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Full of Broken Words

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And so with all things: names were vital and important.

Algernon Blackwood

 

Today she goes by Becky Thatcher, another book alias, but when she asks Annie what the book is about, Annie can’t remember. Eve wears her long blond hair in braids that are tied together in a knot. When she was little, Annie always cut it for her for fear of it being used as a slipknot. It was Tom’s idea (and there was a Tom in the book about Becky Thatcher and he would take a fall for her too, but then, nobody told her Becky wasn’t really central to the plot).

 

But she is thirteen now and she’ll decide what to do with her own hair, thank you very much.

 

The truth is, she’s not much of a reader. There aren’t that many books to read anyway. When it’s cold and they’re out of firewood, people burn whatever they can lay their hands on. Annie fights tooth and nail for a few copies of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters and is disappointed when Eve falls asleep six pages into Pride and Prejudice (it’s a small paperback edition, too).

 

* * *

 

She goes by Clare Pickering when she burns her father’s letter by pressing a lit cigarette hard to the yellowed sheets and watching a resultant hole grow larger, dropping ash off the edges, consuming the words she has never read. The alias is a compilation of Annie’s middle name and her mother’s last name. It’s oddly fitting.

 

Written word never held power over her. If her father wanted to tell her something, he should have lived to do it.

 

* * *

 

She is Polly Smith when she’s thrown into a prison camp and branded with an ‘H’. The name is chosen completely at random and reflects nothing of her, but she is comfortable in Polly’s skin, blanketed by her anonymity. She doesn’t try to give Polly more life than is required to keep a low profile. She doesn’t make up stories and she doesn’t write them down on scraps of paper precious as jewels.

 

She only knows that Polly Smith is happier than she is because Polly Smith is not the saviour.

 

* * *

 

Ironically, when Eve first sees Hal Yorke in person, she is named after some film actress who starred in a Beauty and the Beast adaptation. Eve has never seen the film but she has an idea of what the story is about. Incidentally, the same actress took part in the films about a boy who was destined to save the world from evil robots. Those, Eve has seen. She likes them very much because they are basically about her. Except, of course, there is no such thing as time travel. Not for the living at least.

 

If Eve were to write a story after all, she would make Mr Snow the antagonist, not Hal. Hal takes too much personal interest in her as if capturing her would change something in his own world. He is probably bored out of his mind, which is why he is playing these cat-and-mouse games with her on the radio. Eve ponders what it must be like to run a country (not that he does such a good job).

 

She wonders if her story says anything about Hal at all.

 

* * *

 

Biblical names are a fad in the new world where so few children are born. The pregnancy embargo is in full force but illegal children born after 2012 still crop up here and there. There is a Jonah on her assault squad and an Obadiah in the retrieval team and a Ruth leading one of the surviving resistance cells. All of them are younger than Eve, all of them are heroes and all of them are going to die.

 

It’s the way the story goes.

 

* * *

 

She calls herself Eve Sands when she finally trusts the written word and dies for humanity. She has shirked most of her Bible studies but she has read enough of the good book to recognise plagiarism. It’s sad that her story is nothing more than that, and it won’t ever be, even if it is rewritten.

 

August 1, 2012