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Berserker Eyes Excerpt:
They watched us. And we watched each other. Searching for the telltale signs-a raised voice, clenched jaw, fisted hands, muscles as tight as security, and the serk gaze-we watched and waited. Anyone of us could be next. Every night before lights out, I stared at my own reflection, seeking the rage that might lurk behind my blue eyes. Will I be next?
Blue colored eyes and blond hair were recessive genes. Would my other recessive genes also manifest before my body stopped growing? The question plagued me as, I was sure, it did the others. I imagined a huge black question mark floated above my head.
Today, though was a rare day in the compound. Molly had been cleared. I walked with her to the administration building. Only security and teachers were allowed inside. And the cleared. There they rejoined their families and left the compound for good.
A small crowd of well-wishers had gathered to say goodbye, which was technically against the rules, but in this case security overlooked it. Although the guards eyed the new seventeen with suspicion. What was he doing here? He stood apart from the group and from the four guards waiting to escort Molly inside. Molly slowed, gnawing on her lower lip as she glanced at them and then around the compound.
I didn't need to turn my head to see what she saw—squat gray cinder block buildings interspersed with dirt-covered play fields and all surrounded by a tall chain linked fence topped with barbed wire. High security towers anchored the corners of the parameter.
"You're not going to miss this place," I said.
She pulled her brown-eyed gaze to mine. "No, but I'll miss you, Kate."
"For five seconds. Once you're reunited with your family, you'll forget all about me."
She grabbed my arm, stopping me. "Never. You're my best friend."
I smiled to ease the tension. "If I'm cleared, I'll make sure to find you out there." However my comment made her tighten her grip. "You better. Promise me that you will do everything you can to leave this place. Everything."
"Just promise me right now."
"Okay. I promise."
"And stay out of trouble."
Puzzled, I searched her expression. "I always do. Why-"
She glanced at the new seventeen. "He keeps staring at you. Stay away from him. Okay?"
"All right." That won't be hard to do. Security brought him in recently. Usually they arrived with zeros, ones and twos, but he was placed with the seventeens when they escorted him into the compound a couple weeks ago. So far, he'd spent most of his time in detention for multiple escape attempts. Again I wondered why he was even here. The few days he’d been free, he’d avoided everyone.
We continued to the admin building. Molly handed me the too-delicate-for-her-backpack wire vase she had made for her older sister. She'd been a four when she'd arrived. And unlike many of us who had been brought in much younger, Molly remembered her family. I held the statue while she hugged friends and said goodbye. Impatient to finish their day, security hustled her along and into the building before I could say farewell and return the gift for her sister.
Rushing forward without thought, I slipped inside before the door closed. I paused for a moment to let my eyes adjust from the bright sunshine outside. Then I looked around in disappointment. The hallway resembled all the hallways in the other buildings. We had elevated this building to super star status, I expected marble floors and extravagant paintings on the walls. Or at least rugs. But, no. The plain linoleum floors were as well worn as the one in our dorms and the walls as equally scuffed.
Voices to my left woke me from my musings. I turned in time to glimpse the end of the group turning down another corridor. Following the voices, I hurried to catch up but slowed as I drew nearer. Surely they wouldn't punish me for returning Molly's sculpture? And it seemed odd that we had gone down a number of steps. Perhaps I'd followed the wrong group.
I hung back, but when they entered a large room, I decided to approach them and get it over with. Stepping across the threshold, I paused. Everyone faced Molly who stood staring at them with a quizzical expression.
It happened so fast. A movement. A crack. Her forehead shattered. The surprise in her eyes as she flew back onto a plastic sheet.
From BRAVE NEW LOVE,
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EDITED BY: PAULA GURAN, RUNNING PRESS KIDS, FEBRUARY 2012, $9.95 US