Read The Hunt Online

Authors: Andrew Fukuda

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Survival Stories, #Dystopian, #Science Fiction

The Hunt (31 page)

BOOK: The Hunt
2.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Her room is empty.

She’s upstairs in the Control Center, as she said she’d be, in front of the monitors, her head swiveling around.

“Hey,” I say as I walk in, gently, not wanting to startle her.

Sunshine pours inside in slanted beams, fl ooding the center with brightness. I walk to her.

“Hey back. You’re supposed to be sleeping.” She turns around.

“I think I found the ideal place to hide—”

“Ashley June.”

“What’s the matter?” She sees the look on my face.

I shake my head.

“Gene, what is it?!”

“Gene, what is it?!”

“I’m sorry.”

She peers deeply into my eyes, studying me. “Tel me what’s going on, Gene.”

“Something realy terrible.”

She sits up, places a hand on my arm. “What happened?”

“It’s over for me.”

“What do you mean?”

I explain to her. The hunters in the library, the sunbeam, their discovery of what I am. Alarm ripples across her face. “It’s over,”

I say. “They’re on to me. Once the sun goes down, they’l hunt me down.”

She stands up, walks a few paces away. Her arms stay rigid by her side, her head bent down, deep in thought. “We’ve got the FLUNs.

We can go back to the library, take them down.”

“Ashley—”

THE HUNT 229

“No, listen, we can do this. Nobody else knows about you, it’s only the hunters in the library.”

“Ash—”

“If we take them out, no one wil be any the wiser, your secret’s stil safe.”

“It’s a suicide mission—”

“We’ve got the FLUNs—”

“There’s
one
FLUN left, I used the other up. And it’s buried somewhere in the library, I don’t know where it is. They outnumber us, they’ve got speed, power, fangs, claws—”

“We’l fi nd it, then, put it at the highest setting, it’s fatal—”

“We won’t fi nd it!”

“We can—”

“Ash—”

“What!” she screams, her voice suddenly catching. “What do you expect me to say, what other choice do we have?” She starts to sob uncontrolably.

I reach for her, gather her in my arms. Her body is cold; she’s shivering. “We’ve got to try, we’ve got to keep coming up with answers,” she urges.

“It’s over. We tried our best. But there’s nothing more that can be done.”

“No! I refuse to believe that!” She puls away with a cry. Her hands whiten into tight fi sts. Then her breathing steadies, her body reaches perfect stilness. The stilness of a person who’s reached a decision.

“We can make a life for ourselves in the Dome,” she says softly, stil facing the windows, her back to me.

“What?”

“The Dome. We’l survive, just like the hepers have, for years.”

230 ANDREW FUKUDA

“No way. I can’t believe—”

“It’l work. The Dome runs on continuous autopi lot. It comes up at dusk, descends at dawn. It’l always protect us.”

I stare at her back. I can’t take it anymore, seeing that back. I walk over, grab her arm, spin her around.

walk over, grab her arm, spin her around.

Her face betrays the steadiness of her voice and gait. Tears run down her cheeks.

“Ashley . . .”

“It’s the only option left for
us
.” She stares into my eyes. “And you know that, don’t you?”

Us
. The word resonates in my ears.

“I won’t let you . . . it’s just me they want right now,” I tel her.

“You can go on with your life.”

“I hate that life! More than you do.”

“No, you’re good at it. I’ve seen you, you could go on—”

“No! I
hate
it with every fi ber of my being. I could
never
go back to it alone. The fakery, the burying of desire.” Her eyes take on a fl ash of raw emotion that at fi rst I think is anger. But then her words: “You’ve done this thing to me, Gene. And now I can’t go back to that, not alone, not without you.” She sniffs. “The Dome.

That’s the only way we can be together now.”

“The Dome’s a prison. Out here, at least you’l be free.”

“Out here, I’m a prisoner in my own skin. The restrained desires, the repressed smiles, the fake scratches, the fake fangs— these are the bars of a deeper prison.”

My thoughts race in me, spiraling in a mad tailspin. But her eyes slow everything down, anchor me. And I move toward her, helpless to do otherwise, cupping her face. My hands on her cheeks, my fi ngers on her jawline, her cheekbones, wiping at her smal mole, wet with tears.

