Requiem, p.40

Requiem, page 40

 part  #3 of  Delirium Series

 

Requiem
 



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Page 40

 

  I stay up all night and watch dawn break slowly over the horizon, touching the world with white.

  Lena

  I’m in a crowd, watching two children fight over a baby. They are playing tug-of-war, pulling it violently back and forth, and the baby is blue, and I know they are shaking it to death. I’m trying to push through the crowd, but more and more people are surging around me, blocking my path, making it impossible to move. And then, just as I feared, the baby falls: It hits the pavement and shatters into a thousand pieces, like a china doll.

  Then all the people are gone. I am alone on a road, and in front of me, a girl with long, tangled hair is bent over the shattered doll, piecing it back together painstakingly, humming to herself. The day is bright and perfectly still. Each of my footsteps rings out like a gunshot, but she doesn’t look up until I am standing directly in front of her.

  Then she does, and she is Grace.

  “See?” she says, extending the doll toward me. “I fixed it. ”

  And I see that the doll’s face is my own, and webbed with thousands of tiny fissures and cracks.

  Grace cradles the doll in her arms. “Wake up, wake up,” she croons.

  “Wake up. ”

  I open my eyes: My mother is standing above me. I sit up, my body stiff, working feeling into my fingers and toes, flexing and unflexing. The air is hung with mist, and the sky is just beginning to lighten. The ground is covered with frost, which has seeped through my blanket while I was sleeping, and the wind has a bitter, morning edge. The camp is busy: Around me, people are stirring, standing, moving like shadows through the half darkness. Fires are sparking to life, and every so often, I hear a burst of conversation, a shouted command.

  My mother reaches out a hand and helps me to my feet. Incredibly, she looks rested and alert. I stomp the stiffness out of my legs.

  “Coffee will get your blood moving,” she says.

  It doesn’t surprise me that Raven, Tack, Pippa, and Beast are already up. They are standing with Colin and a dozen others near one of the larger fire pits, their breath clouding the air as they speak in low tones. There is a stockpot of coffee on the fire: bitter and full of grains, but hot. I start to feel better and more awake after I’ve had only a few sips. But I can’t bring myself to eat anything.

  Raven raises her eyebrows when she sees me. My mother gestures to her, a motion of resignation, and Raven turns back to Colin.

  “All right,” he’s saying. “Like we talked about last night, we move in three groups into the city. First group goes in an hour, does the scouting, and makes contact with our friends. The main force doesn’t budge until the blast at twelve hundred hours. The third group will follow immediately afterward and head straight to the target. . . . ”

  “Hey. ” Julian comes up behind me. His eyes still have a puffy, just-awake look, and his hair is hopelessly tangled. “I missed you last night. ”

  Last night, I couldn’t bring myself to lie down next to Julian. Instead I found a free blanket and made my bed out in the open, next to a hundred other women. For a long time, I stared up at the stars, remembering the first time I came to the Wilds with Alex—how he led me into one of the trailers, and unrolled the tarp that served as its ceiling so we could see the sky.

  So much between us went unsaid; that is the danger, and beauty, of life without the cure. There is always wilderness and tangle, and the path is never clear.

  Julian begins to reach for me, and I take a step backward.

  “I was having trouble sleeping,” I say. “I didn’t want to wake you. ”

  Julian frowns. I can’t bring myself to make eye contact with him. Over the past week, I’ve accepted that I will never love Julian as much as I loved Alex. But now that idea is overwhelming, like a wall between us. I will never love Julian like I love Alex.

  “What’s wrong with you?” Julian is watching me warily.

  “Nothing,” I say, and then repeat, “Nothing. ”

  “Did something—” Julian starts to say when Raven whirls around and glares at him.

  “Hey, Jewels,” she barks out, which she has taken to calling Julian when she’s annoyed. “This isn’t gossip hour, okay? Shut it or clear out. ”

  Julian falls quiet. I turn my eyes to Colin, and Julian doesn’t try to touch me or move closer. The sky is now streaked with long filaments of orange and red, like the tendrils of a massive jellyfish, floating in a milk-white ocean. The mist rises; the earth begins to shake itself awake. Portland, too, will be stirring.

  Colin tells us the plan.

  Hana

  On my last morning as Hana Tate, I drink my coffee onto the front porch, alone.

  I had planned to take a final bike ride, but there is no hope of that now, not after what happened last night. The streets will be crawling with police and regulators. I’ll have to show my papers, and field questions I can’t answer.

  Instead I sit on the porch swing, taking comfort in its rhythmic squeaking. The air is morning-still, cool and gray and textured with salt. I can tell it will be a perfect day, cloudless and bright. Every so often, a seagull cries sharply. Other than that, it’s silent. Here there are no alarms, no sirens, no hint of the disturbance last night.

  But downtown, it will be different. There will be barricades and security checks, reinforced security at the new wall. I remember, suddenly, what Fred told me once about the wall—that it would be like the palm of God, cupping us forever in safety, keeping out the diseased, the damaged, the unfaithful and unworthy.

