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© Heather Mitchell Manheim

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

ISBN: 978-1-09835-728-3 (printed)

IABN: 978-1-09835-729-0 (eBook)

Table of Contents

March 28, 2027 – Ruby

May 18, 2051 – Davis

May 18, 2051 – Quinn

August 18, 2056 – Quinn

August 18, 2056 – Davis

August 18, 2056 – Quinn

August 19, 2056 – Taken

August 20, 2056 – Captivity

August 22, 2056 – Detoxification Explained

August 22, 2056 – Detoxification

August 29, 2056 – The Fog Begins to Lift

August 30, 2056 – The Longest Day

August 31, 2056 – Illumination

September 1, 2056 – Cilantro and More Answers

September 2, 2056 – Depression

September 15, 2056 – Reunion

September 16, 2056 – Revelations

September 16, 2056 – Preparing to Depart

September 16, 2056 – Davis’s Evening

September 16, 2056 – Quinn’s Evening

September 18, 2056 – Davis Returns to Her Room

September 18, 2056 – Some Explanations

September 18, 2056 – Palace Expectations

September 24, 2056 – Departures

September 24, 2056 – Infirmary

October 1, 2056 – Proposal

October 8, 2056 – To the Palace

October 9, 2056 – Early Morning

October 9, 2056 – Late Afternoon

October 10–22, 2056 – Davis

October 22, 2056 – Brookshire

October 22, 2056 – Amelia


Thank You and Acknowledgments

March 28, 2027 – Ruby

Ruby rolled over and moved her head slightly to the left. The muscles on the right side of her neck were so tight and stiff; it was causing her to have another pounding headache that wound its way down her shoulders and back muscles. It was hard to tell where the headache pain ended, and the muscle pain started. All the different soreness was intertwined as one as it wove through her body. Both the little and big knots felt linked together throughout her, from head to toe, connecting dots that caused her constant discomfort and pain. She stretched as much as she could and reached above her head, barely making it the few inches needed to push the alarm clock into view: 2:47 a.m. Her stomach was queasy, and her mouth was parched and dry. She briefly considered getting up to use the restroom but was afraid she would faint if she did. She tried to fall back asleep, but sleep didn’t come easily these days. The rest she got was fitful, and it wasn’t long before Ruby was looking at the clock again: 3:05 a.m. Nausea or not, she had to go to the restroom. Her stomach cramped intensely. The pain was shooting arrows through her stomach and lower abdomen. It felt as if perhaps an old, knotted oak tree had somehow taken root in her stomach, and it was growing its twisted roots through her intestines. She pulled herself to the edge of the bed and got up slowly, using the side of the wall to steady herself. She took two steps before she collapsed into a balled-up heap on the floor. After a few minutes, she slowly pulled herself up and attempted her early morning trek again, but quickly, her body gave way under her, and she slumped against the wall before sliding down to the floor. On her third try, she decided it was best to crawl to the bathroom, or she would never make it there.

After she used the restroom, Ruby felt slightly better and pulled herself up and over from the toilet to the sink to wash her hands. She noticed the irony of washing her hands when she already had a highly infectious, incurable disease. As she stood before the mirror, she stared at her reflection. Her skin looked ashen and gray. Her complexion, once flawless and creamy, was now pockmarked and swimming with pimples. Her cheeks were gaunt, deep hollows where once she had plump, rosy little apples. The long, full light brown hair that her late husband always said reminded him of sun-kissed honey now hung in short, broken-off straggly thin strands that pasted against the edges of her damp, clammy face. She looked more like a drowned rat than a goddess blessed by the nectar of bees. Her once beautiful brown eyes were sunken in and, underneath, rimmed with dark foreboding circles. It looked as if she hadn’t ever slept. They were like big dark pools of oil, and she felt like she could almost see the virus swimming in the cesspools beneath her eyes. That odd thought made her laugh at herself, something she hadn’t done in a long time. She immediately wished she hadn’t, though; her dry lips cracked open at the tension caused by the slight rise at the corners of her mouth, and a thin stream of crimson blood formed.

It was imminent; the next few months would bring nothing but more pain, more illness, and eventually death. Ruby slowly moved her thin, emaciated hand over her belly. Her only hope was that she’d be able to hold onto the frail, delicate threads of life she clung to until her baby was born. She internally questioned herself why this was her wish since once her baby was out, the poor soul would suffer the same fate. That was unless her daily and most fervent prayer that she and so many others prayed received an answer: that this dreaded plague would have a cure by then. Ruby knew they were working on something; the news and positive stories abounded. She didn’t know if the rumors were indeed true, and if they were, how much longer it would take. But, a list of mothers were willing to subject themselves and their unborn babies to test medications, and Ruby’s name was near the top of the list.

May 18, 2051 – Davis

Davis couldn’t remember when President Everett took office in May of 2027. It happened twenty-four years ago when she was newly born. She had been the first infant to receive the Marigold Injection, so-called because of the inoculation medicine’s golden yellow-orange hue. Depending on a person’s skin tone, they took on some variation of that hue themselves. A fair-skinned recipient took

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