When We Wakeby Karen Healey
Sixteen-year-old Tegan is just like every other girl living in 2027--she's happiest when playing the guitar, she's falling in love for the first time, and she's joining her friends to protest the wrongs of the world: environmental collapse, social/i>/i>
My name is Tegan Oglietti, and on the last day of my first lifetime, I was so, so happy.
Sixteen-year-old Tegan is just like every other girl living in 2027--she's happiest when playing the guitar, she's falling in love for the first time, and she's joining her friends to protest the wrongs of the world: environmental collapse, social discrimination, and political injustice.
But on what should have been the best day of Tegan's life, she dies--and wakes up a hundred years in the future, locked in a government facility with no idea what happened.
Tegan is the first government guinea pig to be cryonically frozen and successfully revived, which makes her an instant celebrity--even though all she wants to do is try to rebuild some semblance of a normal life. But the future isn't all she hoped it would be, and when appalling secrets come to light, Tegan must make a choice: Does she keep her head down and survive, or fight for a better future?
Award-winning author Karen Healey has created a haunting, cautionary tale of an inspiring protagonist living in a not-so-distant future that could easily be our own.
Healey constructs a very persuasive future world...The story's injustices unfold in a way that's stark and unvarnished, and Tegan's determination to right the wrongs she finds will hit home with readers."Publishers Weekly
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
- Age Range:
- 12 - 17 Years
Read an Excerpt
When We Wake
By Karen Healey
Little, Brown Books for Young ReadersCopyright © 2013 Karen Healey
All right reserved.
My name is Tegan Oglietti. One of my ancestors was a highwayman, and another was a prince. Two were Olympic medalists, three were journalists, half a dozen were chefs, a whole bunch were soldiers, and a lot were housewives who didn’t get a quarter of the credit they deserved.
I’ve been thinking about inheritance a lot lately, about what we make, about what makes us, about the legacies we give those who come after us. Well, I would, wouldn’t I?
We all begin with our past.
That last day, I was running late for the train, and I almost didn’t stop to say good-bye. But Mum called me into the kitchen, where she was working on an experiment for her little restaurant.
“Ricotta and beef ravioli,” she said, waving a laden fork at me. “Open your mouth.”
I did. The pasta was light and silky, and although I prefer cheeses with more flavor, I had to admit the ricotta added something to the texture.
“Good?” said Mum, quick dark eyes moving over my face.
“Good,” I said through my mouthful. “Contributing to global destruction with the production of heat-trapping methane gases, but really very tasty. Tasty destruction! Now can I go?”
“Mm,” she said, eyeing the liqueur bottles lined up beside the microwave. With any luck, I’d be coming home to a spectacular dessert. “Oh, wait.” She hooked an arm around my neck and hauled me back, kissing my cheek. She smelled like herbs and flour, the warm smell that meant home. “There. Now you can go and save the world.”
I laughed, kissed my fingers to the photo of Dad hanging on the kitchen wall, and ran out the door, rubbing the pink lip gloss off my face. Alex would be waiting, and she would want the complete goss report before we met Dalmar at the station.
Smart, intense Dalmar, who cared about the environment and domestic violence and famine. Handsome, talented Dalmar, whose skin was smooth and dark, whose eyes were round and a deep, rich brown, like new-turned soil. Perfect, perfect Dalmar, who’d been my brother’s best friend for eighteen years, and my boyfriend for one day. The climate-change protest was going to be our official first date, and I was already planning our wedding.
My name is Tegan Oglietti, and on the last day of my first lifetime, I was so, so happy.
I’ll tell you the whole story.
You might wonder why I bother; you already know the facts. But one thing I’ve learned over the past months—maybe even before—is that facts aren’t enough. It’s not enough to know; you have to believe. It has to be personal. So here I am, giving you my memories and my feelings and my words. My soul, if you like. It’s the only thing that still belongs to me, and there were some times, bad times, that I doubted even that.
But I know the Father was wrong. No one can take your soul from you. You have to give it away.
Here’s my soul. I’m giving it to you.
I hope you’re listening.
Alex opened the door before I could knock, her grin wide on her narrow face. She was wearing what she called her protest uniform—long red peasant skirt, leggings, heavy boots, and a bright shirt under a sleeveless vest covered with buttons. STRAIGHT NOT NARROW. WOMEN AGAINST WAR. RIGHT IS MIGHT. UP THE UNIONS. I could see placards with more meticulously lettered slogans leaning against the wall and tried not to grimace. Those things were heavy, and I’d been hoping not to lug one around all day. But for once, Alex had concerns other than saving humanity from itself.
“I got your text,” she said. “Tell me everything, from the beginning.”
“Fourteen billion years ago, the universe expanded,” I said, jumping out of Alex’s reach. She’d stopped boxing, but she still had a mean right hook, even when it was just for fun. “Okay. Okay. He came around to my place yesterday, and I said, ‘Owen already left for Tasmania,’ and he said, ‘I know. I want to talk to you.’ ”
“Oh my god, Teeg,” Alex breathed. “We’re running late, but tell me as we go.”
