The excess smoke they had seen was snaking into the air, rising from the buildings the other side of the science block. "The library!"

"All those dry books…" Aaron shook his head.

"They're all burned. It looks like there's nothing left." Elizabeth began walking away from the library, towards a burnt fragment of paper that had fluttered down from the sky.

"Wait… I just thought of something… I'm going in."

"You should wait, really, the smoke's still a serious hazard."

"No" he said, already heading for the door, "It's important. Stay here." he ducked under the collapsed beam above the doorway and into the smoky library. Inside, it was from the lack of windows, and still stifling hot from the smouldering remains of the books. He half expected to find a small child, shooting fire from her hands, standing amid the wreckage it reminded him so much of that scene.

He clambered over a collapsed bookcase and explored further into the library, hands outstretched before him. It was very dark. He didn't like to admit that this was the cause of the nagging feeling of fear. Aaron walked round a table, past the computers and found the fiction section. The shelf he wanted had completely collapsed. The books were spread around in a heap and not too burnt, miraculously. He began to dig through the pile, throwing books over his shoulder.

Suddenly a cloud of smoke erupted from the heap. His hand touched something still burning. He flinched back the bottom of the pile something was alight. He could see embers glowing in the darkness. He could just about make out the title of the book that had burnt his hand…


Aaron grabbed at the corner of the book, flapping it wildly. Below it he could see the others of the series, the distinctive black covers ash-smudged with grey, the colourful letters peeling off. Fear was the worst, with most the book just dark powdery soot. He tried to pick up Hunger, dropping the still-burning Gone onto the floor, but it fell apart in his hands, leaving him holding just the spine. He grabbed Lies, Plague and Light and piled them up in his arms. The smoke was making him feel dizzy, and it was becoming hard to breath.

Coughing and stumbling , he ran for the exit. He almost tripped over the tables. Something scraped against his leg, probably a chair. He could see the exit, a dim light coming from the open doorway. Nearly there. His breath was coming in ragged gasps. The smoke was rising around him. So close… He could feel his legs giving way.


Elizabeth picked up the paper, avoiding its burnt edges. It had drifted gently down from the science block, like a feather, lightly with great beauty in its swaying motion. She read it, quickly scanning the words. She gasped, and read it again from the beginning more carefully.

It said: Experiment write-up

Equipment: Bunsen burner, limestone, test tube to catch gas if it's produced

To test the effects of heating calcium carbonate (limestone) to produce carbon dioxide and (there was a smudge of ash, and the next few lines were unreadable)

Method: Light the bunsen burner and put the limestone on the tripod and gauze. Gently heat and wait for something to happen

There were more smudges, and some blank paper from the unfinished work, with an incomplete results table drawn at the bottom. Elizabeth instantly realised what must have happened. A class full of over-fifteens and their teacher had disappeared in the middle of an experiment. Someone had turned the gas tap on, just about to connect up their bunsen burner, when they'd gone. Someone else's bunsen burner must have been on already. The room would have filled up with gas and, with the flame burning in the room, it hadn't taken long for the room to fill up with gas, ignite, and explode. It was a miracle that they'd been so far back when the explosion had happened.

Her trail of thought was suddenly interrupted as Aaron practically fell out of the library door. She dropped the paper abruptly and ran over to him. "Aaron! Are you okay? What happened?"

He coughed, and held up the books. "We might … need these. I thought…"

"You've breathed in the smoke, haven't you?" She interrupted. "Don't talk. You need to get more oxygen in your lungs right now."

Mary came sprinting round the corner. "Whoa! What happened to you? Looks like there was another explosion, or something."

Aaron started to speak, saw Elizabeth's glare, and gestured towards the books instead. She explained "He went into the library to find these. They'll be useful later, I'm sure, but there were still things burning in there. He breathed in way too much smoke, and his hand's pretty badly burned."

"Well that's just great. We're, what, less than half an hour into the CRAYZ and already- wait. Didn't Sam go into a burning building in, like, chapter two?"

"He did…"

"I hope we don't all end up acting like those characters. They make some pretty stupid mistakes. Wait, loads of them die, don't they?"

Elizabeth looked worriedly at Mary, as she worked out what that last comment meant.

"What is it?"

"Um… you're Brianna, on the list, aren't you?"

"Yes, why?"

"Mary, you've read all of Light, haven't you? Remember what happens to Brianna?"

Mary looked suddenly terrified. She half-whispered, "You think I might die? Seriously?"

Elizabeth looked serious. "If the books are anything like what the future might be for us, there's a good chance nearly half of everyone here will die. Forty percent, remember? This is not good."