Lowering my eyes to the road again, I watch the concrete beneath my feet.
“Why, if we’re going to spread the news of peace, do we have to wear black?” It’s Ruth’s shaky voice that finally breaks the thick silence.
Yeah, why can’t we wear our own clothes? After all, the pale blue and yellow represent peace. The black shirts we’re wearing are form-fitting and not loose like our normal ones. They show too much of my curves if you ask my opinion.
“It’s so we can blend in with them, Ruth.” Mr. Demetrius doesn’t sound very convincing. Actually, he sounds sad and scared.
His answer only makes Ruth sniffle more.
I feel the anxiety levels spike around me, and it makes me jumpier. I increase my pace, so I don’t have to walk too close to the group.
I’m a horrible person.
Instead of consoling Ruth, I’m only thinking of myself. I’m not virtuous. I’m a deviant, and I don’t think anyone can convert me. I’m too much of a coward to ever be virtuous.
We’ve been walking for what feels like endless miles. I know it will be getting dark within the hour. Usually, I sit in front of my glofish, watching their colors become bright as night falls.
Gosh, today is just one endlessly long blur, and I doubt the night will be any different. I haven’t checked my backpack to see how much food I have, but it will be time for supper soon.
“I’m hungry.” Jasper gives voice to my thoughts.
“We’ll eat later.” Mr. Demetrius sounds even sadder than before, or maybe he’s just tired.
Ugh, I’m exhausted, and staring at the road doesn’t help anymore. My feet ache, and my legs are numb.
Ethan takes hold of my hand, and as I glance up at him, he nods his head to the right of the road.
I frown, not sure what he’s trying to tell me.
I’m about to open my mouth when he yanks hard at my hand. The jolt vibrates up my arm to my shoulder, and I’m too stunned to even let out a shriek as we set off at a maddening pace into the overgrown bushes and wild grass.
“Faster, Jai! No one can follow us!” There’s a slight edge of panic in Ethan’s voice, and for the first time since he told me to stay close to him, I feel my stomach bunch together to the point that it aches. The apprehensive pain spreads down into my legs, and I’m afraid I’ll fall, but a miracle happens, and I don’t.
The knee-high grass makes it harder for me to run, and my chest is starting to burn.
“Faster,” Ethan hisses.
If he yanks at my arm one more time, the only speed he’ll get from me is crawling after I go head over heels into the wild grass.
He keeps yanking at my arm. Breathless, I gasp, “My legs won’t go faster.”
I don’t think he realizes he’s twice my size.
But somehow, I keep running. My breaths are embarrassingly loud.
“Ethan,” I wheeze. “I can’t.” Another wheeze. Gosh, from panting to wheezing. I’m not going to make the boundary line.
He doesn’t stop but instead yanks me forward again.
“Ethan!” I shriek, almost nose-diving into the wild grass.
“There’s the boundary marker. Just run, Jai.” His voice is filled with an urgency that makes panic explode inside me.
What is waiting for us on the other side of the boundary marker?
The boundary marker is a brilliant blue line that fades up into the dome’s lighter tinge. I’ve always wanted to see it, and now I can’t even appreciate it.
I’m too tired, too frightened.
“We can’t go… through it,” I wheeze the words out. “The dome… will kill us.”
I shouldn’t talk. It’s making my saliva thicker, and my chest burns.
“My brother is meeting us here.”
Ethan starts to slow as we reach the boundary marker. Now that night approached, the boundary marker lights everything up alongside it. I see Aaron as he comes out of the wild grass. The light makes his skin look even paler than earlier.
“Tell me no one saw you,” Ethan demands.
“No one saw me.” Aaron sounds different, younger and scared, and not the official who addressed us back at the haven. “What took you so long?”
“We had to walk with the others. We could only break away now. Where is it?” Panic makes Ethan’s voice dip low. He lets go of my hand and darts forward, searching for something.
I almost scream, thinking he’s lost his mind and he’s going to walk into the force field when he ducks lower, and I see it. There’s a black hole in the dome, big enough for us to climb through.
“Come on,” Ethan says, turning back to me. “You go first.”
I stare at him, my mouth dropping open. There’s no way I’m going near the boundary marker. It will fry me to a crisp.
A frown darkens his brow when I don’t move. Then he snaps, “Where are you going to go, Jai? You can’t go home, and the others are long gone. You have three seconds to climb through, or we’re leaving you here.”