Pounding, slamming, punching, fingers crunching. Tangled arms and lungs and nothing working can’t move can’t breathe—
“Eden! Eden!” Jonas’ voice explodes in my ear. “Goddammit stop this thing right now!” Panting—mine, his. A soft breath of voice. “It’s OK. It’s OK.”
“We are stopping. It takes a minute!”
“You’re OK,” Jonas says as the world slides sideways, our shoulders ramming into a wall.
A huge rectangle of daylight appears in the hull. All I can see is white—bright, bright white that makes me squeeze my eyes closed—but I’m scrambling for it, falling out the door and onto the road. I scrape myself off the pavement and stumble away, making Jonas’ hand miss my back. He reaches for me again as I stand to the side, hands on knees, head down, gulping air. I swallow down the bile. I am OK. It’s just a stupid armored truck. Nothing more.
I take long, deep breaths through my nose, sucking in clean, fresh air. I straighten and look at the wide stretch of blue sky beyond the road, remembering how open and endless the world is beyond the barriers.
I nod, turning toward Jonas. I am OK. I’m not even embarrassed. Not terribly. Not until I see Spec standing there, his pale eyes wide as he watches me.
Something in me snaps. “I have some issues. OK?”
Spec’s eyes flick from me to Jonas. He licks his lips, shrugs his shoulders like he’s taking off a pack, and tosses me a smile. “Don’t we all.” He looks to the front of our convoy, and to the back. “Is this going to keep happening?”
My jaw tightens, but I lift my chin. “I’ll get used to it.” My eyes scan past him to the long stripe of road that lies ahead of us. “How much longer?”
He laughs as he turns back to the truck. “You better get used to it,” he says. “There’ll be lots of places where you can’t get out. Places where stopping equals dying.”
As he disappears back into the truck, Jonas and I lock gazes. His green eyes are wary, but his mouth is a line of determination.
“What’s your trick?” I ask, half pissed-off that he’s dealing just fine with being packed in a metal box again.
He shakes his head, looking away. Disconnected. We’re so, so disconnected.
Giving up on an answer, I start to move past him, but his gaze flicks back to me.
He doesn’t smile, not the way I’d like. But there’s something real in his eyes. “I’m mostly just focusing on how badly I have to pee.”
I laugh unexpectedly, running my fingers through my hair. A glance at him reveals his gorgeous face stretched into a wide smile. As I step toward the truck, I keep my voice level, covering up the flutter of emotion inside me. “Does that mean I shouldn’t take a pee break now?”
“God, no,” he says. “Take a pee break. There are places where peeing equals dying.”
Wearing a smirk of amusement, I move between the trucks to take his advice. I gesture to the driver to turn around, tossing him a glare that ensures his quick compliance. It’s the most privacy I’ll get out here, so I try not to think about it. Instead, my mind wanders back to Jonas. He doesn’t realize it, but he really has helped. That smile. That moment of connection. A guilty little indulgence to hang onto when I close my eyes in the dark pit. Healthy? Probably not. Good idea? Unlikely. I thought I was past that. But sometimes you’ve got to make concessions. Choose your poison. Especially in our messed-up world, where stopping equals dying. …Where peeing equals dying….
I snicker as I squat.