Home > The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1)(4)

The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1)(4)
Alexandra Bracken

I felt myself being hauled up and out of my seat, and almost before I realized what was happening, I was slipping down the wet bus steps and tumbling into the pouring rain. A different PSF lifted me off my knees and guided me in the direction of two other girls about my age. Their clothes clung to them like old skin, translucent and drooping.

There were nearly twenty PSFs on the ground, swarming the neat small lines of kids. My feet had been completely swallowed by the mud, and I was shivering in my pajamas, but no one took notice, and no one came up to cut the plastic binding our hands. We waited, silently, tongues clamped between our teeth. I looked up to the clouds, turning my face to the pounding rain. It looked like the sky was falling, piece by piece.

The last groups of four were being lifted off the bus and dropped onto the ground, including the boy with the broken face. He was the last one off, just behind a tall blond girl with a blank stare. I could barely make them out through the sheet of rain and the foggy bus windows, but I was sure I saw the boy lean forward and whisper something into the girl’s ear, just as she took the first step off the bus.

She nodded, a quick jerk of her chin. The second her shoes touched the mud, she bolted to the right, ducking around the nearest PSF’s hands. One of the PSFs barked out a terrifying “Stop!” but she kept running, straight for the gates. With everyone’s attention turned toward her, no one thought to look back at the boy still on the bus—no one but me. He came slinking down the steps, the front of his white hooded sweatshirt stained with his own blood. The same PSF who had hit him before was now helping him down to the ground, as she had done for the rest of us. I watched her fingers close around his elbow and felt the echo of her grip on my own newly bruised skin; I watched him turn and say something to her, his face a mask of perfect calm.

I watched the PSF let go of his arm, take her gun out of its holster, and, without a word—without even blinking—stick the barrel inside of her mouth and pull the trigger.

I don’t know if I screamed aloud, or if the strangled sound had come from the woman waking up to what she was doing, two seconds too late to stop it. The image of her face—her slack jaw, her eyes bulging out of her skull, the ripple of suddenly loose skin—stayed burned into the air like a photonegative far longer than the explosion of pink, misty blood and clumps of hair against the bus.

The kid standing next to me dropped into a dead faint, and then there wasn’t a single one of us that wasn’t screaming.

The PSF hit the ground the exact same moment the girl was tackled into the mud. The rain washed the soldier’s blood down off the bus windows and yellow panels, stretching the bloated dark lines, drawing them out as they disappeared completely. It was that fast.

The boy was looking only at us. “Run!” he yelled through his broken teeth. “What are you doing? Run—run!”

And the first thing that went through my mind wasn’t What are you? or even Why?

It was But I have nowhere else to go.

He might as well have blown the entire bus up for the panic it caused. Some kids listened and tried to bolt for the fence, only to have their path blocked by the line of soldiers in black that seemed to pour out of the air. Most just stood there and screamed, and screamed, and screamed, the rain falling all around, the mud sucking their feet down firmly in place. A girl knocked me down to the ground with her shoulder as the other PSFs rushed for the boy, still standing in the bus doorway. The soldiers were yelling at us to sit on the ground, to stay frozen there. I did exactly as I was told.

“Orange!” I heard one of them yell into his walkie-talkie. “We have a situation at the main gate. I need restraints for an Orange—”

It wasn’t until after they had rounded us back up and had the boy with the broken face on the ground that I dared to look up. And that I began to wonder, dread tickling up my spine, if he was the only one who could do something like that. Or if everyone around me was there because they could cause someone to hurt themselves that way, too.

Not me—the words blazed through my head—not me, they made a mistake, a mistake—

I watched with a feeling of hollowness at the center of my chest as one of the soldiers took a can of spray paint in hand and painted an enormous orange X over the boy’s back. The boy had only stopped yelling because two PSFs had pulled a strange black mask down over the lower part of his face—like they were muzzling a dog.

Tension beaded on my skin like sweat. They marched our lines through the camp toward the Infirmary for sorting. As we walked, we saw kids heading in the opposite direction, from a row of pathetic wood cabins. All of them were wearing white uniforms, with a different colored X marked on each of their backs and a number written in black above it. I saw five different colors in all—green, blue, yellow, orange, and red.

The kids with the green and blue X’s were allowed to walk freely, their hands swinging at their sides. Those with a faint yellow X, or an orange or red one, were forced to fight through the mud with their hands and feet in metal cuffs, a long chain connecting them in a line. The ones marked with orange smears had the muzzlelike masks over their faces.

We were hurried into the bright lights and dry air of what a torn paper sign had labeled INFIRMARY. The doctors and nurses lined the long hallway, watching us with frowns and shaking heads. The checkered tile floor became slick with rain and mud, and it took all of my concentration not to slip. My nose was filled with the smell of rubbing alcohol and fake lemon.

We filed one by one up a dark cement staircase at the back of the first floor, which was filled with empty beds and limp white curtains. Not an Orange. Not a Red.

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