Isolation

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Chapter 13: Astrid

After my sister’s number pops up on the screen, I realize she has a year left to live. Not much, but enough to have fun. I swear to myself that before I die, I’ll figure out some way to get Iris out of this place, even if it’s the last thing I do. The Nobody’s come in late at night after the line has diminished and I’m sitting alone for the first time all day. I take all their names and keep a look out for Chris, but he never shows. The early morning has some stragglers that come and I document them. I finish and hand over the clipboard to Peter. He takes in all the numbers and actually looks relieved. My hand cramps and my head pounds as I walk into the room with the kids who only have a bit of time left. I see a couple of the kids that had a day left, on the floor without life in their eyes. My eyes prickle with unshed tears as I move to sit next to a girl who looks like she’s about to pass. She looks at me with a small smile before her head goes limp and she falls in my lap. I take her hand and rock back and forth as I watch the kids around me realize their fate.

A tap on my shoulder snaps me out of my shocked state. I’ve been staring at the opposite wall for hours. I’m not sure how long, but the girl’s body next to me is cold and unmoving.

I glance up and look at Red. “Hey.” he says.

“Hi.” I sound like a zombie.

“You wanna get out of here and play some poker with the guys?”

“Yeah.” He holds out his hand and pulls me up. I follow him out of the room and through the hallway. We make it to the classroom and I realize, I probably won’t be able to play. I can barely stay on my feet.

“You think I could rest for a bit? I was up all night writing down numbers and such.”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry, forgot about that. You can use my pallet. Over there.” he points to a couple blankets in the far corner.

“Thanks. Sorry for being so down. I have to be on my game when I play with you guys and right now. You’d probably beat me every round.”

“We couldn’t have that now could we.” Tom says with a small smile.

“Nope. Not at all.” I say and settle down on the pallet. As soon as my head hits the pillow I slip into the most peaceful sleep I’ve had.

When I come around, I hear voices and realize that both Peter and Red are talking. I glance down at my watch and see that it’s already the next day. I shiver and listen to the conversation.

“I don’t understand. You’re saying she hasn’t done anything when you’re around. How can that be?” That’s Peter. He’s whispering, but I can tell he’s mad.

“I know. I thought that once she was used to me, she’d slip, but she hasn’t said or done anything.” Red says, quietly.

“That’s impossible. I know when someone’s going behind my back and trying to kill me. I…It has to be her. It can’t be anyone else. It can’t be Rena or Iris or Dillion. It has to be Astrid.” I jump at the sound of my name. Why would they be talking about me? “It has to be. Keep an eye on her.”

“Okay.” Red says. I hear footsteps walk out of the room and wait for a second more. I turn around and see Red pacing the length of the room.

“Were you working with Peter the whole time?” I ask not even realizing I’m the one who said it until Red spins around and stares at me.

“Uhh...N...n..no.”

“You were weren’t you. I knew you were being too nice. Was Tom and Jerry spying on me as well?!”

“No. They didn’t have a clue.”

“I don’t believe you.” I say and get up off the pallet.

“Please. I only did it because I had no food because Peter cut off my rations. I swear. I wanted us to be friends. I still do.”

“No. I...I don’t care. I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you.” I run to the door and slam it open. I sprint out and don’t look back as he calls my name.

My breath comes in sharp spurts. I stop at the end of a hall and take a deep breath. I lean against the wall and hear someone breathing behind me. I turn and see Chris.

“Why are you always around when I’m crying?” I ask with a hiccup.

He chuckles and takes my hand. He leads me into a classroom and watches me pace the small room. Cold tears stream down my face followed by my fist hitting the wall.

“I should have known. I should have seen this coming, especially from Peter. How could I have been so stupid?!” I slam my hand against the wall and feel my nerves send an electrical pulse up my arm. I shake my arm and wait for the pin pricks to go away. I slam my fist against the wall again and bite back a moan. Two hands pull my fist away from the wall and encase them in theirs. I turn and try to pull my arm away, but Chris holds steady.

“You’re going to hurt yourself. Stop.”

“I’ve already been hurt. More times than I can count.” He sighs and pulls me into a hug. I take deep calming breaths.

“What happened? What got you so fired up?”

“I found out that Peter has had someone spying on me.” I look up at him. “Are you spying on me?”

“No. Of course not.” he says, looking hurt. I nod and look away.

“He had Red or Jared. They were talking in his room and I was sleeping, but I woke up and they were talking about me and about how someone keeps trying to kill him. But he thinks it’s me so he had Red spy on me. I guess I was so mad that someone would do that, but I understand why he did it. Peter cut off his rations until he agreed to spy on me. I still wouldn’t have done it and then with the kids who have a numbered amount of days left. I was in there for a while after a girl died in my lap. I couldn’t wrap my mind around what was happening and then thinking about me dying in less than 18 days. I haven’t done most things in my life. I’ve only had one boyfriend. I haven’t done anything. I should...no one should be dying this early. It’s so cruel.” Chris stays silent throughout my outburst.

“It is cruel.” he says, quietly. I look at him through my wet lashes and try to figure out what he’s thinking. I take a step towards him, but feel all my energy drain from my limbs. My eyes close just as my knees crumble and hit the floor. The last thing I see is the floor coming closer to my head as Chris stumbles forward and catches me.

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