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Authors: Krista McGee

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BOOK: Anomaly
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“Of course.” Rhen’s voice sounds different, deeper. The Monitors step forward. They are going to examine Rhen. I have to do something.

“Attention, please.” The wall screen lights up. I want to shout in relief. But I do not, of course. I do glance at Rhen and smile just a little.

The Announcer’s face fills the screen. His face is flawless. Announcers are plastered on our walls at least twice a day, and
so they must be pleasant to look at. They all look slightly different. I like this one the best. He has hair that is a mix between Rhen’s blond and my brown. His eyes are a bright green.

Berk’s face pops into my head and I realize that is his coloring too. He has been gone from our pod for five years, and yet I still think of him. Does he look like this man now, or has his face changed?

I need to stop thinking about Berk because the Announcer is discussing something important.

“The moon will be visible tonight through the southeastern panel. Pod C, this is your night to go to the viewing.”

I sneak another smile at Rhen. I love these nights. We are told that before the earth was destroyed, people could see the moon every night, no matter where they lived. But here, in the State, we must take turns. I do not enjoy taking turns. I would like to go to the panel and see the moon every night. It makes me think of music—soft violins and the trill of flutes.

The window is very high and very thick. There are dozens throughout the State. Sunlight floods through them during the day. The clear panels soak in the energy from the sun, converting it into the power that allows our pods to function.

Berk hasn’t solved the problem of the solar panels yet because we still experience power outages. Perhaps he has some other, more important work to do in the Scientists’ compound.

We can only go to one window for the viewing, the one closest to us. I wonder what the moon looks like from the other windows. I wonder what the State looks like from the other panels. I wish we were allowed to travel beyond the perimeters of our pods. No one else seems to mind that we must stay in our building or our recreation area, that the farthest we are
allowed to travel is the ten-minute walk to the window once a week.

The Monitors will be focused on preparing for our viewing. They will not have time to interrogate Rhen when the announcement is over. I release a breath I didn’t know I was holding. Rhen is safe. For now.

The Announcer’s face is replaced by the image of an ocean. We do not have any oceans down here. We just have huge tanks of water that are pumped down from the oceans and taken through many years of cleansing processes so we can drink it. But The Ten want us to know what the earth was like before the war, what it could possibly be when it once again becomes habitable.

I love the ocean scene. The vents release the smell of salt water and the speakers pipe in the music of birds and waves. I close my eyes and pretend I am really there, that the sun is on my face without the barrier of a window panel miles above my head.

The Monitors leave and I grab Rhen’s hand. Pressing a button on my learning pad, I pull up the music I had been writing. I play the notes through the speaker, loudly, then I speak quietly to Rhen so the Monitors won’t hear me.

“Do not press that button again.”

Rhen closes her eyes. I know what she is doing—her mind is being flooded with all the reasons why she must turn herself in.

“It is nothing. Very minor.”

“But Asta . . .”

“Asta was worse.” I wave my hands, wanting to make those thoughts fly away like a piece of lint off her smock. “She couldn’t even get up, could barely breathe.”

“But it started like this.” Rhen shakes her head, her blond ponytail swaying. “I am sure of it.”

“How can you know that?” I sit on my sleeping platform, certain that even she can’t deny the logic of my argument. “We were young. Our brains were not fully developed. You know we cannot trust those memories.”

The music stops suddenly. That was as far as I got before I was interrupted by the Monitor.

“It is beautiful.” Rhen points to the screen. “Will you finish it today?”

“Yes.” The Monitors can hear us now, so our conversation returns to what is safe. But Rhen is not pushing the button. She will not turn herself in. Not today, anyway. I smile to myself in victory. “I will play it for everyone tonight on the way to the viewing.”

Rhen nods and returns to her cube. She uses her free time to clean her already spotless area. I do not understand what drives her to do that. The Scientists must have left that particular gene out when they were weaving together my DNA.

I pick up my pad and finish my music. I pour in my longing for the beach scene. The notes become my wishes, my dreams, the thoughts I can never speak out loud, not even to Rhen.

Because I know my malformation goes far beyond a sickness of the body. My mind is sick, my heart is sick. But I will never tell. Because, if I am perfectly honest, I like my sickness.


onight isn’t an ordinary viewing. The Scientists are coming. That rarely happens. The Scientists usually remain in their compound, creating life and developing technology that will make our State even better. They are also busy training the next generations. Because the Scientists, though brilliant, are still mortal.

They are the oldest people in the State. They were all in their twenties and thirties when the Nuclear War occurred. That was forty years ago. And they weren’t designed by other Scientists. They were created in the primitive way, which means they could get sick and die.

I wonder about death. What is it, exactly? In the past, I
have read, people died of “natural causes.” That means that they could be walking along, talking, working, and just drop dead. Or sometimes, I read, they would get a sickness that would last for months—sometimes years—and they would slowly die, right in front of everyone. Some even got so sick they couldn’t care for themselves and needed others to care for them, like the Monitors do for the newborns.

This is why the Scientists annihilate those who are sick. No one should have to watch others die, they say. It could create conflict and unnecessary emotions. The Scientists’ technologies have eradicated most illnesses, but even minds as brilliant as theirs cannot prevent occasional mistakes.

Mistakes like Asta.

The reality that she may have been annihilated did not occur to me until my fourteenth year, when we studied the human body in our science module and learned about the life cycle. I had not thought about it before that. We were all alive. We were all fine. I did not know what Asta had would be called a sickness because I did not know what sickness was. I still hoped that she was alive, though. That Berk was right and the Scientists had brought her back with them, helped her, and given her a position there. Surely they wouldn’t annihilate someone because of something so minor.

