The Death of the Wave

The Death of the Wave by G. L. Adamson Read Free Book Online

Book: The Death of the Wave by G. L. Adamson Read Free Book Online
Authors: G. L. Adamson
in the darkness.
    Remorse, even here, right here where I was supposed to die?
    And I reached up a hand to touch that pristine face, vandalizing with my blood
    that face that shone out like a blasphemy.
    How marvelous.
    How trite.
    But I am, I am alive, for reasons that I cannot, will not understand.
    The Breaker gripped my arm and led me out to my destination.
    The clatter of school-children. The ring of a bell.
    Down the gray corridor, down in the Hive.
    It was testing day, it was testing day.
    376 was there, at his post.
    He saw the damage once more that he had done
    at Galileo’s urging
    but could only put a rifle into my hands for comfort.
    He read from a scroll, the numbers unfamiliar save for one.
    I could not think. I could not feel.
    I was taken around the back.
    The rifle was heavy in my hands.
    My thoughts were fog, a gun was at my side,
    and I could not comprehend that—
    The face of a marvel and a voice of velvet discarded to rot in the street.
    I have need of you.
    But the children. The children.
    The children were lined up, facing the back wall.
    I could not see their faces.
    I was—
    I am—
    I turned to 376 and asked for a mask.
    No mask, he said, and cocked his gun.
    I stepped forward with the rifle, his gun was at my back.
    The other Breaker watched from the doorway to pick me off if I tried to run.
    I would not.
    I would not run.
    I stepped down the line and fired with my eyes half-closed.
    Just percussion sounds, I told myself.
    Not gunshots at all.
    No blood.
    Just children, children made of straw.
    I willed myself to stop breathing.
    Just four more. Just—
    I should have gone, should have turned to run, should have been gunned down there in the sunlight, should have slipped and fallen in the blood of children.
    But I did nothing.
    I fired down the line and I willed myself dead.
    I could not think. I could not feel.
    And the last, my brother, he said the words for me, as he always has.
    “Will it hurt?”
    And I fired in time to catch him in my arms.
    In that last second he had turned his head to see me, and I held him in the sunlight.
    I cannot think. I cannot feel.
    But there must have been tears, the salt stung my face and I remember.
    I remember.
    But I was so afraid and so alone, and I owed them so much.
    Aftermath. Emptiness.
    I had been put under probation, close watch, not to return home.
    My mother sat alone in our little house,
    the news of my brother’s failure played on the third channel by midnight.
    I see her now, threadbare robe wrapped, sitting on a threadbare couch.
    Galileo mounted the podium, elegant and slim in robes that were too small for him,
    and read the names.
    He always read the names in tones of perfect solemnity, referred to them as the fallen,
    but his eyes gleamed as if he were laughing,
    and my mother was alone.
    As I was when they took my brother away from me.
    It took both Breakers to tear him from my arms, just long enough to see that my bullet,
    that my bullet was true.
    376 had held me for a very long time.
    I had kept my promise.
    It didn’t hurt.
    It didn’t—
    And the rain, the rain washed his blood away, I was clean enough for the Palaces.
    Galileo was waiting for me.
    His bruised and broken Breaker so ill at ease in his gleaming reception room where the walls shone like mirrors and others stood handsome in their sleek black uniforms.
    I fell at his feet and his hands came to cup the face
    that he had beaten and bruised so mercilessly.
    They were cool like marble and far off, far off the voice of a small child crying in relief.
    “Kill me,” that small voice said, the voice I could not, would not recognize as my own.
    He gazed at me in silence and there was something like affection in those still, opal eyes.
    “Is that what you want? Think now. You wanted so badly to live.”
    I sagged in those elegant hands.
    “I-I was…I was so afraid—”
    “Of course you were.”

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