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We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . .
Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost--how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.
Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . .
There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked: Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss--maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it's his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her.
When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again.
what?” she asks. “I was,” he says again. “And now I’m not.” She sees clearly now that he’s not old—just about half a dozen years older than she is, perhaps. His face doesn’t resemble anything she’s ever seen before—the thick brow, the heavy jaw—and yet could he have once been someone else? “Do I know you from the academy? Did you attend?” He stares at her as if he’s trying to remember something long lost. “You were an academy boy. You became Special Forces. This is what they turned you into?”
Dome. “I know you’re there! I’m going to come for you, and I’ll kill you for this! If I could, I’d rip out the part of you inside of me. I’d rip you clean out.” He stares up at the sky. His body starts to shake. He lets go of Pressia’s arms. He looks again, and there is his sister’s face. She stares at him, her face streaked with dirt and tears. It’s his sister. The bloody mist is gone. PRESSIA BLOOD ONCE FREE OF PARTRIDGE, Pressia runs to her mother’s body. Her jaw is gone. Her
holds it over his head like a prize. “Stop,” she whispers, wishing he’d get back in the shadows. He runs to her and gets down on his knee. “Here,” he says. “Give me your foot.” “It’s okay,” she says. “I can do it.” Her cheeks are flushed. She’s embarrassed and mad at him too. Who does he think he is, anyway? He’s a Pure who’s been kept safe, who’s had it easy his whole life. She can put on her own shoe. She’s not a child. She bends down, rips her shoe out of his hand, and puts it on herself.
moment that this is what the Meltlands could be, a museum, researched for authenticity. “You remember what it was like before the Detonations?” he asks Bradwell. “I lived out here for a little while with my aunt and uncle.” Partridge, whose mother had refused to leave the city, had only visited his friends’ houses there. He remembers the sound of the gates—the low hum of electricity, grating gears, loud clunks of metal. Even though the houses in the gated communities were crammed next to one
knuckles. Partridge presses his fingers together, exposing the pinky, alone. Our Good Mother places the tip of the knife on one side of Partridge’s pinky, raises the back of the knife, and in one swift motion lowers the back of the blade on Partridge’s pinky, right at the middle knuckle. The sound—almost a pop—makes Pressia gasp. Partridge doesn’t scream. It happens too quickly. He stares at his hand, the fast-pooling blood, half of his pinky, disconnected. It must be oddly numb for a moment