Thursday, March 21, 2013

Imitation by Heather Hildenbrand excerpt


Everyone is exactly like me.
There is no one like me.
The rough fabric of my cotton nightgown chafes so I lie very still. They say my discomfort comes from being built like one accustomed to niceties. How is that fair when I myself have never experienced anything but copies of the real thing?
My entire life is an imitation.
I am an Imitation.
I’ve been here five years. Training. Preparing. Waiting.
And now I have a letter.
My assignment has begun.
I am a prisoner.
I am not Raven Rogen.
I am here to die.

Chapter Three Excerpt

A maid brings me dinner on a rolling tray. Other than her, I see no one. I hear nothing outside the door of my room. I can only assume that means they have some device set up to monitor me from inside. I’m not surprised. Or deterred. Being watched is inevitable in Twig City; it’s no different here.
After eating, I spend a full hour reveling in the silkiness of the sheets on the bed that I’m sure would sleep five comfortably. When I sit up, a carving made in one of the posts catches my eye. I lean closer and run my fingers over it, trying to identify the shape. The lines are rough and jagged close up, as if they’ve been carved by hand with a dull knife or some other blunt instrument. Small shavings come away when I brush my hand over it, and I wonder how recently this cut was made. It looks like a version of my own mark but this tree is different, with branches sprouting into the trunk instead of around it.
I change into the pajamas laid out—a silky, smooth fabric that feels amazing against my abdomen and arms. I am reminded of the chafing cotton I wore just last night and try to take comfort in the benefits, small as they are, of my new life.
The luxuries of this place, combined with the utter silence that rings in my ears, has me wide awake. I decide to explore my expensive prison. I find a refrigerator stocked with bubbly water that sighs when you twist open the lid and some sort of creamy frozen treat in the freezer. The box says “ice cream,” though it tastes nothing like any ice I’ve ever had.
After eating the entire container of pecan ice cream, I lie down and pretend with all my might that I really am Raven Rogen and there is no danger here. It doesn’t work but I succeed in sleeping.
The morning comes too fast.
I feel sluggish and slow when the lock clicks and the door opens. I don’t bother raising my head as Gus pokes his head into the room. He is already frowning.
“Get dressed. I’ll be back in ten minutes.”
In Twig City, ten minutes is twice the time we’re expected to take for showering and dressing, but here, where nothing is familiar, I’m almost positive I should demand longer. He is gone before I can argue.
I scavenge the dresser and closet—and discover the latter is large enough to stand inside and stretch my arms out to both sides and still not touch the clothes hanging on the racks around me. This makes me almost smile. I pass by silk gowns and chiffon skirts and gawk at the shelves of shoes that I can only hope I’ll live long enough to wear. Ida would love this.
Near the back, I find tailored pants and a blouse. Not exactly the bland jeans and T-shirt look that we all share in Twig City, but then I don’t expect Raven Rogen owns a pair of jeans, especially ones with holes in the knees. I used to fuss at Lonnie for purposely ripping her pants but after a while, I caught myself doing it too. In a sea of sameness, I needed to do something to feel individual. I suspect that was Lonnie’s reason also, although she would say she just liked the ventilation. Twig City’s lower levels can be stuffy.
Upon mirror inspection, I find that my blond locks have graduated from bedhead to zoo animal. I do my best to smooth it and then decide I don’t care. According to Titus, no one but staff is going to see me today. While I’m still playing a part, the pressure feels lessened within the confines of these walls.
Gus is waiting for me when I emerge from the bathroom. I follow him out, refusing to allow myself to be afraid of Titus this morning. I am prepared this time. I tell myself that makes a difference.

Heather Hildenbrand

Author of the Dirty Blood series 

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