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oh I think I might be sick—

“Thank you for the bucket,” I say, still nauseous. I try to sit up and for some reason I can’t remember how. My skin has broken out in a cold sweat. “What’s wrong with me?” I say. “I thought you healed—healed—”

I’m gone again.

Head spinning.

Eyes closed against the light. The floor-to-ceiling windows we’ve installed can’t seem to block the sun from invading the room and I can’t help but wonder when I’ve ever seen the sun shine so brightly. Over the last decade our world collapsed inward, the atmosphere unpredictable, the weather changing in sharp and dramatic spikes. It snows where it shouldn’t; rains where it once couldn’t; the clouds are always gray; the birds gone forever from the sky. The once-bright green leaves of trees and lawns are now dull and brittle with decay. It’s March now, and even as we approach spring the sky shows no sign of change. The earth is still cold, still iced over, still dark and muddy.

Or at least, it was yesterday.

Someone places a cool rag on my forehead and the cold is welcome; my skin feels inflamed even as I shiver. Slowly, my muscles unclench. But I wish someone would do something about the glaring sunlight. I’m squinting, even with my eyes closed, and it’s making my headache worse.

“The wound is fully healed,” I hear someone saying, “but it looks like the poison hasn’t worked its way out of her system—”

“I don’t understand,” says another voice. “How is that possible? Why aren’t you able to heal her completely?”

“Sonya,” I manage to say. “Sara?”

“Yes?” The twin sisters answer at the same time, and I can feel the rush of their footsteps, hard like drumbeats against my head, as they hurry to my bedside.

I try to gesture toward the windows. “Can we do something about the sun?” I say. “It’s too bright.”

They help me up into a seated position and I feel my head-spin begin to steady. I blink my eyes open with a great deal of effort just in time to have someone hand me a cup of water.

“Drink this,” Sonya says. “Your body is severely dehydrated.”

I gulp the water down quickly, surprised by my own thirst. They hand me another glass. I drink that, too. I have to drink five glasses of water before I can hold my head up without immense difficulty.

When I finally feel more normal, I look around. Eyes wide-open. I have a massive headache, but the other symptoms are beginning to fade.

I see Warner first.

He’s standing in a corner of the room, eyes bloodshot, yesterday’s clothes rumpled on his body, and he’s staring at me with a look of unmasked fear that surprises me. It’s entirely unlike him. Warner rarely shows emotion in public.

I wish I could say something, but it doesn’t feel like the right time. Sonya and Sara are still watching me carefully, their hazel eyes bright against their brown skin. But something about them looks different to me. Maybe it’s that I’ve never looked at them this closely anywhere but underground, but the brilliant light of the sun has reduced their pupils to the size of pinpricks, and it makes their eyes look different. Bigger. New.

“The light is so strange today,” I can’t help saying. “Has it ever been this bright?”

Sonya and Sara glance out the window, glance back at me, and frown at each other. “How are you feeling?” they say. “Does your head still hurt? Do you feel dizzy?”

“My head is killing me,” I say, and try to laugh. “What was in those bullets?” I pinch the bridge of my nose between my thumb and index finger. “Do you know if the headache will go away soon?”

“Honestly—we’re not sure what’s happening right now.” This, from Sara.

“Your wound is mended,” says Sonya, “but it seems the poison is still affecting your mind. We can’t know for sure if it was able to cause permanent damage before we got to you.”

At this, I look up. Feel my spine stiffen. “Permanent damage?” I say. “To my brain? Is that really possible?”

They nod. “We’ll monitor you closely for the next couple of weeks just to be sure. The illusions you’re experiencing might end up being nothing.”

“What?” I look around. Look at Warner, who still won’t speak. “What illusions? I just have a headache.” I squint again, turning away from the window. “Yikes. Sorry,” I say, eyes narrowed against the light, “it’s been so long since we’ve had days like this”—I laugh—“I think I’m more accustomed to the dark.” I place my hand over my eyes like a visor. “We really need to get some shades on these windows. Someone remind me to tell Kenji about that.”

Warner has gone gray. He looks frozen in his skin.

Sonya and Sara share a look of concern.

“What is it?” I say, my stomach sinking as I look at the three of them. “What’s wrong? What are you not telling me?”

“There’s no sun today,” Sonya says quietly. “It’s snowing again.”

“It’s dark and cloudy, just like every other day,” says Sara.

“What? What are you talking about?” I say, laughing and frowning at the same time. I can feel the heat of the sun on my face. I see it make a direct impact in their eyes, their pupils dilating as they move into the shadows. “You’re joking, right? The sun is so bright I can barely look out the window.”

Sonya and Sara shake their heads.

Warner is staring at the wall, both hands locked behind his neck.

I feel my heart begin to race. “So I’m seeing things?” I say to them. “I’m hallucinating?”

They nod.

“Why?” I say, trying not to panic. “What’s happening to me?”

“We don’t know,” Sonya says, looking into her hands. “But we’re hoping these effects are just temporary.”

I try to slow my breathing. Try to remain calm. “Okay. Well. I need to go. Can I go? I have a thousand things to do—”

“Maybe you should stay here a little while longer,” says Sara. “Let us watch you for a few more hours.”

But I’m shaking my head. “I need to get some air—I need to go outside—”


It’s the first thing Warner’s said since I woke up, and he nearly shouts the word at me. He’s holding up his hands in a silent plea.

“No, love,” he says, sounding strange. “You can’t go outside again. Not—not just yet. Please.”

The look on his face is enough to break my heart.

I slow down, feel my racing pulse steady as I stare at him. “I’m so sorry,” I say. “I’m sorry I scared everyone. It was a moment of stupidity and it was totally my fault. I let my guard down for just a second.” I sigh. “I think someone had been watching me, waiting for the right moment. Either way, it won’t happen again.”

I try to smile, and he doesn’t budge. Won’t smile back.

“Really,” I try again. “Don’t worry. I should’ve realized there would be people out there waiting to kill me the moment I seemed vulnerable, but”—I laugh—“believe me, I’ll be more careful next time. I’ll even ask to have a larger guard follow me around.”

He shakes his head.

I study him, his terror. I don’t understand it.

I make an effort to get to my feet. I’m in socks and a hospital gown, and Sonya and Sara hurry me into a robe and slippers. I thank them for everything they’ve done and they squeeze my hands.

“We’ll be right outside if you need anything,” they say in unison.

“Thank you again,” I say, and smile. “I’ll let you know how it goes with the, um”—I point to my head—“weird visions.”

They nod and disappear.

I take a tentative step toward Warner.

“Hey,” I say gently. “I’m going to be okay. Really.”

“You could’ve been killed.”

“I know,” I say. “I’ve been so off lately—I wasn’t thinking. But this was a mistake I will never make again.” A short laugh. “Really.”