Alex swung her battered satchel over her head. I knew from experience that the bag might contain anything from a couple of muesli bars and a bottle of water to fireworks, a complete set of lock picks, and a collapsible crowbar. She picked up two of the signs and thrust them at me, shouldering the rest herself.
“Do I have to?”
“Yes, lazy,” she said, and called a cheerful good-bye to her foster mother.
“It’s just that it’s so freaking hot.”
I already had heat rash, prickly red bumps on the backs of my knees, and it was only September. Mum said that when she was my age, Melbourne’s spring had been long and wet and cool, hitting the nineties only in November or even December. The superstorms and bushfires hadn’t been so bad, either.
But it was 2027, and things were getting worse—which is why Alex and Dalmar were so keen on this protest. I mean, they were always up for a march or promoting a petition from a stall on Swanston Street, but this time the Prime Minister was attending the rally. I didn’t think she’d actually do anything about the climate, but it was an election year, the youth vote was up for grabs, and Dalmar had some cautious hopes.
He had a lot of hope, Dalmar. I think that’s why I fell in love with him. It was all those conversations in the garage, where, between practices, he tried to get Owen involved. In anything, really.
“We’re going to inherit the world, and everything needs to change,” he’d said. “Adults don’t care, so we have to make them care, or replace them.”
Owen called him obsessed, which was pretty hilarious because Owen was the single most obsessed person I knew. His whole life revolved around music, usually to the exclusion of minor things like environmental collapse, or the horrific state of refugee camps in the Horn of Africa, or his little sister. I started playing the guitar to spend more time with Owen, but I ended up listening to Dalmar. I learned to care.
To be honest, I cared more about Dalmar than things like climate change. One was right there, in the extremely awesome flesh, and the other was slow and terrible and felt far away. I cared, but not like Dalmar and Alex did. Still, it’s not like I betrayed myself and my own ideas to get closer to a beautiful boy. I just couldn’t resist his hope.
“So he said, ‘I want to talk to you,’ and you said…” Alex prompted.
“And I said, ‘Oh, really?’ like a total idiot.”
“But it doesn’t matter, because then he took my hand—”
“Oh my god.”
“—and said, ‘Tegan, I’ve been thinking about you a lot, and if you say no, I will understand, and it won’t ruin our friendship, but would you like to go out with me?’ ”
Alex stopped in the street. “Seriously?”
I grinned. “Just like that.” Every word he’d said was written on my brain in blazing letters of gold.
“And then what?” she demanded.
“Classified.” My whole body was buzzing with the memory.
“Teeg, I will kill you and sink the corpse in the river.”
I snorted. “What river?” The Yarra ran through the city, but you couldn’t hide a body in that shallow brown flow.
“I will dig a river and fill it with my tears, because I will be weeping from the betrayal of my best friend not giving me every damn detail!”
“We kissed,” I said. “Well, I kissed him, and he kissed me back. In the front hallway.”
“Oh wow. That is the best.”
“Then Mum walked in and said, ‘Oops,’ and walked back out, and Dalmar said sorry and I said sorry at the same time, and then we went up to my room, and seriously after that is classified.”
Alex pursed her lips and nodded. “Acceptable.”
“He said I was beautiful,” I said softly. I could feel a tingle in my lips, the ghost of Dalmar’s kisses. We hadn’t done much, just held each other and talked and laughed. The talking and laughing we’d done for years, but after so much waiting, the touch was all new, and it was like a drug, making me giddy and calm at the same time. I didn’t want to pick apart something so special with Alex, much as I loved her. Let it be just for us, Dalmar and me.
“You are beautiful,” Alex said. “I wish I had your boobs.”
“You want my backaches?”
“Well, maybe not,” she conceded. “Or your red nose.”
“I burn so fast,” I sighed, and scowled at the tip of said red peeling nose. Dalmar had kissed that spot last night, I remembered, and the frown smoothed out.
“Haaah, look at you. You’re so in love!” Alex spun around in the street, signs and all, wide skirt flaring up around her hips. “You and me and Dalmar and Jonno have to do something. A couples dinner. Couples bowling!”
“Um,” I said. I didn’t like Alex’s boyfriend that much. He was one of those pretentious guys who thought conversation was all about being smarter and more important than everyone else in the room. And he talked down to me all the time, just because I was the youngest. But Alex thought Jonno was hotter than summer at the beach, and I had to be supportive. “Can I keep Dalmar to myself for a bit?”
“Of course, yeah. Want me to get lost at the rally?”
I hesitated. I really did, but… “I don’t want to be that girl, you know?”
“Please, I know you’d never abandon me for a guy. I’m offering! We go together; I conveniently get lost in the crowd; oh no, where is Alex? Gosh, it’s just you and Dalmar, holding hands…. You can make out all you want.”
