Matched, p.38
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       Matched, p.38

         Part #1 of Matched series by Ally Condie
 
Page 39

 

  No one has fol owed the orders yet. Even though the Official is the highest-ranking one we’ve ever seen and he’s ordered us to do it, we’ve heard years of rumors about the red tablet.

  “Would anyone like to go first?”

  “I wil ,” my mother says, stepping forward.

  “No,” I say, but a look from my father stops me. I know what he’s trying to tel me, She’s doing this for us. For you. And somehow, he knows it’s going to be al right.

  “I wil , too,” he says, moving to stand next to her. Together, as we al watch, they both swal ow their tablets down. The Official checks my parents’

  mouths and nods briefly. “They dissolve within seconds,” he tel s us. “Too quickly for you to try and throw it back up, but it’s unnecessary anyway. It won’t hurt you. Al it does is clear your mind. ”

  All it does is clear your mind. Of course. I know now why we’re going to take them. So we forget what happened to Ky, so we forget that the Enemy is winning the war in the Outer Provinces, that the vil agers there are al dead. And I realize why they didn’t have us take the tablets when something happened to the first Markham boy: because we needed to remember how dangerous Anomalies can be. How vulnerable we would be without the Society to keep them al away.

  Did they let that Anomaly out on purpose? To remind us?

  What wil they tel us happened to Ky, later? What story wil we al believe instead of his true one? Wil we take the green tablet next, a calm after the forgetting?

  I don’t want to be calm anymore. I don’t want to forget.

  As much as it hurts, I have to hold onto the whole story of him, the painful parts, too.

  My mother turns to look at me and I worry I’l see blank eyes or a vacant, slack expression. But she looks fine. So does my father.

  Soon, everyone lines up, red tablets in their palms, ready to get this over with and go back to their lives. What wil I do when they find out I got rid of mine? I glance down at the grass beneath my feet, almost expecting to see a tiny patch of it seared and obliterated, wiped clean. Instead it looks exactly as it did before. I can’t even see the red fragments in the grass. I must have crushed them completely.

  Bram looks terrified but excited. He’s stil not old enough to carry his own red tablet, so my father gives him the extra one he carries.

  My Official starts checking people, too. She moves closer and closer to me, but I can’t take my eyes from Bram and then from Em as she takes the tablet. For a moment, I remember my dream and I feel horror as I watch her. But nothing happens. Nothing that I can see, anyway.

  And then it is Xander’s turn. He glances over and sees me watching him, and an expression crosses his face that is nothing but pain. I want to look away, but I don’t. I watch as Xander nods to me and lifts the red tablet toward me, almost in a toast.

  Before I see him take it, someone blocks my view of everyone and theirs of me. It’s my Official.

  “Let me see your tablet, please,” she says.

  “I have it. ” I hold out my hand but I don’t open my palm.

  I think I almost see her smile. Even though I know she carries extra tablets—I’ve seen them—she doesn’t offer me one yet.

  Her glance flickers down to the grass at my feet and then back up to my face. I lift my arm and pretend to put something in my mouth and then I swal ow, hard. And she moves on to the next person.

  Even though this is what I want, I hate her. She wants me to remember what happened here. What I’ve done.

  CHAPTER 30

  When the darkness final y lifts, it is a flat, hot, steel-colored morning, a morning without dimension or depth. The houses around me could be the set for a showing; they could be pictures on a bigscreen. I feel that if I walk too far I’l walk right into canvas or through a paper wal and then out into black-nothing and the end of everything.

  Somehow I’ve run out of fear; I feel lethargic instead, which is almost worse. Why care about a flat planet populated by flat people? Who cares about a place where there is no Ky?

  This is one of the reasons I need Ky, I realize. Because when I am with him, I feel.

  But he is gone. I saw it happen.

  I made it happen.

  Did Sisyphus have to do this, too? I wonder. Stop for a minute and concentrate on holding firm, on pushing the rock just enough to keep it from rolling down and crushing him, before he could even think about trying to climb again?

  ??

  The red tablet took effect almost immediately after the Officers and Officials shepherded us home. The events of the past twelve hours have been wiped from my family’s minds. Within the hour, a delivery of new containers and tablets arrived with a letter of explanation that ours were found to be defective and removed earlier this morning. Everyone else in my family accepts the explanation without question. They have other things to worry about.

  My mother is confused—where did she put her datapod for work when she finished with it last night? Bram can’t remember whether he finished writing his assignment on his scribe.

  “Wel , turn it on and check, honey,” my mother says, flustered. My father looks a little blank, too, but not as confused. I think he’s experienced this before, possibly many times in his line of work. While the tablet stil works, he seems less bewildered by the feeling of disorientation.

  Which is good, because the Officials haven’t finished with our family yet.

  “Private message for Mol y Reyes,” the generic voice from the port cal s out.

