The Underground (Superhuman Book 1)By: Suzanne D. Williams
Fifty years in the future
She met the gaze of the woman behind her for the second time, and the woman’s brow wrinkled, her eyes drawing tight. Embarrassment swamped her, and she faced forward again, determined not to let her fears take over. She had to focus on getting out of town quick, and putting as many miles between her and here as possible.
She tightened her grip on her bus pass and shuffled ahead with the rest of the passengers. A few feet up, they split into two groups, one on the bus headed south, like she was, and the others on one headed north. She’d chosen south initially, figuring she could blend in with the beach tourists for a time and find some sort of work. Also, it’d be warm.
Lodging worried her somewhat, and using her real name. She hadn’t used it to buy the bus pass. That’d be the first thing they’d search for … if they did.
She arrived at the split and turned left to board. But a man in khaki pants cut in front of her, and she bobbled. Temporarily off-kilter, she faltered, then hastily squeezed back in line. A minute later, she boarded the bus and searched for a seat. She fell down in one toward the back, dropping her bag in the empty seat beside her.
The bus filled, the smells of people mingling with the sickly sweet scent of the bathroom disinfectant. Perfume, body odor, the stench of coffee and various breakfasts served to make her stomach lurch. She ignored it, willing to put up with the smell to sit alone, and it looked like she’d succeeded, the bus doors closing, the driver taking his place.
Then someone pounded at the door, and he opened them again. The boy who entered was six foot, one hundred eighty pounds or so, dark brown hair, and startling turquoise eyes. Turquoise, like the Caribbean Sea or one of those stones on Indian jewelry that went by the same name. He passed his gaze over the crowded seats and settled on her. Pushing forward, he made his way back and paused overhead.
“Do you mind?” he asked.
Actually, yeah, she did. But he didn’t look like the kind of boy, you ignored, and he had no baggage, which was curious. Reluctant, she dropped hers between her feet and leaned back, holding her breath. Not that he smelled, but that already he made her nervous. He fell down in the window seat, giving her a brief glance, then looked away, his mind perhaps on other things.
He had a tattoo on the back of his neck, numbers like in a bar code. She stared for a moment, then closed her eyes and willed herself to sleep. She awakened to twilight, her head pillowed on the boy’s shoulder. Jerking upright, she brushed her hair from her face and angled herself away from him.
“Sorry,” she mumbled.
His cell phone in his hand, he nodded.
“What time is it?”
Lifting her chin in thanks, she ducked her gaze, settling it on the ridged rubber tread lining the aisle. Seven, which meant they’d arrive in Miami around ten p.m. She’d need to find a cheap motel for tonight and figure out her game plan tomorrow.
By now, they had to know she’d left. Not any reason for them to find her. She was eighteen and could legally go wherever she wanted. That didn’t mean they wouldn’t look, however. But no one knew Phoebe Faegan because she’d invented her and left behind any other trace of who she’d been. From now on, she wouldn’t look back and would work really hard to forget.
Turning sideways as best as possible, she closed her eyes again and listened to the miles fading in the distance.
Her skin stuck to the vinyl seat, Phoebe peeled it away and rubbed at the crease she felt beneath her thumb. The circle that’d been glued there burned. Lifting her gaze, she stared down the aisle at the passengers’ nodding heads. Toward the front of the bus, someone’s face glowed by the light of their cell. She stretched her legs and switched her view out the window. The boy was asleep, his chin tucked to his chest. Past him, through the blurry glass, she saw only darkness lit by the occasional flash of a street lamp.
What time was it? She had no way of knowing without asking and wasn’t about to wake the boy to find out. She settled back to wait instead, but time ticking by, grew more and more concerned. Then she spotted the street sign. Fayetteville, 50 miles, it said.
Fayetteville? Her heart crammed in her throat, she sat up straighter. She debated on waking the boy, but decided to walk to the front and ask the person with the cell phone instead. Rising, she steadied herself with one hand on the seat in front of her. Then, her feet firm, she shuffled forward, doing her best to not wake anyone. She halted beside the man with the phone.
“Please, sir,” she whispered. “What time is it?”
He flicked beady eyes to her face, his thumb never pausing in its movement on the keypad. “Pushing midnight.”