She couldn't even stand to watch anymore. Her heart had plummeted to her feet and her head began to spin. When this was all over she would murder Katrina. Shay had to turn away. She couldn't watch this. Her legs felt like jelly, and she felt as if she could just collapse. If Carson didn't run soon he would be ash in just a few more seconds. Shay heard one last ping and then silence. Her heart stopped. She knew it had because she could no longer hear the roar in her ears. She couldn't breathe, couldn't think, and couldn't open her eyes.
The first grenade exploded suddenly. She could feel the bridge shudder under her feet as more of them began to explode. Several must have exploded at once, because a massive blast suddenly knocked Shay off her feet. She stumbled backwards and fell on her butt. Her eyes were squeezed tighter than the skinny jeans from Hollister. She was afraid to open her eyes and see something horrible and gory, however her mind fought her better conscious and she opened her eyes.
Nobody was left standing. Shay did a head count as she heard her heart roar back to life in her ears. Kyleigh's blonde hair, Katrina's brown hair, Marena's golden hair, and then Owen's shaggy hair she could all see. Laylia and Jaycee were facing her, so she knew they were alright. Then silence again. Her heart fluttered to a stop when she didn't see Carson. Shay felt a lump form in her throat when she couldn't find him. He. Was. Gone.
When it struck Shay her sense of time stopped. She couldn't scream, couldn't cry, she was just, numb.
"Carson?" She heard someone else faintly yell, but her ears were ringing from the noise of the blast. Her heart fluttered when she saw an arm wave.
"Over here… and in one piece," she heard a faint reply, and knew he was ok. She assumed to early, and felt a faint smile for a few seconds because everybody was still alive. They couldn't be followed anymore.
Shay heaved herself to her feet again, bottom hurting, and walked towards everyone else. If it was even possible, everyone looked worse than they had the last time she'd laid eyes on them. Marena's fingers looked even more disgusting, Katrina had more bruises and dirt smeared on her, and Carson was somewhat covered in ash and dirt.
The first thing Shay did when she reached the others was run up and hug Carson tightly. She buried her face in his shoulder. He smelled of asphalt and soot, but she ignored it. She felt his hands warp around her back and it was as if they could stay there forever, and shut out everything that now suppressed them like the weight of the world. Shay knew everything had to end, no matter how long you wanted to hold it, eventually you had to let it go.
Removing her head from Carson's shoulder, she turned to gaze out across the bridge. On the other side of the hole was the line of policemen, all staring in shock. Behind them was the city, but it was not the skyline Shay had seen all her life. Smoke now rose in pillars to join the thick, dark clouds, and fire could still be seen from various cars and buildings in the streets. As the others approached the edge of the hole, by where Shay and Carson were standing, there was only one thought on their mind. What have we done?
"Oh my god," Shay heard Marena stammer. Now Marena sounded afraid, and she was not one to scare easy. She had stayed strong through all of this, never being afraid or at least not unveiling her fear to the others. What had they done to their city?
No, it wasn't what they had done, but what the cops had done. If they hadn't shot aimlessly and thrown grenades the city wouldn't have been in the shape it was in now. It didn't matter now. It wouldn't be long before someone else was on their tail, they needed to get away while they could, but the image of the city was too disturbing to look away from. As she stared, an old song kept playing in her head- Let's watch it burn, let's watch the city burn the world.
"Come on, we need to get out of here," Shay said as she turned her back to everything she had once known. Shell shocked, Shay felt her legs get wobbly as she tried to take a step. Slowly walking felt natural again, and she made her way over to the truck. The rest of them gathered around, shock worn into all of their faces.
"Who's driving?" asked Kyleigh, pursing her lips slightly. Being the youngest one here, still just fourteen, Kyleigh wasn't going to be driving.
"Shay will," Carson volunteered with a snicker, "Her sixteenth birthday is in less than a month. She's the closest out of all of us to a driver's license," he said, and it was true, but Shay wasn't the best driver.
"Um, no, please," Kyleigh said. "In sixth grade me, Shay, Kelsee, and my brother drove in a parking lot and she drove through the intersections and stopped at the clear places. And hit a pole."
Everyone started chuckling softly until Shay gave each of them a fiery glare. She had been in sixth grade; she hadn't had a formal education on driving. She might have missed a few stop signs and ran a few red lights, but she wasn't that bad of a driver anymore…
"I actually have a permit now, and I know how to drive now," Shay retorted. "You hit a curb too, if I remember," she said, smiling quickly.
"So it's decided. Shay's driving." Carson said and smiled at her. Shay rolled her eyes.
"Marena sit up in the front with me. The rest of you get to sit in the back," Shay said snickering. "Hope they have flashlights in there."
