Destroy Me (Shatter Me, #1.5)(4)


I watch his throat move as he swallows, hesitates. “We don’t know, sir,” he whispers. “The building should’ve been impossible to find, much less to enter. It’d been bolted and rusted shut. But when we found it,” he says, “when we found it, it was . . . the door had been destroyed. And we’re not sure how they managed it.”

I sit up. “What do you mean, destroyed?”

He shakes his head. “It was . . . very odd, sir. The door had been . . . mangled. As if some kind of animal had clawed through it. There was only a gaping, ragged hole in the middle of the frame.”

I stand up entirely too fast, gripping the table for support. I’m breathless at the thought of it, at the possibility of what must’ve happened. And I can’t help but allow myself the painful pleasure of recalling her name once more, because I know it must’ve been her. She must’ve done something extraordinary, and I wasn’t even there to witness it.

“Call for transport,” I tell him. “I will meet you in the Quadrant in exactly ten minutes.”


I’m already out the door.


Clawed through the middle. Just like an animal. It’s true.

To an unsuspecting observer it would be the only explanation, but even then it wouldn’t make any sense. No animal alive could claw through this many inches of reinforced steel without amputating its own limbs.

And she is not an animal.

She is a soft, deadly creature. Kind and timid and terrifying. She’s completely out of control and has no idea what she’s capable of. And even though she hates me, I can’t help but be fascinated by her. I’m enchanted by her pretend-innocence; jealous, even, of the power she wields so unwittingly. I want so much to be a part of her world. I want to know what it’s like to be in her mind, to feel what she feels. It seems a tremendous weight to carry.

And now she’s out there, somewhere, unleashed on society.

What a beautiful disaster.

I run my fingers along the jagged edges of the hole, careful not to cut myself. There’s no design to it, no premeditation. Only an anguished fervor so readily apparent in the chaotic ripping-apart of this door. I can’t help but wonder if she knew what she was doing when this happened, or if it was just as unexpected to her as it was the day she broke through that concrete wall to get to me.

I have to stifle a smile. I wonder how she must remember that day. Every soldier I’ve worked with has walked into a simulation knowing exactly what to expect, but I purposely kept those details from her. I thought the experience should be as undiluted as possible; I hoped the spare, realistic elements would lend authenticity to the event. More than anything else, I wanted her to have a chance to explore her true nature—to exercise her strength in a safe space—and given her past, I knew a child would be the perfect trigger. But I never could’ve anticipated such revolutionary results. Her performance was more than I had hoped for. And though I wanted to discuss the effects with her afterward, by the time I found her she was already planning her escape.

My smile falters.

“Would you like to step inside, sir?” Delalieu’s voice jolts me back to the present. “There’s not much to see within, but it is interesting to note that the hole is just big enough for someone to easily climb through. It seems clear, sir, what the intent was.”

I nod, distracted. My eyes carefully catalog the dimensions of the hole; I try to imagine what it must’ve been like for her, to be here, trying to get through. I want so much to be able to talk to her about all of this.

My heart twists so suddenly.

I’m reminded, all over again, that she’s no longer with me. She does not live on base anymore.

It’s my fault she’s gone. I allowed myself to believe she was finally doing well and it affected my judgment. I should’ve been paying closer attention to details. To my soldiers. I lost sight of my purpose and my greater goal; the entire reason I brought her on base. I was stupid. Careless.

But the truth is, I was distracted.

By her.

She was so stubborn and childish when she first arrived, but as the weeks passed she’d seemed to settle; she felt less anxious to me, somehow less afraid. I have to keep reminding myself that her improvements had nothing to do with me.

They had to do with Kent.

A betrayal that somehow seemed impossible. That she would leave me for a robotic, unfeeling idiot like Kent. His thoughts are so empty, so mindless; it’s like conversing with a desk lamp. I don’t understand what he could’ve offered her, what she could’ve possibly seen in him except a tool for escape.

She still hasn’t grasped that there’s no future for her in the world of common people. She doesn’t belong in the company of those who will never understand her. And I have to get her back.

I only realize I’ve said that last bit out loud when Delalieu speaks.

“We have troops all across the sector searching for her,” he says. “And we’ve alerted the neighboring sectors, just in case the group of them should cross ove—”

“What?” I spin around, my voice a quiet, dangerous thing. “What did you just say?”

Delalieu has turned a sickly shade of white.

“I was unconscious for all of one night! And you’ve already alerted the other sectors to this catastrophe—”

Tahereh Mafi's Books