Chapter 18: Don't Die

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That night, I lie in bed, staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep

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That night, I lie in bed, staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep. The room is quiet. Tourmaline's in "isolation." It's a worthless victory because I've lost Anton—again.

Where are you? I wonder. What are they doing to you?

Mairī Lin found nothing about him on the truenews casts.

"Not yet," she assured me.

It's not only the emotional pain that keeps me up. My face hurts. The distortion between the left and right sides of my skull is excruciating. My eyes are misaligned, throwing off my depth perception. It's impossible to breathe through my nose, which looks like someone's shoved their thumb into a lump of clay. I keep scratching the dreg side of my scalp; it won't stop itching.

I throw off the blanket, pull my EverMight jacket over my nightgown, and go outside. I limp aimlessly, hoping, and failing, to gain a sense of peace. A firefly buzzes around my head and lands on my shoulder.

It takes flight. I follow after, almost tripping on my uneven legs. The glowing bug leads me to a twinkling cluster of its fellows; they leave glowing trails in the air as they fly around a short girl in swathes of bandages. Her eyes glow like red coals. She stands on a large boulder, arms lifted to the stars, turning with tiny steps. A green mist twirls gently around her.

"Stinky?" I call.

She squeaks in surprise, drops her arms, and her coal eyes widen with dismay. The green fog seeping out from her bandages collapses. The fireflies scatter.

"Sorry," I say. "I didn't mean to scare you."

"Please don't make me go back into my jar," she begs.

"You were here first," I say reassuringly.

Her coal eyes blink in surprise, needing a moment to process my words. "I was, wasn't I?"

I climb up the rock. "Besides, I could use the company."

She looks around as if making sure I'm talking to her. "Do you mean ... me?"

"If I'm not intruding," I say. It's a very un-Lilianne thing of me to admit to someone like Stinky, but safe to say, I'm not myself at the moment.

Stinky pats the rock for me to sit next to her. I do, and we gaze at the towers of Jupitar City in the distance.

"Thank you," she says. "This is the only time I get to wander around without someone yelling at me to get back in my jar."

"That must suck," I say.

"It really does," she agrees. "But, I'm no longer toxic ..."

"Tox-ique," I murmur, thinking of Anton.

"... just gross, so I've been put on the preliminary adoption list!" Her green fumes shift, pulsing with a hopeful blue.

"Congratulations," I say, appreciating the distraction.

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