“Okay,” I say, smiling despite the situation, “okay, let’s do this.”

THE HUNT 231

She smiles back, squeezing her eyes shut; more tears fl ow out.

She puls my body against hers, holds me fi ercely.

A loud, piercing scream suddenly screeches from outside. We look at each other. Then another, fi led with pain and agony. Silence.

Then another helacious scream. We rush over to the window.

Somebody is making a break for it from the library. Phys Ed.

He’s holding above his head a SunCloak. But the SunCloak was never meant to be used in broad daylight, and the sun’s impact is immediate and devastating. Phys Ed stumbles, then gets up on his feet, his legs pushing forward with a spongy propulsion. As he feet, his legs pushing forward with a spongy propulsion. As he draws closer, I see his skin— shining with an almost radioactive paleness—

start oozing under the strong sun, pus already leaking out of his eyebals. He screams again, and again, even as his vocal cords start to disintegrate. But if the SunCloak is not perfect, it’s good enough: he’s going to make it to the main building. Where he can tel others about me, that I’m a heper in disguise, that I’m a heper in this building.

Ashley June reads the situation with chiling accuracy. “We might not have til dusk anymore.” We watch in disbelief as Phys Ed puls open the front doors and fl ings himself inside. He’s in now. He’s in.

I shake my head in denial. “You should go. It’s just me they know about. You can’t be found with me. That would implicate you, you’d be guilty by association.”

“I’m staying with you, Gene.”

“No. I’l make a break for the outside. I can make it if I’m quick enough. You come out when you can, if not today, then tomorrow.

We’l meet up at the Dome. As long as they don’t suspect you, you’l be fi ne. It’s just me they’re after.”

A horrifi c howl rips up the halway, a screech that rattles the A horrifi c howl rips up the halway, a screech that rattles the building. A skittering of noises along the wals. Distant thumps.

Another howl, softer but with more anguish.

232 ANDREW FUKUDA

She suddenly freezes up: I see a realization strike her dead cold.

She stiffens up. With dread.

“What is it?”

Ashley June turns away from me. When she speaks, her voice is unsteady. She can’t bring herself to look at me. “Gene,” she says,

“go to the back. Take a look at the surveilance monitors, see if you can see what’s going on.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’l stay here,” she says. A strange pitch to her voice, an oblique light in her eyes.

I head back toward the monitors, curious myself to see what is happening around the Institute. At fi rst, the monitors indicate little movement. Everyone is stil sleeping. It’s al gray and stil. But a monitor in the corner catches my eye. There’s movement. In the foyer, where Phys Ed is writhing on the fl oor, his legs pedaling air.

foyer, where Phys Ed is writhing on the fl oor, his legs pedaling air.

His mouth is stretched open, as if in a silent yawn. But I know it’s not a yawn, nor is it silent. It’s a spine- rattling scream. On the monitor of the banquet hal, snoozing people, stil dangling off the chandelier, begin to stir. The chandelier is shaking now. On other monitors, people hanging off air ducts in the corridors are rous-ing, eyes beginning to pop open.

“I gotta go now!” I yel to Ashley June as I spin away from the monitors, making ready to run out.

But she’s gone.

I don’t know what to make of her sudden disappearance.
She
listened to me,
I think, but somehow that doesn’t ring true.

Something else is going on.

I swing the door open, step away from the Control Center. The corridor is empty. “Ashley June!” I yel at the top of my lungs, no THE HUNT 233

longer caring if others hear me. The only answer is the sound of my echo reverberating back to me.

Not a second to waste. I sprint down the corridor, turn down another. After the brightness of the Control Center, the corridor is the black of midnight. If I can get to Phys Ed in the foyer before anyone else, I can take him out. Literaly and fi guratively. That anyone else, I can take him out. Literaly and fi guratively. That would silence him and buy me time, at least until dusk.

And suddenly I know that’s where Ashley June is headed. To the foyer, to take Phys Ed out. She knows I’d never have let her go.

Frustration heated by a mad tenderness, I race down the second corridor, then push through an exit door leading to the stairwel.

