Sever Ch10

Last time, Cecily says she’ll actually do something, making her evil.

Today, more of Cecily and Rhine being picky about food while we find out Rapist-chan is happy to eat pigeon stew, because obviously the two kids who actually grew up hungry would all elitist. Also, they’re eating canned food instead, and you’d really, really think they’d have learned to be suspicious of questionable canned and pickled foods to have survived this long. It’s Rapist-chan who would assume all food is safe to eat.

(Now that I think about it, I wonder if there’d even be many pigeons in cities. The cities seem to have retained reasonable population density while the rest of the country depopulates, they’d no longer be generating large amounts of extra food for the pigeons to mooch off, and lots of the people are starving and willing to eat anything. Pigeon would probably be a rare treat in an orphanage.)

In the morning I’m leaving. I’ve decided to return to New York to find Gabriel first. I can only hope he’s still with Claire.

…so the rapist’s plan didn’t work!

Sure, it’s ridiculous that Rhine still can’t remember phones exist, but at least we’ll escape the rapist at last.

Cecily brings down the radio she’s been fiddling with and tries to get it to play music.

Long before I was born, there used to be whole stations dedicated to music, but there haven’t been new songs for years, and the only music that plays is the filler between news broadcasts.

Book. You can automate that sort of thing! It’s really, really easy! Much easier than news, certainly. (And people might want to just to prevent there from being dead air and the reminder that their civilization is collapsing.)

Also, considering the entire adult population is chunk of the population most into music, I don’t believe there are no new songs. No one bothering to record new songs, maybe, and even then if Rapist-chan can be an architect in a world clearly not lacking for buildings, someone else’s kid who wants to be a singer woould just get their dad to bankroll it.

Old cheerful songs about frivolous things that mean nothing to me.

In a better book, this would be a sign of controlled media and Rhine not knowing there’s anything else. Here, I’m left to think the author actually think that’s what songs are.

It’s not like there aren’t valid reasons most old songs would be meaningless to the current kids. Songs about love and finding the one would have little traction in a world where that’s a matter of kidnapping and rape followed by inevitable death, songs about problems would largely be trivial to their problems, songs about any sort of time passing would be completely unrelatable.

But there’s a lot of songs, and there’d be some that would resonate. The only way this works is if there’s insane media control, like in Matched, but the radio is apparently mostly independent amateur operators, so no way in hell is this controlled. They’d play the songs they wanted.

“So-called doctors have been at it for years,” the voice on the radio says.
Another voice responds, “The Ellerys’ work has developed a cult following among doctors and extremists alike in the wake of these recent terrorist bombings. Their research, which as we all know was cut short by an act of terrorism that killed them, had faded into the grain with all the rest.”
The small bit I’ve eaten immediately feels like it’s gone to stone in my stomach. My body goes cold, a sort of numbness clouds my judgment, and I think: Not the Ellerys I know. How could these strange voices possibly know anything about my parents, who have been dead for several years? They were scientists and doctors, and their life’s work was to pursue a cure, but they were small-time compared to nationally recognized doctors like Vaughn.
Oh, but the broadcasters know about Vaughn as well. “Even revered experts like this Dr. Ashby have cited the Ellerys’ study of twins. Dr. Ashby theorizes that the Ellerys’ children, twins themselves supposedly, were a part of their research.”
“If they even existed,” the other voice says. “They may have been metaphors.”
Cecily is pulling at a lock of her hair that’s come free of her ponytail, and I swear her eyes are getting wider as she stares at me and the words on the radio get stranger.
“Dr. Ashby is essentially revamping the Ellerys’ theory that the virus can be duplicated in a way similar to vaccinations. Given in small doses, it can build up the immune system to make its victims resistant.”

Hm. No, this might be good. This book’s best attempts at plot have been the aspects that were simply insane and ignorant, like the genetic virus stuff. So sure, why would the fact Rhine’s parents made no effort to hide the fact they had kids and even brought her and her brother to school with the kids of other first generations mean people knew they had twin kids? Scientists being super invested in metaphors makes so much more sense. Science is totally alchemy.

