Fire & Flood Excerpt:
“If you are hearing this message, then you have successfully completed the Pandora Selection Process. It also means you are now at the official starting line.”
Around me, Contenders whoop with excitement. Seriously? They’re about to plunge into a wild jungle, and that brings them happiness? Once again, I realize how out of my league I am. I don’t even have a change of clothes, for crying out loud.
“As you may have realized, you are on the outskirts of a rain forest. This will be the jungle part of the course. You will have two weeks to arrive at the jungle’s base camp. You will find this base camp by following the path of blue flags.”
Contestants glance around, immediately looking for the first blue flag. As for me, I’m watching the taillights of the semi and having a massive coronary.
“If you are the first to encounter a blue flag, you may remove it, but you may not remove the stake it is attached to. Doing so will result in immediate disqualification.”
I wonder why anyone would want to remove the flag to begin with. No one else seems concerned by this.
“While the Cure will be awarded to a single winner at the end of the last ecosystem, we will bestow a smaller prize for each leg of the race. The prize for the jungle portion will be monetary.” The woman pauses dramatically. “I’d like to officially welcome you to the Brimstone Bleed. May the bravest Contender win.”
That’s it? That’s all she’s going to say? Because it seriously sounds like she’s wrapping up. So why aren’t I running after the trucks? Why am I not chasing after my only way out of this jungle like my life depends on it? I know the answer — though I wish I didn’t. Cody would do this for me. I am his only hope. I have to believe his cure exists. My only other option is to return home and watch my brother die. If I could even get back home.
I glance around frantically, looking for someone to tell me what to do. The Contenders have formed a long line, the kind you see at the start of a marathon. A few yards down from where I stand — I see him. My throat tightens when I realize his cold blue eyes are locked on me. It’s the guy from the Pandora Selection Process. The serial killer–looking dude who I thought was going to kidney punch me. He glares in my direction like he might take this opportunity to finish what he never started. I raise my hand in a small wave, hoping it says something like: See? Look how friendly I am!
He lifts his own enormous hand. For a moment, I brighten. I think maybe that — even though it looks like he hates every fiber of my being — he’s going to wave back. But he doesn’t. He holds up two fingers — his pointer and his middle — places them under his eyes, and then points in front of us.
Oh no, he didn’t. I think he basically just told me to pay attention. I’m still processing this when the woman’s voice rings in my ear.
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