He was like one of those pictures full of small errors, the kind you could only pick out by searching the image from every angle, and even then, a few always slipped by. On the surface, Eli seemed perfectly normal, but now and then Victor would catch a crack, a sideways glance, a moment when his roommate's face and his words, his look and his meaning, would not line up. Those fleeting slices fascinated Victor. It was like watching two people, one hiding in the other's skin. And their skin was always too dry, on the verge of cracking and showing the color of the thing beneath.
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Some people forget, he thought. A bad thing happens to them and their mind sweeps in and buries the bad thing deep, and all that's left is a stretch of white in their heads, like fresh snow. Looking at it-at them-you wouldn't even know anything was trapped beneath. Some people forget, but David remembered everything.
His gaze settles on the discarded book. He leans, reaching until his fingertips graze Dante's Inferno, still on its bed of folded sheets. "What have we here?" he asks. "Required reading, " I say. "It's a shame they do that, " he says, thumbing through the pages. "Requirement ruins even the best of books.
Cole steps forward, his fingers reaching around my shoulders, and kisses me. It is sudden and smooth and soft as air against my lips. The wind whips around us, tugging at the fabric of our clothes, but not pulling us apart. And then it's gone, the cool pressure against my lips, and my eyes are open and looking into two gray eyes like river rocks. "/That's/ what you wanted to show me?" "No, " he says, his fingers slipping down my arms as he leads me off the path and out, away from Near. "That was just in case.
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I've always been good at math. It's straightforward, black-and-white, right and wrong. Equations. Da thought of people as books to be read, but I've always thought of them more as formulas-full of variables, but always the sum of their parts. That's what their noise is, really: all of a person's components layered messily over one another. Thought and feeling and memory and all of it unorganized, until a person dies. Then it all gets compiled, straightened out into this linear thing, and you see exactly what the various parts add up to. What they equal.
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There were some people you had to stay away from, people who poisoned everything in reach. Then there were people you wanted to stick with, the ones with silver tongues and golden touched. And then, there were people you stood beside, because it meant you weren't in their way. And whoever Victor Vale was, whatever he was, and whatever he was up to, the only thing Mitch knew was that he did not want to be in his way.
Everything that rises will fall. Empires, societies, governments. None of them lasts forever. Why? Because even though they are the products of change, they become resistant to change. The longer a society survives, the more it clings to its power, and the more it resists progress. The more it resists progress- resists change- the more its ciizens demand it. In response, the society tighten its grip, desperate to maintain control. It's afraid of losing its hold.
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