Imagine Me Page 2

But Mum doesn’t seem to hear me. She’s talking to Mr. Anderson when she says, “Max will walk you through everything when you arrive, and he’ll be able to answer most of your questions. If there’s something he can’t answer, it’s likely beyond your clearance.”

Mr. Anderson looks suddenly annoyed, but he says nothing. Mum says nothing.

I can’t stand it.

Tears are spilling down my face now, my body shaking so hard it makes my breaths rattle. “Mum?” I whisper. “Mum, please a-answer me—”

Mum clamps a cold, hard hand around my shoulder and I go instantly still. Quiet. She’s not looking at me. She won’t look at me. “You’ll handle this, too,” she says. “Won’t you, Paris?”

Mr. Anderson meets my eyes then. So blue. So cold. “Of course.”

A flash of heat courses through me. A rage so sudden it briefly replaces my terror.

I hate him.

I hate him so much that it does something to me when I look at him—and the abrupt surge of emotion makes me feel brave.

I turn back to Mum. Try again.

“Why does Emmaline get to stay?” I ask, wiping angrily at my wet cheeks. “If I have to go, can’t we at least go toge—”

I cut myself off when I spot her.

My sister, Emmaline, is peeking out at me from behind the mostly closed door. She’s not supposed to be here. Mum said so.

Emmaline is supposed to be doing her swimming lessons.

But she’s here, her wet hair dripping on the floor, and she’s staring at me, eyes wide as plates. She’s trying to say something, but her lips move too fast for me to follow. And then, out of nowhere, a bolt of electricity runs up my spine and I hear her voice, sharp and strange—




My eyes fly open and I can’t catch my breath, my chest heaving, heart pounding. Warner holds me, making soothing sounds as he runs a reassuring hand up and down my arm.

Tears spill down my face and I swipe at them, hands shaking.

“I hate this,” I whisper, horrified at the tremble in my voice. “I hate this so much. I hate that it keeps happening. I hate what it does to me,” I say. “I hate it.”

Warner Aaron presses his cheek against my shoulder with a sigh, his breath teasing my skin.

“I hate it, too,” he says softly.

I turn, carefully, in the cradle of his arms, and press my forehead to his bare chest.

It’s been less than two days since we escaped Oceania. Two days since I killed my own mother. Two days since I met the residue of my sister, Emmaline. Only two days since my entire life was upended yet again, which feels impossible.

Two days and already things are on fire around us.

This is our second night here, at the Sanctuary, the locus of the rebel group run by Nouria—Castle’s daughter—and her wife, Sam. We’re supposed to be safe here. We’re supposed to be able to breathe and regroup after the hell of the last few weeks, but my body refuses to settle. My mind is overrun, under attack. I thought the rush of new memories would eventually gutter out, but these last twenty-four hours have been an unusually brutal assault, and I seem to be the only one struggling.

Emmaline gifted all of us—all the children of the supreme commanders—with memories stolen by our parents. One by one we were awoken to the truths our parents had buried, and one by one we were returned to normal lives.

All but me.

The others have since moved on, reconciled their timelines, made sense of the betrayal. My mind, on the other hand, continues to falter. Spin. But then, none of the others lost as much as I did; they don’t have as much to remember. Even Warner—Aaron—isn’t experiencing so thorough a reimagining of his life.

It’s beginning to scare me.

I feel as though my history is being rewritten, infinite paragraphs scratched out and hastily revised. Old and new images—memories—layer atop each other until the ink runs, rupturing the scenes into something new, something incomprehensible. Occasionally my thoughts feel like disturbing hallucinations, and the onslaught is so invasive I fear it’s doing irreparable damage.

Because something is changing.

Every new memory is delivered with an emotional violence that drives into me, reorders my mind. I’d been feeling this pain in flickers—the sickness, the nausea, the disorientation—but I haven’t wanted to question it too deeply. I haven’t wanted to look too closely. The truth is, I didn’t want to believe my own fears. But the truth is: I am a punctured tire. Every injection of air leaves me both fuller and flatter.

I am forgetting.


Terror bubbles up inside of me, bleeds through my open eyes. It takes me a moment to remember that I am Juliette Ella. Each time, it takes me a moment longer.

Hysteria threatens—

I force it down.

“Yes,” I say, forcing air into my lungs. “Yes.”

Warner Aaron stiffens. “Love, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I lie. My heart is pounding fast, too fast. I don’t know why I’m lying. It’s a fruitless effort; he can sense everything I’m feeling. I should just tell him. I don’t know why I’m not telling him. I know why I’m not telling him.

I’m waiting.

I’m waiting to see if this will pass, if the lapses in my memory are only glitches waiting to be repaired. Saying it out loud makes it too real, and it’s too soon to say these thoughts aloud, to give in to the fear. After all, it’s only been a day since it started. It only occurred to me yesterday that something was truly wrong.

It occurred to me because I made a mistake.


We were sitting outside, staring at the stars. I couldn’t remember ever seeing the stars like that—sharp, clear. It was late, so late it wasn’t night but infant morning, and the view was dizzying. I was freezing. A brave wind stole through a copse nearby, filling the air with steady sound. I was full of cake. Warner smelled like sugar, like decadence. I felt drunk on joy.

I don’t want to wait, he said, taking my hand. Squeezing it. Let’s not wait.

I blinked up at him. For what?

For what?

For what?

How did I forget what had happened just hours earlier? How did I forget the moment he asked me to marry him?

It was a glitch. It felt like a glitch. Where there was once a memory was suddenly a vacancy, a cavity held empty only until nudged into realignment.

I recovered, remembered. Warner laughed.

I did not.

I forgot the name of Castle’s daughter. I forgot how we landed at the Sanctuary. I forgot, for a full two minutes, how I ever escaped Oceania. But my errors were temporary; they seemed like natural delays. I experienced only confusion as my mind buffered, hesitation as the memories resurfaced, waterlogged and vague. I thought maybe I was tired. Overwhelmed. I took none of it seriously, not until I was sitting under the stars and couldn’t remember promising to spend the rest of my life with someone.


Mortification so acute I thought I’d expire from the full force of it. Even now fresh heat floods my face, and I find I’m relieved Warner can’t see in the dark.

Aaron, not Warner.


“I can’t tell just now whether you’re afraid or embarrassed,” he says, and exhales softly. It sounds almost like a laugh. “Are you worried about Kenji? About the others?”

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