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“Keep shooting, Rose! Just shoot!” Micah grunted as the feline began to shake him.

My whole body quivering, I snatched up the gun. I didn’t even have time to consider the fact that I didn’t know how to work the thing. I just aimed as best as my trembling hands could and pulled the trigger. Again. And again. I kept firing until Rhys fell to the floor. Scrambling out from beneath the car, I was almost trampled by a panicked rhino in my hurry to get to Rhys. I flattened myself against the side of the vehicle, relieved when the animal charged past me. As I rushed forward again, I scanned the ceiling. Caleb was still hanging from one of the metal beams. On seeing me, he dropped down and rushed over to Rhys. Headbutting the warlock, Caleb pinned down his arms before he could aim his palms at him.

“Shoot!” Caleb grunted.

Standing as close as I dared to Rhys’ right palm, I fired three times. The warlock cried out as thick black smoke emanated from his hand. I fired into his left palm, five times. His screams intensified, his face contorting with agony as he rolled around on the floor.

“To your left!” Micah’s voice echoed around the chamber—from where, I didn’t know.

Caleb and I whirled around to see two elephants charging toward us. Caleb swept me up in his arms and leapt onto the roof of the cage nearest us. That was when I finally saw Micah. He lay on top of the cage next to us, flat on his back as he nursed a bloody wound in his right leg. Scrambling to his feet, he gasped, “We need to get out of here. Now.”

Despite his injury, he leapt across to our roof. We didn’t know if they had trampled over Rhys, but Micah didn’t give us an opportunity to find out. He pulled us away from the clearing as we jumped from roof to roof, making our way toward the opposite end of the chamber. The chamber had descended into utter chaos by now. With all the animals running loose, it was like being in a jungle.

As we jumped back down to the floor and reached the door, Caleb breathed out in relief as it opened without difficulty. We hurried through to the other side and Micah bolted the door behind us. We found ourselves at the foot of a narrow staircase leading upward. We climbed to the top and reached the deck above, the sun blinding us. Caleb staggered back as we burst out into the open. The ship’s crew gaped at us as we darted toward the edge of the boat.

I could feel Caleb’s skin beginning to fry beneath me as we leapt off the ship and dove into the water. The force of our contact with the water made me break loose from Caleb. I fought my way up to the surface, gasping, and looked around. Micah had resurfaced, but Caleb hadn’t yet. I scanned the waters.

“Caleb?” I couldn’t find his shadow. “Micah, help me—”

“I’m here,” Caleb called.

I spun around to see that he had resurfaced within the shadow the ship cast over the water, a few meters away from us. Micah and I made our way toward him.

“We need a boat,” Caleb said, scanning the water and looking back in the direction of the shore. It was a few miles away. But there were no other boats bobbing in the water that I could make out. Now that I was looking back at the shore for the first time, I also spotted what I suspected to be the grimy house Marisa and Jorge had taken me to. It looked like a derelict block of apartments from the outside, with its tiny balconies and boarded-up windows.

I shivered, remembering the horrors that lay within those walls.

“So what do we do?” Micah asked, brushing back his long blond hair. “This circus ship is the only vessel for miles.”

Caleb began swimming toward the edge of the ship, examining its exterior. He stopped as he reached the end of the shadow. Micah and I swam over to him and stared up at where he was pointing.

A lifeboat hung from the side of the ship. “Micah,” Caleb said, “help me get that down.”

Micah nodded and the two men left the shade and swam right up to the ship. They hauled themselves out of the water and began climbing up its side. It didn’t take long for them to figure out how to loosen the boat from the holdings. Shouts resounded on deck as they began lowering the boat into the water. They had to move fast as humans began rushing over to the edge of the boat, staring down at them and hurling insults. The boat hit the water and a few minutes later, Caleb had started the engine. I was relieved to see that it had a sun covering over it. He navigated the boat toward me and reached out his hands to pull me up. I rolled over the side and lay down on the deck of the boat, panting.

Caleb put the motor into high gear and we sped away from the ship, the shouts of the humans fading into the distance.

Chapter 19: Rose

For all we know, Caleb could have only an hour left to live.

“Will there be any… advance warning if the time is drawing near?” I asked, my voice hoarse. “Will you be able to tell?”

Caleb clenched his jaw. “Perhaps a few seconds.”

“We need to get back to The Shade as soon as possible,” I said, trying to sound calm even as my stomach writhed. “There’s nothing more we can do.”

Caleb nodded, still avoiding my glance as he reached into the cabinet beneath the wheel and pulled out a map. Micah spread it out over the dashboard and all three of us stared at it.

“If we’re off the coast of Venezuela,” Caleb said, as he studied the map closely, “the best bet we have is reaching the Gulf of Panama… though I doubt this vessel will last that long.”

Micah sat down in the corner of the boat, looking at the two of us. It was so odd looking at him. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d had a past with him, and I had to keep reminding myself that I was no more than a stranger to him. He was probably a very different person to the one Rhys had made him out to be.

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