“Gross,” I said. “In public?”
“Whatever, lovebird. But tonight, you and me are still up for some exploring, right?”
So the satchel was holding the lock picks and the collapsible crowbar, and probably a couple of flashlights, too. Alex’s version of exploring meant breaking into abandoned buildings, underground tunnels, and the occasional construction site, ferreting out the secrets of the city. It was a great way to spend a few hours, and not something I thought my mother ever needed to know about.
It was nearly midday, and we were flagging in the heat. Like most 2027 Australians who weren’t sun-loving beach bunnies, we tried to avoid the outdoors between eleven and three in the hotter months, when it seemed as if the sun was maliciously beaming right through the hole in the ozone layer and setting us aflame. I was slathered in a thick layer of SPF 70 sunscreen and wearing dark sunnies and a big floppy hat, and with all that, I knew my nose would still be redder by the end of the afternoon.
But the Prime Minister was meeting the petitioners on the steps of Parliament House at noon, so our sun-shunning habits had to adjust to her schedule.
My pocket beeped. My heart jumped.
“Dalmaaaaaaaar,” Alex cooed.
“If you do that when he’s here,” I warned, and fished out my phone. She was right, of course; the message was from him.
TRAIN DELAYED, TEN MINS LATE XXX
It was a perfectly ordinary message that he could have sent the day before yesterday, or any time in the three years we’d been friends instead of my big brother’s preachy best friend/best friend’s annoying little sister.
Except for that postscript of kisses.
For once, the flush in my cheeks owed nothing to the sun. I ducked my head under my hat and silently thanked Alex for her mercy as she pretended not to notice a thing.
Not that it mattered. When Dalmar stepped off the train and met us on the platform, I think the whole world could have seen how I felt. But for me, the rest of the world wasn’t there. Just Dalmar, with his easy stride and wide smile.
I know Alex was talking, but I can’t remember a word. I’ve tried, I really have, but it’s all just buzzing.
He leaned into me, and we touched fingertips. It was a game we’d come up with the night before, finding how little we could touch and still be in contact. We were seeing who could hold out longer, but eventually he gave in and held my hand. He had bass-player calluses. He’d built them up fingering those thick strings, and now they were rough, stroking down the side of my little finger. Nothing in the world had ever felt that good.
“I missed you,” he said, relieving me of the placards.
“I missed you, too,” I replied, and leaned my head against his free shoulder.
A narrow hand landed in the small of my back and shoved. It was Alex, her other hand on Dalmar’s back. “We’ve got to catch a train, lovebirds,” she grunted. “Next platform, move move move.”
Dalmar laughed. “You should be a general, Alex.”
“No way, man. Make love, not war.” She darted up the escalators before us, multicolored curls bouncing on her shoulders.
We made it to the platform in time to catch the train to Parliament Station. The car was full of people dressed in Earth Punk fusion; I felt completely underdressed and sweaty in my shorts jumpsuit with a nonmatching long-sleeved cotton bolero thrown on at the last second to try to stop my arms from burning. Dalmar, with his orange safety vest catching the lights in the car, and Alex, with the badges on her protest uniform, fit right in. The train car was loud with debate.
I caught a glimpse of the golden statue of the goddess Mazu, who watched over the shallow remnants of the Maribyrnong River that dribbled by the Buddhist temple. She might bring us good luck today. Mazu was the protector of the sea, after all, and rising oceans were probably one of her concerns.
But I wasn’t Buddhist. Instead, I silently asked the Virgin Mary, Star of the Sea, to intercede on our behalf.
Prayer concluded, I let the train’s motion sway me against Dalmar where he stood braced against the yellow pole. “I wrote you a song,” I whispered in his ear, resisting the urge to kiss his earlobe.
“Really?” He slipped his hand from mine and draped it over my shoulder, pulling me close.
“I’ll play it for you tonight,” I promised. “Just so you know, nothing good rhymes with Dalmar.”
“Far. Car. Tar. Star. Bizarre?”
“Help!” I sang, making up the lyrics as I went along. “I need Dalmar. Help! He’s so bizarre. Help, you know I need Dalmaaaar. Help!”
“You and your Beatles,” Alex said.
“Best musicians of their century,” I said, as I had many times before. “And ours. And all the centuries to come.”
“Let’s make sure the species has centuries to come,” Dalmar said.
As the train jerked to a stop, we stepped out together, into the future.
I don’t remember if it hurt.
There are questions I get asked a lot, in therapy, at school, and even at the compound, when the girls loosened up enough to talk to me. What do you remember? What did you see? How did it feel?
I’ll tell you the whole story. Even the embarrassing parts, even the bits where I behave like an enormous loser.
But I can’t tell you if there was any pain.
