Home > The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1)(7)

The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1)(7)
Alexandra Bracken

It’ll be okay, I told myself as I walked back down the cold hallway, down the steps, to the girls and men in uniforms waiting for me below. It wasn’t until that night, as I lay awake in my bunk, that I realized I would only ever have one chance to run—and I hadn’t taken it.

THREE

SAMANTHA—SAM—AND I were both assigned to Cabin 27, along with the rest of the girls from our bus that were classified as Green. Fourteen in all, though by the next day, there were twenty more. They capped the number at thirty a week later, and moved on to filling the next wooden structure along the camp’s perpetually soggy and trampled main trail.

Bunks were assigned based on alphabetical order, which put Sam directly above me—a small mercy, seeing as the rest of the girls were nothing like her. They spent the first night either stunned into silence or sobbing. I didn’t have time for tears anymore. I had questions.

“What are they going to do with us?” I whispered up to her. We were at the far left end of the cabin, our bunk wedged in the corner. The walls of the structure had been thrown together so quickly that they weren’t completely sealed. Every now and then a freezing draft and sometimes a snowflake whistled in from the silent outdoors.

“I dunno,” she said quietly. A few beds over, one of the girls had finally dropped off into the oblivion of sleep, and her snores were helping to cover our conversation. When a PSF had escorted us to our new residence, it had been with several warnings: no talking after lights-out, no leaving, no use of freak abilities—intentional or accidental. It was the first time I had ever heard anyone refer to what we could do as “freak abilities” instead of the polite alternative, “symptoms.”

“I guess keep us here, until they figure out a cure,” Sam continued. “That’s what my dad said, at least, when the soldiers came to get me. What did your parents say?”

My hands hadn’t stopped shaking from earlier, and every time I tried shutting my eyes all I could see were the white coat’s blank ones staring right back into mine. The mention of my parents only made the pounding in my head that much worse.

I don’t know why I lied. It was easier, I guess, than the truth—or maybe because some small part of it felt like it was the actual truth. “My parents are dead.”

She sucked in a sharp breath between her teeth. “I wish mine were, too.”

“You don’t mean that!”

“They’re the ones that sent me here, aren’t they?” It was dangerous, how fast her voice was rising. “Obviously they wanted to get rid of me.”

“I don’t think—” I began, only to stop myself. Hadn’t my parents wanted to get rid of me, too?

“Whatever; it’s fine,” she said, though it clearly wasn’t and it wasn’t ever going to be. “We’ll stay here and stick together, and when we get out, we can go wherever we want, and no one will stop us.”

My mom used to say that sometimes just saying something aloud was enough to make it true. I wasn’t so sure about that, but the way Sam said it, the low burn beneath her words, made me reconsider. It suddenly seemed possible that it could work out that way—that if I couldn’t go home, I would still be all right in the end if I could just stick with her. It was like wherever Sam went, a path opened up behind her; all I had to do was stay in her shadow, out of the PSFs’ line of sight, and avoid doing anything that would call attention to me.

It worked that way for five years.

Five years feels like a lifetime when one day bleeds into the next, and your world doesn’t stretch any farther than the gray electric fence surrounding two miles of shoddy buildings and mud. I was never happy at Thurmond, but it was bearable because Sam was there to make it that way. She was there with the eye roll when Vanessa, one of our cabinmates, tried to cut her own hair with garden shears to look more “stylish” (“For who?” Sam had muttered. “Her reflection in the Washroom mirror?”); the silly cross-eyed face behind the back of the PSF lecturing her for speaking out of turn yet again; and the firm—but gentle—reality check when girls’ imaginations started running too wild, or rumors sprung up about the PSFs letting us go.

Sam and I—we were realists. We knew we weren’t getting out. Dreaming led to disappointment, and disappointment to a kind of depressed funk that wasn’t easy to shake. Better to stay in the gray than get eaten by the dark.

Two years into life at Thurmond, the camp controllers started work on the Factory. They had failed at rehabilitating the dangerous ones and hauled them off in the night, but the so-called “improvements” didn’t stop there. It dawned on them that the camp needed to be entirely “self-sufficient.” From that point on, we’d be growing and cooking our own food to eat, mucking out the Washrooms, making our uniforms, and even making theirs.

The brick structure was all the way at the far west side of camp, cupped in one end of Thurmond’s long rectangle. They had us dig out the foundation for the Factory, but the camp controllers didn’t trust us with the actual building of it. We watched it go up floor by floor, wondering what it was for, and what they would do to us there. That was back when all sorts of rumors were floating around like dandelion fluff in the wind—some thought the scientists were coming back for more experiments; some thought the new building was where they were going to move the Reds, Oranges, and Yellows, if and when they returned; and some thought it was where they were going to get rid of us, once and for all.

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