No longer the murky blue from her childhood but a dead gray laced with the smallest ring of orange. As she took one step after another the orange grew, bleeding from his eyes then out his ears into the air around them until she was surrounded. A blink and suddenly she saw Garrett kneeling over her, attempting to stare straight through her skull. It looked like he was hunting for her thoughts. What were those?
And then his eyes, too, were orange.
Another blink and they were gone, back to their rich and worried brown.
Reem's voice sounded different. Like for a moment he was actually concerned. "Is she moving? Tell her not to try and move so fast."
"Take it easy, okay?" Garrett ran his calloused hand across her forehead. She shuddered, expecting talons to follow. But there were none. "You, uh, passed out. I think. Reem said you got scraped up out there. Told us what happened in the marshes." His voice was soft and she wondered what version of the story Reem gave them. "It was stupid of you to leave camp. You know that, right?"
She groaned. Her side was throbbing, beneath her right ribs. Like someone had given her a second pulse. Her eyes met Reem's, she blinked, hoping he'd hear her all-too-silent "thank you." Because she couldn't say it out loud. If she did it meant she had a reason to trust him, to believe him. He shifted, returning a white bottle of witch hazel to a bright red toolbox behind him.
"We need to keep moving." There was no waver in her voice. Not a hint of the fear that thrummed through her. Was she dying? Could she walk? Was there even an end of the road for them? Would Maria lead them from one road to another in search of a woman who no longer existed? Was she imagining things like Garrett's eyes going orange or how her father seemed to whisper for her to run within her dreams. Only she couldn't. She couldn't outrun anything. Especially in a dream.
But that didn't mean she ever stopped trying.
She forced herself upright with a groan, kind of amused as both Reem and Garrett reached to push her back to the earth. But she waved them off. The ground was too soft, too enclosing. She'd lay there when she was dead. "How long until we're on the move again? I don't like being here with three Virals in the woods."
"We just need to collapse the hammocks." Garrett's voice was soft, as if Mikie were dumb and slow. Stupid, maybe, sometimes. But she was anything but slow. Reem could sense that as she hauled herself up onto her knees, soaking her jeans. They hung on her hips and he realized just how thin she was as he pulled one of the cords to his hammock. It fluttered to the ground with a whoosh that drew looks from Garrett and Mike. Andy's head appeared over the lip of her own hammock.
"That was easy." Reem scooped up the remains of his bed and started to roll it. "We should get a move on, shouldn't we?"
And so the day began before the sun broke over the trees, before the rain even stopped falling. Reem tore down Mikie's hammock as she sat on a stuffed pack and watched. They didn't speak, but he wanted to. He wanted to say "you're welcome" cause he knew she was grateful for the stitches in her side. They weren't deep, the marks. But he'd rather be safe than sorry. She nursed them with her fingertips, pressing against the cotton beneath her shirt every so often, as if testing the seams. He wondered what she'd meant about trust. If there was a way he could convince her that, in order to survive, you needed a bit of it. Not too much, that's how fools died. But she wouldn't last long if she didn't trust any of them, let alone herself. So he tossed her hammock into he bed of his truck and offered her a hand as Maria jogged back into the clearing, what looked like dirt streaked across her face. But he couldn't be too sure.
"Good hunt?" he asked. Because it unnerved him how still she got, how her eyes looked past all of them, instead settling on Mikie's side.
She swallowed and gave the slowest nod.
YOU ARE READING
Runner (Complete)Science Fiction
As a Runner for one of the last surviving groups of a global pandemic, seventeen-year-old Michaela Jameson spends most of her days searching for food and trying not to get bitten by the Virals that hunt in the dark. But when she learns her missing m...