12 - The Raging Sun

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He knew his life wasn't a movie. But it was a bit cliché to wake in the middle of the night to a pair of glowing eyes in the corner of his room. Garrett rubbed at his own, sleep-crusted eyes. Turns out, unlike his horror films, the only other thing in the room last night was his sister. And all she did was hand him a notebook, not try to eat him. Still, he didn't feel the need to thank her for that kindness. He sighed, stretching in the sun. It was barely seven in the morning and the sun already seemed higher in the sky than normal. It was already hot. He hated this heat. It was one of the many reasons he was glad they skipped Florida as a habitable state every winter.

Between the heat and the 'gators and the Virals, he figured it was pretty much a land mine waiting to go off.

And then Maria handed him the damn notebook.

His stomach pitted at just the thought of it, the words on the page. He'd clicked his light on to read them, Maria perched and waiting at the foot of the bed while he did. There were slashes and scribbles and words etched out of the page, the ink too thick to read through, but he managed just fine. He thought.

Florida never gave him a good feeling anyway, but the mess of ink Maria showed him only confirmed he never should have let Mikie drag them into this. It wasn't safe. It wasn't nice here. There were eyes everywhere. He could feel them as he walked, even with the sun stretching far too high in the sky to be this early. He could sense them in the trees. There were Virals everywhere. He wasn't walking among them. It wasn't like some strange episode of the Twilight Zone. No, he was being watched by them, hunted and tracked by them. The thought of it made his skin crawl.

He wanted to shoot something.

But he also wanted to get to the bottom of the creepy pit in his stomach, and that meant exploring the labs for any evidence that Hailey might, in fact, not be working on a cure but something else entirely. It came up at dinner the night before, slipped out just a little when he'd asked her about her research.

"I've done a lot of studies on Viral behavior, cognitive and physical," she'd said. "It's been a blessing to have such a tame nest so close." And then she'd nodded to his sister. Maria with her changed eyes and sharper teeth. She looked strange, sitting at the table—like some out of place rag doll. A shell. She didn't even look that devoid, that paralyzed when they were trekking their way here.

And now that they were settled, now that they had beds again, Garrett was starting to rethink things. Question things.

He didn't like the sun or the weather here. It smothered him, made his thoughts slow and heavy. His missed the mountain air of Virginia. It was their base for the springs and summers—mild enough to tolerate as the world heated once more. At least there they had the caverns to hide in, the trees to explore and use for cover. At least there, there were games, training exercises that were hard to pull off in wide open fields or beneath thick palms. At least there he knew they were safe. It was old territory.

This? This was just old. Too old.

It was like stepping back in time. Maria had sketched a clock on her page. A clock within a basic outline of a house, but he got the point, From the looks of things, it seemed Hailey had never left the base. That time for her had simply stopped after Iasa lost his life to the virus. And that, that was the scariest part of all.

Hell, Mikie's room was still the same powder blue it had been when they left it. There were still posters of boy bands.

Boy bands.

He shook his head, swiping his hair off his forehead before it could stick there.

Mikie hardly listened to music at all anymore. Except for her daily runs around the neighborhoods. He hadn't seen her Pod the entire trip though. Maybe she'd left it at West's. Maybe she brought it but after Nashville and Atlanta, she was too afraid to use it. He'd want all his senses too. He'd want to know if he was being snuck up on too. It wouldn't be a fair fight otherwise.

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