The truth is, it all stops with us pouring out of Parliament Station and up the steep steps, with Dalmar’s arm around my shoulders and Alex grinning at how cozy we were together. I was thinking of finding a quiet place to kiss Dalmar, and wondering whether Alex could be talked into letting me do some free-running practice before we broke into whatever abandoned hulk she wanted to explore. I was thinking about whether Owen might bring me something back from Tasmania, and if Mum might be whipping up my favorite raspberry macarons, and if Dad would be proud of what I was doing today.
And then it all stops. The final memory of my first life is a freeze-frame of me leaning against Dalmar on the way up the steps.
But when Marie thought I was ready, I saw the same footage everyone else did.
It’s awful phone video, not even a real camera. Nothing like the superclear footage you guys have of everything now. But you can still make it out easily enough if you know what to look for.
There’s the Prime Minister in a blue skirt suit standing under a shady canopy, speaking to the protesters, saying pretty things that aren’t quite promises. There’s the dark-haired girl high on the steps, just visible in the corner of the screen. There she is, falling down. There are screams as the crowd starts to realize what’s happened, and someone shouts, “It’s a sniper!” and then the camera turns to the sidewalk as the unknown videographer runs away.
Memory loss is a perfectly normal trauma reaction, Marie says, but it still feels weird. Watching that footage doesn’t spark a thing. It could be a perfect stranger dying on the steps of Parliament House.
But it was me.
I woke up one hundred years later.
And then things really went to hell.
A Hard Day’s Night
There was light in my eyes and soft murmuring at the edge of my hearing, like a radio cycling through stations. Bits of the conversation became clear, then faded out again.
“—activity indicates conscious interaction—”
“—report to General—”
“—my patient. I’ll talk—”
“—press conference in—”
The noise went away altogether, and the light brightened. I tried to blink it away.
Eyelids. I had eyelids, and a face, and a neck and a chest. I tried to sit up, my hands flailing weakly at something soft. I felt like a fish out of water, flopping and struggling to breathe. Once, when he was home on leave, Dad took me fishing, and I caught one, and then I screamed and screamed when I realized the fish would die.
“It’s all right,” a voice soothed. A woman’s voice, I thought, with a faint accent I couldn’t place. “You’ve been sedated. It’s wearing off.”
“Can’t see,” I choked. “Only light.”
“Your vision should clear soon. My name is Dr. Carmen. Do you remember your name?”
Did I? “Tegan,” I said, relieved. “Tegan Oglietti. What happened?”
“Your date of birth, Tegan?”
“December 17, 2010.”
There was a slight pause, then, “And today’s date?”
“Ummm. September 23. Did I miss the rally? Where’re Dalmar and Alex?”
“We’ll get to that in a moment,” Dr. Carmen said. “For now, I just want to check on you. Your communication centers and memory seem fine. That’s very good!”
Something stung my toes. I kicked automatically.
“And you’ve got good nervous responses. Can you feel this?”
The stinger hit my ankle. “Yes! Stop it!”
“Don’t panic, Tegan. It’s okay. Please say yes every time you feel something.”
I obeyed as the stinger moved up my body, down both arms, and finished between my eyebrows. The steady motion-and-response calmed me down; it also gave me time to think.
“Am I in a hospital?” I asked tremulously. “Is my mum here?” A shadow passed through the light, and I blinked harder. “I see something!”
The shadow paused, hovering in the middle of my vision. “Keep blinking,” she advised, and I did until the shadow resolved itself into a blurry face. I could make out dark, short hair and pale skin and not much else.
“I can see you,” I said. “But not very clearly.”
“It might take a little while for full vision to return,” Dr. Carmen said. “But your responses are great, Tegan.”
“What happened?” I asked again, with more force. It hadn’t escaped me that she hadn’t answered any of my questions.
Her face moved to one side and then down. She’d sat down next to the bed, I figured after a moment. Her accent was weird—like a little touch of American mixed into a normal Australian accent.
“Tegan, I’m afraid I have bad news,” she said, and my stomach tightened into a knot. There’d been an accident. Someone had set off a bomb. There’d been an earthquake.
“This is going to be very hard for you to hear, but I want you to listen to as much as you can. Do you remember going to the rally?”
“Yes,” I whispered. “We were on the way. Who’s dead?”
She ignored that, as she’d ignored the other questions. She was following a script, probably from a book called How Soft-Voiced Doctors Break Bad News, and she was going to stick to it, whatever I said.
“Well, a sniper was waiting to attack the Prime Minister. I’m afraid that—”
“Just tell me who’s dead!” I shouted. “Dalmar? Alex? Who did the sniper hit?”
There was a pause. “He hit you, Tegan,” she said very calmly. “The bullet tore through your heart, left lung, and right kidney. Bone fragmentation damaged most of your other internal organs.”
I sucked in a big gulp of air, and she hurried into the silence left by my shock.
“You were declared dead in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. But you’d signed up for the donation program, do you remember?”
