17 - The Monstrous Mine

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The night stretched wide awake and Mikie stretched with it, eyes glued to the ceiling of her tiny bedroom. She could hear all the little house noises, a creak of a stair, the rustle of curtains from the open windows on the ground floor. Her mother didn't sleep in fear of the monsters outside because she controlled them. But Mikie kept her door locked. She wasn't sure that she could trust anyone, and some nights she even doubted herself.

Tonight was one of those nights, where the hours crawled by and the moon seemed too close and too bright through her window. Her thoughts ran in circles. Some part of her was always running. If it wasn't her feet it was her head. And she kept thinking about what Reem had said about California. It sounded too good to be true. That was her first thought. But the relief, that sense of hope, of freedom, that this idea of a place carried with it, that was enough to make her want it. She wanted to believe. She wanted to trust him. She just wasn't sure if she could survive it.

There was an entire trek through the Rockies to get there if they made it off the base alive.

And they still hadn't found Garrett.

And with each passing thought her hope of ever seeing the sunny beaches Reem talked about faded just a little bit more.

What if they couldn't find Garrett? What if her mother came for someone next? Tonight? What if it was Andy? What if she got to Reem? Without Reem they were hopeless. They'd have no way of finding their way across the mountains without his help, without the camp. She sighed, rolling over and stuffing her face into her pillow. There had to be something, some way, to fight their way off the base. But they were outmanned, outgunned. She only still had her handgun and a knife. Andy wasn't allowed to touch the guns here. They were locked up. Somewhere.

They'd have to find those too. Shit.

Garrett would know how to find those. Garrett remembered everything about the base. He was the one who was actually excited to be here. Mikie swallowed, remembering. It'd been years, but she still hated the subtle way the palms seemed to close in on them at night. They'd done it then, too, before. Maybe she hadn't noticed as much then when she was younger. She remembered Garrett though, outside at all hours. How they'd run through the peach groves after school, gorging on the fresh fruit. It was one of the only spots she liked about the base, and now it was overgrown and wild, decaying in the same way she felt the tiny nuclear town had. The sole survivor was her mother.

A woman who, when Mikie looked in the mirror, she could see silhouetted in her hazel eyes. Twisted and smirking, lurking just over her shoulder. It's what she came from, her mother. And it was a monster, a darkness, she hated. One she feared.

What if she couldn't get out? What if there was no escape? Would she end up like the others? Like Maria? Or worse, would she be the one her mother left standing? Would the world fall down around her until Mikie was the only one that remained, attempting desperately to rebuild some semblance of a life in order to save her own sanity? She didn't want to think about that. That was the worst. She'd end things before they got that far. She had to.

The stairs creaked.

Mikie held her breath, refusing to move. She didn't even blink against the white moonlight. And then the footsteps pattered down the hall and she heard the door to her mother's room close.

She loosed a breath. Still safe. For now.

Her chest collapsed and she curled further into the blankets despite the perpetual heat. There had to be a way out.

If only they could find it.

A giggle rippled through the wall.

Mikie rolled over. "Andy?" She stared at the plaster between them. Andy's room laid in the opposite direction of her mother's room, Mikie sandwiched between them. She wasn't even sure she'd heard the laugh until it came a second time.

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