Chapter Twenty-Nine

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The slow drip, drip, drip of her IV is what finally pulled her out of a slumber that had seemed internal. Her body ached, each muscle tender and weak. It felt as though her entire body had been tossed down the side of a mountain, hitting each and every rock on the way down.

Her eyelids turned a pink, fleshy color as she adjusted to the hospital lights and her mouth was so dry it hurt to swallow. Circles of light danced across her vision until the room slowly began to materialize, as if looming out of a thick fog.

Once her eyes opened, there was a chip in the ceiling that Rachel couldn't stop staring at. It seemed like a miracle that she could see anything at all and she basked in the sights and sounds all around her with new admiration.

She tested her toes and fingers. Though she was happy to be alive, she felt broken and irreparable- like everything inside her had shattered.

Almost like Humpty Dumpty. There a book of nursery rhymes she reserved only for special nights when Jed had been little and he was having trouble sleeping. Of course, she never sang the Humpty Dumpty song to him—it was too depressing and the point was to lift his spirits, not lower them—but she remembered the song with clarity.

About a guy who fell off a wall and couldn't be put back together. Something about her felt that way now, like there was no way she could ever be whole again.

How am I alive? How was it possible that she was awake and not coughing up a lung or burning with a merciless fever? E-91 should have killed her within twenty-four hours.

When she tried to sit up, wires pulled at her arms where they were attached to her through IVs. Somehow, the white sheets—free of any blood—were one of the most beautiful things Rachel had ever seen in her life.

Flowers sat on the nightstand beside her bed. They were yellow roses--bright, cheery and as alive as she felt in that moment. She drew in a deep breath of air; it didn't burn as much as she had expected it to.

How am I alive?

"Rachel!" The doors suddenly swung open and Simone came bounding through with Dr. Everest close behind her. Both of them wore masks and blue paper gowns over their clothes and shoes.

Simone came to a skittering halt by her bed and wrapped her arms around her best friend. It hurt a little, but happiness outweighed the pain.

"I didn't think I'd ever get to see you again," She sniffled. "I'm so, so sorry I left."

Simone pulled back and looked at Rachel with a stern expression. "What were you thinking keeping us out like that? If you had died—Oh my gosh if you would have died I would have never gotten to say goodbye." She burst into another fit of tears and thwacked Rachel on the shoulder. "That was so selfish of you."

"I— "Rachel tried to speak but her voice came out sounding like sand paper.

"You should have some water." Dr. Everest poured a cup for her and helped bring it to her lips. Once the first drop of water touched her tongue, she felt like she couldn't get enough. She drank water until her stomach ballooned uncomfortably and finally settled back onto her pillows with a sigh.

When she tried to speak again, it came out sounding more human. "I didn't want you to get sick."

"It doesn't matter now, sweetie, I'm just so happy to see you."

"What happened? How am I still here?"

"Abby approved a mission to the capital and they were able to smuggle a few antidotes out of the hospital. Everyone who received it has made a full recovery."

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