The bright yellow cards declaring that in the event of my sudden death, I was donating my body to science. I’d signed up the day I turned sixteen, with my mother’s proud signature on the form. It could mean giving up my eyes, my skin, my kidneys to someone who could use them better. Or it could mean being used for experimentation or dissection by med students who needed corpses to study. It wasn’t as if it would matter to me once I was dead. My soul would go to heaven, so my body might as well be of use to someone.
But none of those things had happened, right? Because I was here, wherever here was.
“I remember,” I whispered. “I was dead? I died? But I’m here!” This couldn’t possibly be heaven.
“Legally, technically, yes, you died. But as you say, you’re here. Most of your organs were too hurt to be donated, but your brain and spine were undamaged, and you were moved to the hospital within minutes. You were a perfect candidate for a new treatment. A cryonic treatment. Do you know what cryonics is?”
“Freezing dead people,” I said automatically. There had been some talk in the news about advancing techniques, but I hadn’t known they’d actually gone ahead with experimentation.
“That’s what you did?” I gasped. “Where’s my mum?”
“You can think of it as being in a coma,” she said. More and more of her face was swimming into focus now. “A sort of frozen coma that lasted a long time.”
Dr. Carmen paused, waiting for the obvious question, but my mind was whirring, and I missed my cue.
“It’s 2128, Tegan,” she said. “I’m sorry, I know that must be difficult to hear. You’ve been in stasis for just over a century.”
It felt like running headfirst into a brick wall—a pain so huge it was hardly pain at all.
My vision hadn’t cleared enough to make out expressions yet, but Dr. Carmen’s voice was soothing. “Tegan, I realize that it won’t feel like it yet, but you’re a very lucky girl.”
“Shut up,” I told her.
She did, while I concentrated on breathing.
“I want to be alone,” I said, and prayed that she’d give in.
I had to get out of there. I had to find Dalmar and Alex. I had to get in touch with my family.
But most of all, I had to find out what was really going on.
Of course I didn’t believe her. Would you? Think about waking up to a complete stranger saying, Hey, surprise! It’s the future!
Marie says that not believing her was a defense mechanism, and also a perfectly normal traumatic response.
But I don’t know. I still think it was rational to assume that she was lying.
I mean, come on. She told me I was lucky.
At the time, I was just relieved that telling her to get out was apparently on-script. The blurry shape of Dr. Carmen stood up. “Of course, Tegan.”
“And stop calling me Tegan,” I added viciously. “I don’t know you. We’re not friends. What’s your first name?”
She hesitated, and I got the feeling she was leaving the prepared speeches behind for the first time. “It’s Marie,” she said.
My middle name. Huh. “Okay, Marie. Thanks for the info. Get out.”
Something smooth and slim was slipped into my hand, and I jumped.
“It’s a… well, like a bell,” Dr. Car—Marie said. “When you want anything, or if you want to talk to someone, just squeeze it three times, and they’ll come. All right?”
“Fine. Bye, Marie.”
I heard a chiming, and then a swish, and I lay there, blinking hard and counting down the seconds as the room gradually became clearer around me.
When I was eleven, I spent three days in the hospital with an infection that needed IV antibiotics—thankfully, it wasn’t a drug-resistant strain. This place smelled like a hospital, all right, that clean industrial smell. But it didn’t sound like one. I couldn’t hear anyone moving back and forth, or talking in the corridors. There was no beeping machinery or rattle of wheeled beds being rolled over linoleum floors.
I slid my legs out of the bed and stood. The soles of my feet felt tender against the floor, but I could support my weight on them. Well, that was proof against the whole revival thing, right? Surely my legs wouldn’t hold me up if I’d actually been out of it for a hundred years.
I was wearing a loose blue thing, sort of like a really wide tunic dress, made out of some material I didn’t recognize. I wasn’t game to just strip it off, but the neck was wide enough for me to pull it out and look down at myself.
There were lots of little white scars on my chest and stomach, but I’d expected that and braced myself for it. What really shocked me was a much smaller thing.
My legs and underarms and, in fact, all the skin I could see were completely bare. I didn’t go in for all that shaving-plucking-waxing stuff. Someone had done it to me while I was asleep.
I mean, I had those scars, so they’d probably been a lot more intimate with my body than just shaving my legs, but for some reason the idea that someone had removed all my body hair while I was unconscious really grossed me out.
When I took my first step toward the door and automatically reached to push my hair over my shoulders, I discovered that it wasn’t only my body. My questing fingers found only the soft, bare skin of my scalp.
The bastards had taken my hair. Eight years of growth, just gone.
My fists clenched. I was suddenly more angry than scared, which, let me tell you, is a much better response when you wake up in a hospital bed with no hair, no underwear, and no memory of what got you there. Being frightened had threatened to make me slow and stupid; being furious made me move.
I wanted to throw the alarm thing at the wall, but instead I put it carefully on the bed, with a hand that trembled with control, and tested the door. It wasn’t locked, and I could see no one moving down the dimly lit corridor.
