Dani is one of the lucky ones.
She has a soul mark.
She is 8 years old. Sleepy. Barely able to open her eyes as she gets ready for school.
Dani hums, rubbing her eyes. Her mother putters around, grabbing her backpack and her clothes.
“¿Qué haces?” Her mother says. “¡Vamos a llegar tarde!”
That doesn’t matter. Dani doesn’t want to go to school anyways. If she’s late maybe she won’t have to.
Dani groans, yanking her shirt over her head and grabbing the shirt her mother hands her. Her mother doesn’t let go of the shirt. Dani blinks, the sleepiness fading.
Her mother is stock still, eyes wide, watering, hand over her mouth.
“Mami?” Dani waves her hands in front of her mother’s face.
“Oh, Dani.” Her mother is crying and hugging her.
Dani asks her, repeatedly what’s wrong. Her mother doesn’t reply, she’s laughing now, holding Dani’s face. Dani is left along in the room when her mother runs to get her father.
And Dani looks down, she sees dark lines of script along her ribcage.
Dani’s eyes widen.
A soul mark.
One so deep. So dark.
Whoever says those words, says them with such ferocity.
Dani can’t read it.
Her mother comes back with her father, excitedly pointing at her.
They celebrate, the commotion waking up Diego, who at least doesn’t have to go to school. Though Dani doesn’t either now that they’re celebrating. That’s really all she cares about at that age.
The politics of her soul mark, don’t impact her until she’s older.
Grace is born lucky.
That’s what the doctors say.
Beating so many odds.
With an entire generation with such few marks. Grace is born with the dark ink on her stomach. It’s too small for them to read, but it’s undoubtedly a soul mark, not a birth mark.
Her parents tell her to hide it, to not broadcast that she has a mark.
(There are those who prey on the marked.)
Grace doesn’t understand why, not until she gets the special class on soul marks.
She learns, of the existence of soul mates.
The first words that they say to you.
Grace scratches her stomach.
what’s your name
It’s light. The lines so thin, so fine. Whoever says that to her, says it with such delicacy.
She learns then, that her generation is another Markless.
It happened once in the 1990s. Thirty years ago. An entire generation of people who just didn’t have marks.
Until one day, it all appeared.
The whole world celebrates that day.
Her teacher is optimistic, that it will happen again. Just God or the Universe, giving them another surprise.
Grace places a palm over her stomach.
She feels uneasy.
Dani has a moment alone with Grace, now that Sarah’s in the bathroom.
She sits at the edge of the bed, watching her. Her eyes map out the silver lines all across Grace’s skin. She reaches out, touching Grace’s overheated skin. She can’t feel the lines. Whatever healed it, it’s done very well knitting her skin back together, it only shows what’s been done to her.
She has to know.
To look. To try to find it.
But she has to know.
Dani feels her own mark burning her skin.
Now that she can think.
She remembers what Grace had said to her. That thing that tried to kill her. The Rev-9. The machine.
That thing that wasn’t her father.
Who else would say such a thing to her?
Dani looks over her shoulder, sees that the bathroom door is still closed. She shouldn’t.
But she does.
Dani touches the bottom of Grace’s damp shirt, slowly peeling it up. She sees more silver lines. She peeks under it, partially looking away at the soft swell of Grace’s breasts. But in the corner of her vision, she can see pale pink lines. Dani folds the shirt over, numbers.
Those aren’t soul marks.
Dani’s stomach falls.
Grace has so many scars. So many things done to her.
She almost looks away.
When she sees it.
Small, fine print on her stomach. Dani squints.
what’s your name
Dani smooths the shirt back down, tossing a few ice cubes on top of Grace’s stomach.
Even after all the heartache today.
Dani had hoped…maybe.
Life just isn’t like that.
Dani’s heart stutters.
The worst of all.
That maybe Grace is her soulmate. But she isn’t Grace’s.
(It’s ironic, that Grace holds the shard right at her soul mark, helping Dani pierce her stomach.)
One day at a time.
That’s how Dani survives.
She makes her way up the ruins, waving her soldiers down.
She’s got this one.
She hears the commotion inside, hoping they keep it down before anymore Legion air craft scouts.
Hunting a child for food.
The dark side of humanity.
At least these don’t resort to cannibalism. Yet.
Dani disarms them quickly, her passionate speech about Legion has them at least stop fighting. Or she supposes it’s their survival instinct kicking in. One, she defeated them all singlehandedly barely breaking a sweat. And two, Legion is scouting this area.
More commotion equals death.
Dani kneels, this one though...
Dani makes herself small, she smiles.
“What’s your name?”
It can’t be.
Dani’s smile falls.
Dani tugs the hood down.
That familiar jagged cut of hair.
Dani’s heart swells.
And Grace is looking at her like she’s her salvation. Like she’s the one.
“I’m Daniella. Dani.”
Dani helps her up.
Grace follows her.
There’s hope again.
She won’t let Grace die for her this time.
Her heart sinks for a moment.
Because her Grace, had that soul mark as well.
Dani holds a hand out to Grace, helping her down the rubble.
This time, it’s going to be different.