13 - The Dying Groves (III-IV)

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"You were right." She whispered, "You were right and I was wrong and she almost—I almost let her give me shots today, Gare. What if? Do you think?"

Garrett gripped her shoulders, but she was shaking. Still shaking always shaking. She couldn't stop. "Do I think what?"

"Do you think she would have...done that? To me? I mean, I'm her daughter." Mikie's eyes were wide. They were wide and dancing. She couldn't hold still. She couldn't focus on any one thing because at any moment there could be a needle sliding beneath her skin. Any second she could find herself burning from the inside out. Like holding the sun. That's how Maria had described her change. Her transformation after the bite.

What if no one needed to be bitten anymore? What if her mother was creating Virals without the bite, eliminating the rage and the chaos that went with it, turning them into controllable monsters? It sounded insane. Hell, twelve hours ago she'd told Garrett it was insane. Now? Now she didn't know. All she knew was that she wanted out. Needed out.

"I need to run."

Garrett's grip locked around her arm. "Do you realize what time it is?" He gestured to the window of his room, the third bedroom in her mother's house. The only spare. "It's dark, Mikie. You remember what comes out in the dark, right?"

She stamped her feet. "Garrett." She choked on a sob. She'd never been so scared. "I have to move. You don't understand. I need to move. I can't stay here anymore. Not after...."

"Not after what?" Andy stood in the doorway, a slim jim between her teeth.

Mikie wrinkled her nose at the sharp sting of meat and salt. "Nothing."

Garrett huffed. "She has a right to know. We're all involved in this Mikie."

"No. Not yet. Not until we have a plan. I mean, to get—we have to keep her from reaching West and the others. Okay? You know? Because..." This wasn't about babies. It wasn't about the continuation of the human race. This was about creating some fusion, some hybrid. And Mikie certainly didn't want to be a part of any of it. She didn't want her people dragged into it.

"Your mom's trying to kill us all."

"Garrett." Mikie felt like her eyes were about to pop out of their sockets. "I just told you not to tell her. What do you think—that's her mom." But Andy looked unfazed. She blinked.

"I never liked her much anyway. She's been too happy. She's not exhausted enough. It's like us showing up gave her some weird new hope. If it's for killing us slowly, I'm down with leaving. Like, now."

"We can't leave now, the streets are covered with Virals," Garrett said simply. Everything about this seemed so simple to him. He made it sound like leaving would be as easy as walking out the front door without so much as saying goodbye. Mikie didn't understand. She didn't understand how he couldn't see how fucked up this was. Her mom. Her mother wanted to slowly turn all of them into Virals. Wanted all of them to slowly bend to her will. Like she was building her own perfect little world here. What proteins was she studying that afternoon? Were any of them the ones that allowed Maria and the others to walk around in the daylight and not feel like they were about to explode? Why did she need to compare them to human cells if she didn't want any human survivors? What was wrong with that woman?

"We should at least tell Reem." Andy shrugged. "You know, just to be nice." She turned, pulling up the hood of her sweatshirt so it fell over her eyes. Even with the balmy weather outside she still stuck to her fall clothes. Hoodie, jeans, combat boots. Mikie followed her down the stairs and out the door without another word to Garrett. Andy was right, they would need Reem.

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