Crossed(5)By: Ally Condie
But, I remind myself, leaving to find Ky will not destroy my family. I can cause my own Reclassification, but not theirs.
I cling to this thought—that they will still be safe, and Xander, too, no matter where I have to go.
“Messages,” says the Officer as she enters the room. It’s the one with the sharp voice and the kind eyes. She gives us a nod as she begins to read the names. “Mira Waring.”
Mira steps forward. We all watch and count. Mira gets three messages, the same as usual. The Officer prints out and reads the pages before we see them to save the time of all of us lining up at the port.
There is nothing for Indie.
And only one message for me, a combined one from my parents and Bram. Nothing from Xander. He has never missed a week before.
What happened? I tighten my hand on my bag and I hear the crumple of paper inside.
“Cassia,” the Officer says. “Please come with me to the main hall. We have a communication for you.”
The other girls stare at me in surprise.
And then a chill cuts through me. I know who it must be. My Official, checking in on me from the port.
I can see her face clearly in my mind, every icy line of it.
I don’t want to go.
“Cassia,” the Officer says. Looking back at the girls, at the cabin that suddenly seems warm and cozy, I stand up to follow her. She leads me back along the path to the main hall and over to the port. I hear it humming all the way across the room.
I keep my eyes down for a moment before looking up toward the port. Compose your face, your hands, your eyes. Look out at them so they cannot see into you.
“Cassia,” someone else says, a voice I know.
And then I look up, and I don’t believe what I see.
The port is blank, and he stands before me, real.
Whole and healthy and unharmed.
Not alone—an Official stands behind him—but still, he’s—
I put my red, mapped hands over my eyes because it’s too much to see.
“Xander,” I say.
It’s been a month and a half since we left that boy in the water. Now I lie in the dirt and fire comes down from above.
It’s a song, I tell myself, same as I always do. The bass sound of the heavy shots, the soprano of the screams, the tenor of my own fear. All part of the music.
Don’t try to run. I told the others too, but new decoys never listen. They believe what the Society told them on the way out here: Do your time in the villages and we’ll bring you home in six months. We’ll give you Citizen status again.
No one lasts six months.
When I climb out, there will be black buildings and splintered gray sagebrush. Burned, fallen bodies strewn along the orange sandy earth.
And now there’s a break in the song and I swear. The air ships are on the move. I know what draws their fire.
Early this morning, boots crunched in the frost behind me. I didn’t look back to see who followed me to the edge of the village.
“What are you doing?” someone asked. I didn’t recognize the voice, but that didn’t mean much. They’re always sending new people out here to the villages from the camp. We die faster and faster these days.
I knew even before they pushed me onto that train back in Oria that the Society would never use us to fight. They have plenty of technology and trained Officers for that. People who aren’t Aberrations or Anomalies.
What the Society needs—what we are for them—are bodies. Decoy villagers. They move us. Put us wherever they need more people to draw fire from the Enemy. They want the Enemy to think the Outer Provinces are still inhabited and viable, although the only people I’ve seen here are ones like us. Dropped down from the sky with just enough to keep us alive until the Enemy kills us.
No one goes home.
Except me. I came home. The Outer Provinces are where I once belonged.
“The snow,” I told the new decoy. “I’m looking at the snow.”
“It doesn’t snow here,” he scoffed.
I didn’t answer. I kept looking up at the top of the nearest plateau. It’s something worth seeing, white snow on red rocks. While it melts it turns from white to crystal clear and shot through with rainbows. I’ve been up high before when the snow came down. It was beautiful the way it feathered the winter-dead plants.
▶ Also By Ally Condie
- · Crossed