Crossed, p.30
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       Crossed, p.30

         Part #2 of Matched series by Ally Condie
Page 31


  Chapter 35


  As I turn the pages of the farmers’ histories my own history flashes back to me. It comes in glimpses like the lightning outside the cave. Bright. Fast. I can’t tell if I’m seeing more or being blinded. The rain pours down and I picture the river outside pushing everything before it. Running over the name carved on Sarah’s little stone and leaving her bones bare.

  Panic rises in me. I can’t be trapped here. I can’t come so close to breaking free and fail.

  I find a notebook filled with lined paper covered in a childish scrawl. S. S. S. A hard letter to learn for the first one. Was it Hunter’s daughter who wrote this?

  “I think you’re old enough now,” my father said, handing me a piece of cottonwood he’d brought out of the canyon with him. He had one, too, and he made a mark in the mud left over from the rain the night before. “It’s something I learned in the canyons. Look. K. That’s how your name starts. They say you should always teach a person’s name first. That way, even if they never learn to write anything else, they’ll always have something. ”

  Later, he told me he was going to teach the other children too.

  “Why?” I asked. I was five. I didn’t want him to teach the others.

  He knew what I was thinking. “It’s not knowing how to write that makes you interesting,” he said. “It’s what you write. ”

  “But if everyone can write, I won’t be special,” I said.

  “That isn’t the only thing that matters,” he said.

  “You want to be special,” I said. Even then I knew. “You want to be the Pilot. ”

  “I want to be the Pilot so I can help people,” he told me.

  Back then I nodded. I believed him. I think he might have believed himself, too.

  Another memory flashes to mind: a time when I took a note around the village for my father, running it from place to place so the others could have a turn reading it. The paper said the time and place of the next meeting and my father burned it as soon as I came home.

  “What’s this meeting about?” I asked my father.

  “The farmers have refused again to join the Rising,” he said.

  “What will you do?” my mother asked.

  He loved the farmers. They, not the Rising, were the ones who taught him to write. But the Rising had approached him first back before we were Reclassified. They planned to fight and he loved to fight. “I’ll stay loyal to the Rising,” he said. “But I’ll still trade with the farmers. ”

  Indie leans forward and catches my eye. She gives me a slight smile and her hand rests on her pack, as though she’s just slipped something inside. What did she find?

  I look at her until she turns away. Whatever it is, she’s not showing Cassia either. I’ll have to find out later.

  A few months before the last firing, my father taught me to wire. That was his job—to repair the wiring on everything that fell apart in the village. Things broke often there and we were used to it. All our equipment was the leftovers from Society, just like us. The food-warming mechanisms in particular were always breaking. We even heard rumors that the meals the Society shipped us were mass-produced and contained standardized vitamins, nothing like the individually calibrated meals given to people back in the other Provinces.

  “If you can do my jobs here,” he said, “like fixing the food machines and the heaters in the houses, I can keep traveling into the canyon. No one will tell the Society that it’s you working instead of me. ”

  I nodded.

  “Not everyone is good with their hands,” my father said, sitting back. “You are. You come by it from both of us. ”

  I glanced over to where my mother painted and then looked back to the wires I held.

  “I always knew what I wanted to do,” my father said. “I knew how low to score to get assigned to mechanical repair. ”

  “That was risky,” I said.

  “It was,” he said, “but I always come out where I should. ” He smiled at me and around him at the Outer Provinces, which he loved and where he belonged. Then he became serious. “Now. Let’s see if you can do what I did. ”

  I arranged the wires, the plastic tabs, and the timer the way he showed me, with one small alteration.

  “Good,” my father said, sounding pleased. “You have intuition, too. The Society says it doesn’t really exist, but it does. ”

  The next book I pick up is heavy, engraved with the word LEDGER. I turn the pages carefully, beginning at the end and working my way backward.

  Though I half expected it, it still hurts when I see his trades in there. I know them by his signature on the lines and by the dates mentioned. He was one of the last to keep trading with the farmers, even when life in the Outer Provinces became more and more dangerous. He thought that quitting would seem like a sign of weakness.

  Like it says in the pamphlets, there’s always a Pilot, and others being groomed to take his or her place if the Pilot falls. My father was never the Pilot, but he was one of the people standing in line.

  “Do what the Society tells you,” I said to him when I got older and could see how many risks he took. “Then we won’t get in trouble. ”

  But he couldn’t help himself. He was smart and cunning, but he was all action, no subtlety, and he never knew when to stop. I could see that even when I was a child. It wasn’t enough to go into the canyons to trade—he had to bring writing out. It wasn’t enough to teach me—he had to teach all the children and then their parents. It wasn’t enough to know of the Rising—he had to move it forward.