  My mother looks up, surprised. “I’l be late for work,” she protests softly, although whoever sent this message can’t hear her. They also can’t see her straighten her shoulders before she walks over to the port and puts on the earpiece. The screen darkens, the picture on it only visible from the exact spot in which she stands.

  “What now?” says Bram. “Should I wait?”

  “No, go on to school,” my father tel s him. “We don’t want you to be late. ”

  On his way out the door, Bram complains, “I always miss everything. ” I wish I could tel him that wasn’t true; but then again, would I real y want him to keep the memory of what happened this morning?

  Something happens to me when I look at Bram leaving our house, and things become real again. Bram is real. I am real. Ky is real, and I need to get started on finding him. Now.

  “I’m going into the City for the morning,” I tel my father.

  “Don’t you have hiking?” he asks, and then he shakes his head as if to clear it. “Sorry. I remember. Summer leisure activities ended early this year, right? That’s why Bram’s already on his way to school instead of swimming. My mind’s foggy this morning. ” He doesn’t seem surprised by that fact, and I think again that this is something that’s happened to him before. And I remember how he let my mother take the red tablet first; somehow he knew it wouldn’t hurt her.

  “They didn’t assign us anything else to do yet to take the place of hiking,” I tel my father. “So I have time to go into the City before Second School. ” This in itself is an oversight, another little hitch in the wel -oiled machine of our Society that proves something is wrong somewhere.

  My father doesn’t answer. He stares at my mother, whose face is ashen and pale as she stares at the portscreen. “Molly?” he says. You’re not supposed to interrupt a private message, but he takes a few steps closer. And then closer again.

  Final y, when he puts his hand on her shoulder, she turns away from the screen. “This is my fault,” my mother says, and for the first time in my life, I see her look through my father, not at him, her gaze fixed on some distant point beyond. “We’ve been Relocated to the Farmlands, effective immediately. ”

  “What?” my father asks. He shakes his head, glances back behind her at the port. “That’s impossible. You submitted the report. You told the truth. ”

  “I suppose they don’t want those of us who saw the rogue crops to continue working in pos
itions of authority,” my mother says. “We know too much. We might be tempted to do the same. They’l put us out in the Farmlands where we won’t be in charge. Where they can watch us and wear us out planting what they tel us to plant. ”

  “But at least,” I say, trying to comfort her, “we’l be closer to Grandmother and Grandfather. ”

  “Not the Farmlands in Oria,” my mother says. “The Farmlands in a different province. We leave tomorrow. ” Then that blank, stunned gaze of hers shifts to my father and I see her begin to feel again. I watch realization and emotion come back into her face. As I see it happen to her, I feel a sense of urgency so strong I don’t know if I can bear it. I have to find out where they sent Ky. Before we leave.

  “I’ve always wanted to live in the Farmlands,” my father says, and my mother leans her head on his shoulder, too tired to cry and too overcome to pretend that everything is al right.

  “But I did what I was supposed to do,” she whispers. “I did exactly what they asked. ”

  “It will be all right,” he whispers to my mother and to me. Maybe if I had taken the red tablet I could believe him.

  Down the street, there’s an Official air car in front of the Markhams’ house. Our Borough has had entirely too much attention from the Officials in the past few weeks.

  Em bounces out the door of her treeless house. “Did you hear?” she asks, excited. “The Officials are gathering the Markhams’ things. Patrick has been transferred to work in the Central Government! It’s such an honor. And he’s from our Borough!” She frowns. “It’s too bad we didn’t get to say good-bye to Ky. I’l miss him. ”

  “I know,” I say, and my heart aches, and I stop again under my stone, pushing back against the weight of being the only one who knows what real y happened this morning.

  happened this morning.

  Except for a few select Officials. And even they don’t know that I know. Only two people truly know what took place, that I didn’t take the red tablet.

  Me. And my Official.

  “I have to go,” I tel Em, and I start moving again, toward the air-train stop. I don’t look back at the Markhams’ house. Patrick and Aida, gone for good, too. Have they been assigned Aberration status or a quiet Retirement somewhere far from here? Have they taken the red tablet, too? Do they look around their new place with surprise, wondering what happened to their second son? I’l have to try to find them, too, for Ky, but right now I have to find Ky. There’s only one place I can think of to look for information about where they might have sent him.

  On the ride to City Hal , I keep my head down. There are too many places I can’t look: at the seats where Ky used to sit; at the floor of the air-train car where he set his feet and kept his balance, always making it seem easy, natural. I can’t bring myself to look out the windows at al , knowing that I might catch a glimpse of the Hil where Ky and I stood yesterday. Together. When the train stops to let more people on and a breeze wafts in, I wonder if the strips of red cloth that Ky and I left there flutter in the wind. Signal flags of a new beginning, though not the kind we wanted.

 
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