Date of issue: 24 September Description of the book "Inhuman": Never let them tame you. In the wake of a devastating biological disaster, the United States east of the Mississippi has been abandoned. Now called the Feral Zone, a reference to the virus that turned millions of people into bloodthirsty savages, the entire area is off-limits. The punishment for violating the border is death. Life in the west is safe and PDF comfortable.
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Maybe it was the spotlights sweeping the streets below, or the patrol planes flying in pairs along the top of the Titan wall, or maybe it was just my good sense reasserting itself.
I paused halfway across the roof, letting the boys hurry ahead. Without a shirt. Her short curls bobbed with her nod of approval. I told you: I am not into Orlando. Anyone hearing them would think they were first graders, not seniors. That their son was having a party while they were out of town, or that he was on top of their building compromising national security?
I gasped and Anna clapped her hand to her mouth. I exhaled slowly. As much as I loved animals — even the strays — I hated it when boys acted like animals. Out of control. Vying for dominace. The tighter my hair was pulled back, the better my brain worked. The reparation wall, the quarantine line, the blight — all the names for the wall, even the bitter ones, were said with awe. At seven hundred feet tall, it towered over downtown Davenport and stretched to infinity in either direction.
The guards stationed along the top all had their guns and telescopes pointed east, toward the half of America that was lost to us — now known as the Feral Zone. When the wall went up eighteen years ago, that part of the country became as mysterious to us as Africa was to the rest of the world in the nineteenth century.
The Feral Zone was our Dark Continent. She took one look at the gun turrets and scooted back, her dark skin ashen. That is. He gave a nod. The toy hovercopter had to fly over the wall and across the Mississippi River before it officially reached the Feral Zone. But I would be happy even with a distant shot — one that I could enlarge later. I lifted my dial, which hung on a delicate chain around my neck.
We all wore them. For our parents, the glowing discs were more than just phones. Our dials were their spy cameras. With a tap, I activated the link between my dial and the camera. I pointed at him. The boys whooped and punched the air. Anna met my gaze with an arched brow. I smiled. Camden glanced over.
A monste r my dad made up. Well, half believed. She used to sing to me before bed. My dad made them up. My dial cut to black and I looked toward the wall. Anna and I hunkered next to him, but Orlando took off for the door to the stairwell. We dove through the door to the stairwell. Anna and Camden collapsed on the couch laughing.
There had to be at least twenty-five kids inside the apartment, all face to face and breathing on each other. Some were even kissing. No, not just kissing. Old-fashioned kissing. Actually swapping spit.
A pack of guys charged past me howling like wolves, carrying a laughing girl. I reached for the top snap, and then noticed Orlando watching me. I left the vest snapped and plucked up my dial. With a touch, I deleted the brief recording of the wall — aka incriminating evidence — and then hit record and made a show of filming the party. I wound my way through the crowd and onto the balcony to see what was happening on the wall. Nothing much. The guards were back in position. For once I was grateful for the bars that enclosed high-rise balconies.
Who were they kidding? We knew the cages were yet another safety measure. Were kids really falling off balconies right and left before the plague? But there was no reasoning with a nation of trauma survivors. It was an old one. Now, with the bars at my back and him leaning into me, it was too late. No matter how gently I pushed him off or squirmed away, it would end up awkward and awful. I wrenched my face aside, ducked under his arm, and stepped free. I dragged a hand across my lips before facing him.
We stared wide-eyed at each other for a second and then whirled to peer through the balcony cage. Anna skidded out of the apartment. The siren screamed closer and then cut off abruptly. The flashing lights lit up the street below. They were not atop a fire truck or police car but a gray van, which meant only one thing…. Orlando slumped against the bars in relief. Biohaz agents spent their time rounding up serious threats to public health, like contaminated meat and quarantine breakers.
The line guards might; the jumpsuits, not a chance. They never see it coming. Instead, he signed me up for survival skills classes. As if knowing how to make a basket out of bark would keep me alive if there was another outbreak.
Almost no one fetched stuff anymore, even though plenty of people would pay top dollar to have a beloved item retrieved from the East. But these days you had to be desperate or demented to risk sneaking across the quarantine line. Nobody you would have come in contact with.
One of us should get to live a little. So loudly we could hear it out on the balcony. The music shut off abruptly. Anna and I exchanged an alarmed look and rushed into the living room. Only their eyes were visible. Not that we needed to see more to know that they meant business. When Anna slipped an arm through mine, I shot her a sympat hetic look.
Delaney Park McEvoy — me. But why? Biohaz squads rounded up line crossers and criminals, not a homebody who spent her Saturday nights editing shorts about the local animal shelter. The jumpsuit pivoted to Anna. Annapolis Brown. Swallowing, I tried again. Was I going to be a problem?
Only one disease brought the jumpsuits out of their dungeon. I had just ruined their senior year of high school.
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