Marian sat on the barely padded table. She felt awkward in the thin cotton gown, and the sterile white paper crinkled as she shifted nervously. What is he waiting for? I’ll have dropped dead from old age before the doctor gets here. Marian had just begun to count the polka-dots on the faded wallpaper across from her again when the door opened, and Dr. Elliot walked in. Preoccupied with his clipboard, he didn’t seem to hear Marian’s question. “Sorry?” he asked. “Can I just leave? Are we done?” She had been in this office a hundred times. Every Resident was required to have a check-up every six months. The Administration had been conducting studies and experiments for years before Marian was born. No one knew what they were looking for, just that if someone’s results came back with particular results, they were carted off and no one heard from them again. “Marian, I’m afraid it’s different this time.” “What do you mean?” Dr. Elliot’s face changed. He looked pretty serious, Marian was confused. What could that clipboard possibly say? “Um, I don’t get it. What’s wrong?” “Your results came back, and it seems as though you are compatible.” “Compatible? Compatible for what?” “It’s nothing to worry about, but we will need you to come with us…” Dr. Elliot continued, but Marian shut him out. She thought that if she didn’t listen, maybe it wasn’t true. Maybe this was just a dream.
Marian woke up, still leaning on Aaron’s shoulder. The light had changed and the sun was nearly below the horizon. Normally, she would have appreciated the beautiful sunset with the trees blackened against the sky, but she failed to see the beauty in much anymore. “Aaron, wake up.” She shook him gently and gave him a moment to come to his senses. “Sorry, didn’t mean to fall asleep,” he said. Marian said nothing, and the two just sat there for what seemed like hours. Soon the sky had turned from pink to purple and then to a deep blue. Once again, it was Aaron who broke the silence. “How did you get away?”
“How did you escape? No one is ever heard from once they’re identified as…” Aaron’s voiced trailed off, realizing what he was about to say, but it was too late.
“Just say it.” Marian practically spit the words out of her mouth, “Compatible. I’m compatible. And you know what? I don’t need your pity so you can keep it to yourself!” Without realizing it, Marian had risen to her knees. Shaking with anger, the tears threatened to reappear. She swiped her hand angrily across her eyes, hoping to stop them before she embarrassed herself a second time that night. Aaron tugged gently at her sleeve, urging her to calm down.
“I didn’t mean anything by it; I’m sorry. I know I couldn’t possibly understand what you’re going through, and I’m not going to pretend to. But Marian, you know you won’t be safe for long. You know that the Watchers will just find you again and drag you off”. He reached up to brush away a tear that had escaped Marian’s eye. She sank back down, trying to control her emotions.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, “I just don’t understand. What do they want from me? What makes me so special?” She hissed that last word:special.
Aaron said nothing, but he held her close until she fell asleep again.
Marian opened her eyes slowly, tired from all the crying but filled with a renewed determination to be free. There was no way she was going to be taken by the Administration for their secret tests. She was not their property.
Marian began to take in her surroundings, realizing the she was not in her own bed. Instead, she was on some thin mattress with an old quilt for a covering. About the size of a small shed, she crossed the wooden floor in five or six strides to look out a small window. She could see that she was somewhere in the woods, but none of it looked familiar. She began to wonder how she had gotten there when the door opened, and she jumped. She relaxed as she saw Aaron walk in.
“Didn’t mean to scare you,” he said. “I just had to get out for a few minutes. Clear my head.”
“Where are we?” questioned Marian, “I don’t think I’ve been here before.”
“I guess you don’t know everything about me,” said Aaron with a wink. “My dad built this place years ago, after my mom…well, you know.”
Marian nodded, remembering that Aaron’s mom had been deemed Compatible years ago.
“It was his way of escaping, so I figured we could use it, too.” Aaron dropped to the bed and kicked off his boots. Marian eased down, feeling safe for the moment.
“So no one knows about this place?” she wondered.
“Not a soul. We’re miles from the nearest town, and nobody ever goes in the woods anymore, anyways.”
He was right; ever since the Administration took over, all Residents were provided for—supposedly out of the goodwill of the Administration. Really, all it meant was that no one left their town because everything they needed came in the monthly supply trucks. Marian had never so much as seen anyone from another town, except in books and movies.
“Well, if it’s that safe, I’m going outside. I need some fresh air anyways.” Marian jumped up and laced up her boots.
“Fine…just be careful, and don’t wander off too far.” Marian rolled her eyes. Aaron was always so protective of her. Not that she minded, but she was old enough to take care of herself. Being twenty, she was just a year shy of the cut-off for the check-ups. Aaron had passed the cut-off two years ago.
“I will,” she said dismissively, “I just want to look around a little.”
Out in the woods, Marian was able to think about the past week, and she finally began to process what her life was going to be like. She would never see her family again. Chances are the Administration had come many times, just waiting for her to come home. In fact, Aaron was probably the only person she would ever see again. Not a terrible thing, but considering she was only twenty, it was a daunting thought. She chased it from her mind and focused on where she was.
“Aaron?” she called, “Aaron, is that you?” She jumped up to go find him and suddenly had a sinking feeling in her gut.