The men are having such an impassioned discussion

It’s considerate of the book to remind us only men do things. The only first-gen woman who’s done anything is Rhine’s mom, who was dead long before the books began. Of course it’s only men discussing this, just as Uncle Perfect identifies the person running the station itself as a guy he knows.

There’s static in my head, making it impossible to concentrate.

Always with the excuses for not paying attention to what little information we get.

“What about these claims by one of the terrorists heading these attacks that he’s the Ellerys’ only surviving twin? He very well could be who he claims to be.”
“How many extremists have claimed to be products of some research project or other? That’s if the Ellerys’ research isn’t an urban legend,” the other voice counters. “The Ellerys ran these nurseries as part of their supposed Chemical Garden project, nurseries that also served as research labs. If their children existed, they were probably killed along with the other subjects. The only reason the Ellerys are getting attention now is because of this terrorist claiming to be their son.”

Ah, title drop! Given the author’s love for poetic language, I feel we can now say definitively that this series was not planned in advance. She would absolutely have mentioned this before. She would’ve mentioned it constantly. Instead, the first book has completely different metaphors based around literal gardens and Rhine talking about natural/unnatural plants and soil and even specifically her mother’s gardens that died. If any of that language was shared by her parents’ labs, she’d have worked it into the metaphor, so this is an eleventh hour addition.

Anyway, given our sample size of one known terrorist has him completely right about who he says he is, this suggests the other terrorists may have been telling the truth as well. It makes sense, too – the idea of extreme hatred for people who are doing nothing but feeding orphans while staring at blood samples is hard to believe. The kids don’t live long, so their lives aren’t worth much, but their time is worth a lot and there’s other stuff you could be doing, like murdering people like Linden.

But say you’re someone like Deirdre who escapes. Would you come back with a bomb? That makes a lot more sense than people just doing it because “pro-naturalism”.

Anyway, Rhine stumbles out to boggle at the idea her parents had anything to do with Evil Mad Scientist, despite the fact they don’t have anything to do with him but the fact he knows about their research. But I guess suddenly they will or else Rhine would look silly for her dizzying angst.

How did those men on the radio know about my brother and me?

For christ’s sake Rhine, they just said your parents talked about you.

Rowan said that he was the only surviving member of our family?

Because he thinks you’re dead this isn’t hard Rhine you already knew he thought this halfway through last book. Just get on the radio and say you’re not dead, problem solved.

What theory that the virus could be duplicated? What are Chemical Gardens?

The thing Evil Mad Scientist did when he gave you virus candy last book. What your parents called the nurseries for some reason, probably as a sort of scientist joke.

God Rhine, it’s like you’re not even reading this book. F-

Rhine then adds that she and her brother hold no keys, can’t offer even a vague promise of a cure. unless you do and just don’t know it, which is totally possible. Let’s face it, you’re an idiot, no one would think you could explain the cure to them.

Reed’s heavy footsteps make the planks in the porch creak. He’s never without his boots, even at
night, as though he’s always prepared to run at a moment’s notice.

Or as though wooden floors can have splinters. Either one.

Rhine immediately tells us Uncle Perfect is just like all the ordinary non-mansion people, because all of them were born to wealth and privilege before voluntarily leaving for marginally smaller houses in the country where they tinker with stuff for fun for the rest of their normal-length life.

Cecily throws a fit if the smoke comes anywhere near the oxygen Bowen breathes. It only enrages her more when Reed counters that the smoke is totally harmless. It used to cause ailments that no longer exist, and a little coughing won’t kill the kid, he says.

The book never misses a chance to shit on Cecily. This is also impossible – kids needing oxygen and smoke getting in the way of that is not an ailment you can engineer out.

Uncle Perfect asks if his nephew’s doll was picked by his brother because of her parents.

Rhine tells us this would have been way more horrifying than being a random victim for s

It’s terrible enough that I was ripped from my home, but to have been a specific target rather than a random victim of Gathering? It puts Vaughn’s madness into a whole new light.

It’s so much more reasonable and less upsetting to live in a world where no one really needs a reason to kidnap you, or has any reason to not kill you.

