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This Is Not a Testby Courtney Summers
SEVEN DAYS LATER
“Get the door! Get the tables against the fucking door, Trace—move!”
In a perfect world, Im spinning out. Im seven days ago, sleeping myself into nothingness. Every breath in and out is shallower than the last until, eventually, I stop. In a perfect world, Im over. Im dead. But in this world, Lily took the pills with her and Im still alive. Im climbing onstage before Cary notices and gives me something to do even though I should be doing something. I should help. I should be helping because seconds are critical. He said this over and over while we ran down streets, through alleys, watched the community center fall, hid out in empty houses and he was right—seconds are critical.
You can lose everything in seconds.
“Harrison, Grace, take the front! Rhys, I need you in the halls with me—”
I slip past the curtain. I smell death. Its all over me but its not me, not yet. I am not dead yet. I run my hands over my body, feeling for something that doesnt belong. We were one street away and they came in at all sides with their arms out, their hands reaching for me with the kind of sharp-teethed hunger that makes a person—them. Cary pulled me away before I could have it, but I thought—I thought I felt something, maybe—
“Sloane? Wheres Sloane?”
I cant reach far enough behind my back.
“Rhys, the halls—”
“Where is she?”
“We have to get in the halls now!”
I look up. Boxy forms loom overhead, weird and ominous. Stage lights. And I dont know why but I dig my cell phone out of my pocket and I dial Lily. If this is it, I want her to know. I want her to hear it. Except her number doesnt work anymore, hasnt worked since she left, and I dont know how I forgot that. I cant believe I forgot that. Instead of Lily, that womans voice is in my ear: Listen closely. She sounds familiar, like someones mother. Not my mother. I was young when she died. Lily was older. Car accident …
“Sloane!” Rhys pushes the curtain back and spots me. I drop the phone. It clatters to the floor. “What the hell are you doing? Weve got to move—” He takes in the look on my face and his turns to ash. “Are you bit? Did you get bitten?”
“I dont know—” I unbutton my shirt and pull it off and I know he sees all of me before I can turn away, but I dont care. I have to know. “I cant see anything—I cant feel it—”
Rhys runs his hands over my back, searching for telltale marks. He murmurs prayers under his breath while I hold mine.
“Its okay—youre good—youre fine—youre alive—”
The noises in the auditorium get louder with the frantic scrambling of people who actually want to live, but Im still.
Im good, Im fine.
“Are you sure?”
“Im sure—now come on—come on, we have to—”
Good, fine. Im fine. Im fine, Im fine. He grabs my arm. I shrug him off and put my shirt back on more slowly than I should. I am fine. Im alive.
I dont even know what that means.
“Look, weve got to get back out there,” he says as I do up my buttons. “There are three other doors that need to be secured—” He grabs my arm and turns me around. “Look at me—are you ready? Sloane, are you ready?”
I open my mouth but nothing comes out.
Copyright © 2012 by Courtney Summers
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