So I walked out.
The corridor was long and silent and completely empty of people.
It was also almost completely dark. Lights turned on overhead as I padded along and turned off behind me. There were other doors evenly spaced on each side, but I wasn’t brave enough to test any of them yet.
To be honest, I was thinking about Alex’s games and how many of them involved long halls, flickering lights, and monsters jumping out of nowhere. I didn’t have a grenade launcher or a flamethrower. I didn’t even have Alex’s right hook.
I kept close to one wall and walked fast, ready to take my chances with one of the side doors if I heard anyone coming.
No one did, and that didn’t make sense. What kind of hospital didn’t have a nurses’ station or full-time lighting? My skin prickled under what I was almost certain was silent scrutiny. There had to be security cameras somewhere.
Twelve doors down was a door striped in red with a picture of a flame above it.
It was way too obvious of an exit. What I needed was a window—something that would give me an idea of the lay of the land, or possibly even an escape route in itself. I’d dropped from a story up a couple of times, when security crews had come to investigate the lights Alex and I were flashing around their construction sites. I wasn’t the best free runner in the world, but I was confident I could safely do it again.
I opened the door to the left of the fire escape.
There was no window there, just an empty trolley bed with a mattress, and equipment I didn’t recognize. I backed out, crossed the hallway, and tried the door on the right.
There was no window there, either. But the bed was not empty.
On the white mattress lay a naked man, several years older than me, maybe twenty-one or twenty-two. It was hard to tell, with all the wires and tubes attached to him. His bare chest rose and fell, and his eyes were open, but his face was slack and quiet.
There was no curiosity or alarm in his face. He was staring directly at me, and nothing about him said he registered my presence at all.
I could have stayed there for a few minutes, gaping like an ill-mannered jerk, but my ears picked up the sound of someone’s voice in the corridor. The man’s room was a dead end; I had to get out.
Obvious escape or not, I ran for the fire door.
In the dim light, concrete stairs stretched upward; I was apparently on the bottom floor. I pounded up two steps at a time. The feeling of air rushing over my bare scalp was weird, and running without a bra was really uncomfortable, but my muscles worked fine.
I was hitting the zone, where everything was smooth, efficient motion. Other fire doors flashed by on the landings, but I wasn’t interested in going back inside.
What I needed was the roof, and eight floors up, I found it.
Gasping for breath, I burst through the roof door at pretty close to my top speed and stumbled two steps to a clumsy halt that wouldn’t have hurt so much if I’d been wearing shoes.
The sky was dark, but there were a ton of lights; under them, the roof was bright as noon and almost as hot. It was a flat, skinny rectangle, edged with a low concrete wall. That would have been easy to deal with, but inside the wall, there was a wire fence taller than I was, except at the narrow gap left for the fire-escape ladder. There were lights showing the roofs of other buildings, close by and lower. I was way closer to the ground than I’d thought—maybe only two or three floors up, which meant that most of the building was underground.
And standing by the fire escape, the obvious exit, was a man in a uniform with a long weapon in his hands, spinning to stare at me.
I took off.
“Halt!” he called behind me. Something whistled past my ear, and I dodged behind an air-conditioning unit, teeth gritted.
Keep moving, I thought. Keep momentum. My flying strides eating up the concrete, I charged at the corner where the wire fence made a right angle.
I loved right angles.
I was trying not to remember all the times I’d tried this trick and had to bail out, for Alex to laugh hysterically at me (and, one time, help me to the emergency room). Free running is half body, half mind. If either one quits on you, you can’t pull it off.
I’d never tried the trick with someone shooting at me, but my timing, for once, was perfect. I popped up the fence right-left-right, using my momentum to push off and up. In fact, I had so much speed I nearly went straight over, but some frantic grabbing at the top turned into a decent grip, swinging me around and down to stand on the edge, facing back along the length of the roof.
The man in uniform was aiming directly at my face. “Halt!” he bellowed again, just as another man burst out of the fire door.
“Don’t shoot!” he shouted, and then, “Tegan! Stop!”
I jumped off the roof.
I was two stories up, I was wearing very little, and I’d never done a drop that high onto a hard surface. Even if I rolled to take the impact, it should have really hurt, but my brain was busily pumping out endorphins, and I couldn’t feel much. As it was, my right forearm, which hit first, went numb and then throbbed. There was no stopping to assess the damage, though. I was up on my bare feet again, seeking out shadows.
Ahead and behind me, sirens sounded.
I darted between buildings, listening for shouts and footsteps as well as I could over my own frantic heartbeat. If I could get far enough away, or find a good spot to hide, I might be okay. All I had to do was make it to someone who’d let me borrow their phone.
There were voices ahead. I flattened against the wall and edged back around the corner.
Voices ahead again, and coming closer. But on the other side of the narrow alley was a door, and if luck was still with me, I could make it there in time.
