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The Purge

I had never seen a single tree.

I wondered . . . I wondered if it would billow or stand firm against the currents of the wind. I wondered if it would be as straight and rigid as the city streets I see laid out endlessly before me. Or would it, I wonder, act upon its own bidding?

No one that I had ever known had spoken of them; only rumors in the streets, whispers of an Outland. No one but one.

And they had taken her.

No. She was clever, the smartest even. Maybe she wasn’t captured, maybe she . . . maybe she left?

I looked with tear-filled eyes to the leather bound Architect’s journal that still smelled of my grandmother. She never would’ve given this to me if she thought everything was okay. This journal was her life, her world. Why would she give her life away to me?

Running my finger down the length of the stained page, I despaired. In all my nine years, I’d never seen a single tree. To find my grandmother, I had to find the trees. And since they existed only as rumors here, tarnished illustrations on a page . . . this could only mean one thing: I had to go.

Leave Prosper.

I stood, still wearing the frilly dress from supper, and held the journal firmly to my chest. I tapped my small fingers against its hardened binding: Tap, tap. Tap. Repeat. Two quick dots and a longer dash—a cadence which soon fell in step with my beating heart.

In a flash, my fingers stopped their nervous drumming. My decision made. If I was to become the next Mistress of Science, then I might as well start acting like one.

I looked up, my eyes resting upon the curling wrought iron of the Estate’s main fence.

If no one else would go after her, I would.


Covering my bare arms with my hands, I rubbed what little warmth I could back into them. Perhaps I should’ve taken the time to grab my sweater—the soft one Mrs. Fawnsworth had knitted for me while she sat and scolded me through my arithmetic lessons of the past few weeks. What did she know about Science? She hated any of that ‘learn’ied’ stuff as she called it. She only feared what my mother would say if she found out I rather enjoyed drinking the sticky juice from the fruit bowls and grimying my hands as I played with the hanging roots of the Estate’s Hydroponics garden. Someone had to detangle them, otherwise they wouldn’t spread or grow to the edges of the glass tubes like they should.

What Mrs. Fawnsworth really feared was that, unlike my mother, she secretly enjoyed these things too.

A resounding sound in the distance made me jump, bringing me back to the reality of my mission. Pop. Pop. Pop. The noise again. I stared down the length of the deserted cobblestone street. The street that lay beyond the gates of the Estate. And its safety.

Where is everyone?

I had never traveled alone through Prosper, not even during the daylight hours and especially not at a time like this where the moon now rode triumphant. Though, surely the streets were never this deserted? Being the daughter of both the Head of Council and Mistress of Science, it could be dangerous. That Waif Wanderers and Abnormals roamed the streets at night.

I fidgeted in my dress. How much time had passed since I’d been walking down this dreadful street? Thirty minutes? An hour? And still, I saw no one. Only brick building after brick building, the occasional cart left out by a vendor. There was no point in trying to keep myself hidden within the low-hanging clouds. There was no one to hide from.

Do they even know I’m gone?

Keep moving, I urged myself. One foot in front of the other . . . one breath after the next. If I was to find Grandmother Everette I had to find the things she loved most: her trees.

I slowed as I came to a fork in the road of Sector 8, unsure which way to take. I looked behind me, up to the arched footbridge that spanned the distance between two homes, not recognizing it. Or was this Sector 7? The two sectors looked the same to me: rows upon rows of stacked brick buildings that loomed above like giant shadows ready to topple. Sometimes, I wondered, if the footbridges were the only things that kept the structures standing. I had only ever glimpsed Sector 7 once, peeking