lie to Indie, but then I realize that I’m not lying anymore. If the Society has discovered my escape, I’ll certainly earn Aberration status. “I am,” I say. “First generation. ”

  “So it was you who did something?” she asks.

  “Yes,” I say. “I caused my own Reclassification. ” That’s true, too, or will be. When my status changes, it won’t be my parents’ fault.

  “My mother made a boat,” Indie says, and I hear her swallow another piece of the plant. “She carved it out of an old tree. She worked on it for years. And then she paddled away and the Officials found her within an hour. ” She sighs. “They picked her up and saved her. They told us she only wanted to try out the boat and that she was grateful they found her in time. ”

  I hear a strange sound in the dark that I can’t place, a sort of delicate movement like a whispering. It takes me a moment to realize that the sound is Indie, turning the wasp nest around and around in her hands as she speaks.

  “I’ve never lived near the water,” I say. “Not the ocean, anyway. ”

  “It calls,” Indie says softly. Before I can ask what she means, she adds, “Later, when the Officials were gone, she told my father and me what really happened. She said that she meant to go. She said the worst part was that she didn’t even lose sight of the shore before they found her. ”

  I feel that I stand at the edge of an ocean and something, some knowledge, laps at my feet. I can almost see the woman on the boat in the water, drifting farther, seeing nothing behind her but sea and sky. I can almost hear her deep breath of relief as she turns her face away from where the shore once was, and I wish she had made it far enough for that.

  Indie says quietly, “When the Officials found out what she’d told us, they gave us all red tablets. ”

  “Oh,” I say. Should I act as if I know what happens next? The forgetting?

  “I didn’t forget,” Indie says. And though it’s too dark to see her eyes anymore, I can tell that she looks at me.

  She must think I know what the red tablets do. She is like Ky and Xander. She is immune.

  How many more are there like them? Am I one of them?

  The red tablet tucked among the blue tempts me sometimes, the way it did the morning they took Ky away. But now, it’s not because I want to forget. It’s because I want to know. Am I immune, too?

  But I might not be. And now is not a time for forgetting. Besides, I might need the red tablet later.

  “Were you angry that she tried to go?” I ask, thinking of Xander and what he said about how I left. The moment the words leave my mouth I wish them unsaid, but Indie doesn’t take offense.

  “No,” she says. “She always planned to come back for us. ”

  “Oh,” I say. Neither of us speaks for a moment, and I think suddenly of a time when Bram and I stood near the little Arboretum pond waiting for my mother. Bram wanted to throw a stone into the pool but knew he’d get in trouble if someone saw him. So he waited. Watched. Just when I thought he’d lost his nerve he snapped his arm forward and the rock went in and rippled the water.

 
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