Crossed, p.26
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       Crossed, p.26

         Part #2 of Matched series by Ally Condie
 
Page 27

  “Why didn’t they bury them higher?”

  “They needed that land for the living. ”

  “But the books,” I say. “They stored those high and books aren’t living. ”

  “The living still have use for books,” Ky says softly. “Not for bodies. If a graveyard floods, nothing is ruined that wasn’t already gone. It’s different with the library. ”

  I crouch down to look at the stones. The places where people lie are marked in different ways. Names, dates, sometimes a line of verse. “What is this writing?” I ask.

  “It’s called an epitaph,” he says.

  “Who chooses it?”

  “It depends. Sometimes if the person knows they are dying, they choose it. Often it’s those left behind who have to choose something that fits the person’s life. ”

  “That’s sad,” I say. “But beautiful. ”

  Ky raises his eyebrows at me and I hurry to explain. “The deaths aren’t beautiful,” I say. “I mean the idea of the epitaph. The Society chooses what’s left of us when we die there. They say what goes on your history. ” Still, I wish again that I had taken the time to view Grandfather’s microcard more closely before I left. But Grandfather did decide what was left of him as far as preservation goes: nothing.

  “Did they make stones like this in your family’s village?” I ask Ky, and as soon as I do I wish I hadn’t done it, wish I hadn’t asked for that part of the story yet.

  Ky looks at me. “Not for my parents,” he says. “There wasn’t time. ”

  “Ky,” I say, but he turns away and walks down another row of stones. My hand feels cold now without his around it.

  I shouldn’t have said anything. Except for Grandfather, the people I have seen dead were not people I loved. It is as though I have peered down into a long dark canyon where I have not had to walk.

  As I move between the stones, careful not to step on them, I see that the Society and Hunter are right about the life expectancy out here. Most of the life spans don’t reach eighty years. And other children lie in the ground, too, besides the one Hunter buried.

  “So many children died here,” I say out loud. I’d hoped the girl yesterday was an exception.

  “Young people die in the Society too,” Ky says. “Remember Matthew. ”

  “Matthew,” I repeat, and as I hear his name, I suddenly remember Matthew, really remember him, think of him by name for the first time in years instead of as just the first Markham boy, the one who died in a rare tragedy at the hands of an Anomaly.

  Matthew. Four years older than Xander and me; so much older as to be untouchable, unreachable. He was a nice boy who said hello to us in the street but was years ahead of us. He carried tablets and went to Second School. The boy I remember, now that his name has been given back to me, was enough like Ky to be his cousin; but taller, bigger, less quick and smooth.

  Matthew. It was almost as though his name died with him, as though naming the loss would have made it more real.

  “But not as many,” I say. “Just him. ”

  “He’s the only one you remember. ”

  “Were there others?” I ask, shocked.

  A sound from behind makes me turn; it’s Eli and Indie closing the door to our borrowed house. Eli lifts a hand to wave and I wave back. The light is full in the sky now; Hunter will be here soon.

  I look down at the stone he placed yesterday and reach out and put my hand on the name carved there. SARAH. She had few years; she died at five. Under the dates is a line of writing, and with a chill I realize that it sounds like a line from a poem:

  SUDDENLY ACROSS THE JUNE A WIND WITH FINGERS GOES

  I reach for Ky’s hand and hold on as tight as I can. So that the cold wind around us won’t try to steal him from me with its greedy fingers, its hands that take things from times that should be spring.

  Chapter 31

  KY

  When Hunter comes to meet us he has a canteen of water and a pile of ropes slung over his shoulder. I wonder what he intends. Before I can ask, Eli speaks.

  “Was she your sister?” Eli points to the newly placed stone.

  Hunter doesn’t glance back down at the grave. The smallest flicker of emotion crosses his face. “You saw her? How long were you watching?”

  “A long time,” Eli says. “We wanted to talk to you but we waited until you were finished. ”

  “That’s very kind of you,” Hunter says flatly.

  “I’m sorry,” Eli says. “Whoever she was, I’m sorry. ”

  “She was my daughter,” Hunter says. Cassia’s eyes widen. I know what she’s thinking: His daughter? But he’s so young, only twenty-two or twenty-three. Certainly not twenty-nine, which is the youngest someone with a five-year-old child can be in the Society. But this is not the Society.

  Indie’s the first to break the silence. “Where are we going?” she asks Hunter.

  “To another canyon,” Hunter says. “Can all of you climb?”

  When I was small my mother tried to teach me the colors. “Blue,” she said, pointing to the sky. And “blue” again, the second time pointing to the water. She told me I shook my head because I could see that sky blue was not always the same as water blue.

  It took me a long time—until I lived in Oria—to use the same word for all the shades of a color.

  I remember this as we walk through the canyon. The Carving is orange and red, but you’d never see this kind of orange and red back in the Society.

