The 5th Wave

On a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs.
Runs from the beings that only look human,
who have scattered Earth's last survivors.

Four waves later, four billion dead.
And the fifth wave?
No one knows. But it's coming.


9. 8

AFTER THREE DAYS on the road, I’ve determined that cars are pack animals.

They prowl in groups. They die in clumps. Clumps of smashups. Clumps of stalls. They glimmer in the distance like jewels. And suddenly the clumps stop. The road is empty for miles. There’s just me and the asphalt river cutting through a defile of half-naked trees, their leaves crinkled and clinging desperately to their dark branches. There’s the road and the naked sky and the tall, brown grass and me.

These empty stretches are the worst. Cars provide cover. And shelter. I sleep in the undamaged ones (I haven’t found a locked one yet). If you can call it sleep. Stale, stuffy air; you can’t crack the windows, and leaving the door open is out of the question. The gnaw of hunger. And the night thoughts. Alone, alone, alone.

And the baddest of the bad night thoughts:

I’m no alien drone designer, but if I were going to make one, I’d make sure that its detection device was sensitive enough to pick up a body’s heat signature through a car roof. It never failed: The moment I started to drift off, I imagined all four doors flying open and dozens of hands reaching for me, hands attached to arms attached to whatever they are. And then I’m up, fumbling with my M16, peeking over the backseat, then doing a 360, feeling trapped and more than a little blind behind the fogged-up windows.

Dawn comes. I wait for the morning fog to burn off, then sip some water, brush my teeth, double-check my weapons, inventory

my supplies, and hit the road again. Look up, look down, look all around. Don’t pause at the exits. Water’s fine for now. No way am I going anywhere near a town unless I have to.

For a lot of reasons.

You know how you can tell when you’re getting close to one? The smell. You can smell a town from miles away.

It smells like smoke. And raw sewage. And death.

In the city it’s hard to take two steps without stumbling over a corpse. Funny thing: People die in clumps, too.

I begin to smell Cincinnati about a mile before spotting the exit sign. A thick column of smoke rises lazily toward the cloudless sky.

Cincinnati is burning.

I’m not surprised. After the 3rd Wave, the second most common thing you found in cities, after the bodies, were fires. A single lightning strike could take out ten city blocks. There was no one left to put the fires out.

My eyes start to water. The stench of Cincinnati makes me gag. I stop long enough to tie a rag around my mouth and nose and then quicken my pace. I pull the rifle off my shoulder and cradle it as I quickstep. I have a bad feeling about Cincinnati. The old voice inside my head is awake.

Hurry, Cassie. Hurry.

And then, somewhere between Exits 17 and 18, I find the bodies. 

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