In a dystopian reality where music is everything, the world is ruled by a Council of corrupt dictators. The greatest punishment possible, reserved for only the worst of criminals, is called Silencing. But one Silent proves that, even if he is a outcast, shunned from society, he still has a voice.


12. Chapter 11: Shade

            “Why doesn’t your brother ever talk?” The voice came from a little girl, a few years younger than Shade. She was short and dark, clearly the first girl’s sister or cousin or some such. He was sitting in a corner, biding his time. At least, that’s what he told himself. Some small piece of Shade whispered that he wasn’t ever going to escape. He was just waiting to die.

            “I don’t have any brothers.”

            “But he looks just like you, and Muse said-”

            Shade stifled an irritated sigh. Were they trying to annoy him to death or something? Why send a twelve-year-old to him now? “Look, alright. I had a brother, but he’s dead. I’m not falling for it, so shove off. Go tell ‘Muse’ I won’t talk.” Shade pointed to the door, as if the girl couldn’t see it herself. “Now.”

            But the child only flounced further into the room and glared at him. “I don’t like you. And Muse isn’t a liar, so don’t call her one. But she said I have to be nice to you. It’s not fair.” Shade barely stopped himself from laughing out loud.

            “Well, life isn’t fair. And I don’t really like being locked in a room, so why don’t we make a deal. You let me out, I won’t call your sister a liar again.” Shade stuck out his hand to the girl, but she hesitated.

            “Muse said I can’t. She said you were too skinny. Maybe you should eat more, then she’ll let you out. But I have a question.”

            “Lovely. I’m assuming you’re going to ask it whether I want you to or not? Yeah, thought so.” Shade settled back again.

The girl looked at him gravely. “Why doesn’t your brother ever talk?” He jerked back upright. The girl seemed to take this as a license to continue, and rambled on. “I mean, he’s been here for weeks, and he never talks to me. I think he doesn’t like me. But Maia said he doesn’t talk to her either. Father said he got hurt, but wouldn’t he be better by now?”

It hit Shade like a slap in the face. He hadn’t spoken in weeks? The girl had no lie in her eyes, though, and Shade knew she was too young to be able to hide it. She really hadn’t heard him speak. The realization dawned on him, turning his blood cold. Either they had known weeks ago that he would come here – impossible – or they weren’t Watchers.

He looked at the girl, still waiting for a reply, and suppressed a shiver. “Can you get Muse and my brother? I want to talk to them.” The girl looked angry, but she went.

As soon as they walked in – Muse hesitantly, the man-who-might-be-Ghost warily. She was more like a person who thought they were being thrown to the lions; he was like a person who thought his dog had gone rabid. In both cases, it was deadly, but a dog you could handle. Sooth, cure, or – if necessary – put down. Lions would just eat you.

As soon as they were inside, Shade was on them. “Prove you are who you say. Why didn’t you give your key away?” Muse just looked confused, like she didn’t understand the question, but Shade could see a glint in the man’s eyes. Was that hope?

Taking out a paper, the man wrote swiftly. When he was done, he handed it to Shade. “I did. I gave it to you. If you mean the Bond, well, I thought about it. I just never found anyone I trusted that much.”

Shade drew a deep breath. Almost no one outside the rebellion knew about the Bond. But there was a chance that someone had leaked it. “Who was Fritz?”

It took a moment for Shade to realize what the peculiar movement the man was making really was. He was laughing silently, shoulders shaking, a grin on his face. “Fritz?” he wrote this time. “Fritz, as in brown eyes, light hair, taller than me Fritz?” When Shade nodded, he shrugged. “Friend, a few years back. Lived together, stole together. He was great with a pick. Fought together. Separated a few weeks before the Council caught me. They found him a while back, I think. Probably dead by now.”

Any ally of the Council would know that Fritz was alive, that he was Wolf. No ally of the council would know that Fritz was a thief. He always worked with a partner, he had said, to cover up the fact. Hadn’t even broken himself out because it would waste years of work.

Shade threw himself at his brother for the second time, no less passionately than the first. This time, it took him a long time to run out of tears.

“What happened to you? Why didn’t you come home?” Shade choked the words out finally. Ghost sighed, and he drew back. Climbing to his feet, his brother beckoned for him to come as well, and left the room. Shade followed warily, stepping through the door and into a small hall, up a set of creaking wooden stairs, and into a little sitting room. Settling into a chair across from Ghost, Shade was struck by the feel of it. It had been a long time since he’d sat in a real chair.

Looking up, Shade realized that Muse was still standing awkwardly by the door. “Can I stay, or do you want privacy?” Ghost nodded, and she looked relieved. Shade thought something might be going on between the two of them. They certainly looked comfortable with each other’s presences, what with Ghost’s arm wrapped around her shoulders.

“Shade already knows, but I was eighteen when I joined the resistance,” Ghost wrote. “At first it was small things: information, a few rescues, some theft. But then it got harder, more dangerous. I got caught a couple times, but they could never prove I was actually resistance, and Mother’s position got me off easy.

“Finally, they got my group in a raid. I stayed back to cover the others; Val probably would have too, but he was hurt. They caught him a week later. After the raid, I don’t remember that much. They asked questions about the resistance, about my contact group, about the recruiter who had brought me in. I didn’t say anything, or, when I had to, I made it up.

“Whenever I lied, they knew it. They have a machine that can tell; I don’t know how. Those weeks are a blur of hatred and pain, now. I do remember one day, when they asked the questions, I got angry. I mean, angrier than usual. I spit on them. All Thirteen of their glorified faces. While the others wiped the blood off, Nine just looked at me, almost sadly. ‘You’ll live to regret that, boy,’ he told me.

“You got me through those days, Shade. I might have given up, given in, died even, if not for you. I always wanted more for you – more than the life I had, more than dying in a gutter or starving on a street corner. The Council could never give you that, but I thought the revolution could. It had to live.

“After that, though, they decided I wasn’t worth it. After all, I was just a boy. A child they couldn’t break was useless to them. They gave me to Nine to dispose of. After… after what happened, I was lost. I drifted on a sea of broken dreams, walking alone through deserted streets in my own mind.

“When I came home, Mother and Inglorius met me at the door. You were out, they told me, but wouldn’t say where or when you’d be back. Inglorius wouldn’t even look in my direction; if he had to speak to me, he’d stare out the window. Mother could barely bring herself to talk. She told me that once she’d had a son, but he was dead.” Ghost’s hand shook slightly. “I was the monster that the Council had given in his place, to punish her for raising a rebel. She said to get out, and never come back.

“I went, and I wandered in truth. I died in my own mind. Lost myself in my personal hell, as it were. Finally, I ended up here, and we all know the rest.”

Muse’s eyes were shining with unshed tears, but it was Shade who spoke. “I’m sorry, brother.” His voice cracked – something it hadn’t done in years. “I’m so sorry. When they said you were dead, I didn’t doubt it for a second. I never thought…”

Ghost reached out his hand and laid it on Shade’s head. At his touch, the thin boy’s control broke completely.

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