Beth woke slowly, her eyelids feeling like they’d fused together during the night. Once she’d cracked her lids, she found Isabella to be sat in the bed beside her.
“Oh, good, you’re alive,” Ibby said, slightly monotonously.
Beth looked at her and immediately knew something was off, something was... different—in a bad way.
“Of course I am,” Beth croaked as she stretched, sitting up.
“It’s past midday.”
“What?” she asked, alarmed.
“Yeah, you’ve been out for eighteen hours or something ridiculous like that. Caelan was getting worried but I told him he couldn’t come in your room, whether he’s gay or not. He seemed really on edge this morning, actually. I’m sure it doesn’t help that Zeke’s gone out at noon,” Isabella remarked, almost casually.
“What?” Beth exclaimed, sitting up straight. “Where’s he gone?”
“I don’t know. And he hid Caelan’s necklace, so he can’t leave.”
“Then we need to go, you and me.”
“What, do you mean, ‘why’?” Beth demanded.
“Well, why should we care what Zeke chooses to do?”
“Because he’s our friend!”
“No he’s not.”
Beth stood up, clambering out of bed and rushing to get some clothes on.
“I’m going to find him, even if you aren’t.”
There was suddenly the stench of burning flesh. She spun around, seeing not her bedroom but a field, over which hung a black sky. There was no moon, but it was as bright as day as fires raged everywhere. The shadows cast by the flames seemed to be out of time with the sway of the bonfires; they looked to celebrating.
And standing in the middle of it all, was a young Zeke.
He held his head high as he surveyed his surroundings, looking as though he was proud of it. The blue in his eyes reflected the red of the fire, casting a menacing look over the rest of his face. This wasn’t the Zeke that Beth knew.
“He was only young then, only just a boy,” said a guttural voice that dragged out every S, making it sound almost serpentine. “You see his face, don’t you?” it asked.
Beth looked around, seeing only more mounds of fire. She saw no one.
“Look closer at the bonfires,” it rasped.
She warily followed its instructions, squinting against the harsh light that wanted to burn her retinas. There were bodies, limbs, heads... Beth immediately wanted to vomit.