Chapter 1: Late Arrivals

The sun had just risen over the horizon, a sickly yellow ball of light, still partly obscured by the buildings of down town. Even so, I was wide awake. In total I must have only gotten an hour of sleep last night but that was expected. No one slept, the night before.

The dawn air was chilly and I pulled my hood tighter over my ears, as I pushed through the back gate into Dustin's yard. It was like a bomb had gone off here last night. Bottles and cans lay strewn across the half dead grass. Only one body though; that was a silver lining. The rest of them must have made it inside before passing out. Maybe they hadn't passed out at all. But that was too much to hope for.

“Dustin?” I called, stepping into the cluttered basement.

Moving into the room, I had to squeeze between the hanging arm of a girl—draped limply off the couch—and a stale pile of vomit. He'd really done it this time, hadn't he? What if he was marked today? I couldn't even bring myself to think of it. He needed to be able to run in a strait line. With all their anti-government talk the only act of rebellion my friends could muster up was an obscene amount of under-aged drinking.

After a thorough search of the basement I determined that Dustin must be on a different level. I felt bad, leaving them all lying there like that; most of them were probably in the same boat as Dustin and I. But they'd chosen to go to the party last night. It wasn't my problem. Neither was Dustin, really, but I couldn't leave him. I just couldn't. Best friends were there for each other, through thick and thin, through ups and downs. Not even the marking could tear us apart, or so I hoped.

Upstairs everyone was slightly more conscience, but they walked around in a zombie like state, sliding sunglasses over squinted eyes before trudging out into the rising sun.

“Nance, hey!”

I spun at the sound of a familiar voice, and blinked several times to make sure I wasn't seeing things.


The petite girl sat nestled in a large arm chair. She didn't look quite as hung over as the majority of Dustin's remaining guests, but groggy all the same. I was more than surprised to see her. She was pretty and peppy, an over achiever, not the kind that my friends would ever associate with. Not that I personally had anything against the pretty, Greek girl, but Dustin and our other friends could be a little elitist. They liked to imagine themselves as teenaged freedom fighters, lashing back against our museum of a home. In principle, I agreed with them. We were humans, not some kind of science experiment. But if there were rebels in the city they did not associate with my friends.

“Where you here last night?” She pushed herself to her feet. “I didn't see you.”

I shook my head, still shocked. “Nu-no. I wanted to stay fresh, you know?”

She was nodding.

Before she could say anything else I cut her off. “Have you seen Dustin around?”

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