It's the feeling of heat on my face that wakes me up. There's no sudden jump out of bed, gasping for breath sort of waking. It's slow. I don't even open my eyes right away. Time passes, I know, because I'm listening to the way the clock is ticking.
The night before comes back in the image of the mud covered dress, the paisley print barely showing through the layers of grime. It comes back in the form of her cries, the one that sounds like an injured animal. It comes back in the form of pain, spreading up my arms and over my shoulders, ending with the throbbing in my head, which is bearable.
"I can see your eyes moving behind your eyelids, Jaelyn."
My father's voice is tense, firm. It's the first time I notice that I can hear him breathing, a light wheezing from the many years he smoked before the compound outlawed the cigarette black market.
"I was doing a limb check," I mutter, slowly opening my eyes and pushing myself up. Or rather trying to. The weight I'm forced to put on my left arm is like someone stabbed me with a fork and twisted it. Wincing, I scoot up like a worm, watching my father check my vitals.
"All of your limbs are present," he says, absentmindedly, scribbling something on my file. "But as you've discovered, that arm isn't in good shape. You're under quarantine for the rest of the day."
My left arm is wrapped in gauze, but the blood seeps through in bright pink polka dots. The skin around the gauze is yellow, purple spiderweb veins spreading out from around it.
She was infected.
Now, my arm is, too.
"You're lucky you're immune," my father continues, finally looking at me, "Otherwise, the officers would have shot you without hesitation, too. The arm will heal on its own with some antibiotics, which I've hooked up through an IV. It's not safe for you to leave, though. You've put a lot at risk already, acting like a hero."
So, they shot her. I risked my life to save someone, only for the guards to shoot her.
Dad's watching me think, the corners of his mouth twitching as he taps his pen on the clipboard. His eyebrows are creased in the middle, giving him a faux unibrow.
"What were you thinking?" he finally asks, barely whispering. I hold my breath. "Seriously, Jaelyn."
"I thought she might have been an immune," I say, sinking back in my pillow.
"So," he says, voice still tense, as if he is talking through his teeth, "You would put everything we have here at risk to see if someone's immune?"
"Stop right there. If you were sorry, this wouldn't be the second time. This wouldn't have happened again."
"This was different," I plead, clenching the covers on the bed.
"No, it wasn't. It's the same, Jay. I can't take anymore bullets for you. I've had to write you off as mentally unstable. Do you know how degrading that is?"
His face is red, veins like rivers on his forehead. I can see his racing heartbeat there and in the way his right eye twitches. There's nothing I can say at this point. After staring at me for a minute, he lets out a long breath, turning away.
"I'll get you out in the morning," he says, low, not turning to look at me.
"I'm sorry," I whisper, fighting the knot in my throat from rising.
"Don't," he simply says, opening the first flap on the tent, "Sleep."
With that, he's gone, zipping the tent up behind him, and I hear the sanitation machine come to life.
YOU ARE READING
"I live in a place called Compound 4. We are one of ten different compounds placed at strategic locations around the US. It's been thirteen years since the virus overtook humanity, turning about ninety percent of us into zombies. I'm not sure how it...