At the top, peering down the dark wel, I hear the cries and screams and shouts. The pounding of boots, the slap- dash ricochet of bare feet scrabbling along wals and stairs. Doors bang open and shut.

The sounds fl oat up at me haphazardly, echoes bouncing up the wals and stairs from afar.

It’s too late now.

They know. They al know now.

Then, like a cannon shot, doors explode open a few fl ights down.

Manic skittering of feet on the chrome stairs, the click of long fi ngernails on the metal railings. Heading up. Toward me. A colective hissing, like a swarm of wasps, fl ies up toward me. Then a primal squeal screeches up the wel, and just like that, they’ve sniffed me out. They’re coming for me.

I turn on my heels and run. Back the way I came, back toward the Control Center. They’re coming in fast and furious, their screams bouncing off the wals around. Just two corridors to run down, just two.

I’m down the fi rst corridor and just turning the corner when I hear the doors to the stairway bang open.
Faster, faster

The knob of the door to the Control Center is in my hand. I 234

ANDREW FUKUDA

turn it. It slips in my grip, my palms and fi ngers too slick for traction. I take it in both hands and squeeze it like a vise. The door swings open and I fl ing my body through the gap, kicking the door shut as I fl y through.

The door slams shut; a second later, a gigantic
boom!

sledgehammers the door from the other side. It’s a race to the doorknob now. I leap up, push the lock button. A second later, from the other side, the knob turns, twisting in my hand, then stops against the lock. A terrifi c howl breaks out that rattles the door.

Then another
boom!
They’re body slamming the door.

I reel al the way to the back of the Control Center. The door isn’t going to hold for much longer. Maybe a dozen blows at the most.

They’l burst through, a fl ood of alabaster white skin and glistening fangs and bulging eyes hot with mad desire. The sunlight won’t be fangs and bulging eyes hot with mad desire. The sunlight won’t be enough to hold them back. They’d gladly suffer skin boils and temporary blindness for even a droplet of heper blood.

The video monitors at the back that only moments ago displayed little movement are now a dizzying array of motion. On every monitor, people are leaping through the halways in nightgowns and fl annel pajamas, eyes aglow. They al know. That I am up at the Control Center.

Boom!
The bang at the door is louder: more bodies, more force.

Nails scratch on the other side, howls and cries. And panting, the chortling of the insane.

I grab a steel- framed offi ce chair and heave it at the windows. It bounces uselessly off like a ping- pong bal. I spin around, looking for another exit. There is none.

Every monitor is now blurry with the energy of a colective beast awakened. Al except one: on the third row of monitors, to the right.

Something on it captures my attention, not for the action on it, but THE HUNT 235

for the inaction. A solitary fi gure just standing, slightly bent over, writing something.

It’s Ashley June. Relief, and an odd sense of pride, fi ls me: she got away. Judging from the pans and pots hanging behind her, she must be in the kitchen. Then I see her suddenly lift her head as if hearing something. I hear it, too. A bloodcurdling squeal that vibrates the very wals of the building. Ashley June pauses, puts pen back on paper, starts writing. She suddenly stops, looks up, her mouth dropping.

She’s realizing something. A light turning on in her head.

She bends over the paper again, her hand a blur as she writes furiously across the page.

Loud screams and moans sound up and down the building.

She stops, her face grimacing with indecision. Shaking her head, she throws the pen aside angrily and hastily folds the piece of paper. She runs to a slot in the wal, puls it open, places the paper inside. The oven? Then she punches at a large button. A light shoots out from the button, iluminating her face. Tears are streaking down her face. Her head tilts upward and a horror crosses her face.

She’s hearing it. The howl of desire streaming upward, toward me.

BOOM!
This bang is the loudest, denting the door. The top hinge is snapped askew like a broken bone breaking skin. It won’t withstand more than a few more hits.

withstand more than a few more hits.

This is how I wil die, I decide. Facing away from the door as it explodes inward, my eyes fi xed on the image of Ashley June on the monitor. Let that be my last vision. Let my death be quick, let my last thought and vision be of Ashley June.

BOOK: The Hunt
2.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Dead and Gone by Bill Kitson
La dama del lago by Andrzej Sapkowski
Unexpected Gifts by S. R. Mallery