Hollowmen / Page 21

Page 21


“Lay off her, Bishop,” Boden said, his words firm but kind. “If she wants to worry about her kid brother, let her.”

“I’m not trying to stop her from caring,” Bishop said carefully. “I just think there’s better things to worry about.” She’d filled up all the bottles we had, so she straightened up and brushed the dirt from her pants. “But if she wants to waste her energy, so be it.”

She walked away from us, going down to the stream. She crouched down behind Max, watching him as he tried to catch a fish.

Boden had been standing a few feet behind me, but he came down and sat on the ground next to me. He laid his gun across his knees, the barrel pointed out toward the rain.

“Is he the one?” Boden asked, his voice low in case anyone might hear. But with the rain pounding down, I could barely hear him next to me.

“What?” I asked, pulling my eyes away from Max to look back at Boden.

“Is Daniels the doctor that did all that to you?” Boden motioned vaguely over to me, to where he’d seen the marks covering my body. “I mean, was he the one personally?”

“Sometimes,” I admitted and lowered my eyes to focus on my dirty pants. “He dealt with me the most, but for more complicated … procedures, he’d usually pass me off.”

“What did a more complicated procedure entail?” Boden asked.

I flashed back to it for a second. The only difference between the doctors and butchers was that the cows were dead when they started cutting them up. The cows at least got some reprieve.

I shook my head. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“They did the same thing to Max as they did to you?” Boden asked.

“I don’t know for sure,” I said. “I haven’t asked him.”

The truth was that I didn’t want to know for sure. I didn’t want to talk about what happened, not with my brother, not with anybody.

“Why?” Boden lowered his voice again. “Why you?”

I chewed the inside of my cheek, debating whether to tell him. But for some reason, I thought I could trust Boden. I didn’t see any reason to keep it from him any longer.

“We’re immune,” I said, and looked at him directly. “Max and I can’t get the virus.”

Boden’s expression never changed. He just met my gaze evenly and said, “Huh.”

“So that’s why he cut us up,” I said. “He tried to find a cure but couldn’t.”

“This world’s a fucked up place,” Boden said finally.

“It sure is,” I agreed.

Daniels was still helping Max fish, but Bishop sat down next to him and appeared to be taking over Daniels’ job. He stayed with them for a few minutes longer, but then he stood up, stretching his legs and back.

He glanced back over at me, where I had returned to glaring at him. He somehow thought that was an invitation and walked up the embankment over to me.

“Hey,” Daniels said and sat down next to me. He picked up a stone, rolling it around in his hands, probably just to busy himself. “I couldn’t help but notice the evil eye you were giving me when I was fishing with your brother.”

“Then why’d you keep doing it?” I asked.

“Look, I know what you must think of me,” Daniels said.

“No, you don’t,” I snapped. “You can’t possibly know, because I don’t even know.”

“I’m going to…” Boden floundered for a second then stood up. “I’m just gonna go.” He walked farther down, standing closer to the stream and giving Daniels and me some privacy.

Daniels’ dark eyes followed Boden down the bank, then he turned to face me, leaning his knee in toward me.

“What I did to you…” He took a deep breath. “I am sorry for it.”

“Vivisection isn’t exactly the kind of thing you can just apologize for.”

“You make me sound like I’m Dr. Mengele or something,” Daniels said.

“And you’re not?” I shot him an icy look.

“He mutilated people for the sport of it,” Daniels said emphatically. “You know why I did what I did. You volunteered for it, Remy. And I know it didn’t end up amounting to anything, but isn’t the entire human race worth the risk?”

“Yes, it is,” I admitted, but the anger hadn’t left my voice. “That’s why I agreed to it. And I don’t blame you for doing what you thought was best, and what probably was best, given the situation. But you can’t blame me for not wanting to hang out with the guy that sliced me open a dozen times.”

He softened after that, his shoulders slacked, and he lowered his eyes. “No. I don’t suppose I can.”

I didn’t have anything more to say to him. In fact, I hadn’t even really wanted to say that, so I got up and walked away, heading down to see how Max was doing.

The rain let up as the day went on, but it didn’t completely subside. Nolita took over keeping watch, and Boden lay out on a blanket, sleeping now so he could stand guard later in the night.

Teddy had taken to telling Max and Stella a story, some mutated version of Rumpelstiltskin that involved a talking unicorn and a mermaid. He was acting out parts and doing voices, getting rather grandiose with the whole thing, but the kids were delighted.

I even found myself engaged in the story after a while, laughing in a few places. In retrospect, Teddy was maybe too good of a storyteller, since he’d distracted us all. None of us was keeping watch like we should’ve been.

That’s how someone came rushing to our campsite, and we didn’t even noticed until he was inside.

14.

He froze when he saw us, his brown eyes wide and startled, reminding me of a spooked deer.

Nolita had already drawn her gun, pointing it directly at him, and he held up his hands, palms out in a gesture of peace. Bishop moved, putting herself between him and the kids, in case he wanted to try something.

“I’m not a zombie!” he said breathlessly, and probably just in the nick of time.

I stood up and kicked Boden with my foot, waking him up. Just because this guy wasn’t a zombie didn’t mean he was safe to be around. Boden was instantly alert and on his feet. As soon as he saw the intruder, he narrowed his eyes at him.

The man’s black hair was short, but his bangs were stuck to his damp forehead, dripping water down his face. Dark stubble covered his face, making it hard for me to be sure of his age, but I guessed he was several years older than me.


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