No one wanted to stand near the grave. Although four of their own were already buried in the makeshift cemetery, the rest of the hundred were still disturbed by the idea of lowering a body into the ground.
No one wanted to stand with their backs to the trees either. Since the attack, a creaking branch had become enough to make the anxious survivors jump. And so, the nearly one hundred people who’d gathered to say good-bye to Asher stood in a tightly packed semicircle, their eyes darting between the corpse on the ground and the shadows in the forest.
The comforting crackle of the fire was conspicuously absent. They’d run out of firewood last night, and no one had been willing to venture out for more. Wells would’ve gone himself, but he’d been busy digging the grave. No one had volunteered for that job either, except for a tall, quiet Arcadian boy named Eric.
“Are we sure he’s really dead?” Molly whispered, edging back from the deep hole, as if worried it might swallow her up as well. She was only thirteen but looked younger. At least, she’d used to. Wells remembered helping her after the crash, when tears and ash had streaked her round cheeks. Now the girl’s face was thin, almost gaunt, and there was a cut on her forehead that didn’t look like it’d been properly cleaned.
Wells’s eyes flashed involuntarily to Asher’s neck, to the ragged wound where the arrow had pierced his throat. It’d been two days since Asher died, two days since the mysterious figures materialized on the ridge, upending everything the Colonists had ever been told, everything they thought they knew.
They had been sent to Earth as living test subjects, the first people to set foot on the planet in three hundred years. But they were mistaken.
Some people had never left.
It had all happened so quickly. Wells hadn’t realized anything was wrong until Asher fell to the ground, gagging as he swiped desperately at the arrow lodged in his throat. That’s when Wells spun around—and saw them. Silhouetted against the setting sun, the strangers looked more like demons than humans. Wells had blinked, half expecting the figures to vanish. There was no way they were real.
But hallucinations didn’t shoot arrows.
After his calls for help went unheeded, Wells had carried Asher to the infirmary tent, where they stored the medical supplies they’d salvaged from the fire. But it was no use.