Raven: A Delirium Short Story

Raven: A Delirium Short Story by Lauren Oliver

Book: Raven: A Delirium Short Story by Lauren Oliver Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lauren Oliver
Here are the top three things I’ve learned in my twenty-two years on the planet:
    1)        Never wipe your butt with poison ivy.
    2)        People are like ants: Just a few of them give all the orders. And most of them spend their lives getting squashed.
    3)        There are no happy endings, only breaks in the regular action.
    Of all of them, number three is really the only one you have to keep in mind.
    “This is stupid,” Tack says. “We shouldn’t be doing this.”
    I don’t bother replying. He’s right, anyway. This is stupid, and we shouldn’t be doing it. But we are.
    “If anything goes wrong, we abort,” Tack says. “I mean anything. I won’t miss out on Christmas for this shit.”
    “Christmas” is code for the next big mission. We’ve only heard rumors about it so far. We don’t know when, and we don’t know where. All we know is that it’s coming.
    I feel a sudden wave of nausea, a tide rolling up to my throat, and swallow it.
    “Nothing will go wrong,” I say, even though of course I can’t know that. That’s what I said about migration this year. Nobody dies, I said, over and over, like a prayer.
    I guess God wasn’t listening.
    “Border patrol,” I say, as though Tack can’t see the solid cement wall, darkened by rain, and the checkpoints ahead. He eases on the brakes. The van is like an old man: always hacking and shuddering and taking forever to do what you want it to. But as long as it gets us where it needs to go.
    “We could have been halfway to Canada by now,” Tack says, which is, of course, an exaggeration. That’s how I know he’s upset. Tack hardly ever exaggerates. He says exactly what he means, only when he means it.
    It’s one of the reasons I love him.
    We get through the border without any trouble. Eight years of living in the Wilds and four of working actively with the resistance, and I’ve learned that half the country’s security is for show. It’s all a big song and dance, a stage production: a way of keeping the tiny ants in line, cowed by fear, heads bent to the dirt. Half the guards are barely trained. Half the walls unpatrolled. But it’s the image that matters, the impression of constant surveillance, of containment.
    Ants are driven by fear.
    Tack is quiet as we drive down the West Side Highway, empty of traffic. The river and the sky are the same slate-gray color, and the rain sends sheets of water across the road. The clouds have the same low-down, swollen-belly look they did on the day, years ago, when I Crossed.
    The day I found her.
    I still can’t say her name.
    I used to be an ant too. Back when I lived before, back when I had a different name, back when the only scar I had was a small, thin fissure on my abdomen, where the doctors had had to remove my appendix.
    I can still remember my old house: the gauzy curtains that smelled like gardenias and plastic; the carpet sprinkled with baking soda and vacuumed daily; the quiet, heavy as a hand. My festa hand.ather liked quiet. Noise made the buzzing start up in his brain—like a storm of bees, he once told me. The louder the buzzing got, the more he couldn’t think. The more he couldn’t think, the angrier he got. Until he had to break, he had to stop it, he had to smash back all that sound with a fist, until there was quiet again.
    We were a whirlpool, circling constantly around him, trying to keep the buzzing from coming back.
    I almost drowned in that house.
    I turn to Tack, realizing he’s been trying to get my attention. “What?” I say, a little too sharply.
    Tack has slowed down in front of a parking lot on Twenty-Fourth Street, unattended, empty except for two cars. The street is lined with identical apartments, stiff as sentinels, blinds pulled down against the rain: a whole street of darkened red brick and bird-shit-stained front steps and blindness.
    “We’re early,” he says.
    “She had seven hours on us, at

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