sweating, and my stomach felt like it was filled with broken shards of glass, jabbing and slicing at my insides.
âIâm fine,â I said, but I wanted to shred my skin with my fingernails. The crawling sensation came and went in waves, and I was currently surfing a bad one.
âNo, youâre not,â he hissed, low and frustrated. âYou need to see a doctor.â
He stood and took me by the arm, trying to haul me out of my seat. I wrenched violently away. âI told you never to touch me!â
The cafeteria went silent, all eyes turned toward us. Blake glanced around nervously, licking his lips, eyes as wide as they would go.
âIâm only trying to help,â he said. âWhy wonât you let me help you? Whatâs going on?â
I couldnât meet his eyes. My control was slipping, and I was afraid, so afraid of what I might do to him if I lost control for even a second.
âWhat the detective said about that kid and his dad dying the same wayâ¦â He lowered his voice another octave. âDo you know how it happened? Did youÂ â¦ did you have something to do with it?â
âYou need to leave now,â I responded, my voice sounding flat and dead. âI canât explain anything. Please, Blake, just do what I ask this one time and leave me alone.â
I shoved my chair back and stood to face him. I dragged a breath down my throat. It was getting harder to breathe. My lungs were filling up with cement, hardening, and I was shivering so violently it felt like I would make the building shake.
âJust go! Leave me alone!â I ran from the cafeteria and didnât look back to see if he was following me. I hoped he wasnât, because a part of me hoped he was. That part wanted to get him alone and then let my aching, trembling, rebelling body have what it wanted. The rushing, throbbing, fluttering in my ears was so loud now, it was like standing next to an industrial fan as its blades whacked at the air. I needed to be alone. I needed to be locked away somewhere safe. I needed to get out of this hospital before I did something terrible.
But I couldnât think straight. The pain in my guts and the fever chills and the shuddering vibration in my ears drove away all rational thoughts. I wandered. I walked the halls. My vision blurred around the edges and turned gray in the center. The people I passed looked like ghosts, their faces chalky blurs. I kept my head down and tried not to see them because I knew that any of them could fix me. The life inside a single one of them could end my agony. These people were walking bottles of medicine, living, breathing panaceas for my unique affliction. But the medicine I needed came at too steep a cost.
I was trapped. Trapped in a body that had become hostile territory, a private war zone, and I was the enemy under attack by my own cells. How long before I had no choice but to surrender and give them what they wanted?
I didnât know where I was going. Everything moved past me in a rush, like I was on a high-speed train. Nothing seemed real. I couldnât even feel my feet touching the floor. There was only the clutter of knives in my stomach and the wings in my ears and the terrible, sucking emptiness that was everywhere. Everything.
I blanked out for a while. I wasnât sure how long.
When I came back, I was standing next to Erinâs bed.
My twin was sleeping, and when I glanced behind me I saw that my mom was too.
I shouldnât be in here , I thought. But I didnât move. I wanted to see my sister, remind myself that even though I was in hell, even though I was dying, she was alive and healthy for the first time in her life.
She was going to live a long, long time, and her life would be beautiful. My brilliant sister would do amazing things.
A year ago, Erin almost died. She got a bad cold, and that was all it took. Her body gave up, tried to shut