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The Knife of Never Letting Go

"Knowledge is dangerous and men lie and the world keeps changing, whether I want it to or not.”

“But a knife ain’t just a thing, is it? It’s a choice, it’s something you do. A knife says yes or no, cut or not, die or don’t. A knife takes a decision out of your hand and puts it in the world and it never goes back again.”

''It’s a song of belonging that makes you belong just by hearing it, it’s a song that’ll always take care of you and never leave you. If you have a heart, it breaks, if you have a heart that’s broken, it fixes.
Like how stars might sound. Or moons. But not mountains. Too floaty for mountains. It’s a sound like one planet singing to another, high and stretched and full of different voices starting at different notes and sloping down to other different notes but all weaving together in a rope of sound that’s sad but not sad and slow but not slow and all singing one word.''

I’m starting to get afraid we’ve taken a seriously wrong turn which we can’t do nothing about cuz there ain’t no turning back.
“Isn’t any turning back,” I hear Viola say behind me, under her breath.
I turn to her, eyes wide. “That’s wrong on two counts,” I say.
“Number one, constantly reading people’s Noise ain’t gonna get you much welcome here.”
She crosses her arms and sets her shoulders. “And the second?”
“The second is I talk how I please.”
“Yes,” Viola says. “That you do."

Viola: Just because my thoughts and feelings don’t spill out into the world in a shout that never stops doesn’t mean I don’t have them.”
Todd: [Surprised] Huh?
Viola: Every time you think, Oh, she’s just emptiness, or, There’s nothing going on inside her, or, Maybe I can dump her with these two, I hear it, okay? I hear every stupid thing you think, all right? And I understand way more than I want to.
Todd: Oh, yeah? Every time you think something or feel something or have some stupid thought, I don’t hear it, so how am I sposed to know any effing thing about you, huh? How am I sposed to know what’s going on if you keep it secret?
Viola: I’m not keeping it secret. I’m being normal.
Todd: Not normal for here, Vi.

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say.
About anything.
Manchee: Need a poo, Todd.
Todd: Shutup, Manchee.
Manchee: Poo. Poo, Todd.
Todd: I said shut it.

"We don’t say nothing more. What else is there to say? Everything and nothing. You can’t say everything, so you don’t say nothing."

“Here’s what I think,” I say and my voice is stronger and thoughts are coming, thoughts that trickle into my Noise like whispers of the truth. “I think maybe everybody falls,” I say. “I think maybe we all do. And I don’t think that’s the asking.” I pull on her arms gently to make sure she’s listening. “I think the asking is whether we get back up again.”

Viola: What is this place? Why do the animals talk? Why do I hear your voice when your mouth isn’t moving? Why do I hear your voice a whole bunch over, piled on top of each other like there’s nine million of you talking at once? Why do I see pictures of other things when I look at you?

"I look up to the water and the tunnel and I don’t know what I think but she’s there and I can see it and I don’t know what she’s thinking but I know what she’s thinking and I can see her and she’s teetering on the edge and she’s looking at me and she’s asking me to save her.
Save her like she saved me."

“She ain’t my girl.” I say, low.
“What?” Doctor Snow says.
“What?” Viola says.
“She’s her own girl,” I say. “She don’t belong to anyone.” And does Viola ever look at me.

"I can feel my hand shaking in hers and I don’t know which one of us it is."

"But there's always hope," Ben says. "You always have to hope."
We both look at him and there must be a word for how we're doing it but I don't know what it is. We're looking at him like he's speaking a foreign language, like he just said he was moving to one of the moons, like he's telling us it's all just been a bad dream and there's candy for everybody.
"There ain't a whole lotta hope out here, Ben," I say.
He shakes his head. "What d'you thinks been driving you on? What d'you thinks got you this far?"
"Fear," Viola says.
"Desperayshun," I say.
"No," he says, taking us both in. "No, no, no. You've come farther than most people on this planet will in their lifetimes. You've overcome obstacles and dangers and things that should've killed you. You've outrun an army and a madman and deadly illness and seen things most people will never see. How do you think you could have possibly come this far if you didn't have hope?"
Viola and I exchange a glance.
"I see what yer trying to say, Ben-" I start.
"Hope," he says, squeezing my arm on the word. "It's hope. I am looking into yer eyes right now and I am telling you that there's hope for you, hope for you both." He looks up at Viola and back at me. "There's hope waiting for you at the end of the road."
"You don't know that," Viola says and my Noise, as much as I don't want it to, agrees with her.
"No," Ben says, "but I believe it. I believe it for you. And that's why it's hope."

