Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)(7)

We don’t really have seasons anymore.

The animals are dying, birds don’t fly, crops are hard to come by, flowers almost don’t exist. The weather is unreliable. Sometimes our winter days hit 92 degrees. Sometimes it snows for no reason at all. We can’t grow enough food anymore, we can’t sustain enough vegetation for the animals anymore, and we can’t feed the people what they need. Our population was dying off at an alarming rate before The Reestablishment took over and they promised us they had a solution. Animals were so desperate for food they were willing to eat anything and people were so desperate for food they were willing to eat poisoned animals. We were killing ourselves by trying to stay alive. The weather, the plants, the animals, and our human survival are all inextricably linked. The natural elements were at war with one another because we abused our ecosystem. Abused our atmosphere. Abused our animals. Abused our fellow man.

The Reestablishment promised they would fix things. But even though human health has found a modicum of relief under the new regime, more people have died at the end of a loaded gun than from an empty stomach. It’s progressively getting worse.


My head snaps up.

His eyes are wary, worried, analyzing me.

I look away.

He clears his throat. “So, uh, they only feed us once a day?”

His question sends both our eyes toward the small slot in the door.

I curl my knees to my chest and balance my bones on the mattress. If I hold myself very, very still, I can almost ignore the metal digging into my skin. “There’s no system to the food,” I tell him. My finger traces a new pattern down the rough material of the blanket. “There’s usually something in the morning, but there are no guarantees for anything else. Sometimes . . . we get lucky.” My eyes flick up to the pane of glass punched into the wall. Pinks and reds filter into the room and I know it’s the start of a new beginning. The start of the same end. Another day.

Maybe I will die today.

Maybe a bird will fly today.

“So that’s it? They open the door once a day for people to do their business and maybe if we’re lucky they feed us? That’s it?”

The bird will be white with streaks of gold like a crown atop its head. It will fly. “That’s it.”

“There’s no . . . group therapy?” He almost laughs.

“Until you arrived, I hadn’t spoken a single word in two hundred sixty-four days.”

His silence says so much. I can almost reach out and touch the guilt growing on his shoulders. “How long are you in for?” he finally asks.

Forever. “I don’t know.” A mechanical sound creaks/ groans/cranks in the distance. My life is 4 walls of missed opportunities poured into concrete molds.

“What about your family?” There’s a serious sorrow in his voice, almost like he already knows the answer to that question.

Here is what I know about my parents: I have no idea where they are. “Why are you here?” I talk to my fingers to avoid his gaze. I’ve studied my hands so thoroughly I know exactly where each bump cut and bruise has ravaged my skin. Small hands. Slim fingers. I curl them into a fist and release them to lose the tension. He still hasn’t responded.

I look up.

“I’m not insane,” is all he says.

“That’s what we all say.” I cock my head only to shake it a fraction of an inch. I bite my lip. My eyes can’t help but steal glances out the window.

“Why do you keep looking outside?”

I don’t mind his questions, I really don’t. It’s just strange to have someone to talk to. It’s strange to have to exert energy to move my lips to form words necessary to explain my actions. No one has cared for so long. No one’s watched me closely enough to wonder why I stare out a window. No one has ever treated me like an equal. Then again, he doesn’t know I’m a monster my secret. I wonder how long this will last before he’s running for his life.

I’ve forgotten to answer and he’s still studying me.

I tuck a piece of hair behind my ear only to change my mind. “Why do you stare so much?”

His eyes are careful, curious. “I figured the only reason they would lock me up with a girl was because you were crazy. I thought they were trying to torture me by putting me in the same space as a psychopath. I thought you were my punishment.”

“That’s why you stole my bed.” To exert power. To stake a claim. To fight first.

He drops his eyes. Clasps and unclasps his hands before rubbing the back of his neck. “Why’d you help me? How’d you know I wouldn’t hurt you?”

I count my fingers to make sure they’re still there. “I didn’t.”

“You didn’t help me or you didn’t know if I’d hurt you?”

“Adam.” My lips curve around the shape of his name. I’m surprised to discover how much I love the easy, familiar way the sound rolls off my tongue.

He’s sitting almost as still as I am. His eyes are pulled together with a new kind of emotion I can’t place. “Yeah?”

“What’s it like?” I ask, each word quieter than the one before. “Outside?” In the real world. “Is it worse?”

An ache mars the features of his finely chiseled face. It takes him a few heartbeats to answer. He glances out the window. “Honestly? I’m not sure if it’s better to be in here or out there.”

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