Fear Page 1

Author: Michael Grant

Series: Gone #5

Genres: Science Fiction , Young Adult

Loading...

OUTSIDE

ONE MINUTE NURSE Connie Temple had been updating her journal on her little laptop. And the next minute she was gone.

There.

Gone.

No “poof.” No flash of light. No explosion.

Connie Temple had found herself on the beach. On her back. In the sand. She’d been sitting when it happened and so she had sat down suddenly on the sand and had fallen onto her back, with her knees drawn up.

All around her lay others. People she didn’t know. Some she recognized as faces in town.

Some were standing, some were sitting, some sat as though they were still holding on to a steering wheel. Some were in workout clothing and seemed to have arrived on the beach, on the highway, still running.

A man Connie recognized as a teacher at Sam’s school stood blinking, hand raised, like he’d been writing something on a chalkboard.

Connie had stood slowly, dazed, not believing any of it was real. Wondering if she’d had a stroke. Wondering if this was some hallucination. Wondering if this was the end of the world. Or the end of her life.

And then she had seen it: a blank, gray, featureless wall. It was incredibly tall and seemed to curve away.

It extended out into the ocean. It cut the highway. It cut Clifftop, a posh hotel, in half. It extended inland, far out of sight, cutting through everything in its way.

Only later would they learn that it was a sphere twenty miles across. Aerial shots soon popped up all over the internet.

Only later, after days of disbelief and denial, did the world accept that none of the children had been transported. Every single person under the age of fifteen was gone.

Of the population of Perdido Beach, California, and some of the surrounding area, not a single adult had been killed, though some had been injured when they found themselves suddenly in the desert, suddenly in the water, suddenly tumbling down a hillside. One woman found herself suddenly in another person’s home. One man had appeared wet, wearing a bathing suit and standing in the middle of the highway with cars swerving like crazy to avoid him.

But in the end there had been only one death: a salesman from San Luis Obispo on his way down to talk about insurance with a couple in Perdido Beach. He hadn’t seen the barrier across the road up in the Stefano Rey National Park and his Hyundai hit it going seventy miles an hour.

Connie couldn’t remember his name now.

A lot of names had come and gone in her life since then.

With an effort she pulled herself out of the memory of that day. Something important was being said by Colonel Matteu.

“The energy signature has changed.”

“The what?” Connie Temple glanced at Abana Baidoo. They had become good friends over these long, terrible months. Abana usually had a better grasp of the scientific details than Connie. But now she just shrugged.

George Zellicoe, the third of the family spokespeople, had checked out mentally a long time ago. He still came to the briefings, but he’d fallen silent. Connie and Abana had both tried to reach out to him, but he was lost now. Depression had claimed him and now there wasn’t much left of the once energetic, opinionated man.

“The energy signature,” Colonel Matteu said. “What we’ve started calling the J wave.”

“What does that mean, exactly?” Connie asked.

The colonel didn’t look much like a colonel. He had the flawlessly pressed army uniform, of course, and the neatly trimmed hair, but he tended to slouch inside that uniform, leaving the impression that either it was a size too big or he had shrunk since buying it.

He was the third officer to be assigned to command the forces at the Bowl. The Bowl. The Perdido Beach Blister. He was the first to be able to answer a simple question honestly.

“We don’t know. All we know is that right from the start we got this energy signature and it was one-way. And now it’s shifting.”

“But you don’t know what that means,” Abana said. She had a way of talking that turned every question into an incredulous challenge.

“No, ma’am. We don’t know.”

Connie heard the slight overemphasis on the word “know.”

“What is it they suspect?” Connie asked.

The colonel sighed. “I preface this by reminding all of us that we’ve been through a dozen—a hundred—different theories. Nothing has been right so far. We had one set of theories when the twins appeared safe and sound. And then, when Francis…”

No one needed to be reminded of Francis. What had emerged of Francis had been a horror caught on camera, live, and rebroadcast again and again to a sickened world. Seventy million plays on YouTube.

Soon after that, there had been Mary. That, mercifully, had not been filmed. They’d found her and removed what was left of the girl to a facility where she was kept alive. If you could call it life.

The air-conditioning suddenly came alive. The trailers tended to be hot, even on cool days like this one with the ocean breeze blowing.

“We know by now not to believe everything we hear,” Abana said mordantly.

The colonel nodded. “They think there may be a … a softening, they’re calling it.” He held up a hand, cutting off the quick reaction. “No, they still can’t penetrate the barrier. But in the past when they’ve tried bombarding portions of the barrier with X-rays or gamma rays the barrier has acted as a perfect mirror, bouncing back a hundred percent of the energy that struck it.”

“That’s changed?”

“The last test showed ninety-eight-point-four percent refraction. It doesn’t sound like much. And it may not mean anything. But it’s been a hundred percent since day one. And a hundred percent every day since. And now it’s not a hundred percent.”

Next