UPDATE: I originally had the wrong book uploaded for Chapter 24. That has been rectified. Book 2, Soldier at the Door, is now complete! The last two chapters are below, along with the most worrying lines I’ve ever written. And now, they feel even more applicable than ever:
“What if everything we believe is wrong?” Mahrree challenged.
Mahrree saw her poor neighbor’s eyes glaze over. Mrs. Hersh realized too late she’d been dragged into the discussion, and the dread in her eyes demonstrated a frantic desire to escape.
But there was also something else there: a sudden loyalty to her society that demanded no one step out of bounds. “Then we’re wrong together,” Mrs. Hersh decided. “Being united is important,” she said as if realizing she actually believed that. “What everyone thinks together is correct,” she reasoned out loud, “and so if you follow the crowd, you’ll never be wrong.”
Mahrree’s shoulders fell. How can you open someone’s eyes who holds them firmly shut, yet claims she sees just fine?
“It’s like the river,” Mrs. Hersh went on, emboldened by Mahrree’s discouraged silence. “Everything flows downstream. Simply . . . go with that flow. It’s just easier that way.”
Mahrree saw her way back in. “Fish don’t flow downstream.”
“Yes they do.”
“No, they don’t.”
Mrs. Hersh put her hands on her hips. “Why wouldn’t they?”
“Because then there’d be no more fish up here in Edge!” Mahrree pointed out. “I’ve seen them when I’ve taken my students to see the river, and when I’ve dragged my fishing husband home again. Many fish swim in the same spot, fighting the current. A few species even swim upstream, against everything pushing them to the southern ocean.”
Mrs. Hersh pondered for a moment. “That doesn’t make any sense. Why wouldn’t they just go with the flow of the river?”
“Because,” Mahrree tried not to sigh at her neighbor’s inanity, “maybe they don’t like where the river is going. Salty water at the end of it likely kills them.”
Mrs. Hersh squinted. “How would they know about the salty water? Besides, so what? At least they had an easy time getting to it. They’re going die eventually, so might as well go easily instead of fighting the current.”
And right then Mahrree realized, to her horror, that the Administrators had won.
Because as long as everyone else was doing it, you should too. Hold hands and jump off the crevice together, never questioning why.
“I’d rather fight the current,” Mahrree said quietly.
Me too, Mahrree.
Next I’ll be reading the prequel, The Walls in the Middle of Idumea, where we meet grandfather Pere Shin, the king’s servants, and a young Relf Shin.