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Darkness falls (darkness.., p.37
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       Darkness Falls (Darkness Falls, Book 1), p.37

           Jessica Sorensen
Chapter 36

  At the first sign of morning, we set out for the hillside. The land is a light grey, but the air is exceptionally smoky. We walk quickly, so we’re certain to make it before dark. There’s a lot of chattering going on, and it starts to wear on me. I’m getting tired, hungry, aggravated, and it escalates with every second that drips by. Don’t they understand we’re probably being hunted? Or that Maci might be in trouble? Or that there are a million different problems?

  I move up in front, putting some distance between the five of them and myself, knowing I’m being ridiculous, but I can’t seem to help it—all my energy is draining away and all that’s left is irritation.

  After a while, Aiden jogs up to me and touches my arm, inching me close to him. “Are you okay?”

  “Yeah.” I point over my shoulder at the rest of them. “I just needed a little break from all the talking.”

  He scratches at his head. “You want me to tell them to be quiet?”

  I shake my head. “They’re fine. It’s just me. I’m just feeling a little weird.”

  “At first it’s hard, but it’ll get easier,” he assures me.

  I don’t respond, kicking the sand with my boot because what he says doesn’t make sense to me. The feeling of weakness feels potent and vile, like it doesn’t belong in my body.

  “I don’t think we can stay at the hillside anymore.” He drops his voice, leaning in. “With the Day Takers wanting you and Dominic wanting to kill you, I don’t think it’s a good idea to stay there.”

  “I know,” I say with a nod. “I agree I can’t stay there.”

  “We can start over somewhere.” He brushes my hair back from my shoulder. “Find a new shelter. Those caves are all over the place around here.”

  “What about my memories?” I ask. “Don’t you think we should find out what I know?”

  “We will.” He nudges my shoulder.

  I smile, but my lips feel heavy. I don’t like the idea of them having to pack up everything and move, not when they have so much to risk, unlike me. I can walk day or night and be fine. I make the decision then and there to leave on my own.

  “You and you alone, Kayla.” Monarch says. “That’s how it’s got to be in the end, otherwise it’ll never work.”

  “I don’t think I’ve been so happy to see a hill before.” Ryder perks up as their home grows closer. “God, I just want to lie down and rest forever.”

  Aiden gives her ponytail a playful tug. “You’re such a weakling and you know it.”

  She smiles and a blush creeps up in her cheeks. She sweeps her hair forward, hoping he won’t notice and I catch sight of the numbers on her wrists.

  “We’re going to build an army,” Monarch says. “We’re going to take down the Highers and put the world back the way it was. But you need to die in order to live.”

  I’m about to pull Aiden aside and tell him what I hear, when I realize there’s a large amount of smoke spinning in the air today. I stop at the top of a hill and gaze down to the bottom—to the hillside.

  And my heart almost stops.

  Fires. Everywhere. Burning high above and below the hillside and over by the pipe. Fire, just like in the city.