gave them to the girl. “What’s your name?” “Callie Draybek.” “Okay, Callie Draybek,” Sadie said, “How long before Bryce gets back?” “Any time,” Callie said. Sadie grabbed a dozen unlit candles off the canning table and dropped them into her pack. Then she pulled a propane torch out from under the pressure cooker and took it to the wooden cabinet. “Where do they keep the bikes?” Sadie asked as she tossed aside the tanning frames that had fallen over Jim. “At the gym,” Kim said. Sadie nodded and lay the torch on the cabinet floor so that its blue flame licked at the back of the cabinet and Jim’s shoulder. The wood turned black almost instantly, though it resisted catching fire. Jim’s hair crackled and his shirt caught on fire immediately. Sadie went for the potassium nitrate then, and she carried the whole bag to the cabinet and poured it over Jim’s chest and face and hair. Then she spilled it out all over the cabinet floor around the butane torch and emptied the rest of the bag onto the pile of tanning frames and the human hides stretched inside them. The potassium nitrate wouldn’t burn immediately, but once it melted down a little, the room would go up in a blaze too hot to stop. “What’re you doing?” Callie asked. “Giving these morons something to think about,” Sadie said. “Oh,” Callie said as Sadie shrugged her pack onto her shoulders, picked up all three fire extinguishers and carried them over to the door blocked by the tub of blood. She tossed the extinguishers behind the door, into the supply room. Then she took Callie’s hand and they ran out into the hallway.
Sadie wasn’t sure she ought to trust Callie. Not the way the world appeared to work now. Trusting strangers you just met was gambling with your life. Killing strangers, on the other hand...now that appeared to be the most rational course of action anyone could follow. Humans had turned into vicious monsters, it seemed, and existence had become nothing more than a Prisoners Dilemma for psychopaths. Still Callie didn't seem capable guile or deep deception. She appeared to be who she said she was, which was a girl trying to get home. The same as me . “Where’s home?” Sadie asked. They were sitting inside a dust-entombed pickup in an otherwise empty parking lot. The windshield and top of the pickup were coated with a thick layer of dust, but that didn’t stop the falling gray balls of mud from splattering down on them with heavy thumps—like the trampling of a zombie herd across a hardwood floor. The lot where the truck sat was next to the back side of a recreational center with a gymnasium, a weight room, a game room, and a cafe. The kitchen in the cafe was the source of the gray smoke. “They built a barbecue pit in the kitchen,” Callie had said and shivered. Behind Sadie and Callie was another building, about a hundred feet away. It appeared to be a dormitory. Mostly it was dark out, with random, long and short flashes of lightning and a nearly constant rumbling thunder. Callie was watching the rear entrance to the recreational center. Sadie had turned to watch the Allen Science Building through the passenger window. She’d wiped it clean before climbing inside, but the gray mud balls had recoated it. Sadie couldn’t help but think the guys running this operation were tactical idiots, considering that they’d left the truck where it was. It was like telling your enemy: “Here’s a nice camouflaged forward observation post right next to our headquarters. Enjoy.” “West Virginia.” Callie said after a while. “My grandparents are there. If they’re alive.” Sadie had given Callie a dust mask to wear before they’d left the science building, and the short run they’d made over to the truck had already left the bulging white bubble covered in gray dust. “I was taking Jenna 'cause her family’s dead.