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Last week, on Citizen:
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This week, tune in as our protagonist finds out what lies beyond her door! Which doesn’t sound sinister enough at all! But still!
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My eyes flew open and I sat up straighter in the chair, gripping its arms with white-knuckled fingers. I knew the sound immediately, though it was a wonder I did. The last time I had heard an actual door knock was back when I lived with my mother. I had last seen her over a decade ago.
A cold fear gripped my heart as the knock resounded once more through the door’s metal. I hadn’t imagined it. Something—or someone—was outside. How was that possible? No one could leave their Apartments, and no one would want to even if they could. Besides, my courtyard was like any other: surrounded by ten-foot-high cinderblock walls. Never mind getting out. How would someone get in?
Slowly, ever so slowly, curiosity pulled me from my chair. I left the voice of the dark-suited man behind me. Crossing the room to the door, I put one hand on the knob while trying to take deep breaths. My ribcage felt too small for my lungs, and I could hear my own heartbeat in my ears, as if I was still watching Angela be torn to pieces. Thinking of Angela reminded me once more of how she never backed down. She was never afraid. She always walked straight into danger, because it would be stupid to prolong the inevitable.
I counted to three.
I opened the door.
Jayden Wallace was standing in my courtyard.
The light from my living room, slightly blue due to the wallscreen, spilled into the night outside and illuminated his narrow face. Behind me the Administrator intoned Rule Two: “In order to avoid conflict and thus human suffering, all citizens should be kept physically separated from one another at all times.”
I tried to find words, but all that came out was a small squeak. There was a person—an actual, living, breathing, person—in my courtyard. Just feet away from my carrots. I took a step backward, searching for something to steady myself. A dresser promptly offered itself to me, and there I stood, hands shaking, fists clenched, breath coming in ragged gasps, as I tried to come to terms with the fact that Jayden Wallace was now casually striding into my Apartment as if everything was normal.
“Hello, Kate,” he said, his voice different than it sounded in Video Chats, somehow clearer, more alive. He was taller than he had seemed, too, or maybe he just looked that way since I was still slumped against the dresser. He dragged over my purple chair and sat in it. Jayden Wallace was in my chair.
That simple, impossible fact somewhat brought back my ability to speak, though I still lacked the talent to form coherent sentences. “How—what—?” My voice shook just as much as my hands.
Jayden grinned. “How am I here? What am I doing outside your wallscreen?” I nodded, still staring. “Well, it sounds weird, but I’m here to save you. I warned you not to freak out. Happy birthday, by the way.”
Of course; his message made sense now. Unfortunately, I was far past the freaking-out point, and here was where I found my voice. “Don’t freak out? How could you say that to me? How is this even possible? Are you insane? And during the Reading, for Network’s sake! And what do you mean, save me?”
“Rule Seven: all citizens are to communicate using the Network, which has been created for their enjoyment and ease of movement of ideas and information,” said the man on the wallscreen.
Jayden’s hand twitched, as if to reach out and touch me, but then it was still again, reminding me that he wasn’t used to this either. “Listen, there’s no time to explain everything. Let’s just say I have some friends who helped me get out of my room. I’m leaving the Apartments, Kate, and I want to take you with us.”
His speech was quick and confident—the opposite of mine. “Take me?” I asked. “Where? Why would I even want to go?”
Will Kate leave with Jayden? Will the purple chair ever be the same again? Will anyone actually start paying attention to the Reader?
Find out next week, on…
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