My eyes peeled open as I regained consciousness. I saw only clouds at first, fluffy and white in a pink, orange sky. The stars were twinkling faintly, ready to be extinguished as the sun's majestic light dawned on the horizon. I thought I was dead for a moment, and this sight was Heaven and I was going to see, hear or feel God very shortly. I was delusional. As I woke, I was seized by a throbbing, dull pain all over me. At first I thought it was just the transition, of my soul being extracted from my earthly body. But the pain did not go away, and Heaven wasn't suppose to be this bad. I wanted to go back to sleep.

I lowered my eyes and I saw my arms. The bruises were fresh, blue and purple and sickening. Cuts and grazes patterned my skin, dirt having dried up with the blood to make brown, murky streaks. I was hand-cuffed at my wrists. I couldn't move my legs either, it was too painful to even try, and they were as heavy as lead and bound together by duc-tape.

After a moment or so, when I was awake a bit more, I discerned my dashboard in front of me. I had decorated it with little charms – a flowery chain hanging from the review, two small, twin plush teddies sitting below, and little sea shells that splayed left and right from the centre, in no particular order. The flowery chain swayed a little, making a quiet tinkling noise. The car was moving. But, who was driving? It certainly wasn't me. Anxiety crept into my limbs and I turned my head slowly towards the driver's seat.

It was a man. He wasn't overly alarming in appearance. Indeed he was fairly good-looking, a bit worse-for-wear at the moment for he hadn't shaved for a couple days, smelt like a week's worth of not showering, and probably didn't own a brush, considering the black tattoos on his fingers and across his neck. He wore a leather jacket over a simple, black shirt and a pair of jeans. The morning light traced his profile in a soft, golden glow, and highlighted the tips of his dark hair, which was cropped short at the base of his neck and flowed in waves at the top. His face was expressionless.

I had a hard time remembering how I got here. Last night was fuzzy, but I do recall getting beat up. Could this guy have played part in hurting me? For some reason my mind said No, but I didn't know if I could trust my instincts on this. He could be one of them, disguised in his unassuming demeanour. My anxiety flared for but a brief moment and settled in my stomach. I couldn't do anything about it. He had me chained to myself and I was battered, tired, and I probably wouldn't be able to run, let alone walk away. No, I could do nothing.

He must've sensed me staring at him for he glanced over towards me. Surprise crossed his face and then he smiled and returned his eyes back to the road.

"You're awake. Good. How are you feeling?" he asked, sounding genuinely concerned.

I didn't know if I could answer him. My whole body seemed to be failing me, so I wasn't sure if my voice box was working. I tried nonetheless.

"I'm not going back," I croaked out, attempting to sound fierce in my weakened state.

He looked to me again, and frowned, "Sure, Dawn. Don't worry. Just rest and don't exert yourself."

He was lying of course, all of them lied. His evasiveness was evidence enough. That's why he knew my name. They had sent him to find me. I didn't want to go back. Not yet, anyway. Not until I figure out what the world is, what my life is, what this feeling is. I felt nauseous.

"What happened?" I mumbled. Even my neck hurt from speaking.

He pursed his lips, "You fainted, it happens to everyone who comes out. You were just overwhelmed."

When I didn't say anything back, he continued, "It's hitting you hard because your body has been damaged. And I was late to find you. I would have come sooner but I didn't anticipate the Fallen to react so fast."

He made no sense. Was he trying to confuse me? Liar. Liar. Liar. I felt bile in my throat. My stomach was twisting, heaving and I broke out into a sweat. I needed to vomit.

"Oh, shit! Wait there, hold it in!"

He swerved the car to the left and I jarred to the right. I clenched my mouth tight. The seatbelt held me in place, so I didn't go through the windscreen. I heard Samson screeching from somewhere in the backseat, and I felt a twinge of guilt for not having considered his whereabouts or welfare sooner.

The man parked the car on the shoulder of the road, in the sandy ditch that lined the farmlands around us. He didn't bother turning off the ignition as he opened the driver's door. He tactilely slid over the bonnet to the passenger side and thrust my door open.

I could taste the vomit at the back of my tongue, I was on the verge. He released the seatbelt lock, grabbed me by the shoulders and pulled me half-way out of the car. The cold, morning air hit me and I would have gasped if I hadn't been trying to keep the vomit in. My mouth hovered over the ground and his shoes and I felt his fast, warm breath at the back of my head. He held me there, supported me as I emptied the contents of my stomach. I shivered each time my stomach heaved. When it was over he pushed me gently back into my seat and resecured the seatbelt.

"That was close," he laughed, and took a step back and gazed down at the mess I made.

I felt better. I've never vomited before, and I certainly do not want to ever again. My body was calm and contented, relieved. It was a better than peeing.

The man closed my door and I watched him cross the front of the car and hop into the driver's seat beside me. He pulled back onto the road, quickly sped up and adjusted the heat so that the morning chill was weened out and I was warm again. Samson crawled over to my lap and started scenting me. The cat looked unharmed, his simple, black coat was still intact and his tail accounted for. It was a comfort.

"If you're going to do that again, you need to give me enough warning."

Where exactly are you taking me?" I said in gasps, breathing tiredly in between.

"Well," he began, keeping his gaze fixed ahead, "first, we're going to stop at the next town. See if we can find another Gas station. We're going to clean you up a bit and get some supplies for the trip. It won't be for another hour yet, though."

