Deleted Scene – Clair has a Very Bad Dream

(So . . . in early drafts the issue of Clair being invaded by Mallory was played a lot harder. Here, in the train, is where Clair first confronts that fear.)

The dream was hard-edged and sharp, like a machete. She tried to worm free of it several times, but once it had her pinned there was no escaping. There was only blood, and pain, and degradation, and despair.

A concrete city pocked with craters.

Lines of men gunned down in waves.

Clouds of smoke blotting out the sun.

Mothers and sisters herded like cattle.

Diseased and starving, dying by degrees.

Soldiers. Doctors. Prisoners. Victims.

And death, every breath a reminder of it, every bite, every hard-won calorie a respite from the inevitable, every vicious, desperate, clawing scramble out of the pile of bodies a little less fear in her heart, every day a stumbling step–not forward, not onward, just for its own sake, the alternative falling down and dying, and that she would not do.

That she would not do.

To outlive her enemies was to defeat them. The mantra pumped strength through her veins. Her enemies were her fellow campmates struggling for weevil-ridden crusts, the cruel wardens reigning over them, and the environment engineers in their far-off palaces. She was indiscriminate. The world was her enemy. She would triumph over it, or die.

And with every day she lived, a little more of her heart withered. The memories of her mother and sisters turned as gray as the mud under her feet. Their voices became cries of sadness before falling into silence. Her father she barely remembered at all, just the whipcrack gunshots and his slump-shouldered body falling to the ground.

“You’re special,” he’d used to tell her. “You’re unique. You’re beautiful . . . Mallory.”

#

She woke with her breath stopped in her throat as though someone was choking her. For a second, she didn’t know where she was. On the train to the camp? On the train to the coast? Her confusion was complete. The words of the Improvement note were still ringing in her mind.

You are special.

You are unique.

And you have been selected.

But who am I? She would have stumbled over her name if anyone had asked her at that moment.

Clair sat up, thinking of brain damage again and feeling ill right down to her core. The carriage was lit only by power LEDs and static displays, a forest of yellows, reds, greens and blues. People lay sprawled around her with their eyes shut. Her head was pounding, like the atmosphere was crushing it. She felt trapped and desperate. Jesse had rolled over in his sleep so his leg was touching hers. She couldn’t bear being so close to him now, to anyone. She wanted to leap out of the carriage and onto solid earth, feel the bedrock under her feet. She wasn’t used to things moving, shifting, turning the way they did in the world Jesse and the others inhabited. She wanted everything to be still, just for a moment, so the person she had been could catch up. If it wasn’t too late.

“God, I hope it’s not,” she breathed.

Libby and Zep’s voices did nothing at all to reassure her.

I had a migraine, that’s all.

Her grandmother was murdered in some camp somewhere, and she was raped as a child. . . .

 

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