You can never escape from me. Those were the last words he said to me, just before he left my room that night.
But in the end, it’s remarkably easy to escape.
As I walk past the common room, I can see the way things will one day be. Kayleigh is snuggled into Harley’s arm on the couch by the window—their love will grow and spread and be everything they want. Bartie plays a song for Victria. Victria may or may not fall for the guitar player, but their friendship won’t fade. They are an idyllic vision of what I once wanted in my life.
In the corner, watched closely by Doc, is Luthor. He stares at me, eyes narrowed, as I cross the room. He blames me for the close watch he’s been under these past few weeks, the additional pills. He hasn’t forgotten.
But I almost have.
I take the elevator down to the lobby, then stroll down the path that leads from the Hospital to the Recorder Hall. I think about going into the Hall, maybe seeing the sculpture one last time, but the idea doesn’t create an urge in me to make the effort to continue up the stairs.
Orion stands in the doorway. He starts to talk to me, but then he frowns as I pass by.
The path bleeds into the road that leads deeper into the Feeder Level. I know where I’m going—I’ve already talked about this with Doc, who got permission from Eldest for my reassignment.
Kayleigh was right. Without the pills, you really do feel nothing.
And nothing can be nice.
I open my palm, letting my last blue-and-white pill drop heedlessly to the ground.
I stand at the fence, staring down at the large rabbits used for meat on the ship. This is my new job.
I glance back once.
Luthor will forget about me. He wanted my music, but empty people don’t sing. I’ll stay here. I will care for the rabbits. I will let myself become a nothing, and then Luthor won’t want me, because there will be nothing to want.
It took several days before I felt the fear fade.
I didn’t know that everything else would fade too.
But it’s nice to be without the fear. Without the sad.
In the end, it didn’t seem like such a big price to pay.
My songs, in exchange for nothing.
Nothing is nice.
Empty is good.
I cross over the fence. The rabbits hop. Up and down. Ears twitch.
I will be this girl, the girl who cares for the rabbits. Luthor took my music when he took everything else from me that night. What does it matter to me if I let the emptiness fill my shell?
The Day I Die
I hum a song.
I do that sometimes.
I like sounds.
“ Hello, Selene,” a deep male voice says from the fence of the rabbit fields.
I stop humming.
“ Do you remember me?” the man asks.
“You’re Luthor,” I say.
Luthor nods. “I told you before, call me Luthe. All my friends do. ”
But . . . I don’t think he is a friend.
The fence around the rabbit field is nothing but chicken wire. He crumples it and shoves it away as easily as if it were made of paper.
“ Selene,” he says. I like sounds, but I don’t like the way my name snarls around his lips.
“You were always my perfect girl,” he says softly. The rabbits scurry out of his way as he walks slowly toward me.
Runrunrunrunrunrunrunrunrun. My mind screams at me, but my body doesn’t move.
Everything is dull around me. A splintered memory jabs into my brain, trying to spark life into me, but everything is slow and steady. I can hear my heartbeat in my ears, a dull, normal beat . .. beat . . . beat. Not the panicked racing of the rabbit’s heartbeat when I hold it down. But I feel like a rabbit, one selected for slaughter.
Luthor touches the side of my face, runs his fingers down my cheek, tucks a strand of hair behind my ear.
“ Sing for me,” he says.
“ Singing isn’t productive,” I say. But I do sing, sometimes. Or hum. I like sounds. The rabbits like sounds. Sometimes we sing together.
But I don’t want to sing for him.
Luthor’s hands slip down my neck, his fingers pressing slightly against my throat. “Sing,” he commands.
My mouth opens, my body automatically ready to obey the command.
But there is something inside me that silences my voice.
I will not give him what he wants, this rebel inside me whispers.
I do not sing.
Luthor’s grip on my neck tightens, and he pushes me down, first to my knees, then to my back. “You are mine,” he growls. “If I can’t have her, I will take you. ”
My body doesn’t protest. It has been trained by years of drugs and acquiescence. I shut my eyes.
“You’re more like clay now than you were before.”
I open my eyes.
Luthor is grinning.
“In the story, Pygmalion turned his girl of clay into a human. But I have turned a human into a girl of clay. And that is, by far, the better option. ”
I open my mouth.
And I sing then. Not the song Luthor wants. I sing for myself, a dirge, a mournful wail. I sing—I scream—until Luthor’s hands around my throat silence me.
And I die. But at least I die in song.