What’s Next?

My name is Charlize Smith.

I am eighteen years old, five-foot-four. The Normals say that I am nothing to write home about, whatever the heck that means. I have exactly one friend in all of Dallas. I know for sure that he’s my friend because he doesn’t call me Charlize — which is one of the stupidest names that a girl could get saddled with.

To him, I’m just Charlie.

But to everyone else, I’m a Defect.

I’m the lucky one, though. That’s what they tell me: that I’m lucky. Lucky to have all of my organs, lucky to have all of my limbs — lucky that I wasn’t born blind, deaf, or dumb. They tell me that it’s a darned good thing that I was born in Dallas, too, because I wouldn’t be able to survive anywhere else. I ought to feel like I’m the luckiest person on earth, to hear the Normals talk about it.

I just wish I felt the same.

The world outside is gone, and it’s been gone for an awfully long time — long enough for people to start calling it the Nothing. It would be stupid to leave. I know that it would be stupid. And yet, that’s exactly what I want.

I keep having these dreams; I keep seeing things. It’s getting harder to believe that Dallas is really the only city left on earth. It’s getting harder to ignore the feeling that there’s something else out there. Maybe somebody will go outside and prove it, one day. But that person won’t be me.

I don’t have what it takes to survive in the Nothing. A world like that would burn me alive: the wind would peel my skin away and the sun would char my bones. So no matter what, no matter how restless I get or how much I wish that things would change, I can never leave.

I wouldn’t make it out there on my own.