1 Dawn

Tess rubbed the concealer onto the left side of neck to cover her curse mark. The mark resembled black smoke that faded through her skin in a semicircle. It took twenty applications until the mark blended in with the natural dark brown of her skin. 

Once she was satisfied, she let her white hair down and recited in the mirror, "I am not a monster, I am not a monster..." 

Like every morning, she repeated those words until it was time to head out of her room. That time was usually four thirty. 

Due to the global curfew, people had gotten accustomed to getting up earlier to make use of the daylight. Things were like that since the monsters they all knew as Sybervirians attacked at night. 

Tess went towards the door and peeped through a hole to notice the wall detectors were green. That meant the guards on duty had inspected the entire building and found no threat. Those guards were Mid-Sentry officials, and they only dealt with Sybervirians. 

To open her room door, which was thick and made of metal, she first moved back a metal notch to reveal a small hole. She put her other hand through it and turned the metal handle inside until the loud clicking stopped. 

The door pulled open to a white hallway. As usual, she had to pass several grilled walls that divided every hallway in the building.  Every house had them since people could not predict a mutation. They were to prevent getting chased through the halls by a monster that wanted to eat them. 

She pulled latch after latch to open the gates to each section and closed them once she passed through. It was second nature, and she did so until she reached Petra's lab. 

The lab door opened, and white mist escaped from the inside to spread across the ground like ghost water. Petra usually worked through the night on her top-secret project. Thus, she would always be wearing her white coat and goggles to great Tess in the mornings. 

"Good morning, Petra."

"Morning dear," Petra replied as she pushed her goggles up onto her forehead.

They both headed towards the kitchen to get breakfast. It was always pre-made meals left by the helpers as none of them trusted themselves in the kitchen. They sat around the small circular table and began to eat. 

"So, did you find anything," Tess asked. 

The smile on Petra's face vanished and the oven-cake hung from the fork mid-way upon reaching her mouth. 

She sighed and said, "Same as always."

It was those darn words again, which meant she did not find a cure. 

"Oh."

Tess began to poke her oven cake with the fork instead of eating. She had hoped the new data Petra found recently would amount to something. That morning turned out exactly like every other before it, disappointing. 

Petra felt Tess had too much faith in her. Why did she believe she could find the cure to a thousand year old virus that no one knew how to prevent or pass on?

Tess's mind calmed when she felt Petra's gentle hand on top of hers on the table, and then came her low voice. 

"One day Tess, one day it'll happen. I am trying everything-"

Yes, one day someone might find a cure. But would Tess be alive by then? 

"I know. Can we eat now?"

Tess pulled her hand from Petra and used it to lift food into her mouth.  "I don't want you to be late for your monthly mee-" 

The sharp pain that came after her teeth stabbed her tongue, caused her to make a hard swallow. She hit her fist onto the table to hold back the pain. 

"Are you alright?" asked Petra with her chin held over her plate, eating. 

"I'm fine," Tess blurted before stretching her lips into a smile. 

She knew Petra didn't like her eating and speaking at the same time and wanted to avoid an unnecessary lecture. She started to chew with her mouth closed when something caught her eyes.

Her heart sank when she felt she knew what it was. She looked up from her plate to see something white peeking out from the edge of Petra's left sleeve. 

Tess dropped her fork and pushed up the left sleeve on Petra's arm. She gasped. There were about ten caffeine patches stuck to her skin. 

Those patches were what caused her poisoning about a month ago when she had to go to the hospital. 

Petra pulled her arm back fast. 

"Seriously?" Tess fumed with half her body over the top of the table. "Why are you still using so many? Are you trying to give me a heart attack?"

"Child, please," Petra snapped while moving one hand towards her forehead to block Tess out. "I didn't use them all at once, I just forgot to take them off."

Her left brow twitched, and Tess knew she was lying. 

"Well then if you're going to be like this. I want you to know I may be home late today."

"What for?"

"Don't worry about that. If it's that bad you'll hear from my old pal, the Dean."

"Tess, please try to be a good girl today. You promised-"

"I know, I know. But you promised too, remember? It's your fault if you think about it."

Petra dropped her fork on the side of her plate and used a napkin to wipe her mouth. 

"I'm done eating," she said in a serious tone. 

"Me too," replied Tess as she pushed the plate away from herself.

They both glared at each other in silence from across the table before the alarm on Tess's arm went off. It was time for her to leave for school. 

They weren't going to see each other for a while, and it was common for family members to not hold on to bad feelings. Hearing that loved ones you left behind died was too common for that to happen. 

They stood and moved from around the table. Tess moved to get her departure hug and Petra wrapped her arms around her without hesitation. Petra's coat was still cold, which meant she was burning the air-chillers in her lab again. Tess's clothes would always feel chilly after hugging her. 

Minutes later, Tess was walking down the empty street with her hover-bike at her side. She used one hand to keep it upright by the handle since her other hand held her holo-phone. Her eyes were away from the path she walked on while she checked messages.

She deleted each message that wasn't from her best friend, Jeremy. If there was nothing recent from him, it only meant he was too embarrassed to face the fact that he lied to her.

Her mind flashed blank and a spike pierced her heart, when she glimpsed a dark figure out in the open from the corner of her left eye. No way, was that a Sybervirian?

She dropped her phone and held both handles of her hover-bike to drive from there like there was no tomorrow. When she glimpsed people walking through her bike's mirror, she stopped herself. 

She turned to lock her attention at the cross-section the monster was standing. The spot was empty and there were only a few other people heading out, and none of them looked her way. 

As she thought about it, the dark figure had a pale face that popped out. The only thing she could think of was a mannikin but that made no sense. Whatever it was, it moved, and super quick too.

She turned around and picked up her holo-phone from the grass. With her eyes held in front she continued to walk with both hands on her vehicle. 

That was a new one. She had never made out a mannikin in her weird nightmare flashes, and she was not going to tell Petra about it. Petra already believed she needed counseling.

She flipped the switch to turn on her hover-bike. The vibration ran over its metal exterior before it lifted off the ground. She swung one leg over the seat and in no time, she was zipping by. 

[Edited]

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