  It was his fault we died. He pushed too hard and took too many risks. The people wouldn’t have been gathered together for a meeting if it weren’t for him.

  And after that final firing, who came to get the survivors?

  The Society. Not the Rising. I’ve seen how they leave you when they don’t need you anymore. I’m afraid of the Rising. Even more than that, I’m afraid of who I’d be in the Rising.

  I walk over to where Indie stood when she slipped something into her pack. On the table in front of me sits a waterproof box full of maps.

  I glance over at Indie. She’s moved on. Her fingers turn the pages of a book and her bent head reminds me of the bell of a yucca flower tipped down toward the ground.

  “We’re running low on time,” I say, picking up the box. “I’m going to find a map for each of us to use in case we get separated. ”

  Cassia nods. She’s found something else interesting. I can’t see what it is, but I can see the joy in her face and the way her body tenses with excitement. The very idea of the Rising makes her come alive. It’s what she wants. Maybe it’s even what her grandfather wanted her to find.

  I know you came into the Carving for me, Cassia. But the Rising is the one place I don’t know if I can go for you.

  Chapter 36


  Ky puts a map down on the table and reaches for a little black charcoal pencil. “I found another one we can use,” he says to me as he begins marking the page. “I’ll have to update it. It’s a little old. ”

  I pick up another book and flip the pages, looking for something to help us, but somehow I end up composing a poem in my mind instead. It’s about Ky, not for him, and I find myself copying the mystery author’s style:I marked a map for every death

  For every ache and blow

  My world was all a page of black

  With nothing left of snow.

  I look over at Ky. His hands move as quick and careful with marking the map as they do with writing, as sure as they move over me.

  He doesn’t look up and I find myself wanting. I want him. And I want to know what he thinks and how he feels. Why does Ky have to be able to sit so silent, hold so still, see so much?

  How can he both draw me in and keep me out?

  “I need to go outside,” I say later, exhaling in frustration. We haven’t found anything concrete—only pag
es and pages of history and propaganda about the Rising and the Society and the farmers themselves. At first it was fascinating, but now I’m aware of the river outside rising higher and higher. My back aches, my head hurts, and I feel a small flutter of panic beginning in my chest. Am I losing my ability to sort? First the wrong decision about the blue tablets, now this. “Has the lightning stopped?”

  “I think it has,” Ky says. “Let’s go see. ”

  In the cave full of food, Eli has curled up to sleep, packs filled with apples surrounding him.

  Ky and I step outside. The rain comes down but the electricity has left the air. “We can move when it’s light,” he says.

  I look over at him, at his dark profile lit faintly by the flashlight he carries. The Society would never know how to put this on a microcard. Belongs to the land. Knows how to run. They would never be able to write what he is.

  “We still haven’t found anything. ” I try to laugh. “If I ever go back, the Society will have to change my microcard. Exhibits exceptional promise in sorting would have to be deleted. ”

  “What you’re doing is more than sorting,” Ky says simply. “We should rest soon, if we can. ”

  He’s not as driven as I am to find the Rising, I realize. He’s trying to help me, but if I weren’t here, he wouldn’t care at all about looking for a way to join with them.

  I think suddenly of the words of that poem. I did not reach Thee.

  I push the words away. I’m tired, that’s all, feeling fragile. And, I realize, I haven’t heard Ky’s complete story yet. He has reasons for feeling the way he does, but I don’t know all of them.

  I think of all the things he can do—write, carve, paint—and suddenly, watching him stand in the dark at the edge of the empty settlement, something sorrowful washes over me. There is no place for someone like him in the Society, I think, for someone who can create. He can do so many things of incomparable value, things no one else can do, and the Society doesn’t care about that at all.

  I wonder if, when Ky looks at this empty township, he sees a place where he could have belonged. Where he could have written with the others, where the beautiful girls in the paintings would have known how to dance.

  “Ky,” I say, “I want to hear the rest of your story. ”

  “All of it?” he asks, his voice serious.

  “Anything you want to tell me,” I say.

  He looks at me. I lift his hand to my lips and kiss his knuckles, the scraped places on his palm. He closes his eyes.

  “My mother painted with water,” he says. “And my father played with fire. ”

  Chapter 37


  As the rain comes down I let myself imagine a story for us. The one I would write if I could.

  The two of them forgot about the Rising and stayed alone in the township. They walked through the empty buildings. They planted seeds in the spring and harvested in the fall. They put their feet in the stream. They had their fill of poetry. They whispered words to each other that echoed off the empty canyon walls. Their lips and hands touched whenever they wanted for as long as they wanted.

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