Crossed, p.39
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       Crossed, p.39

         Part #2 of Matched series by Ally Condie
Page 40

  She doesn’t wait for them to speak first. “We’ve escaped,” she calls out. “We’ve come to join you. ”

  Their boat draws closer. I look at them, taking in their slick black clothes and their number: nine of them. Two of us. They stare back. Do they note our Society coats, our battered boat, our empty hands?

  “Come to join whom?” one asks.

  Indie doesn’t hesitate. “The Rising,” she says.

  Chapter 51


  I run. Sleep. Eat a little. Drink from one of the canteens. When it empties I throw it to the side. No point in filling it with poisoned water.

  I run again. On and on along the bank of the river, keeping to the trees when I can.

  I run for her. For them. For me.

  The sun shines down on the stream. The rain has stopped, but the broken pools are connected again.

  My father taught me to swim one summer when we had more rain than usual and some of the holes in the land became pools for a week or two. He taught me how to hold my breath, stay afloat, and open my eyes underneath the blue-green water.

  The pool in Oria was different. Made of white cement instead of red rock. You could see all the way to the bottom in most places, unless the angle of the sun blinded you. The water and the edges met in neat lines. Kids jumped off the diving board. It seemed that the whole Borough came to swim that day, but it was Cassia at the side of the water who caught my eye.

  It was the way she sat, so still. She seemed almost suspended while everyone else called and screamed and ran. For a moment—the first time since I’d come to the Society—I felt clear. I felt rested. When I saw her there, something in me felt right again.

  Then she stood up and I could tell from the tightness in her back that she was worried. She stared at a spot in the pool where a boy swam deep underwater. I walked over to her as fast as I could and asked, “Is he drowning?”

  “I can’t tell,” she said.

  So I went under to try to help Xander.

  The chemicals in the pool burned my eyes and I had to close them for a moment. At first the pain and the way the bright light made it seem red behind my eyelids made me think that I was bleeding and going blind. I put my hands up to check but I only felt water, not blood. My panic embarrassed me. Fighting the pain, I pulled my hands away and opened up my eyes again to look around.

  I saw legs and bodies and people swimming and then I stopped looking for someone drowning. All I could think was—

  —there’s nothing here.

  I’d known the pool was clean and neat but seeing it from below was so strange. Even in the rain pools that only lasted for a little while life took hold. Moss grew. Water bugs skittered in the sun along the surface until the pools dried up. But there was nothing along the bottom of this place but cement.

  I forgot where I was and tried to breathe.

  When I came up choking I could tell that she saw the differences in me. Her eyes rested on the scrape on my face from the Outer Provinces. But it was as though she was a little like me. She noticed the differences and then she decided what mattered and what didn’t. She laughed with me then, and I loved the way the laugh reached her green eyes and crinkled the skin around them.

  I was a kid. I knew I loved her but I didn’t know what it meant. Over the years everything changed. She did. I did.

  I hide the tubes and the papers in two different places. It’s impossible to know if the tubes are still viable outside of their cases in the Cavern—but Eli and Cassia trusted me. In case of flood, I put the tubes up high in the knot of an old cottonwood tree.

  The papers won’t have to stay hidden for long so I bury them low in the ground and mark the place with a rock I carve. I’m pleased with the pattern. It could be waves in the sea. Currents in a river. Ripples in the sand.

  Scales on a fish.

  I close my eyes for a moment and let myself remember the people who are gone.

  Rainbows glimmered in the stream. Golden grass tangled along the bank where Vick ran and thought about the girl he loved. His boots left unnotched prints in the earth.

  The sun set over a land that my mother found beautiful. Her son painted next to her with his hands dipped in water. Her husband kissed her neck.

  My father came out of a canyon. While he was inside, he’d seen people growing and harvesting crops of their own. They knew how to write. He wanted to bring all of that to the people he loved.

  The lake is only a few hundred yards away. I leave the cover of the trees.

  Chapter 52


  After coming across so many dead in the Carving, so many still, silent tubes in the cave, the scene of life in the camp before me makes my heart pound with joy. All these people living, moving. In the Carving I could almost believe we were the last people in the world. As the people in the other boat tow ours to the shore of the lake, I glance over at Indie and she smiles, too. Our hair streams out behind us and our oars lie across our laps. We’ve made it, I think. At last.

  “Two more,” one of the men in the boat in front of us calls out, and in spite of my happiness at finding the Rising I wish that he had been able to call out three. Soon, I tell myself. Ky will be here soon.

  Our boat scrapes along the shore and I realize that it’s not our boat any longer; it belongs to the Rising now. “You’ve reached us just in time,” says one of the people who towed us in. He holds out his black-gloved hand to help us. “We’re about to move. It’s not safe here anymore. The Society knows where we are. ”

  Ky. Will he make it in time? “When?” I ask.

