Chapter 17

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The road was made of red stone which crumbled under the thick tyres of the quad bikes and expelled spirals of dust into the air around the hybrids. Devin, Sara, and Eva slowed to a halt, signalling for the others to stop. There was a small cavern, half concealed by a fallen tree, with an opening large enough to hide the quads inside. They drove in, met only by the eerie blackness of the unwelcoming shadows.

   “Here’s a good place,” Sara said, blinking rapidly, “we could hide for a while and wait it out.”

   “And live on what, exactly?” Eva retorted, snorting loudly, “Because us humans need the basic essentials – food and water, that kind of thing.”

   Sara ignored her and rummaged through one of the satchels left on the quad bikes. It contained a small about of ammunition and a spare gun, as well as a box of flares, a water bottle, and some rope – like a survival pack. She found it infuriating that they were so out of their depth, running from an enemy that always seemed to be one step ahead, with a tag-a-long, Eva, who could be ready to betray them. Was it a lapse of judgement to bring her? Sara wasn’t sure, but she was doubting herself, and that in itself was dangerous.

   In a way, she was finifugal – trying to prolong the journey for as long as she could out of fear of it ending. She hated endings, especially those that resulted in death. She rolled a flare between her fingers, glancing over her shoulder at her friends. Friends, trustworthy people who were relying purely on her guidance, all around her. She smiled reassuringly at them out of appendence, an eager desire to keep them in high hopes.

   “Devin, take Jay and go into the cave,” Sara ordered, tossing him the flare, “If it hasn’t ended before the flare begins to go out, come back and let us know.”

   “Sure thing,” Jay said, poking Devin in an attempt to make him stand up, “We’ll be back before you know it.”

   No one was sure whether or not that was a good thing, but their worries were interrupted by the crack of the flare and the insistent hissing as it ignited – illuminating the cave. It was only a matter of minutes before both of the boys had vanished into the darkness, leaving Callum alone with the three girls. The bottle of water was passed around after Eva insisted that it wasn’t drugged, leaving enough for Devin and Jay. Sara slung the rope over one shoulder so that it fell across her body, over her head, and down to her waist in loops; she knew that it could be useful to her.

   “Sara!” a cry came from deep within the cave, “hurry!”

   Sara pushed Eva first into the inky blackness before igniting a second flare. She broke into a run, keeping one eye on the winding mass of rocky tunnels and the other on Eva. Luckily, it wasn’t long before they caught up to the boys who were stood in a small opening. Their flare had burned out and hung limply in Jay’s left hand, but there were small oil lamps surrounding them. Sara stumbled forwards, dazed by their discovery.

   “Ruby?” Sara whispered in shock.

*

Inside the cell, Ruby stirred. She waved a hand in front of her face to check her vision, shocked by the way it seemed to appear and disappear. What had happened? Why did her hand vanish as if it didn’t exist? She blinked rapidly and clutched at her head. There was a rough scab under her fringe that had been damaged slightly by the harsh floor, leaving small droplets of crimson on her fingertips. It vanished with her hand as she continued to wave it across her line of sight. Of course, her power! She focused, fighting back the burning feeling in her head as she did so, and disappeared completely.

   “Ruby?” the speaker was familiar, but she couldn’t move to look.

   She opened her mouth to reply but her throat was dry and sore. There was dirt on her lips and her tongue felt like sandpaper against the roof of her mouth. She swallowed, grunting as a sharp pain responded to the motion, and fell back against the ground. Only her head and her lower arms could move, but even that required more energy than she had. It was only a matter of time before she was consumed by the wave of unconsciousness again.

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