Check out our episode here! Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Hetty has a coyote in the sight of her gun while she and Byatt wait for the Boat Girls to come back with supplies. Before, this was a boarding school, but not anymore. Not since the virus started turning them into things and killing them. Hetty's right eye is dead and something is growing in underneath. Reese's hand is covered in silver scales. Byatt has a razor spine. Someone else has webbed fingers. The teachers have bleeding mouths and twitching arms. None of this is good. The Boat Girls, the girls who go out to retrieve rations dropped off by the navy, have returned and everyone fights for one thing of their own from the meager supplies. Hetty and Reese fight over an orange and Reese wins, but that’s okay because that’s just how it is... When the Tox first hit two years ago, they continued school as usual, but that didn't last long. They received notice from the Navy and CDC to quarantine at the school. They'll send supplies and a vaccine when they have one. They cut the phone lines and internet to keep the situation quiet. They have a radio though and they used to be able to talk to their parents, but not anymore.
At shooting practice, Mona, who just came out of the infirmary where she's been for so long that no one thought she'd make it out, refuses to shoot and then sprouts gills. The Boat Girls carry her back to the house. During dinner, one of the youngest girls has her First, the first bout of tremors and seizures and whatever else happens when the Tox starts taking over, which develops into her coughing up teeth from somewhere inside her, and some cheer as she comes out of it. Reese wonders if she'll get to be a Boat Girl soon and we learn that one wants to quit after maybe having seen her girlfriend go savage. Reese wants to find her father. He used to be groundskeeper until he started puking black grainy goo and disappeared. Byatt sneaks out in the middle of the night and returns to the bunk bed but lays with Reese instead of Hetty. They talk about her being caught by Welch, one of the teachers, but it seems like they're hiding something from Hetty. Hetty thinks about the time that the Gun Girls saw a misty person shaped figure and how they taught everyone to keep a bullet on them at all times in case they need to crack it open, swallow the gunpowder and commit suicide. Byatt comes back to bed then and they fall asleep.
Byatt lies to Hetty, telling her she moved up to Reese's bunk when Hetty said something creepy in her sleep. But that's not true, Hetty was awake and didn't say anything. What are they lying about? They go on a walk and find a blue crab in the water. They learned about them when school was still school. Cracked them open and dissected them to see that they had lungs and gills. They evolved to survive (this seems like an important thing to note). Byatt smashes open the one they found and watches as it turns black as it dies, just like everything else on Raxter island. They get back to the house and find that Reese does not get to be Boat Girl. Hetty does. And Reese strangles her for it. Hetty tries to find out what she's supposed to do, what it will be like from Welch and Taylor, the girl who quit, but only learns that it's like the first day of the Tox outside the fence. (Here is where we also learn that the Navy stopped bringing some supplies, like contact lens solution for the girl who had contacts and fucking insulin for the girl who had diabetes. The contacts girl has to wear her glasses now, what a crying fucking shame. The diabetic girl died.)
Hetty goes out on her first Boat Girl run and… it's not great. There are way, way more supplies provided than Welch and the other Boat Girls ever bring back. Fresh vegetables, bags of fruit, bacon! But it gets thrown into the sea and washed away. Welch says there are pesticides and other things just wrong with most of the food and the girls are dealing with so much already they can't handle anything else. When asked about it, Welch says that's why she picked Hetty, because she knew she'd keep this secret and if she didn't, well, *ominous gun click noise* / *finger across the throat motion*. They share a chocolate bar and pack away some pistols and the meager supply of food and head back to the school. But then… Something's coming. A bobcat. Welch tells Hetty to go back while she shoots the bobcat, but instead she hides in a thicket. And finds a hidden cooler. Inside is a bag of blood with a label: rax009. What is this?
Back at school, Reese hasn't been seen much since she strangled Hetty, but Welch insists that Hetty find Reese and make things right. The Boat Girls are supposed to be leaders after all, making everyone think everything is fine. Hetty finds her and things are okayish, but then Byatt has a flare. They run to her and she screams an awful sound that does something to them. The first time she had a flare, she lost her voice for a week and now it's come to this. She's taken to the infirmary so she must be really sick. She probably won't come back. Hetty won't have that, though, so she tries to visit Byatt in the infirmary. No good. She's stopped by Headmistress who says I'm sure she'd be glad you're looking for her, um, I mean, looking out for her. Nope. That's wrong. Hetty sneaks out of her room in the middle of the night to go to the infirmary. She discovers that all the rooms are empty. Then she hears Welch talking on the radio to a mysterious man about making a swap and dropping the girl off at the Harker House (Reese's old house) tomorrow. Uh. What?
Character swap! Byatt's turn!
There is quite a bit of stream of consciousness weirdness at first, but Byatt is in a hospital and remembers that the teachers and doctors said she is doing this for her friends. She's strapped down to a bed. A boy, Teddy, comes in and rambles to her then a doctor, Dr. Peretta, who draws some blood and puts it in a cooler with other vials. Potential rax the vials might say. Before she leaves, the doctor asks if Byatt remembers her name and she scratchy-garbles out dR. PeReTta, which might make Dr. Peretta go breathless and say, let's not do that again! Byatt thinks that hurt her throat, like her second spine is trying to come out through her mouth. Yeesh. She's taken to an operating room where, instead of doing an operation, Byatt is given a pill labeled rax009. She feels like she's having a flare, but then goes into a rage and wants to hurt everyone until she's knocked out.
