Crossed, p.17
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       Crossed, p.17

         Part #2 of Matched series by Ally Condie
Page 18


  “So was your father the Pilot?” Eli asks, sounding awed.

  “If he was, he’s dead now,” I say. “And he took our whole village with him. ”

  “He didn’t kill them,” Vick says. “You can’t blame him. ”

  I can and do. But I also see Vick’s point.

  “Was it Society or Enemy who killed them?” Vick asks after a moment.

  “The ships looked like the Enemy,” I say. “But the Society didn’t come until it was all over. That was new. Back then, they usually pretended to fight for us, at least. ”

  “Where were you when this happened?” Vick asks.

  “Up on a plateau,” I say. “I went to see the rain come down. ”

  “Like the decoys who tried to get the snow,” Vick says. “But you didn’t die. ”

  “No,” I say. “The ships didn’t see me. ”

  “You were lucky,” Vick says.

  “The Society doesn’t believe in luck,” Eli says.

  “I’ve decided it’s the only thing I do believe in,” Vick says. “Good luck and bad luck, and ours always seems to be bad. ”

  “That’s not true,” Eli says. “We got away from the Society and made it into the canyon. We found the cave with the maps and we escaped the township before anyone found us. ”

  I admit nothing. I don’t believe in the Society or the Rising or any Pilot or good and bad luck. I do believe in Cassia. If I had to say I believed in anything more than that, I’d say I believe in it is, or it isn’t.

  Right now I am, and I intend to keep it that way.

  “Let’s go,” I tell the other two, and I roll up the map.

  At dusk, we decide to camp in a cave marked on the map. When we duck through the opening, our flashlights illuminate a series of paintings and carvings on the walls inside.

  Eli stops in his tracks. I know how he feels.

  I remember the first time I saw carvings like these. In that little rocky crevice near our village. My mother and father took me there when I was small. We tried to guess what the symbols might mean. My father practiced copying the figures in the dirt. It was before he could write. He always did want to learn, and he wanted to find the meaning in everything. Every symbol and word and circumstance. When he couldn’t find the meaning, he made it for himself.

  But this cave is amazing. The paintings are lush with color and the carvings etched along the surface are rich in detail. Unlike the dirt on the ground, when you carve into this stone it becomes lighter instead of darker.

  “Who did this?” Eli asks, breaking the silence.

  “A lot of people,” I say. “The paintings look more recent. They look like the farmers’ work. The carvings are older. ”

  “How much older?” Eli asks.

  “Thousands of years,” I say.

  The oldest carvings show people with splayed fingers and broad shoulders. They look strong. One seems to reach up to the sky. I look at the figure for a long time, at that reaching hand, and remember the last time I saw Cassia.

  The Society found me in the early morning. There was no sun yet and the stars were almost gone. It was that nothing time when taking things is easiest.

  I woke right when they leaned down for me in the dark with their mouths open to say the things they always said: There’s nothing to fear. Come with us. But I hit them before they could speak. I drew their blood before they could take me away to make me spill mine. Every instinct said to fight and so I did. For once.

  I fought because I had found peace in Cassia. Because I knew I could find rest in her touch that somehow both burned me up and washed me clean.

  The fight didn’t last long. There were six of them and only one of me. Patrick and Aida weren’t awake yet. “Come quietly,” the Officials and Officers said. “It will make it easier for everyone. Do we have to gag you?”

  I shook my head.

  “Classification always tells in the end,” one of them said to the others. “This one was supposed to be easy; he’s been compliant for years. But an Aberration is still an Aberration. ”

  We were almost out the door when Aida saw us.

  And then we went along the dark streets with Aida screaming and Patrick talking low and urgent and calm.

  No. I don’t want to think about Patrick and Aida and what happened next. I love them more than anyone in the world besides Cassia, and if I ever find her, we will look for them. But I can’t think about them for long—the parents who took me in and received nothing in exchange but more loss. It was brave of them to love again. It made me think I could do it too.

  Blood in my mouth and under my skin in bruises waiting to show. Head down, hands locked behind me.

  And then.

  My name.

  She cried out my name in front of everyone. She didn’t care who knew that she loved me. I called her name, too. I saw her tumbled hair, her bare feet, her eyes looking only at me, and then she pointed to the sky.

  I know you meant that you would always remember me, Cassia, but I’m a fraid you might forget.

  We clear away pieces of brush and smaller stones so we have a place to rest. Some of the stones are chert, likely cached here by the farmers for fires. I also find a piece of sandstone, almost perfectly round, and I think instantly of my compass.

  “Do you think some of the farmers camped in here on their way out of the Carving?” Eli asks.

  “I don’t know,” I say. “Probably. It looks like a place they used often. ” Charry circles of old fires mark the floor, as do sandy, blurred footprints and, here and there, bones from animals cooked and eaten.

