Home > The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1)(11)

The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1)(11)
Alexandra Bracken

“Do you know why you’re here, Ruby? Do you remember what happened?”

Before or after the Tower tried to fry my brain? But I couldn’t say it out loud. When it came to the adults, it was better not to talk. They had a way of hearing one thing and processing it as something else. No reason to give them an excuse to hurt you.

It had been eight months since I’d last used my voice. I wasn’t sure I even remembered how.

The doctor somehow guessed the question I was barely holding back at the tip of my tongue. “They turned on the Calm Control after a fight broke out in the Mess Hall. It seems that things got…a bit out of hand.”

That was an understatement. The White Noise—Calm Control, the higher powers called it—was used to settle us down, so to speak, while it did absolutely nothing to them. It was like a dog whistle, the pitch tuned perfectly so only our freak brains could pick it up and process it.

They turned it on for a whole host of reasons, sometimes for things as small as a kid accidentally using their ability, or to stamp out unruliness in one of the cabins. But in both of those instances, they would have piped the noise directly into whatever building the kids were in. If they used it across the camp, blasting it over the speakers for us all to hear, then things must have gotten really out of hand. They must have been worried that there was a spark that would have set the rest of us ablaze.

There was no hint of hesitation on Dr. Begbie’s face as she unstrapped my wrists and ankles. The towel she had been using to clean my face hung limp on the guardrail, dripping water. Bright red splotches soaked through its white fabric.

I reached up and touched my mouth, my cheeks, my nose. When I pulled my fingers away, I was only half-surprised to see that they were coated with dark blood. It was crusted between my nostrils and lips, as if someone had clocked me right in the honker.

Trying to sit up was the worst idea that crossed my mind. My chest screamed in pain, and I was flat on my back again before I even registered falling. Dr. Begbie was beside me in an instant, cranking the metal bed into an upright position.

“You have some bruised ribs,” she said.

I tried to take a deep breath, but my chest was too tight to inhale anything more than a choked gasp. She must not have noticed because she was looking at me with those kind eyes again, saying, “May I ask a few questions?”

The fact that she asked my permission was amazing in and of itself. I studied her, searching for the hatred buried beneath the layer of pleasantness on her face, the fear hovering in her soft eyes, the disgust caught in the corner of her smile. Nothing. Not even annoyance.

Some poor kid started to throw up in the stall to my right; I could see his dark outline like a shadow against the curtain. There was no one sitting with him, no one holding his hand. Just him and his bowl of puke. And here I was, my heart skipping beats out of fear that the fairy-tale princess sitting next to me was going to have me put down like a rabid dog. She didn’t know what I was—she couldn’t have known.

You’re being paranoid, I told myself. Get a grip.

Dr. Begbie pulled a pen out of her messy bun. “Ruby, when they turned on the Calm Control, do you remember falling forward and hitting your face?”

“No,” I said. “I was…already on the ground.” I didn’t know how much to tell her. The smile on her face stretched, and there was something…smug about it.

“Do you usually experience this much pain and bleeding from the Calm Control?”

Suddenly, the pain in my chest had nothing to do with my ribs.

“I’ll take that as a no.”

I couldn’t see what she was writing, only that her hand and pen were flying across the paper, scribbling as though her life depended on it.

I always took the White Noise harder than the other girls in my cabin. But blood? Never.

Dr. Begbie was humming lightly under her breath as she wrote, some song that I thought might have been by the Rolling Stones.

She’s with the camp controllers, I reminded myself. She is one of them.

But…in another world, she might not have been. Even though she was wearing the scrubs and white coat, Dr. Begbie didn’t look much older than I was. She had a young face, and it was probably a curse to her in the outside world.

I had always thought that people born before Generation Freak were the lucky ones. They lived without fear of what would happen when they stepped over the border between childhood and adolescence. As far as I knew, if you were older than thirteen when they started rounding kids up, you were home free—you got to pass Freak Camp on the board game of life and head straight on to Normalville. But looking at Dr. Begbie now, seeing the deep lines carved in her face that no one in their twenties should have had, I wasn’t so sure they had gotten off scot-free. They’d gotten a better deal than what we ended up with, though.

Abilities. Powers that defied explanation, mental talents so freakish, doctors and scientists reclassified our entire generation as Psi. We were no longer human. Our brains broke that mold.

“I see from your chart that you were classified as ‘abnormal intelligence’ in sorting,” Dr. Begbie said after a while. “The scientist that sorted you—did he run you through all of the tests?”

Something very cold coiled in my stomach. I might not have understood a great many things about the world, I might have only had a fourth grader’s education, but I could tell when someone was trying to fish around for information. The PSFs had switched over to outright scare tactics years ago, but there was a time when all of their questioning had been done in soft voices. Fake sympathy reeked like bad breath.

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