I darted across, praying for deliverance, and yanked at the door handle.
The good news was, it wasn’t locked.
The bad news was, the room was full of people.
They’d been looking toward the front of the room, where a small, dark-haired woman was speaking at a podium. But as I burst in, they all turned in their seats to stare at me.
“Who the hell is that?” someone muttered.
“Tegan?” the woman at the podium said, sounding stunned.
“That’s her,” said someone else. “The Living Dead Girl!” And then I was surrounded by people, all of them loud and excited and shouting questions at me.
“Tegan, what’s your opinion of Operation New Beginning?”
“Tegan, what do you think of the twenty-second century?”
“Tegan, are you proud of what you’ve helped achieve?”
“Tegan, do you think it’s acceptable to add revivals to an already overpopulated society?”
“Tegan, are you looking forward to our dead diggers coming home?”
I shrank against the wall, staring at them, unable to register details or tell them apart. They were just a blur of strange clothes and outlandish hairstyles. A swarm of small things swooped in, buzzing around me like mosquitoes. I shook my head back and forth, and stared into one, watching the tiny camera lens. Something zipped past my eyes, and I shrieked, slapping it away and stamping on the horrible thing as it hit the ground.
They stopped shouting all at once, apparently appalled at this destruction.
“Out of my way!” someone sounded through the hush, and shouldered her way through the pack, hair flying, elbows akimbo. “Can’t you see this girl is injured? This press conference is over! Leave my patient alone!”
I recognized her voice and clung to it as the one real thing in the nightmare.
“Marie?” I asked, too scared to be ashamed at the way it came out like a sob.
“Yes,” she said, turning my hand over carefully. “Oh, Tegan, what happened?”
“I ran,” I said, distantly aware that the pain in my arm was getting worse. Men in uniforms were filing into the room and herding out the journalists. Some of them were still shouting questions as they went.
“Sit down,” Marie said, and got me into a chair. “I’ll fix this up. Nothing’s broken; you’re all right.” She pulled out a little black pouch and sprayed something on my arm.
There was blood on the floor. Blood from my torn feet, from my scraped arm. The endorphins and adrenaline were fading, and my body was telling me I’d hurt it a lot more than I’d had time to feel in that wild flight.
Sore as I was, I still tensed all over when someone else came through the door. It was the second man on the roof, the one who had told the guard not to shoot.
“There you are, Tegan,” he said.
Marie stiffened, too, and didn’t look up. “Colonel Dawson, please wait in the hall,” she said.
“I need to—”
“I need to establish my patient’s physical health,” Marie said.
The colonel stared at the back of her head, still bowed over my hand, then at me.
“Well, then,” he said, forcing good humor into his voice. “I’ll see you later, Tegan. Unless—”
“Get out!” I yelled, my voice squeaking with the strain. The door closed, leaving Marie and me alone in the big room.
The journalists had made it feel small and crowded. Those mosquito machines, buzzing around me. They were only cameras and microphones, I thought, nothing to be scared of. But they’d been picking up every detail of me—my shaven head, my torn skin, my fear.
“Those people,” I said. “Their clothes. Their tech.” I couldn’t make myself form longer sentences.
But Marie seemed to understand. “We meant to introduce you to change gradually,” she said. She sprayed my feet and shook her head. “A big dose of culture shock… that wasn’t supposed to happen.” She looked up at me, and I found myself inspecting her face, concentrating on the details to keep myself steady. Marie had thick, straight, blue-black hair in a tight bob, creamy skin, and high cheekbones. There was no fold in her eyelids, but fine wrinkles spread from the corners of her dark brown eyes. As far as I could tell, she wasn’t wearing any makeup. She was maybe my mum’s age, maybe a bit younger.
“Marie,” I said, “is this really the future?”
She took my good hand in both of hers, looking steadily into my eyes. “I’m sorry, Tegan,” she said, sounding so, so sad. “It really is.”
I Am the Walrus
One of the many things the twenty-second century has gotten right is painkillers.
I didn’t feel a thing as Marie picked all the tiny bits of grit out of my scrapes, washed them all down with something that smelled revolting, and sprayed on something else that turned into a thick layer of dark brown gunk.
“It’s artificial skin,” she explained. “You had something like it in your time, but this is better. It’ll prevent infection while the skin underneath heals. Not that there should be any infection; you’re on a lot of immunoboosters. We were worried about today’s diseases. Let me have a look at your shoulder.”
“What’s Operation New Beginning?” I asked as she gently rotated my upper arm. “Ow!”
“Sorry. Just a muscle strain and some bruising, I think. Operation New Beginning is a project researching and experimenting on the revival of the cryonically frozen. Like yourself.”
“So this is your job? You do this all the time?”
“No,” Marie said. “Well, it is my job, yes. But you’re the first successful human revival.”
I thought of the blank-faced man in his hospital bed. An unsuccessful revival?
