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P. 1
Panic Origin Story Part 2

Panic Origin Story Part 2

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Published by EpicReads
The second part of the PANIC origin story, written by Lauren Oliver.
The second part of the PANIC origin story, written by Lauren Oliver.

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Published by: EpicReads on Feb 18, 2014
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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03/12/2014

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Part II
She can
t be serious,
 Jake said, and then immediately regretted it, because already Mike had climbed to his feet. He punched Jake hard on the arm as he passed.
Don
t be a pussy,
 he said. And then, in a slightly lower voice,
Sophia Robertson
, dude.
 She was walking backward down the slope, the wind whipping her hair around her face, the remaining sun bloodred behind her, turning her face to shadow, so that for a second Jake drunkenly thought she looked like an angel, or a demon; he couldn
t decide. Definitely something not of this planet.
You think he
ll do it?
 TJ said, still focused on rolling a joint, as if they were talking about a character in a movie. Savannah
s mood had rapidly shifted. She was sulking, annoyed that attention had once again shifted to her best friend.
He won
t,
 she said with surprising vehemence.
He doesn
t have the balls. None of you do.
 Jake got to his feet and discovered that he was drunker than he
d thought. The ground wasn
t solid, but an oscillating surface, rising and falling away like waves under his feet. He moved down the slope carefully, placing each step precisely, as only very inebriated  people do, conscious of wanting to appear sober. The train was visible now. It had emerged through a break in the trees. The Dick had said he thought that freight trains didn
t go very fast. But how did he know? He didn
t. The Dick was a champion bullshitter; everyone knew that. The train didn
t look as if it
 
were going slowly. It seemed to be swallowing the track, sucking it up into its metal grill. Jake briefly imagined the train as alive, churning steel through its digestive system,  breaking apart distance and space like a great whale siphoning kelp. Mike and Sophia were standing on the short gravel spit that ran parallel to the tracks. Sophia
s hair was still going crazy. Mike was doing his best to look unconcerned, but he was pale and Jake knew he must be shitting himself.
You in?
 Sophia said, when Jake caught up. She had to shout to be heard over the noise of the approaching train.
This is nuts,
 he said, which he knew wasn
t an answer one way or another. It was hard to say no to Sophia, especially because she was standing so close he could smell her, a mix of wildflowers or honey or sunshine
 — 
 bright, girlie things he had no vocabulary for 
 — 
as well as something deeper, closer, more urgent, something like sweat but not quite. Fear, maybe. She was afraid, then, even if she wasn
t showing it.
Of course he
s in. We
re all in.
 That was TJ, coming toward them, lurching a little as he tried to correct for the slope. He had the joint in his hand, now lit. Behind him, Savannah was still sitting next to the rubble of their party, surrounded by empty beer cans and stubbed-out cigarettes. From a distance, it all looked quaint, unreal, like an old-fashioned photograph found, weathered, a hundred years later in a drawer. How had the evening turned so quickly?
Who
s first?
 Sophia said.
If you want
 —”
 She said something else, but the rest of her words were whipped away. The train was on top of them now, rolling by in a blast of hot air churned up by the wheels, so that her hair danced nearly vertically, like a fiery halo.
 
You could feel it
 — 
the bulk, the mass, all those displaced particles of air, stirred and scattered by the motion of two hundred tons. Rattling freight, cars bouncing and jostling along the tracks, wheels grinding: it wasn
t an object now, but a force, a giant fist  punching forward through space. Then: two oil tank cars, shaped like enormous bullets, each of them elevated at least four feet off the tracks. For a brief moment
 — 
thirty seconds? Fifteen? Less?
 — 
the ground on the other side of the tracks was visible between the wheels, another rutted stretch of mud and gravel and grass running way toward the woods. Then another series of freight cars plunged by them, these low-bellied, hanging low to the ground, obscuring the view of the opposite side of the tracks. They
d missed the chance. Jake felt nothing but relief. Maybe they would delay and debate until the train was gone, until the last opportunity had passed, and no one would look bad. But no sooner had he begun to relax than Sophia turned to them and pointed, her eyes lit up, her smile radiant. Once again, her voice was lost in the wind, but it was obvious what she meant. More tank cars were coming, four of them in a row, all of them a filthy and rusted black. Four chances. Jake
s palms were sweating. His breath hitched in his throat whenever he inhaled, like it was snaring on something.
I
ll go first.
 This was Mike, shouting, as the first tank car drew level with them, as the train body thinned and lifted, revealing a vision of dark tracks, mud, the undercarriage sailing overhead like an enormous sea creature through water. Jake was impressed and relieved and annoyed at the same time
 — 
the Dick had, since the sixth grade, always been the first to do everything: touch a boob, lose his virginity,

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