Rhine then declares Evil Mad Scientist can’t possibly have known in advance because she’s sure her parents aren’t a big deal and she can’t be that special, rather than the fact there’s actual information contradicting the idea in the fact she would’ve been killed if Rapist-chan hadn’t picked her and Rapist-chan picking her meant Evil Mad Scientist couldn’t experiment directly on her.

Uncle Perfect reassures her that she’s safe. She says that what if that’s just what Evil Mad Scientist wants her to think. He says that he’ll totally protect her with his guns. The fact that if Evil Mad Scientist wants her to think that he’d probably be working with Evil Mad Scientist goes unmentioned.

Then stupid Cecily comes out stupidly thinking Rhine needs to know what’s going on. Rapist-chan reminds her that Rhine never needs to know things, but Cecily is a stupid girl and insists.

She holds the radio in her hands like an offering. The news is telling a horrible story.
“Fourteen are confirmed dead and at least five wounded following yesterday’s bombing in Charleston, South Carolina.” The same state where Madame’s deranged carnival is. This of course would mean nothing to the newscaster, who goes on, “The trio of bombers has made no secret about their activities, and though they haven’t disclosed their next target, they have spurred public rallies and spoken openly on camera about their actions.”

So the carnival is coming back as a feature? She’s just throwing everything that happened into the last book to make it look like there’s a plan.

Making it clear there is none, yes, this is a world where terrorists blow things up and then pose for cameras, why not?

“—research is pointless. All this madness trying to find a cure is more dangerous to us than the virus itself. It kills people. It killed my sister.”

And Rhine starts whimpering like a kicked dog because her brother thinks she’s dead and this is a shock.

I’d kept myself together with logic. I’d been taken. I’d escape. I’d make it home, and my brother and my house would still be waiting for me. But my brother has made a crater of our house.

You knew all of this last book. Nothing new has happened.

Rhine explains this is her fault because she is a girl and everything ever is a girl’s fault.

“I know the guy who runs that first broadcast,” Reed offers. “I could take you to him.

Guess why.

Guess what he’s thinking.

Guess what all of them think they should do by going to the guy running a radio broadcast.

Maybe he’ll know something.”

That’s right, it’s absolutely not to have Rhine announce she’s alive. Why would Rhine doing something be the solution? Rhine is something things are done to, like all female objects.

Even beloved Cecily is going along with it, though in her case it’s because she wants to actually follow up on what’s going on with the research and find out if it could be true, because Cecily doesn’t understand wanting to live makes you unworthy of it.

Rapist-chan reminds Cecily that it’s wrong to want the plot to move forward and it’s much better for Rhine to sit quietly and cry until he’s planned out what he wants to happen. Cecily yells at him that she’s spent the last year being told her only purpose in life is her son and if her only purpose in life is her son she’ll do whatever it takes for him to live. Rhine decides her hope is futile so she can support it, because girls being deluded is always a good thing.

His pity and Reed’s pity and Cecily’s intensity have all become too much

It is bad of Cecily to expect things of Rhine instead of pitying her, but what can you expect from a girl?

They’re all going to die too soon. I want to be the thing to save them, but I can’t.

Which is at least fifty percent won’t. Rhine doesn’t have the scientific chops to pursue a cure or even understand someone talking about it, but she also actively opposes the idea of trying. She and her brother may contain a secret cure, and her brother sure is currently blowing up places that might be able to find one, but she doesn’t want to actually do anything about those things either – she’s more upset her brother thinks she’s dead than that he’s murdering people and innocent babies just like how other people murdered her parents and their lab full of innocent babies, and even despite that, she’s not going to do anything to tell him she’s alive.

My mother said I had a different kind of strength, and that’s why I needed to look out for my brother. But maybe she didn’t know me as well as she thought, because while my brother is starting disturbing revolutions and making fire in the sky, I’m struggling just to catch my breath. I’m not very strong by anyone’s standards, especially my brother’s.

The book is continuing to go along this track and it just doesn’t work.

Trying to sell feminine strength as supportive still means women are accomplishing anything, which isn’t something the author is interested in. It tried with the idea Rhine was all that kept her brother in check, but no, what’s going on here is a fridging where her death is the motivating force. That’s not the same thing at all.

