"Everyone get out of here!" Lana yelled. "Out! Now!"
Mark was speechless. Everything in him wanted to do the opposite of what she'd just ordered. He wanted to help his friend.
"Get outside. Then we can talk!" Lana insisted. She pointed to the door.
"Go," Misty said weakly. "Do what she says."
Mark and Trina exchanged a look, but she only hesitated a second before marching out the door. Alec was right on her heels, then Lana.
Mark turned to leave but then noticed that the Toad hadn't moved.
"Hey ... come on, man. Let's just go out there and talk about this. Misty, tell him."
"He's right, Toadie," she said. She'd slipped her backpack to the floor and sat down next to it. Mark couldn't believe how quickly she'd gone from totally fine to literally on the ground, too weak to stand. "Go and let me figure this thing out. Maybe I just ate something weird." But Mark could tell she didn't believe that.
"We can't just keep abandoning people," the Toad said, glaring at Mark.
"Who cares what you do if it makes you end up dead!" Misty countered. "How would you feel if it was reversed? You'd want me to leave. Now go!" That seemed to drain a good chunk of her energy-she slumped and almost lay down.
"Come on," Mark said. "We're not abandoning her. We're just going outside to talk."
The Toad stomped out of the Shack, muttering under his breath the whole way. "This is all so messed up. Totally messed up."
Mark looked at Misty, but she was staring at the floor, taking long, deep breaths. "Sorry" was all he could get out. Then he joined the others.
They decided to give her one hour. They'd see what happened. See if she got better or worse.
Or if she stayed the same.
It was a maddening hour. Mark was unable to sit still. He paced outside the Shack, worried on so many levels. The thought that a virus might be slinking its way through his system ... it was unbearable. And Trina's, too. He wanted to know. Now. It was so overwhelming that he found himself forgetting that Misty could very well have it and die soon.
"I think we need to readjust our outlook here," Lana said toward the end of their allotted time. Misty hadn't improved or gotten worse-she still lay on the floor in the Shack, breathing evenly. Not moving at all. Not speaking.
"What do you mean?" Mark asked. He was grateful the silence had been broken.
"Darnell and Misty prove that whatever this is doesn't necessarily take effect right away."
Alec spoke up. "I think we should use the time we have. We should hike to that place on the map. And we need to do it as soon as possible." He lowered his voice and added, "I'm sorry, but we have to get out of here, and what better place to go than where we can learn what's going on? Whatever was in those darts caused this-we need to go where the darts came from. Maybe there's something-some medicine that can cure this sickness. Who knows?"
It all came out sounding a little cold. Harsh. But Mark couldn't disagree with him. He felt like he had to get away from here, if nothing else.
"We can't leave Misty," Trina said. But even her statement had no strength behind it.
"We don't have a choice," Alec countered.
Lana stood from where she'd been sitting against a wall and brushed off her pants. "We don't have to bear the guilt of this," she murmured. "Let's ask Misty. She deserves that. And we'll do whatever she decides."
Mark raised his eyebrows and looked around at the others, who were doing the same.
Lana took that as agreement and walked to the open door of the Shack. Without going in, she knocked on the frame and spoke in a loud voice. "Misty? How's it going in there?"
Mark was perched on the ground where he could see inside. Misty was on her back but slowly turned to look at them.
"You guys need to go," she said weakly. "Something is seriously wrong with my head. It feels like bugs are up there, eating away at my brain." She took several deep breaths, as if saying just that much had sapped her strength.
"But, honey, how can we leave you here?" Lana asked.
"Don't make me talk anymore. Just go." Another deep breath. Mark could see the pain in her eyes.
Lana turned toward the others. "Misty says we need to go."
Mark knew they'd become hardened-they'd had to, to survive the world since the sun flares struck. But this was the first time they were faced with leaving someone who still seemed so alive. Misty's decision or not, he thought the guilt would eat away at him.
When he looked at Trina his resolve hardened. Still, he let Alec be the bad guy.
The former soldier had gotten to his feet and slung his backpack onto his shoulders. "The best way to honor Misty right now is to get moving and learn something that could end up helping."
Mark nodded and followed suit, cinching tight the straps of his pack. Trina hesitated, then stepped up to the doorway, faced Misty.
"Misty ...," she began, but no more words came.
"Go!" the girl shouted, almost making Trina stumble backward. "Go before the things in my brain jump out and bite you. Go! Go!" She'd risen to rest on her elbows and screamed with such ferocity that Mark thought she might've hurt herself. Might have realized that she was about to face the horror that Darnell had gone through.
"Okay," Trina said sadly. "Okay."
The Toad was by far the closest friend to Misty, and he hadn't said a word. He just stood staring at the ground, tears in his eyes. But as Mark and the others prepared to leave, the stout man didn't move. Alec finally asked him what he was doing.
"I'm not going," the Toad said.
As soon as he said it, Mark realized he'd been expecting it. No surprise at all. He also knew that there'd be no changing the guy's mind. They'd be saying goodbye to two of their friends now.
Alec argued with him, as did Lana. Trina didn't bother, obviously having come to the same conclusion as Mark. And just as Mark had predicted, the Toad didn't budge.
"She's my best friend. I'm not leaving her."
"But she wants you to," Lana said. "She doesn't want you to stay here and potentially die with her. She wants you to live."
"I'm not leaving her," he repeated, and gave Lana a cold stare. Misty said nothing from inside, either not hearing or too weak to respond.
"Fine," Lana said, not bothering to hide her annoyance. "Catch up with us if you change your mind."
Mark just wanted to leave. The situation had become unbearable. He took one last look at Misty through the doorway before moving on. She was curled up into a ball, speaking in an odd voice, though it was too low to make out what she was saying. But as they walked away, he was pretty sure that the girl had been singing.
She'd snapped, he thought. She'd definitely snapped.