  But maybe we can never be truly safe.

  I wonder whether there will be new raids in the Highlands, whether the families there will be once again displaced, and quickly dismiss the concern. Lena’s family is beyond my reach. I see that now. I should have seen that always. What happens to them—whether they starve or freeze—is none of my business.

  We are all punished for the lives we have chosen, in one way or another. I will be paying my penance—to Lena, for failing her; to her family, for helping her—every day of my life.

  I close my eyes and picture the Old Port: the textured streets, the boat slips, the sun breaking loose of the water, and the waves lapping against the wharves.

  Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye.

  I mentally trace a route from Eastern Prom to the top of Munjoy Hill; I see all of Portland spread vastly below me, glittering in new light.

  “Hana?”

  I open my eyes. My mother has stepped onto the porch. She holds her thin nightgown close to her body, squinting. Her skin, without makeup, looks almost gray.

  “You should probably get into the shower,” she says.

  I stand up and follow her into the house.

  Lena

  We’ve moved to the wall. There must be four hundred of us, massed in the trees. Last night, a small task force made the crossing, to prepare last-minute for the full-scale breach today. And earlier this morning, another small group—Colin’s people, hand-selected—got over the fence on the west side of Portland, close to the Crypts, where the wall has not yet been built and security has been compromised by friends, allies, on the inside.

  But that was hours ago, and now there is nothing to do but wait for the signal.

  The main force will breach the wall at once. Most of Portland’s security will be busy at the labs; I’ve gathered that there is a large event there today. There should only be a limited number of officers to hold us off, although Colin is worried that last night’s breach didn’t go as smoothly as planned. It’s possible that inside the wall, there are more regulators, more guns than we think.

  We’ll just have to see.

  From where I am crouching in the underbrush, I can occasionally see Pippa, fifty yards off, when she shifts behind the juniper bush she has chosen to conceal her. I wonder if she’s nervous. Pippa has one of the most important roles of all.

  She is in charge of one of the bombs. The main force—the chaos at
the wall—is meant mostly to enable the bombers, four in total, to slip unnoticed into Portland. Pippa’s end goal is 88 Essex Street, an address I don’t recognize, probably a government building, like the rest of the targets.

  The sun inches up into the sky. Ten a. m. Ten thirty a. m. Noon.

  Any minute now.

  We wait.

  Hana

  The car’s here. ” My mother rests a hand on my shoulder. “Are you ready to go?”

  I don’t trust myself to speak, so I nod. The girl in the mirror—blond tendrils of hair pinned and pulled back, eyelashes dark with mascara, skin flawless, lips penciled in—nods as well.

  “I’m very proud of you,” my mother says in an undertone. People are bustling in and out of the room—photographers and makeup artists and Debbie, the hairdresser—and I imagine she is embarrassed. My mother has never in her whole life admitted to being proud of me.

  “Here. ” My mother helps me slip into a soft cotton robe, so my dress—sweeping, long, and fastened at the shoulder with a gold clip in the shape of an eagle, the animal to which Fred is most often compared—will remain spotless during the short drive down to the labs.

  A group of journalists is clustered outside the gates, and as I emerge onto the porch, I am startled by the glare from so many lenses turned in my direction, the rapid-fire click-click-click of the shutters. The sun floats in the cloudless sky, a single white eye. It must be just before noon. I’m glad as soon as we make it to the car. The interior is dark, and cool, and I know that no one can see me behind the tinted windows.

  “I really don’t believe it. ” My mother plays with her bracelets. She’s more excited than I’ve ever seen her. “I really thought this day would never come. Isn’t that silly?”

  “Silly,” I echo. As we pull out of the subdivision, I see that the police presence has been redoubled. Half the streets leading downtown have been barricaded, patrolled by regulators, police, and even some men wearing the silver badges of the military guard. By the time I can see the sloped white roofs of the laboratory complex—where Fred and I will be married in one of the largest medical conference rooms, big enough to accommodate a thousand witnesses—the crowd in the streets is so dense, Tony can hardly inch the car along through it.

  It seems as though all of Portland has turned out to watch me get married. People reach out and knuckle the hood of the car for good luck. Hands thump against the roof and the windows, making me jump. And police wade through the crowd, moving people aside, trying to clear a space for the car, intoning, “Let ’em through, let ’em through. ”

  A series of police barricades has been erected just outside the laboratory gates. Several regulators move them aside so we can pass into the small paved parking lot just in front of the lab’s main entrance. I recognize Fred’s family’s car. He must be here already.

  My stomach gives a weird twist. I haven’t been to the labs since my procedure was completed, since I entered a miserable, chewed-up girl, full of guilt and hurt and anger, and emerged something different, cleaner and less confused. That was the day they cut Lena away from me, and Steve Hilt, too, and all those sweaty, dark nights, when I wasn’t sure of anything.

 
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