I can read her Noise even tho she ain’t got none.
I know who she is.
I know Viola Eade.
I raise my hands to the side of my head to hold it all in.
”Viola,” I whisper, my voice shaking.
”I know,” she says quietly, pulling her arms tight around her, still facing away from me.
And I look at her sitting there and she looks across the river and we wait as the dawn fully arrives, each of us knowing.
Each of us knowing the other."

"You starting to feel hope yet?” Viola asks, her voice curious.
“No,” I say, fuddling my noise. “You?”
Her eyebrows are up but she shakes her head. “No, No.”
“But we’re going anyway.”
“Oh, yeah,” Viola says. “Hell or high water.”
“It’ll probably be both,” I say."

Life ain't fair.
It ain't.
Not never.
It's pointless and stupid and there's only suffering and pain and people who want to hurt you. You can't love nothing or no one cuz it'll all be taken away or ruined and you'll be left alone and constantly having to fight, constantly having to run just to stay alive.

The Ask and the Answer

“You notice that he does not ask, ‘Where am I?’ says the Mayor’s voice, moving out there, somewhere. His first words are, ‘Where is she?’ And his Noise says the same. Interesting.”

Mayor Prentiss: One more time, Todd. And I would very much like for you to answer. What is her name? This girl from across the worlds.
Todd: If you know she’s from across the worlds, then you must know her name.
And then the Mayor smiles, actually smiles.
And I feel more afraid than ever.
Mayor Prentiss: That’s not how this works, Todd. How this works is that I ask and you answer. Now. What is her name?
Todd: Where is she?
Mayor Prentiss: What’s her name?
Todd: Tell me where she is and I’ll tell you her name.
Mayor Prentiss: [Sighs]
He nods once to Mr. Collins, who steps forward and punches me again in the stomach.

“Todd,” I say again, a catch in my voice. “On the ledge, under the waterfall, do you remember what you said to me? Do you remember what you said to save me?”
He’s shaking his head slowly. “I’ve done terrible things, Viola. Terrible things-"
”We all fall, you said.” I’m gripping his hand now. “We all fall but that’s not what matters. What matters is picking yourself up again.”

"And his Noise is reaching for me, too, eagerness and worry coming forward like fingers and hands, asking me, begging me to put the gun down, put it down and make everything all right, make it so all this stops-"

And Davy turns to me, his Noise rising all hopeful, and he says,
“C’mon, Todd, you hear that?”
And his Noise is reaching for me, too, eagerness and worry coming forward like fingers and hands, asking me, begging me to put the gun down, put it down and make everything all right, make it so all this stops-
And he says, “We could be brothers-“
And I cast my eyes to Davy’s-
And I see myself in them, see myself in his Noise, see the Mayor as my father and Davy as my brother and Viola as our sister-
See the hopeful smile rising to Davy’s lips-
And his Noise is reaching for me, too, eagerness and worry coming forward like fingers and hands, asking me, begging me to put the gun down, put it down and make everything all right, make it so all this stops-

"You can't just accept what people tell you, Maddy. You can't just do that if they're wrong."
"And you can't fight an army on your own." She turns me gently back down the hallway, giving me a smile. "Not even the great and brave Viola Eade."
"I did it before," I say. "I did with him."

I blink, surprised. "That's not what I meant," I say. "I'm only saying it's not what we expected."
Mistress Coyle takes another bite while eyeing me. "He killed every woman in his town because he couldn't hear them, because he couldn't know them in the way that men could be known before the cure."
The other mistresses nod. I open my mouth to speak but she overrides me.
"What's also true, my girl," she says, "is that everything we've been through since landing on this planet - the surprise of the Noise, the chaos that followed - all of that remains unknown to your friends up there." ->She's watching me closely now. "Everything that happened to us is waiting to happen to them." I don't reply, I just watch her.
"And who do you want in charge of that process?" she asks. "Him?"
She's done talking to me and returns to quieter conference with the mistresses. Corinne starts eating again, a smug grin on her face. Maddy's still staring at me wide - eyed, but all I can think of is the word left hanging in the air.
When she said Him?, did she also mean, Or her?

