Destroy Me (Shatter Me, #1.5)(11)

And suddenly this small, battered notebook means more to me than anything I’ve ever owned.


I don’t even know how I manage to get myself back to my own rooms so quickly. All I know is that I’ve locked the door to my bedroom, unlocked the door to my office only to lock myself inside, and now I’m sitting here, at my desk, stacks of papers and confidential material shoved out of the way, staring at the tattered cover of something I’m very nearly terrified to read. There’s something so personal about this journal; it looks as if it’s been bound together by the loneliest feelings, the most vulnerable moments of one person’s life. She wrote whatever lies within these pages during some of the darkest hours of her seventeen years, and I’m about to get exactly what I’ve always wanted.

A look into her mind.

And though the anticipation is killing me, I’m also acutely aware of just how badly this might backfire. I’m suddenly not sure I even want to know. And yet I do. I definitely do.

So I open the book, and turn to the next page. Day three.

I started screaming today.

And those four words hit me harder than the worst kind of physical pain.

My chest is rising and falling, my breaths coming in too hard. I have to force myself to keep reading.

I soon realize there’s no order to the pages. She seems to have started back at the beginning after she came to the end of the notebook and realized she’d run out of space. She’s written in the margins, over other paragraphs, in tiny and nearly illegible fonts. There are numbers scrawled all over everything, sometimes the same number repeating over and over and over again. Sometimes the same word has been written and rewritten, circled and underlined. And nearly every page has sentences and paragraphs almost entirely crossed out.

It’s complete chaos.

My heart constricts at this realization, at this proof of what she must’ve experienced. I’d hypothesized about what she might’ve suffered in all that time, locked up in such dark, horrifying conditions. But seeing it for myself—I wish I weren’t right.

And now, even as I try to read in chronological order, I find I’m unable to keep up with the method she’s used to number everything; the system she created on these pages is something only she’d be able to decipher. I can only flip through the book and seek out the bits that are most coherently written.

My eyes freeze on a particular passage.

It’s a strange thing, to never know peace. To know that no matter where you go, there is no sanctuary. That the threat of pain is always a whisper away. I’m not safe locked into these 4 walls, I was never safe leaving my house, and I couldn’t even feel safe in the 14 years I lived at home. The asylum kills people every day, the world has already been taught to fear me, and my home is the same place where my father locked me in my room every night and my mother screamed at me for being the abomination she was forced to raise.

She always said it was my face.

There was something about my face, she said, that she couldn’t stand. Something about my eyes, the way I looked at her, the fact that I even existed. She’d always tell me to stop looking at her. She’d always scream it. Like I might attack her. Stop looking at me, she’d scream. You just stop looking at me, she’d scream.

She put my hand in the fire once.

Just to see if it would burn, she said. Just to check if it was a regular hand, she said.

I was 6 years old then.

I remember because it was my birthday.

I knock the notebook to the floor.

I’m upright in an instant, trying to steady my heart. I run a hand through my hair, my fingers caught at the roots. These words are too close to me, too familiar. The story of a child abused by its parents. Locked away and discarded. It’s too close to my mind.

I’ve never read anything like this before. I’ve never read anything that could speak directly to my bones. And I know I shouldn’t. I know, somehow, that it won’t help, that it won’t teach me anything, that it won’t give me clues about where she might’ve gone. I already know that reading this will only make me crazy.

But I can’t stop myself from reaching for her journal once more.

I flip it open again.

Am I insane yet?

Has it happened yet?

How will I ever know?

My intercom screeches so suddenly that I trip over my own chair and have to catch myself on the wall behind my desk. My hands won’t stop shaking; my forehead is beaded with sweat. My bandaged arm has begun to burn, and my legs are suddenly too weak to stand on. I have to focus all my energy on sounding normal as I accept the incoming message.

“What?” I demand.

“Sir, I only wondered, if you were still—well, the assembly, sir, unless of course I got the time wrong, I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have bothered you—”

“Oh for the love of God, Delalieu.” I try to shake off the tremble in my voice. “Stop apologizing. I’m on my way.”

“Yes, sir,” he says. “Thank you, sir.”

I disconnect the line.

And then I grab the notebook, tuck it in my pocket, and head out the door.


I’m standing at the edge of the courtyard above the Quadrant, looking out at the thousands of faces staring back at me. These are my soldiers. Standing single-file line in their assembly uniforms. Black shirts, black pants, black boots.

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