Unleashed Page 1

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PART ONE

RESISTANCE

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Presidential Proclamation

Section 1. Funding for Detention Camps

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a) Within forty-eight hours of the issuance date of this memorandum, and in conjunction with the Department of Treasury and the Office of Management of Budget, a sum of $1.27 billion shall be released to the Wainwright Agency for the express purpose of the administration and expansion of all detention camps for the continued harmony and protection of this country against the threat of HTS carriers, whose genetic mutation predisposes them to commit violence. . . .

ONE

THE MAN I KILLED WON’T LEAVE ME ALONE.

He comes to me at night. The first time he intruded on my dreams I thought it was an isolated thing. A sudden troublesome nightmare that would fade with the night, never to return.

But it does. He does. And I begin to realize he’s never going away. Brown eyes. Bullet hole. Black-red blood. He will always be there.

The knowledge sinks slowly, awfully, like an animal’s teeth biting down and holding deep and hard into my muscle. I can’t pull away. Can’t shake it. I’m caught. Pinned in its jaws.

Strangely, I thought being labeled a killer and losing everything—my future, family, boyfriend, friends—was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. It’s not. Finding out they were right? Finding out that’s exactly what I am?

That’s worse.

He’s just a shadow in the corner of the room tonight. A dark, motionless shape, the edges of him blurred like smudges on paper.

I sit up in the bed, drawing my knees to my chest. Sean lies beside me, chest rising and falling softly, unaware of our late-night visitor. And I guess he’s only my visitor really. Nothing haunts Sean. For him the past is just that. Something left behind, and I envy his ability to move on. To accept himself. To simply accept what is.

My gaze slides back to the dead man. I feel his familiar eyes crawling over me. Watch him watching me while cicadas drone a steady lullaby outside the trailer. Looking at him, I remember everything. That moment when the director of Mount Haven forced my hand and demanded that I kill. Oh, Harris gave me a choice. I guess. If letting him kill Sean was a choice. Either I killed a stranger—an anonymous carrier—or Sean died. That was my choice. No matter what, someone would have died. Either way, my fate was decided.

Sean sleeps on, blissfully unaware, his body like something sculpted from marble, the dark ink tattoos on his arm and neck standing out starkly against his lighter skin. I try to use this—the familiar, comforting sight of him—to make me feel better. He’s why I killed that man, after all. So Sean could live. But it doesn’t work. Unable to look at him, unable to bear the reminder, I turn away.

And that’s what Sean has come to be. A reminder of the most horrible moment of my life. I don’t regret saving him, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m a killer now.

When we first fled Mount Haven and arrived at this trailer practically sitting on the US-Mexican border, everything was great. Sean. Me. We were great. Holding hands, touching, kissing. Like two teenagers who had just discovered each other. In a way, I guess we were that. We curled around each other every night, our bodies like two spoons. There was no pressure beyond whispered words and lingering kisses. Just the scent of him, his skin warm and solid next to mine, was enough. Being with him filled me with a giddy sense of hope—a belief that everything was going to be all right. Was that only days ago? How quickly things disintegrated and dissolved to dust.

My nails dig into my palms, indenting the flesh with tiny half-moons. I embrace the pain, taking the punishment. Rolling on my side, I pretend that the figure in the corner isn’t there anymore, watching me. Brown eyes. Bullet hole. Black-red blood.

I pretend Sean hasn’t become someone I can’t bear to see or touch or love.

Closing my eyes, I tell myself pretending will eventually work. That it will become real.

I’m the first one up. I feel achy and tired all over, and I take an extra-long shower, bowing my head and letting the water beat down on my neck. It doesn’t help that I never really went back to sleep, too afraid of a repeat visit from Brown Eyes himself. I used to treasure my eight hours of sleep every night.

Back home, Mom had to shake me awake two or three times every morning. I loved my bed. The down-filled comforter. The surplus of pillows and stuffed animals from my youth. The way the morning sunlight would filter through my pink-and-green diaphanous curtains. It’s strange how much you miss all those little things. What I wouldn’t do to hug one of my old stuffed animals. To be that girl again. Sometimes on Saturdays Mom would make French toast and sausages. The savory aroma would fill the house and lure me from bed. It’s hard to accept that those days are gone. Even lunches at my old private school, Everton, had been delicious. Not that I appreciated it at the time. I miss the salad bar and the made-to-order stir-fry.

Gil pops up on the couch, his hair sticking out in every direction. He rubs his eyes as I pour cereal into a bowl. No milk, but I’m already used to eating it dry.

A book slides to the floor. He must have fallen asleep reading it. It’s an old, yellowed, dog-eared copy of The Hobbit. Last night he told Sabine the general plotline. She sat before him like a little girl, holding her knees and rocking in place, her eyes wide as he painted a picture of hobbits, dragons, and all manner of fantastical creatures. Sean had listened, too, his smile rueful as his eyes slid from them to me.

“Sorry.” I wince as I set the box back down on the table. “Didn’t mean to wake you.”

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