Crossed, p.6
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       Crossed, p.6

         Part #2 of Matched series by Ally Condie
Page 7


  “You are using them to wear out the hill,” the child said, noticing the long deep groove worn where the stone had turned.

  “I am making something,” the man said. “When I am finished, it will be your turn to take my place. ”

  The child was not afraid. “What are you making?”

  “A river,” the man said.

  The child went back down the hill, puzzling at how one could make a river. But not long after, when the rains came and the flood flashed through the long trough and washed the man somewhere far away, the child saw that the man had been right, and she took her place pushing the stone and piloting the sorrows of the world.

  This is how the Pilot came to be.

  The Pilot is a man who pushed a stone and washed away in the water. It is a woman who crossed the river and looked to the sky. The Pilot is old and young and has eyes of every color and hair of every shade; lives in deserts, islands, forests, mountains, and plains.

  The Pilot leads the Rising—the rebellion against the Society—and the Pilot never dies. When one Pilot’s time has finished, another comes to lead.

  And so it goes on, over and over like a stone rolling.

  Someone in the room turns and stirs and I freeze, waiting for the girl’s breathing to even back into sleep. When it does, I look down at the last line on the page:

  In a place past the edge of the Society’s map, the Pilot will always live and move.

  The hot pain of hope shoots unexpectedly through me as I realize what this truly says, what I’ve been given.

  There’s a rebellion. Something real and organized and longstanding, with a leader.

  Ky and I are not alone.

  The word Pilot was the link. Did Grandfather know this? Is that why he gave me the paper before he died? Have I been wrong all along about the poem he meant me to follow?

  I can’t sit still.

  “Wake up,” I whisper so softly that I can barely hear myself. “We’re not alone. ” I put one foot over the edge of my bed. I could climb down and wake the other girls and tell them about the Rising. Maybe they already know. I don’t think so. They seem so hopeless. Except for Indie. But, though she has more fire to her than the others, she also doesn’t have purpose. I don’t think she knows either.

  I should tell Indie.

  For a moment I think I’ll do it. My feet hit the ground softly as I reach the bottom of the ladder, and I open my mouth. Then I hear the sound of an Officer on patrol walking past our door and I freeze, the dangerous paper like a small white flag in my hand.

  In that moment I know that I won’t tell the others. I’ll do what I always do when someone trusts me with dangerous words:

  I’ll destroy.

  “What are you doing?” Indie asks softly behind me. I didn’t hear her coming across the room, and I almost jump but I catch myself in time.

  “Washing my hands again,” I whisper, resisting the urge to turn around. The icy water streams over my fingers, making a river sound in the dark of the cabin. “I didn’t get them clean enough earlier. You know how the Officers are about getting dirt on the beds. ”

  “You’ll wake the others,” she says. “They had a hard time getting to sleep. ”

  “I’m sorry,” I say, and I am. But I could think of no other way to drown the words.

  It took me long agonizing moments to rip the paper into tiny bits. First I held it against my lips, breathed on it so that the tearing wouldn’t be so loud. I hope I’ve torn the pieces small enough that they won’t choke and flood the sink.

  Indie reaches across and turns off the water. For a moment I think she does know something. Perhaps she doesn’t know about the Rising, the rebellion, but I have the strangest feeling she knows something about me.

  Click. Click. The heels of the patrol Officer’s boots on the cement. Indie and I both dart for our beds, and I climb the rungs as fast as I can and peer out the window.

  The Officer pauses by our cabin for a moment, listening, and then walks on.

  I stay sitting up for a moment, watching her go back along the path. She pauses at the door of another cabin.

  A rebellion. A Pilot.

  Who could it be?

  Does Ky know about any of this?

  He might. The man in the story who pushes the stone sounds like Sisyphus, and Ky told me about him back in the Borough. And I remember how Ky gave me his own story in pieces. I have never thought I had all of it.

  Finding him has been the only thing for so long. Even without a map, even without the compass, I know I can do it. I’ve imagined the moment of meeting over and over again; how he’ll pull me close, how I’ll whisper a poem to him. The only flaw in my dream is that I haven’t finished writing anything for him yet; I can never get past the first line. I’ve written so many beginnings over these months out here and yet the middle and the end of our kind of love are things I haven’t seen yet for myself.

  I pull the bag tight against my side and lie down as gently as I can, cell by cell, it feels, until the bed bears all my weight, from the light ends of my hair to the heaviness of my legs, my feet. I won’t sleep tonight.

  They come in the early dawn, the way they came for Ky.

  I don’t hear any screams but something else alerts me. Some heaviness in the air, perhaps; some change in the notes of the birds who sing the morning in as they pause in the trees while traveling south.

  I sit up and look out the window. Officers bring girls from other cabins, some of whom cry and try to twist away. I press close to the glass to see more, my heart pounding, sure that I know the girls’ destination.

