The Infected

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Swirling, fire-colored light. Inside a dark, metallic container, dozens of bodies float in zero gravity. The smell is nauseating. One body goes by, deathly gray and covered in fungus. The male body is naked, and dark veins bulge under his skin. The man's head turns, and his bloodshot eyes lock with Hazen's. The man isn't dead after all, and he opens his mouth to scream with the most terrifying, inhuman shriek Hazen has ever heard. This awakens several of the other bodies in the container, and they turn reddened eyes to shriek at Hazen.

Hazen woke and sat upright with a small cry of fear. He was back in his hotel room, on his bed. Judging by the light coming through the window, it was early morning. He looked at his watch on the nightstand – 8:00 a.m. Someone had taken off his clothes, and he was now down to his boxers. He felt his brain sloshing inside his head, so he lay back on the pillows and held his face.

The door connecting to Renny's room opened, and Hazen had the presence of mind to pull the sheet over his bottom half. Renny, dressed in pajama shorts and a tank top, stepped across the room and sat cross-legged on the other side of the bed.

"You okay?"

"I forgot what a hangover feels like."

"There's water on your stand. And aspirin. I rubbed lotion on your latest tattoo. It looked sore."

"Thanks." Hazen looked over and reached for the water and aspirin. After swallowing the pills and taking a drink, he then lay back and looked at her. "Please, tell me you didn't have to undress me."

"Mino did that." Renny pulled her eyes from the tattoo of a futuristic car on his chest. She swallowed. "Your shirt was covered in blood."

Remembering Sonyeah's death, Hazen looked at the ceiling. "I feel awful."

"There's nothing you could've done."

He knew this was true, but even that was an odd feeling. "Did the cops find Vin?"

"No. But Seth talked to the cops after you gave your statement, and he told them he suspected who'd done this. The cops checked Sonyeah's phone, and Vin did call her right before she went outside. Then after we brought you back here..." Renny rubbed her arms and looked scared.

Hazen tried to sit up and made it as far as bracing himself on his elbows. "What? What's wrong now?"

Renny frowned. "Vin called Lhamo right after the cops left."

"What?" The volume of this hurt his head.

"Vin was gloating about how free he'll be with his vision partner dead. He said he's trying to get rid of the dream futures. He believes if he kills those of us who dream, only the nightmare versions will come true. He's trying to make them real, unalterable. Lhamo said he sounded like a madman."

Hazen felt his pulse racing. "Does that mean Vin's after you now too? And Oryan?"

Renny nodded. "Seth doesn't think we'll be safe in their community in Utah. Vin could get there easy. But if we stay on our own... Vin's seen us now. He'd find us."

Hazen sat all the way up. "So on top of everything else, now a psychopath is after us. What should we do, ask for protective custody?"

Renny raised an eyebrow at him. "You want to explain this to the cops?"

"No, you're right. I've been to the psych ward already." Hazen huffed. "Lhamo or Seth have any ideas?"

They're the only people who can help us, he thought.

Renny bit her lip. "Lhamo wants to take us to the Kota temple. Lhamo says Vin's never been there, and it's hard to get to. That'd probably be the best place to go. We can't abandon all this now. We can train at the temple, Lhamo says. We can write the prophecies there. And they say it's safe."

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