He paused and blindly reached into the backseat and pulled out a water bottle.

"After that, we'll be on the road for about four days, heading east mostly towards the Old."


"No, you're not going to hospital. I want to keep minimal contact, lest the Fallen trace your whereabouts."

I didn't know what he was talking about. The names he spoke of were unfamiliar, new to me – what was Old, the Fallen? And what was he going to do with me? Inflict more pain? I couldn't think of anything worse than pain.

"Here, drink up."

It was still early in the morning when we arrived at a small, modest town called Egg Hill. There were no hills to speak of but there were several banners and signs in front of shops professing the World's Best Eggs. A few people loitered in the streets, setting up shop and whatnot. They seemed unconcerned with us as we drove by, probably assuming that we were just mere passer-bys who were not planning on staying very long. They were very right.

It wasn't too difficult to find the Gas station and this one was on the main road through the town. I brought the car to a park at one of the four empty outlets in the station. I glanced over at Dawn, who sat very still.

"Now, Dawn. It is imperative that you remain inside this car. I'm not the bad guy so don't think of trying to escape."

"Why?" she said, bluntly.

I didn't answer her. In her state I doubted she could get very far.

I hopped out of the car, scanned the establishment for anyone out of place, and then went to fill up the tank on the passenger's side. Dawn gazed at me side-wardly through her window as I waited for the tank to fill up. There were red and dirty smears across her face and her dark, red hair was all crimpled and dry. She also had a big, purple bruise on her chin. I needed to get her cleaned up, pronto.

When the tank of Dawn's little hatchback was full, I opened her door, stretched over and pulled out my wallet from the backseat.

"Where are you going?" she sounded anxious and tired.

"I have to pay and get some supplies. Relax, I won't be long. If you just stay here and be quiet, you'll be fine."

Her dull, blue eyes had turned a waxen gray as she dropped them. A flash of empathy ran through my arms, but I quickly suppressed it before it could hurt her too much. It wasn't often on a run that my Concealment faltered, indeed I was well practised. But Dawn seemed to be stronger than the others I had procured before, perhaps because she was younger. I had to concentrate harder on keeping my emotions in check around her. She might suffer more if I do not.

I felt the air around her, tasted and inhaled it – her emotions were sitting at a stable level of confusion and anxiousness, so I guess my mishap hadn't given her any pains. I would have to teach her to Conceal, for her safety and for mine. It was evident that she had bouts of intense anxiety and fear, which is normal for any newcomer, although the others I had brought to the Old hadn't taken it so hard as she has. The sooner I teach, the better I think.

"If you're going to vomit again, I suggest the glove box," I said, opening it, "but we're going to have to get rid of your car anyway. We'll use it for today, until the gas runs out or until we can get to the caryard at Newton."

Her face did not change, only she said, "Your name?"


She nodded her head slightly, and closed her eyes and let her body relax into the seat. I swung her door closed and locked the doors with the keys, and walked towards the station. When I was a few metres away from the car, I only let myself feel a little worried about leaving Dawn alone, especially since she could paint vomit all over the upholstery. .

I entered the station, and acknowledged the guy behind the counter with a friendly nod. The young man, who looked to be of Indian roots with his thick, black mane of hair on his head and his chin, did not reciprocate the gesture. He eyed me in the wary way people do but soon went back to the porn magazine he probably had been reading.

I ducked into an aisle and found the feminine hygiene section on my right and dental necessities and first aid on my left. I decided to get a toothbrush, floss, toothpaste, antiseptic cream, and a pack of bandages. I reached unknowing into the feminine section for something Dawn could use, if circumstances permitted, and came out with promising product that guaranteed 'protection'.

I went over to the next aisle and grabbed some non-perishables, crackers and some nutrition bars, and to the fridges where I pulled out about six water bottles. I lugged up to pay and deposited my collection on the counter.

"And number two," I said.

The Indian, whose name tag read "Alan, How may I help you?", picked up the first couple of things I had put before him and started to zap the barcodes. He was shaking and got quite flustered when the nutrition bars refused to scan properly.

"Why aren't they scanning?" he muttered, and winced as each attempt failed.

"Hey, don't worry about them then," I told him.

"No! I'm going to get fired if I don't!" Alan shouted.

This sudden change of attitude took me by surprise. Was I not Concealing? I checked myself, but my worry for Dawn was nowhere near potent enough to cause this kind of behaviour. When the nutrition bar finally scanned, Alan continued with the rest of my purchases easily enough, but his face still looked worried and upset.

"Was that number two?" He looked out through the floor-to-roof window, and stopped and stared.

"Yeah," I confirmed, watching his face turn sickly.

"I don't want to die," he sighed, and turned back to sum up the purchase, "And get that bitch out of here."

I didn't say anything to him. I didn't want to. When he was done packing up my things and giving me change, he only stood there and watched me go. I almost ran to the car, keeping tight control over my feelings as I came closer. I spotted Dawn's face through the window. She was just as I left her, reclined in her seat with her eyes closed.

I fished the keys out of my jacket and unlocked the car. She arose from her reverie and watched me quietly as I hauled the goods at the back, near our luggage. I sat down, pulled the door closed and started the engine. Alan was looking at us from the station, and I wondered if his strange behaviour was somehow Dawn's fault. He looked more appeased now, and even half-smiled at us as we drove away.

"Are you alright?" I asked Dawn as I merged onto the main road.

She was silent.