Destroy Me (Shatter Me, #1.5)(9)

I should shoot myself for it.

Instead, I open the door.

The panel slides shut behind me as I cross the threshold. I find myself alone, standing here, in the last place she touched. The bed is messy and unmade, the doors to her armoire hanging open, the broken window temporarily taped shut. There’s a sinking, nervous pain in my stomach that I choose to ignore.


I step into the bathroom and examine the toiletries, the cabinets, even the inside of the shower.


I walk back over to the bed and run my hand over the rumpled comforter, the lumpy pillows. I allow myself a moment to appreciate the evidence that she was once here, and then I strip the bed. Sheets, pillowcases, comforter, and duvet; all tossed to the floor. I scrutinize every inch of the pillows, the mattress, and the bed frame, and again find nothing.

The side table. Nothing.

Under the bed. Nothing.

The light fixtures, the wallpaper, each individual piece of clothing in her armoire. Nothing.

It’s only as I’m making my way toward the door that something catches my foot. I look down. There, caught just under my boot, is a thick, faded rectangle. A small, unassuming notebook that could fit in the palm of my hand.

And I’m so stunned that for a moment I can’t even move.


How could I have forgotten?

This notebook was in her pocket the day she was making her escape. I’d found it just before Kent put a gun to my head, and at some point in the chaos, I must’ve dropped it. And I realize I should’ve been looking for this all along.

I bend down to pick it up, carefully shaking out bits and pieces of glass from the pages. My hand is unsteady, my heart pounding in my ears. I have no idea what this might contain. Pictures. Notes. Scrambled, half-formed thoughts.

It could be anything.

I flip the notebook over in my hands, my fingers memorizing its rough, worn surface. The cover is a dull shade of brown, but I can’t tell if it’s been stained by dirt and age, or if it was always this color. I wonder how long she’s had it. Where she might’ve acquired it.

I stumble backward, the backs of my legs hitting her bed. My knees buckle, and I catch myself on the edge of the mattress. I take in a shaky breath and close my eyes.

I’d seen footage from her time in the asylum, but it was essentially useless. The lighting was always too dim; the small window did little to illuminate the dark corners of her room. She was often an indistinguishable form; a dark shadow one might never even notice. Our cameras were only good at detecting movement—and maybe a lucky moment when the sun hit her at the right angle—but she rarely moved. Most of her time was spent sitting very, very still, on her bed or in a dark corner. She almost never spoke. And when she did, it was never in words. She spoke only in numbers.


There was something so unreal about her, sitting there. I couldn’t even see her face; couldn’t discern the outline of her figure. Even then she fascinated me. That she could seem so calm, so still. She would sit in one place for hours at a time, unmoving, and I always wondered where she was in her mind, what she might be thinking, how she could possibly exist in that solitary world. More than anything else, I wanted to hear her speak.

I was desperate to hear her voice.

I’d always expected her to speak in a language I could understand. I thought she’d start with something simple. Maybe something unintelligible. But the first time we ever caught her talking on camera, I couldn’t look away. I sat there, transfixed, nerves stretched thin, as she touched one hand to the wall and counted.


I watched her count. To 4,572.

It took five hours.

Only afterward did I realize she was counting her breaths.

I couldn’t stop thinking about her after that. I was distracted long before she arrived on base, constantly wondering what she might be doing and whether she’d speak again. If she wasn’t counting out loud, was she counting in her head? Did she ever think in letters? Complete sentences? Was she angry? Sad? Why did she seem so serene for a girl I’d been told was a volatile, deranged animal? Was it a trick?

I’d seen every piece of paper documenting the critical moments in her life. I’d read every detail in her medical records and police reports; I’d sorted through school complaints, doctors’ notes, her official sentencing by The Reestablishment, and even the asylum questionnaire submitted by her parents. I knew she’d been pulled out of school at fourteen. I knew she’d been through severe testing and was forced to take various—and dangerous—experimental drugs, and had to undergo electroshock therapy. In two years she’d been in and out of nine different juvenile detention centers and had been examined by more than fifty different doctors. All of them described her as a monster. They called her a danger to society and a threat to humanity. A girl who would ruin our world and had already begun by murdering a small child. At sixteen, her parents suggested she be locked away. And so she was.

None of it made sense to me.

A girl cast off by society, by her own family—she had to contain so much feeling. Rage. Depression. Resentment. Where was it?

She was nothing like the other inmates at the asylum—the ones who were truly disturbed. Some would spend hours hurling themselves at the wall, breaking bones and fracturing skulls. Others were so deranged they would claw at their own skin until they drew blood, literally ripping themselves to pieces. Some had entire conversations with themselves out loud, laughing and singing and arguing. Most would tear their clothes off, content to sleep and stand naked in their own filth. She was the only one who showered regularly or even washed her clothes. She would take her meals calmly, always finishing whatever she was given. And she spent most of her time staring out the window.

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