Rhen cannot be taken away like Asta. We need her logic. She will help us as we move on from our lessons to our occupations. How could our pod survive without her? Certainly, there are other logically gifted pod members. But there’s only one Rhen.

“Thalli.” Rhen taps my shoulder. My mind has been wandering. Again. From the way she says it, I am sure this isn’t the first time she has called me. “Please bring your violin, and let’s go.”

I do as I’m told, grabbing my learning pad as well. I want to play my new song, but I haven’t memorized it yet. I will attach it to the “pad holder” Berk made for me before he left. It attaches to the underside of the violin by a double-sided magnet that hardly weighs anything. A lightweight but sturdy wire loops out and forks into three thick fingers at the end. I slip a case on my learning pad and slip the case into the fingers. A perfect fit. And because Berk is brilliant, my learning pad is sturdy and the added weight is insignificant.

I lift my bow and move forward, trailing behind Rhen, my fingers itching to play this new piece. I have named it “Moonlight in C.” Not the most creative name, I know. But the Scientists do not like creativity in words. They appreciate technological creativity, scientific creativity, creative solutions to difficult problems. But words, like music, are tools. That is all. Excessive use of words is seen as wasteful. But if I could name it something else, I would call it “Musings of Moonlight.”

We leave our pod, lining up in pairs. Rhen and I are together. Behind us stand Moly and Senic. Ahead are Lute and Nic. There are twenty-eight in our pod. We silently, slowly, orderly walk through the hallways, our shoes tapping a rhythm in unison as we walk. I want to add in more percussion to the sound. Cymbals. A bass drum. Then a trumpet playing loud and clear over the rhythm section.

Rhen pokes her elbow into my side. I am dancing when I should be walking. The Monitors would not be pleased if they saw that.

I give Rhen a thank-you smile and keep walking, pushing the orchestrations out of my head.

We reach the end of our pod. The Monitors open the large double doors.

“Please return to your pods immediately.” The wall screen beside the front doors blinks on. The Announcer is slicking back his hair. The camera is off-center. “No pods may go outside tonight. The moon viewing is canceled for Pod C. I repeat, no one leaves your pod tonight. Monitors, all exits will be locked in five minutes. Make sure every pod member is accounted for at that time.”

We are all in shock. This never happens. Plans are made and followed through. Plans are never canceled. Rhen looks at me, her blue eyes wide.

The Monitors motion for us to return to our cubes.

I look at Rhen. “What do you think is going on?”

“I don’t need to know.” Rhen shrugs her thin shoulders.

Rhen can exasperate me at times. “Aren’t you even a little curious?”

“No.” Rhen lowers her voice. “And neither should you be.”

“Something unexpected must be going on out there.” My mind begins to race with all the possibilities.

“Thalli.” The Monitor steps beside me. “You are aware that talking in line is against policy, correct?”

“I am aware.”

“And yet you chose to talk anyway.”

“I did.” I do not like that rule. I was talking quietly, not disturbing anyone. I was peaceful about it. Why should it be a problem? But I lower my head, acknowledging that I have disobeyed. Again. There is nothing to be benefited from attempting to deny that fact.

“You will spend tonight in isolation.” Her fingers grip my
arm and guide me to the isolation chamber. She takes the violin from my hands and programs my learning pad to the behavior-modification module.

I hate the behavior-modification module. And the isolation chamber . . . normally I hate that too. I have spent more time in it than almost any of my pod mates. But tonight is different. Tonight I have an idea.

The isolation chamber is in the far corner of the pod, behind the kitchen. The Monitor locks me in and then walks away. She will not come to check on me. This is part of the punishment. I must sit on the sleeping platform and complete my lesson and then sit in silence until morning.

“The power will be out for the remainder of the evening.”

Lights flicker out as soon as the Announcer finishes. The power is never out for the night. Plans for the moon viewing are never canceled. Something is happening outside. Something exciting.

I find that, more than anything, I want to know what that is. I need to know.

A plan begins to form. A plan so outrageous I should refuse its entrance into my brain. But I cannot.

I will find a way to sneak outside and find out what is happening, why the viewing had to be canceled, why the Announcer was so harried. The power is out, so the cameras will not see me and the doors will be easy to unlock. I know this pod. I have lived here for seventeen years. I am sure I can get out and return without being caught.

The thought alone is enough to get me sent to something far worse than the isolation chamber. But the possibility is so exciting, my curiosity is so overwhelming, I find that I don’t
care. My desire to know what is going on outweighs any other desires.

Further confirmation that I am an anomaly.

But I don’t think about that. I plan. Tonight I will get outside the pod.

I will escape.


ell no one what you see.” One of the Scientists leans over the body of another Scientist. He hands complicated-looking pieces of machinery to a younger Scientist who is bent over the body.

I have been outside the pod for ten minutes. When the Culinary Specialist brought dinner to the isolation chamber, I followed her to the door, made sure the latch didn’t catch when she shut it. I rushed through the behavior-modification module, then I slipped out.

It was so exciting. The hallways were dark—even the panels above that look outside had been switched to the opaque
setting—providing further confirmation that something was going on outside, something they didn’t want us to see. I peeked around the corners. No Monitors. They were all asleep. They would never even think that one of us would consider leaving during the night. Escape was ridiculous. Insane. I only knew the word because I read about it in a history lesson. It was what the ancient government leaders were not able to do and so they perished aboveground.

BOOK: Anomaly
12.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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