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“If you haven't figured it out yet, get a set of clothes that will fit you,” Aaron instructs. “It will be best if you blend in on the other side.”

I grab my size and follow Ethan to the dressing rooms just as everyone rushes for the clothes. I’m relieved to be out of the way.

The clothes are plain; a t-shirt with no collar, a pair of jeans, and a jacket.

Sigh, the deviants must hate color as well.

As quickly as I can, I dress in the new clothes and tuck my mother’s photo in the back pocket of my jeans. There’s a tight sensation in my chest as I bundle my clothes, and holding them to my chest, I head back to the front.

“Um … what should I do with these?” I look at Aaron, gripping my clothes tightly. These are the last items I have that are my own, and I hope we get to take them with us.

He looks up from a clipboard and points to a bin with a pen. “Throw them in there.”

My heart sinks some more. Walking to the bin, I notice a pile of clothes lying at the bottom.

When I hesitate, Ethan says, “Just throw them in. You won’t need them where we’re going. Here’s your bag. I packed your portion of food, water, and a first aid kit.”

He makes it sound like none of this matters to him. How can this be so easy for him?

With a heavy heart, I toss the clothes in the bin and watch the items land at the bottom. I didn’t even get to wear them for a full day.

Letting out a sigh, I take the backpack from Ethan and shrug the straps onto my shoulders.

Suddenly, Ethan reaches for my hair but stops an inch from touching me. I freeze and stare at him.

He looks handsome in the black clothes.

I flush at the direction my thoughts are heading in and lower my eyes to the floor, scared that he might be able to see what I’m thinking.

“You’ll have to take those clips out of your hair. They don’t have luxuries like hairclips where we’re going,” he murmurs, compassion lacing his words.

My eyes dart back up as he mentions the hairclips. It’s all I have of my mother.

“Oh.” It’s a lame word, but it’s all I can manage.

He must think I’m an idiot.

He draws his hand back and adjusts the straps on his backpack, a serious expression on his face, not allowing any other emotion to show.

I’m sad and terrified to be leaving the only place that’s ever been my home. Dread knots in my stomach into a tight, burning ball.

I wish I could be as calm as Ethan.

Gently removing the hairclips, I tuck them in my jacket’s pocket, hoping Ethan doesn’t tell me to throw them in the bin. I untie and smooth my hair out neatly, then retie the strands again.

“Listen up,” Aaron calls out. Everyone is dressed in black with a backpack on their backs.

The color doesn’t suit Ruth’s small frame, and it makes Mr. Demetrius look older.

“Once you’re on the other side of the boundary marker, don’t forget why you’re there. Be the courageous crusaders you’ve been chosen to be. Spread the word and recruit people to be virtuous.” Not once does Aaron make eye contact with anyone.

Chapter 4


It’s a long way to walk to the boundary marker. I don’t think I’ve ever done so much walking in my entire life.

Geez. I might die of exhaustion before we even reach the boundary marker.

Yep, I’d go down in history as the only person who didn’t even make it to the forbidden territory.

How embarrassing would that be?

Then again, I wouldn’t know because I’ll be dead.

What am I thinking?

It’s the fear. It’s driving me insane.

I shake my head and take a deep breath to try and calm my frail nerves. Ruth hasn’t stopped crying, and it’s not helping. Her sniffling is wreaking havoc on my emotions.

I look up, trying hard to focus on anything else but the people around me. Their tension makes the air stuffy and hard to inhale.

At this time of the day, when the sun starts to set on the outside, the dome shines clear above us. There are instances you can almost pretend the dome isn’t there. Sometimes it sparkles, I don’t know what makes the dome sparkle, but it’s pretty when it does.

There’s one entrance between the ecocity and the forbidden territory. I’ve heard that both the virtuous and deviants guard it. I’m not sure who is keeping who out.

I glance up the road as it stretches out endlessly before me. I can’t see the boundary marker yet, and it’s discouraging. Overgrown bushes and wild grass spread out on both sides of the road. For most of the year, it looks dead, just dry wild grass. I know it’s invasive and useless, and Dad says it grows faster than our genetically altered crops.

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