The Farm

Free The Farm by EMILY MCKAY

Book: The Farm by EMILY MCKAY Read Free Book Online
on the top shelf. They were empty. By the time I’d collected all of the Band-Aids and ointments, all the rolls of Ace bandages and tiny packets of aspirin, it was almost time to go to fourth meal.
    I’d seen no sign at all of the map. It could be anywhere, tucked into a textbook or filed away with old tests. I tried not to panic. I had only vague ideas about what we were going to do on the outside. Find a car—there were certainly enough of them abandoned around town. Head north—the Tick outbreak had started in the Southwest, so I figured they were strongest there. If the Canadians had succeeded in securing their borders, maybe we could find sanctuary from the Ticks there.
    I’d spent a lot of time staring at that map, trying to figure out where to go after we got off the Farm. Maybe I remembered the roads well enough to get us there. All the warm socks and antiseptic moist towelettes in the world wouldn’t help us if we couldn’t find our way out of Oklahoma.
    I’d just finished flipping through my twelfth copy of
Elements of Geology
when I noticed Mel standing by the door. When I looked up, she said, “Jack Sprat could eat no fat and his wife could eat no lean.”
    “Okay.” I set the book aside and pushed myself to my feet. I handed her the pink backpack and swung the green one over my shoulder.
    We left the room, but Mel stopped at the door across the hall, which Carter had left open a crack.
    “Jack Sprat could eat no fat and his wife could eat no lean.”
    I gritted my teeth.
    “Jack Sprat—”
    “Okay, okay. I get it. How did you even know he was there?”
    She didn’t answer. I hadn’t expected her to, but when the only person you ever talked to was autistic, you asked a lot of rhetorical questions.
    I gave the door a cursory knock as I pushed it open.
    “I thought I told you to put a chair—” I broke off abruptly when I spotted Carter.
    He was standing with his back to the door. He’d been in the process of pulling on a T-shirt, so his arms were stretched over his head and I could see the muscles of his back. He paused for a second in midmotion when he heard me speak.
    Then he jerked the shirt the rest of the way down. “Hey, come on in. Is it time for dinner already?”
    “Fourth meal,” I corrected automatically. “No one calls it dinner anymore.”
    But my words sort of echoed unheard in my ears, because my brain was still stuck on the image of his bare back. On the scars.
    The skin of his upper back and shoulders was riddled with them, six or seven on each side. All about the size of a nickel and various shades of red and pink, as though some had been healing for months and others were mere days old.
    My hand went to my own neck, to a spot not far from my spine where the Ticks had implanted my chip when I’d first arrived at the Farm.
    “Thanks for letting me stay,” Carter said.
    His voice was overly loud, like he was determined to snag my attention from the bizarre scars.
    I looked from his shoulder to his face, my eyebrows jacked up in obvious question.
    His only response was to reach for the hoodie he’d draped over one of the lab tables. I noticed a mirror sitting on the floor, pointed in the direction of the door. I was about to ask about it when he picked it up and slid it into the pocket of his hoodie.
    “Were you watching our door?” I asked.
    “Yeah,” he admitted with a sheepish grin. “Good thing, too, since you were about to leave without me.”
    “No, I wasn’t,” I lied.
    “So how’s Melanie doing?”
    I could take a hint as well as the next girl, so I let him distract me.
    “In general? Like, how’s your family, I haven’t seen you in a while?”
    He chuckled, pulling the hoodie over his simple gray T-shirt and then giving the hem a little tug. “Actually I meant, how is she now? You said before if she couldn’t handle it, you’d make me leave.”
    “She’s fine,” I said tightly. Then I admitted, “Actually, she pretty much insisted we invite

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