None of her friends looked amused when they realized they'd be in the back of a dark truck for who knows how long. Kyleigh looked like she was about to object but she bit her lip. The rest just climbed hesitantly in the back.
"Hurry, we need to go!" Marena ordered quickly, placing her one good hand on her hip. Carson climbed his way into the truck, and swung his legs over, knocking over a cardboard box. Two flashlights rolled out.
"Just our luck," he smiled, right as Shay rolled the sliding door down and shut.
In the front of the truck there was a haunting silence hovering in the air. Marena was doing her best to ignore the pain in her fingers. The highway was clear; almost everyone had tried to stay clear of the city by now. Almost close to flooring it, Shay sped along, hoping to put as much distance between them and their pursuers.
Shay took her eyes off the road for a minute to look at Marena. Her injured hand rested in her lap, her fingers dark and swollen. Shay had to peel her eyes back to the road or she risked throwing up.
"Once we're in the clear we'll stop somewhere and get you help," she said, even though she had no idea how long that would be. Marena's fingers might fall off by then.
"You don't even know where we're driving, do you?" Marena retorted as she gazed out the shotgun window.
"I'm driving south. That's all I know," Shay said, and just kept driving. Slowing down so the truck was only going about sixty or so, she started scanning for exits. Marena would at least need some medicine to dull the pain until they could get her some help.
Time slowly droned on, a heavy silence hanging in the front of the truck. Marena's slight whimpers of pain had faded about fifteen minutes ago, leaving an oppressing silence that was like the weight of the world onto Shay. She flashed her eyes over to Marena to find her forehead pressed against the window, eyes shut, sound asleep.
Now she was all alone. A light rain had started to fall, trailing down the glass at slow speeds. It fit her mood perfectly. The silence was becoming increasingly unbearable, so Shay parted a hand from the steering wheel to turn on the radio. She pressed the button, not knowing or caring what station came on, as long as it pierced the silence.
For a few seconds it was static, a low, annoying, buzz that didn't really help with the silence, but almost made it even more unbearable. Then that beeping began. An eerie flash of recognition washed over her when Shay realized it was the emergency beacon. The periodic beeping went on for what seemed like an eternity. Shay was worried, convinced it was something with the weather, and that they needed to pull over and find shelter.
"Upon this notice we do advise to proceed with caution- eight individuals, teenagers, are infected with a disease and are out on the loose. The disease is not airborne that we know of, nor do we know the identities of these eight. Yet. These eight can be identified by the rings around their pupils- If you see someone like this, please report to authorities immediately."
Shay took the next exit. She refused to peel her eyes from the road, and her eyes burned as if she did not even blink. How had it gotten around so fast? They'd been driving for at least an hour and a half now. Maybe it was being played all over the country. They don't know where they are, that's why they released that announcement. Right now for all their pursuers know they could be anywhere in the country. She hadn't turned the radio off. She just listened to it over and over. It was the same thing, but she would zone in and out, expecting to hear them finally say their names. Her name. Only they never did.
Pulling into the gas station, Shay was done with driving. Her hands had been sliding off the steering wheel from shaking, and she was having patches where she'd totally zone out of time. Everyone was going to know now. She didn't wake up Marena, and quietly slipped out of the truck, closing the door softly behind her.
Someone had already had the sliding door pulled up by the time she had walked to the back. She could feel six sets of eyes on her as she numbly strode to the back. Her eyes must have been wide as eggs because Carson gave her a funny look.
"You ok?" asked Kyleigh, shooting Shay a quizzical look. She was pursing her thin lips, and a slight flicker of fear crossed her face.
"The… the radio." That was all Shay could choke out before she stumbled against the truck, needing support.
In seconds she was all alone. Her friends had herded to the front, pushing and shoving to get the best sound of the radio. All the way in the back of the U-Haul she could hear that droning beeping, and knew all too well what was coming next. By tonight her gut told her they would know their names. Would they hurt their families, or use them as a weapon against them? Thinking humans like her were as twisted to do something like that, but Shay had seen one too many movies to doubt they would, and this all felt like a movie. Like it was all on camera, and it was just for someone else's entertainment. Almost like the tv shows where they pull a prank on someone and tell them right before they reach their breaking point. She was silently praying that happened, and that this was all some big prank, but she knew it wasn't. Even a dream seemed like too much of a prayer.
She had zoned out again, failing to notice the six had returned, enclosing her in a human-made circle. Each of them were talking, and becoming increasingly louder to be heard first. Snapping out of her haze, all she heard were loud voices, cries of fear, and complaints.
"Everyone knows now!"
"We're gonna die!"
"I need to pee!"
All the voices, all the tones, all the shouting just became too much for the fifteen year old and she snapped.
