This Is Not a Test

Courtney Summers

St. Martin's Griffin

SEVEN DAYS LATER
 
 
“Get the door! Get the tables against the fucking door, Trace—move!”
In a perfect world, I’m spinning out. I’m 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, I’m over. I’m dead. But in this world, Lily took the pills with her and I’m still alive. I’m 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. It’s all over me but it’s not me, not yet. I am not dead yet. I run my hands over my body, feeling for something that doesn’t 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? Where’s Sloane?”
I can’t reach far enough behind my back.
“Rhys, the halls—”
“Where is she?”
“We have to get in the halls now!”
“Sloane? Sloane!
I look up. Boxy forms loom overhead, weird and ominous. Stage lights. And I don’t 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 doesn’t work anymore, hasn’t worked since she left, and I don’t know how I forgot that. I can’t believe I forgot that. Instead of Lily, that woman’s voice is in my ear: Listen closely. She sounds familiar, like someone’s 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? We’ve got to move—” He takes in the look on my face and his turns to ash. “Are you bit? Did you get bitten?”
“I don’t know—” I unbutton my shirt and pull it off and I know he sees all of me before I can turn away, but I don’t care. I have to know. “I can’t see anything—I can’t feel it—”
Rhys runs his hands over my back, searching for telltale marks. He murmurs prayers under his breath while I hold mine.
“It’s okay—you’re good—you’re fine—you’re alive—”
The noises in the auditorium get louder with the frantic scrambling of people who actually want to live, but I’m still.
I’m good, I’m fine.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure—now come on—come on, we have to—”
Good, fine. I’m fine. I’m fine, I’m fine. He grabs my arm. I shrug him off and put my shirt back on more slowly than I should. I am fine. I’m alive.
I don’t even know what that means.
“Look, we’ve 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