  Love has different shades. Like the way I loved Cassia when I thought she’d never love me. The way I loved her on the Hill. The way I love her now that she came into the canyon for me. It’s different. Deeper. I thought I loved her and wanted her before, but as we walk through the canyon together I realize this could be more than a new shade. A whole new color.

  Hunter stops ahead of us and gestures up at the cliff. “Here,” he says. “This is the best place. ” He begins testing the rock and looking around.

  I put up my hand to block the sun so I can better see the climb above us. Cassia glances at me and does the same. “This is where Indie and I came back over,” she says in recognition.

  Hunter nods. “It’s the best place to climb. ”

  “There’s a cave in that other canyon,” Indie tells Hunter.

  “I know,” Hunter says. “It’s called the Cavern. The question I need you to answer is about what’s inside. ”

  “We didn’t go in,” Cassia says. “It’s sealed tight. ”

  Hunter shakes his head. “It looks like that. But my people have used it since we first came to the Carving. After the Society took it we found a way to get back in. ”

  Cassia looks puzzled. “But then you know—”

  Hunter interrupts her. “We know what’s there. We don’t know why. ” He looks at Cassia, his gaze unnerving in its assessment. “I think you might know why. ”

  “Me?” she asks, sounding startled.

  “You’ve been part of the Society longer than the others,” Hunter says. “I can tell. ” Cassia flushes and brushes her hand down her arm, as if she wants to remove some taint of the Society.

  Hunter glances over at Eli. “Do you think you can do this?”

  Eli stares up at the cliff. “Yes,” he says.

  “Good,” Hunter says. “It’s not a particularly technical climb. Even the Society could do it if they tried. ”

  “Why didn’t they?” Indie asks.

  “They did,” Hunter says. “But this was one of our best-guarded areas. Anyone trying to climb in we cut down. And you can’t fly an air ship into the canyon. It’s too narrow. They had to come in on foot and we had the advantage. ” He finishes another knot and hooks the rope through one of the metal bores on the wall. “It worked for a long time. ”

  But now the farmers are gone across the plain. Or dead on top of the Carving. It’s only a matter of time before the Society realizes that and decides to come in.

  No one know
s that better than Hunter. We have to hurry.

  “We used to climb everywhere,” Hunter says. “The Carving was all ours. ” He looks down at the rope in his hands. I think he’s remembering again that everyone is gone. You wouldn’t think you can forget but sometimes you can—for a moment or two. I’ve never been able to decide if I think that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Forgetting lets you live without the pain for a moment but remembering hits hard.

  It all hurts. Sometimes—when I’m weak—I wish that the red tablet did work on me.

  “We saw bodies on top of the Carving,” Indie says. She looks up at the climb, assessing it. “They had blue marks like you. Were they farmers, too? And why did they go up if it was better to wait for the Society down below?” In spite of myself I admire her. She’s bold to ask Hunter those questions. I’ve been wanting to know the answers too.

  “That place on top is the only area wide and flat enough for the Society to land their ships,” Hunter says. “Lately, for whatever reason, they’d become more agressive about entering the Carving, and we couldn’t guard all of the canyons. Only the one where our township is. ” He makes another knot, tightens the rope. “For the first time in the history of the farmers, we had a split we couldn’t resolve. Some of us wanted to go up and fight so the Society would leave the canyons alone. Others wanted to escape. ”

  “Which did you want?” Indie says.

  Hunter doesn’t answer.

  “So those who crossed the plain,” Indie says, pushing for more information, “did they go to join the Rising?”

  “I think that’s enough,” Hunter says. The expression on his face keeps even Indie from asking more. She closes her mouth and Hunter hands her a rope. “You have the most climbing experience,” he says. It’s not a question. He can tell somehow.

  She nods and almost smiles as she looks up at the rocks. “I used to sneak away sometimes. There was a good spot near our house. ”

  “The Society let you climb?” Hunter asks.

  She looks at him with an expression of contempt. “They didn’t let me climb. I found a way to do it without them knowing. ”

  “You and I will each take someone up,” Hunter tells her. “It’ll be faster that way. Can you do that?”

  Indie laughs in response.

  “Be careful,” Hunter warns her. “The stone here is different. ”

  “I know,” she says.

  “Can you climb up alone?” Hunter asks me.

  I nod. I don’t tell him that I prefer it this way. If I fall, at least I won’t take anyone with me. “I’ll watch you first. ”

  Indie turns to look at Cassia and Eli. “Which one of you wants to come with me?”

  “Eli,” Cassia says. “You choose. ”

  “Ky,” Eli says immediately.

  “No,” Hunter tells him. “Ky hasn’t climbed as much as we have. ”

  Eli opens his mouth to protest but I shake my head at him. He glares at me and then walks over to stand by Indie. I think I see a small, pleased smile on Indie’s face before she turns back to the rock.

 
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