11.2

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Jen

Jen squinted at the dark space beneath the rock, fighting every instinct to keep herself from crawling back in. The wavering light filtering through the trees, the light that had felt like a dim, distant glimmer just minutes before now scorched her skin and threatened to blind her. She thought of a documentary she and Sam had watched together just a few days ago about the life cycles of stars. When a massive star reached the end of its life, it exploded in a powerful, catastrophic burst.

After all that she’d been through in the past through days, this was how she was going to die? In an alien supernova with her ex-boyfriend?

But why was it so quiet? She knew there was no sound in space, but surely an entire sun exploding would make some noise. There would be shockwaves or something.

Come to think of it, she didn’t feel any shockwaves either.

And Lachlan and Sam weren’t acting like they were about to be vaporized by a devastating radioactive shockwave. They were carrying on their conversation from before, going on about the problem-solving process.

No. No, the sun wasn’t exploding. Something else was going on.

She didn’t know what, and she didn’t particularly care. If the sun wasn’t exploding, that was good enough for her. She was satisfied with that. All she cared about was getting out of this light, crawling back into that cool, inviting space beneath the rock and nestling in for a nap.

She moved a fraction toward the rock. No. She wasn’t supposed to go back in there. She couldn’t remember why, but it had felt important.

Since crawling back under the rock wasn’t an option, she settled for curling into a ball, tucking her knees into her chest. The spines flattened, retracting into her body to make room for her legs, but she wouldn’t have cared much if they hadn’t. She had to protect herself from the white-hot explosion engulfing her.

She tucked her hands into her chest and pushed her face into her knees, shielding all of her unprotected skin from the light. She was grateful she’d changed out of her dress into clothes that covered her arms and legs. If she could be beneath the rock, she could at least be fully covered.

Whatever forgotten reason she’d had for staying out in the open was starting to seem less and less important. If it was really such a big deal, she wouldn’t have forgotten it in the first place.

She tried to unfurl herself and found that she couldn’t move her limbs more than a fraction.

Sam was kneeling beside her, while Lachlan remained lying on the ground. They were talking, but her mind couldn’t parse the words. They sounded worried, but not supernova worried.

She tried to speak–to tell them there was nothing to be worried about. There had never been anything to worry about. She was fine. Everything was fine. It wasn’t ideal that she was out in the open light, but there was nothing she could do about it now. It was time.

Time for what?

It was time.

She knew what she had to do. She rolled over so she was face-down, knees and head on the ground. She flexed her shoulder spines–those could still move, at least–and extended them, hooking them into the ground.

There. Now she could sleep.

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