Jing-Wei would know what to do. But she was dead.
Well, May thought, probably she’d be dead soon, too. That would solve basically all of her problems in one elegant step.
She wasn’t sure what it was doing outside, exactly. Snow? Hail? Chunks of frozen water were falling from the sky in various sizes and textures. It was like the heavens couldn’t make up their minds and were trying a sampler platter of everything imaginable.
May shivered alone under her paltry glass shelter. The red jumpsuits the caretakers had given them had been all too warm in the tropics, but they hadn’t been designed for anything like this blizzard. Gusts cut through the fabric, tearing away any warmth she’d generated and leaving her covered in gooseflesh. May was so cold that straightening her arms was painful; the tendons were frozen tight. Her ears were burning, and even tucked into her sleeves, her stiff hands ached.
Electricity arced from one cloud to another. Thunder boomed overhead.
May felt very, very small. And very, very alone. The others weren’t so far away, really. Maybe a mile at most. But they might as well have been on the moon, or back in her parents’ dining room enjoying some board games and her dad’s signature dumplings.
The thought reminded her, again, that she was hungry. Her new normal. There had at least been plenty of food on the train. Against her better judgment May had given in to sheer animal desire and eaten enough that she’d felt sick. At first she thought it was her old, dear friend anaphylaxis, but then she’d realized it was simple gluttony.
The train felt like a long time ago, though, and a now-familiar hunger was settling into her bones again.
She wondered if the other survivors had been caught out in this weather, too. Or if they had found something in the way of shelter from this storm; maybe gone back to huddle in the wreck of the train. Maybe they’d all die of hypothermia, every last one of them.
That would be a cosmic joke, and not a funny one: dead or almost dead, then brought here for unknown reasons to suffer just a little longer and then die all over again. Pointless cruelty. She wondered, for the millionth time, why this had happened to her, specifically. She’d searched and searched for a common thread, but they’d all lived in different places, liked different things. They had different genes, different philosophies, different skills.
The only thing they had in common was dying at the right time. Or, come to think of it, at exactly the wrong time. Sometimes May thought they still had a chance of going home again. Whatever had happened to bring them here—surely it could be reversed. But right now she thought they’d all have been better off staying dead.
At any rate, here she was, crouched under a glass table—one in a vast plantation of identical glass tables—while the snow piled up faster than she would’ve thought possible. It couldn’t have been snowing for more than fifteen minutes. Twenty at the most! But it was already ankle-deep. The surface was churned up from the wind, marked with craters where larger chunks of ice had fallen from time to time.
May didn’t have a lot of experience with how snow worked, but none of this struck her as particularly normal, even with climate change turning “normal” into a moving target.
The pieces of hail grew bigger, clattering against her shelter like a thousand would-be Romeos throwing pebbles for her attention. Hail as big as apricots. She saw one or two the size of oranges. She hoped the shelter wouldn’t shatter and leave her exposed.
What would she do if it did? She needed a plan. Hide under the next one and hope that it wouldn’t break, too? There were plenty of the glass sheets, a whole farm of them. Surely some of them would survive intact. Of course, by staying where she was, she might be risking injury from the glass shards if hail did destroy her cover. Should she just make a break for the trees? She didn’t know how much shelter the boughs would give her, really. And there was the question of lightning, too; she was probably safer from the lightning here. She eyed the trees, trying to work out which would be most likely to get struck by lightning.
Instead of lightning, one leafy giant was overcome by the weight of ice on its shoulders and cracked in a spiral along its trunk. Its crown crashed to the ground. She couldn’t hear it fall; the wind was howling too hard.
She would stay, she decided, until she had to make another decision. And hopefully the storm would blow over soon.
And then she realized, with a sudden jolt, that Gabe was still out there all alone in the woods—she’d left him behind without a second thought. Had he found shelter, too? Was he safe and warm? Should she go looking for him? Chunks of ice struck above her, bounced away.
A movement drew her eye back toward the distant trees. A flash of red against the white. A flash of brown.
It was Gabe, shuffling toward her through the drifts of . . ....