50 - Where There are Wolves

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50

         Large, bulbous yellow eyes shone from the mist around us. They drew nearer, slowly, one by one, their gaits sadistically slow, the circle they were forming tightening.

         “Imaginer,” someone whispered, and Jacoby froze.

         The eyes moved to a slant. I would know the tilt of their heads anywhere.

         My breath hitched and I pressed myself closer against Jacoby and Beatrice, feeling them do the same.

         Emotions were in turmoil inside of me. I had an animalistic, primal fear inside me that made my legs tremble, ready to push me away and send me running. The only thing, the only thought that kept me in place resurfaced, a single sentence that thudded in my head with its clarity.

         It happened once. I won’t let it happen again.

         I tightened my hold on Jacoby’s hand as the Guiders approached, came closer with their zombie-like necks and unnatural eyes.

         Where did they all come from? We need to run. We need to do something.

         I whispered it to Jacoby and Bee, and a collective rasping sound, a wood shop full of students sanding, filled the forest and pressed down on my eardrums.

         They’re laughing, I realized.

         “Thank you for the Imaginer,” the one closest to me purred. They weren’t even human anymore. In the race to round up all the Others, the scientists must have been injecting regular people right and left with the altered formula.

         “No,” I said. The shakiness of my voice terrified me. “No. You’re not having him.”

         Another group laugh.

         “Silly Probe, there’s nothing you can do to stop us,” the same Guider said. “Leave now when you still can. We’ll let you live if you keep helping us.” His—no, its—eyes fell onto the back of Beatrice’s head. “And you can take your friend with you, too.”

         They drew even closer, and my hand was slipping from Jacoby’s, both our palms slick with sweat.

         “They’ll be pleased,” the Guider said.

         I recoiled at the gust of too-hot breath in my face.

         “They haven’t had the pleasure of testing on an Imaginer yet. Maybe your friend will be the missing piece…”

         Their injection didn’t just warp their features, I thought in disgust. It twisted their minds, too.

         What could I do in this situation? Throw myself over Jacoby and shield him? We were kids. Sixteen-year-old kids out in the middle of a forest hundreds of miles away from home, surrounded by repulsive scientific experiments.

         Jacoby jerked from beside me, twisting away from an outstretched hand.

         Help, someone, please help. A distraction. All we need is a distraction.

         I heard a faint howling sound, all of us did, and it stilled the Guiders. Their necks straightened from the abnormal tilt, and they listened.

         Now, I have to do it now.

         I shoved Jacoby and Beatrice in the direction of the woods, further in. If by some miracle we could find the Bolt Hole—

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