Chapter 17:

Years Ago — Seven

The Story Of Who

The room was cold, freezing to the point where I could see my breath right before my eyes as it condensed into fog then dispersed. In. Out. In. Out. I focused on my breathing because if I focused on anything else, my eyes would hurt from holding back tears.Bookmark here

Don't think about it. Don't think about it. Don't think about it. I chanted with every breath, and it seemed to work.Bookmark here

I couldn't tell if the ship had started moving yet but I was already dying to get off it. I didn't have anything on other than the shirt and pants I had worn this morning. Now I wished I had put on something warmer. Anything at all.Bookmark here

I had compressed the XOry blanket and shoved it in my pocket before the guards had arrived to take me away. They didn't know that I had it because they hadn't searched me. I had been underestimated again.Bookmark here

That usually worked in my favor but this time it didn't make much of a difference. These soldiers were different from Matthew and Matthias, I couldn't break them with simple tricks, and as far I could see, I was the only one with a blanket in this room.Bookmark here

If I brought it out, there would be a bloodbath.Bookmark here

When there was little supply and high demand, people could kill each other for anything. My teacher taught me that and I had seen it before when I tried to feed hungry chicks at school.Bookmark here

I counted twelve children other than me. If a fight started, I would be on the losing side even if none of them knew how to fight. I wasn't stupid enough to try Bookmark here

Since I had woken up here, I hadn't talked to anyone. Even now that I had the energy to move, I still didn't want to talk to anyone. Being here was terrifying. It made me wonder what would happen to my family if I didn't behave. What would happen to Jethro? If I acted up, would they take me to replace him?Bookmark here

Three of my new roommates looked around Jethro's age. They sat in the lap of an older girl with hair as bright as an orange sun. She looked older than me, much older. She and my classmate Tammy could have been the same age. Tammy had been twelve when our school got bombed—she had been one of the early students that had gotten trapped inside when it happened.Bookmark here

Tammy had been a good student. My teacher loved her because she was smart in the way she solved puzzles and kind in the way she loved everyone she met.Bookmark here

The girl looked up and our eyes met. If I wanted, I could have sifted through her mind, but I didn't know if she would notice and I didn't know who to trust—if she could be trusted.Bookmark here

She smiled.Bookmark here

I smiled back.Bookmark here

"Still won't talk?" she asked with a small tilt of her head.Bookmark here

I only stared at her. My silence was the answer. If I couldn't know what was inside everyone's head, then I certainly couldn't risk falling asleep in a room full of people I didn't know.Bookmark here

The instant I could move, I had crawled as far away from the invisible door as I could. With my arms wrapped around my legs and my knees pressed close to my chest, I occupied the only free corner in the room.Bookmark here

Most of the children huddled together for warmth even though there was enough space for everyone to be on their own if they wanted. I couldn't bring myself to do something like that, not when I knew that I might never see my brother again. Bookmark here

"Leave her be, Maya," a boy in the corner opposite me said.Bookmark here

He might have been the girl's brother. They both had the same type of hair and nose. It made me wonder whether people thought I and Jethro looked alike. His hair was blonde and mine was so dark it was almost black. I didn't think our noses looked alike either.Bookmark here

"Bryan, she will freeze if she continues to stay there," Maya argued.Bookmark here

"If she wants to leave, she will," Bryan said and I wondered why he didn't seem cold. "Once the ship stops conserving power, the room will get warmer."Bookmark here

"What if she doesn't make it till then?" Maya looked at me with worry.Bookmark here

"Then the guards will carry her body out."Bookmark here

That seemed to be the end of the conversation because Maya closed her eyes and Bryan turned in his corner so that he wasn't facing me anymore.Bookmark here

The lights turned off next and what shocked me was that they seemed to know that it would. It made me wonder how long they had been here and how many more children would be pushed into this room without knowing what would happen to them.Bookmark here

How many days would it take for me to know when the lights would go off, without any warning? When will I have to be worried about whether the new kid's stubbornness would lead them to their death?Bookmark here

I didn't want to think about it. I didn't want to think at all, and yet I couldn't bring myself to sleep.Bookmark here

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