"Well, if she can't heal, then who is she?" Corinne says, snapping the elastic band around my arm a little too tight. "She used to run all of the houses of healing, not just this one.
Everyone knew her, everyone respected her. For a while, she was even Chair of the Town Council."
I blink. "She used to be in charge?"
"Years ago. Quit moving around." She jabs the needle into my arm harder than she needs to. "She's always saying that being a leader is making the people you love hate you a little more each day." ->She catches my eye. "Which is something I believe, too."
"So what happened?" I ask. "Why isn't she still in charge?"
"She made a mistake," Corinne says primly. "People who didn't like her took advantage of it."
"What kind of mistake?"
Her permanent frown gets bigger. "She saved a life," she says and snaps loose the elastic band so hard it leaves a mark.

"I was only following orders,” the Mayor mocks. “The refuge of scoundrels since the dawn of time."

Mayor Prentiss: I have two maxims that I believe, dear girl. One, if you can control yourself, you can control others. Two, if you can control information, you can control others. [Grins] It’s been a philosophy that’s worked out rather well for me.

”You love him,” he says. Not an asking, just a fact.
”I do,” I say. Also a fact.
”In that way?”
We both look over at Todd. He’s gesturing with his arms and telling the men what we’re planning and what they should do.
He’s looking like a leader.
”Viola?” Lee asks.

"We are the choices we make, Viola," Mistress Coyle is still talking. "And you can be so valuable to us. If you choose."

”What he’s forgetting is that me and Todd, we ran halfway across this planet together, by ourselves. We beat his craziest preacher. We outran an entire army and survived being shot and beaten and chased and we bloody well stayed alive this whole time without being blown up or tortured to death or dying in battle or anything.”
She takes her hand off Lee so she’s balancing just against me.
”Me and Todd? Together against the Mayor?” She smiles. “He doesn’t stand a chance."

”So we forgive each other?” The crooked smile climbs up one more time.
And I look right into his eyes, right into him as far as I can see, because I want him to hear me, I want him to hear me with everything I mean and feel and say.
”Always,” I say to him. “Every time."

"I put my arm around his neck. He tries to smile.
And it’s crooked like it always is."

"You should have let him kill me,” I say again quietly.

But he couldn’t, could he?
He couldn’t and still be himself.
He couldn’t and still be Todd Hewitt.
The boy who can’t kill.
The man who can’t.
We are the choices we make.

I begin to wonder what sort of man I’d be if I’d had the Mayor as a father. I begin to wonder what sort of man I’d be if I’d had the Mayor as a father and wasn’t the son he wanted. I wonder if I’d be sleeping in a room over the stables.
”I try,” Davy says, quiet. “But who knows what he effing wants?”
I don’t know so I don’t say nothing."

"Jesus, Todd," Davy says, "the racket you make by thinking all the time."
Which is exactly the kinda thing I’ve learned to ignore from Davy. Except this time, he called me Todd.

‘Ain’t you got nothing to say?’ Davy’s voice gets a little harder. ‘All silent now, like you don’t wanna talk no more, like I ain’t worth talking to.’
His Noise starts to crackle.
‘Not like I got anyone else to talk to, pigpiss. Not like I got any choice in the situashun. Not like no matter what I effing do can I get moved up for it, given the good work, the fighting work. All that stupid Spackle babysitting crap. Then we turn right around and do the same thing to the women. And for what? For what?’
His voice gets low.
‘So they can cry at us,’ he says. ‘So they can look at us like we ain’t even human.’

”A group calling themselves the Answer played a role in the Spackle War, Todd. Covert bombing, nighttime operations, that sort of thing.”
”And it was all women. No Noise to be heard by the enemy, you see.” He shakes his head. “But they got out of hand at the end, became a law unto themselves. After the peace, they even attacked our own city. We were finally forced to execute some of them. A nasty business.”
”But if you executed them, how can it be them?”
”Because an idea lives on after the death of the person."

