Compatible

*I wrote this piece last semester for our school’s literary newspaper, so I thought I’d share it on here!*
Marian sat, eyes focused straight ahead, ignoring the world around her. There was a small hollow under a big oak tree down the road from her house; it was her favorite place when she needed an escape from everything. She wasn’t the only one who knew about this spot and almost didn’t hear him sit down next to her. Aaron had been her best friend for years. He knew everything about her, and she knew everything about him. Right now though, there was nothing that she wanted less than his sympathy. He just didn’t understand.

She said nothing, hoping he would just go away. The silence between them was heavy and difficult, but Marian was not about to break it first knowing that she would be sobbing in seconds if she spoke.

A few minutes passed before he said anything. His words were slow and careful.

“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked.

Marian shot him a look but had to turn away before she began to cry. She never let anyone see her cry if she could help it. It was exhausting and embarrassing as far as she was concerned.

“Sorry,” he said, “just trying to help.”

He sounded genuine, and Marian knew none of this was his fault. Her face softened, and she replied.

“I know. I just don’t know what there is to even say. There’s nothing I can do. I can’t even go home to see my parents and say goodbye.”

That did it: that first real acceptance of her reality was all it took for Marian to shatter. She began to sob and her whole body shook as Aaron pulled her to his shoulder. This only made her cry harder, of course, knowing how much he was trying to understand. She thought back to last week when she first heard the news.

—–


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?”


“Huh?”

“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.
The trees and leaves were on full display, brandishing their autumnal colors of reddish-browns and yellow-orange. The silence was thick but welcomed, and Marian sat beneath a small cluster of birch trees. She began to pick some wildflowers, weaving them skillfully into a long chain. About an hour had passed when she heard something crunching around the woods.

“Aaron?” she called, “Aaron, is that you?” She jumped up to go find him and suddenly had a sinking feeling in her gut.
In an instant, a group of fifteen or so men dressed in leather suits surrounded her. Before she had a chance to open her mouth and scream for help, she felt a sharp stab in her arm.
The last thing she could register was the circle of men closing in on her as she dropped to the ground unconscious.
—-
Marian lightly brushed her fingertips over the tattoo on her upper right arm. Bold and blue, it proclaimed her future with just one word: COMPATIBLE. The angry red flesh underneath burned; the tattoo had not healed all the way. 
For an entire week, Marian had sat in a cold and sterile room and had not seen or heard from anyone. She had woken up drowsy from whatever drug they had used to knock her out.  The room she was in was tiled all around and lit with fluorescent lights that hummed and flickered. Three times a day a dish with what seemed like flavorless oatmeal slid through a hatch in the door, but otherwise Marian was left alone in the corner of the room. 
I’m going to die here, she thought, and no one will ever know what happened to me. Why did I think that I could escape? Despite all the crying she had done recently, she felt a tear slip down her cheek. Why? What have I done? 
Silently, Marian allowed the tears to fall, knowing full well she was probably being watched by someone somewhere. She thought of her mom and dad, realizing that they probably had figured out what had happened. Of course they knew. Why else would she have disappeared after her check-up? There was only one reason for it. Her thoughts turned to Aaron, who knew of her escape and had even helped with it. What must he be thinking now?  He would be worried sick, though he probably would have guessed by now that she had been taken. 
Suddenly, Marian felt brave. If she could get out once, she could do it again, right? Slowly drying her tears, she tugged her shirt sleeve down over the glaring tattoo. Looking around for any possible ways of escape, she began to wonder if anyone would ever come to check on her. Seeing that the room was pretty well sealed, Marian determined that any possible escape would have to happen if someone ever opened the door. 
She settled back into her corner, beginning to plan her escape and what she would do once she got out of wherever it was she had been taken. Hours passed, and just as Marian began to wonder exactly how long she had been there, she heard voices. They came softly at first, but grew louder as they seemed to approach her door. This is it, she thought, if I’m quick, they won’t even have a chance to stop me.
The voices stopped right outside her door and she listened and waited for what seemed like forever. Marian rose to a crouching position and leaned forward, braced for whatever may walk through that door.
3…
The lock clicked free and the handle turned.
2…
Marian’s muscles tensed as the door slowly swung open.
1… 
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