Page 13

 Ally Condie

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I never could figure out why Ky didn’t join the Rising right away, back when they first asked us. The Rising could have helped him. But he didn’t, and he wouldn’t tell me why.
Even before Cassia went out into the Outer Provinces to find Ky, you could tell that she might do something big. Like that day at the pool when she finally decided she was ready to jump: She went into the water without looking back. So I shouldn’t have been surprised at the way she fell in love with Ky because it’s the way I wanted her to fall in love with me: completely.
The only time I was tempted to try to get out of the Rising was when Cassia and I were Matched. For a few months there, I played both sides in the game, doing what the Rising wanted and acting Society at the same time so that I could stay Matched to Cassia. But it didn’t take me long to realize—I wanted Cassia to choose me. In some ways, our being Matched is the biggest strike against me. How was she supposed to love me when the Society said she should?
After Cassia told me that she was falling for Ky, I realized that if he left, she’d go too. She’d jump. It wasn’t hard to recognize that the Society wouldn’t let Ky live in Mapletree Borough forever, and anywhere he went might be dangerous.
I had to send something with her: something that could help her and that would remind her of me.
So I printed out the picture from the port and went outside to get the newrose petals. But those were both things to remind her of the past. I decided that wasn’t enough. I wanted to give her something that could help her in the future and that would make her think of me.
It was kind of ironic that Ky was the one who’d told me about the Archivists. Without him, I might not have known how to trade.
All I had to give the Archivists was the silver box from my Banquet. In exchange, they gave me a piece of paper printed from one of their ports—all the information I told them from my official Matching microcard, plus a few changes and additions of my own.
Favorite color: red.
Has a secret to tell his Match when he sees her again.
That was the easy part. Getting the tablets was harder. I didn’t fully understand what the Archivists were asking of me when I agreed to the trade.
But it was all worth it. The blue tablets kept Cassia safe. She even told me that on the port: There’s something about the blue.
I roll over onto my side and stare at the wall.
The night of the Banquet, when I waited at the air-train stop with my parents and my brother, I hoped Cassia and I would be on the same train. That way we could at least ride to the City together before everything changed. And she came up the stairs, holding on to the skirt of her green dress. I saw the top of her head first, then her shoulders and the green of the silk against her skin, and finally she looked up and I saw her eyes.
I knew her then and I know her now. I’m almost sure of it.
I hurry along the edge of the white barricade, which runs near the Museum. Before the Rising boarded up the Museum’s windows, you could see the stars and scatters of broken glass. People tried to break in the night we first heard the Pilot’s voice. I don’t know what they hoped to steal. Most of us realized long ago that the Museum holds nothing of value. Except for the Archivists, of course, but they always know when it’s time to hide.
In the weeks since the Rising came to power, we have more, and we have less, than we did before.
I am late home every single day, because I always go to trade after work. Though a Rising officer might tell me to hurry along, he or she won’t issue me a citation or warn me against what I am doing, so I have a little more freedom. And, we have more knowledge about the Plague and the Rising now. The Rising explained that they made some people immune to the Plague and the red tablet from birth. Which explains Ky’s and Xander’s ability to remember everything, in spite of having taken the red tablet. It also means that, long ago, the Rising did not choose me.
And we have less certainty. What will happen next?
The Pilot says the Rising will save us all, but we have to help it happen. No traveling—we must try to keep the Plague from spreading and focus resources on curing those who are ill. That, the Pilot says, is the most important thing: stopping the Plague so that we can truly begin again. I’ve been immunized against the Plague now, as have most in the Rising, and soon, one way or the other, we’ll all be safe. Then, the Pilot promises, we can truly begin changing things.
When the Pilot speaks to us, his voice is as perfect as it was the first day we heard it on the ports, and now that we can see him too, it’s hard to look away from his blue eyes and the conviction they hold. “The Rising,” he says, “is for everyone,” and I can tell that he means it.
I know my family is all right. I’ve talked with them a few times through the port. Bram fell ill with the Plague at the beginning, but he has recovered, just as the Rising promised, and my parents were quarantined and immunized. But I can’t talk to Bram about how it felt to have the Plague—we still speak guardedly; we smile and don’t say much more than we did when the Society was in power. We aren’t quite sure who can hear us now.
I want to talk without anyone listening.
The Rising has only facilitated communication between immediate family members. According to the Rising, the Matches of those too young to have celebrated their Contracts no longer exist, and the Rising doesn’t have time to track down individual friends for every person. “Would you rather,” the Pilot asks us, “spend time setting up communications? Or should we use our resources saving people?”