I step forward and I put my hand near hers on Acorn’s side. She don’t look at my face, just slides her hand till the tips of our fingers are touching.
”Just cuz yer going there and I’m staying here,” I say. “It don’t mean we’re parting.”
”No,” she says and I know she understands. “No, it certainly doesn’t.”
”I ain’t parting from you again,” I say, still looking at our fingers. “Not even in my head.”
She pushes her hand forward and laces her fingers in mine and we both look at ‘em wrapped together."

Mistress Coyle: If you ever see a war, you’ll learn that war only destroys. No one escapes from a war. No one. Not even the survivors. You accept things that would appall you at any other time because life has temporarily lost all meaning.

Mistress Coyle: If there are sides and our President is on one... Then I am most definitely on the other.

Corrine: Everyone here is someone’s daughter. Every soldier out there is someone’s son. The only crime, the only crime is to take a life. There is nothing else.
Viola: And that’s why you don’t fight.
Corrine: To live is to fight. To preserve life is to fight everything that man stands for. And now her, too, with all the bombs. I fight them every time I bandage the blackened eye of a woman, every time I remove shrapnel from a bomb victim. That's my war. That's the war I'm fighting."

"I don’t know how much time passes with us just lying there, just feeling that the other is really there, really true, really alive, feeling the safety of him, his weight against mine, the roughness of his fingers touching my face, his warmth and his smell and the dustiness of his clothes, and we barely speak and his Noise is roiling with feeling, with complicated things, with memories of me being shot, oh how he felt when he thought I was dying, of how I feel now at his fingertips, but at the front of it all, he’s just saying, Viola, Viola, Viola."

”And I’m guessing we just follow the river again?” he says.
”I guess so.”
He takes a second to look at me awkwardly, trying not to smile. “Here we go again.”
And I feel this funny rush and I know that however much danger we’re in, the rush is happiness and he feels it, too, and we clasp hands hard for just a second and then he stands on the bed, puts a leg on the sill and jumps through."

The Mayor's wrong—
He's wrong forever and ever—
It's not that you should never love something so much that it can control you.
It's that you need to love something that much so you can never be controlled.
It's not a weakness.
It's your best strength.

Monsters of Men

Mayor Prentiss: All this time, you really believed you had the upper hand? That’s almost sweet. And you know what? You did. You did have it. When you were acting like a proper son, I would have done anything you asked, Todd. I saved Viola, I saved this town, I fought for peace, all because you asked.

Mistress Coyle: Ideals, my girl. Always easier to believe in than live.”
Bradley: But if you don’t at least try to live them, then there’s no point in living at all.
Mistress Coyle: Which is another ideal in itself."

1017: Men do not call them the Land. They invented a name based on a mistaken first attempt at communication and were never curious enough to fix it. Maybe that was where all the problems began.

Bradley: Choices may be unbelievably hard but they’re never impossible.

Viola: Why can’t we learn to live with how we are? And whatever anybody chooses is okay by the rest of us?

Viola: And I turn to look at him-
And when I do I can hear everything he’s thinking.
Clearer than before, clearer than seems possible-
And I’m not even sure I’m supposed to, but I look him in the eyes and I see it-
In the middle of everything he’s feeling-
Even after we fought-
Even after I doubted him-
Even after I hurt him-
I see how much he loves me.

Bradley: We were expecting dead settlements and hopefully you and your parents in the middle of it all. Instead we got a dictator, a revolutionary, and an invading army of natives.

Viola: He forgives me for all of it, tells me I don’t even need to be forgiven, tells me I did the best I could, that I made mistakes but that’s what makes me human and that it’s not the mistakes I made but how I responded to ‘em and I can feel it from him, feel it from his Noise, telling me how I can stop now, how everything’s gonna be all right-

Todd: Sizewise, she’s always been just smaller than me.
But I think of her and I feel like she’s as big as the world.

"I know he left us, I know he didn’t want to, I know he held on as tight as he could, but I know he left us.
I watched him go.
But maybe he didn’t go far."


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