Hunger Page 1

Author: Michael Grant

Series: Gone #2

Genres: Science Fiction , Young Adult

ONE

106 HOURS, 29 MINUTES

SAM TEMPLE WAS on his board. And there were waves. Honest-to-God swooping, crashing, churning, salt-smelling, white-foam waves.

And there he was about two hundred feet out, the perfect place to catch a wave, lying facedown, hands and feet in the water, almost numb from cold, while at the same time his wet-suit-encased, sunbaked back was steaming.

Quinn was there, too, lolling beside him, waiting for a good ride, waiting for the wave that would pick them up and hurl them toward the beach.

Sam woke suddenly, choking on dust.

He blinked and looked around at the dry landscape. Instinctively he glanced toward the southwest, toward the ocean. Couldn’t see it from here. And there hadn’t been a wave in a long time.

Sam believed he’d sell his soul to ride just one more real wave.

He backhanded the sweat from his brow. The sun was like a blowtorch, way too hot for this early in the day. He’d had too little sleep. Too much stuff to deal with. Stuff. Always stuff.

The heat, the sound of the engine, and the rhythmic jerking of the Jeep as it labored down the dusty road conspired to force his eyelids closed again. He squeezed them shut, hard, then opened them wide, willing himself to stay awake.

The dream stayed with him. The memory taunted him. He could stand it all so much better, he told himself, the constant fear, the even more constant load of trivia and responsibility, if there were still waves. But there had been no waves for three months. No waves at all, nothing but ripples.

Three months after the coming of the FAYZ, Sam had still not learned to drive a car. Learning to drive would have been one more thing, one more hassle, one more pain in the butt. So Edilio Escobar drove the Jeep, and Sam rode shotgun. In the backseat Albert Hillsborough sat stiff and quiet. Beside him was a kid named E.Z., singing along to his iPod.

Sam pushed his fingers through his hair, which was way too long. He hadn’t had a haircut in more than three months. His hand came back dirty, clotted with dust. Fortunately the electricity was still on in Perdido Beach, which meant light, and perhaps better still, hot water. If he couldn’t go for a cold surf, he could at least look forward to a long, hot shower after they all got back.

A shower. Maybe a few minutes with Astrid, just the two of them. A meal. Well, not a meal, no. A can of something slimy was not a meal. His hurried breakfast had been a can of collard greens.

It was amazing what you could gag down when you got hungry enough. And Sam, like everyone else in the FAYZ, was hungry.

He closed his eyes, not sleepy now, just wanting to see Astrid’s face clearly.

It was the one compensation. He’d lost his mother, his favorite pastime, his privacy, his freedom, and the entire world he’d known . . . but he’d gained Astrid.

Before the FAYZ he’d always thought of her as unapproachable. Now, as a couple, they seemed inevitable. But he wondered whether he’d have ever done more than gaze wistfully from afar if the FAYZ hadn’t happened.

Edilio applied a little brake. The road ahead was torn up. Someone had gouged the dirt road, drawn rough angled lines across it.

Edilio pointed to a tractor set up to pull a plow. The tractor was overturned in the middle of a field. On the day the FAYZ came the farmer had disappeared, along with the rest of the adults, but the tractor had kept right on going, tearing up the road, running straight into the next field, stopping only when an irrigation ditch had tipped it over.

Edilio took the Jeep over the furrows at a crawl, then picked up speed again.

There wasn’t much to the left or right of the road, just bare dirt, fallow fields, and patches of colorless grass broken up by the occasional lonely stand of trees. But up ahead was green, lots of it.

Sam turned in his seat to get Albert’s attention. “So what is that up there, again?”

“Cabbage,” Albert said. Albert was an eighth grader, narrow-shouldered, self-contained; dressed in pressed khaki pants, a pale blue polo shirt, and brown loafers—what a much older person would call “business casual.” He was a kid no one had paid much attention to before, just one of a handful of African-American students at the Perdido Beach School. But no one ignored Albert anymore: he had reopened and run the town’s McDonald’s. At least he had until the burgers and the fries and the chicken nuggets ran out.

Even the ketchup. That was gone now, too.

The mere memory of hamburgers made Sam’s stomach growl. “Cabbage?” he repeated.

Albert nodded toward Edilio. “That’s what Edilio says. He’s the one who found it yesterday.”

“Cabbage?” Sam asked Edilio.

“It makes you fart,” Edilio said with a wink. “But we can’t be too choosy.”

“I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if we had coleslaw,” Sam said. “Tell you the truth, I could happily eat a cabbage right now.”

“You know what I had for breakfast?” Edilio asked. “A can of succotash.”

“What exactly is succotash?” Sam asked.

“Lima beans and corn. Mixed together.” Edilio braked at the edge of the field. “Not exactly fried eggs and sausage.”

“Is that the official Honduran breakfast?” Sam asked.

Edilio snorted. “Man, the official Honduran breakfast when you’re poor is a corn tortilla, some leftover beans, and on a good day a banana. On a bad day it’s just the tortilla.” He killed the engine and set the emergency brake. “This isn’t my first time being hungry.”

Sam stood up in the Jeep and stretched before jumping to the ground. He was a naturally athletic kid but in no way physically intimidating. He had brown hair with glints of gold, blue eyes, and a tan that reached all the way down to his bones. Maybe he was a little taller than average, maybe in a little better shape, but no one would pick him for a future in the NFL.

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