  “As soon as we can,” the man says. “Come with me. ” He leads the way to a small cinder-block building near the edge of the water. The metal door is closed tight but he knocks loudly and it opens immediately.

  “We found two on the lake,” he says, and the three people inside stand up, the metal of their old Society-issue chairs scraping as they push back from a table full of maps and miniports. They wear green plainclothes and their faces are covered but I can see their eyes.

  “Get them sorted,” one of them says, a female Officer. “You’ve been in the river?” she asks us.

  We nod.

  “We’ll have to have you decontaminated,” she says. “Take them there first. ” Then she smiles at us. “Welcome to the Rising. ”

  As we leave the tiny building the three Officers watch us. Two have brown eyes, one has blue. One female. Two males. All with fatigue lines around their eyes. From working too long? Doubling as Society and Rising?

  They’re going to sort me, but I can do the same.

  After we’ve washed, a young woman swabs our arms and checks for contamination. “You’re clean,” she tells us. “It’s a good thing it rained and diluted the poison. ” Then she leads us through the camp. I try to take in what I can while we walk but don’t see much more besides other cinder-block structures, little tents, and one enormous building that must house something huge.

  Once we’re inside another small building, the woman opens one of the doors that line the hallway. “You’ll be in here,” she says to Indie, “and you, in here. ” She opens a second door for me.

  They’re going to split us up. And we were so intent on survival, we didn’t even think about what we should say.

  I remember the prisoner’s dilemma. This is where they catch you; how they tell if your story is true. I should have assumed the Rising might use it, too.

  There’s no time to decide. Indie looks at me and gives me a little smile, and I remember when she helped me hide the tablets on the air ship. We managed to keep things hidden before. We can do it again. I smile back at her.

  I just hope we both think the same things should stay secret.

  “State your full name, please,” a pleasant-voiced man says.

  “Cassia Maria Reyes. ”

  Nothing. No flicker. No sign of recognition at the name, no mention of Grandfather or the Pilot. I knew b
etter than to expect it, but I still feel a tiny chill of disappointment.

  “Society status. ”

  Decide, quickly, how much to tell. “Citizen, as far as I know. ”

  “How did you come to be in the Outer Provinces?”

  I will keep Grandfather and his poems out of it; the Archivists, too. “I was sent here by mistake,” I lie. “An Officer in my work camp told me to board the air ship with the other girls and wouldn’t listen to me when I told him I was a Citizen. ”

  “And then?” the man says.

  “Then we ran to the Carving. A boy came with us but he died. ” I swallow. “We came to a settlement but it was empty. ”

  “What did you do there?”

  “We found a boat,” I say. “And a map. I read the code. It told us how to find you. ”

  “How did you learn about the Rising?”

  “In a poem. Then again in the settlement. ”

  “Did anyone else come with you out of the Carving?”

  The questions come too fast to think. Is it better to let them know about Ky? Or not? My hesitation, small enough, has given it away, and I answer honestly because I’m preparing to lie about something else. “Another boy,” I say. “He was from the villages, too. We couldn’t all fit in the boat, so he’s coming on foot. ”

  “His name?”

  “Ky,” I say.

  “The name of your other companion, the girl who is here now?”

  “Indie. ”

  “Last names?”

  “I don’t know. ” It’s true of Indie and partly true of Ky. What was his last name when he first lived out here?

  “Did you find any indication as to where the people in the canyon might have gone?”

  “No. ”

  “What made you decide to join the Rising?”

  “I don’t believe in the Society anymore after what I’ve seen. ”

  “That’s enough for now,” the man says kindly, shutting off the miniport. “We’ll access your Society data and find out more about where we should put you. ”

  “You have the Society’s data?” I ask in surprise. “Out here?”

  He smiles. “Yes. We’ve found that while our interpretations differ, the data itself is often sound. Please wait here. ”

  In the little cement room with walls completely devoid of life, I think back to the Cavern. It had Society all over it—in the tubes, the organization, the camouflaged doors. Even the crack in its shell, the secret way in that Hunter knew, was like the cracks in the Society. I remember other things. Dust in the corners of the Cavern. A tiny blue light on the floor burned out and unreplaced. Did the Society become overwhelmed by everything they have tried to control and hold?

  I picture a hand letting go, drawing back, severing a connection, and the Rising coming in instead.

  In the end, the Society decided that I wasn’t worth saving. My Official thought I was an interesting experiment; she let me skip taking the red tablet and she watched to see what I would do. I mistook her individual interest for Societal interest—I thought they might think I was special—but it seems I was never anything more to them than an excellent sorter, an interesting research project that could be dropped at any time because I would ultimately do what they predicted.

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