So I haven’t been able to ask Xander what his secret is, the one he mentioned on a slip of paper that I read in the Carving. Sometimes I think I’ve guessed the secret, that it’s as simple as his being in the Rising. Other times, I’m not sure.
It’s easy to imagine how people must feel when Xander comes to help them. He bends down to listen to them. Takes their hands in his. Speaks in the honest, gentle tone he used in my dream back in the canyons when he told me I had to open my eyes. Patients must feel healed just seeing him.
I sent a message to Ky and Xander after the Plague broke to let them know that I’m all right. That trade cost more than I could afford after the theft at the lake, but I had to do it. I didn’t want them to worry.
I haven’t heard anything back. Not a word written on a paper or printed on a scrap. And my trades for the I did not reach Thee poem and Grandfather’s microcard still haven’t come through. It’s been so long.
Sometimes, I think the microcard must be held in the hands of a trader gone still in a remote place; that it is lost forever. Because Bram would have sent it to me. I believe that.
When I was working in Tana Province, before I ran away to the Carving, Bram was the one who sent me a message about the microcard, and made me want to view it again. In his message, Bram described some of what he’d seen when he viewed the microcard again:
At the very end is a list of Grandfather’s favorite memories. He had one for each of us. His favorite of me was when I said my first word and it was “more.” His favorite of you was what he called the “red garden day.”
Back in Tana, I convinced myself that Grandfather had made a small mistake—that he had meant to say “red garden days,” plural, those days of spring and summer and autumn when we sat talking outside his apartment building.
But lately I’ve been convinced that that is not the case. Grandfather was clever and careful. If he listed the red garden day, singular, as his favorite memory of me, then he meant one specific day. And I can’t remember it.
Did the Society make me take the red tablet on the red garden day?
Grandfather always believed in me. He’s the one who first told me not to take the green tablet, that I didn’t need it. He’s the one who gave me the two poems—the Thomas one about not going gentle and the Tennyson one about crossing the bar and seeing the Pilot. I still don’t know which one Grandfather meant for me to follow, but he did trust me with both.
Someone waits outside the Museum—a woman standing forlornly in the gray of a spring afternoon that has not yet decided for rain.
“I want to find out more about the Glorious History of Central,” she says to me. Her face is interesting, one I’d know if I saw her again. Something about her reminds me a little of my own mother. This woman looks hopeful and afraid, as people often do when they come here for the first time. Word has spread about the Archivists.
“I’m not an Archivist,” I say. “But I am authorized to trade with them on your behalf.” Those of us who have been sanctioned to trade with the Archivists now wear thin red bracelets under our sleeves that we can show to people who approach us. The traders who don’t have the bracelet don’t last long, at least not at the Museum meeting place. The people who come here want security and authenticity. I smile at the woman, trying to make her feel at ease, and take a step closer so that she can better see the bracelet.
“Stop!” she says, and I freeze.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “But I noticed—you were about to step on this.” She points to the ground.
It’s a letter written in the mud; I didn’t leave it. My heart leaps. “Did you write this?” I ask.
“No,” she says. “You see it, too?”
“Yes,” I say. “It looks like an E.”
Back in the Carving I kept thinking I saw my name, which wasn’t true until I found the tree where Ky had carved for me. But this is real, too, a letter written deep in the mud with strong, rough strokes, as though the person who wrote also wanted to communicate intent, purpose.
Eli. His name comes to my mind, although as far as I know he never learned to write. And Eli’s not here, even though this is where he grew up. He’s out beyond the Outer Provinces, all the way to the mountains by now.
People are watching, I think. Maybe they, too, will put their hands to the stone.
“Someone can write,” the woman says, sounding awed.
“It’s easy,” I tell her. “You have the shape of things right before you.”
She shakes her head, not understanding what I mean.
“I didn’t write this, but I do know how,” I tell her. “You look at the letters. Make them with your hands. All it takes is practice.”
The woman looks worried. Her eyes are shadowed, and there is something restrained about the way she holds herself, something tense and sad.
“Are you all right?” I ask her.
She smiles; she says the answer that we grew accustomed to giving in the Society. “Yes, of course I am.”
I look out toward the dome of City Hall and wait. If she wants to say something, she can. I learned that from watching first Ky, and then the Archivists—if you don’t walk away from someone’s silence, they just might speak.
“It’s my son,” she says quietly. “Ever since the Plague came, he hasn’t been able to sleep. I tell him over and over again that there’s a cure, but he’s afraid of getting sick. He wakes all night long. Even though he’s been immunized, he’s still afraid.”