  How can I go with them? My mind sorts the numbers. How many miles, how many variables there are against my getting this close again. I couldn’t seem to get to the Outer Provinces on my own, but perhaps the Society will take me there now.

  Two Officers push open the door. “We need two girls from this cabin,” one of them says. “Bunk 8 and Bunk 3. ” The girl from Bunk 8 sits up, looking startled and tired.

  Bunk 3, Indie’s bunk, is empty.

  The Officers exclaim and I look out the window. Someone stands alone on the edge of the trees that grow near the path. It’s Indie. Even in the light-leaking dawn, I know who she is by her bright hair, by the way she stands. She must have heard too and slipped out somehow. I didn’t see her leave.

  She’s going to run.

  While the Officers are distracted with pulling the girl from Bunk 8 and calling into their miniports about Indie, I move fast. I slip the three tablets from my container—green, blue, red—and wrap them up inside my packet of blue tablets. I hide the tablets under the messages in my bag and pray no one will search too deep. The container I tuck underneath my mattress. I have to get rid of as many signs of Citizenship as I can.

  And then I realize.

  Something is missing from my bag.

  The silver box from my Match Banquet.

  I rifle once more through the papers; feel my way along the blankets on the bed; look down at the floor. I haven’t dropped it or lost it; it’s gone.

  I would have had to get rid of it anyway; that’s what I planned to do; but the loss is unsettling.

  Where could it be?

  There’s no time to worry about it now. I slip down from my bunk to follow the Officers and the crying girl. The others in the cabin pretend to sleep, just like the people in the Borough on the morning they took Ky.

  “Run, Indie,” I whisper under my breath. I hope we both get what we want.

  If you love someone, if someone loved you, if they taught you to write and made it so you could speak, how can you do nothing at all? You might as well take their words out of the dirt and try to snatch them from the wind.

  Because once you love, it is gone. You love and you cannot call it back.

  Ky is heavy in my mind, deep in my heart, his palms warm on my empty hands. I have to try to find him. Loving him gave me wings and all my wo
rk has given me the strength to move them.

  An air ship lands in the center of the camp. The Officers, some of whom I haven’t seen before, look harried, worried. The one wearing a pilot’s uniform says something curt and looks at the sky. The sun will rise soon.

  “We’re missing one,” I hear him say quietly, and then I slip into line.

  “Are you sure?” the other Officer asks, running her eyes over us. Counting. Her expression changes and she looks relieved. She has long lovely brown hair and seems gentle, for an Officer.

  “No,” she says. “We have enough. ”

  “We do?” asks the first Officer. He counts for himself. Do I imagine that his eyes linger on my face, remembering that I wasn’t there before? Not for the first time, I wonder how much of what I do is known and predicted by my Official. Does she still watch? Does the Society?

  Another Officer hauls Indie on board as the rest of us finish filing through the door. There are claw marks on his face. Field dirt streaks his uniform and her plainclothes, like wounds seeping soil.

  “She tried to run,” he says, pushing her into the seat next to me. He snaps a pair of handlocks onto Indie’s wrists. She doesn’t flinch at the sound of them snapping shut, but I do.

  “Now we have too many,” the female Officer says.

  “They’re Aberrations,” he snaps. “Does it matter? We have to go. ”

  “Should we search them now?” she asks.

  No. They’ll find the tablets in my bag.

  “We’ll do it in the air. Let’s go. ”

  Indie looks over at me and our eyes meet. For the first time since I’ve known her, I feel a strange sense of kinship with her, of familiarity that’s as close to friendship as we’ve come. We knew each other in the work camp. Now, we’re crossing into a new experience together.

  Something about all of this feels strange—harried, unorganized, unlike the Society. Even though I’m grateful for the chance to slip through the crack, I still feel their walls pressing in on every side, their presence both crushing and comforting.

  An Official boards the air ship. “Everything ready?” he asks, and the Officers nod. I wait for more Officials to climb on—they almost always move in threes—but the door closes. Only one Official, and three Officers, one of them the pilot. By the way the Officers react to the Official, I can tell that he is the highest-ranking of the group.

  The air ship lifts into the sky. It’s my first time traveling like this—I’ve only been in air cars and on air trains and transports before—and my stomach sinks with disappointment when I realize there are no windows.

  This is not how I thought it would be to fly high. No sight of what lies below or where the stars might be when night comes. The pilot in the front compartment of the air ship looks out; but the Society keeps the rest of us from the sight of our own flight.

  Chapter 7


  Everyone’s watching you,” Vick tells me.

  I ignore him. Some of the cylinders the Enemy shot down at us last night didn’t explode completely. They still had powder inside. I push some of it into the barrel of a gun. The Enemy puzzles me—their ammunition seems to become more and more primitive and less and less effective the longer we’re out here. Maybe they really are losing.

  “What are you doing?” Vick asks.

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