She then talks about how when they were kids they found a “fallen star” which was some spikey metal and when her brother poked it with a toe it sliced into his foot.

I felt betrayed that something so fascinating and pretty had hurt my brother.

And now you can’t even admit pretty things can hurt anyone. Eight year old you was an idiot and still smarter than current you.

“It’s okay,” he told me later, when his foot was all bandaged. “It’s probably a piece from a bomb. It was designed to hurt people.”

I’d assume this is just a kid saying things, but Rhine keeps talking about how this shows He understood
very early the ways of war.
so I think we’re supposed to take it as yet another way her brother is inherently better.

Which means there are fragments of bombs dotting the landscape! What the hell happened here? Rhine said that very long ago America accidentally the whole world but “technology” protected them. But bomb fragments like this must be post collapse or people would’ve cleaned them up, so bombs must have been dropped sometime within the last fifty years. That would suggest there was a civil war shortly after people confirmed that all the kids would die – there may have been a lag as they watched the girls die at twenty, then five years later the first boys start to die and they realize it’s hitting both sexes. It actually works well – the boys would be the ones more interested in trying to die violently before they died naturally, so a few years to confirm what’s happening and that it’s universal but relatively peaceful as society tries to figure out what to do, then the first boy dies, the rest of the twenty-four and a halfs know they’ve next, and the war starts.

Of course, if this happened people would know about it – only the first gens would actually remember, and obviously family structure is fucked in this world, but you’d have older kids telling younger kids who grew up and passed the story down in turn. You’d have to work hard to actually suppress it.

Maybe our parents’ death made him view the virus and all attempts to cure it as his enemy, and maybe I really was the only thing keeping him docile.

You know what would make so much more sense? If their parents died because they were infected with their manufactured virus. We know that for some reason they were dressing in hazmat suits despite the virus being everywhere and also not a virus, and now we hear they were trying to manufacture whatever the hell the virus that isn’t a virus is. Maybe they created a disease to mimic the symptoms. Maybe they were trying to figure out what the difference between first and second gens was, since supposedly it’s a disease in the environment which would mean the first gens are immune.

They infect themselves and die. The government may even raze the place because if the disease gets out they lose the only educated people left. There, now Rowan has a reason to think the problem is searching for a cure, as opposed to suicide cult nutjobs who blow up nurseries convincing him that looking for a cure is bad.

[Reed] has some silly theory that history was doctored shortly before the first generations were born.

God, these people were busy, weren’t they? They invent superbabies, then burn and reprint all the books while waging a massive campaign to convince everyone alive to stick to the story, then stick superbabies in every womb for a universal rollout.

The dictionary happens to be the first thing I grab, and I take it back to the divan and start on the first page, working my way from the As. Whenever I encounter a word I’ve never had cause to use, I whisper it aloud, just to have said it in my lifetime.

Another rare blip of quality. It seems like there’s less of these with each book.

Cecily comes down because only Cecily actually worries about Rhine and cares she’s staying up late. She offers to make tea, and the book explains that this is also homemade but Cecily approves of it, which is funny because many teas can do hormonal stuff including induce miscarriages.

Cecily apologizes for wanting Rhine to do anything and says she was just so scared for her baby, and Rhine grudgingly accepts that baby concern is feminine and appropriate.

Now that I’m looking at her, really looking at her, I can see the half-circle breast milk stains on her nightgown. It must have started up again after she lost the baby

It’s amazing Cecily is lucid at all, really. Her baby died and she knows her other baby is going to. Rhine realizes all her singing and perkiness is just how she is, which incidentally is a terrible attitude because someone trying to act happy and failing may just hang themselves when they realize it isn’t working. Worse, someone who’s already decided to hang themselves may start acting happy because they see a way out.

But no one cares about Cecily.

In the morning, the rapist says it’s time to get going.

Linden watches with a sad sort of smile, like he knows that his son’s happiness is a lie that must one day be dispelled. Linden loves his son, of course, but he can’t show him the affection that Cecily does. After all the loss he’s endured, all that await him are promises of death and good-byes.

