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Aldous

Aldous puts the book back and walks to the next shelf, then pulls down another. Darren Darya Daryl Dashiell–wrong way. Two shelves back. Three. Ban Barathrum. Closer. Aldaea. Alder. Aldi.

Aniridia.

It’s a misplaced word. Aldous is certain her name should be there: Alejandro comes right afterward. Someone’s been messing with the order of things.

She replaces the slim volume. It’s not a name at all, is it? Greek roots: an, without, and then Iris, rainbow, messenger of the gods. But she never claimed to be getting their mail in the first place.

Aniridia leaves the library, determined and bound.

Alder

The tower’s three stories, ten butts in diameter, which means–what, thinks Alder. Seventy-fiveish cigarettes a level? Seventy-five square, or hexagonal–whatever.

There’s enough carbon monoxide in this hallway to make passersby stumble. Unless that’s exhaustion: halfway through the reunion and they’re all lumped together to sleep, or sneaking off to not; she and Sid and Lacey smoke and stack.

What would five hundred kids who weren’t “gifted” do differently? Break more windows, she thinks. Maybe that’s why Alder and everyone are here: because even with the waste of their addictions, they have to build and build and build.

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