"Shut up! Yes everyone knows, but we couldn't avoid it now could we?" she snarled, not firing glares at any certain person, unaware who even voiced what concerns. "We won't die as long as we're together. We made it out of the city, right? We're all still in one piece, right? Right. We'll be fine."
When her vocal rampage ended Shay had to stop and take deep breaths, trying to calm herself down. She felt the air become just a little less frantic, and she even saw some people shuffle closer together. That wouldn't help them live, but Shay didn't say anything. If it was what little sliver of hope they had, let them keep chasing it.
"Now can I go pee?"
She rolled her eyes and turned on her heels, heading into the rundown gas station. She didn't need to go, but instead was going to probe the shelves for painkillers for Marena.
She pushed the glass doors open and heard a little bell ping above her head. She walked in incredibly slow, expecting to find the people who had found them in the CDC to be there, guns pointed, ready to fire. Thankfully, no men in black suits were there, just an old fat man behind the register. Nobody else was even in the store.
Feeling a tidal wave of cool relief, she shuffled over to the section where she discovered pills. There was nothing for broken bones, so all she grabbed was painkillers. Shay had a twenty in her pocket and she snatched the painkillers off the counter. The teen was tempted to snatch some sleeping pills, because God knows she wouldn't be able to sleep tonight.
Making a beeline towards the register, Shay almost bumped into a man who was rushing into the store. His eyes were round as eggs and he was breathing heavily. He looked around and then sprinted towards the restroom. Shay was left standing there, shocked.
She shuffled to the register, kinda worried about what he was running from. Had something happened in the parking lot? Her blood chilled as she realized a majority of her friends were still out there. Had they been discovered?
She slid the painkillers across the chilly red counter. The fat old man made eye contact with her and Shay, in panick, flashed her eyes to the floor, remembering those haunting halos around her pupils. The man did not speak up about anything, and an icey relief washed over the fifteen year old.
"What do you think scared that man?" she squeaked, trying to make small talk with the old man. She kept her dark brown eyes glued to the floor, and her eyes found the same white tiles that had been in the CDC. A shiver zipped down her spine. That was the place that had literally ruined her life. She turned her eyes to something else, and found them resting on the chip rack. Doritos, Cheetos, damn, she was hungry.
"Probably came from Kansas City," he muttered, and Shay felt her heart stop and fall out of her ass. How did this guy know? She was sure she'd driven for at least an hour, and time had frozen to a crawl when she heard that radio warning. How long had it been since they escaped? The blonde had no honest idea.
"What do you mean? What happened there?" she choked out in a hushed whisper, trying to pass for not having a clue. She felt her bright blonde hair cascade to conceal her face but she didn't bother to push it back. By now the government could have their faces. She shouldn't risk showing it.
"Apparently some kids with a disease got out and blew up a bridge," he muttered. "Kids these days," he muttered. Shay had to bite her tongue to keep from screaming or crying. Probably a medley of both.
He slid the painkillers back across the counter and Shay remembered what she had to do. She "accidentally" brushed against his hand and lingered hers there, knowing what was to come. She pushed out the doors as the coughing began.
Not long after they were back on the road. Marena has popped three painkillers and Carson had bought some ice for her while he was in there. The swelling was going down now, and every time Shay glanced over they looked less and less broken.
After another hour her stomach began to roar like a lion. Many of the kids carried money these days, so they should have enough to eat somewhere. She wanted to stop, her stomach was telling her to, but her head told her to floor it and keep driving. At this point her instincts had gotten her out of the city alive, so that was what she was going to follow.
The clock on the stereo said it was almost four o'clock. She was pretty sure the time her world changed it was around one. It had been almost four hours. How long had she been driving? Shay yawned and yearned to shut her eyes for just a little while. A blue exit sign flashed by her. Thankfully a rest stop was up ahead. Hopefully someone else would take the wheel soon.
After pulling into the rest stop, she was surprised to find it was mostly empty. A few cars were parked, but there was no activity. It was eerie. Shay and Marena both slipped out of the truck together and strode to the back, where everyone was spilling out of the trailer.
"Who's driving now?" Shay asked in a stern voice, hands on her hips, waving a neon flag that she was not going to drive anymore. Most likely it would ether be Marena or Katrina, since their sixteenth birthdays were the closest after Shay's. However, when she made eye contact with them, neither volunteered.
"I'll do it," Carson volunteered, and Shay stifled a smile. He walked up to the front, but Shay didn't go with him. Instead, she hopped in the back of the truck, where flashlights had been taped to the ceiling for light. It looked like one of those trucks they used to transport people across the border.
She crawled to one of the sleeping bags and claimed it instantly. Everyone hopped in again, and Owen slammed the door down. Once the truck began to move, the tired teen closed her eyes. Almost instantly sleep washed over her like a wave.