Into the Abyss

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Authors: Stefanie Gaither
and focusing on the creaks and whirs of its wheeled base instead of on their voices. Creak. Whir. Click. Whir. The mechanical sounds are predictable, soothing. Empty sounds, empty motion. And my mind circles wonderfully, emptily, with them.
    But my eyes keep drifting back to the family portrait on the wall, and every time they do, my mind threatens to stop. To focus, and to reopen all the thoughts from tonight that I have so carefully filed away.
    Those bodies in the security room.
    How quickly, how anxiously Seth confronted me.
    Those clones staring at me.
    Emily staring at me.
    Why hadn’t I simply stayed on that bridge and let whatever was going to happen below happen?
    I only left my room to find Catelyn. I never wanted tobe in the middle of all these other things, or to care, or even think, about anything or anyone else. And I am so used to not having to care about things I don’t want to that for a moment I actually feel my awareness slipping, my computer-brain apparently freezing in its attempt to process all these unwanted things.
    I close my eyes.
    Reboot, reboot, reboot. . . .
    Open my eyes and look away from the portrait.
    No. I won’t think about any of this. Only emptiness. Empty creaks . Whirs. Click click clicks—
    â€œLet me see your phone.”
    Jaxon and Catelyn both turn to me, and I realize then that I’ve said this aloud, and that my hand is outstretched and waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
    â€œWhy?” Jaxon finally asks.
    A good question. And one I don’t have an answer to, despite all my brain’s eagerness to fill my mouth with other words without my say-so. Fortunately for me, though, Jaxon seems distracted enough by his argument with my sister that he doesn’t bother pressing his question. I just stare expectantly at him until he silently tosses me the phone.
    I don’t know why I am doing it, but as soon as it hits my hands, I pull up his recent calls and I dial Seth. After four rings, I am greeted by a recorded message of his voice, telling me to “leave it.”
    All I leave for him is a number—mine. A number I have given to almost nobody else, and that I forget I have mostof the time, even though the communication device that it goes to is always around my wrist. It’s another condition of my living here: The president wants to be sure I am always reachable.
    I’m sure Catelyn recognizes the number too, though she only watches me curiously as I hang up the phone. I can tell she is dying to press me for more answers and explanations. But she knows it’s useless too. Maybe once I understand Seth better—if I ever do—I will try to explain today to her, if I can.
    Or maybe not. In a way I am starting to feel possessive of my strange conversations with Seth, feeling that need to guard them the same way I protect everything Catelyn tells me, whether she wants me to or not. I am a hoarder of words and secrets. I suppose because most girls with bodies as old as mine have plenty of secret things of their own by this time: moments that only they know about, things given to them in confidence to keep for themselves. But I have precious little that feels like it is only mine. Six months is not much time to collect a life of your own.
    So I turn around and I keep to myself, pulling the scraps of my life that I do have around me like a thin and ragged cloak, and I leave Jaxon and Cate to their own hushed conversations and secrets.
    â€¢Â Â â€¢Â Â â€¢
    An hour and a half later, the communicator around my wrist beeps.
    Catelyn lifts her head from the pillow in Jaxon’s lap and blinks sleepily at me. “Who . . . ?”
    I glance down at the number that has never flashed on this tiny screen before, and I almost want to laugh, though I am not sure why. Catelyn has told me several times now that my sense of humor needs work. And she is clearly right, because both she and Jaxon are wide awake now,

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