• Black Instagram Icon
  • Black Spotify Icon

©2020 Alanna Peterson. All rights reserved.

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Sunday June 21

In the shower, hot water cascaded over Andi's shoulders, dislodging the dirt and sweat that had covered her skin. When the muck swirled down the drain, she was clean. She had left SILO behind for good. She was safe at Gretchen and Frida's house now.


Although this brought some comfort, it did not bring happiness. Andi couldn’t help thinking of Naveed scrubbing himself in that freezing river. She wondered where he was sleeping tonight.


She returned to the basement in a pair of Gretchen’s pajamas, the arm and leg-cuffs rolled up and drawstring cinched tight. Roya had settled into a featherbed on the floor, one arm draped over Astro, already drifting off. Though Andi felt the same exhaustion, she couldn’t imagine sleeping yet. 


Cyrus, seated at the computer again, looked up when she entered. “I had to install a secure browser, which took forever—but I’m downloading the presentation from SILO now,” he said quietly, so as not to disturb his sister. “Good thing I sent it to my anonymous email address. Otherwise those FBI guys probably would have intercepted it.” 


Andi sat next to him, combing her still-damp hair with her fingers. She wondered if she should try contacting her mother by email, but the police were likely monitoring hers, too.  


Cyrus inhaled. “Mmm. You smell like peppermint, Alexandria. Which is an awesome name, by the way. Does anyone ever call you that?”


“Never. It's way too long. I usually go by my Chinese name.”


“Andi's a Chinese name?”


She pronounced it for him in Mandarin, Āndì, and Cyrus tried repeating it. Now that she was clean, his sweaty smell was more noticeable. Somehow, though, it wasn’t unpleasant. “You can go take your shower now, if you want,” Andi offered. 


“I want to see this first.” He glanced at the download progress bar, which was creeping rightward. “Akh, they really need to get a faster connection!”


Andi asked the question that weighed on her mind. “Cyrus, what are we going to do?” 


Cyrus studied her. “What do you think we should do?”


“Well, we can't stay here forever,” she said. “Somehow, we have to convince everyone we're telling the truth. But I don't know how.”


Cyrus didn’t respond; the download had completed and he was opening the file. Together they scanned the slides, skipping the complicated tables and figures, until they arrived at the “Results” section: 

  • After 2 months of feeding with BB-Crave, subjects showed significant increases in blood pressure, triglycerides, LDL and total cholesterol compared to controls. 

  • Subjects reported high acceptability and palatability of BB-Crave. 

  • BB-Crave has potential to grow profits for both Nutrexo and our subsidiary Genbiotix’s novel antihypertension drug, Conara.


The presentation ended there. 


“So that’s what they were doing with the Blazin Bitz?” Andi asked, thinking aloud. “They put the EcoCow milk in them, which makes you feel calm, and you keep craving more so you keep eating. Then your blood pressure and cholesterol go up, and then you need drugs to fix the problems it gives you? All so they can make more money?” 


“Yeah, sounds about right,” Cyrus said. 


Andi gathered her hair, twisting it tightly. Now she felt even worse about leaving her father there. 


“God, I ate so many of those chips.” Cyrus looked sheepish. “I couldn't stop.”


“Do you feel okay?”

“I feel fine. But maybe... maybe we should see a doctor in the morning. If our cholesterol’s screwed up, it would be more proof that we’re telling the truth.” 


“Good idea.” Andi rubbed her temples; her head was beginning to ache with fatigue. “We could go to the hospital—Harborview or something.” 


“Yeah! They have to treat everyone there. Even 'criminals' like us.” Cyrus seemed cheered by the plan. “They'll still have to get the police involved, I guess, but at least it gives us a chance to tell people who might listen. But before we go… we have to spread the word about this, so everybody knows what they were doing to us at SILO. Especially since Blazin Bitz Crave is coming out next week.” 


“Isn’t that board meeting tomorrow? Where Dr. Snyder’s giving the presentation?”


“Yeah.” He consulted the email. “Ten a.m.”


“What if we told the media about it? So that the news stations showed up. Maybe if they heard it for themselves—”


“They can’t barge in on a private board meeting, though.”


Andi thought about all the times she’d seen Nutrexo being praised in various news clips. “You’re right. They wouldn’t do it anyway. I think they have ties to Richard Caring.” 


“That newspaper article was pretty biased, too. I bet Nutrexo gives them a ton of advertising money.”


“This is ridiculous. I thought that was the whole point of journalism: to seek the truth.” Andi sat up straighter, remembering something Naveed had said at the protest. “Wait! What about the newspaper Naveed bought downtown—Real Change? He told me he likes them because they’re honest, not afraid to tell things like they are.”


“Hmm... that could work. I’ll look into it. Maybe we could give them an exclusive interview.”


“Sounds perfect.” Andi relaxed against her chair, stifling a yawn.   


“Go get some sleep,” Cyrus said. “You can have the couch. I won’t be up much longer.”


Andi stepped over Roya’s small body and reclined on the corduroy couch. Exhaustion descended upon her, weighing down her aching limbs, anchoring her pounding head. But she waited a moment before closing her eyes, watching Cyrus’s glasses glow in the light of the computer screen. 


“Cyrus?” she said. He turned to her, his eyes wide and expectant, and she noticed for the first time how green they were. She had wanted to thank him for leading them to this place, to tell him she was glad he was here, because he somehow made this impossible thing they were up against seem vaguely possible. But something about the way he looked at her made Andi feel kind of shy, and she was too tired to articulate it, so she only said, “Good night.” 


“Oh.” He turned back to the computer. “Good night, Alexandria. Sleep well.” 


Join the When We Vanished mailing list to receive

exclusive behind-the-scenes content every week.

Don't worry, we don't like spam either, and will never sell or share your email.