Home > The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1)(5)

The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1)(5)
Alexandra Bracken

I could feel my guts churning deep in the pit of my stomach. I couldn’t stop seeing that woman’s face, right when she pulled the trigger, or the mass of her bloody hair that had landed near my feet. I couldn’t stop seeing my mom’s face, when she had locked me out in the garage. I couldn’t stop seeing Grams’s face.

She’ll come, I thought. She’ll come. She’ll fix Mom and Dad and she will come to get me. She’ll come, she’ll come, she’ll come…

Upstairs, they finally cut the plastic binding that tied our hands, and divided us again, sending half down to the right end of the freezing hallway and half to the left. Both sides looked exactly the same—no more than a few closed doors, and a small window at the very end. For a moment, I did nothing but watch the rain pelt that tiny, foggy pane of glass. Then, the door on the left swung open with a low whine, and the face of a plump, middle-aged man appeared. He cast one look in our direction before whispering something to the PSF at the head of the group. One by one, more doors opened, and more adults appeared. The only thing they had in common aside from their white coats was a shared look of suspicion.

Without a single word of explanation, the PSFs began pulling and pushing kids toward each white coat and its associated office. The outburst of confused, distressed noises that erupted from the lines was shushed with a piercing buzzer. I fell back onto my heels, watching the doors shut one by one, wondering if I would ever see those kids again.

What’s wrong with us? My head felt like it was full of wet sand as I looked over my shoulder. The boy with the broken face was nowhere, but his memory had chased me all the way through the camp. Did they bring us here because they thought we had Everhart’s Disease? Did they think we were going to die?

How had that boy made the PSF do what she had done? What had he said to her?

I felt a hand slide into mine as I stood there, trembling hard enough for my joints to hurt. The girl—the same one that had pulled me down to the mud outside—gave me a fierce look. Her dark blond hair was plastered against her skull, framing a pink scar that curved between her top lip and nose. Her dark eyes flashed, and when she spoke, I saw that they had cut the wires on her braces but had left the metal nubs glued to her front teeth.

“Don’t be scared,” she whispered. “Don’t let them see.”

The handwritten label on the tag of her jacket said SAMANTHA DAHL. It stuck up against the back of her neck like an afterthought.

We stood shoulder to shoulder, close enough that our linked fingers were hidden between the fabric of my pajama pants and her purple puffer jacket. They had picked her up on the way to school the same morning they had come for me. That had been a day ago, but I remembered seeing her dark eyes burning bright with hate at the back of the van they had locked us in. She hadn’t screamed as the others had.

The kids who had disappeared through the doors now came back through them, clutching gray sweaters and shorts in their hands. Instead of falling back into our line, they were marched downstairs before anyone could think to get a word or questioning look in.

They don’t look hurt. I could smell permanent marker and something that might have been rubbing alcohol, but no one was bleeding or crying.

When it was finally the girl’s turn, the PSF at the head of the line forced us apart with a sharp jerk. I wanted to go in with her, to face whatever was behind the door. Anything had to be better than being alone again without anyone or anything to anchor myself to.

My hands were shaking so badly that I had to cross my arms and grip my elbows to get them to stop. I stood at the front of the line, looking at the gleaming span of checkered tile between the PSF’s black boots and my mud-splattered toes. I was already tired down to my bones from the sleepless night before, and the scent of the soldier’s boot polish sent my head deeper into a fog.

And then they called for me.

I found myself in a dimly lit office, half the size of my cramped bedroom at home, with no memory of ever having walked into it.


I was looking at a cot and a strange, halo-shaped gray machine hanging over it.

The white coat’s face appeared from behind the laptop on the table. He was a frail-looking man, whose thin silver glasses seemed to be in serious danger of sliding off his nose with every quick movement. His voice was unnaturally high, and he didn’t so much as say the word as squeak it. I pressed my back against the closed door, trying to put space between me, the man, and the machine.

The white coat followed my gaze to the cot. “That’s a scanner. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

I must not have looked convinced, because he continued. “Have you ever broken a bone or bumped your head? Do you know what a CT scan is?”

It was the patience in his voice that drew me forward a step. I shook my head.

“In a minute I’m going to have you lie down, and I’ll use that machine to check to make sure your head is all right. But first, you need to tell me your name.”

Make sure your head is all right. How did he know—?

“Your name,” he said, the words taking on a sudden edge.

“Ruby,” I answered, and had to spell my last name for him.

He began typing on the laptop, distracted for a moment. My eyes drifted back over to the machine, wondering how painful it would be for me to have the inside of my head inspected. Wondering if he could somehow see what I had done.

“Damn, they’re getting lazy,” the white coat groused, more to himself than to me. “Didn’t they pre-classify you?”

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