Home > Plague (Gone #4)

Plague (Gone #4)
Michael Grant


HE STOOD POISED on the edge of a sheet of glass. Barefoot. Perfectly balanced. One foot in front of the other. Arms at his side. That was the game now.

The sheet of glass went down and down and down forever. Like a shimmering, translucent curtain.

The top edge of the glass was thin, so thin it might cut him if he slipped or fell or took a too-hasty step. That top edge was a thin ribbon of rainbow reflecting bright reds and greens and yellows.

On one side of the glass, darkness. On the other, jarring, disturbing colors.

He could see things down there on the right side, down below his right hand, beyond the reach of his fingers. Down there were his mom and his dad and his sister. Down there were jagged edges and harsh noises that made him want to clap his hands over his ears. When he looked at those things, those people, the wobbly, insubstantial houses, the sharp-edged furniture, the claw hands and hooked noses and staring, staring, staring eyes and yelling mouths, he wanted to close his eyes.

But it didn’t work. Even through his closed eyes he saw them. And he heard them. But he did not understand their wild, pulsating colors. Sometimes their words weren’t words at all but brilliant parrot-colored spears shooting from their mouths.

Mother father sister teacher other. Lately only sister and others. Saying things. Some words he got. Pete. Petey. Little Pete. He knew those words. And sometimes there were soft words, soft like kittens or pillows and they would float from his sister and he would feel peace for a while until the next jangling, shrieking noise, the next assault of stabbing color.

On his left, down, down below the endless sheet of glass, a very different world. Quiet, ghostly things drifted silently, shades of gray. No hard edges, no loud sounds. No horrible colors to make him start screaming. It was dark and so very, very quiet.

Down there was a softly glowing orb, like a faint green sun. It would reach out to him sometimes. A tendril. A mist. It would touch him as he stood balanced, one foot in front of the other, hands at his side.

Peace. Quiet. Nothingness. It would whisper these thoughts to him.

Sometimes it would play. A game.

Pete liked games. Only the left side would play his games his way; games had to be his way, the same way, always and unchanging. But the last game Pete had played with the Darkness had turned harsh and overbright. It had suddenly stabbed Pete with arrows in his brain. It had broken the game.

The sheet of glass had shattered. But now it was whole again, and he balanced on top and as if it was sorry the soft green sun said, Come down here and play, in its whispery voice.

On the other side—the agitated, jangly, hard side—his sister, her face a stretched mask beneath yellow hair, a mouth of pink and glittery white, loud, was pushing at him with hands like hammers.

“Roll over. I have to get this sheet out from under you. It’s soaked.”

Pete understood some of the words. He felt the hardness of them.

But Pete felt something else even more. A strangeness. An alienness. Something wrong, a deep, throbbing musical note, a bow drawn over strings, that pulled his focus away from the left and the right, away even from the sheet of glass on which he balanced.

It came from the place he never looked: inside him.

Now Pete looked down at himself, like he was floating outside himself. He looked down at his body, puzzled by it. Yes: that was the new voice, the insistent note, the demanding voice more compelling even than the soft murmur of the Darkness or the jangly words of his sister. His body was demanding his attention, distracting him from his game of balancing on the sheet of glass.

“You’re sweating,” his sister said. “You’re burning up. I’m going to take your temperature.”

Chapter One



It was a new experience for him. He was fifteen and had once or twice snuck a sip of his mother’s wine. He’d drunk half a beer when he was thirteen. Just to see. He hadn’t liked it much, it was bitter.

He’d taken a single hit off a joint back before the FAYZ. He’d practically hacked up a lung and then spent an hour feeling bleary and strange and finally sleepy.

It had never been his thing. He’d never been part of the partying crowd.

But this night he’d gone to check on the caged monster that was both Brittney and Drake and had heard Drake’s vile, obscene threats and howling, murderous rage. And then, far worse, he’d heard Brittney’s pleas for death.

“Sam, I know you’re listening,” she’d said through the barricaded door. “I know you’re out there, I heard your voice. I can’t take it, Sam. Sam, end it. Please, I’m begging you, let me go, let me go to Heaven.”

Sam had been to see Astrid earlier in the evening. That hadn’t gone too well. Astrid had tried, and he had tried, but there was too much wrong between them. Too much history now.

He had kissed her. For a while she had kissed him back. And then he’d pushed it. His hands went where he wanted them to go. And she’d shoved him away.

“You know I’m going to say no, Sam,” she said.

“Yeah, I’ve kind of gotten that message,” he said, angry and frustrated but trying to maintain some semblance of cool.

“If we start, how long do you think it will take before everyone knows?”

“That’s not why you won’t sleep with me,” Sam said. “You won’t do it because you think it would mean giving up control. And you are all about control, Astrid.”

It was the truth. Sam believed it, anyway.

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