“So there’s no one else,” I said. My voice felt tight and dry, but I could feel tears sliding down my cheeks. “Alex and Dalmar—were they okay? The sniper…”
“They were fine, Tegan. The sniper was aiming at the Prime Minister, but he was an amateur. He panicked after he shot you and didn’t try again. From the records we have—” She sat back on her heels and looked at me uncertainly. “I’m a body doctor, you know, not a psych specialist. You’ll need to talk to someone qualified.”
“No,” I said. “I don’t want people poking in my brain.”
Marie’s face went even sadder. “Tegan,” she said, “you signed your dead body over to science. And you’re the first revival who can actually answer questions; maybe the only one for some time. I’m afraid you won’t be given much choice.”
I would have run again, maybe, if I hadn’t been so sore and shocked. As it was, I just sat in that chair, too numb to even think of escape.
That morning, I’d been in love and loved. I’d had family and friends, and an idea of my place in the world. That night, I’d lost everything.
It was kind of a lot to think about.
They put me in a room—a room with a real bed and an attached bathroom. They gave me real clothes to wear, and some books and a stereo. The stuff was all weirdly familiar and therefore looked suspiciously like things that had been hauled out of a museum and set up to make me feel more comfortable. The old stereo still worked, and they’d found some CDs, which, by the way, were an outdated medium well before my time. It was an odd mix—some Elvis Presley, some Dusty Springfield. A lot of European classical. Some disco rubbish I listened to only once, and a few Broadway musicals.
No Beatles. No guitar so that I could make music of my own.
No computer to give me that large dose of culture shock, the one I’d already had.
I spent most of the next three weeks grieving.
Actually, that’s a lie. I’ve spent the last two and a half months grieving. I reckon I’ll do it for the rest of my life—every time I see or hear or smell something that reminds me of the life and the people I used to have.
But for those first weeks, it took up a lot of my time. I was grieving for the people I’d lost and the experiences I’d never share with them. Alex and I weren’t going to spend a gap year volunteering in South America. Dalmar and I weren’t going to have sex. Owen wasn’t going to play at our wedding. And Mum would never, ever feed me again. On top of my own grief, I had to deal with theirs; I thought they must have felt something like this when I died, so fast and violently, and that was almost more than I could stand. It was bad when Dad died, but losing everyone at once was much, much worse.
Excerpted from When We Wake by Karen Healey Copyright © 2013 by Karen Healey. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Karen Healey is the author of the Aurealis winner and William C. Morris Debut Award finalist Guardian of the Dead, The Shattering, and When We Wake. She technically lives in New Zealand, but actually lives on the internet. You can find her at www.karenhealey.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Reviewed by Katelyn Hensel for Readers' Favorite What happens after we die? For most of us, that question is still a big blank, but for Tegan the answer is a whole new life. Tegan is ripped from her world during what should have been the shining moment of her young life. The next thing she knows, she's cold, groggy, and waking up on a gurney. She can't find her parents, her friends aren't visiting, and it doesn't take Tegan long to figure out why. Everyone she knows has already lived their lives and died. This new future world isn't what Tegan hoped for. It's dangerous, and some seriously evil secrets come out that force Tegan to decide if she's willing to fight for a better world than the one in which she just woke up. When We Wake is probably my favorite book that I've "read" this year! The narrator's accent worked beautifully with the piece. She had a strange accent that was clear, yet different, and really fit with the idea that in 100 years, accents probably will change and blend together. Karen Healey has crafted a seriously eerie, but cool world. It has a dystopian take of a Hunger Games-esque story, but definitely has its own unique crafting and world building. My favorite thing about the story was how true and realistic the characters were. Tegan fights, she's strong, and she is really smart. The secondary characters are also great. Too often do the best friends and sidekicks turn into cardboard cutout characters that we've all seen before. Tegan's circle of friends were unique, fun, and had their own motives and agendas, adding an extra layer of strength to the story. When We Wake is excellent. Karen Healey has crafted a wonderful and terrifying world of the future that all sci-fi and dystopian fans will love!
A very insprational book. It got a bit preachy at times, but it kindof worked. I loved how this book ends. I wont give anything away, but it leaves you hanging while wrapping it up nicely. I love how it lets you imagine what happens next. It lets you wonder and makes you think about what we leave for our children. It was not my favorite book, not even in the top 20 but it was a great book nonetheless. I reccomend it
such a great book...I couldn't put it down
I really liked this book. It was a very adventurous and tempting book to read. I liked it very much. Thank you to the author who wrought this book. Amazing book!
When We Wake is a good book with a fresh idea, as I have never seen it before. Although, I feel like the plot and character development could have used some fleshing out. For me, the story didn't get interesting until the last couple chapters of the book. I also think the ending was a little lackluster. But, overall, its still a pretty decent novel!
A really good book
Great book :)
Psychiatry is a scam run by greedy , for revenge