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Something was wrong. 

Something had to be wrong. The applicator must have been faulty. Even if I was infected, there was no way I could be at stage three.

Still, was I infected? I'd hoped to set my mind at ease by seeing once and for all that I wasn't. But the circle labeled "TGV negative" definitely had not turned blue. Now I was even more uncertain than I was before.

I put the Insta-Read back in its wrapper and slipped it into my pocket.

Chris had already gotten all of the refugees onto their horses and made them put their blindfolds on. Everyone was already waiting for me.

I pulled myself onto the saddle behind Chris. My heart was pounding.

When we started moving up the trail, I reached around Chris and handed him the applicator.

"I don't understand," I said. "It's broken, right?"

Chris took the Insta-Read. He read it.

For a moment he said nothing. Then he shook his head and sighed.

"I was afraid of something like this," he whispered. "I didn't expect stage three, but I was afraid of this. Oh my God, Ashley. . . I'm so sorry."

"What do you mean?" I whispered back. "Something's wrong with it. Something has to be wrong with it. Even if I was infected, there's no way I could be stage three. It's broken. It has to be. Right?"

"These don't break," Chris said. He was being so uncharacteristically patient with me, it was frightening. "It doesn't work like that," he explained. "These applicators test for a protein that's unique to the TGV pathogen. It's physically impossible for the blue lines to appear without the presence of that protein."

"You're wrong," I insisted. I couldn't believe how certain Chris seemed when I was so obviously not anywhere near the state of a stage-three positive. "Chris," I said. "I never died! Don't you think I'd remember something like that? Dying? I never even got sick! How could I be stage three if I'm still alive?"

"Are you sure about that?"

"Am I sure about not having died? Yes, I'm pretty sure about that."

"Seriously, Ashley. Are you sure?" 

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DEAD IN BED By Bailey Simms: The Complete First BookWhere stories live. Discover now