Byatt tells some stories about her being a compulsive liar when she was young and being sent to Raxter for it. Teddy takes her out for a walk even though he's not supposed to and takes off his mask when she gives him a suggestive look even though he's not supposed to and then they kiss, even though they're not supposed to and I don't think this is going to end well. She's interviewed by Dr. Peretta who asks about puberty and menstrual cycles of the girls and teachers at Raxter and learns that they don't have them anymore after the Tox. She asks about the only male there, Reese's dad, and if he had symptoms. He got angry like they did but then, the vomiting black ooze started and he left. She tells Byatt about resonance frequencies and about how her voice resonates with bones. Byatt asks her own question, why me? and Dr. Peretta says there's no reason. She thinks about that night she snuck out and we learn that she went to visit Mona who asked if she could keep it, would she? and yes, she would, but she gets caught by Welch who draws her blood and sends her back to bed. And now she's here. She's greeted by a new doctor, a therapist, who makes her angry and she attacks, then is knocked out and wakes strapped to a gurney. "Take her away!" the doctor says. She's struggling to break free and just as she's about to scream and rattle everyone's bones, Teddy comes to try to calm her and he's hit by his First and spits out a bone shard.
Hetty and Reese plan to sneak out and find Byatt. They get closer to each other, realize that they like each other, and then Hetty shares what happened with all the extra supplies. This makes Reese mad. They share a bunk that night before sneaking out after bed check. They make it to Reese's old house, only encountering rabid deer with super huge fangs along the way. They shoot one and then the other eats it. Cool. The house is derelict and sad, then Welch and another girl show up carrying a body bag. Oh no, it's Byatt. Welch and what turns out to be Taylor, the girl who quit being Boat Girl, talk about how they thought this one would make it and wouldn't this be easier with another girl to help, but there is no one else. Hetty's good, Welch says, but not for this. They set a flare and leave. Hetty and Reese go to look at Byatt's body, but it's not Byatt. It's Mona. So where is Byatt? A man turns up then. But he's not a man. He's Reese's dad, but he's not Reese's dad. He's part man, part tree, part vines, part beetles. Reese calls for him and he attacks, yanks her arm out of the socket, so Hetty kills him. A boat arrives then with a person in a hazmat suit, so they leave. They manage to make it back to their room where Reese decides she can't like Hetty anymore since she killed her treedad. Fair.
Byatt wakes strapped to a gurney. Teddy's there, too. They can be together now that they're both infected. He unstraps her and then vomits up black grainy goo. He starts turning into a treeman and then hangs himself. The staff don't understand why he suddenly turned into a treeman but they decide that there's a contamination and they can't do their work anymore so they have to leave. Dr. Peretta comes in to euthanize Byatt. She decides she wants to go out as herself so she cuts her wrist. And pulls out a worm. A parasite. She finds her way to a wheelchair and outside to the sea.
Hetty is awakened for her Boat Girl run. Things are stressful. She and the other Boat Girls go out to get the shipment, but it's only one small crate this time. Inside is a canister with a label on it that only Welch recognizes. It's the end. The Navy and CDC know that someone broke curfew and the rule was that they only had one strike. One strike and it's all over, so they sent this euthanasia gas. Welch decides she's messed up by trying to keep all the girls alive and throwing away the weird food and that she doesn't want to die by their hands. She tells them that their parents aren't looking for them, they think they're dead. She convinces one of the other girls, Carson, to help her kill herself. Hetty holds Carson at gunpoint while Julie, the other Boat Girl, tries to talk everyone down and it seems to work until Welch uses Carson's hands holding the knife to stab herself. They take her keys and push Welch's body into the sea. The girls go back with a plan to give the canister to Headmistress and tell her that Welch was so upset by the delivery that she killed herself.
Hetty wakes up in the middle of the night to a terrible roaring sound. Reese wakes too and they and a couple others go outside to investigate. They find that a giant bear has come inside the gate. The gate that Hetty didn't lock behind them when they came in from Boat Shift. The girls on gun shift don't shoot at the bear and as they're running back to the house, one girl doesn't make it. The gun shift girls run down and apologize. The one who took Hetty's place fell asleep. Headmistress asks how the bear got in and they don't mention how they left the gate open. Headmistress and Taylor gather everyone together in a disused room. They're going to do some safety drills. Headmistress says "Get her!" Taylor grabs Reese and they leave the room and the sprinkler system turns on. But it's not just water coming out. There's gas too. And then the girls start dropping. Sixteen of them die. About 40 are left alive.
The surviving girls work on barricading the door to keep the toxbear out while Hetty goes to find Reese. Headmistress and Taylor took Reese because she's the only one who knows a way off the island since she grew up there and all they want to do is escape the island. Yeah, they're pretty terrible. Reese is being kept in the infirmary guarded by Taylor. They fight and Hetty kills Taylor with her own knife. She helps Reese and they talk about a way off the island and decide that they have to kill Headmistress. They go to Headmistress's office and find that she's been hoarding supplies. They start to gather some of the supplies until they realize that the water has been tampered with. Headmistress is upset that the gas didn't kill them like it killed their friend (Little does she know that it, uh, didn't.), and she added gunpowder to each bottle. "This is the best thing left for you," she claims. Well, they're not having that and they force Headmistress to drink it.
They sneak out of the house, leaving the other girls to deal with the toxbear, and sneak to Reese's old house and the boat they kept there. They see treedad being eaten by toxfoxes and try to make them stop but they don't really. But whatever. They get in the boat and go to the facility where Byatt was kept and find that it's been gas-chambered, too. They see a trail of blood and follow it to find Byatt, still barely alive. She didn't die after carving out her parasite, but she almost did. They discern that the gas was only meant to kill the parasite and the ones that died from it weren't strong enough, hadn't evolved enough, to survive. They thought Mona's cure was successful but it wasn't. Seems though that Byatt's was. They decide to go find Hetty's father in the Navy and while they're in the boat waiting on the tide to turn in a more favorable way, Hetty vomits up a second heart and says that it was trying to help her survive. And that's what she and her two best friends will do.