Escaping will be difficult and dangerous. Citizens are bound to their county by sophisticated chip implants that deliver shocks to anyone who crosses the county's electric barrier. Sydney is very clever, but her trickery is limited against the all-seeing eyes of county technology. It seems impossible to escape into the forgotten forests and cities of the past, but Sydney is determined to find a way if she is denied guardianship of her sister. For years she has longed to break free from the government's experimental Petri Dish and the hallowed drones that inhabit it.
What Sydney doesn't know is that the county has particular interest in her. Her place in this complex dystopia is about to change. Deceit, fear, and warfare, will come to characterize her life, yet her love for Evvie will always prevail. She must protect her sister, but at what cost?
Chapter 26 (pgs. 178-180 in paperback). Significance: Sydney has a nightmare that is relevant to her reality. Through it, she realizes that in demanding a mission to recover her sister from harm, she risks the lives of the righteous soldiers who have become her friends.
Finally, I run from the sleeping quarters in my pajamas to look for Evvie elsewhere in the orphanage. I think I find her in the shower commune, but the shivering little girl with the long, soaking hair isn’t her. I grab a towel off of the high shelf that she can’t reach and wrap it around her. The little girl smiles and thanks me kindly. I nod and turn to exit but she calls to me. I turn around to see what she needs.
“Did you try the dining hall?” she asks with a sinister grin. I cock my head with confusion. How did she know that I was looking for Evvie? Her eyes blacken and she lets out a menacing laugh, more chilling than the other girls giggling in unison. I back away from her slowly and then turn to run to the dining hall.
Below the split-level stairs I hear the echoes of marching feet. I duck as I round onto the lower level to see what’s before me.
All of the boys wear hunter green cargo pants and tee shirts. All at once, they turn their heads and glance at me at the foot of the stairwell. I wouldn’t have noticed her otherwise, but the voice of the one who tells the rest to proceed is a girl just a bit older than me. I know her from somewhere.
The boys heed to their order and begin filing into the dining hall. I become aware of an African American boy who reaches for the hand of a younger boy with the same colored skin who marches by his side. The little boy looks up at who appears to be his big brother. The little one reads bravery in his brother’s face, but from my distance I can tell that it’s feigned. The younger brother looks straight ahead and tries to find courage, for both of their sakes, while the older brother swallows hard.
At first, all that can be heard as they round the corner into the dining hall is the rhythm of their marching feet, but soon screams and wails of agony accompany the drum.
I run past the brick wall to the glass-pane hallway where I see the director of the orphanage. She wears a pair of black-rimmed, rectangular glasses and a black, ceremonial vestment, similar to a judge’s robe. The director smiles at me and then electrocutes a boy with the click of a button. She holds the button, eyes fixed on me, until he falls motionless on the floor. Then I recognize a shriller scream to the side of me. Evvie.
She is strapped into a stilted chair, floating high above the action. She begs for the director to stop, but the massacre continues. Evvie cries to the boys, trying to warn them, but they march on, bravely, to their deaths.
I try to run to my tortured sister, but a thick glass wall stops me. I spin around but I’m engulfed by impenetrable glass. Evvie sees me, but she’s not concerned that I’m trapped. She continues to whimper and plead, but now it’s me that she’s begging to stop.
I look down to find the remote in my hand. My thumb presses the button. I drop it, but the groans of the tortured boys continue. The glass thickens and becomes foggy. I can’t see what’s happening. I can’t see Evvie. The faces of the giggling girls upstairs suddenly surround the glass. They push the glass closer and closer, pinching my hand against the button on the remote that is again in my hand. I can’t breathe, nor can I stop the screams or the laughter. I gasp for air, but find none.
Something light and cool strokes my cheek. Finally, air rushes into my lungs. I spin around and the girls are gone. So is the glass that trapped me.
“Sorry,” a voice says. I roll over on the cold floor to see Crewe sitting beside me. He is dressed in camouflage again, and a gun lies across his lap. “You were having a nightmare. I just thought… sorry.”
It was just a nightmare, but then so is the reality I’ve awoken to.
GABRIELLE ARROWSMTIH enjoyed writing her debut novel, Concealed in the Shadows, during a lovely Minnesota summer that she had off from her primary profession, teaching. She looks forward to continuing the story. Acting, playing and coaching soccer, reading, playing piano, and spending time with family and friends are among her other interests.