There are some terrifying things about living this far out on the edge of town, but here in this town the terrifying things are not the usual ones. We’re not bothered by the wilderness beyond our house, or by the isolation, or by the darkness. In fact, these are the things that have helped Nerva in the five years since being identified as a Passer: this sense of independence, of freedom, of unfettered possibilities. Nerva’s job is all about logistics and resource management–knowing intimately the terrain, climate, skies, and waterways, as well as the detours, the alternatives. She speaks seven languages, calculates geometry problems in her head, and can carry much more weight than our father ever could, even when he was our age. When she was identified five years ago the Council assigned her a liaison and sent her away for seven months; the liaison, Michael, contacted our parents once a week to report on her progress. But no second-hand progress report could have prepared us for her transformation, and when she returned at the end of the initial training period I was afraid I’d lost my sister completely. And, yet, despite the toned biceps and the new vocabulary, after a very brief period of time Nerva, my sister herself, returned. I’d had no relief in her absence, and the silence with her was enough.

No, the terrifying things about living at the edge of town are the reminders that there is no independence, that the Council can easily pick us out at the edge, that the noise is deafening out here where people sometimes forget others can Hear them.

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