Or maybe he just loves his son in a different way. Like how he loved all his wives but only one of them was the specific kind of love to keep her away from his father when she begged.

There are such a wide variety of excuses ready for why whatever the rapist is doing is actually okay.


  1. Socordya says:
    A good thing it’s the last book, because it’s getting old. It used to be funny seeing the horrors these books could spew, but now it has become just dull. Linden is a saint. His father is evil incarnate. Cecily is a bitch. Rhine’s brother is better than her. Yawn.
    1. Farla says:
      I like how with time, the feeble excuses used to mask things are just disintegrating and the author doesn’t seem to notice because she never cared in the first place.
  2. maimh says:
    Sigh, I kinda want Cecil to be saved by a correlation of soldiers and scientist from the real world.
    It could almost work actually. People show up, having learned about Rhine and a possible cure. Rhine is Rhine and refuses to leave Linden (who is immediately pegged as a rapist and preferably punched repeatedly in the face) so they simply take some tissue and blood samples from her, then go back to Chile/Canada/Europe with Cecil and Bowen.
    Heck, it could have a nice tragic ending, where years later Rhine is dying, and healthy and cured Cecil shows up to lament why Rhine was so stupid, while gushing about how Chile/Canada/Europe is so nice and rape-free. The Rhine can die in “peace” knowing that she at least saved Cecil and Bowen by proxy.
    1. savanah says:
      I would read that, specially the part where they punch Linden repeatedely!
    2. Farla says:
      Honestly, this is perhaps the one time an invading army can have a policy of just shooting all the adult males on sight without it being a war crime. We’ve met all of one guy who isn’t a rapist or supporting rapists. And he was also the only guy who didn’t appear to be in charge by virtue of dick-ownership, so unlike the rest, he wouldn’t be the one going to meet the soldiers in the first place.
  3. sliz225 says:
    “. . . just to have it said in my lifetime.”
    See, it’s these little flickers of quality that make the rest of the book so depressing. It’s clear the author has some talent, it’s just horribly misused.
    1. Farla says:
      She has lots of talent! But like the fertile fields produced by volcanic eruptions, she uses that for even greater evil.
  4. Eva Rinaldi says:
    I really wish the author of these books had a fetlife page, so I could understand what kind of fetish she has that spawned this insane world.
    But then people might try to start clubs where they roleplay and reenact it, like Gor.
    1. Ember says:
      Really? I think it’s distressingly easy to work out just from the text. I mean, I’m not sure what she *calls* it, but I know what it is.
      1. Eva Rinaldi says:
        I’m specifically referring to the weird thing where she seems to want Linden to have multiple wives but everyone is supposed to hate all of them except Rhine. But the story would still more or less make sense without the polygamy angle. So why is she writing this story about polygamy when obviously Rhine (and previously Rose, who is basically otherRhine) is the “real” wife?

        I’m sort of curious if this is supposed to show how special Rhine is by showing that she “wins” or if it’s supposed to mean Rhine doesn’t have to have icky sex or icky pregnancy, or if it’s some sort of cuckolding thing or what?

        1. Farla says:
          Hm. I had been wondering where other women fit in since there’s such a love/hate bit with them, and I think the sex divide is the key.

          She wants to be first wife but with sister wives to deflect her husband’s attention onto so she’s not responsible for the sex part. I don’t know if she actually hates the idea of having sex or if it’s just you can’t deny your husband sex so if you want to say no that day, he has to have another girl to fuck. But they shouldn’t be sexually mature so you still know you’re the prettiest.

          Avoiding pregnancy seems it’s likely a component, since Wither’s depiction of it had such a large focus on how it led to Cecily’s confinement and misery, as well as Rose’s baby being killed while she was helpless and her husband dismissing it because pregnancy means no one believes you.

          Also possibly the idea is that someone who loves you without getting sex is just the highest compliment, because men like sex but can get it from anyone, so Linden and Gabriel’s devotion to her despite her not putting out proves she’s the most desirable female and that’s all that matters. I mean, the opening of this story is that Rhine is so pretty and special people have made multiple attempts to kidnap her. Desirability is a big thing.

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