  Eli falls asleep quickly, as usual. He’s rolled up right under the feet of a carved figure who has both arms raised high.

  “So what did you bring?” I ask Vick as I pull out the bag where I stashed things from the library cave. In our hurry to leave the township, the three of us grabbed books and papers without having much of a chance to look at them.

  Vick begins to laugh.

  “What is it?”

  “I hope you chose better than I did,” he says, showing me what he brought. In his hurry he grabbed a stack of plain little brown pamphlets. “These looked like something I saw once back in Tana. It turns out they’re all the same thing. ”

  “What are they?” I ask.

  “Some kind of history,” he says.

  “That still might prove to be valuable,” I say. “If not, I can give you some of mine. ” I’ve done a little better. I have some poetry and two books full of stories that are not among the Hundred. I glance over at Eli’s pack. “We’ll have to ask Eli what he brought when he wakes up. ”

  Vick turns some pages. “Wait. This is interesting. ” He hands me one of the pamphlets, opened to the first page.

  The paper is pulpy. Cheap, mass-produced somewhere on the edges of Society with old equipment, likely scavenged from a Restoration site. I open the pamphlet and read it by the light of the flashlight:THE RISING:

  A Brief History of Our Rebellion against the Society.

  The Rising began in earnest at the time of the Hundred Committees.

  In the year before the Hundred Selections began, the Cancer Eradication Rate remained stagnant at 85. 1 percent. It was the first occurrence of a failure to improve since the Cancer Eradication Initiative took effect. The Society did not take this lightly. Though they knew total perfection in all areas was impossible, they decided that closing the gap on 100 percent in certain areas was of utmost importance. They knew this would require complete focus and dedication.

  They decided to center all their efforts on increasing productivity and physical health. Those at the highest level of Official voted to eliminate distractions such as excess poetry and music while retaining an optimal amount to enhance culture and satiate the desire for experiencing art. The Hundred Committees, one for each area of the arts, were formed to oversee the choices.

  This was the beginning of the Society’s
abuse of power. They also ceased to have each generation vote on whether or not they wanted to live under Society’s rule. The Society began to remove Anomalies and Aberrations from the general population and isolate or eliminate those who caused the most trouble.

  One of the poems that the Society did not approve for the Hundred Poems was Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar. ” It has become an informal password between members of our rebellion. The poem references two important aspects of the Rising:

  1. A leader called the Pilot directs the Rising and

  2. Those who belong to the Rising believe it is possible to cross back into the better days of the Society—the time before the Hundred Selections.

  Some of the Anomalies who escaped the Society in its early years have joined the Rising. Though the Rising now exists in all parts of the Society, it remains strongest in the Border and Outer Provinces, particularly where Aberrations have been sent in increasing numbers since the advent of the Hundreds.

  “Did you already know all of that?” Vick asks.

  “Some,” I say. “I knew the part about the Pilot and the Rising. And I knew about the Hundred Committees, of course. ”

  “And about destroying Aberrations and Anomalies,” Vick says.

  “Right,” I agree. My voice is bitter.

  “When I heard you saying the poem over the first boy in the water,” Vick says, “I thought you might be telling me you were part of the Rising. ”

  “No,” I say.

  “Not even when your father was leading?”

  “No. ” I don’t say more. I don’t agree with what my father did but I don’t betray him either. That’s another fine line I don’t like to get caught on the wrong side of.

  “None of the other decoys recognized the words,” Vick says. “You’d think more Aberrations would have known about the Rising and told their children. ”

  “Maybe all of the ones who did figured out how to get away before the Society starting sending us to the villages,” I say.

  “And the farmers didn’t belong to the Rising,” Vick says. “I thought that might be why you were leading us to them—so we could join up. ”

  “I wasn’t leading you anywhere,” I say. “The farmers knew about the Rising. But I don’t think they were part of it. ”

  “You don’t know much,” Vick says with a grin.

  I have to laugh. “No,” I say. “I don’t. ”

  “I thought you had some kind of greater purpose,” Vick says thoughtfully. “Gathering people to bring to the Rising. But you came into the Carving to save yourself and get back to the girl you’re in love with. That’s all. ”

  “That’s all,” I agree. It’s the truth. He can think less of me if he wants.

  “Good enough,” Vick says. “Good night. ”

  When I scratch into the stone with my piece of agate, it leaves clean white marks. This compass won’t work, of course. It can’t open. The arrow will never spin, but I carve anyway. I need to find another piece of agate. I’m wearing down this one with carving instead of killing.

  While the other two sleep, I finish the compass. When I’m done, I turn it in my hand so that its arrow points in the direction I believe to be north and I lie down to rest. Does Cassia still have the real compass, the one that my aunt and uncle saved for me?

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