Author’s Note: This was the part I wanted to get to, to share the start of understanding, but it sometimes feels like it took too long to get there, even if it’s not very far into things at all.
She stood by the window, looking out. She didn’t care what Vershon was doing. His way of investigating didn’t make any sense to her, and she was still angry with him for being unwilling to share anything interesting. What he had shown her was basic stuff, not anything more than what she could have picked up watching an entertainment show. This was pointless.
Then again, life seemed pointless now that she was stuck with a Talent restraint and assigned to SILT. She was a prisoner, even if they supposedly had given her a job, and she couldn’t do anything without them watching. Why would anyone want to live like this? How did Vershon and the others stand it? The one had said he was still angry, but Vershon just seemed dead inside.
“It is time to go,” Vershon said, and she sighed, not wanting to follow him again.
“Is that on a schedule or something? Do we have a curfew?”
“When you’re not working, you do.”
She swore, again, balling her fists. “And you don’t?”
“Why? Because you’re their faithful little servant?”
He caught her arm again, turning her around to face him. “Exactly what purpose do you think you’re serving provoking me? I told you—you are not special. Anyone with a known Talent is taken, restrained, and assigned a position in society. You cannot deviate from that place—none of us can. I work for them because I have to. It is that or death for me. Why is that so difficult for you to understand?”
“Because this is death. A living death, but still death, and you act like you’re fine being a prisoner. I don’t see how you can do it. Even if you or he claim you’re still angry, you don’t act like it. You don’t fight any of it. You don’t even… You expect someone new to accept it, too. You think I should just be fine with this, and I can’t be. No one should be. This is intolerable, and if you don’t think it is, then you are completely insane. They broke your mind and your spirit, and it sickens me to hear you act like I should be the same way. I’m not. I won’t be.”
Vershon shook his head. “You still don’t understand. You’re too—”
“If you say new, I will smack you.”
“It is true,” he insisted. “You don’t understand how this works or how anyone copes with it. You are still in the phase where you are monitored constantly and if you had any sense, you’d wait until that at least passed before you made an issue of everything. Discussing this sort of thing—nothing good ever comes of it. All you do is make trouble for yourself and whoever you’re talking to. This isn’t like before. That much should be obvious to you. You keep saying you’re a prisoner—then why do you keep talking like you’re free? You’re not.”
“You think I don’t know that? I do. That’s why I am so angry. You’re the one that’s acting like—like you accept it. Like you’ve given up. You’re so damned calm about all of this, and I can’t stand it or you or any of this. You make me want to scream.”
“I’m told it can be therapeutic, but it seems pointless to me.”
She balled her fists. “I take it back. You make me want to hit you. You really are soulless. You let them suck it right out of you, and you really think that’s how everyone should be? That we should just accept this and go along with it? You make me sick.”
He grabbed her arm, and she swallowed, once again aware of the strength he possessed. Would he do it? Would he actually hurt her?
“You don’t understand,” he hissed, and she swore he was finally showing an emotion. Anger. Well, it was something, wasn’t it? He wasn’t actually dead inside like she’d thought. “You’re new. That means they’re watching you. Constantly. You don’t get the luxury of saying whatever you want to say. If you want to have any hope of getting out of this, you have to learn to control your mouth.”
She frowned. Did he just say what she thought he said? There was a way out? The soulless one had a way out of this mess? Impossible.
“Did you just say—”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Yes, you did. I heard you say—”
“I didn’t say anything,” he insisted, and she shook her head, frustrated. He was being ridiculous. “Forget that. We’re done here and we need to leave.”
“How am I supposed to forget about that? You said—”
“I didn’t,” he repeated with a hiss, and she reached for him only to stop when she saw a sort of green light surround his hand right before he fell to the floor, as lifeless as the fake dead body next to him.